The mighty vulnerable battleship

20 ft high and weighing over 180 tons- this was the heaviest tank ever built. It had a front armor that was 12 inches thick. Code-named the mouse, it made its first appearance in 1944, after the German Army’s tank divisions had been badly mauled on the Russian front.

Hitler had realized that he could never match or even hope to match the vast masses of Russian tanks now ranged against his forces, and the huge output from the Soviet factories meant that the gap was widening every day.

So Dr Porsche-the designer of the Volkswagen Beetle- was briefed. He was to produce a land battleship, a tank that would pack a heavier punch than any enemy tank, but yet in doing so remain entirely invulnerable, due to its own massive armor protection.

To shift this monstrous bulk, it had a 1500 horsepower engine powered by diesel, driving an electric generator, which fed the power to the motors mounted in each hub of the colossal monster’s giant caterpillar tracks.

The Mouse had its hatches closed, and as a result, was watertight. It could cross the bottom of a river 40 ft deep, with its engine switched off to conserve power and its motors fed by cable from another tank on the river-bank. Once it was safely across, the roles were reversed for the second tank to cross.

But its size and weight were the Mouse’s undoing. Its top speed was only 12 mph, and when it drove along roads on test, the vibrations produced severe damage. What was supposed to be an invincible land battleship, ordered by Hitler himself, wrecked roads, cracked foundations, smashed cobblestones, and shattered windows in all the towns and villages that it passed through.

It would also tend to sink in damp land. Although, its tracks were each 1 yard wide, the pressure on them was enormous enough to cause it to sink on anything except for the ground that was the driest.

Henceforth, the project was dropped.


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