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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Prüfstand XII Raketen Unterseeboot

In the autumn of 1943 the Germans began to develop a plan to attack American cities using the V-2. The idea came from Dr. Bodo Lafferentz, one of the Third Reich's most brilliant engineers. Lafferentz, an SS - Obersturmbannführer (Lieutenant Colonel) from 1939, proposed building sealed canisters big enough to contain a V-2 and towing them behind a submarine to within 100 miles of the United States coast. It was estimated one submarine could tow up to three of these hundred-foot-long, torpedo-shaped canisters.

Bodo Lafferentz

Lafferentz fought in the First World War and was decorated with the Iron Cross in 1916. Graduated in 1928 at the University of Kiel in economic planning worked in the German Employees Organization and in 1933 he joined the National Socialist Party. In 1937 he was appointed a director of the "German People's Automobile Manufacturing Company" (Gesellschaft zur Vorbereitung des Deutschen Volkswagens) together with Jacob Werlin and Ferdinand Porsche.

Lafferentz found the ideal site for the enterprise: a sparsely populated rural corner of Lower Saxony. Hitler laid the cornerstone of the Volkswagen factory, changing its name to KdFwagen (in honor of the Labor Front union acronym called Kraft durch Freude, or 'Strength Through Joy'), the car was called KdF wagen and Wolfsburg it became KdF Stadt (City KdF). The Kraft durch Freude had a program of cultural recreation (Amt für Reisen, Wandern und Urlaub) that Lafferentz directed, depending on the German Labor Front (Deutsche Arbeitfront) created by Robert Ley.

Verena Wagner was the youngest of the four children of Siegfried and Winifred Wagner. In Bayreuth in the early 1940s there was vague talk of a possible union of the Chancellor with the young Verena, who was then just twenty years old. But Hitler gave up his dream to write his name on the Wagner genealogical chart. In 1943 she married a high-ranking Nazi, SS-Obersturmbannführer Bodo Lafferentz, and had five children. A trustworthy person to whom Hitler had entrusted some of his favorite projects, he managed and raised funds for the festival after marrying Verena. Bodo Lafferentz organised the Bayreuth “War Festival.”

In the town of Bayreuth he founded the Institut für physikalische Forschung [“Institute for Physical Research”] in Bayreuth, a satellite of the Flossenburg concentration camp. Flossenbürg maintained one of its 92 branch offices in Bayreuth. From the end of 1943 on, Lafferentz was involved in the construction of the Institute for Physical Research in a former cotton mill: a special armament factory, which was involved in new target detection methods for guided bombs. Qualified prisoners from various camps were brought together as low-cost workers, in particular from the Neuengamme, Groß-Rosen and Dachau concentration camps. This was quite unique in the system of concentration camps and probably only possible on the basis of best relations.

This small concentration camp housed nearly 100 prisoners, technically trained Russians, Poles, French, Italian and German men, who were forced to work on technical projects. Of the 85 concentration camp inmates who did forced labor, no one died in Bayreuth, but 11 died outside the camp, especially after its dissolution in April 1945.

Although the camp was not a scene of mass extermination, and in comparison to places such as Auschwitz, was a relatively humane regime, Wieland Wagner, who died in 1966, worked hard to keep his involvement hidden. In the middle of the war, an art-heroic "Valhalla" shone in the idyll of Bayreuth. The Nibelungen, who were forced into forced labor by brute force, lived far below.

Prüfstand XII

The Prüfstand XII (Test Stand XII) project involved towing a V-2 missile in a capsule behind a U-boat and firing it at coastal targets. The concept arose in 1943. The missile would be towed across the North Atlantic in a watertight container behind the U-boat and then set up vertically in the water for launch against US eastern seaboard targets - particularly, New York.

The Germans first test-fired six small underwater missiles in the summer of 1942. The 30cm diameter Wurfkörper 42 Spreng was mounted on the deck of the Type IXC U-boat U-551, an idea of Doktor Ernst Steinhoff who worked at Peenemünde. German Navy commander Dönitz was convinced that the rockets could be developed further into anti-convoy weapons.

The test rocket launches had been successful, both on the surface and submerged to a depth of 12 meters (40 ft) and this led to "Project Ursel", a missile specifically designed to be launched from a U-boat against a pursuing surface vessel. The missile would be of 165mm caliber and four of them would be mounted on the deck in a special tube launcher. It was installed on the latter production Type XXI U-boats. The missiles for this project were still under development at Peenemünde when the war ended, so no use came of them. Both the Type XXI and future Type XXVI U-boats would have carried this weapon system.

But no one seems to have suggested an attack on a US city with these. The Americans were very concerned that U-boats would be adapted to launch V-1 pulse-jet missiles, however the Germans never seriously considered launching a V-1 from a U-boat.

According to "The U-boat Rocket Program: An online technical report", Admiral Doenitz approved of the idea of launching against harbors on the American mainland, specifically the sprawling facilities in New York City. However, the plan was delayed by technical concerns. The Kriegsmarine wanted to fit specialized launchers instead of using modified army equipment, but they did not pursue the idea with urgency.

To overcome the transcontinental barrier that prevented Germany from attacking the United states at home, an official of the German Labor Front, Direktor Lafferenz, suggested that a watertight container be constructed, in which a V-2 ballistic missile could be brought within range of the American coast.

Michael J. Neufeld relates that "A project that even more clearly embodied the mood of desperation was “Test Stand XII.” That code-name was applied in late November 1944 to the idea for a U-boat-towed launch canister for a V-2. It might generously be described as a forerunner of the ballistic-missile submarine, but in its own context “Test Stand XII” was merely ludicrous. The rationale was that the United States might be given pause by the bombardment of New York, although it is hard to see how a few such shots would have done anything but make Americans more determined to take revenge on German cities....

"Only a handful of people worked on the project before it was stopped by the evacuation. Those who participated, including General Rossmann and Walther Riedel, seem to have taken it seriously, but there was scarcely a clearer expression in Peenemünde of the escape from reality produced by the impending collapse of the Third Reich. In one way or another, desperation had come to overshadow all work in the Army rocket program."

Those assigned to the project included Klaus Riedel, Bernhard Tessmann, Hans Huter and Georg von Tisenhausen. Competing priorities of the Kriegsmarine and Peenemünde delayed the sub-launched missile until 1944, at which time work began on three large containers for the missiles. The containers were 105 ft long, displace roughly 500 tons, and contain a single V-2 within as well as a control room and fuel tanks. The three containers were to be towed by a single Type XXI U-boat.

Once on station, the U-boat and the containers would surface, allowing crews to board each container. Ballast tanks would be filled, raising the launchers to the vertical position. Then he crews would enter the control room, and fuel the missiles, set the gyroscopic guidance system, and open the electrically-operated doors.

When it was time to launch, the men would return to the U-boat where they would be triggered by remote control, the ducts turning the rockets' efflux through 180 degrees up the sides of the containers and out into the atmosphere.

Vulkanwerft at Stettin accepted the contract to build the first three containers in December 1944 while Blohm und Voss was contracted to convert a single Type XXI for the task. Due to bombing, the U-boat was not converted and of the three containers, only one was actually completed by May 1945 with two others at 65 percent.

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Page last modified: 20-01-2018 18:14:17 ZULU