The Sun Gun – WWII Nazi Secret Weapon

Allied forces march across Europe. The Nazi threat has finally been pushed back. All of a sudden, a beam of light from space slams into the Allied ranks, instantly vaporizing them into smoldering piles of ash. The Nazis have unleashed their most deadly weapon: the Sonnengewehr. This ultimate doomsday device was never actually built, but there were most definitely discussions amongst the Nazi leadership about whether the Sonnengewehr could become a reality or not.

Sonnengewehr translates to “sun gun,” and the basic idea of this weapon was to use thousands of concave mirrors to focus the sun’s light into a high-intensity beam. The mirror itself would be mounted on satellites and connected to a space station, which would be manned with Nazi scientists and soldiers. The focused sunbeam would work similarly to a beam of light a child creates using a magnifying glass to catch a dried leaf or insect on fire. The plans for this death ray-like weapon were discovered by Allied forces in 1945.

Somehow, Life Magazine got hold of the information and published a series of pictures and details about the sun gun and its capabilities The way the Nazi’s envisioned the whole thing working was that by having a space station attached to the mirror, the crew could aim the Sonnengewehr anywhere on the planet to disintegrate enemy forces. However, there were other useful purposes for the stun gun, some of which could actually have been beneficial for humanity. And it was for these reasons that the space mirror was originally designed.

Make no mistake, the Nazis wanted to use the stun gun as a death ray to advance their evil agenda, even if it could have other more beneficial uses. Assuming that the stun gun could be built, and the technology existed at the time, what were the Nazi’s actual plans for this doomsday device? Well, as you probably could have guessed, they were not planning to use it to help people around the world. The Nazi leadership was most interested in the Sonnengewehr’s ability to concentrate the sun’s energy through a focal point and generate an insanely hot beam of light that would ignite anything it hit on fire.

The sun gun would be used to burn entire enemy cities to the ground without sending a single soldier into harm’s way. They also had plans to boil away parts of the ocean. Perhaps this was to uncover Allied submarines or to cut off trade routes, it is not quite clear why the Nazis would want to evaporate the waters of the world’s oceans. But then again, the ambitions of the Nazis were not always the most logical. Once constructed, the mirror itself would orbit Earth at around 22,236 miles above the planet’s surface.

But this wasn’t just a weapon of mass destruction, it would also be home to dozens of Nazi scientists and crew members. The plans called for docking units on the space station so that supply rockets could be sent with everything that the team living there would need. Again, the technology for putting a space station, or a gigantic mirror into space for that matter, did not exist at the time. But that didn’t keep Nazi scientists from dreaming. For oxygen, the Sonnengewehr space station would include hydroponic gardens that would filter the air being circulated around the complex.

There was talk about using pumpkins as the main staple crop that could be used for oxygen generation and as food. The plants grown on the station would constantly be absorbing carbon dioxide and providing oxygen so that the crew would never run out of fresh air. Also, the hydroponic garden could have been used for other purposes as well, like growing medicinal plants and recreation. And generating energy for the space station would never be a problem, as the whole thing would be powered by solar energy captured by the gigantic mirror. The space station would have a surplus of energy at all times as its orbit would always allow the mirror to capture at least some sunlight, regardless of where it was located in Earth’s orbit.

The sun gun would follow the equator around the Earth, which would allow it to aim its massive mirror at any point on the entire planet. But who was the mastermind to come up with such an ambitious weapon? And was he hell-bent on world domination like Hitler and the other Nazi leaders? The inventor of the space mirror, which would later be repurposed by the Nazis for the Sonnengewehr, was a German physicist and engineer named Hermann Oberth. Concocting doomsday machines was not his specialty, however.

Oberth was actually one of the founders of rocket science and astronautics. At the age of 14, he was already constructing working model rockets. Once he grew up a little, Oberth was recruited to work on the development of the V2 rocket. According to the documents recovered by the Allied forces, Oberth had come up with the idea for the space mirror in 1923, long before the Nazi regime was in power. His initial plans for the gigantic space mirror were all peaceful. Vaporizing enemy forces was not actually at the top of his agenda.

Oberth figured that if sunlight could be focused on specific points on the planet, the energy could be used to thaw frozen rivers and bays that ships were stuck in. Or it could provide a light source to any part of the world so that important work could continue as if the sun had never set. In fact, it wasn’t until the Nazis got their hands on the plans for the space mirror that it was turned into a weapon. Even inventions with the best of intentions seemed to be twisted into evil doomsday devices once the Nazis got hold of them.

