Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Friday, 11 April 2014

Bringing a 188-ton mouse back to life

Not a monster prehistoric rodent, but a monster World War Two tank - the 188-ton Maus, the heaviest tank ever built in history. And it's not Girls und Panzer, but it's the Belorussian studio Wargaming that's trying to resurrect this behemoth. The part of Kubinka Tank Museum surrounding the Maus was actually built around the thing, and the Maus isn't actually one tank - it's the hull of the turretless Maus prototype with the turret of the turreted Maus prototype attached to it (the hull of the turreted prototype was damaged beyond repair in a fire and scrapped).

Although this sounds like one of those crazy projects, how possible is it that it might work?

The Russians do have appropriate engines from tanks, locomotives and other vehicles. As one commentator looks at the situation -

I tiink the restoration could skip the rebuilding the engine from scratch. Kubinka can just ask either MTU , Wartsilla or any diesel engine/engine-generator from them. The engine bay in the Maus is meant to swallow a 44 litre V12 diesel engine from a marine origin and MTU’s engine of that size(the 396 series engine) can produce up to 2200 hp, that 400 hp more than the Maus’s original engine. Couple to the fact it can be had with a generator. So the issue now is to find a Electric mortor to move the 180 tonne beast (I know of Siemens locomotive motors moving thousands of tonnes in group of 4 but will one fit in the Maus is a different thing).

He's right, of course. A Wartsila engine at 2200 hp would be far more powerful than the puny 1200 hp engine that they put inside to move this thing's 188-ton mass, although the Maus would still be a very slow tank if it got moving. The ground pressure and condition of the suspension would determine the mobility of the thing. How many generators? That's a good question, but far from unsolveable - there are plenty of usable examples, and modern technology means that they're going to be a whole lot smaller and lighter than those available in the 1940s.

And as to carrying the thing -

I want to see Wargaming use the Antonov An-225 (the thing can carry up to 250 tons of cargo, so it’s the only plane in the world that could haul this thing through the air) to bring this thing to E3 or something once it’s operable. Could you imagine? Or, more fitting, the plane could bring it to a German video game trade show, and have the thing tread on some domestic soil!

Heck, if you really want to dream big (given that we’re talking about an actual restoration of the Maus, we may already be there), given that the An-225 is the only plane in the world capable of airlifting it, maybe Wargaming can also fund the completion of that second An-225 hull and then buy the thing from Antonov to put it to work as a dedicated Maus mover?
Wouldn't that part be a dream come true? Resurrecting the second An-225 to carry the Maus around?

That aside, the Maus weighs 188 tons and the An-225's  weight record is 189 tons. Assuming that the rig to carry the Maus weighs about 20-25 tons, the total weight of the cargo would be in excess of 200 tons, and lifting this Maus would be a record if they actually got around to doing it. And the Maus is pretty small compared to the colossal An-225 - a mere 10.2 meters long, 3.71 meters wide and 3.63 meters high compared to the 43.55 meter long, 6.4 meter wide and 4.4 meter high cargo bay of the An-225. That would be an enormous amount of weight concentrated in a very small area, and even the Antonov may not be able to take the strain of carrying it.

However, they might remove the 57 ton turret (as heavy as a whole goddamn Tiger I) from the hull and carry the hull and turret in two separate aircraft, before finally reuniting them on-site again to produce the complete Maus. However, this is going to be one hell of a terrible procedure and it makes it doubtful about whether it's worth shipping the Maus by air, as tantalizing as the possibility may be. The Maus might find its way on some kind of extremely heavy-duty rail car, but I suppose that'd be it - most stations wouldn't be able to handle a 188 ton metal monstrosity.

Either which way, seeing how this thing is restored should be very, very interesting indeed.

Monday, 7 April 2014

The status of women in Hitler's Germany

What I had meant as another regular "update" looks like it'll be reserved for a more thorough analysis. "Totalitarianism and the status of women" was meant to follow totalitarian singing, taking after my existing poke at the Waffen-SS and their devilish marching song. However, I'm sticking to the "Hitler" side of Totalitarianism. The Mao side is something I have to read up on, and the Stalin side of relations with women seems quite a bit more complex than I previously imagined. The role of women in the old USSR seems to have been anything but straightforwards.

Hitler took right after General Ludendorff in perpetrating his ideas of "Kuche, Kirke, Kinder" - "Cooking, Church, Children" for all women in Nazi Germany, and he wanted women to be, as it were, factories for the production of new soldiers for the state, human livestock for breeding. The links below are pretty explanatory, especially since the attitude Hitler and the Nazis adopted towards women was simple and regressive in the extreme.

