The German Bomber That Almost Reached Manhattan.

This Passenger Liner/Long Range Bomber May Have Come Within Miles of New York.
This Passenger Liner/Long Range Bomber May Have Come Within Miles of New York.

If you want to make a movie about WWII fighter warfare you have to know that there are still thousands of well maintained WWII aircraft around, except for the models that didn’t survive or for some reason adapt well to modern air travel and air combat. Like flying boats. And if you were to make a movie about WWII passenger travel, you’d need flying boats. And if you needed to tell a tale about German bombers or the lack thereof, you’d be surprised how well transatlantic flying boats took to combat. You’d also be surprised to know that much of the trans Atlantic passenger and cargo travel in the 1930s was made in flying boats. Enormously lavish interiors filled with cedar cabinets and granite table-tops and silk curtains and first class service was the promise of the flying boat. Hitler’s war planners realized that if you removed the granite counter tops, the onyx pedestals of Greek muses, and the heavy ash Duncan Phyfe love seats, you could put quite a few paratroopers in it, and perhaps a nasty mix of ordinance.

There are a lot of armchair generals who criticize Hitler for failing to build a prevailing long-range bomber. But the fact is Germany had plenty of heavy bombers, but little reason to need them. Most of the territory under their purview during the war was well within reach of ME-109s and Ju-88s stationed in forward bases from France to Russia. The only reason Hitler wanted a long ranger was to bomb New York. The Germans had finally at the war’s end, developed a guided rocket that had the range to hit New York, the A-9.

Originally designed as a luxury passenger flying boat for Lufthansa, the BV 238 design was called into service as a maritime patrol aircraft. That meant for all intents and purposes,  a scout plane, and a bomber equipped to put ships at the bottom of the ocean, even submarines. Plus it had guns for strafing, although I can’t imagine a plane this big dog fighting.

The BV 238 was the largest military aircraft ever flown in WWII. It was also the largest to date. This plane was so big that to test the aeronautics, they built a smaller version 25% of the final size.

The Germans started a few variations but had built only one prototype which had problems getting off of the water, and the engines seized up and overheated the first few tests. Eventually they flew long range test runs.

Air Force P-51 pilot Captain Urban L. Drew and two wingmen came upon the six-engine dreadnought sitting on the Lake at the Bug Seaplane Base in North Germany in September 1944. As you might expect, they made short work of it.

A French aviation journal describes the armament on the BV 238, and you have to worry about this.

(Roughly translated from French. I say roughly because I did it and I know it isn’t exact.)

“Meanwhile, the construction of the prototype 238 VI had progressed, its development being sub-contracted in Weserflug, like at the research departments of the SNCASO, in Paris. The enormous apparatus was almost completed in August 1943. With a crew of ten members, it could carry a hundred and fifty men equipped in his fuselage with two bridges. Its wing of 60 m scale comprised a Vogt tank, which could receive 38,000 liters of fuel, giving him a range of 6,700 km, and its acceptable maximum weight of 94 T (with rockets) was higher than that of Martin “Mars” American.

Powerful armament was  bombs and machine guns including twelve 20 mm cannons divided into six double turrets operated remotely. The offensive armament comprised twenty bombs of 250 kg and six of 50 kg or four torpedes or bombs planing Hs-293. The in-flight tests of V I started in spring 1944, but the enormous machine, which had been transferred on the lake Schaal, there was destroyed by a raid of Mustang little before the end of the war.”

Why the worry? Well, in a remarkable claim, a narrator on a show produced in Britain about the flying boats of WWII says that by the end of 1944, the Germans had staged a test run and flew the bomber to within 12 miles of Manhattan. This plane could have caused enormous damage to Manhattan, or harbors from New York to Philly to Baltimore to Wilmington to DC.

I know at the end of the war the US was using combat air patrols and early versions of British radar to sweep the seas, and barrage balloons to defend ports. But that seems awful close to avoid detection. If it did get that close, then all I can say is it’s a good the war ended before the Nazis could produce this one-of-a-kind flying boat bomber.

Anyway, the end of the air looming and the loss of the sole flying version doomed the project.

Sources and Citations.


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