I know I’ve been kind of bombarding you guys with non-stop all-World War II all the time nonsense on this website over the past few weeks (don’t worry, I’ll be putting the Nazis on hiatus for a while after this one), but between defragging after the completely-insane production schedule on my WWII manuscript and the unhealthy obsession with World of Tanks that currently plagues my household, I can really think of no better way to spend my Christmas break than fanatically reading everything I possibly can about a completely mind-bogglingly demented concept straight of the Bond villain / Japanese video game designer playbook that is, quite honestly, equal parts badass and dumbass:
In 1942 Hitler approved the construction of a thousand-ton tank that mounted twin-linked battleship cannons in a rotating turret and was so huge it included a vehicle bay that could accommodate a reconnaissance motorcycle squadron. Known as the Landkreuzer P.1000 Ratte, this horrific monstrosity of modern engineering and ludicrous assault on all sanity was such a fucking travesty of reason that it makes Elon Musk’s weird spaceship look like a reliable, logical mode of transportation for visiting your grandma during New Years. It’s so goddamn awesome because even though this thing was so fucking heavy its treads would have shredded roads into asphalt chunks and collapsed bridges like a hand grenade through a wet paper towel, the Nazis still had a crazy huge boner for it and may have even gone as far as to actually create the turret for it. Shit, if you saw this luxury-yacht sized Mammoth Tank in a Wolfenstein game you’d be like “holy donkey sack it was more realistic when Robo-Hitler was running around with those chain gun arms and the latex werewolf SS babes because what the fuck,” yet these dudes went out and threw lucidity to the wind and turned a badass-looking doodle in the back of an Iron Maiden sketchbook into half of an actual real-life thing.
And yet… the gearhead kill-em-all badass possibly-dong-compensating nuke-the-earth voice in all of our heads just sees this and whispers one thing:
How fucking cool would this be?
The idea for the Panzer 1000 (even the name sounds like something out of those cheesy 80s post-apocalyptic sci-fi flicks where all the chicks run around with feathered mullets in shiny silver leotards) was brought to Hitler in 1942 by a guy named Edward Grotte. Grotte was a German engineer who was completely obsessed with Japanese manga-style giant land vehicles, and this mad supervillain had spent most of the early 1930s in the Soviet Union trying to convince Stalin to build railroad-car-sized tanks that could morph into kaiju-combating robots with big space swords or some shit. Stalin bought one of Grotte’s more normal-style tank designs, the TG-1, but once war broke out Grotte returned to Germany and got to work pitching Hitler on EPIC BADASSNESS mostly by mailing him a bunch of wicked Warhammer 40K concept art he’d clipped out of the Games Workshop catalog and colored in with a highlighter. Well, in June of ’42 the once-unstoppable German Panzer IIIs and Panzer IVs were starting to get fucked up in hardcore slugfest dogfights with equally-badass Soviet T-34 and KV-1 tanks, so Der Fuhrer was pretty pumped about the idea of making a gun-toting tractor the size of the Starship Enterprise that could kill the enemy by rolling over them like your dad’s Camry backing over your G.I. Joe collection in the driveway.
Hitler approved the design and sent it along to the Krupp to produce a prototype. Krupp was the hardcore German steel company that built the Tiger tank and the famous 88mm anti-everything cannon the Nazis used throughout the war, and the project was overseen by CEO Gustav Krupp, a man famous for being the only person to be put on trial for war crimes after both world wars. In ’45 he was put on trial for using massive amounts of slave labor in his factories, but charges were dropped because it was determined he was completely senile, which actually makes sense if they listed this project among his resume. Nowadays ThyssenKrupp is one of the largest steel producers in the world, but I’m sure they’re very nice these days and employ significantly fewer slaves in their manufacturing processes than they used to.
Krupp, by the way, is also the company that made the Heavy Gustav, a ridiculously-humongous railroad-car-mounted cannon that chucked a shell the size of a school bus over twenty five miles and was so obscenely huge that it took a crew of like 600 guys to work it. This is a real actual thing that they produced and fired in combat:
Oh, right, and I forgot to mention that along side plans for the Panzer-1000, the Krupp folks also received a request for a prototype of the Panzer-1500, which was a self-propelled tank-style vehicle based on the Panzer-1000 chassis that would fire a fucking Heavy Gustav cannon along with a couple other types of heavy artillery. Basically, all the firepower of a planet-destroying artillery cannon without annoyingly having to build train tracks that lead straight to the thing you’re trying to incinerate.
In case you’re curious, here’s a photograph of a Heavy Gustav 800mm artillery shell next to a Soviet T-34 medium battle tank:
it's kind of like throwing a football at your cat
The Panzer-1000 Ratte wasn’t packing a shell this big, but it was supposed to mount two full-size 280mm cannons that were identical to the ones being used on Nazi WWII battleships. Packed into a turret housing that rotated a full 360 degrees, each of these guns was capable of ripping off a 400 pound chunk of armor piercing explosive that could punch through four feet of solid steel from 25 miles away. For a backup sidearm it also had one 128mm KwK L/55 main gun – a tank gun that was bigger and heavier than any weapon mounted on an Allied tank in all of World War II (the modern American M1 Abrams main battle tank has a 120mm gun). This was either mounted in the hull or on a rotating turret positioned near the back of the tank depending on which schematic you're looking at. Then, to round it all out, the vehicle was supposed to rock eight 20mm Flak-38 anti-aircraft guns and a pair of 15mm high-velocity autocannons for shredding stupid shit like fighter-bombers or light tanks or regular dipshits running around through the forest screaming in terror at the hideous behemoth about to demolish them and possibly also flatten the entire forest around them like the bad guy in FernGully. The tank was supposed to be a thousand tons (although realistically it would end up being WAY heavier than that), and have a 115-foot long hull, meaning that the interior of this goddamn tank was longer than a regulation NBA basketball court plus the length of a Ford F-150. It was to stand 36 feet tall, roughly the height of a four-story building, and would be made from an impenetrable chunk of anti-ballistic steel that was nearly a foot thick and angled to deflect enemy shells.
