Thursday, December 1

Goliath, the Nazi suicide robot capable of transporting 100 kilos of explosives: this was the “remote control mine” in Germany

It lifted from the ground more or less the same as a tricycle and at first glance it looked more like a children’s toy than a deadly weapon, but when in the middle of World War II the Nazis had to decide how to baptize the SdKfz —Their latest device for attacking allied targets with explosives— they opted for an epic and biblical name: Goliath. In time, however, for British troops it became, plain and simple, the ‘scarab tank’.

Towards the end of 1940 Germany believed it had the ultimate resource to take down enemy tanks. Based on a design by the French military engineer Adopt Kégresse They had rescued shortly before from the waters of the Seine, the Wehrmacht commanders commissioned the German vehicle manufacturer Carl FW Borgward to develop a small vehicle capable of transporting explosives. The idea was simple: they wanted a “suicide device” that could sneak up on enemy cars, bases, bridges, buildings … and blow them up. All, of course, at a distance, with cables and without causing a single casualty among the Nazis.

An explosive mine operated with a “joystick”

The solution that came out of the Borgward factory in Bremen was the Sdkfz, alias Special vehicle, Light load carrier or directly “Goliath”, as it would end up going down in history, a miniature tracked vehicle about 12 inches high and 1.2 meters long. capable of carrying 60 kilos of explosives. The device was remotely directed by a joystick-like control knob attached to the rear of the Goliath by a 650-meter, three-wire cable. With it, Nazi operators could accelerate and maneuver the “mobile mine” or detonate its deadly charge.

Goliath began to unfold on the German fronts from the spring of 1942, although his “baptism of fire” –precisa Eurasia1945– It was the Battle of Kursk, in the summer of 1943, against the Soviet troops. With the passing of the months they would continue to see themselves with greater or less fortune in battles such as that of Anzio, the Warsaw Uprising or even during the Normandy campaign. Total, recoge Military History, it is estimated that some 7,564 units were manufactured.

Yes indeed, not all Goliaths were the same. The first models, the SdKfz 302 they were powered by Bosch 2.5 kilowatt electric motors; but its scope –remember HistoryNet– it was very limited, costly and the repairs too complex for the battlefield, so towards the end of 1942 Borgward launched the SdKfz 303 a, powered by a Zundapp two-cylinder gasoline engine. In 1944 the manufacturer improved the design (SdKfz 303 b) and made the Goliath gain in volume and capacity: it went on to carry a payload of almost one hundred kilos. In some descriptions In fact, it is pointed out that it reached around one meter in height.

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As is often the case, the idea of ​​Goliath was nevertheless much more attractive on paper than in practice. The SdKfz it was a real walking mine: stealthy and dynamic, it allowed the Nazis to approach enemy tanks, bridges or bases without making noise, right; but that advantage did not outweigh its drawbacks. The main one, the obvious one: when taking on suicide missions, they were single-use devices. Goliaths leapt into the air alongside their charge and target, a trait that didn’t match too well with their cost to manufacture.

His speed was also limited, of just 9.6 kilometers per hour, and to make matters worse his armor made him vulnerable to artillery. That without taking into account that if its cables were cut it lost all its effectiveness, which sometimes condemned the Goliath to become war trophies for enemy troops. For example, images of British soldiers posing with a group of SdKfz defenestrated before exploding their cargo. With that history, it ended up being discarded.

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Despite those hindrances, remember Military History, the Goliath occupies a relevant role in the war engineering industry. It may have helped beat fewer tanks than the Wehrmacht would have liked, but it led the way and contributed to the development of other remotely controlled mills.

Images | USN – Official U.S. Navy Y Federal Archives, picture (Wikipedia)