A retired pharmaceutical and industrial chemist, author and historian specialising in military events.
Before we explore the primary purpose of this article we should be aware of the following achievement, which on the face of it may appear unconnected, but helped stimulate the later Nazi nuclear bomb project towards the end of World War 2.
On the 10th August 1938 a Lufthansa Focke-Wulf 200 four engine airliner (D-ACON Brandenburg) took off from Berlin Staaken Airport, with 26 passengers, flew 3,728 miles landing, just before 1600hrs on the 11th at New York's Floyd Bennett Field in 24 hours 56 minutes and 12 seconds, giving a cruising speed of around 158 mph setting a new speed and distance record for a land-based passenger aircraft. The aircraft was actually capable of cruising at about 204mph but to conserve fuel for an untried trip against unknown possible headwinds, they cruised more slowly. The aircraft returned to Berlin-Tempelhof at an average speed of 199 mph, helped by the tail wind advantage.
The aircraft was piloted by Alfred Henke, flight captain for the original airline Lufthansa, (which the Allies began liquidating in 1945 after World War II). Other crew members were Walter Kober, Paul Dierberg, and co-pilot Rudolf von Moreau.
With the start of the Second World War, Germany's Nazi party showed an interest in the long range capabilities of the Fw 200 to protect their U-boats who were attacking British transatlantic convoys. Throughout the war the Luftwaffe used Fw 200s, which was code named “Condor”, for military purposes ‒ primarily as a long-range transport and reconnaissance aircraft, particularly, as mentioned, during the Battle of the Atlantic between U-Boats and Allied shipping, but also as a roughly converted maritime bomber. Both Hitler and Himmler had Fw 200’s as personal transport, luxuriously converted with plush armoured fittings and seats.
However, it was originally designed for civil aviation and in service the Condor proved fragile, prone to mechanical problems and relatively unsuited for rough military action. Whilst it had the range and payload capability it could not make a non-stop transatlantic return flight, without refuelling. After the war, this type of long-range aircraft had become obsolete due to the rapid technical progress made in aviation during World War II and the introduction within a decade of the jet airliner.
As an aside in 1981 the remains of this particular aircraft was discovered at the bottom of a fjord near Trondheim in Norway. The aircraft had been reported as making an emergency landing on the water in February 1942 due to a technical defect and since then had lain beneath 196 feet of salt water. Salvage of the Fw 200's hulk was completed 18 years later in 1999, but the metal had been badly damaged by its immersion in salt water. (Lufthansa Technik is contributing technicians' skills and time to the Fw 200 restoration project, together with the German Technology Museum Berlin, Airbus in Bremen and Rolls-Royce Deutschland in Berlin-Dahlewitz). Although the restored Condor will never fly again, it should eventually, at least, be able to taxi along a runway, according to Lufthansa.
Much has been written agonising over the necessity to use nuclear weapons to hasten the end of WW2. Before we lose too much sleep over the monumental events of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we should first understand 3 things:
1. Even against overwhelming odds, Japan would have refused to surrender, causing hundreds of thousands, if not millions of additional civilian and military casualties on both sides, rather than the 1,555,308 military and 658,595 civilian Japanese that died from all causes.
2. The catastrophic effect of two, relatively small and crude bombs, served to constantly remind the responsible nuclear powers of the absolute futile destruction and after effects that result from this type of warfare. It is without doubt that this nuclear stalemate has contributed to the lack of major world conflict since. However the warped minds of the Nazi party in the 1930s to late 1940, the Japanese and the various religious factions today do not think in a responsible, humanitarian way.
3. Evidence has emerged that both Nazi Germany and Japan were frighteningly close to perfecting their own nuclear weapons and had they succeeded the world would have been a very different place. It is the Nazi and Japanese projects I would like to explore a little further, with you.
Nazi Germany was slow to investigate nuclear weapons, primarily due to one simple fact – most of their nuclear physicists were Jewish. Working with a minuscule budget, they struggled with the use of impure graphite as a neutron moderator and small supplies of heavy water from the separators in hydro-electric dams. On the 23rd June 1942 they built a “Uranium Machine” at the University of Leipzig which reacted exponentially and ran wild showering burning uranium over a period of 2 days.
For a while it looked like the whole atomic bomb project would be put on hold as too costly, but in 1944 two potential launch design projects were authorised. At the same time the whole German Atomic research programme was taken more seriously and code named “Virus House” after the former medical research buildings used.
The intended target of the final bomb was to be downtown Manhattan and on 22nd August 1943 (the actual date is subject to some conjecture) a prototype of the 6 engine Junkers JU-390 V2 bomber took off from Norway and flew via Canada on a secret photo-recon mission of American manufacturing capability in Michigan and to test the feasibility of dropping a nuclear bomb on New York. This used the considerable experience gained from the FW 200 and its transatlantic flights. The 32 hour round flight went completely undetected as the bomber flew to within 12 miles of its target (America was totally unprepared for air-raids, with no civilian shelters or anti-aircraft guns) and returned to a Luftwaffe Mont-de-Marsan airfield near Paris, a round trip of some 6,000 miles.
