A Combat History of the First Ballistic Missile
In August 1944, Londoners thought the war might be over by Christmas. But on September 8, 1944, in the London suburb of Chiswick, a thunderous double-boom was heard followed by a huge plume of black smoke rising high into the air. Several seconds later another explosion rocked the earth near Epping. There had been no warning, no drone of aircraft above, just sudden devastation. “Operation Penguin” the V-2 offensive, had begun.
The A-4 rocket, better known as the V-2 vergeltungswaffen zwei, or vengeance weapon 2, was the first ballistic missile to be used in combat. Soaring over 50 miles high at superonic speeds, the V-2 would strike its target within 5 minutes of launching. Once in the air its deadly warhead was unstoppable. The ancestor of all cold war and modern day ballistic missiles, as well as the rockets used for space exploration the V-2 could not win the war for Germany- it was too expensive, too complicated, too inaccurate, and its warheads too small –but its unprecedented invulnerability and influences on allied planning made the V-2 and the advancements it represented the ultimate war prize, and British, American, and soviet forces scrambled to seize German rocket technology along with its scientists and engineers.