By Alex Wallace
To be perfectly honest I don’t remember where I first encountered 1945A; it was probably through YouTube’s related video algorithm, which has on occasion provided me with a great bounty. What I can say with certainty is that it is very interesting to the alternate historian.
From here on I will assume you have watched the short film, directed by Ryan Nagata and written by him and George Edelman; it is a mere five minutes long so it is not in any way an undue expenditure of time.
The machine pictured in the film is clearly a take on the wunderwaffe, those ungainly panaceas for all the woes of the German war effort as it was clear that Germany was soon to be transformed from the most powerful country in Europe to the fifth most powerful country in Berlin. The soldiers in this short film are American, and they have already entered Germany. It is 1945, and it will not be long until Hitler starts giving his famed histrionic rants in the Fuhrerbunker as the Red Army surrounds the German capital.
The reaction of the soldiers indicates that the appearance of the machine is a shock; this would imply that this is the first of its kind deployed in the field, and perhaps the only one of its kind manufactured (the film is unclear in this). In this small engagement, the vehicle is quite effective, and sends the Americans running in abject fear. Tactically, this weapon is revolutionary. Strategically, I have my doubts it would mean much at all.
Consider that this machine is a four-legged walker reminiscent of the OG-9 Homing Spider Droid in Confederacy service in Star Wars’ Clone Wars, down to the anti-armor laser weapon. It is also armed with machine guns and a flamethrower, making it a good jack-of-all-trades vehicle for small engagements such as the one depicted in the film. However, I suspect that in larger engagements this wonder weapon would not be as nearly as useful.
Here I’ll make a diversion to prove a point. During the development of the 1953 film adaptation of The War of the Worlds, I have read that the producer, George Pal, talked with military servicemen regarding how the infamous tripods of H. G. Wells’ original novel. The response was that they’d be rendered mincemeat in short order by the weapons available at that time. Sustained artillery would easily knock one to the ground, and the destruction of even one leg could send it teetering. Every strategic weakness applying to the tripods would apply to this short film’s wonder weapon; in a large battle with mass artillery or aircraft on the field, this weapon would be the first thing to be targeted by a torrent of explosives and would be obliterated without much trouble.
The laser weapon in particular makes me have doubts about the economic viability of this machine. Given that in our world weapons technology was nowhere near a Star Wars-esque beam cannon in 1945, it can be reasonably assumed that a single cannon is an enormous investment for the German armed forces. This would make a mass deployment of these walkers prohibitively expensive and therefore not worth pursuing (but then again, it’s the Nazis we’re talking about, and they were never known for their wise investments in military technology).
Assuming that these weapons are deployed in sufficient quantities in 1945 to at least lengthen the war, the result for Hitler’s regime is still not positive. If both the Western Allies and the Red Army are held off for a few months, the Americans would turn to their own very real wonder weapon. The Manhattan Project would be used on its original target, and several German cities would go up in nuclear hellfire. Germany would have to surrender in the face of that sort of power, and no wonder weapon could stop that tide. In that regard, the point of divergence implied by the film would be a more fantastical way of achieving the results of R. M. Meluch’s short story Vati, which posits a better Luftwaffe strategy giving way to German cities being obliterated more thoroughly than even Dresden or Pforzheim were.
In conclusion, Nagata and Edelman have created quite the entertaining film, but as an implicit alternate history it is lacking in the large change in the European war that it appears to hint at. A further consideration of the relevant history renders it, ultimately, a meditation on the folly of pouring all your resources and effort into individual weapon systems. As Robert Hilliard Barrow said, “Amateurs talk about tactics, but professionals study logistics.”