The Nazis, during WW2, planned and worked on building a “sun gun” — a big mirror orbiting the Earth that could concentrate the sun’s energy into a single beam. They hoped it would burn anyone and everything in its sights.
While a gigantic mirror in space sounds like something out of the 2012 movie Iron Sky (where the Nazis flee to the moon after their defeat in WW2), it is a fact that Nazi scientists had their fingers in a lot of pies. We also know that the Füherer supported the development of new technologies to defeat the Allies.
But can there really be any truth to the “sun gun” theory?
In short, yes.
The Third Reich was at the forefront of many incredible scientific feats. For example, Fritz X is often considered to be the first type of smart bomb ever.
This weapon was radio-guided and could carry up to 700lbs of explosives. Dropped from a bomber at an altitude of about 20,000 feet (6 kilometers) it was well out of reach of any anti-aircraft weaponry and could hit targets like warships with pinpoint accuracy.
This bomb was used to lethal effect during WW2 in the sinking of HMS Warspite, HMS Spartan and the hospital ship HMHS Newfoundland to name but a few.
Another devastatingly effective weapon that saw action, albeit late in the war, came in the guise of the Messerschmitt 163 Komet. This airplane was the first rocket-propelled plane. It could reach speeds of over 700 mph (1,126 kph) in a vertical dive – that’s slightly shy of the sound barrier at about 767 mph (1,234 kph).
Despite all of the technological advancement, the plane was highly impractical in that it only had a range of about 20 miles (32 kilometers) and then ran out of fuel.
The Flettner FI 282 was the first mass-produced helicopter ever built with prototypes taking off as early as 1941. However, despite the fanfare, only 24 were ever made because the Allies bombed the factory. But it must be said that the Nazis used these flying machines for reconnaissance purposes very effectively.
The Allies even found prototypes for a stealth bomber that could fly all the way to New York and drop a nuclear bomb – the Americans would never have seen it coming.
History shows us that the Nazis were pretty resourceful, so it is highly possible that they planned something of the magnitude and scale of the “sun gun.” If you believe a Life Magazine article published in 1945, it is reported that “US Army technology experts came up with the astonishing fact that German scientists had seriously planned to build a “sun gun.””
The colossal mirror in space was supposed to focus the sun’s rays on a focal point on the earth’s surface. “The Germans hoped to use such a mirror to burn an enemy city to ashes or to boil part of an ocean,” the readers were told.
The initial idea came from the renowned rocket scientist Hermann Oberth (1894-1989) in 1923. Over a kilometer (0.62 miles) in diameter, powered by the heat of the sun, this super cannon in space was supposed to set fire to large swaths of enemy territory on the earth below, even vaporizing entire cities.
The Germans even went so far as to set a budget of three million Reichsmark. Furthermore, Oberth calculated that it would take 15 years to construct the massive mirror in the sky. The building material would be brought up into space with rockets and then mounted onto the superstructure.
The original idea of using a gargantuan mirror in space was to supply the earth with sunshine anywhere on the globe. But Oberth later called the project the “ultimate weapon.”
“My space mirror,” he wrote, “is like the hand mirrors that schoolboys use to flash circles of sunlight on the ceiling of their classroom. A sudden beam flashed on the teacher’s face may bring unpleasant reactions.”
Hermann Oberth was a German physicist and engineer. Born in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, he is regarded as one of the founding fathers of rocket science and astronautics. He was only 14 years old when he made his first rocket model. During the Nazi period, he was said to have been involved in the development of the V2 rocket.
After the war, he worked under his former student Wernher von Braun, who developed space rockets for NASA and had previously researched for the Nazis.
Oberth retired in 1962 at the age of 68 years.
The victorious Allies discovered the plans for the solar cannon in 1945. Detailed research revealed that the super mirror weapon was supposed to orbit the Earth at a distance of about 35,785 kilometers (22,236 miles).
A crewed space station with docking units for supply rockets, oxygen-generating hydroponic gardens, and solar-powered generators was going to form a part of the space mirror. The Allies were astounded by the scale and detailed nature of the plans.
However, throughout history, the Nazis were not the only ones trying to harness the power of the sun. In 1999, Russia unveiled a plan to use a mirror to reflect the sun to the ground during the winter. And even the ancient Greek scientist Archimedes is said to have defended the city of Syracuse with giant sun mirrors with which he is said to have burned the Roman fleet.
But what would have happened to the history of the world if Adolf Hitler had won the Second World War with some of the outlandish weapons we mentioned in this article?
We can never truly know. However, the Füherer did have plans, and they were very detailed.
Hitler’s plans for after the war
If Hitler and his confidants were to have their way, there was to be a peace conference after the war between the Axis powers consisting of Italy, Germany, and Japan.
The first centerpiece of the Nazi plans was the total subjugation of Europe. Countries such as Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands were to be wholly or at least partially incorporated into the Third Reich.
According to Heydecker and Leeb, authors of the book The Nuremberg Process, France and the countries of the Balkans should remain “in a state of constant subjugation,” while certain parts of France should be annexed into the Third Reich. Even plans for an invasion of neutral Switzerland were already in the making.
On the one hand, Hitler considered that “most Aryans” in the world were basically German; on the other hand, he was of the opinion that the “Jews” would rule the world if it were not for him.
For Britain, Hitler had initially devised a supportive or at least neutral role that involved backing Germany’s path to world domination.
However, Hitler saw Britain as a danger to his interests. After the Nazi invasion of Poland, the British declared war on Germany in 1939. Ultimately, it was clear to the Nazis that Britain would have to be subjugated entirely to maintain control of the European continent.
However, the most significant element of Nazi ideas for the reorganization of Europe and the world was the occupation of the Soviet Union and the elimination of some 30 million Slavs. Hitler wanted to conquer the country up to the Ural mountains, to create new living space for the Germans.
If Hitler had obtained access to some of his super weapons far sooner or had they been realized in the first place, he might actually have fulfilled his dreams of a Nazi super-Reich or a Thousand-Year Reich. In addition, the sun gun would definitely have solidified the German’s position as the only world super power.
On a final note, the veracity for the planning of the sun gun can again be seen in Hermann Oberth’s interview in 1961. This time, he promoted the space mirror’s peacetime attributes in the form of terraforming the Earth, using materials sourced from the moon.
However, to this day, we have found no use for such a device whether for peacetime purposes or war.