Tag Archives: Vengeance Weapon

3 October 1942

Aggregat 4 number V4 ready for launch at Prufstand VII, 3 October 1942. (Bundesarchiv)
Aggregat 4 prototype (probably V-3) ready for launch at Prüfstand VII, August 1942. (Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1978-Anh.026-01 146-1978-Anh.026-01)

3 October 1942: First successful launch of a prototype Aggregat 4 (A4) rocket, V-4 (Versuchsmuster 4), from Prüfstand VII at Heereversuchanstalt Peenemünde, or HVP, the Army Research Center at Peenemünde on the island of Usedom, off the Baltic coast of Germany.

The rocket engine burned for 58 seconds and the rocket reached an altitude of 85–90 kilometers (53–56 miles) and traveled approximately 190 kilometers (118 miles) downrange. Although V-4 did not reach the Kármán line at 100 kilometers, the currently accepted altitude at which space begins, this Aggregat 4 is still considered to have been the first rocket to reach space.

Major General Walter Doernberger, a German military officer and doctor of engineering who was in command of the V1 and V2 development programs, said, “This third day of October, 1942, is the first of a new era in transportation, that of space travel.”

A-4 rocket launch Peenemunde, 3 October 1942. (NASM)
Aggregat 4 (prototype V-4) launch from Prüfstand VII, Peenemünde, Germany, 3 October 1942. (NASM)
V-2 rocket launch at Peenemünde, on the island of Usedom in the Baltic Sea. (Bundesarchiv)
Aggregat 4 (V-2) rocket launch at Peenemünde, on the island of Usedom in the Baltic Sea. (Bundesarchiv)
Dr. Frhr. Wernher von Braun
Dr. Frhr. Wernher von Braun

Development of the A4 began in 1938 under Dr. Frhr. Wernher von Braun. The first prototype, Versuchsmuster 1  (V-1), was being prepared for launch on 18 April 1942. During test runs of the engine, it was badly damaged and was scrapped. Prototype V-2 was launched 13 June 1942 and reached approximately 15,000 feet (4,572 meters), but the guidance system failed and the rocket crashed into the Baltic Sea a short distance from the launch site. V-3 suffered a structural failure, 16 August 1942. V-4, the fourth prototype Aggregat 4, was the first successful flight.

The V2, or Vergeltungswaffen 2 (also known as the A4, or Aggregat 4) was a ballistic missile with an empty weight of approximately 10,000 pounds (4,536 kilograms) and weighing 28,000 pounds (12,700 kilograms), fully loaded. It carried a 738 kilogram (1,627 pound) (sources vary) explosive warhead of amatol, a mixture of TNT and ammonium nitrate. The propellant was a 75/25 mixture of of ethanol and water with liquid oxygen as an oxidizer.

The complete rocket was 14.036 meters (46.050 feet) long, and had a maximum diameter of 1.651 meters (5.417 feet). The rocket was stabilized by four large fins, 4.035 meters (13.238 feet) long, with a maximum span of  3.564 meters (11.693 feet). The leading edge of these fins was swept 60°, and 3°. A small guide vane was at the outer tip of each fin, and other vanes were placed in the engine’s exhaust plume.

Cutaway illustration of a V-2 rocket. (U.S. Army)

When launched, the rocket engine burned for 65 seconds, accelerating the rocket to 3,580 miles per hour (5,760 kilometers per hour) on a ballistic trajectory. The maximum range of the rocket was 200 miles (320 kilometers) with a peak altitude between 88 and 128 miles (142–206 kilometers), depending on the desired range. On impact, the rocket was falling at 1,790 miles per hour (2,880 kilometers per hour), about Mach 2.35, so its approach would have been completely silent in the target area.

The V-2 could only hit a general area and was not militarily effective. Germany used it against England, France, The Netherlands and Belgium as a terror weapon. More than 3,200 V-2 rockets were launched against these countries.

V-2 launch site.
V-2 launch site.

