German Vengeance Weapons Essay, Research Paper
Germany’s Vengeance WeaponsOn June 13, 1944 a loud rumbling noise was heard over London, then suddenly stopped and an aircraft fell to the earth, killing 6 people. The British thought it was a German plane that had crashed, but when they examined the wreckage they couldn’t find any trace of a pilot. They soon realized it was a missile and although the British government knew well in advance that the Germans were working on some kind of “super bomb”, they didn’t realize the extent of its existence.From the “Oslo Report” in December 1942, a Danish scientist alerted the British of the Germans testing rockets and a month later the Swedes identified Peenem nde, Germany as the source. In a bugged prison cell in March 1943, General Ritter von Thoma talked to another General about the Nazi rocket program, which inspired the British to begin aerial photography of Peenem nde. The Germans had begun experimenting with guided rockets as early as 1929, and within 10 years they had established a fully operational program at Peenem nde, a brilliantly camouflaged island on the Baltic Sea. The western side was designated for use by the Luftwaffe, or Air Force, who controlled the V-1 rocket, while the eastern side was for the V-2 and the scientists of the Wehrmacht, or Army, and one of whom was the rocket genius Wernher von Braun. These were dubbed Wunderwaffen, or wonder weapons by the Germans and actually the original name for the V-1 was “FZG 76″, and the V-2’s original name was the A-4 (being the 4th in the series of missiles), but the Allies naturally called them vengeance weapons and adopted the V name. Astonishingly, little progress was made early in the war because of Hitler s great disinterest in experimental weapons, and for the first half of WWII he was very conservative in his desire for a traditional army. He was often open to experimental tactics, but not experimental weapons, and didn t open up to the Wunderwaffen until suffering costly defeats in 1942 and 1943. Before that, they had to be supported by high Nazi officials like Albert Speer, who pushed for mass productions of them very early on. Additionally, there was the intense rivalry between the Luftwaffe and Wehrmacht, which prevented the two camps from developing their weapons in conjunction with one another. It wasn’t until the summer of 1943, after the disastrous loss at Kursk, Hitler began to seriously jump-start the Wunderwaffen program. He met with General Walter Dornberger and Wernher von Braun in his secret headquarters, in which he said If we had those rockets in 1939, we should never have had this war. He actually apologized for his earlier ignorance and went from seeing them as useless to giving Germany the upper hand in war. Some of the lack of cooperation within the German military can be explained by the significant differences between the V-1 and V-2. The V-1 was essentially an explosive charge atop a rocket with fins to stabilize its flight. Fired from a steam catapult on a slanted ramp, it had a top speed of 400 mph, which meant it could be shot down by a fast plane or quick gunner and was not very accurate. The V-2, however, was a legitimate guided missile with a liquid fuel propellant of alcohol and liquid oxygen. It was fired vertically, which meant it could be fired from virtually any level surface. Although it was 8 times faster, it was 10 times more expensive, yet still 1/5 the cost and 1/6 the man-hours of a bomber plane. Each missile was comprised of 30,000 parts that were primarily put together by Czech, Polish, and Russian slave labor. At the peak production, 30 V-2s were turned out daily, and from August 1944 to February 1945 3000 were assembled in one way or another. The V-2 was effective within 200 miles and vastly more accurate than the V-1, thanks to its guidance system. The “Command-Guidance System” involved 2 sets of German RADAR: 1 that tracked the target and 1 that tacked the missile, which required a keen missile crew. The Germans on the ground monitored the missile’s progress by listening to the audio frequencies given off and making the necessary steering adjustments with a control stick.The Allies finally proved the existence of the base on June 12, 1943, and an all-out attack was planned for the compound which would target the scientist s barracks, then the rocket factories, then the offices. On the night of August 17 the Allies hit the base, killing many of Germany s top rocket scientists. Although it was a success, it only temporarily disabled the Germans, and hardly affected the V-1s, while the V-2 program was moved to Blizna, Poland. Here they used Soviet POWs as slave labor to build a new base, as well as a dummy village to deter bombings while the actual factories were moved to the Harz Mountains, deep inside Germany. The clever Germans had the rockets manufactured in various places in the Reich, then assembled them in places like Nordhausen, which meant that bombs could only harm the rockets when fully assembled. In October 1943 the French underground discovered bases containing weapons hangars and ramps, so the Allies continued their aerial reconnaissance. Additionally, Polish Underground agent Wladyslaw Wazny gave away locations of over 100 V-1 bases before being shot to death by the Germans. The recon photos were confusing because of the ramps, and it wasn t until closer inspection that they discovered a pilotless airplane perched on the ramp, which they labeled the V-1. Immediately the British increased their reconnaissance and found 96 sites, all with rockets pointed at London. Without delay, the British launched a serious bombing campaign from December 1943 to January 1944, with 1053 sorties using 23,000 tons of bombs so that by February 1944 none of the previous sites were left standing.