Part of the crew of four was Anna Kreisling, the ‘White Wolf of the Luftwaffe’. A nickname she had acquired because of her platinum blonde hair and deep ice-blue eyes. Anna was one of the top pilots in Germany and even though she was only the co-pilot on this mission, her flying ability was crucial to its success. She was finally captured, towards the end of the war, by the Americans while trying to land on a snow covered airfield, in a highly secret Horton V9 jet and eventually became quite a celebrity.
The Ju-390 was a huge aircraft, twice the size of the B-29 Superfortress. It was powered by six 1,500 hp BMW radial engines, flew at 20,000 ft. and it had a range of 7,700 miles (depending on payload) without refuelling. Few were built but it is rumoured there is one kept secretly at Area 51 in Nevada.
A variety of bomber prototypes were designed and flown under the “Amerika Bomber project” (see ME264, HE277, TA400 and FW300) each with the capability of delivering a nuclear bomb on American East Coast cities. The only one documented as completing the round trip with a dummy load was the JU-390 mentioned above. America was within a hair's breadth of suffering the type of holocaust that affected Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the American people continued to be blissfully under the illusion they were beyond the range of Axis bombers.
At the same time work started on an alternative delivery system which used the existing missile technology incorporated into a towed submarine pod carrying 3 V-2(A-4) missiles, (known as “Test Stand XII”),each of which could carry a small but devastating nuclear device. These were the same missiles that had been used in their thousands against London albeit with conventional warheads, but had been constrained by a limited range. Had the war continued much longer, Peenemunde was working on their plans for the A-9/A-10 two-stage ICBM, which was capable of reaching New York and East coast cities, from Europe, with a nuclear warhead. These missiles had already reached their test flight stage.
How far did they get ? – At the end of the war two German prototype bomb spheres were allegedly found under water by French forces, who claimed they destroyed them. We do know that in May 1945 the German submarine U-234 surrendered to American forces while on its way to Japan carrying 560-kgs of Uranium oxide for their atomic programme. It is maintained that this was not weapons-grade material but instead was intended for use as a catalyst in the production of synthetic methanol for aviation fuel. However, it was quickly spirited away by the USA for probable use in their nuclear programme.
Various sources suggest that by 1942 Japan was well advanced with its atomic bomb programme under the code names of “Ni-go” and “Fu or F-go” and had even tested a device at its facility in Hungnam North Korea. Little is known, of this, particularly due to the hysterical secrecy of this country. Japan destroyed most of their research, but after their surrender on 15th August 1945, US troops found 5 cyclotrons (used to separate fissionable material from Uranium) smashed them and dumped them in Tokyo harbour. As with the French I think this is unlikely as they could yield very useful information.
It is quite apparent that Stalin treacherously only declared war on Japan on 8th August 1945, some 90 days after the war in Europe ceased, in order to use its freed up troops to overrun Manchuria, North Korea, southern Sakhalin Island and the Kuril Islands, later annexing Skahalin and Kuril. This had the effect of giving them the whole of Japans nuclear research and technology. Rumour has it that all equipment and Japanese nuclear experts were spirited away by Russian troops that captured the facility. Apparently following its capture, Russian submarines collected the heavy water output of Hungnam every other month. There are indications that Japan had a larger and more advanced programme than was originally thought and that Nazi Germany co-operated, including the above-mentioned exchange of materials.
We should be in no doubt that had their research been a little more advanced, both Nazi Germany and Japan would have had no hesitation in using nuclear weapons against either America or Britain, with no regard for the eventual consequences for mankind.
© 2012 Peter Geekie
Chri on October 26, 2020:
It's called National-Socialists and not Naaaaazi, only Jews say that and those who don't know it better.
tom on September 28, 2020:
horten brothers developed stealth bomber prototype
michael Jackson on December 09, 2019:
As a fellow Industrial Chemist and Private Pilot of 72 years of age I would refer you to Jim Baggott's book 'Atomic, the first war of physics and the secret history of the atomic bomb, 1939-1949'. He suggests that the Germans were a long way behind in developing an atomic device based on the evidence extracted by US personnel in 1945. Make of it what you will, bit like climate 'science' I guess ...
Peter Geekie (author) from Sittingbourne on April 16, 2017:
Thanks for your comments. Trump is so obsessed with his own ego, I doubt if he has considered the people he represents. As he sits in his nuclear shelter he probably hasn't given it a thought.
kind regards Peter
Trevor on April 15, 2017:
With the current events in North Korea the spectre of Nuclear attack on American mainland raises its head again. Despite all the bluster from Trump has he made any provision for the American people in the possible event he is wrong?
Peter Geekie (author) from Sittingbourne on August 18, 2013:
Thank you very much Randy,
I agree with you - the world didn't know just how close New York came to being the first nuked city rather than Hiroshima and New York had little in the way of public shelters even if there was any warning.
Kind regards Peter
Randy Godwin from Southern Georgia on August 18, 2013:
Very interesting and well written account of the Axis Power's nuclear program. A bit scary if the war had lasted a while longer. Rated up!
Peter Geekie (author) from Sittingbourne on August 12, 2012:
Much of this information was suppressed because of the implications involved.
Do you think the world would be involved in all this heart searching if the Nazis or Japanese had nuked NY ?
Kind regards Peter.
Greg Johnson from Indianapolis on August 12, 2012:
Interesting read! I have never heard this story before. It is interesting how much of history is never widely known. Wouldn't;t the world have been a different place if they had succeeded?