German Saucers - Fact or Fiction?

The premise of reputable aerospace journalist Nick Cook's book The Hunt for Zero Point is that German scientists developed exotic antigravity technologies, including flying saucers, during World War II. This has been elaborated on the Internet into a cultish historical mythology of saucer types developed by the Nazis during and after the second World War. A key reference in this thesis is a book that appeared in Germany in the 1950's, Rudolf Lusar's Die deutschend Waffen und Gehimwaffen des 2.Weltkrieges und ihre Weiterenwicklung (German Weapons and Secret Weapons of the Second World War and their later Development). The dialogue on Cook's book since its release includes efforts to portray Lusar as "..the isolated testimony of a disenchanted German major with definite Nazi sympathies" and his book as a collection of "fantastic stories". It is also asserted that the engineers mentioned by Lusar never existed.

The whole thing might be dismissed, but in a USAF technical description of a secret flying saucer being developed in Canada with US government support was declassified. This was just what Lusar asserted.

Well, one way to decide is to go to the original. Through a bookseller one can purchase a copy of Lusar's book. Based on the criticism one would expect a raving tract full of flying saucers and Nazi symphaty. In fact the book (my copy was the third original-language edition, 1959) is an encyclopedia of German weapons technology. In 268 densely-packed pages it provides the dry technical details of every major weapon developed by the Third Reich - from rifles and hand grenades through tanks, artillery, aircraft, rocketry, submarines, naval vessels, chemcial and nuclear weapons, radar, infrared detection, and on and on.

Lusar's articles are technically and factually correct and to the point. Indeed, the articles on advanced jet and rocket weapons indicate the author understands the technology involved very well, with the technical parameters correctly described (more so than many other books in the 1950's

The saucer pops up suddently, complete with a line drawing, on page 151, in a section devoted to 'Special Devices'(The other two such devices are the jet backpack and the helicopter). It is not given special treatment - understandable, given that the performance of the saucer described is considerably less fantastic than that of the V-2 or A9/A10 ICBM covered elsewhere in the book.

So the case for Lusar's book being some kind of neo-Nazi saucer tract falls apart. Before discussing its credibility further, consider this complete translation of German original:

Flying saucers

Flying saucers have been appearing around the world since 1947, emerging suddenly here or there, coming and going at extraordinary speeds, with rotating flames shooting from the edge of their disks. Radars have tracked them; fighters have pursued them. Nevertheless no pilot has yet to ram or shoot down a "flying saucer". The world, including the engineering world, stands before either a profound mystery -- or a technical miracle. Only slowly have the facts emerged, that German researchers and scientists took the first steps during the war to develop these "flying saucers". They built and tested aircraft with characteristics bordering on the marvelous.

Confirmed information from specialists and workers on these first projects, called "flying disks", indicates that development began in 1941. These devices were designed by the German experts Schriever, Habermohl, Miethe and the Italian Bellonzo. Habermohl and Schriever designed a broad planar ring, which rotated around a fixed control cupola. This disk wing could be rotated into the appropriate position as required for vertical takeoff or horizontal flight. Miethe developed the 42-m-diameter discus-shaped disk, into which adjustable jet nozzles were installed. On 14 February 1945, Habermohl, working in Prague, tested the first "flying disk". In three minutes the craft reached an altitude of 12,400 m and a horizontal flight speed of 2000 kph ( ! ). The design was planned to reach speeds of 4000 kph.

Extensive preliminary tests and research work were necessary before construction could begin. Because of the high speed and the extraordinary thermal stress, suitable heat-resistant materials had to be identified. The development, which cost millions, was near completion at the end of the war. At war's end the existing prototypes were destroyed. However the work in Breslau, where Miethe worked, fell into the hands of the Soviets. They took all the materials and specialists to Siberia, where work on these "flying saucers" is successfully continuing.

Schriever escaped from Prague in time. Habermohl might be in the Soviet Union, since he disappeared without a trace. It has been disclosed that the formerly German technical designer Miethe is in the USA and has developed such "flying saucers" for the USA and Canada at the A. V. Roe Company. The American Air Force received the instructions years ago not to shoot at "flying saucers". This is an indication that there are indeed American "flying saucers" which must not be endangered. The devices observed so far are in the sizes of 16, 42, 45 and 75 m in diameter and develop speeds up to 7000 kph ( ? ). As early as 1952 "flying saucers" were observed over Korea. Such devices were also observed and reported by the press during NATO maneuvers in the Alsace in the autumn of 1954. The fact that "flying saucers" exist can no longer be denied. It is likely that continued official refusal to acknowledge there existence in America is due to development there not having been completed yet. Any disclosure might be of use to the Soviet Union in their own program. Further it seems that there is a reluctance to proceed with the technology. It has been recognized that these new "flying saucers" are vastly superior to normal airplanes - including modern turbojet-driven aircraft - in flight performance, load-carrying capacity and agility, thereby making them utterly obsolete. .

