Wonder weapons is the term given to very advanced weaponry whose design, production or deployment in the field of battle are radical departures or improvements of the arms or machinery used at the time and are often intended to turn the tide of a current conflict. These weapons are either never completed, or are introduced near the end of hostilities in limited capacity so the expectations far exceed the results.

The term is a calque of the German term, "Wunderwaffe" (pl. Wunderwaffen), which was coined during WWII.


Early Hitler had shown a shrewd grasp of tactical military concepts and was deeply involved in the use of massed armor, innovative weapons, and tank design. As the war progressed, he refused to consider new weapons and innovations his scientists and engineers were developing, tools that might have made a difference to the final outcome. His neglect of, or interference with, German research and development of advanced tech­nology such as jet airplanes, heat-seeking rockets, sound-seeking torpedoes, ground-to-air missiles, and radar all hampered the German war effort. In 1940 Hitler banned weapons programs which could not be completed within a year. This decision by the Führer put back the development of key weapon systems so that by the time they were finally operationional  they had minimal impact on the war.Perhaps his greatest failing, from a strategic military standpoint, was his de­cision to halt funding for Germany's atomic weapons program because he considered nuclear research "Jew­ish Physics."


Magic weapons are a compelling component of lore, from the dawn of civilization through the present. Magic weapons materialize in the real world in the form of wonder weapons. That the builders of wonder weapons sometimes imbue with their creations with war-winning powers is typically little more than wishful thinking.

During World War II, influential leaders of the German war effort were heroic believers in the fate-reversing, if not war-winning, powers of a parade of wonder weapons, including jet fighters and bombers, super tanks, and inertially guided rockets; including SAMs. Many of these weapons came as rude shocks to the Allies and were very effective in the battlespace, but all ultimately failed to stem the tide of the Third Reich’s demise, because they were deployed in too few numbers. Some have pointed out that the engineering and manufacturing resources expended on these wonder weapons actually hastened Germany’s defeat.

If the myths of our ancestors -- and even our fathers -- tell us anything, it is that you do not need a wonder weapon to kill the enemy. Mundane weapons will do just fine if you attend to the basics of strategy, tactics, logistics, maintenance, and sound planning.

Germany's armaments minister, Albert Speer, wrote Hitler an interesting memorandum describing the war as a contest between two different systems of industrial organization: the German system, based on skilled, high-quality production; and the American system based on unskilled, high-volume production. Unless we change, he warned the Führer, the Americans will bury us.

But the Americans needed time to bury Germany, and that was provided by the Russian army on Germany's eastern front, which suffered more than three million casualties in 1941 alone.


Just after the fall of the Third Reich the international press began to introduce more or less fantastic stories about alleged "wonder secret weapons" developed by the Nazi scientists during the last months of WWII.

The early achievements got by the primitive jets, rockets and missiles, as well as the discovery of huge amounts of prototypes and, above all, blueprints, stimulated the birth and the circulation of wild stories about amazing "wonder weapons".

The technological breakthroughs made by the Nazis, and their evil aura, created a sort of "fascination" and wishful thinking about the subject of the German secret weapons. It was a popular subject for most of the international press (as well as the never-ending controversy of Hitler's death or survival) in the second half of the forties and many tabloids and popular weeklies emphasized rumours and uncontrolled news about fantastic German wonder weapons.

To a certain extent the German leadership is responsible for encouraging the Allies to make exaggerated claims about German technological prowess. The constant talk of wonder weapons that would turn the tide of war helped maintain home front morale. On the other hand, such claims, coupled with the very real German innovations in weapons technology, including jet aircraft, rocket planes, cruise missiles, guided missiles, and many others, were bound to lead the Allies to believe that the latest word in fascist technology would have no limits and thus any claim became plausible.

There also cases where the Nazi leadership, and specifically Adolf Hitler, would attempt to gain a psychological advantage by exaggerating German technological capabilities. For example, when the Germans invaded Belgium in May, 1940, they seized the fortress of Eben Emael in 24 hours, much to the astonishment of the Allies. In a speech, Hitler attributed the success to a special weapon or Angriffsmittel, whose character he would not divulge. His coy announcement immediately created apprehension among the Allies, as well as speculation about the nature of the wonder weapon: bombs containing liquid oxygen as well as a paralyzing and non-lethal nerve gas were both suggested as possibilities. In fact, the legendary Angriffsmittel turned out to be nothing more complicated than a shaped explosive charge, but that does not mean that these other contemporary speculations are valueless to the historian. On the contrary, because they represent almost pure projection, they tell us a great deal about the widely-held beliefs in German technological and scientific prowess as well as about then common concerns with specific types of weapons.


