General George S. Patton once said that, “compared to war, all other human endeavors shrink to insignificance.” He wasn’t wrong. It is said that the project to build the first atomic bombs in terms of expense and manhours was like building a Panama Canal every year for four years. The original Panama Canal took 20 years to complete. War sees various weapons systems invented, produced, and then refined. From 1939 to 1946, the world saw the invention and development of radar, sonar, the proximity fuse, ballistic missiles, jet aircraft, radio-controlled and TV-controlled bombs, and of course at0mic weapons. Different weapons were created to experiment with which ones would inflict the most damage to the enemy. While there were plenty that turned out to be great, actually mass-produced and used for the next decades, there were also some colossal flops that ended up on the scrap heap of military weapons failures. Here are some examples of those World War II weapons that miserably failed.
Panzerkampfwagen Maus, The Heavest Tank Ever Built
Hitler’s giant tank, the Panzerkampfwagen Maus (Mouse), was a German super-heavy tank designed by Ferdinand Porsche and completed in late 1944. Hitler wanted to produce an indestructible, enclosed armored fighting vehicle that could destroy Soviet tanks at standoff ranges, and this became the heaviest of its type. It was proposed in 1942 with a number of German High Commands seeing the need for this 200 ton beast of a vehicle. The Maus(Mouse) was 33 feet long, 12.2 feet wide, and 11 feet high. Its main armament was the 128 mm cannon (KwK) 44 L/55 gun that was Krupp-designed and could destroy any other tank in existence out to 11,500 feet. As befitting the largest tank in the world, it had two cannons, the second was a 12.8 cm Pak 44 (anti-tank gun) mounted coaxially to the main gun. In some places, the armor plate was more than 9 inches thick which was as much armor as some battleships had at the time.
The main problem encountered with Maus during trials was the constant mechanical problems that kept on arising due to its hybrid diesel-electric drivetrain. The tracks were powered by huge Daimler-Benz diesel aircraft engines mated to electric motors, but the top speed was an unimpressive 12 MPH. It was just too heavy for the electric motors to get it up to speed. It was also too heavy to cross any automobile bridge in Europe and special rail cars would have to be designed to move it long distances. Never mind moving by road, its weight would have crushed the concrete, stone, and asphalt of that time beneath its enormous bulk.
The original plan was to build 150 of these tanks, but once the prototypes were completed, five were ordered, but only two hulls and one turret were ever finished because the testing grounds were captured by the military forces of the Soviet Union.
A13 Mk III (Cruiser Tank Mk V) Covenanter
Named after the Scottish religious faction at the time of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, Covenanter was a British fast cruiser tank designed to exploit the gaps in the enemy defenses. It was designed in 1939 at the outbreak of WWII by the London, Midland, and Scottish Railways as a replacement for the Cruiser Mark IV with its better armor. While the idea of this tank looked genius in the drawings with the large wheels, low profile, and sloped armor, it was far from how it turned out once they were delivered in 1941. The problem was that Britain frantically ordered large numbers of the Covenanter due to its need to re-arm immediately. When they arrived, the 2-pounder gun and 1.2 in (30 mm) armor were already outclassed. Tons of defects were also revealed, with the major one being its engine cooling problems that were hard to overcome and deemed unfit to be used overseas, especially in hot climates. A total of 1,771 Covenanters were produced, but none went to war and were only used for training. The tanks were the equivalent of shredding millions of dollars before throwing them off the trash.
Me 163 Komet
What could be cooler than an operational rocket-powered fighter aircraft that’s actually piloted by a person and can zoom at a speed of more than 620 miles per hour? Nothing, if you’d ask the Germans who designed the Messerschmitt Me 163 Komet interceptor aircraft. It was designed for point defense by Alexander Lippisch and is the only one of its kind throughout history. This tiny fighter’s main purpose was to intercept high-flying American bombers over Germany. Two volatile substances were mixed to cause ignition and served as their liquid propellant. This was enough to propel the fighter to an altitude reaching 39,000 feet within just 3.45 minutes, with a top speed of over 550 MPH. It was an impressive speed that proved too fast for the pilots struggling to line up slow-moving bombers in their gunsights.. Another challenge was that its burn only lasted for good 7 minutes. After then, the pilot had to glide it back to the base unpowered and land on skids as it shed its wheels on take off. A total of 364 Komets were built but only managed to shoot down 16 bombers. Pilots were also killed during the testing and training phase. One of them was pilot Josef Pohs who was killed in 1943 due to exposure to high-test peroxide called Substance T and injuries that were sustained on a failed takeoff that resulted in a rupture of a fuel line.
Komet was considered a failure, and only a few went into combat due to the fuel shortages later during the war.