Third Reich's Plan To Nuke New York
From time-traveling armies to solar cannons, there are few areas of Science Fiction, which were not inspired in some way by Hitler's Wonder Weapons Program. In the majority of cases, these proposals rarely made it off the drawing board. Having said that, there is concerning evidence that the Third Reich may have come uncomfortably close to deploying nuclear weapons on American soil.
Hans Zinsser's Strange Encounter
As the sun started to sink below the horizon, the solitary twin-engined bomber made steady progress along the Baltic Coast. Its pilot, Hans Zinsser was well aware that Twilight was the only safe window of flight for the Luftwaffe. Too late for the enemy's daytime patrols and too early for their night-fighter equivalents. The Heinkel 111 he piloted was rapidly becoming something of a rarity. This model had been one of the most abundant bombers at the outset of the war, but High Command's desire to channel their available resources into the development of new and untested aircraft designs meant that the heavy losses their existing bomber fleet had suffered were not being addressed. Zinsser had managed to avoid active service, instead operating as a test pilot. The bomber he was now transporting from one side of Germany to the other was destined for modification in order to drastically expand its operational range.
This was an unfortunate necessity, as the airfields which had originally been taken by the Wehrmacht as it had surged across Europe during the opening months of the war had been slowly falling back into enemy hands. He flew on, the light outside the cockpit gradually fading, nurturing a growing sense of unease. Zinsser allowed himself one last look around, scanning for enemy fighters and searching for visual landmarks to take a bearing from. He then glanced down to consult the map that rested upon his right leg.
By the dim overhead lighting, he reckoned that he was now passing somewhere to the south west of Lubeck, continuing into the province of Mecklenburg. He was still peering down at the map when the whole cabin was suddenly saturated by blinding white light. After the lighted had faded, he was shocked to see a gigantic cloud rising into the air off to starboard. He watched for about a minute, hypnotized as it swelled into a huge mushroom shape when all of a sudden, he was hit by a huge shock wave. The control column was violently yanked out of his grasp and the plane veered off to one side as if it had been swatted by a gigantic open palm. It was on the verge of descending into an unrecoverable dive, but Zinsser was somehow able to regain control.
This was not the first time he had found himself fighting to keep a plane in the air, but as he finally managed to level the Heinkel out, he was stunned by what he could now see out of the cockpit windows. Approximately 10 miles away from his position, the huge mushroom-shaped cloud now filled the sky. Zinsser assumed it was the pressure wave emitted from this enormous blast that had impacted against the bomber. He banked his aircraft towards the billowing cloud to see if he could determine what had caused such a massive explosion.
As he flew closer, the bomber's electrical system started to malfunction, with his radio apparently failing altogether. Frowning, Zinsser turned away, noting how the cloud had an almost violent blue hue to it and appeared to be illuminated from the inside by occasional smaller explosions. He wrote down that the cloud was approximately one kilometer wide, and that the edges were starting to dissipate after about half a minute, before continuing on his way. Upon Landing, Zinsser's papers were seized and he was curtly ordered not to speak of the matter to anybody else.
The next time he would see his logbook would be weeks after the war ended, laid out on an interrogation room table in front of him by American intelligence officials. The document would later be transported to Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama, where it was subsequently discovered by researchers in 1973.
The Mysterious Aeroplane of Owls Head
The coastal township of Owls Head is located roughly five miles from the city of Rockland in Maine, taking its name from the peninsula where it is situated. It is a popular holiday destination and is perhaps best known for the imposing 19th century granite lighthouse, which looms above the town's coastline.
But in the Autumn of 1944, this picturesque resort was the setting for a mysterious and deeply troubling incident. At around midday on Monday, the 18th of September, an elderly couple out walking along the nearby coastal trail caught sight of a lone aeroplane, approaching the town from the direction of Vinalhaven Island. This in itself was not unusual, with PBM Mariners conducting regular patrols off the Maine coastline in search of German U-boat activity, but subsequent events would make it clear that this aircraft did not belong to the United States Navy. Both witnesses described the plane as having six engines, rather than the two found on the Mariner, with a much thinner and longer fuselage. It was also colored in a dark camouflage paint scheme, in stark contrast to the bright Livery of the US Naval Patrol craft.
