I know of lady who was child in London during WWII, and she remembers hearing these. She said that her mom would be in the room with all of the family, and would always say in a very desperate voice “please keep going, please keep going, please keep going…”
First rocket concept
In the 1920’s, rocket concept was new and usually, people love new trends, especially young people. But those rockets were poor, awful. Powered by gunpowder, can’t go more than few hundred meters and it would go in a random directon. However, there is one exception: Wernher von Braun. In 1930, Spaceflight Society (Verein für Raumschiffahrt) and assisted Willy Ley in his liquid-fueled rocket motor tests. In spring 1932, he graduated from the Technische Hochschule Berlin with a diploma in mechanical engineering.
First millitary rocket facility: Peenemünde
In 1937, he started to work on his V1 project on Peenemünde. Why Peenemünde, you might ask? Well, it was an far from the both Poland Great Britian. Secondly, it consisted mainly swarms, hills and forests. And lastly, to get a clear footage of flying rockets for research, they need a long beach.
In the March of 1939, millitary high-command, including Hitler, ordered von Braun to show and test his last prototype. Hitler didn’t fully-funded the project entirely and he was kinda right. With the doctrine Blitzkrieg, based on speed, does he really need strategical weapons?
Project wasn’t doing good either. Rockets that are supposed to fly along the beach were usually exploding by flying 80 meters and crashing right into ground. Von Braun was facing 2 major technichal issues:
- Over-heating in the motor
- Adjust aim/direction while in air
He find a brilliant solution to over-heating and that was to pump the fuel via two-layered pipes. And to adjust, he manage to auto-aim itself with gyroscope and rudders. Rudders would adjust itself according to gyroscope which doesn’t require remote control.
Von Braun told to high officals that final protoype was ready to use. It was stunning. Rocket flied for 190 km. weighting around 13 ton. Hitler immediatly ordered these rockets to be produced. V2’s important technichal features was:
- It can reach 5000 km/h in 30 seconds.
- Can carry a warhead consisting of 1000 kg. explosives.
- Can go for 320 km.
To produce these rockets, they choose an abonden mine in Mittelwerk.
But, our main character, Wernher von Braun ,leaves us for some time and let me introduce ”Hans Kammler”. He was an SS general and known for his brutality agains prisoners and building several concentration camps including Auschwitz. He brought the idea of using the prisoners as slave labor. His idea was really ”succesful” in theory. He highen the amount of finished rockets 50 to 437. But, in practice, most of them weren’t working and nearly all of them was at poor quality.
Hitler ignore the idea of small but large quantities of launching sites and choose big but small quantities. He ordered a giant launching site named La Coupole beside English Channel. La Couple’s bunker was design specificaly for air attacks since Luftwaffe were in pretty bad shape. Meanwhile, for von Braun, problems start to show up again. Most of the rockets would explode in mid-air and camera technology wasn’t advanced enough to get close footage from far distances. Von Braun decide to take some risk and observe a rocket very close to predicted dropping location. He was almost hit but he find the problem and the solution. Rockets body parts wouldn’t take supersonic pressure and break. He strenghen the out layer and incident rate drasticaly dropped.
Bad news for V2’s
V2 project recevied 2 blows in June, 1944. Firstly, British found about La Coupole and start to bomb it day and night. As I said earlier, bunker was pretty strong but the soil around it was soft and massive underground tunnels of La Coupole started to take decent damage. Secondly, D-Day was executed and big, humble launching site was an easy target. Hitler had to do what the army told him from the beginning: Small launching sites.
In just 6 months, over 6000 rockets were launched. But, was it worth it?
First things first, 6000 rockets were produced, but only 3710 rockets were fired. Out of this 3710 rockets, 1054 rockets hit England and 1261 hit Belgium and France. 1054+1261=2315. That means about every 3 rockets, only 1 actually hit the predicted target. You still can’t decide whetever it’s worth it or not? You will now.
Even V1 and V2 rockets combined, they delivered about 5900 tons of explosives to England. This is a very cute number considering Luftwaffe delivered over 53395 tons of explosives from August 1940 and June 1941. I want to talk about a tragicomic story here. During WW2, MI5 had a program called Double XX system. Basically, they intended to turn Nazi spies in England to a double spy, actually working for Great Britian. It was extremely succesful and Eddie Chapman, aka Zizgag, said to Nazis that they were hitting their target, Central London. But in reality, rockets were dropping right into the North Sea. I am not even talking about the huge budget Nazis had spend. So it wasn’t worth it.