Throughout World War II, Nazis scientists sought secret weapons to launch offensive attacks on American soil. What was the mysterious Rocket U-Boat? And how close did it come to destroying New York City?
Nazi Secret Weapons: The Rocket U-Boat?
Throughout World War II, the Nazis sought to build long-range, secret weapons (such as the Amerika-Bomber and the Sun Gun). In 1941, this desire led Nazi scientists to research the Rocket U-Boat. They hoped such a U-boat could travel across the globe, targeting cities on distant continents. In 1942, scientists developed and tested the first Rocket U-Boat. It was relatively simple, just a few rocket launchers mounted on the U-511′s deck. The test was a mixed bag. On one hand, the missiles fired just fine at depths of up to 12 meters. However, the lack of a guidance system rendered the missiles useless.
In 1943, Nazi scientists developed another secret weapon known as the V-1 flying bomb, an early predecessor to the cruise missile. It had a range of 160 miles. Paired with a U-Boat, it would be capable of long-distance strikes on any city in the world. However, the Nazi Luftwaffe showed little interest in helping to create the Rocket U-Boat, probably due to inter-service rivalry.
That same year, Nazi scientists developed another secret weapon known as the V-2 rocket. The V-2 was the world’s first long-range combat ballistic missile as well as the first rocket to achieve sub-orbital spaceflight. It had a range of 200 miles. Again, this seemed like the perfect fit for a Rocket U-Boat. And in late 1944, resources were finally allocated to it under Project Prufstand XII. The target of the Rocket U-Boat?
The Race to build a Rocket U-Boat?
The V-2 was much larger than the V-1 flying bomb. In fact, it was too large for any existing Nazi U-boat. Undeterred, Nazi scientists developed a 500-ton specially-constructed container for the V-2. The plan was to have a U-boat tow it across the Atlantic Ocean. Then sailors would flood the ballast tanks, causing the rocket to shift into a vertical position. Afterward, the sailors would fuel the rocket, prepare the guidance system, and aim it at New York.
The Nazis ordered three of these containers. At least one was actually built. It is unknown if this container was ever tested in any fashion.
Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis
The Americans were well-aware of Nazi attempts to build a Rocket U-Boat secret weapon and prepared a contingency plan known as Operation Teardrop. In March 1945, six Nazi U-boats approached America. The U.S. launched Operation Teardrop and ended up destroying the four of the boats. It was later determined that none of these were Rocket U-Boats.
But that doesn’t mean the Rocket U-Boat was never launched. In February 1945, the U-1053 was carrying out diving trials off the coast of Norway. With all sides closing in on Nazi Germany, this seems like an odd time to worry about diving trials. Some historians think the U-1053 may have had an ulterior purpose, perhaps to test out a Rocket U-Boat system. The U-1053 shipwreck was located in March 2010. To my knowledge, it has yet to be fully explored.