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The Amerika Bomber
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The America Bomber
The Amerika Bomber project was an initiative of the Reichsluftfahrtministerium, the Nazi Germany Air Ministry, to obtain a long-range strategic bomber for the Luftwaffe that would be capable of striking the continental United States from Germany, a range of about 5,800 km (c.3,600 mi.). Possibly the first public reference to the Amerika Bomber was on July 8, 1938, barely two years after the death of Germany's main strategic bombing advocate General Walter Wever, in a speech by the Luftwaffe's commander-in-chief Hermann Göring saying, "I completely lack the bombers capable of round-trip flights to New York with a 4.5-tonne bomb load. I would be extremely happy to possess such a bomber which would at last stuff the mouth of arrogance across the sea." Canadian historian Holger H. Herwig claims the plan started as a result of discussions by Hitler in November of 1940 and May of 1941 when he stated his need to “deploy long-range bombers against American cities from the Azores.” Due to their location he thought the Portuguese Azores islands were Germany's “only possibility of carrying out aerial attacks from a land base against the United States.” At the time, Portuguese dictator Salazar had allowed German U-boats and navy ships to refuel there, but from 1943 onwards, he leased bases in the Azores to the British, allowing the Allies to provide aerial coverage in the middle of the Atlantic. Requests for designs were made to the major German aircraft manufacturers (Messerschmitt, Junkers, Heinkel, Focke-Wulf and the Horten Brothers) early in World War II, coinciding with the passage of the Destroyers for Bases Agreement between the United States and the United Kingdom in September 1940.
The Amerika Bomber Project plan was completed on April 27, 1942, nearly six years after the death of the Luftwaffe's primary pre-war supporter of strategic bombing, Generalleutnant Walther Wever, and submitted to Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring on May 12, 1942. The 33 page long plan was discovered in Potsdam by Olaf Groehler, a German historian. Ten copies of the plan were made, with six going to different Luftwaffe offices and four held in reserve. The plan specifically mentions using the Azores as a transit airfield to reach the United States. If utilized, the Ju 290 and the Me 264 could reach American targets with a 5 ton and 6.5 ton payload respectively.  Although it is apparent that the plan itself deals only with an attack on American soil, it is possible the Nazis saw other, interrelated strategic purposes for the Amerika Bomber project. According to Duffy, Hitler "saw in the Azores the ... possibility for carrying out aerial attacks from a land base against the United States ... [which in turn would] force it to build up a large antiaircraft defense." The anticipated result would have been for the United States to use more of its antiaircraft capabilities - i.e. guns and fighter planes - for its own defense rather than for that of Great Britain, thereby allowing the Luftwaffe to attack the latter country with less resistance.
The most promising proposals were based on conventional principles of aircraft design and would have yielded aircraft very similar in configuration and capability to the Allied heavy bombers of the day. These included the Messerschmitt Me 264 (an all-new design), the Focke-Wulf Fw 300 (based on the existing Fw 200), Focke Wulf Ta 400 and the Junkers Ju 390 (based on the Ju 290), as well as the Heinkel He 277 (actually intended, primarily to compete for the "Amerika Bomber" role), with some upgrades. Prototypes of the Me 264 were built, but it was the Ju 390 that was selected for production. Only three prototypes each, of both the Me 264 and Ju 390 designs, were constructed before the programmes were abandoned. It is widely claimed that in early 1944 the second prototype of the Ju 390 made a trans-Atlantic flight to within 20 km (12 mi) of the U.S. coast.
Huckepack Projekt (Piggyback Project)
One idea similar to Mistel-Gespann was to have a Heinkel He 177 bomber carry a Dornier Do 217, powered with an additional Lorin-Staustrahltriebwerk (Lorin-ramjet), as far as possible over the Atlantic before releasing it. For the Do-217 it would have been a one-way trip. The plane would be ditched off the east coast, and its crew would be picked up by a U-boat that was waiting nearby. When plans had advanced far enough, the lack of fuel and the loss of the base at Bordeaux prevented a test. The project was abandoned after the forced move to Istres increased the distance too much.
