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Hitler's Rockets (Paperback)

The Story of the V-2's

Military > Frontline Books > Frontline: WWII WWII

By Norman Longmate
Frontline Books
ISBN: 9781848325463
Published: 20th August 2009
Last Released: 5th August 2009



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Britain was the first country to ever suffer a ballistic missile attack from beyond its borders. This book tells the story of that attack.

During 1942 and 1943, confusing rumours circulated about the German development of a 'giant rocket'. Most experts, including Winston Churchill's own scientific adviser Lord Cherwell, declared that such a weapon was impossible. It was only after the patient sifting of European intelligence that the most influential doubters were convinced such a weapon was being built.

Then on 8 September 1944, the first V-2 landed in Chiswick. Between then and the final rocket impact on 27 March 1945, more than a thousand landed on British soil, killing nearly three thousand people and seriously injuring more than six thousand. Arriving at supersonic speed, without warning, and with the defences powerless against them they did enormous damage and had a serious effect on morale.

In Hitler's Rockets, Norman Longmate tells the story of this technically brilliant weapon, the ancestor and forerunner of all subsequent ballistic missiles. He reveals the devious power-play within the German armed forces and the Nazi establishment which so influenced the creation of the rockets. He also shows through contemporary documents and protagonists' accounts how the British intelligence skilfully pieced together often contradictory evidence as it sought to establish the true nature of the threat.

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Germany conducts first successful V-2 rocket test

3rd October 1942

On this day in 1942, German rocket scientist Wernher von Braun’s brainchild, the V-2 missile, is fired successfully from Peenemunde, as island off Germany’s Baltic coast. It traveled 118 miles. It proved extraordinarily deadly in the war and was the precursor to the Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) of the postwar era. German scientists, led by von Braun, had been working on the development of these long-range missiles since the 1930s. Three trial launches had already failed; the fourth in the series, known as A-4, finally saw the V-2, a 12-ton rocket capable of carrying a one-ton warhead, successfully launched. The V-2 was unique in several ways. First, it was virtually impossible to intercept. Upon launching, the missile rises six miles vertically; it then proceeds on an arced course, cutting off its own fuel according to the range desired. The missile then tips over and falls on its target-at a speed of almost 4,000 mph. It hits with such force that the missile burrows itself into the ground several feet before exploding. It had the potential of flying a distance of 200 miles, and the launch pads were portable, making them impossible to detect before firing. The first launches as part of an offensive did not occur until September 6, 1944 when two missiles were fired at Paris. On September 8, two more were fired at England, which would be followed by more than 1,100 more during the next six months. More than 2,700 Brits died because of the rocket attacks. After the war, both the United States and the Soviet Union captured samples of the rockets for reproduction–they also captured the scientists responsible for their creation. - History Online

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