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Silbervogel (“silver bird”), was a rocket-powered suborbital bomber aircraft slated to launch from Germany, bomb New York, then land in Japanese-held islands in the Pacific. Ahead of its time, the design was not favored, but later influenced designs such as the space shuttle.

Hitler’s dream of New York aflame intensified at the same time that the fortunes of war lessened his ability to make it happen. With no staging and demarcation point, like we had in the UK, and lagging behind the Allies and even Japan in deployment of long-range troop carriers, Germany had no realistic plans to launch a land invasion on American shores. But there were noteworthy and specific plans afoot, backed by fast-track funding and weapons development, aimed at targeting our governmental, financial and industrial centers from afar with long-range missiles and strategic bombers—New York City in flames was always Hitler’s fondest maniacal fantasy.

As it happened, the only German ICBMs (intercontinental ballistic missiles) to reach American shores arrived after the War, and came on transport ships along with German technicians we grabbed at Peenemünde. Dr. Werner Von Braun and V2 rockets would be hustled to White Sands, New Mexico, and inspire our Redstone missiles, and ultimately, our early space program.

Although the Japanese had token successes bombing America’s mainland, the only Nazi planes to reach North American shores came for post-war museum exhibits and technical gleaning. Although numerous Nazi spies were at work here, they were homegrown, and the only Nazi personnel to invade the U.S. from Germany were a few comically ineffectual submarine-launched saboteurs. There were actually more air attacks on America from the Germans in WWI than in WWII.

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The proposed He 277 America Bomber, which never flew, was based on the He 177 shown here, upgraded with four engines. More than a thousand 177s were built.

Amerika Bomber
Hitler’s Amerika fantasy was an open secret among Nazi hierarchy. Military officials, even those who had rank only because of political affiliations, did not encourage him in this regard. Early on, when there were Reich marks to be lavishly spread around, however, the Nazi version of a military-industrial complex was more than happy to work on a long-range “Amerika Bomber.” Later, as the tides of battle and economics turned against the Nazis, the Amerika Bomber began looking less attractive. But by then German developments in missiles, particularly ballistic missiles, seemed to promise a way for Hitler to count coup with America, with a practical military effect of disrupting the unfettered, efficient war production made possible by “Island America’s” isolation. Considering the technical progress made on these fronts, and parallel German developments in jet aircraft and other technical arenas, in the final analysis North America may have only been spared the pain of war by the calendar.

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The Me 264 sprang from Messerschmitt’s long-range reconnaissance aircraft project, the P1061, of the late 1930s. The first prototype flew on 23 December 1942.

Hitler and the Nazis’ dream of laying New York to ash and rubble predated the war. The “Silvervogel” winged rocket bomb was designed in the 1930s. In 1937, Willy Messerschmitt showed Hitler the prototype of a four-engine long-range bomber, the Messerschmitt Me 264, designed to bomb New York from Europe. Hitler was thrilled over the idea, but he didn’t know he was shown a mockup to secure a lucrative contract—the Me 264 V did not fly until five years later. In 1938, Luftwaffe chief Hermann Göring noted, “I would be extremely happy to possess such a bomber which would at last stuff the mouth of arrogance across the sea.”

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Shown on an early test flight, the Me 264 could carry a serious bomb load in an internal bomb bay, with a range of 9,500 miles.

The formal “Amerika Bomber” Project plan was completed in 1942 and submitted to Göring in May. Using the Azores as a transit airfield, the Heinkel He 277, Junkers Ju 290, and the Messerschmitt Me 264 could reach American targets with 3-, 5-, and 6.5-ton payloads respectively. Such attacks would force the U.S. to build a large anti-aircraft defense—at the expense of our efforts doing likewise in England.

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The upgraded, six-engine Ju 390 could carry a 13,000-pound payload some 6,030 miles.

Other aircraft-based plans to attack New York included exotic jet-powered flying wings, and the Daimler-Benz Project C, comprising an aircraft carrier with five “Project E” or six “Project F” jets, designed as kamikaze bombers.

All of these aircraft projects were abandoned as too expensive and ambitious. Had Hitler more time and money, some might have worked—but without an atomic bomb, which would need even more time and resources, they would not have impacted the outcome of the war.

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Remarkable because it was the first, in a military sense the V2 (A4) was a senseless terror weapon that bled crucial materiel from the Nazi war machine.

Rockets to Rescue the Reich
As the war turned against them, the Nazis put more hope in miracle weapons. The army research center at Peenemünde, on the Baltic Sea island of Usedom, fired the first V2 (A4) rocket in 1942, and planned launching an “Amerika-Rakate” by war’s end.

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The classic layout of the V2 (A4) is still common to modern liquid-fuel rockets.

Another research group planned a pilot to steer the rocket and eject just before it reached its target—a kamikaze mission with a placebo parachute. They even considered having submarines pull floating containers holding modified V2 rockets to our East Coast, where the containers would be flooded so the rockets point up, clear for launch, an idea we subsequently used on sub-launched missiles.

The German V-weapons (V1 winged missile and V2 ballistic missile) cost $3 billion, a third more costly than our Manhattan Project that produced the atomic bomb. Some 6,048 V2s were built, each at about the cost of a desperately needed replacement advanced fighter: 3,225 were launched. Ironically, more slave laborers died in their construction than they killed in England. The V2 consumed a third of Germany‘s fuel alcohol: one launch required 30 tons of potatoes, and food was becoming scarce. They caused almost no military damage.

While the A4b, winged version of the V2, and probably its successor A9, were tested several times, the A9/A10 Amerika-Rakete two-stage ICBM never flew. The A9/A10 was to be 82 feet long, weighing nearly 100 tons. It would climb to 15 miles before its transatlantic flight toward the United States. But with only a conventional warhead, the cost of the damage it would cause on America would have paled in comparison to the cost to Germany of its launch.

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Had time been on their side, the Nazis would have launched the two-stage A9/A10 (right) on New York City—but with conventional warheads, its effect would have been minimal, compared to what it cost the Nazi war effort.

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Silbervogel (“silver bird”), was a rocket-powered suborbital bomber aircraft slated to launch from Germany, bomb…