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World War Two: The Plan To Bomb New York
While Allied aircraft are continually levelling German cities toward the end of the second world war, Hitler was hatching an audacious top secret plan to attack New York with his 'Amerika Bomber' , in a potentially devastating strike.
The Unknown Threat
By December 1944, New Yorkers had good reason to be celebrating, the New York Giants American football team were performing well and the general consensus was the war would soon be over.
However, U.S. spies had secretly alerted President Roosevelt that the Germans were hatching plans to create a weapon that was capable of reaching New York. Roosevelt and the New York mayor La Guardia discussed the intelligence and La Guardia took the decision to publicly address New Yorks' people in a radio broadcast, while trying not to cause widespread panic.
"Every man, woman and child must know what to do and when to do it in the event of an attack by foreign enemies. We must all make sacrifices, but we are going to win this war"
Mayor La Guardia.
The Nazis Deadly Plan
The mayor's enthusiam was infectious throughout the people, but they were unaware of any intended German attack on their city. The plan however, was very real. In 1944, the American 8th Air Force and British Bomber Command had bombarded German cities with nearly 2 million tonnes of bombs in order to achieve a German surrender.
Germany was powerless to prevent the increasing bombing raids due to their own aircraft being massively reduced in the costly Battle of Britain three years earlier. Germany's second in command Herman Goerring , head of the Luftwaffe, was a former World War 1 fighter pilot with a strong addiction to Morphine. In his home he had amassed a large collection of works of art stolen by the Nazis. He had ordered over 2,000 V1 rockets be released on Britain, resulting in the death of more than 6,000 British civilians. It's predecesser the V2 had also been used on Britain, but these being smaller did less damage.
Hitler and Goerring now discussed the possibility of an attack on the United States with a far more potent weapon. The plan was to come up with something capable of striking New York, a distance from Germany of 3,500 miles. This would have needed a unique aircraft capable of a round trip of 7,000 miles, perhaps even requiring a 10,000 mile range.
Germany's chief aircraft designers Messerschmidtt, focke-Wulfe, Dornier and Heigel wre brought in to discuss the plans. However, all four men informed the German hierarchy that this could not be done as there was no aircraft even capable of reaching New York, let alone making a return trip.
The Nazis though were determined to succeed in devising a radioactive weapon. This bomb would weigh around 5,000 pounds, be filed with radioactive sand and would be exploded high above the city of New York, what we call today a 'dirty bomb'.
Building the Bomber
Turning to more unconventional aviation researchers and military insiders, the Nazis pressed on with their research. Talking also to rocketeers and in particular to V2 rocket designer Werner Von Braun in the hope that they would come up with the flying machine that would suit their needs.
At the town of Peenemunde near the Baltic Sea, once known as 'rocket city', most of the development work on the bomber would be carried out. Germany's desperate bid to manufacture the radioactive bomb and it's aircraft intensified as three teams of top scientists were now working on it's development. Only Von Braun however, seemed to embrace the project with genuine enthusiasm.
Other aviation experts in direct competition with Von Braun were devising an all-wing twin-turbo engine-jet fighter in an attempt to win the race of developing the suitable aircraft. They felt this design of plane would be a much more viable option, because it had no tail the plane had less drag meaning it would fly further with less fuel consumption. The German authorities were leaning towards this option more than any other.
This team came up with Horton Ho-18 Amerika Bomber, that had a range of 6,835 miles and capable of a top speed of 559 miles an hour. Now they had the plane, they just needed the bomb.
The Horton Aircraft
There was another aircraft, devised by Eugen Sanger, an Ausrian born physicist, which was capable of speeds in excess of 3,800 miles an hour with a range of 15,000 miles. This was a major technological breakthrough, the craft was designed for hypersonic flight. Sanger's design though, was considered too far ahead of it's time as he didn't have the proven working component, like Von Braun's V2 rocket.
