Making fun of hilariously ill-conceived military weapons has become one of our favorite pastimes. Especially when, on the surface, the weapon appears to be badass bordering on invincible.
Here are the weapons that almost worked, in a world where "almost working" might as well be "hilarious failure."
#6. The Only Thing a Saint-Chamond Tank Couldn't Conquer Was Potholes
When the French realized that World War I was going to turn on who had the better tanks, they were quick to jump onto the bandwagon with what was probably the most adorable and charming hunk of steel you could imagine, called the Schneider. Unfortunately, being cute isn't enough to win wars, and their tank was being ripped to shreds on the battlefield. In response, they created a replacement called the Saint-Chamond tank, which had everything the previous iteration lacked, except functionality on a battlefield.
How to be nonchalantly run over by a tank: Paris edition.
The Saint-Chamond tank could travel at about 7.5 miles per hour, which was surprisingly fast back then, but the hitch was that it could only do it over flat terrain. So what happened when the ground got rough?
The Achilles Heel:
Take a look at that tank for a moment. Even though you are not a master tank engineer, you may have noticed that, "Hey, the nose of that tank is awfully long. What happens when that tank has to ford rivers or trenches?"
"Look, I'll get out and wave you back a bit. No, no, you don't fucking blame me for this."
Since most WWI battles weren't fought in parking lots, this tank was only slightly more ineffectual than the tank it replaced, thanks largely in part to that massive appendage on the front, which had a tendency to dig straight into the ground and get the whole tank stuck.
Whenever the tanks surged across the battlefield, they would quickly and comically stumble over craters, mounds or just about any slight change in elevation, and since the gun couldn't rotate or elevate at all, the only thing it could do was shoot at the ground. So while it may have been useless against other vehicles and humans, the tank was very dangerous against enemies like dirt and mud.
"Shit. It's a hill -- get out the white flags."
If they ever did make it all the way across, they got stuck when their noses dug into German trenches, because they had slightly widened them specifically to fuck with these tanks. Yeah, that's it. No super gun, no giant antitank flamethrower, no giant-ass mines, just a little extra digging and this massive weapon became obsolete.
#5. The Frigate Vasa Could Be Blown Over by Wind
It's hard to imagine a more dismal and short-lived career than that of the Royal Swedish ship Vasa. It was built in 1628 when the Swedish king demanded a ship larger than any other ship in the world. He even personally designed it himself, with the builders following his specifications down to the letter. No expense was spared, using literal tons of laminated oak with incredible hand-carved statues of gods, all backed up by a whopping 64 cannons for killing the shit out of any unfortunate ship or tiny continent it came across.
Sails? Cannon. Stability? Cannon. Cannon? Cannon.
The king believed that "Second to God, the welfare of the kingdom depends on its navy." The Vasa was the largest wooden ship ever to set sail. Which it did, exactly once.
The Achilles Heel:
On the day of its maiden voyage, thousands of Swedes turned out to see their newest and grandest warship ever set sail for the first time. After four years of painstaking construction, the Vasa launched from port, fired its guns in salute and promptly fell over.
"THAT'LL LEARN YOU, EXCITED CROWD."
As it turns out, trusting your entire design to the king instead of someone whose actual job is making ships is a terrible idea. When the Vasa encountered its first wind only one nautical mile into its maiden voyage, the whole thing tipped over and sank. To put it simply, the biggest and most expensive sailboat ever built hadn't accounted for the possibility of wind.
The problem was that the portholes for all the cannons were so close to the waterline that as the ship swayed in the first gust, half the ocean flowed freely into its underbelly. The ship was later raised from the depths and dragged to a museum, presumably as a warning to other monarchs about meddling with shit they don't understand. Also because that sad pile of wood was the height of Sweden's naval power. Thousands of people who thought they would only witness the rise of the Swedish navy instead got the bonus of seeing its fall as well, all in one sitting.
The Swedes are a notoriously punctual people.
What could be sadder than that? How about failing to learn its lesson almost four centuries later ...
#4. Turning the Tegetthoff Class Battleship Would Make It Tip Over
Built in 1908, the Tegetthoff Class battleship is the answer to how many deadly weapons anyone can fit on one boat. It had close to 50 guns of varying size littered across the whole ship, the most remarkable of which were the 12 cartoonishly large caliber guns mounted on the centerline, each one firing a shell 12 inches in diameter. Unfortunately, the trouble with the biggest guns in the world is that they're heavy, and that they have to sit up high, and that this is a boat.
"Sure, it doesn't really float. But look at these cannons!"
The Achilles Heel:
The ship was so ridiculously top-heavy that it physically couldn't turn more than 10 degrees without tipping over and dumping everybody into the water.
Don't get us wrong: If you were an enemy facing this thing, you were in serious trouble, provided you stayed in one place and it was the direction the ship was already headed. The Tegetthoff Class battleship was like the rhinoceros of the sea.
In that it sunk straight to the bottom.
Amazingly, there were still four of these ships built without modifications to fix this rather serious problem. So the Austro-Hungarian navy faced two options: a large and expensive refit and overhaul to the ships that would redistribute the weight, or just avoid turning, ever. They decided to go with the latter and banned sharp turning on all four ships.
Naturally, this meant that the ship was ridiculously easy to sink as long as you could get it off-balance, because even the slightest amount of water onboard would cause the ship to capsize. And worse, the ships had virtually no underwater protection. So in 1918, when the SMS Szent Istvan was hit by an enemy torpedo, it wasted no time in going belly-up, despite such drastic measures as counter-flooding, throwing all ammunition overboard and turning the giant guns sideways.
"What about the crew?" "Good idea, get rid of them, too."
Oh, and to add embarrassment, the whole thing is caught on film.