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Weird Wings - The Third Reich's Flying Saucers

Enlarge image (will open in a new window)There are recurring tales of the development of disc-shaped aircraft by the German Reich during World War 2. Although some researchers have found, on diligent examination, that the stories tend to have originated post-WW2, and in fact post 1947, when American private pilot Kenneth Arnold reported his string of unidentified flying objects "skipping like saucers" through the air near Mt. Ranier, Washington, enthusiasts are not deterred.

Furthermore, the accounts given between 1950 and 1957 by Schreiver, Belluzzo (or Bellonzo) and Miethe, three of the four engineers supposedly responsible for the "Schriever, Habermohl, Miethe and Bellonzo Flying Disc" are said not to support each other. Each alleged participant gives different information, individually taking the lead in being responsible for what was achieved, and none of them state that they worked with the other three. Essentially, all claim to have been responsible for an assortment of different disc programmes, at a variety of different locations, testing and flying their different discs.

Any discussion of German flying discs must eventually bring up the claims regarding Schriever, Habermohl, Miethe and Bellanzo, who supposedly came up with several disc-shaped aircraft designs that used jet engines. One of Schriever's drawings shows an egg-shaped cockpit surrounded by a rotating fan-like disc that provided the lift. A Miethe drawing (lower picture, right) depicts a smooth, flat saucer with an elongated hump on its back for the cockpit and a pair of exhausts pointing rearwards.

The Schriever machine was said to have been tested in 1945 and to have reached an altitude of 12 kilometers in a little over three minutes, achieving a top speed of 2000 kilometers an hour. Evidence supporting this claim is at the best rather sparse; and Schriever himself, who moved to the United States after the war, indicated that prototypes of the craft were destroyed before flying as the Germans abandoned their facilities ahead of the Allied advance.

Others interpret Schreiver as saying that the craft did not progress beyond blueprint stage, and the planned speed and height figures were subsequently misquoted as ones that had actually been achieved.

The history of German "flying saucers" in World War 2 harks back to designers such as Alexander Lippisch, who supposedly tested circular-wing aircraft designs in 1940-41 wind tunnels at Gottingen, although without obtaining spectacular results.

Even before that, Professor Heinrich Focke was particularly interested in emerging helicopter and autogyro technologies and was involved in the design and production of a number of advanced aircraft designs during the war. The creation of the jet engine encouraged him to design a power system which evolved into what we know today as the "turbo-shaft" engine.

In 1939 he patented a saucer-type aircraft with enclosed twin rotors;

"The exhaust nozzle forked in two at the end of the engine and ended in two auxiliary combustion chambers located on the trailing edge of the wing. When fuel was added these combustion chambers they would act as afterburners to provide horizontal propulsion to Focke’s design. The control at low speed was achieved by alternately varying the power from each auxiliary combustion chamber."

Still earlier, in the late '30s, another German was also designing circular aircraft. His name was Arthur Sack, a farmer from Machern (near Leipzig). As a model aircraft enthusiast, he decided to begin work on a model of a flyable disc. Although reputable aeronautical publications, among them RAF Flying Review have published photos of this "Nazi Flying Saucer", all we know is that he built a model of a flat, circular aircraft, sporting the colors of the German Luftwaffe. Only a few other details, barring two photographs, have survived. The militaristic-looking "saucer" had a canopy reminiscent of the Bf-109, the mainstay German fighter of World War Two.

The public presentation of Sack's flying saucer took place during the celebration of the First National Contest for Air Models With Combustion Motors, held on the 27 and 28 of June, 1939 in Leipzig-Mockau (Germany). The model measured 1,250 mm and was powered by a motor driving a 600 mm propeller at 4500 rpm.

The competition seems to have been a complete debacle, no model performing correctly over a short, fixed course and many not even taking off, Sack's among them. Sack had to throw it into the air himself. His disc managed to fly 100 m.

Here the story takes a dramatic turn, for among the competition's spectators was General-Air Minister Udet. The claim is that he was deeply impressed by the concept and became something of a supporter of the military development of disc-shaped aircraft, apparently overlooking the pathetic performance of the competition models. He promised Sack that he would "smooth the road for further research."

Arthur Sack built some additional "flying saucer" models prior to beginning the construction of a manned aircraft during World War 2 at the MIMO plant (Mitteldeutsche Motorwerke), Leipzig. This design was designated the A-6, (a design which is also attributed, at least in part, to Dr. Alexander Lippisch at the Gottingen Aviation Institute) and work was supposedly completed at the Brandis flight shop (Flugplatz-Werkstatt) in early 1944.

