I’m trying to recall when I first learned about the German Vergeltungswaffen (retribution weapons or vengeance weapons). My dad subscribed to Popular Mechanics, and in the mid-50s there was an item about rocket weapons, and there was likely mention of the V2 there. Arthur Daniel was our social studies teacher in high school, and he managed the library. We had some great books for a small time school, and one of these was Rockets, Missiles and Space Travel, by Willy Ley. Willy Ley grew up in Germany between the wars, and his fascination with rockets and space travel led him to the Verein für Raumschiffahrt (Society for Space Travel). Another member was Wernher von Braun, the brain behind the V2, for Vergeltungswaffe 2, rocket.
The VfR was a society of amateurs, whose interest was space. The group included some serious thinkers, including Hermann Oberth. Oberth significantly worked out (actually a straight forward problem in integral calculus) how a rocket’s mass ratio and exhaust velocity relate to the maximum velocity obtainable by the rocket. Nazis were just a troublesome fringe political group when the VfR was founded in 1927, but when they came to power in 1933 they were seen as a source of funding for rocket research. In this respect the VfR sold itself to the devil, with von Braun eventually becoming a party member.
I have said this before, and I’m repeating myself now. One of the best assets the Allies had in the European war was Adolph Hitler. His early successes cowed experienced German military commanders to the point that eventually few dared to question his decisions. Eventually Hitlers amateurish meddling in management of the war helped to grind the German war effort into the dust. One of Hitler’s pet ideas was a maniacal aversion to defensive. He considered talk of defense to be defeatist. In his autobiography Luftwaffe fighter ace Adolf Galland tells of his continued failed attempts to get Hitler (through Goring) to come around to placing more emphasis on fighter defense:
After a while Peltz and I were called in to Goring. We were met with a shattering picture; Goring had completely broken down. His head buried in his arm on the table he moaned some indistinguishable words. We stood there for some time in embarrassment. At last Goring pulled himself together and said we were witnessing his deepest moments of despair. The Führer had lost faith in him. All the suggestions from which he had expected a radical change in the situation of the war in the air had been rejected. The Führer had announced that the Luftwaffe had disappointed him too often. A changeover from offensive to defensive in the air against the west was out of the question. He would give the Luftwaffe a last chance to rehabilitate itself. This could be done by a resumption of air attacks against England, but this time on a bigger scale. Now as before the motto was still: Attack. Terror could only be smashed by counterterror. This was the way the Führer had dealt with his political enemies. Goring had realized his mistake. The Führer was always right. All our strength was now to be concentrated on dealing to the enemy in the west such mighty retaliation blows from the air that he would not risk a second Hamburg. As a first measure in the execution of his plan the Führer had ordered the creation of a leader of the attacks on England.
Galland, Adolf (2014-08-18). The First and The Last (p. 96). David Rehak. Kindle Edition.
Early on the V weapons were seen as a risky proposition, possibly not needed. This was supposed to be a short war. Then it became a long war. But by then some basic economics had set in.
Look at a map. In the beginning Germany was surrounded on all sides by enemies, except for Italy or by water. Then Germany made a deal with the USSR, eliminating the enemy on the east. In the mean time Germany had eliminated the enemy to the southeast, Czechoslovakia, through the aid and connivance of England and France. Germany first took advantage of the new void to the east and attacked defenseless Poland. That left only enemies to the west. Germany next struck west at the uncommitted countries of Norway, Denmark, Holland and Belgium. Then France and, when it finally become necessary, at England. Here Germany’s advance cracked. Germany’s economic dilemma was now crystallized. It was this:
- Germany could not get food or military supplies from overseas. The British Navy blocked these routes.
- Germany had enormous industrial capacity, but it did not have sufficient raw materials for a protracted war. Eventually petroleum, metals, even food, had to come from the east and the south.
- Italy was an ally, but it was a poor source of war materials. Not apparent at first, but Italy was eventually to become a millstone dragging down the German war effort.
