German V-1 and V-2 Weapons Are Deployed Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

Germany invented the cruise missile and the ballistic missile, deploying them against the Allies relatively late in World War II. While the weapons were a significant morale boost for the German military and were terrifying to their European targets, they were invented and deployed too late to prevent Germany’s defeat in the war.

Summary of Event

On May 26, 1943, key German military officials were briefed by two teams of scientists, one representing the air force, and the other representing the army. Each team had launched two experimental war craft. The German air force experiment, the Fiesler Fi 103, failed on both trials. The German Army’s Aggregat 4 (Assembly 4, or A-4) worked beautifully. The military chiefs, who were to decide which project merited further funding and development to suit the war needs, decided to pursue both projects. Each experimental craft had both advantages and disadvantages, which counterbalanced the pros and cons of the other. Therefore, both the Fiesler Fi 103 and the Army’s A-4 were developed. They were to become the V-1 and the V-2 aircraft. V-1 missile[V 1] V-2 rocket[V 2] Missiles;cruise Missiles;ballistic World War II (1939-1945)[World War 02];V-1 and V-2 weapons[V 1 and V 2 weapons] Rockets [kw]German V-1 and V-2 Weapons Are Deployed (June 13 and Sept. 8, 1944)[German V 1 and V 2 Weapons Are Deployed] [kw]V-1 and V-2 Weapons Are Deployed, German (June 13 and Sept. 8, 1944)[V 1 and V 2 Weapons Are Deployed, German] [kw]Weapons Are Deployed, German V-1 and V-2 (June 13 and Sept. 8, 1944) V-1 missile[V 1] V-2 rocket[V 2] Missiles;cruise Missiles;ballistic World War II (1939-1945)[World War 02];V-1 and V-2 weapons[V 1 and V 2 weapons] Rockets [g]Europe;June 13 and Sept. 8, 1944: German V-1 and V-2 Weapons Are Deployed[01180] [g]Germany;June 13 and Sept. 8, 1944: German V-1 and V-2 Weapons Are Deployed[01180] [c]World War II;June 13 and Sept. 8, 1944: German V-1 and V-2 Weapons Are Deployed[01180] [c]Wars, uprisings, and civil unrest;June 13 and Sept. 8, 1944: German V-1 and V-2 Weapons Are Deployed[01180] [c]Engineering;June 13 and Sept. 8, 1944: German V-1 and V-2 Weapons Are Deployed[01180] [c]Space and aviation;June 13 and Sept. 8, 1944: German V-1 and V-2 Weapons Are Deployed[01180] Braun, Wernher von Dornberger, Walter Robert Gosslau, Ing Fritz Schmidt, Paul

The concept of the V-1 motor existed in the late 1800’s. In 1907, a French patent was taken on the concept, and in 1919, René Lorin Lorin, René published a description of this type of motor that was inexpensive and expendable. Development of the impulse jet motor continued after World War I. After the work of Munich engineer Paul Schmidt drew the attention of the German Luftwaffe (air force), the Argus Motorenwerk Argus Motorenwerk was authorized to begin production, which culminated in the Argus AS 109-014. The V-1 project, code named Kirschkern (Cherry Stone), had begun.

On April 30, 1941, the motor was used to assist power on a biplane trainer. On June 10, 1942, Field Marshall Erhard Milch Milch, Erhard foresaw the future for the flying bomb, when he chaired a review of the development. The developmental team was headed by Ing Fritz Gosslau; the aircraft was designed by Robert Lusser Lusser, Robert . On December 24, 1942, the first powered missile launch took place. It was planned that by December 15, 1943, sixty-four main launch sites and thirty-two secondary sites would be in place, and operations could begin. As a result of many factors, however, including the rivalry between the V-2 and V-1 development teams and the competition for manufacturing labor and materials, the V-1 bombing campaign began on June 13, 1944.

The V-1 was a pulse-jet powered aircraft, which was capable of delivering a 1-ton payload. It was launched, under Adolf Hitler’s Hitler, Adolf [p]Hitler, Adolf;weapons technology orders, while still in a late developmental stage, to terrorize inhabited areas of London for the damage that had been wreaked in Germany during the war. An average of 102 V-1’s was launched daily between June 13 and early September, 1944. On June 11, 1944, Allied sources predicted the first bombing raid within forty-eight hours, judging by the photographs of the 45.7-meter railed ramps. Early launch sites included as many as twelve support buildings that took weeks to build. Later sites, built during the latter part of 1944, were constructed in a day. Allied bombing did significant damage to the supply lines, no matter how fast the sites were built, thus making restocking of supplies and hardware difficult and slowing down the rate of firings.