The controversial, revisionist British historian David Irving stated that a method of bombing New York was discussed at several Luftwaffe conferences in May and June of 1942. One idea that received a lot of attention was the Huckepack Projekt (piggyback project). Initially Field-Marshal Erhard Milch vetoed the plan due to the small payload that would be delivered for such a massive project. However, on June 4, 1942, Erhard Milch and Albert Speer attended a lecture by Werner Heisenberg on Atomic Fission at the Harnack-Haus. After the lecture, Speer asked Heisenberg if this research could design an atom bomb. Heisenberg replied that it could be done, but would take as long as two years. Speer then asked how large a bomb would need to be to destroy a city to which Heisenberg replied the size of a football. Heisenberg requested funds, rare materials, and scientists be released from the army to continue their research. The Huckepack Projekt was brought up again at multiple joint conferences between the Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine. However, after a few weeks the plan was abandoned on August 21, 1942. Air Staff General Kreipe wrote in his diary that the German Navy could not supply a U-boat offshore of the United States to pick up the aircrew. The plan saw no further development, since the Kriegsmarine would not cooperate with the Luftwaffe.
The Flying Wing
Other proposals were far more exotic jet- and rocket-powered designs, e.g. as a flying wing. The Horten brothers designed the Horten Ho XVIII , a flying wing powered by six turbojets based on experiences with their existing Ho X design. The Arado company also suggested a six-jet flying wing design, the Arado E.555.
Wind tunnel model of Eugen Sänger's pre-war Silbervogel ("Silverbird")
Other designs were rockets with wings. Perhaps the best-known of these today is Eugen Sänger's pre-war Silbervogel ("Silverbird") sub-orbital bomber. While the A4b rocket, winged version of the V-2 rocket and probably its successor A9 rocket were tested several times in late 1944/early 1945, the A9/A10 Amerika-Rakete, planned as a full 2-staged ICBM remained a project.
All of these projects were deemed too expensive and ambitious and were abandoned, although the British Air Ministry considered development of the Ho XVIII for an airliner after the war, and the theoretical groundwork done on the Silbervogel would prove seminal to lifting body designs of the space age.
Ho XVIII (18)
According to British Intelligence, a German prisoner of war was quoted saying that since the beginning of 1944, “…regular air travel between Germany and Japan established for the transport of high officials,” took place with the Messerschmitt Me 264. The distance from Frankfurt, Germany to Tokyo, Japan is 9,160 km (5,691 mi) whereas the distance from New York City, New York to Paris, France is 5,840 km (3,628 mi) to put this in perspective. Although in the case of bombing New York City, that distance must be doubled to 11,680 km (7,256 mi) as the bomber will not be able to land as it did in Tokyo. The only German WW II aircraft built that had anything close to this specified range was the Messerschmitt Me 261 Adolfine, with a maximum range of 11,025 km (6,850 mi). Many engineering challenges must be surpassed for the bomber to be an effective weapon. Had Hitler spent more time and resources on this project, it may have had a chance of working. However unless Germany developed an atomic bomb, which would have taken even more time and resources, it is unlikely this aircraft would have made a big impact on the outcome of the war.
The Horten Ho XVIII (18)
The Horten brothers had a design based on the Ho 2-29. A design for a intercontinental strategic bomber, the Ho 18. The 142-foot wingspan bomber was submitted for approval in 1944, and it would have been able to fly from Berlin to NYC and back without refueling, thanks to the same blended wing design and six BMW 003A or eight Junker Jumo 004B turbojets. As the documentary shows, had the Nazis extended the war in 1946 and developed the atomic bomb as planned, the Ho 18 could have been their Enola Gay.
Why The Plan Failed
Duffy believed that Nazi Germany had no central authority over the development and construction of advanced weaponry. Because of this, German scientists were forced to compete for resources that were already scarce due to the war. Hitler was often swayed to spend more time, money and resources on his “miracle weapons” or projects that were exciting and new, but less likely to be successful. As a result insufficient attention was given to the Amerika Bomber project. The project failed to come to fruition, not because the transatlantic bomber was not feasible, but because the Nazis were unable to manufacture enough parts to produce the aircraft. The Allied bombing was so intense near the end of the war it disrupted the German supply chain. Also, the German war machine was running very low on supplies, particularly fuel and kept what little was left for defense.
- Duffy, James P. Target America: Hitler's Plan to Attack the United States. The Lyons Press, 2006. ISBN 978-1-59228-934-9.
- Rose, Paul; Lawrence. Heisenberg and the Nazi atomic bomb project: a study in German culture By Paul Lawrence Rose Heisenberg and the Nazi atomic bomb project. ISBN 978-0520229266.
- http://www.luft46.com/horten/ho18a.html Horten XVIII page on luft46.com
- http://www.luft46.com/arado/are555s.html Arado 555 page on luft46.com
- http://www.luft46.com/misc/sanger.html Sänger page on luft46.com
- Me 264 Forsyth, Robert. Messerschmitt Me 264 America Bomber: The Luftwaffe’s Lost Transatlantic Bomber. Ian Allen Publishing, 2006 ISBN 1-903223-65-2.