- Germany’s wherewithal to prosecute the war came from draining its war conquests. Conquered countries were exploited for slave labor, war materials and food. People in conquered countries were murdered to eliminate their drag on the war effort.
- Sweden became the only neutral country supplying the German war effort, chiefly iron ore. It was not enough.
Starting with its attack on the USSR on 22 June 1941 Germany was on a rigid timetable to win the war or to die. With the entry of the United States into the war in December 1941 the timetable became breathtakingly short. Reverses at Stalingrad and in North Africa late in 1942 made it apparent the war would be lost. Hitler’s desperation began to show. He was now ready to give the V weapons serious consideration.
The first of these to come to fruition was not the famous space rocket but it was the world’s first cruise missile, the V1.
The V-1 was developed at Peenemünde Army Research Center by the Nazi German Luftwaffe during the Second World War. During initial development it was known by the codename “Cherry Stone”. The first of the so-calledVergeltungswaffen series designed for terror bombing of London, the V-1 was fired from launch sites along the French (Pas-de-Calais) and Dutch coasts. The first V-1 was launched at London on 13 June 1944), one week after (and prompted by) the successful Allied landing in Europe. At its peak, more than one hundred V-1s a day were fired at south-east England, 9,521 in total, decreasing in number as sites were overrun until October 1944, when the last V-1 site in range of Britain was overrun by Allied forces. After this, the V-1s were directed at the port of Antwerp and other targets in Belgium, with 2,448 V-1s being launched. The attacks stopped when the last launch site was overrun on 29 March 1945.
The operation of the V1 was straightforward. It was a small airplane, no pilot. It had an autopilot to keep it flying straight and level at a prescribed altitude in a specified direction. On top was a pulse jet engine.
The interesting thing about a pulse jet engine is its simplicity. It’s got only about one moving part. That part is a flapper valve in front. It works like this: A fuel-air mixture in the compression chamber is detonated. The explosion drives exhaust gases out the back, creating thrust. The pressure also keeps the flapper valve closed so that no exhaust is expelled out the front, which is also the air intake. When the pressure wave from the explosion reaches the open end of the tail pipe, a low pressure wave is reflected. Ask any racing engine builder about tuned exhausts. When the low pressure wave reaches the front end of the combustion chamber, the flapper valve swings open, and more air enters, even if the engine is standing still. I have seen a demonstration of one of these engines (not on a V1) in operation. It just sit there and makes a horrible buzzing noise. Hence the name “buzz bomb.”
The V1 needed some assist taking off, so it had a rocket motor to propel it down it’s launching rail. The rocket motor was dropped off after the V1 cleared the launch rail, and the V1 continued on its mission.
The technology for autopilots had been perfected for decades. It’s been around in torpedoes since World War One. A gyroscope provided directional stability. Now the flying bomb was headed toward its target. It was just a matter of knowing when to dive into the ground. This was managed by a small propeller turning in the wind stream. So many turns of the propeller meant the V1 had arrived at its target, and the V1 dived toward the ground. It’s warhead of 850 kg of amatol-39 was fused to explode on impact. Not intended, but the dive of the V1 caused its engine to starve and shut down, so when the buzzing sound stopped people on the ground knew death had arrived.
V1 attacks on London and other parts England began seven days after the Normandy landings in June 1944. This was no coincidence. The idea of the Germans was to give the invaders something else to think about besides invading France. Initial launch sites were located near the French coast facing England.
Hitler had hyped his super weapons to a selected audience within the Reich. They were going to be the salvation of his collapsing regime. However, they were no secret to the Allies. Ground intelligence and aerial reconnaissance had given the Allies fair warning of what was to come. Already, attacks on Peenemünde and other installations had stalled progress. When the first blows began to fall the impact was no less alleviated.