The prototype AS6 was equipped with an Argus 10cc, 140 HP engine, and a 6.40 meter circular wing. Its weight was estimated at some 750-800 kgs.

Flight testing began in April, 1944, at Brandis. On the first attempt the rudder and brake both failed. After various efforts were made to correct the faults, further takeoffs were attempted. The pilot found the rudder very heavy - an experience which repeated itself when, post-war, the first flight took place of the US Chance Vought XF5U disc-shaped aircraft, which the A-6 was said to resemble in principle.

Several subsequent attempts, with accompanying equipment breakage, achived no better than a few short bounds into the air, and then the fog of war obscures any accounts of further development; although in autumn 1944 a flying saucer was sighted over the Neubiderg aerodrome, near Munich. Perhaps the AS6 achieved a brief success.

In its February 1989 issue, the German magazine Flugzeug published the following report of a "flying saucer" sighting. A German official recorded that, at the Prag-Gbell aerodrome in August/September 1943, he and a good number of flying companions saw inside a hangar "a disk some 5-6 meters in diameter. Its body is relatively large at the center. Underneath, it has four tall, thin legs. Color: aluminuim. Height: almost as tall as a man. Thickness: some 30 - 40 cm., with a rim of external rods, perhaps square orifices.

"The upper part of the body ... was flat and rounded... Along with my friends, I saw the device emerge from the hangar. It was then that we heard the roar of the engines, we saw the external side of the disk begin to rotate, and the vehicle began moving slowly and in a straight line toward the southern end of the field. It then rose almost 1 meter into the air. After moving around some 300 meters at that altitude, it stopped again. Its landing was rather rough... Later on, the 'thing' took off again, managing to reach the end of the aerodrome this time."

Flugzeug's editors treated the report cautiously, if only because they saw it as "antithetical to those described by Schreiver, Habermohl, Miethe, and Bellonzo with their vast basic dimensions."

Perhaps we can gain a perspective on the validity of the Schreiver, Habermohl, Miethe, and Bellonzo disc by recognising that the details first emerged in 1950, in a period when the US, then the world, began taking an interest in outer space and, perhaps not surprisingly, interpreting any strange aerial phenomenon in terms of space ships or flying saucers. Rudolph Schreiver came forward, and claimed that he had worked with a small team at facilities near Prague with a view to developing a flying saucer-type vehicle.

According to Der Spiegel magazine dated March 30th 1950, in an article entitled Untertassen-Flieger Kombination:

"A former Luftwaffe captain and aircraft designer, Rudolph Schriever, who says engineers throughout the world experimented in the early 1940s with 'flying saucers' is willing to build one for the United States in six to nine months. The 40 year old Prague University graduate said he made blueprints for such a machine, which he calls a 'flying top', before Germany’s collapse and that the blueprints were stolen from his laboratory. He says the machine would be capable of 2,600 mph with a radius of 4,000 miles. Schriever is a US Army driver at Bremerhaven."

Enlarge image (will open in a new window)There is certainly no need to attribute the development of Germany's disc-form aircraft of World War 2 to alien intervention or to pursuit of any mystical beliefs. The designs were explorations of the potential of disc-shaped wings which, in theory, are strong and easy to build. Any occult or alien assistance obviously failed to result the construction of one provably functioning model of advanced design.

We are left with the sparse evidence that Sack, an aero modeller, built a clumsy flying disc and supposedly worked on a full-scale saucer-shaped aircraft, also attributed to Dr. Lippisch, which according to accounts managed a few awkward hops; an anecdotal record of an accidental sighting of attempts to fly an equally clumsy disc-shaped craft; and the conflicting allegations surrounding designs by Schreiver, Habermohl, Miethe, and Bellonzo.

Focke's innovative thinking may have produced a number of advanced aircraft, on paper and in reality, but no flying disc seems to have been among them. Whatever projects to explore disc-shaped aircraft the Germans undertook in World War 2, the evidence does not point to achievement of any particularly outstanding results. Significantly, perhaps, the German disc stories gained recognition in the 1950s, when the popular fascination with flying saucers was growing in the US.

More German Disc links:

WWII German Flying Disk Schematic Drawing Found
Secrets of the Third Reich


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