Nazi chief Hermann Goering plotted to attack New York in a bizarre plot involving a manned space rocket dropping a dirty bomb over the Manhattan skyline in a retaliation to horrific US strikes in Dresden, Germany.
Vying for Hitler’s attention, the head of the German air-force, Hermann Goering, set up a lab and a team of leading scientists to explore the possibility of the radioactive attack on American soil.
Goering read the work of maverick Austrian engineer, Eugen Saenger and particularly his belief that a space plane could be built.
The head of the Luftwaffe commissioned him and other leading physicists to explore the plane, which he then wanted to arm with a radioactive bomb capable of doing untold damage to America’s most populous city.
Leading historians told the Daily Express that Goering may have been gullible for believing the far-fetched plan would work, but much of the research which went into the project paved the way for modern space travel research and the space shuttle program.
‘Eugen Saenger would greatly influence post-war thinking about space travel in the United States,’ Dr David Baker, a space historian, told the British newspaper.
‘A whole series of highly classified space-plane concepts were developed based on his theories.’
‘His work certainly had an influence on aspects of the Space Shuttle programme.’
Goering believed the rocket plan would enable the Third Reich to overcome the issue of flying across the Atlantic and ultimately avenge America’s entry into the war.
Saenger completed a 900-page plan and called the craft the Silverbird.
He believed it would be able to clear the lower reaches of space after being fired with rocket engines.
It was expected to reach 13,000 miles per hour, would have a 100-tonne thrust motor and would reach more than 80 miles above earth.
‘The plan was to wrap the bomb with radioactive sand and have it explode high above New York casting a radioactive cloud over the city,” aviation historian David Myhra says.
‘It was a kind of prototype dirty bomb.’
‘The standard aircraft of the day could not fly from Europe to the US because they could not carry enough fuel.’
‘But by reaching sub-orbital altitude the Silverbird’s fuel life would be extended allowing it to bomb anywhere in the world.’
‘It was wild science fiction’
‘But Saenger had worked out all the mathematics. He was certain it would work.’
‘Post-war analysis indicated that the space-plane would have burnt up during re-entry but this could have been overcome with thermal shielding.
‘The underlying concept was sound but it was many years ahead of its time.’
Goering finally dismissed the plan and the Nazis looked at other ways to bomb the U.S. but never succeeded.
Saenger fled to France and was later sent for by Josef Stalin who was also interested in the Silverbird concept.
He was never found by the Soviet Union and died in 1964.
Dr Asif Siddiqi, an assistant professor in space history at Fordham University said: ‘Saenger was the first to look into the technicalities of building a winged, reusable sub-orbital vehicle.’
‘His work was extremely far-sighted.’
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