During the first V-1 bombing campaign, up to 100 V-1s fell every hour on London. Over an 80 day period, more than 6,000 persons were killed, with over 17,000 injured and a million buildings wrecked or damaged.
Unlike conventional German aircraft bombing raids, V-1 attacks occurred around the clock in all types of weather, striking indiscriminately, causing suspense and terror among the population of London and parts of Kent and Sussex.
Since I’m analyzing the war against Germany in terms of economics, it’s only fitting I provide an economic excerpt. American General Clayton Bissell published an analysis. He produced the following table:
|Blitz (12 months) vs V-1 flying bombs (2¾ months)
|1. Cost to Germany
|Weight of bombs tons
|Fuel consumed tons
|Rate casualties/bombs tons
|3. Allied air effort
This compares the twelve months of The Blitz (beginining September 1940) to the critical period of V1 attacks from June to October 1944. The figures are for England and do not include the continued attacks on Belgium after V1 launch sites were overrun by advancing Allied soldiers in October. Also, General Bissell’s table does not include a number of German personal and aircraft lost in action related to their own V1 attacks. Note that the table lists 351 Allied aircraft and 805 crew lost in attacks on V1s and their installations, but it does not include Germany’s losses in defense of them.
Neither does this include the economic cost of the missiles.
Throughout the war over 34,000 V1 rockets were produced while roughly 10,000 were actually launched. Of those launched, around 25% reached their targets and caused extensive casualties. Over 12,000 people were killed outright and many more were injured, with most of the casualties occurring in London and Antwerp, which were the main two targets. What made the V1 so successful was its relatively simple design and low cost in terms of both money (5000 Reichsmarks, compared to 100000+ Reichsmarks for a Panzer tank) and materials.
34,000 units at 5000 Reichsmarks each works out to 68,000 Reichsmarks for each bomb that exploded on a target. Now you still do not know what a Reichsmark is worth, except that it took 100,000 of them to build a Panzer tank.
The facts behind the low success rate of the V1 are worth noting. Since there was no pilot, the flying bomb could not take evasive action. It flew in a straight line until it was time to dive. That made for gunnery practice, and the fact is that the Brits quickly figured out the path of incoming V1s and stationed all their Bofors guns along the route—none in the target areas, principally London. The falling shells from the Bofors were considered comparable in destruction to the V1s. The deliberate targeting of V1s over the English countryside had the effect that people living there were killed who had thought they would be safe. The economics of war spoke for the benefit of this approach.
Also, the V1 was fast, but not that fast. At an average speed of 350 miles per hour it was vulnerable to a very fast fighter, especially if the fighter could make a diving attack. A dangerous occupation was to get behind one and pump rounds into it until it blew up. Gun sight footage of such an encounter is worth viewing. Another tactic was to fly alongside a V1 and nudge its wing over with the tip of the fighter’s wing.
The Brits also employed some counter intelligence. The Nazis had some spies on the ground, but eventually all known sources were turned by British intelligence. There existed a quandary about what the double agents should report back. If they reported that all V1s were falling long, then the Germans would get wind that something was wrong. Newspaper accounts, accessible to all the world, were telling of destruction throughout London. Eventually a compromise was reached, and enough erroneous reports were transmitted to cause the Germans to revise their aim—in the wrong direction. Interestingly the Germans put radio transmitters in some units to get a more accurate picture of where the bombs were impacting, but they even came to doubt this source in favor of the phony spy reports.
The short operating range (160 miles) was the V1’s ultimate undoing. Allied forces began to overrun the available launch sites in the summer of 1944, and they pushed into Holland in September and October, effectively shutting down the V1 blitz.
By September 1944, the V-1 threat to England was temporarily halted when the launch sites on the French coast were overrun by the advancing Allied armies. 4,261 V-1s had been destroyed by fighters, anti-aircraft fire and barrage balloons. The last enemy action of any kind on British soil occurred on 29 March 1945, when a V-1 struck Datchworth in Hertfordshire.