Two innovative systems made the V-l unique: the drive operation and the guidance system. In the motor, oxygen entered the grid valves through many small flaps. Fuel oil was introduced and the mixture ignited. After ignition, the expanded gases produced the reaction propulsion. When the expanded gases had vacated, the reduced internal pressure allowed the valve flaps to reopen, admitting more air for the next cycle.

The guidance system included a small propeller with a capability to preset a revolution counter. The number of revolutions accomplished at a set speed and height was calculated. By setting the counter to cover the desired distance to target, the propeller would activate the elevators on the aircraft, causing it to dive at the chosen target. Understandably, accuracy was not at the desired level. The V-1 had a wing span of slightly more than 7.6 meters. Because it used low-grade fuel oil and oxygen from the atmosphere, it was inexpensive to operate. It was restricted, however, to one speed only, about 590.4 kilometers per hour, and depended upon a certain air density to get the oxygen needed during flight. Therefore, it could not fly at a high altitude. Because it also flew in a straight line and at a constant speed, Allied aircraft could more easily intercept this “buzz-bomb” than it could the V-2.

A captured V-2 rocket at White Sands Proving Grounds, in New Mexico.

(Library of Congress)

The development of the V-2 can be traced to an organization called the Verein für Raumschiffahrt Verein für Raumschiffahrt , or VfR (society for space travel), founded in 1927. In 1930, the group leased an area on the outskirts of Berlin for experimental rocketry development. The civilian research accomplished at the Raketenflugplatz (rocket flying place) interested the military authorities. According to the Treaty of Versailles Versailles, Treaty of (1919) (1919), world military forces were restricted to 100,000 men and a certain level of weaponry. The German military powers realized very early, however, that the treaty had neglected to restrict rocket-powered weaponry, not even dreaming of its possibility at the end of World War I. Captain Walter Robert Dornberger (later a major general) visited the scientists at the Raketenflugplatz in 1932, hired Wernher von Braun, and moved the research to the Kummersdorf Artillery Range Kummersdorf Artillery Range , also called Experimental Station West Experimental Station West , an old artillery field 27 kilometers south of Berlin. At Kummersdorf, the research grew to such an extent that an entirely new area, from which long-range test flights could be run, was needed.

Peenemünde Rocket Research Institute Peenemünde Rocket Research Institute was established in 1939. Eventually, the research area was split. Peenemünde West was run by the German Luftwaffe, which was responsible for development of the V-1. Peenemünde East was under the control of Dornberger and the German army, who had developed the V-2.

The V-2 had a lift-off thrust of 11,550.6 newtons and was propelled by a combustion of liquid oxygen and alcohol. The propellants were pumped into the combustion chamber by a steam-powered turboprop. The steam was generated by the decomposition of hydrogen peroxide, using sodium permanganate as catalyst. An innovation, still in use in modern technology, was regenerative cooling, with alcohol used to cool the double-walled combustion chamber.

The guidance system included two phases: powered and ballistic. Four seconds after launch, a preprogrammed tilt to 17 degrees was begun, then acceleration was continued to achieve the desired trajectory. At the desired velocity, the engine power was cut off via one of two systems. In the automatic system, a device shut off the engine at the velocity desired; under this method, accuracy was not optimal. The second system entailed a radio signal to the rocket’s receiver, which cut off the power. This was a far more accurate method, but because of the extra equipment required at the launch site, Allied bombers were much more likely to strike. This system was more often employed toward the end of the war. Engine cutoff involved a two-stage process. The first stage shut down the 11,235.9-newton nozzle, leaving open the 3,595.5-newton nozzle. The second stage shut down all power.

Even the 907-kilogram warhead of the V-2 was a carefully researched and tested device. During liftoff and reentry, detonators had to be able to withstand six g’s of force (that is, a force equal to six times that of Earth’s gravitational pull), as well as the vibrations inherent in a rocket flight. They also had to be sensitive enough to detonate upon impact before the explosive became buried in the target and lost power through diffusion of force.

