They were far ahead of the other combatants in jet-powered flight, had amazing tanks, and created awesome examples of prop aircraft. So the Allies may have lifted a few of their better vehicles in an effort to see how best to destroy them and, in many cases, how to rip off the technology to use for American equipment.
Here are seven times Allied troops stole Nazi vehicles and technology:
1. British engineers hunt a Tiger tank
A German Tiger in Sicily, 1943. (U.S. Army photo)
During the North African campaign in World War II, a small group of engineers, some of them with little combat experience, were sent on a dangerous mission, to capture one of the feared Tiger tanks in combat. The four men were on the mission under the direct orders of Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
Hunting went badly at first. The crew arrived in North Africa in February 1943. Heavy combat in Tunisia caused a lot of Tiger tanks to be wounded, but most were destroyed by British troops or withdrawing Germans before they could be captured. But the big day came on April 21 when the men spotted a Tiger with a jammed turret.
They raced their Churchill Tank around the back of the Tiger and attacked the crew, killing them with machine guns, and captured the Tiger. Churchill and British King George visited the tank in Africa before it was shipped back to England for further study.
2. An American POW escapes Germany in a stolen Nazi plane
Robert Hoover, one of America's greatest test and fighter pilots, is in the bottom row, second from right. (Photo: U.S Air Force)
Bob Hoover was one of the most legendary show and fighter pilots in history, flying hundreds of airframes over his career. But his most impressive flight was probably the one he was never scheduled to make, an escape from Nazi lines in his captors' plane.
Hoover was a decorated ace with 59 missions under his belt when he was shot down and captured. He escaped the prison after staging a fight and managed to get some food and a gun from a friendly German farm wife. He used the pistol to steal some bicycles and made his way to a nearly abandoned airfield where he and a friend stole the legendary Focke-Wulfe 190 fighter plane and flew it back to England.
3. British commandos stole a Nazi radar station
(Photo: Royal Air Force Squadron Leader A.E. Hill)
So, yeah, a radar station isn't a vehicle. But still, British paratroopers went on a daring cross-channel raid to steal radar technology from Germans in occupied France.
Operation Biting, as it was known, was successful and the paratroopers escorted a British radar technician to the German installation, attacked it while the tech removed the most vital components, and then withdrew on foot with two German technicians as prisoner. They left France via boat.
4. Operation LUSTY allowed the U.S. to steal dozens of planes
German Me-163B Komet. (U.S. Air Force photo)
In 1944, the Allied governments were jockeying for the best post-war prizes and intelligence grabs even as the war was still being fought. Army Air Corps Col. Harold Watson and "Watson's Whizzers" were a group of pilots and engineers tasked with collecting the most Luftwaffe technology possible in Operation LUSTY (LUftwaffe Secret TechnologY).
They stole engineering documents, blueprints, and – most importantly – planes. They would advance right behind friendly troops into German air bases or sometimes even move forward into areas thought to have no defenders. As the likely Allied sectors of occupation took shape, they even went into the areas that would be occupied by British, French, or Russian troops and stole German planes from there to the American sector.
5. The Brits take the world's first jet-powered bomber from Norway
The Arado 234 was the world's first operational jet-powered bomber. The sole surviving aircraft of its type now resides at the Smithsonian Museum. (Photo: Michael Yew CC BY 2.0)
After Germany fell in May 1945, Allied forces poured into formerly occupied areas and scooped up everything they could find. The world's first operational jet-powered bomber, the Arado 234. The plane had previously been used by the Germans to take reconnaissance photos of heavily defended areas like the Normandy beaches in the months after D-Day.
The British shared the Arado 234 with America and the captured jet is the only surviving plane of its type. It currently resides at the Smithsonian Museum.
6. American troops capture a German train and the tank chained to it
Infantrymen of the 3rd Armored Division advance under artillery fire in Pont-Le-Ban, Belgium on Jan. 15, 1945. (Photo and cutline: U.S. Army)
When the 3rd Armored Division reached Soissons in August 1944, it was hot on the heels of retreating German forces. The American crews raced forward to cut off their foes, and some of the tank crews spotted a German train attempting to flee east with a large amount of supplies and a tank.
The Americans tried to take out the tank with 37mm anti-tank fire, but it was ineffective. Instead, they kept steady small arms fire on everyone attempting to get into the tank as the Shermans wiped out the infantry company on the train. The Americans were able to capture the train and the tank. Oddly enough, some of the trains much-needed space was taken up with lingerie and lipstick, likely gifts for German girlfriends.
7. The Royal Air Force has a Focke-Wulf 190 practically handed to them
A captured Fw 190A. (Photo: National Museum of the U.S. Air Force)
The Focke-Wulf 190 fighter plane was arguably the best fighter plane of the war. It would outmaneuver most Allied planes and had a ton of power. The Royal Air Force, the service that faced the 190 most in the early days, wanted to steal one to figure out how to better defeat it.
A series of plans – some of them a little crazy – were proposed, but they became unnecessary when a Luftwaffe pilot accidentally landed one at an RAF base and a local officer was able to capture it with a pistol. The German pilot had become disoriented during a dogfight and, low on fuel, had put down at what he thought was a German base in occupied France.
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