Note in later editions: A news report from Washington at the end of 1955 indicates that the US Air Force will soon flight test aircraft, which completely correspond in their appearance to the common conception of a "flying saucer". Air Force Undersecretary Donald Querles stated that these flight models could take off perpendicularly and would have the form of a disk. They would not need expensive runways for operation.

This single article neatly summarizes Cook's entire book. The German's developed saucer technology during World War II. It was taken over by the Americans after the war. It was successfully developed, but never advanced because it represented a threat to the technology adopted by the American military-industrial complex. The difference is that these saucers are powered by conventional jet engines, not any exotic antigravity drive.

Another criticism of Lusar is that he is merely summarizing reports made in the European press in 1950-1954. In particular these are a report on flying saucers in Der Spiegel of 30 March 1950, which contains a paragraph on Schriever and an artist's concept of the saucer; an interview with Richard Miethe in France-Soir of 7 June 1952; and an interview with a Georg Klein, in Die Welt am Sonntag of 14 February 1953. This is certainly true, especially as regards the interview with Klein. However note Lusar's use of the word confirmed in his article ("..Confirmed information from specialists and workers on these first projects..") This would seem to indicate that he had some kind of independent confirmation of the reports.

It is also asserted that the German engineers he mentions as being involved in the saucer project cannot be found in any documentation after the war. Some deny that any of them exist. However this is unconvincing. The same can be said of a nearly all of the shadowy German high-technology specialists who worked on missile projects in post-war Spain, Egypt, and Argentina. These names appear nowhere on the American Object List of Scientists.

Let's consider each of these engineers in turn:

The declassified 1955 report on the Avro "Silverbug" saucer indicates that at that time it was still purely a design, with not even wind tunnel work being completed. Officially this design led only to the Avro Avrocar, a modest subscale prototype used to study the operation of a saucer in ground effect in 1959-1961. Officially Miethe or the Germans had no involvement with the project, and the Silverbug was conceived by Avro Chief Engineer John Frost in 1951-1953.

And yet consider the similarity of performance figures for Lusar's "ridiculous" saucer and the smaller Avro Silverbug research aircraft:

Diameter42.0 m8.9 m
Time to 11,000 m2.66 minutes1.76 minutes
Supercruise speed2200 kph2800 kph
Max speed in afterburner4000 kph3700 kph
The most likely scenario is that there was indeed a German turbojet-powered saucer project; that the persons named did indeed work on it; that it was indeed investigated by both the Americans and the Soviets in great secrecy after the war.

However, it is also apparent that it was a technological dead end (given the fact we are not flying in saucer airliners). The same was true of a lot of Nazi technology about which there is no question - the ramjet, the flying wing, the delta wing, the rocket fighter, the Saenger Antipodal boost-glide bomber. All of these were investigated at enormous expense after the war, often with the assistance of captured German engineers. Prototypes were tested, and the technology was often found to offer advantages. But in no case did the technology divert the course of current aerospace technology.

This may be because the technology didn't work as advertised. The Avrocar had stability problems and was not officially known to have been pursued further. The Silverbug design has a lot of complex draggy rotating machinery and inlets. It may be that wind tunnel tests revealed it could never reach the advertised supersonic speeds (the Air Force report has a whiff of skepticism in this regard). Heavily classified 'black' programs have always been a good place to bury Congressional examination of expensive technical failures.

It may also be, as Lusar hinted and Cook asserts, that the technology worked but would be disruptive to the entrenched aerospace-industrial complex.

It should also be noted that, following a decade of experimentation with aerospace technology after the war, the world selected a few 'best solutions' and has stuck with them ever since. 'Good enough' trumped 'better'. This is certainly the position of advocates of flying wings, hovercraft, WIG aircraft, single-stage-to-orbit rockets, and intercontinental supersonic, hypersonic, or rocket transports. All of these technologies have their fans, who are certain that just a little more development would bring the technical advantages into production. But the accountants and bureaucrats are not interested.

A failure of imagination?