As they watched on, they realized that the mysterious aeroplane was steadily losing altitude as it came in from across the ocean, drawing ever closer to the glassy waters below. The aircraft continued its slow and torturous descent for several more minutes, until the inevitable outcome. A blade from one of the propellers clipped the water's surface, instantly sending the plane cartwheeling into oblivion. In moments, it was all over, with nothing but churning waters and smoke rising from the point where the doomed aircraft had entered the bay.
After waiting for a short time to see if anybody had managed to survive the crash, the couple hurried back into town and reported the incident to the Knox County Sheriff's Department. Inquiries were then made to the military who confirmed that they were not aware of any planned activity in the area, and that all their aircraft were accounted for.
A search conducted using one of the local fishermen's boats yielded nothing for the deputies sent out to investigate the report, other than a small oil slick, and so no further investigation took place. However, ten days later, on the morning of the 28th of September, the remains of three dead men were found washed up in Penobscot Bay, just to the north of the town. As the resident who had located the bodies stood waiting for the police, he noted that they were dressed in grayish blue overalls, equipped with various items which suggested they were aviators. One of the men appeared to have some sort of rank displayed on his collar, with yellow and brown tabs. While the resident did not recognize this insignia, the cross-shaped black medal located on the left breast pocket was chillingly familiar to him.
Realizing that whatever they were looking at was beyond their remit, the attending deputies immediately referred the matter to the military. They remained at the scene and assisted in keeping back a growing crowd of onlookers, whilst soldiers recovered the bodies of the three pilots and transported them to the nearby Ash Point Naval Air Station. This was not, however, the last of the locals would hear of the matter. For the next few days, a steady stream of military and government officials visited the town. Some of these claim to be Army Intelligence Officers, whilst others introduced themselves as FBI agents asking if any of the residents had seen what had transpired. Regardless of the subsequent reply, they all went to great pains to emphasize that the bodies had come from a submarine which had sunk further out in the bay and that no plane crash had occurred.
After the war, the story of the three dead German Airmen remained firmly embedded in the local consciousness and many years later, a local diver named Ruben Whitmore decided to investigate the matter further. For several months, he dived in and around the area, searching for evidence of the crash. The alleged wreck was not there, but he did manage to recover several small pieces of metallic debris, exactly at the spot that the plane apparently came down.
One of these metal pieces was subsequently identified by experts as a manufacturers plate. Despite being rusted and degraded during its time under the water, raised lettering was still clearly visible. This consisted of a serial number and the word, 'Fliegeroberstkommando', a German military designation which loosely translates as a pilot holding the rank of Colonel.
The fact that the wreck of the downed aircraft appears to have been covertly recovered and the insistence by the United States military that it never even existed, raises troubling questions. The American Military did not attempt to deny or conceal similar attacks by submarine launched Japanese aircraft during the second world war, so what exactly was it that compelled them to cover up this particular enemy incursion?
The exact purpose of this lone German bomber is unknown. Such an aircraft, equipped with conventional weaponry, would have had little chance of inflicting significant damage to any target in the American mainland. Given the dangers of the extreme range it would need to operate at, coupled with the significant defenses of the United States Air Force, such an endeavor would be tantamount to a suicide mission. So just why did these young German airmen end up dying so far from their Homeland?
The answer lies in a covert German military project that predated the outbreak of World War II, codenamed 'Amerikabomber'. In 1938, Adolf Hitler was well aware that his future plans for European domination ran the risk of bringing the Third Reich into direct conflict with the United States. He ordered that the Luftwaffe commenced research into a bomber capable of delivering its payload to New York City and still having enough fuel to return home. At the time of this request, there was no aircraft on Earth capable of completing the 7200 mile round-trip, let alone one heavily laden with explosive munitions.