However, Oberth was a smart man, and he most certainly knew that his invention could be used for evil purposes. He even wrote: “My space mirror is like the hand mirrors that schoolboys use to flash circles of sunlight on the ceiling of their classroom. A sudden beam flashed on the teacher’s face may bring unpleasant reactions.” So, although he may have had the best of intentions with the space mirror’s design, it was clear there was always going to be some unpleasant uses for the invention.

It was also clear that the construction of the sun gun would be no easy task. For one thing, no one had been to space yet. The technology just didn’t exist at the time to put even satellites into space, let alone humans or a gigantic mirror. Although the advancements made by Nazi scientists in rocket technology made sending objects into space more and more of a reality each day. In fact, in June of 1944, the V2 rocket became the first man-made object to reach space. So, it was only a matter of time before larger and more sophisticated rockets would be built to send people into space. Oberth hypothesized that once the technology for sustained spaceflight was available, it would cost around 3 million marks to construct his space mirror.

Granted, that was in 1945, which would be equivalent to billions of dollars today. Although, if Hitler ruled the world, money would be no object for the construction of a Nazi death ray. It was also estimated that the construction process would take 15 years. It is unclear how Oberth could estimate this as there was no way to get the mirrors, satellites, or manpower into space at the time. But he was convinced the project could be completed in that time.

The interesting thing is that the Nazis budgeted for the 3 million marks that the Sonnengewehr was predicted to cost, which means that they actually planned to build the stun gun at some point. It seems that it would be impossible to construct, but if the Nazis had succeeded, the world would look very different than it does today. The Nazi’s plan was to load up rockets with building materials and launch them into space. Once multiple payloads were in orbit, scientists and engineers would be sent up to put the pieces together.

The mirrors would eventually be connected to one another to create one gigantic reflector. The whole thing would be mounted to a series of satellites, rockets, and the main space station where the angle of the stun gun could be controlled, and its focused beam of light could be directed. The recovered documents were actually not the only source of information about the stun gun that the Allies uncovered. During the war, scientists who were working at the German Army Artillery in Hillersleben were captured and questioned.

They were working hard to make Oberth’s idea a reality. It is the scientists who divulged the information that the plan was to make the sun gun out of metallic sodium and have it be a part of an already planned space station that would be 5,100 miles above the Earth. However, these scientists had a more realistic timeline than Oberth’s 15-year estimate. They said the Sonnengewehr would most likely be ready in 50 to 100 years.

But at that point, the war was coming to a close, and it became clear that the Nazi superweapon would never be built. It is important to note that although Oberth understood his invention could be used for destruction, that was not what he intended it for. After the war ended, Oberth started to work for one of his former students: Wernher von Braun. Although von Braun was a Nazi scientist like Oberth, he was recruited by NASA to help develop a rocket that could put a satellite into space.

Oberth was put on the project and worked to make this dream a reality. However, he did not stop there. He was also a part of a team that conducted research and published a report titled: “The Development of Space Technology in the Next Ten Years.” After working at NASA, Oberth continued developing space technology. He published ideas about a craft to explore the moon’s surface, a “lunar catapult,” and stealth helicopters and airplanes. He also never gave up on his giant mirror in space idea.

He pitched the space mirror as an invention to help humanity, and not as a doomsday weapon. In 1961 he argued that if the United States built a mirror that was 300 miles in diameter, they could in theory terraform the Earth. His suggestion was that the mirror could literally be used to change climates or to sculpt the landscape. And to keep the cost of construction low, he proposed using materials from the moon to build it.

Surprisingly, even Wernher von Braun lobbied the United States government to develop Oberth’s idea, but he pushed for the military application of the stun gun. Since the Cold War could turn hot at any moment, von Braun suggested that the U.S. military should seriously consider any space weapons that could put the United States ahead of the Soviets in the space race.

Hermann Oberth never wanted his space mirror to be used as a weapon of mass destruction. But to the Nazis, a powerful beam of light from space could only be used for one thing: world domination. And although no actual schematics have survived that detail how exactly the stun gun could have been built, it does seem that the Nazis, NASA, and other scientists did believe it could someday become a reality.