World War II

Weirdest weapons ever invented. Part-1

A replica of Tsar Tank near Moscow. Image source: amusingplanet.com

During World War I, the Russians built a gigantic tank that had two huge wheels and looked like a tricycle. Known as the “Tsar tank,” this 60-ton monster required 15 men to control it and had a height of a three-story building. It was capable of bringing an entire fortress down, but it never managed to move from the place of production. Its unarmed model was tested near Moscow and weighed 50% more than what was expected. The project was abandoned because it didn’t move well along soft patches. Its center of gravity was too far aft, and its engine was not powerful enough.

Kugelpanzer, This odd-looking German tank, which carried only one man and no weapons, never actually saw action in World War II. It might not even have been real. Captured by the Soviets in Manchuria in the last days of the conflict, it was put in a museum, with no further study allowed – with many scholars believing the vehicle was some kind of Japanese-built hoax.

A replica of the original umbrella. Image source: spycraft101/reddit.com

An umbrella weapon having a chamber from which a poisonous pellet containing ricin could be fired is called the “Bulgarian Umbrella.” It was reportedly used in the assassination of a Bulgarian dissident writer, Georgi Markow, in September 1978. The victim thought he was stung by a bee and only died four days later. Indeed, the building of this strange weapon was fascinating to the public eye, and it still finds its place in a number of publications. The entire breakdown of the poisonous umbrella could be found displayed in the German Spy Museum.

Depiction of the Claw of Archimedes. Image source: learnodo-newtonic.com

The Claw of Archimedes was an ancient anti-ship weapon developed by Archimedes to defend the sea-facing city walls of the city of Syracuse. Sources say that it was a crane-equipped weapon with a grappling hook that enabled the user to lift the attacker’s ship by the prow and drop it. Its strike often caused the victim ship to capsize or at least face severe damage. It is said that this weird defending weapon was put into use during the Second Punic War in 214 BCE. It was when the Roman Republic attacked Syracuse with 60 ships under the command of Marcus Marcellus.

The Great Panjandrum at Westward Ho!, an abortive attempt at beach clearing. Image source: British Government/IWM via Wikimedia.org

Panjandrum was a massive rocket-propelled, explosive-laden cart that was designed by the British in World War II. The weapon’s structure was basically two wheels held together by a bomb that included rocket propulsion. During its final testing, the wheels disintegrated, the rockets broke free in all directions, and the generals were forced to dive into barbed wires. It was never used in the war. When activated, it spun erratically and the entire machine fell apart. One of the military dogs was chased by a rocket and was killed by it.

Vespa Military. Image source: C. Galliani via Wikimedia.org

The French invented a “bazooka Vespa.” It was a Vespa 150 TAP scooter armed with an M20 75-millimeter recoilless rifle, also known as a light anti-armor cannon. The vehicle carrying the weapon could only reach the speed of 40 miles per hour and was intended to be used by French paratroopers. Nearly 600 such scooters were created in the 1950s. The weapon was ready to use as soon as it was received on the battleground. The Frenchmen used to ride it until they got to a suitable point. Then they dismounted to set the gun up at a perfect angle using the M1917 Browning Machine Gun tripod which came along with the scooter.

Image source: Idot / Wikimedia Commons

What could be more efficient than launching an airplane from something that’s already in the air? Many different variations on flying aircraft carriers have been tried, from the US airships Akron and Macon in the ’30s to the Soviet Zveno, a gigantic airplane with smaller airplanes attached to it. The Zveno saw minor success in the early days of World War II, but was retired soon after because of its vulnerability. Virtually every other attempt to launch planes from a flying plane has failed.

Image source: Petty Officer 1st Class Ronald L. Heppner / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

Designed as a way of deterring and stopping a Soviet invasion of Germany in the aftermath of World War II, Project Blue Peacock involved seeding the North German Plain with nuclear landmines. But the mines had to be kept warm to prevent spontaneous detonation, and British engineers devised a bizarre way to do it: Chickens!! Chicken coops would be set up over the mines, and the body heat from the chickens would provide the needed warmth to prevent the mines from going off and turning half of Germany into a dead zone. But the scheme had a number of problems, the least of which is that the chickens wouldn’t live long, and it was never implemented.