That was 70 years ago.
The V1 was not the showcase product of the von Braun and the VfR. That was the V2. It is appropriate to say the V2 was, after the atomic bomb, the most advanced weapon of the early 20th century. It embodied numerous technical achievements, any one of which would be a candidate for a Nobel Prize in engineering, if there were one. von Braun and his crew took the early work of Robert Goddard and carried it further an order of magnitude. Accomplishments included:
- A liquid fuel rocket motor using a cryogenic oxidizer (liquid oxygen).
- Boundary layer cooling of critical combustion chamber regions.
- Thrust vector control to stabilize rocket flight until aerodynamic control could be established.
- Aerodynamic control at supersonic speeds.
Once again Hitler resisted the enormous expense of developing a weapon that would not be needed in a short war. When the balance of the war shifted following 1942 Hitler came around.
By late 1941, the Army Research Center at Peenemünde possessed the technologies essential to the success of the A-4. The four key technologies for the A-4 were large liquid-fuel rocket engines, supersonic aerodynamics, gyroscopic guidance and rudders in jet control. At the time, Adolf Hitler was not particularly impressed by the V-2; he pointed out that it was merely an artillery shell with a longer range and much higher cost.
In early September 1943, von Braun promised the Long-Range Bombardment Commission that the A-4 development was “practically complete/concluded”, but even by the middle of 1944, a complete A-4 parts list was still unavailable. Hitler was sufficiently impressed by the enthusiasm of its developers, and needed a “wonder weapon” to maintain German morale, so authorized its deployment in large numbers.
It was a matter of too much too late. By 1944 German industry was on its knees. Allied air attacks regularly dismantled key pieces of the infrastructure. Materials were in short supply and becoming ever more scarce as Soviet and Western forces smothered their sources. The Wehrmact had lost millions killed, incapacitated and captured, and draft age men were pulled from their work places into the military. German war industry was running on women workers and slave labor from conquered lands, and slaves were dying by the thousands, squandered as an expendable resource.
Now came the V2, with essentially the same payload as the V1, but at multiple times the cost.
As with the V1, the Allies knew about the V2 in advance. Operation Crossbow was a major Allied effort to quash the V weapons programs at the source. It was a costly drain on our offensive resources, drawing bomber assets away from more strategic targets and at a great cost in assets and personnel.
Operation Hydra was a Royal Air Force attack on the Peenemünde Army Research Center on the night of 17/18 August 1943. It was the first time a master bomber was used for the main force. Group Captain John Searby, CO of 83 Squadron, commanded the operation. It began the Operation Crossbow strategic bombing campaign against Nazi Germany’s V-weapon programme. 215 British aircrew members and 40 bombers were lost, and hundreds of civilians were killed in a nearby concentration camp. The air raid killed two V-2 rocket scientists and delayed V-2 rocket test launches for seven weeks.
As British Field Marshall Montgomery’s troops prepared to push into Holland the Germans initiated operations with the V2.
After Hitler’s 29 August 1944 declaration to begin V-2 attacks as soon as possible, the offensive began on 8 September 1944 with a single launch at Paris, which caused modest damage near Porte d’Italie,. Two more launches by the 485th followed, including one from The Hagueagainst London on the same day at 6:43 p.m. – the first landed at Chiswick, killing 63-year-old Mrs. Ada Harrison, 3-year-old Rosemary Clarke, and Sapper Bernard Browning on leave from the Royal Engineers, and one that hit Epping with no casualties. Upon hearing the double-crack of the supersonic rocket (London’s first ever), Duncan Sandys and Reginald Victor Jones looked up from different parts of the city and exclaimed “That was a rocket!”, and a short while after the double-crack, the sky was filled with the sound of a heavy body rushing through the air.