The competitors continued with their plans, faced with sabotage and fatal accidents, the Nazi plan to bomb New York was about to claim thousands of innocent lives. Von Braun devised the A9 rocket plane, a manned aircraft capable of a maximum speed of 6,260 miles an hour with a range of 3,000 miles. Due to it's limited range, this virtually would have been a 'Kamikaze' flight. All three teams of scientists were racing against time with the Allies advancing rapidly.
Against The Odds
Due to relentless and strategic Allied bombing, the Germans were up against an incresing lack of resources. Allied bombing raids were targeting ball-bearing factories, fuel supply lines, railroad yards and oil plants, completely incapacitating the German's capability to conduct an ongoing war. The Germans couldn't even get aluminium, so they were having to build their aircraft out of wood.
At the secret Peenemunde facility, Von Braun was up against another problem. The British had cracked the secret German radio codes that revealed the existence of the rocket testing facility. Before long, Allied bombers targeted the facility, putting Von Braun's rocket site out of action. Peenemunde had been reduced to rubble, although some buildings escaped undamaged. Even after the devastating bombing, Von Braun continued with his plans for the bomber as well as mass production of the V2.
This time however, all the production was moved to underground caves deep inside Germany, out of the reach of Allied bombers. Von Braun utilised concentration camp prisoners and in one month 17,000 prisoners in the labour camps producing the V2 rocket, had lost their lives due to maltreatment, malnourishment and the harsh environment. Von Braun cared not for the treatment and fate of these people.
Some of the prisoners had ways of getting their revenge as Polish prisoners who were forced to work on the highly delicate control systems, would urinate on the delicate electronic equipment, causing it to corrode and after a few days when the rockets were launched would go out of control and crash. An estimated one third of the rockets built were destroyed in this manner.
In late 1944, once wings had been added to the V2, Von Braun began testing the rocket. The Horton Ho9 was also nearing completion. Several test flights proved successful, but two months later that changed when in a final test flight one of the Horton planes' two jet engines cut out. The plane crashed and the pilot was killed instantly. Shortly after the crash however, Goerring ordered that 40 of the aircraft be produced.
Running Out Of Time
In the dense forests near Hannover, Eugen Sanger worked day and night in secret, even from the Nazi hierarchy who were not even aware of his research facility's existence. He was attempting to developed the technology to travel in space.
Three different designs that were still in development, could well have given Hitler the chance to launch a decisive attack on the United States and a last desperate attempt to alter the outcome of the war with a radioactive bomb.
But the three chief designers, realising that the war was virtually lost, seemed to be more concerned with saving themselves. Von Braun evacuated the Peenemunde research site in April 1945 as the Russian Army approached. He and his team fled to Munich where they hoped the Americans would reach them first. The Americans came and the German scientists voluntarily surrendered.
In September 1945 Von Braun and his team were flown to the United States in 'Operation Paperclip', the mission to round up Germany's top scientists. There, Von Braun helped the Americans understand the workings of the V2 rocket under strict control of the U.S. military.
Meanwhile, the Horton team were also offered to travel to the United States to continue there research, but instead they fled to Argentina.
Eugen Sanger fled to France to work on a supersonic jet engine that the French were developing. It is alleged a few years later though that Sanger was working on rocket research for the Egyptians to use against Israel. Israeli intelligencemade this public and Sanger was affectively finished and saw out his remaining career as a college lecturer in Berlin.
It is felt that Sanger's aircraft was probably still 20 years from reality, while the Horton 'Amerika Bomber' was only 2 years away from completion by the end of the war.
Hitler's idea was to terrorise America into submission with three teams of designers as his pawns who began with the pursuit of aviation and space exploration and capiltalised on the 'Amerika Bomber' plan to further their own goals.
in October 1942, Von Braun's V2 rocket had reached an altitude of nearly 50 miles, the first man-made object in space. Fifteen years after defecting to the United States he received a phone call to lead the manufacture of Saturn 5, the world's largest rocket ever built, which was the spacecraft for the U.S. moon landings.