A Surgeon With 300% Mortality Rate From a Single Operation and Other Historic Screwups
A Surgeon With 300% Mortality Rate From a Single Operation and Other Historic Screwups

A Surgeon With 300% Mortality Rate From a Single Operation and Other Historic Screwups

Khalid Elhassan - October 11, 2020

A Surgeon With 300% Mortality Rate From a Single Operation and Other Historic Screwups
V-2 rocket. Rare Historical Photos

4. An Expensive Way to Deliver Explosives

Another factor highlighting Hitler’s mistake in putting so much faith in the V-2 rocket is its terrible cost-effectiveness. From its first operational launch against enemy targets in September, 1944, to Germany’s surrender nine months later, roughly 3000 V-2 rockets were fired. Many did not reach their targets. However, even if they all had, at one ton of explosives per V2 warhead, that would have been a total of 3000 tons of explosives dropped on enemy cities over nine months.

By contrast, during that same period, the Royal Air Force would routinely drop more than 3000 tons of explosives on a German city in a single bombing raid. Americans also frequently exceeded that 3000 ton total in single bombing raids. And the Allied explosive delivery tools, bombers, were reusable and thus far more economical. Most Allied bombers returned to base, reloaded, and returned the next day or night to once again drop more than 3000 tons of explosives on German cities. They repeated that process dozens of times.

A Surgeon With 300% Mortality Rate From a Single Operation and Other Historic Screwups
V-2 rocket launch. Quora

3. A Weapon That Killed More of its Makers Than the Enemy

During its nine months of deployment, the V-2 rocket killed 2754 people. Most of them were not soldiers, but civilians whose deaths, while tragic, did not impede the Allied war effort by much.

By contrast, over 20,000 workers, mostly slave laborers, died while manufacturing the V-2. That gave the rocket the tragic distinction of being the only weapons system in history whose production cost more lives than did its actual use. Thus, when contrasting the cost with the results, the V-2 literally produced little bang for the buck.

A Surgeon With 300% Mortality Rate From a Single Operation and Other Historic Screwups
A Maus captured by the Soviets. Wikimedia

2. A Giant Mistake

Another of Hitler’s mistakes stemming from his obsession with big weapons was the Panzer VIII Maus super-heavy tank. It was the heaviest tank ever built, measuring about 33 feet long, 12 feet wide, 12 feet high, and weighing nearly 200 tons. Its secondary armament was a 75 mm coaxial gun instead of a machine gun. Its main gun was a 128 mm monster capable of destroying any Allied tank at ranges of up to 2.2 miles. That was increased at Hitler’s insistence to a 150mm gun, because he thought the 128 mm looked like a toy gun on the Maus.

The huge size and heavyweight came at a correspondingly heavy price. The Maus was too heavy for most bridges, so it had to cross rivers either by wading through fords, or driving over the river’s bottom while using a snorkel for ventilation. Additionally, getting the Maus moving was a problem in of itself. It was difficult to develop an engine and drive train powerful enough to propel 200 tons of metal on the ground at any appreciable speed, yet small enough to fit inside the tank. In the end, the maximum speed achieved during trials was 8 m.p.h. on a hard surface.

A Surgeon With 300% Mortality Rate From a Single Operation and Other Historic Screwups
Panzer VIII Maus size comparison. WWII in Pictures

1. Hitler’s Mistakes With Super Weapons Helped Hasten His Defeat

The Maus was intended to spearhead German attacks by smashing through opposition and destroying all enemy armor it came across, while impervious to damage from enemy tanks. With 9.4 inches of turret armor, 8 inches of hull front armor, 7 inches of hull side armor, and 6 inches of rear armor, the Maus was immune from Allied tanks, whose shells would simply bounce off the behemoth. However, it was built in 1944, by which time the Allies had complete aerial supremacy over the battlefield. The Maus did not have sufficient armor up top to protect it from armor-piercing bombs or rockets from above.

Ultimately, the Maus was symptomatic of Hitler’s irrational obsession with big things and superweapons. He was indifferent to, or unable to understand, the concept of relative cost-effectiveness. He had trouble grasping other “normal” weapons that could accomplish the same task at a fraction of the cost. Using such normal weapons instead of turning to superweapons would have freed up scarce resources for other uses that could have better served the German war effort. Fortunately, Hitler persisted with his mistakes, which only helped to hasten his defeat.


Where Did We Find This Stuff? Some Sources and Further Reading

Atlantic, The, October 24th, 2012 – ‘Time Me Gentlemen’: The Fastest Surgeon of the 19th Century

Bartov, Omer – The Eastern Front, 1941-1945: German Troops and the Barbarisation of Warfare (2001)

Business Insider, June 16th, 2017 – Spinach Doesn’t Have As Much of a Key Nutrient Needed in Your Blood as You Might Think

History Collection – Absurd Medical History Moments that Prove People Have Always been this Dumb

Clark, Alan – Barbarossa: The Russian-German Conflict, 1941-1945 (1985)

Cracked – How a Surgeon Once Killed Three People in One Operation

Daily Mail, July 3rd, 2013 – Sorry Popeye, Spinach DOESN’T Make Your Muscles Big: Expert Reveals Sailor’s Love of the Food Was Due to a Misplaced Decimal Point

Dungan, Tracy D. – V-2: A Combat History of the First Ballistic Missile (2005)

Erenow – 100 Mistakes That Changed History: A Math Error, 1492

History Collection – 8 Medical Practices From Medieval Times That Will Turn Your Stomach

Extreme Tech – Tech Wrecks: Lessons From Some of the Biggest Hardware Screwups

Gargus, John – The Son Tay Raid: American POWs in Vietnam Were Not Forgotten (2007)

History Net – The Truth About Tidal Wave

Montefiore, Simon Sebag – Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar (2005)

Murphy, David E. – What Stalin Knew: The Enigma of Barbarossa (2005)

Pangeanic – The Worst Translation Mistake in History

History Collection – History’s Failed Military Weapons

Searching in History – Tragic Death of Francois Vatel

Tank Encyclopedia – Panzer VIII Maus

Telegraph, The, August 29th, 2007 – Key That Could Have Saved the Titanic

Time Magazine, September 28th, 2015 – How Being a Slob Helped Alexander Fleming Discover Penicillin

Wikipedia – Operation Tidal Wave

Wikipedia – V-2 Rocket