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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8 September 1944

V-2 crater at Staveley Road, 8 September 1944. (Daily Mail)
V-2 crater at Staveley Road, 8 September 1944. (Daily Mail)
The first V-2 rocket to hit London impacted in Staveley Road at 18:40:52, 8 September 1944, killing 3 persons and injuring 17 others.
The first V-2 rocket to hit London impacted in Staveley Road at 18:40:52, 8 September 1944, killing 3 persons and injuring 17 others.

8 September 1944: At 18:40:52 hours, the first of 1,358 V-2 rockets hit London, impacting in Staveley Road, Chiswick, “opposite No. 5.”

The warhead detonated and caused extensive damage to the residential area. A crater 20 feet (6.1 meters) deep was in the center of the road and the gas and water mains were  destroyed.

This V-2 rocket was fired by Gruppe Nord, Battery 2./485, located at the crossroads of Lijsterlaan and Schouwweg, in the suburb of Wassenar, The Hague, Netherlands.

Three people were killed: a 67-year-old woman, a 3-year-old child and a soldier home on leave. 17 others were injured.

11 homes were demolished, 12 seriously damaged and unusable, and 556 suffered slight or minor damage. 14 families had to be relocated.

A V-2 rocket is being raised to a vertical position for firing.
A V-2 rocket is being raised to a vertical position for firing.

The V2, or Vergeltungswaffen 2 (also known as the A4, or Aggregat 4) was a ballistic missile with an empty weight of approximately 10,000 pounds (4,536 kilograms) and weighing 28,000 pounds (12,700 kilograms), fully loaded. It carried a 738 kilogram (1,627 pound) (sources vary) explosive warhead of amatol, a mixture of TNT and ammonium nitrate. The propellant was a 75/25 mixture of of ethanol and water with liquid oxygen as an oxidizer.

1280px-esquema_de_la_v-2The complete rocket was 14.036 meters (46.050 feet) long, and had a maximum diameter of 1.651 meters (5.417 feet). The rocket was stabilized by four large fins, 4.035 meters (13.238 feet) long, with a maximum span of  3.564 meters (11.693 feet). The leading edge of these fins was swept 60°, and 3°. A small guide vane was at the outer tip of each fin, and other vanes were placed in the engine’s exhaust plume.

V-2 launch site.
V-2 launch site.

When launched, the rocket engine burned for 65 seconds, accelerating the rocket to 3,580 miles per hour (5,760 kilometers per hour) on a ballistic trajectory. The maximum range of the rocket was 200 miles (320 kilometers) with a peak altitude between 88 and 128 miles, depending on the desired range. On impact, the rocket was falling at 1,790 miles per hour (2,880 kilometers per hour), about Mach 2.35, so its approach would have been completely silent in the target area.

The V-2 could only hit a general area and was not militarily effective. Germany used it against England, France, The Netherlands and Belgium as a terror weapon. More than 3,200 V-2 rockets were launched against these countries.

V-2 rockets on mobile launchers being prepared for firing. (Bildarchiv Preussischer Kulturbesitz)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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13 June 1944

LNER's Grove Road railway bridge after the V-1 attack, 13 June 1944.
LNER’s Grove Road railway bridge after the V-1 attack, 13 June 1944. (The National Archives)
A LNER Class B-12/3 4-6-0 locomotive, 7488, pulls a passenger train across the rebuilt Grove Street bridge, 9:27 p.m., 14 June 1944. (Great Eastern Railway Society)
LNER Class B-12/3 standard gauge 4-6-0 locomotive, 7488, pulls a passenger train across the rebuilt Grove Street railway bridge, 9:27 p.m., 14 June 1944. (Great Eastern Railway Society)

13 June 1944: At approximately 4:30 a.m., the first V-1 flying bomb struck London. The “buzz bomb” detonated on a London and North Eastern Railway bridge crossing over Grove Street, between Devonshire Street and Osborne Road in Bethnal Green. Six persons were killed by the explosion, and twenty-six others were injured.