Hanna Reitch, helped to plan the brilliant German glider assault on the Belgian fort at Eben Emael in 1940.......

When the German high command planned the invasion of Holland and Belgium, it became evident that the formidable Albert Canal defense line would have to be breached in one bold stroke. The key to the defensive system was the fortress of Eben Emael, bristling with interlocking guns dominating all crossing sites on the canal and the River Maas, and considered one of the most impregnable fortifications in the world.

The Führer took a personal interest in the operation and called in Hanna Reitsch to lend her gliding expertise. She immediately suggested a silent assault on the fort with troop-carrying gliders. Hitler was delighted, and General Kurt Student, the father of the German airborne forces, confirmed the feasibility of the plan.

In a four-pronged assault launched early on the morning of May 10, 1940, German glider, parachute, and ground troops seized two canal bridges and landed nine gliders on the grassy roof of the fort. The Belgian garrison was overwhelmed in one of the earliest and most successful airborne operations of the war. It was a stunning tactical victory for the Germans.

Besides the gliders, a key to the success of this daring mission was a top-secret, hollow-charge device which when detonated, imploded. That is, the charge blew inward, not up and out. These 100-pound explosives were placed against the steel-reinforced, concrete cupolas and turrets housing observation posts and large-caliber cannon. The tremendous blasts, each accompanied by a miniature mushroom cloud, instantly neutralized weapons and men, even those directly down in the bowels of the fort, with an inverted, volcanic shower of molten metal and concrete shrapnel.

The DFS 230 was used extensively in North Africa and was a vital component in the assault on Crete. The growing dominance of Allied air power highlighted the vulnerability of glider designs and the type suffered heavily. The DFS 230's last significant use was to deliver the group of hand picked commandos led by Otto Skorzeny against the mountain-top hotel that was used to hold Mussolini.

An intelligence report on a rumored German secret weapon used in Russia during the 1942 campaign, from the Intelligence Bulletin, September 1942.





Remember how Germany, just before she opened her campaign against France, Holland, and Belgium, spread reports through neutral countries that the Germans soon were going to put into use a new secret weapon? These reports speculated on the nature of the weapon. They described it as a gas which affected armament but not men, as a gas which would put troops to sleep long enough for them to be disarmed, and as super-duper tanks that could easily batter their way through fortified lines.


Well, all these reports proved to be false—they were products of the huge German propaganda program, which seeks to strike fear and confusion into the ranks of United Nations forces.


Now, more than two years later, the German propaganda organization is spreading reports of another secret development. This time the German claim deals with a new tactical formation, which allegedly is being used in the 1942 campaign against Russia. The formation has been designated by various names, one of which is "Motpulk." This is probably an abbreviation of a German expression which means a force made up of motorized, armored, and air columns.


According to reports from neutral European countries—reports which most probably were put out by German propagandists—the new formation is a hollow square of tanks and other armored units, inside which are infantry, artillery, antitank, antiaircraft, and "flying" workshops. Powerful air elements supposedly fly overhead during operations of the formation and cooperate in the fighting. The combined forces, or "Motpulks," carry enough supplies for limited periods. When these supplies run low, they are restocked with new supplies dropped from planes. The distance around some of the "Motpulks" is said to be nearly 300 miles. The formation is shaped somewhat like the old Greek Phalanx, which was popular back in the days of shields and spears.


Such a massing of armored and mechanized forces calls for large numbers of tanks and motorized vehicles, Berlin admits. But the Germans insist that their industries produced sufficient quantities during the winter months to care for all their needs.


The "Motpulks" are substitutes for spearhead formations used by the Germans, so the story goes. The new formation allegedly is much better than the spearhead formations—because the direction of attack can be changed quickly toward any of the four sides of the square. Also, the new formation permits the quick forming of a wedge. "Motpulks" are thrown into the attack to disorganize and confuse retreating opposition troops after the latter have been forced back by the German infantry, according to the reports. Other "Motpulks," or detachments from the advancing "Motpulk," are left behind to mop up or surround any remaining centers of opposition resistance. The Germans claim the "Motpulks" have proved exceptionally strong in resisting Russian counterattacks in the Don river area. The formation is said to have been able to resist every threat to the German flanks by counterattacking forces.


