Last month I wrote about the V-1 bomb, the first of the German "revenge" or "terror" weapons launched against England after D-Day. If you missed the article, you can find it at https://www.hhhistory.com/2021/03/the-v-1-flying-bomb-wwii-terror-weapon.html
V2-Rocket in the Peenemünde Museum
The V-2 rocket was a much more sophisticated bomb than the V-1 and was enormously expensive to build. The Germans launched the first V-2 to hit London on September 8, 1944, three months after D-Day, in a last-ditch effort to turn the war around in their favor. They fired more than thirteen hundred V-2’s at England and hundreds more at Belgium and France as the allies advanced toward Germany.
The V-2 was forty-six feet high, as tall as a 4-story building. Launched from a mobile unit and propelled by a powerful rocket engine which burned a mix of alcohol-water and liquid oxygen, the bomb blasted more than fifty miles above the earth— to the edge of space—and returned to earth at supersonic speed, hitting its target five minutes later. Each one carried a ton of explosives and was equipped with an automatic guidance system—an on-board analogue computer with a pre-programmed destination.
|Sectional View of the V-2|
Creative Commons - Author Eberhard Marx
Unlike the buzzing noise of the V-1 engine which alerted those on the ground to its impending arrival, the V-2 crashed and exploded without warning. No one heard it coming—only the bang after it had landed and exploded. The V-weapons caused immense suffering in Britain—30,000 casualties and hundreds of thousands homeless. Despite these statistics, the V-weapons caused less destruction than the bombing during the Blitz (1940-1941).
|V-2 Damage in London - Imperial War Museum - © IWM HU 88803|
The V-2’s were manufactured at Mittelwerk, a huge underground factory. Slave laborers who possessed the needed skills were brought from concentration camps to perform the work. Conditions were so bad that an estimated 20,000 died from starvation, a lack of sleep and proper sanitation, and torture as well as frequent executions.
|Wernher von Braun|
The V-2 bombings came to an end when Allied troops overran the last launch sites in March of 1945. According to the BBC, the V-2 was "the world’s first space rocket" and was responsible for launching the space age. Wernher von Braun, the engineer who helped design and develop the V-2, surrendered to the Americans and later "developed the rockets that launched the United States' first space satellite Explorer 1" and became "the chief architect of the Saturn V super heavy-lift launch vehicle that propelled the Apollo spacecraft to the Moon" (Wikipedia).
"The Terrifying German 'Revenge Weapons' of the Second World War" - Imperial War Museum
"Wernher von Braun" - Wikipedia