Twelve homes were demolished and at least fifty others badly damaged.

The bridge was along an important railway route. It was heavily damaged and the LNER decided to replace it rather than undertake any repairs. The new bridge was in service by 7:45 p.m., that evening.

A Mr. Dowe witnessed the attack from the Bethnal Green Town Hall. He said, “When warning went I saw my wife and family into the shelter and then stood at the entrance to watch events. I heard a plane in the distance, then gunfire and then the sound of the plane as if diving. There was an orange flash, followed by a terrific explosion. There were no sounds of bombs falling as in the blitz, only only that of the plane zooming.”

Three other “P.A.C.s” (Pilotless Aircraft) fell in Kent and Sussex with little effect.

V1 vor dem Start Aus guter Deckung wird "V1" an die Abschußstelle gerollt. Der Start erfolgt durch eine Pressluftanlage. Mit Hilfe eines Fernlenkverfahrens trifft die "V1" das befohlene Ziel. Die gleichbleibend hohe Geschwindigkeit, die von keinem Feindjäger erreicht wird, erhält "V1" von einem Raketenantrieb. Diese erste deutsche Vergeltungswaffe ist eine hervorragende Schöpfung unserer Luftrüstung. Foto: PK-Lysiak/Transocean-Europapress
A V-1 flying bomb is brought out of a protective bunker for launching. Foto: PK-Lysiak/Transocean-Europapress

The Fieseler Fi 103 (better known as the Vergeltungswaffe 1 (“retaliation weapon”), or simply, the V-1, was what would today be considered a cruise missile. It was designed and built by the Gerhard Fieseler Werke GmbH. Construction of the missiles was very simple and it was mass produced at a rate of about 8,000 per month.

The V-1 is an unmanned mid-wing monoplane, constructed of a welded steel fuselage with straight wings which were covered by sheet steel. A pulse jet engine was mounted above the fuselage. It was 8.325 meters (27 feet, 3¾ inches) long with a wingspan of 5.370 meters (17 feet, 7½ inches). The aircraft had a total weight of 2,160 kilograms (4,762 pounds).

Powered by an Argus Motoren Werke GmbH As 014 pulse jet engine which produced a maximum thrust of 360 kg (3,530 newtons/794 pounds of thrust) at 750 kilometers per hour (460 miles per hour) at Sea Level. The pulse jet engine had no moving parts and fired 45–50 times per second. It burned low-octane gasoline with compressed air.

The V-1 was controlled in flight through pneumatic servos connected to a gyroscopic automatic pilot built by Askania Werke AG. A magnetic compass in the nose could be set to direct the V-1 in a particular direction. Air driven vanes at the nose drove an air log, which kept track of the distance flown by means of a turn counter. At a preselected count, the device shut down the pulse jet engine and the flying bomb entered a steep dive and crashed into the ground and the warhead detonated. The V-1 was only accurate enough to land in a general geographic area.

The aircraft had a maximum speed of 600 kilometers per hour (373 miles per hour) at 2,500 meters (8,200 feet). The maximum range was 235 kilometers (146 miles).

The warhead contained 830 kilograms (1,830 pounds) of Amatol 3 gm (a mixture of the high explosive TNT with ammonium nitrate). The warhead could be detonated by any one of three fuses: an electrical impact fuse, a mechanical impact fuse, or a mechanical delayed action fuse.

V1_Flying_Bomb_C4431
This illustration from an official report is dated 16 June 1944, just three days after the first V-1 attack on London.

The V-1 was usually launched from an inclined ramp by catapult, though it could also be air launched from a carrier airplane.

Between 13 June 1944 and 29 March 1945, approximately 10,500 V-1s were launched against England. In the area around London, 6,184 people were killed and 17,981 others seriously injured. The V-1 was also targeted against cities on the European continent, especially Antwerp. 8,696 V-1s were launched against that city, and 3,141 fired at Liège. These attacks killed 4,683 persons and wounded 10,075.

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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