The reports of the new formation are believed to be propaganda. Propaganda is an effective instrument of war, and the Germans use it to the utmost. As with other kinds of weapons, a defense must be devised and used.


Fear of the unknown is one of the greatest dangers on the battlefield. The Germans spread false reports to cause their opponents to fear so-called "new" or "super" weapons or tactics which they do not have. This is done to create an uneasy state of mind which readily leads to confusion when the action really does start. While carrying out an attack, the Germans continue to spread as much confusion as possible in their opponent's command. They do this by dropping bombs that make frightening noises, by using sirens on dive bombers, by terrorizing civilian refugees so they will rush away from their homes and block the roads, by dropping disguised parachutists, and by tapping telephone lines to spread false reports and even to give commands in the opposition's language. In many instances, the Germans also have used Fifth Columnists to do some of these things, as well as to perform sabotage missions.


As an interesting sidelight, an American observer asked a German general staff officer immediately after the campaign in France about the nature of the "secret" weapon announced by the Germans before the campaign. He laughed and replied that it was the members and units of all the arms and services operating together in a task force combat team. The "secret" weapon was cooperation. The German officer added that this cooperation was possible only when all elements of the task force were under one commander.


In the future there will be other German reports of new weapons or tactics. It may be gas, or a tank, or an airplane, or something entirely new. These reports will be studied carefully because they may indicate new weapons or combat methods, or they may be propaganda—which can be as effective as bullets. Of course, there will be some improvements in German arms and tactics as a result of experience, but, in the main, their present combat methods are the ones they employed in Poland, France, and Russia. These are all well-known to our officers.

We have invisible aircraft, submarines, colossal tanks and cannon, unbelievably powerful rockets, and a bomb with a working that will astonish the whole world. The enemy knows this, and besieges and attempts to destroy us. But we will answer this destruction with a storm and that without unleashing a bacteriological war, for which we are also prepared.... All my words are the purest truth. That you will see. We still have things that need to be finished, and when they are finished, they will turn the tide. 

~Adolf Hitler, March 13, 1945
, addressing officers of the German Ninth Army

The wonder weapons are the hope. It is laughable and senseless for us to threaten at this moment, without a basis in reality for these threats.
The well-known mass destruction bombs are nearly ready. In only a few days, with the utmost meticulous intelligence, Hitler will probably execute this fearful blow, because he will have full confidence.... It appear, that there are three bombs - and each has an astonishing operation. The construction of each unit is fearfully complex and of a lengthy time of completion.

Benito Mussolini, Political Testament, April 22, 1945, cited in Edgar Meyer and Thomas Mehner, Hitler und die Bombe: Welchen Stand erreichte die deutsche Atomforschung und Geheimwaffenentwicklung wirklich? (Rottenburg: Kopp Verlag, 2002)

I have seen enough of their designs and production plans to realize that if they had managed to prolong the war some months longer, we would have been confronted with a set of entirely new and deadly developments in air warface.

Sir Roy Feddon, chief of the technical mission to Germany for the Ministry for Aircraft Production in 1945 from The Daily Telegraph, October 1, 1945

The Germans were preparing rocket surprises for the whole world in general and England in particular which would have, it is believed, changed the course of the war if the invasion had been postponed for so short a time as half a year.

Lt. Col. Donald Leander Putt, Dep. Cmmd. Gen., AAF Intelligence, Air Technical Services Command

To the German scientists, the V-2 was just a toy. The V-1, V-2 and Me 262 certainly high technology for the British and Americans, but compared with the Sänger bomber, the A9/A10 rocket (both ready or almost ready in 1945) or the flying discs, they were only toys.

Lt. Col. John A. Keck, June 28, 1945

Mittelwerk was the name given to the underground factories and facilities located underneath the Kohnstein Mountain near Nordhausen in central Germany. Most of the factory's workers were imprisoned in the Dora concentration camp, that was located southwest of Kohnstein. The underground factory is best known for being the production facility of the infamous V-2 rocket.

Germany's rocket program was formerly located at Peenemünde, north-Germany, but following the massive allied air assault on the facility in August 1943, the decission was taken to move the V-2 program to the underground facilities of Kohnstein mountain. General Hans Kammler was put in charge of Mittelwerk, as the underground factory was named.