The V-2 was a much more complex craft, having thousands of parts and flying at more than twice the speed of sound. Its first successful test was in October of 1942, but it continued under development until August of 1944. During the next eight months, more than three thousand were launched against England and the Continent, causing immense devastation and fulfilling its purpose of becoming the Vergeltungswaffe 2 (Vengeance Weapon 2). However, the weapon that took fourteen years of research and testing entered the war too late to affect its outcome.


The V-1 and V-2, although acquiring strong negative associations through the destruction and terror they wrought during World War II, made a tremendous impact upon the history and development of space technology. Even during the war, captured V-2’s were studied by Allied scientists. American rocket scientists were especially interested in the technology, as they were working in the same direction, with liquid-fueled rockets. After the war, military personnel were sent to the United States, where they signed contracts to work with the U.S. Army. This program was known as Operation Paperclip Operation Paperclip . Testing of the captured V-2’s was undertaken at White Sands Proving Grounds White Sands Proving Grounds (now White Sands Missile Range) near Alamogordo, New Mexico. The JB-2 Loon Navy jet-propelled bomb was developed following the study of the captured German craft.

The Soviet Union also benefited from captured V-2’s and from the German factories dismantled following the war. With these resources, the Soviet Union also had a boost toward development of its own rocket technology, culminating in the launch of Sputnik 1, the world’s first human-made satellite, on October 4, 1957. The United States was not far behind, however, when it launched its first satellite, Explorer 1, on January 31, 1958.

Although the same technology has allowed for the development of bigger and more lethal weapons, the liquid-fuel technology has allowed for the development of research rockets. These sounding rockets tested the atmosphere and led the way for the launching of satellite payloads, literally opening the doors to the sky. The vast array of satellites includes communications, meteorological, orbiting observatories, radiation and energy measuring devices, remote sensing, and biosatellites. Satellite technology assists humankind in managing the effects of weather and climate, in researching the solar system, and in testing the effects of space travel upon the human body. V-1 missile[V 1] V-2 rocket[V 2] Missiles;cruise Missiles;ballistic World War II (1939-1945)[World War 02];V-1 and V-2 weapons[V 1 and V 2 weapons] Rockets

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Cabell, Craig, and Graham A. Thomas. Operation Big Ben: The Anti-V2 Spitfire Missions, 1944-1945. Staplehurst, Kent, England: Spellmount, 2004. Reveals in great detail the previously unknown story of the covert British response to the V-2: dive-bombing Spitfire missions designed to neutralize the rockets before they could be launched. Bibliographic references and index.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Cooksley, Peter G. Flying Bomb: The Story of Hitler’s V-Weapons in World War II. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1979. This history of the Nazis’ secret weapons is told more from the viewpoint of the British facing those weapons than from the viewpoint of the Germans developing them.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Dornberger, Walter R. V-2. Translated by James Cleugh and Geoffrey Halliday. New York: Viking Press, 1954. Fascinating, eyewitness account of the development of the V-2, including the political and financial maneuvering Dornberger had to handle during the project.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Haining, Peter. The Flying Bomb War: Contemporary Eyewitness Accounts of the German V1 and V2 Raids on Britain. London: Robson, 2002. First-person narratives of English soldiers and citizens faced with the V-1 and V-2 weapons late in the war.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Kennedy, Gregory P. Vengeance Weapon 2: The V-2 Guided Missile. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1983. Combination of history and technology. Some passages discussing the actual mechanics of the V-2 are technical. Includes beautiful black-and-white archival photographs.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Ley, Willy. Rockets, Missiles, and Space Travel. Rev. ed. New York: Viking Press, 1961. Willy Ley is known as probably the most prolific writer of space history. His style is on a college level, yet dense with information. This volume details history from early conceptions through the V-2. Contains a technical table.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Ordway, Frederick J., III, and Mitchell R. Sharpe. The Rocket Team. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1979. Detailed history of the V-2, with many references to the V-1. It is college-level reading, with fascinating black-and-white photographs. Excellent resource.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Young, Richard Anthony. The Flying Bomb. London: I. Allan, 1978. Richly laden with photographs, diagrams, and the complete story of the V-1 development and deployment. Includes appendixes, with all the launch sites and procedures. Easily understood technology for the college-level reader.

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