Officially the Silverbug never flew. UFO fans have however noted the similarity between the Canadian Silverbug and some of the UFO's sighted and photographed over the years in the Pacific Northwest:

The Silverbug is the one in the lower right corner. The others are from photographs of UFO's.
Original German text from Lusar:
Fliegende Untertassen

Fliegende Untertassen geistern seit dem Jahre 1947 um die Welt, tauchen plötzlich hier oder dort auf, kommen und enteilen wieder mit bisher unbekannten Geschwindigkeiten mit rotierenden Flammen an dem Rand der Scheibe, werden mit Radargeräten geortet, von Jagdflugzeugen verfolgt und dennoch gelang es bis zum heutigen Tage noch nicht, eine solche »Fliegende Untertasse« festzustellen, sie zu rammen oder abzuschießen. Die Welt, ja auch die Fachwelt, steht vor einem angeblichen Rätsel oder - vor einem technischen Wunder. Nur langsam sickert die Tatsache durch, die Wahrheit, daß deutsche Forscher und Wissenschaftler bereits während des Krieges die ersten Schritte zu diesen »Fliegenden Untertassen« getan und solche an das Wunderbare grenzenden Fluggeräte auch gebaut und erprobt haben. Nach bestätigten Angaben von Fachleuten und Mitarbeitern wurden die ersten Projekte, »Fliegende Scheiben« genannt, im Jahre 1941 begonnen. Die Pläne für diese Geräte stammen von den deutschen Experten Scheiever, Habermohl, Miethe und dem Italiener Bellonzo. Habermohl und Schriever wählten einen breitflächigen Ring, der sich um eine feststehende, kuppelförmige Führerkanzel drehte und der aus verstellbaren Flügelscheiben bestand, die in eine entsprechende Stellung gestellt werden konnten, je nachdem ob sie zum Start oder zum Horizontalflug benötigt wurden. Miethe entwickelte eine diskusähnliche Scheibe von 42 m Durchmesser, in die verstellbare Düsen eingesetzt waren. Schriever und Habermohl, die in Prag gearbeitet haben, starteten am 14. Februar 1945 mit der ersten »Fliegenden Scheibe« erreichten in drei Minuten eine Höhe von 12 400 m und im Horizontalflug eine Geschwindigkeit von 2000 km in der Stunde (!). Man wollte auf Geschwindigkeiten von 4000 Stundenkilometer kommen.

Umfangreiche Vorversuche und Forschungsarbeiten waren notwendig, bevor an die Fertigung herangegangen werden konnte. Wegen der hohen Geschwindigkeit und den außerordentlichen Wärmebeanspruchungen mußten besonders geeignete Materialien gefunden werden, die der Hitzeeinwirkung standhielten. Die Entwicklung, die Millionen gekostet hat, stand bei Kriegsende dicht vor ihrem Abschluß. Bei Kriegsende wurden zwar die vorhandenen Modelle zerstört. Jedoch ist das Werk in Breslau, wo Miethe gearbeitet hat, in die Hände der Sowjets gefallen, die alles Material und die Fachkräfte nach Sibirien gebracht haben, wo an diesen »Fliegenden Untertassen« erfolgreich weitergearbeitet wird.

Schriever ist aus Prag noch rechtzeitig herausgekommen; Habermohl dagegen dürfte in der Sowjet-Union sein, da von ihm jede Nachricht fehlt. Der ehemals deutsche Konstrukteur Miethe befindet sich in den USA und entwickelt, soweit bekannt geworden, bei der A. V. Roe Company, solche »Fliegenden Untertassen« für die USA und Kanada. Die amerikanische Luftwaffe hat seit Jahren den Befehl erhalten, nicht auf die »Fliegenden Untertassen« zu schießen, was ein Zeichen dafür ist, daß es auch amerikanische »Fliegende Untertassen« gibt, die nicht gefährdet werden dürfen. Die bisher beobachteten Geräte werden in den Größen von 16, 42, 45 und 75 m im Durchmesser angegeben und sie sollen eine Geschwindigkeit bis zu 7000km in der Stunde (?) entwickeln. Über Korea wurden bereits im Jahre 1952 »Fliegende Untertassen« einwandfrei erkannt und auch während der Nato-Manöver im Elsaß im Herbst 1954 wurden diese Geräte nach Pressenachrichten beobachtet und gemeldet. Die Tatsache, daß die »Fliegenden Untertassen« existieren, ist nicht mehr zu bestreiten. Daß sie auch heute noch verneint wird, besonders in Amerika, da die USA selbst noch nicht soweit in der Entwicklung' fortgeschritten sind, um der Sowjet-Union ein Gleiches entgegenstellen zu können, gibt zu denken. Ferner scheint man sich zu sträuben, anzuerkennen, daß diese neuartigen »Fliegenden Untertassen« den normalen Flugzeugen - auch den turbogetriebenen neuzeitlichen Flugzeugen -bedeutend überlegen sind, sie an Flugleistung, Tragfähigkeit und Wendigkeit übertreffen und sie damit illusorisch machen.

Nach einer Meldung aus Washington Ende 1955 wird die amerikanische Luftwaffe in Kürze Flugmodelle erproben, die in ihrem Aussehen den Vorstellungen von «Fliegende Untertassen« völlig entsprechen werden. Der Staatssekretär für die Luftstreitkräfte, Donald Querles, teilte mit, daß diese Flugmodelle die Form einer Scheibe haben und senkrecht starten können. Sie werden keine kostspielige Startbahn benötigen