V2 casualties in Antwerp (from Wikipedia)
A V2 attack was different from a V1 attack in just about every conceivable way. People could hear a V1 coming from miles away. The V1 was small and fast, but it was still visible to people on the ground, wondering just when it would suddenly cease its journey and plunge to the ground. Anti-aircraft guns, barrage balloons and fighter interception were effective against the V1.
The V2 literally came from outer space. Thirty seconds after launch it reached the speed of sound. It’s engine shut down after one minute, and the 47-foot-long monster continued into the lower reaches of outer space, reaching altitudes of over 55 miles and speeds of 3850 miles per hour before plunging down to earth and impacting at 1790 miles per hour. Considerably faster than sound, it hit the ground before anybody heard it coming. Its descent was so quick few people witnessed the event and even fewer photographs exist.
Despite carrying slightly more (1000 kg vs. 850 kg) of the same explosive charge (amatol) the V2 was substantially more destructive on impact. The entire airframe plus warhead (3780 kg) impacting at 1790 miles per hour delivered over a billion Joules at the impact point. And that was before the warhead went off. The warhead had a contact (impact) fuse, meaning the explosion occurred at or below ground. This diminished the destruction from the warhead, but the shock wave from the airframe was sufficient to do much damage to nearby structures.
A scientific reconstruction carried out in 2010 demonstrated that the V-2 creates a crater 20 m wide and 8 m deep, ejecting approximately 3,000 tons of material into the air.
At first the British were reluctant to announce the V2 attacks to the citizenry. They weren’t fooling anybody, and 10 November 1944 Prime Minister Winston Churchill admitted that England had been for some weeks under rocket attack.
Besides attacks on missile production and launch facilities, the only effective defense against V2 attacks was, as with the V1, misdirection. The British leaked information that V2s were overshooting their main target, London, and thereafter V2s started falling short as the Germans “corrected” their aim.
For all time the V2 remained an area weapon. From an extreme range of 200 miles enough variation in flight control crept in to produce a CEP (circular error probability) measured in miles. Regardless, people were dying:
An estimated 2,754 civilians were killed in London by V-2 attacks with another 6,523 injured, which is two people killed per V-2 rocket. However, this understates the potential of the V-2, since many rockets were misdirected and exploded harmlessly. Accuracy increased over the course of the war, particularly on batteries where Leitstrahl-Guide Beam apparatus was installed. Missile strikes that found targets could cause large numbers of deaths — 160 were killed and 108 seriously injured in one explosion at 12:26 pm on 25 November 1944, at a Woolworth’s department store in New Cross, south-east London.
England was not the only target:
- Belgium, 1664: Antwerp (1610), Liège (27), Hasselt (13), Tournai (9), Mons (3), Diest (2)
- United Kingdom, 1402: London (1358), Norwich (43),:289 Ipswich (1)
- France, 76: Lille (25), Paris (22), Tourcoing (19), Arras (6), Cambrai (4)
- Netherlands, 19: Maastricht (19)
- Germany, 11: Remagen (11)
These attacks in Germany were among the last in the war. American forces stormed and captured the Ludendorff Bridge across the Rhine at Remagen on 7 March 1945. It was the first bridgehead established across the Rhine, and Hitler was furious, ordering all means to destroy the bridge. One missile hit in the town and killed six American soldiers. By this time 70 years ago the German Reich was entering its period of catastrophic collapse. Hitler and many top Nazi officials had just days to live. The last of the V2s were fired off before the barrage fell silent:
The final two rockets exploded on 27 March 1945. One of these was the last V-2 to kill a British civilian: Mrs. Ivy Millichamp, aged 34, killed in her home in Kynaston Road, Orpington in Kent.
An analysis of the effectiveness of the V2 is due, and the numbers are not good for the program. For starters, two people killed for each rocket in London? And the economics were not impressive. The V2 was far less a bargain than the V1.