The guns themselves would require almost twenty guys to operate, and the full crew compliment would probably have been somewhere in the 40 to 50 range. This self-contained Land Battleship from Hell was designed to have a medical sickbay, a bathroom (!), sleeping quarters for the crew and a hangar big enough to accommodate a pair of those cool BMW motorcycles with the sidecars from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. It was designed with not one but three treads on each side of the chassis, each tread measuring four feet in width and powered by over a dozen gigantic steel wheels. The treads alone were so hardcore that driving the Panzer-1000 on a city street would puree the asphalt like a belt sander through meatloaf.
Nazis. I hate these guys.
Moving the Landkreuzer with anything short of a nuclear fusion reactor or a ludicrous-speed-capable hyperspace drive was something of a challenge for most of the non-mad-scientists left in Germany, but apparently these guys were convinced that they could get this sucker up to twenty-five miles an hour. Which seems completely obscene and terrifying and honestly really fucking improbable considering that it was basically a mobile gun-toting apartment complex, but what do I know. Apparently to do this it would either take two full-size U-Boat engines or an eight-pack of Daimler-Benz twenty-cylinder diesel engines working together to rip out 17,000 goddamn horsepower of propulsion, which is about the same amount of power you’d get from duct-taping together twenty-seven 2015 Lamborghini Aventadors or seventy 1980s IROC-Z Camaros.
If you’re wondering how you get anywhere in a tank that breaks bridges, the logical thing of course is to do what the Panzer-1000 designers did and make the entire thing completely water-tight and equip it with a snorkel like a U-Boat or a Scuba Steve or something. Basically this thing would plow the countryside at twenty-five miles an hour, then crash straight through a big river before re-emerging like Godzilla prepping a raid on Tokyo. Which may freak some of the enemy out just a little bit.
Let me just say that it’s totally super fucking amazing that the German government officially dedicated time, money, and energy into figuring out exactly how to make the Landkreuzer Panzer-1000 an actual real-life thing. I mean, you don’t have to be goddamn George S. Patton Junior to realize that the second this thing rolled off the production line there would be a half-dozen squadrons of B-17 Flying Fortresses lining up to carpet-bomb this motherfucker and that merely producing it would have probably bankrupted the German economy and required enough raw steel to forge an aircraft carrier, but god damn I love the concept of a gigantic moving tank-city where dudes on bikes pop wheelies off ramps out the back and then a huge gun blows a chunk off of a volcano. It’s the kind of thing you’d expect to see Captain America fistfighting a dude on top of while Zeppelins prepare to rain poison gas down onto New York City or something. Even the concept art on this thing looks like a Koopa Kid ship boss level on a Mario game, yet at some point in history a large group of intelligent, grown-ass man engineers looked at this in real life was were like, “yuppppp, we’re TOTALLY doing this.”
watch out for the Bullet Bill launchers
The Germans had been working on the Panzer 1000 project for about six months when finally the Reich Minister of Armaments, Albert Speer, was like “fuck this” and shut the project down. It’s believed that one of those twin turrets was actually produced, and that it was reappropriated to be used as a coastal defense battery either in Norway or Holland, but the paperwork is murky on it. I really hope it’s true.
Sadly (or luckily) the Landkreuzer P.1000 never saw the light of day, but the Germans did acutally finish one of their insane supertank projects – they built two working Panzer VIII Maus superheavy battle tanks. Weighing in at 204 tons, making it well over three times heavier than a modern M1 Abrams, this gigantic ugly square iron-plated beast is, to this day, the biggest and heaviest tank ever made in human history (and is likely to hold that title for the rest of warfare’s existence). It sported the 128mm cannon that was supposed to be the secondary weapon of the Panzer 1000, although one of the two Maus prototypes never actually had the turret attached. The other Maus was fully armed and operational and went on a couple successful test runs, but was captured by the Russians without ever even firing a shot. So I guess Hashtag #SadTrombone or whatever. Nowadays it’s on display in a museum outside Moscow.
Krupp, for their part, didn’t give up the idea of using their resources to create the biggest and most insanely mind-blowing steel construction projects ever envisioned – in the 1970s they used the Fires of Mount Doom to forge the Bagger_288, a humongous buzz-saw looking bucket-wheel excavator that I like to think of as the “spiritual successor” to the Landkreuzer. An utterly-awe-inspiring work of eco counter-terrorism, this behemoth stands over 300 feet tall, weighs thirteen thousand tons, and can strip mine a soccer pitch into a hundred-foot-deep hole in about eight hours. Oh yeah, and it can travel at like a tenth of a mile per hour on, you guessed it, a triple set of four-foot-wide tank-style treads, making it the largest self-propelled object ever constructed.
And while the Bagger-288 isn’t armed to the teeth with anti-ship cannons, it still looks scary as fuck:
Parsons, Zack. My Tank Is Fight! Citadel, 2006.