Arthur Rudolph had been in charge of the Peenemünde assembly, but the V-rocket program was the creation of mainly Wernher von Braun. The first of this range was the Fieseler Fi 103 unpiloted flying bomb, or the V-1. The weapon was grossly inaccurate and indiscriminate. London was always its intended target but in May 1943 preliminary discussions were held on the feasibility of firing the V-1 from a submarine such as the large Type XIV replenishment U-boat.

The V-2 was the A-4 giant rocket 14 metres in length, 1.6 metres at the widest point of the fuselage and 3.5 metres across the tail assembly. Maximum altitude of 80 kilometres and the range was up to 305 kilometres. During powered flight the projectile was remote-controlled from the ground or regulated by an onboard gyro-compass. Late in the war, the rocket had a destructive effect on the city of London, its impact being equivalent to fifty 100-ton steam locomotives hitting the ground simultaneously at 70 mph. Tests with firing a V-2 from an underwater submarine were also carried out.

Then there was the Uraniumbombe. This laboratory-produced nuclear explosive was to be the warhead in the large V-2 or A9/A10 rockets. The V-2 had a range of 200 miles while the A9/A10 could hit New York. There was no rocket of the same species for the inter-mediate ranges and this omission was fatal. By December 1944 when the Uraniumbombe was ready for use in numbers for the definitive V-2 campaign, the Low Countries and France had been lost and now the range was too long.

The A9/A/10 series was not yet in mass production, the project having only been resurrected in December 1944. A test launch seems to have been carried through near Ohrdruf on March 16, 1945. At least four witnesses gave evidence that an "Amerika" rocket was launched succesfully from Polte II MUNA Rudisleben (an underground munitions factory site).

The Washington Post

February 18, 1957

Hitler's Arms Chief Tells of Plan to Bomb U.S. By Super-Plane, Says Reich Had Flying Saucers


MUNICH, West Germany, Feb. 17 - Nazi Germany developed flying saucers that flew more than 1000 miles an hour and a bomber that could attack the United States and return without refueling, it was revealed today.

These and other details of Hitler's efforts to achieve a "wonder weapon" that would turn the tide of World War II in its closing stages are revealed authoritatively in a book called The German Weapons and Secret Weapons of World War II and Their Development, by Rudolf Lusar, who during the war was head of the Technical Arms Department of the German War Ministry.

The flying saucers, designed by three German engineers and an Italian, were 138 feet in diameter. The first one flew February. 14, 1945, at Prague, and reached a height of more than 40,000 feet and a speed of 1250 miles per hour.

Germany, the book says, was also building the Heinkel 343, a bomber capable of reaching the United States and returning without refuelling. Several of the planes were ready at the end of the war. The book also said it was originally planned to stage the first air raid on the United States in May, 1945.

The Germans also were busy at work on the super V-Nine rocket, an outgrowth of the V-One and V-529 rockets which Germany aimed at England after the Allied landings in France in 1944.

Had they been completed, the book said, the V-Nine's would have been able to carry a one-ton warhead across the Atlantic to the United States in 35 minutes. The rocket was actually to have been guided by a pilot, who would jump out at the last moment with a parachute, to be rescued. If possible, by a German Submarine at sea.

Other weapons described in the book include the Viper, the world's first vertical take-off plane. Ten of these were ready for action at Kircheim Unter Tech in southwest Germany during 1945, but were never used against the enemy.

The book also described an acoustic cannon, which was supposed to be able to kill men with sound waves at a range of 70 yards but which turned out to be a failure and was scrapped.

But the Germans did turn out a wind cannon, which could shatter wooden boards at a distance of 200 yards with jets of compressed air, the book said. The wind cannon was ready for action at a bridge over the Elbe in 1945 but was never used.

Another weapon was the soundless electric cannon, which was to have expelled a conventional shell by electricity but was still in the experimental stage at the end of the war.

Lastly, the book described an automatic rifle that would fire around corners - to be used principally in house-to-house fighting. Lusar said the weapons was reported to be accurate up to 100 yards.

In his book, Lusar said the weapons helped bolster Nazi Propaganda Minister Josef Göbbels in his fanatical belief that a "wonder weapon" would turn the tide at the last minute.