The German V-weapons (V-1 and V-2) cost $3 billion (wartime dollars) and were more costly than the Manhattan Project that produced the atomic bomb ($1.9 billion). 6,048 V-2s were built, at a cost of approximately 100,000 Reichsmarks (GB£2,370,000 (2011)) each; 3,225 were launched. SS General Hans Kammler, who as an engineer had constructed several concentration camps including Auschwitz, had a reputation for brutality and had originated the idea of using concentration camp prisoners as slave laborers in the rocket program. The V-2 is perhaps the only weapon system to have caused more deaths by its production than its deployment.
The V-2 consumed a third of Germany’s fuel alcohol production and major portions of other critical technologies: to distil the fuel alcohol for one V-2 launch required 30 tonnes of potatoes at a time when food was becoming scarce. Due to a lack of explosives, concrete was used and sometimes the warhead contained photographic propaganda of German citizens who had died in Allied bombing.
Of that $3 billion mentioned, $2 billion was for the V2, making it more expensive than America’s atomic bomb project.
Army Corps of Engineers General Leslie Groves was a man of big projects. After completing the construction of the Pentagon Building he was tapped for the new Manhattan Project. With a blank check, almost unlimited power and little detailed planning he built in a few months the largest industrial concern in the world at the time. The Manhattan project encompassed wholly new research laboratories and huge industrial plants erected on newly-purchased land. An observer noted later that the United States essentially duplicated its entire automobile industry to build the bomb.
This was in Nazi Germany, not the United States. Part way into the war the German economy was already dragging bottom, while the United States was producing 50,000 war planes and partying with the lights on right up to the final victory day.
Add to the cost of the rocket, the cost of launching one was daunting. The V2Rocket.com site lays out the grueling steps involved in a mobile launch. I will just summarize the description here:
German Mobile Firing Procedure for A-4/V-2
(Photo stills taken from film Operation Backfire)
- The V-2 was launched from hidden wooded areas or even vacated city streets. Seen above is the entrance to the Duindigt area in Wassenaar and a city street Stadhouderslaan in Den Haag, 1945.
- Triangulation marks on trees, the Duindigt Estate entrance, and steel sleepers used for launch table stabilization.
- Rockets arrive by railway, where they are met by the Technical Troop at the transfer point. Two rockets occupy 3 flatcars. The mobile crane is positioned to lift the rocket from the flatcar to the Vidalwagen road transporter.
- The Technical Troop transports the rockets to the field store where the warheads are attached and minor adjustments made. The field store was not usually in the vicinity of the firing areas, but some kilometers away.
- The mobile crane is later towed to a prearranged spot where the Technical Troop meets the Firing Troop. This was usually done in another secluded location, so as to not draw attention to the field store or firing locations. The Vidalwagen pulls under the crane, and the Meillerwagen pulls next to it. The V-2 is hoisted and moved to the Meillerwagen vehicle.
- With the rocket secured in the clamps of the Meillerwagen, the Vidalwagen pulls away. The Meillerwagen is hitched to the towing vehicle, in this case a Hanomag SS-100, and then driven to the firing location.
- Back at the railhead, the liquid oxygen railway tanker is approached by members of the Supply Detachment. Using a small gasoline-powered engine to run an external pump, they attach the hoses and tow the Betriebstoffanhaenger liquid oxygen road tanker alongside the rail tanker.
- The super-cooled liquid oxygen soon creates frost on the hoses and attachments. The white vapor is exiting condensed water vapor. Meanwhile, the Firing Troop tows the Abschussplattform (firing table) onto the launch site.
- The legs of the Pfaff-manufactured Abschussplattform are screwed down to lift the weight of the platform. The towing dolly is then removed. The dial-sight is adjusted, and then the Meillerwagen is wenched backwards to the firing table.