And there you have it, all the teachers, doctors, professionals and even civil servants who happened to be women lost their jobs just because they had two X chromosomes instead of one X and one Y. Pathetic.

What's especially interesting is the need for increased industrial production leading to a year of "national duty" for women. In fact, (and this isn't stated in these sources since it's beyond their scope) the amount of industrial labor gotten out of the women was so low that the Nazis resorted to using POWs and Concentration Camp prisoners (Jews, Roma, Sinti, Communists, Poles, Slavs homosexuals, and everyone else they saw as 'undesirable') as slave labor - and the slave labor had no intention of providing them with quality war material, sabotaging them at will. The Nazis, thanks to their perverse misogyny, landed up being their own worst enemies when it came to war material production, while the USA, USSR and Great Britain, with their large percentage of women in the industrial workforce, were able to make up for the loss of workmen by inducting women.

Of course, while the ideal "Aryan woman" was supposed to be dressed like an athletic, simple peasant girl, the SS had their own share of brothels where they could go and "enjoy" themselves with the hottest women around after their day's devilry. Hypocrisy is one of those things that never gets old, especially not with power-obsessed maniacs like the SS.

The attitudes demonstrated by Hitler and Goebbels towards women - that women and men were equal but had different duties - the men as warriors and breadwinners, and women as childbearers - strike me as incredibly creepy, because this is precisely the language that I have heard used as an excuse for misogynistic hypocrisy. Of course, neither Hitler nor Goebbels invented these attitudes - Ludendorff was there well before them and similar attitudes have existed in war-obsessed cultures for eons - but it is still incredibly disturbing. Why do I hear such similar-sounding rhetoric now, in the 21st century? Why are there politicians who think that there's something even remotely appropriate about a regressive attitude towards half the human species, an attitude appropriated by one of the worst mass murderers in all of human history?

More to come, later, and perhaps elsewhere. And instead of focusing on the barbaric Nazis, I'd be taking a look at the far more complex fate of women in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Songs sung by totalitarian fanatics

This post deals, in brief, with the songs composed by the most terrible regimes in human history. Courtesy of that most sinister and fanatical military arm of all, the Waffen-SS, we get "SS marschiert in Feindesland" (SS marches in enemy land), a marching song so simple but so, so ghastly that only the Nazis could possibly have composed it. It's a song whose internet versions have, understandably, been banned across Western Europe. The Devil may laugh, ha ha ha ha ha, as the bloodthirsty SS marches its way.

After running into the Panzerlied and Erika and other German marching songs, I was vaguely expecting the Waffen-SS anthem to be more on the same lines. Well, I was stupid to expect that - whoever composed this was brutally honest about wanting to "eradicate the red plague". It's a song that fits well with the Waffen-SS, the fanatical killers that they were.

There is sort of quasi-religious quality to this kind of anthem for fanatics, more so than standard military marches - the notion of eradicating a "red plague" is treated as some kind of holy crusade. While that's obviously fascist ethnic genocidal thinking at work, this dreadful song does not seem too far removed from early-war communist music, particularly revenge-driven songs like "Svyaschennaya Voyna", which speaks gloriously about rising in rage against Fascism (but which doesn't mention replacing it with it the equally horrific Stalinism). Unlike the communists, they seem not to be particularly interested in speaking of the glory of their ideology, merely delighting in serving Hitler and the Reich. (Brings to mind "Leader, give me your order", the North Korean song sung by the fanatical devotees of the only totalitarian necrocracy in the world).

Amongst these different flavors of mass-murdering totalitarianism, we get different causes. The Nazis, obsessed with their Reich and Hitler and ethnic purity. The Stalinists, obsessed with their leader and with Stalinist ideology (I say Stalinist rather than Communist, for good reason) and later similarly with Chairman Mao's followers (Mao himself taking a route not too dissimilar to Stalin's), and finally the crackpot ideology of North Korea, a monarchy where everyone remains fanatically devoted to their leader. Their very songs reflect their different ideologies, and the sheer smugness reflects a worldview that has been warped to exclude any notion of inferiority.

Being a pessimist, I expect that such unapologetically smug songs will become all the more common unless the root causes of totalitarian fanaticism - of whatever flavor - are rooted out. More (on fanaticism, not singing) to come.