V2 is an abbreviation for “Vergeltungswaffe 2” (Retaliation weapon 2). Propaganda name of the German long distance rocket A-4 (“Aggregat 4”) and technically the father of the space rocket. It was one of the greatest inventions of the century, but the military and psychological impact of this “Wunderwaffe” (wonder weapon) were really minor and didn’t fulfill any of the hopes of the Nazi regime.

The development of a ballistic missile made by Werhner Freiherr von Braun started in the 1930’s at Kummersdorf, close to Berlin. The development was moved to Peenemünde 1937, where, after several faulty starts, the first 120 km long test flight took place October 3rd 1942. The success on this day caused the project to become NS top priority.

Compared to the V1, the V2 was indestructible, since it traveled well beyond the speed of sound (max 5630 km/h) and reached an altitude of 29 km. The only way to knock out the rocket was to destroy the launch pads. The rocket was 14 m long at a weight of about 4 metric tons without fuel, 12,9 metric tons with fuel. The engine was driven by a mix of liquid oxygen and ethylene-alcohol-water. This combination gave the rocket a start thrust of 25,4 tons being released with a gas velocity of 2050 m/s for 68 seconds.

The V2 started vertically and reached an altitude of 29 km into the stratosphere. The first rockets navigated via a radio direction beam for approx. 60 s after launch. The vast majority didn’t use any radio direction at all. Maximum operating range was 320 km. This was later on to be improved to 380 km. The weight of the carried war head was 975kg. Even without warhead, the impact of the rocket caused a crater approx. 13m deep and 36m in diameter.

Between January 1944 and April 1945, 5940 rockets were built at a price of 119600 Reichmarks a piece (other price also available!). Two of the bunkers in Watten and Wizernes in north France, especially built for the launching of the V2’s, were destroyed by RAF bomb raids before they got ready. Because of this, London was attacked with V2’s starting from mobile army ramps instead.

The attacks started on the 8th of September 1944 from the Haag region. A total of 1269 rockets were sent on England from Haag, where 1225 V2’s hit London. More than a third of the rockets got destroyed during the flight, many of them just disassembled by themselves. The target hit ratio was very bad, only 518 rockets hit main London, 571 London with suburbs (causing a total of 2274 in London [2754 in all England] casualties and 6523 wounded, compared to 51500 casualties and 61400 wounded by bomb-raids in all England).

The theoretical deviation of the integrated gyro-compass (“Integrierter Wendelkompass”) which was used for cutting off the fuel, was ±1%, which would’ve meant at the most ±3,2 km on the 320 km distance. This precision was though, due to other reasons, never achieved. Only a few of the first rockets used the radio method of cutting off the fuel at a given speed (using 60 MHz freq. for at the most 60 s after start), which could be calculated at any point of the trajectory. All rockets on London after October 18th used the gyro-compass method instead. This unit is also refereed to as “acceleration integration device”.

The vast majority of the V2’s were sent to hit continental targets, 1739 rockets in total. Paris got hit by 15. The main target was Antwerpen, where 1539 rockets hit. 16th of December 1944, a hit was achieved on a movie theatre in Antwerpen, where 567 visitors, including 490 British soldiers died. All in all, 6448 people got killed in Belgium due to V2 attacks and 22524 were wounded. The only tactical use of the V2 was achieved through the order given by Hitler personally to destroy the bridge at Remagen. None of the 11 rockets sent hit the goal though. The first V2 attack on England on the 8th of September 1944, hits Haveley Road in the London suburb Chiswick, 5 minutes after it’s been launched. The target should have been the London fire squad, which was missed by 10km. In Haveley Road 10 houses were completely destroyed and several other buildings damaged. Three people died and about 20 more suffered serious injuries.

The attacks on London and south-east England were not officially commented from either side, until the German propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels admits on the 8th of November 1944, that the new “Wunderwaffe” is in use against England.

The V2 attacks on London were stopped 27th of March 1945 (this was the last day, 2 rockets were launched, one hit a house in Stepney and killed 134 people, the second hit Orpington at 14:00) and on England in all on the 5th of April 1945.

A couple of different V2 version were built. Only the “Waterfall” version of the A-4 rocket was used within the army. There was also a 2 stage rocket in development, really a monster rocket, called A9/A10. This rocket was intended to hit targets in the USA, but the plans never left the sketch board.

The series production of V2 was postponed several times due to allied attacks, and the production facilities were moved underground (to Dora, “Mittelwerk”, Nordhausen in Harz).

The army version “Wasserfall”

The smaller V2 version “Waterfall” (Wasserfall), was used by the German army. First test launch was performed 28th of February 1944. It was 7.87 m long and had a thrust of 8000 kp. Start weight was 3,3 tons and it carried a 100 kg warhead. It could hit targets within 25 km range and was directed by a radio beam. A later version of Waterfall had an infrared search head, named “Hamburg”. Only 50 test rockets were built in all and the development was stopped at the end of February 1945, all efforts concentrated on the V2.

Some info on the V1 (“Vergeltungswaffe 1”)

The V1 was a missile based on the Fieseler Fi 103 rocket body. Total weight was 2180 kg and it could carry a 850 kg warhead over a distance of 370 km. It developed a thrust of 335 kp, which gave the rocket a speed of 480 to 640 km/h. The coarse was held by an automatic gyroscope compass. The first V1 was launched against London on the 12/13th of June 1944 and hit the city on the 13th. Totally 2461 V1 hit London and destroyed 25000 houses, killed 6184 and wounded 17981 people.


This is an archived topic and no updates have been made to it in many years, never the less, it is copyright (C) 1999, 2019 by Bo Stahlbrandt