- The extending supports are swung out and screwed down at the rear of the Meillerwagen for the support needed while raising the rocket. A small Volkswagen gasoline engine operates (2) hydraulic rams, which, are controlled by one man to raise the arm of the Meillerwagen into the vertical position. The Meillerwagen is then rolled back about 96 cm after the V-2 is resting upright on the Abschussplattform. Also shown is the electrical cable mast that is mounted at one corner of the Bodenplatte. These cables travel to the Feuerleitpanzer launch control vehicle and the Steyr power supply vehicle..
- Soon the Supply Detachment or Fueling Troop was moving quickly to the location of the firing site. In this case, we see a Hanomag towing an alcohol bowser, followed by the Opel Blitz alcohol tanker towing a trailer pump, followed by a Hanomag towing the liquid oxygen trailer and finally, (the small truck in the distance) is the Opel Blitz t-stoff tanker.
- At the firing site, the survey crew is busy measuring to make sure the rocket is level. The protective engine jet covers are removed from the venturi in the combustion chamber.
- The fragile carbon graphite exhaust rudders are carefully bolted in place. Fueling started with the alcohol bowser being pulled up to the rocket. The Meillerwagen arm was built to also act as a servicing tower, with built-in plumbing for permanent delivery of alcohol and liquid oxygen when fueling. The hoses were connected to the Meillerwagen at the tanker and at the top of the V-2 fuel tanks.
- The towed trailer pump in action. Alcohol fueling took about 10 minutes. When alcohol fueling was almost completed, the liquid oxygen tanker was towed to the other side of the rocket.
- The bevey of vehicles surrounding the V-2. Directly infront of the rocket is the t-stoff tanker (hydrogen peroxide). The liquid oxygen was always pumped into the rocket no more than one hour before firing to prevent the internal valves from freezing. The sodium permanganate was kept heated to quicken the reaction with t-stoff when powering the steam turbine. The alcohol bowser is finished and pulls away. This bowser shown was not used by the V-2 troops—it was a Luftwaffe piece of equipment.
- During the liquid oxygen fueling, the hydrogen peroxide is manually pumped into a pre-measured container mounted to the Meillerwagen, which, is emptied into the t-stoff tank by gravity. A technician climbs up to the midsection joint and adjusts the tension created by 8 tons of added fuel. The z-stoff is removed from its heater, and emtied into the rocket manually. Fueling completed, the liquid oxygen tanker pulls away.
- The support vehicles retreat to a safe distance. The igniter is prepared to be inserted in the combustion chamber and the rocket is oriented by using a dial sight on the Abschussplattform. The arm of the Meillerwagen comes down.
- Meillerwagen heads away from the area. The members of the Firing Troop take cover in slip-trenches prepared earlier. The Feuerleitpanzer (Sd.Kfz.7/3) firing control vehicle is located about 100-150 meters away from the rocket, usually down in a protective trench that was dug when the site was prepared. The launch control officer and crew enter the Feuerleitpanzer. Inside, the launch control officer asks the man on the steeringtable, “Steuerung klar?”—”Steuerung klar!” is the answer. Everything is quiet. The soldiers are only whispering. The launch officer calls, “X1” (t-minus one minute).
- The officer steps on a small perch in the Feuerleitpanzer. He is able to see the launch site, “Schlüssel auf Schießen!,” he orders. “Ist auf Schießen, Klarlampe leuchtet!,” says the man behind the propulsion controls. The fuel ignites, flowing under gravity, burning at 1.5 to 2.5-tons of thrust.
- After a precisely established sequence of commands, the last order of the officer is barely heard over the roar of the engine, “Hauptstufe!” After that, the man at the propulsion controls pushes the button and the fuel pumps and steam turbine begin to scream. The earth is shaking and vibrating under the pressure of 25-tons of thrust. The rocket goes straight up and turns itself slow to the target. A man at the propulsion table jumps to the table and turns the spanner of the high pressure bottles down. The soldiers slowly go to the launch site, that ironically, looks very empty.
James Oberg produced the following comparison:
24,000 fighters could have been produced instead of the inaccurate V-weapons.