However, the ingenious Germans had simply abandoned the old bases and put up new ramps which were quickly built. By June 1944 the Germans had 50 new bases and as the Germans prepared for an Allied invasion, the British prepared for the hail of rockets that was to follow. The British devised the Black Plan , in which thousands of important government officials would be hidden in the English countryside for safety. They continued the attacks on launching sites and stepped up their coastal defenses by increasing planes, anti-aircraft guns, and placing large balloons to take out the V-1s. London hadn t been in such terror since the summer of 1940. On June 13, 11 V-1s hit London, and by the end of July, 5000 had been sent. Fortunately only 1 out of 4 of those actually hit London because of their poor accuracy. Over the summer the British improved their defensive tactics to reduce the ratio to 1 out of 5 because of the tactful British Spitfire pilots that could intercept the V-1s, some of whom went wingtip-to-wingtip with them and knocked them off course, while the balloons took out 230 V-1s. Additionally, German double agents told Germany that the rockets were off target and gave false coordinates to readjust them, causing many to fall harmlessly in unpopulated areas. The British also had the advantage of AA guns equipped with American proximity fuses , which exploded near a V-1 to take it out. Even with such formidable defenses, 12 V-1s hit London each day. Still, Hitler realized his V-1s were not effective and by the time the summer was over, the Allies had captured most of the V-1 bases and the Germans essentially gave up on them, turning to the V-2. In September 1944 they had amassed 600 V-2s stationed in Holland, but the British were prepared because the Polish Underground had captured a V-2 that had crashed and delivered it to the British, who built their own V-2 to uncover its secrets. Unfortunately they learned that the V-2 was unstoppable due to its high speed, altitude, and accuracy. Once again the British took great lengths to prepare evacuations to escape the V-2 s wrath, which began to fall on London on September 8. The V-2s arrived swiftly and forcefully, but not in enough numbers to turn the tide for the Germans. They continued their extensive missile development until the end of the war, and sought to improve upon the V-2’s moderate success. Before May 1945 the Germans were working on the A-5, A-6, A-7, A-8, A-9 and A-10, some of which had swept wings that nearly doubled the V-2’s range and cut the flight time down to 17 minutes. Additionally they created an advanced missile called the Wasserfall, which was a smaller, more accurate version of the V-2. It used a similar bi-propellant motor, but had 2 sets of 4 stubby wings and used internal gas-vanes that made it amazingly stable and accurate in flight. It was 25 1/2 ft long, weighed 4 tons and had a limited 30-mile range. It used a different guidance system called the “Beam-Rider”, in which the missile was channeled through a RADAR beam that tracked a target. Unfortunately it was less accurate than the Command-Guidance System because the missile might not readjust itself if the RADAR lost track of the target. At war s end 10,611 V-1s and 1000 V-2s hit Britain, killing 8,588 and wounding 46,838, which was only a fraction of the casualties inflicted by Germany s conventional air attacks. They simply did not have enough V weapons, and even if they did they weren t as accurate as they should have been, and furthermore Hitler foolishly pointed them at London instead of at the overwhelming armies that were bearing down on the Reich. Hitler’s lament about his failure to realize the rockets’ potential early on is probably true; that kind of technology was one of Germany’s few advantages in WWII, but used far too late to be effective. It should be noted that after the war the United States took great lengths to study and actually copy the V-2, and America’s early missiles were based on German WWII designs. Germany s rocket program was a brilliant idea in conception, but a failed mission in execution.