As with many of Hitler's edicts, the project was paid the necessary lip service and then quietly filed away, but this would immediately change when America entered the war in December of 1941. Suddenly the Luftwaffe had a new top priority. Many different designs were considered, from aircraft equipped with jet engines to modified rocket technology. But the truth was that the Germans had neither the resources nor the expertise to pursue such an undertaking. Instead, extensive work was carried out in the creation of a specially adapted conventional bomber capable of the task, the JU-390. As with many German military projects, the completed aircraft arrived far too late in the conflict to be able to turn the tide of the war and the lack of basic resources meant that few were ever constructed. In the dying days of World War II, the Allies believed that only one functioning prototype of the aircraft ever existed, which was found dismantled when the American Army had captured the Dessau in November of 1944.
But that thinking changed during the post-war interrogation of a Luftwaffe Airman named Unteroffizer Wolf Baumgart. A photographic reconnaissance expert, Baumgart claimed that in fact, seven working JU-390s had been constructed in total, completing flights as far afield as Cape Town and Tokyo. But it was Baumgart's assertion that one of these aircraft had successfully reached New York, that most troubled his captors.
The Luftwaffe officer claimed that in January of 1944, a JU-390 had set off the Airfield at Mont-De-Marson, not far from Bordeaux. Over the next 32 hours, it had crossed the Atlantic Ocean, and managed to penetrate American airspace to within 12 miles of New York City, taking several photographs of its iconic skyline. In 2007, a supporting story appeared online which claimed that in early 1944, another JU-390 had managed to reach Ohio, having set off from an airfield in Norway. Allegedly, this plane was able to take pictures of the coastline off Long Island during its return journey.
These accounts, coupled with the fact that the JU-390 was indeed equipped with six engines, do seem to add significant credence to the possibility that one may indeed have crashed-landed in Maine in September of 1944.
America's entry into the war had caused Hitler to become obsessed with being able to score some form of symbolic victory against his new enemy. He raged at the countless German citizens killed during the incessant Allied bombing campaign and vowed to find a way to repay these actions in kind. There was only one way to achieve the same: to drop a nuclear weapon on a major American city.
History tells us that despite their best efforts, Germany was unable to create a viable nuclear weapon during the course of the war. However, this narrative is directly challenged by the alleged nuclear explosion witnessed by Hans Zinsser during his flight near the Ludwiglust testing grounds. Naturally, his account would be easy enough to dismiss, were it not for the existence of a corroborating witness. Writing after hostilities had ceased, an Italian war correspondent named Luigi Romera claimed that in October of 1944, the same month of Zinsser's report, he had been dispatched to Germany at the request of Benito Mussolini.
Whilst there, he was taken to a remote island in the Baltic Sea, not far off the coast, where he witnessed a gigantic and blinding explosion. When he asked what had caused the blast, he was told by his military escorts that it was a fission weapon.
The entire purpose of the Amerikabomber project hinged on the delivery of the super weapon directly into the heart of enemy territory. A weapon designed to cause the largest possible loss of life and to gift the Nazi leadership with a propaganda victory the likes of which the world had never witnessed. The successful delivery of such a device could have granted Hitler an untold degree of bargaining power, and potentially, even change the entire outcome of the war. Might his enemies have paused their offenses, under the threat of further destinations? Or would such an act merely have pushed them to respond in kind, dropping atomic weapons on Germany rather than Japan?
The window of opportunity for such a raid on the American Mainland would have been closing rapidly in the aftermath of the successful Normandy Landings. And with little in the way of resources to call upon, if the Germans were able to create a viable fission weapon, it is unlikely they would have been able to create more than one such device. What was it that caused the US military to deny the existence of the downed German aircraft off the coast of Maine, and then to covertly recover its remains? What awaited the naval divers who first ventured onto the wreckage? An odd-looking solitary weapon, rather than the bomb bay full of munitions that they were expecting to find?
The reality is, that barring any future admission by the American government, we will never know the truth behind the Owls Head crash. Potentially, this may have been a further test flight or reconnaissance mission for the developers of the JU-390. Or perhaps even a last desperate attempt at a good news story or propaganda coup for the German people, the conventional bombing raid on an American city providing a symbolic response to airborne destruction of Germany's infrastructure. But the possibility remains, that this may have been something far more sinister. Something so awful and horrifying to the minds of American leaders, that it needed to be concealed from the American people. And if this was indeed the case, we must remain thankful that it never came to pass.