To communicate with their submarines during World War II, Nazi Germany built what was at the time the largest and most powerful transmitter in the world. Its name, appropriately, was Goliath.
Goliath was built in 1943 and remained in use until the end of the war. Its main use was for underwater radio communications, more specifically with submarines. With its low frequency (VLF) transmissions, typically on frequencies between 15 kilohertz to 25 kilohertz, it was able to transmit to submarines across much of the globe, even when they were submerged at depths of up to 40 feet.
The huge array consisted of three umbrella antennas, capable of generating 1,000 kilowatts of antenna power. Practically, however, the maximum was around 800 kilowatts. The entire site covered about 642 acres near Kalbe an der Milde, a town in Saxony-Anhalt, Germany. It was never targeted by Allied bombing raids, as the Allies were busy tapping the Enigma communications Goliath was transmitting, providing valuable information about U-boat activities.
U.S. forces reached Goliath on April 11, 1945. They used the site as a prisoner of war camp until they handed it over to the British, who then gave it to the Soviets as part of the Yalta Treaty. The Soviets then set about dismantling Goliath, a job they completed in April 1947. They then shipped the whole thing to Russia in 300 rail wagons, where it sat in storage until its reassembly on Russian soil in 1952.
The original site in Germany now bears only a few reminders of Goliath’s role in World War II, most notably a large mast base. In Russia, however, near the town of Druzhnyy, Goliath is still standing proud—and still fully functional. The Russian Navy continues to use it to communicate with its submarines, and it has also been used to track spacecraft.
Know Before You Go
The Goliath Transmitter is located in Druzhnyy, a small town just south of Nizhny Novgorod (about 245 miles east of Moscow). It is still a functional site of the Russian Navy, and so is typically off limits to unauthorized personnel. But from anywhere near Druzhnyy you can normally see the towers that support the umbrella antennas.