BBC journalists interviewed a large number of Londoners who survived the first wave of attacks with German V-2 missiles. People who were taken by surprise were shocked and did not believe that the existence of such a radical air weapon was real. In this case, vivid evidence of how the German missiles hit the target, did rarely. Most eyewitnesses spoke of a "luminous ball", the fall of which was accompanied by a "terrible crash." V-2 rockets appeared over London, "like a bolt from the blue".
Londoners were frightened by the fact that when they hit the V-2 with rockets, they did not have a sense of imminent danger and the opportunity to take some measures to defend themselves. There were no air-raid advertisements to which they managed to get used during the war years. The first thing that people were aware of during rocket attacks was the sound of an explosion. Due to the fact that it was physically impossible to declare an alarm on the V-2 rockets, people could not descend to the shelters, all they had to do was hope for their luck and luck.
It is worth noting that the Allies were very much worried about Hitler’s combat use of “weapons of retaliation” at the end of the war, when victory was already very close. Ballistic missiles, missiles and new bombs were a demonstration of the technical power of Nazi Germany in the last hours of its existence, but the new weapon could not change the course of the war. The number of V-2 missiles that were able to hit London and other cities was relatively small, and the damage they inflicted could not be compared with the strategic bombardment of German cities by the Allies.
At the same time, the exact number of victims from Vau-2 rocket attacks is still unknown. These data were not recorded, it is known only about the victims of shelling of the territory of England, where a little less than three thousand people died from this "miracle weapon" of Hitler. At the same time, the very production of these missiles took more lives than their combat use. During the production of missiles, more than 25 thousand prisoners of German concentration camps died. Victims among them also no one exactly counted. The V-2 missiles were assembled near the Buchenwald concentration camp, and their assembly was carried out round the clock. To speed up the process of their graduation, specialists (especially turners and welders) were brought from other German concentration camps. The prisoners were starving, did not see the sunlight, working in underground bunkers, where the production was driven into raids aviation allies. For any fault the prisoners were simply hung right on the cranes of the assembly lines of the missiles.
The problems of the Allies were aggravated by the fact that they did not always and with great difficulty determine the place and time of the launch of German missiles. Unlike the slow-moving Fau-1 projectiles, the V-2 missiles hit targets from very high altitudes and at speeds that exceeded the speed of sound. Even if such a rocket could be detected even when approaching the target, at that time there was simply no effective means of protection against it. The bombing of launching points was also seen as embarrassing. German launch teams V-2 used mobile versions of the missiles, which were delivered to the launch site by trucks.
The first step in the sequence of launching ballistic missiles was their placement on a cunning mobile vehicle, which was invented by German engineers exclusively for operations with V-2. After the rocket was attached to a special cradle, it was hydraulically mounted in a vertical position. After that, the launch platform in the form of a reusable circle, which was placed in a square frame, was brought under the rocket. The launch platform, which was supported by jacks in the 4's corners, took the weight of the V-2, allowing you to remove the carriage that the Germans used to transport the missiles and transfer them from horizontal to vertical position. Each mobile unit required its own team and truck, a variety of vehicles, fuel tank trucks, trailers and personnel transport vehicles - usually on the order of 30 vehicles. As soon as the ground for launching ballistic missiles was determined, the German military blocked the surrounding territory and took all the local residents out of the area. These measures were taken to achieve maximum secrecy. To launch one V-2 rocket, each team needed from 4-s to 6-hours.
Immediately before the launch, the rocket maintenance team carried out a series of actions: installed engine igniters, control equipment and guidance stabilizers, fueled the missiles and placed other components on them. To control the rocket was needed electricity, which was initially supplied from ground sources, and already in flight from batteries on board the rocket. Considering the danger associated with any launch of a ballistic missile (they were not particularly reliable), the calculations carefully checked the ignition system and fuel. The launch team usually consisted of 20 soldiers, who wore special protective helmets and overalls to refuel the V-2.
Directly during the launch, the rocket slowly rose from its metal platform, approximately 4 seconds continued to fly vertically, after which it received a predetermined flight path, controlled by a gyroscopic guidance system on board. The selected angle of the initial flight path - most often 45 ° - accurately set the range of the missile. The disconnection of the V-2 engine occurred approximately 70 seconds after launch. At this point, the rocket was already moving in the sky at an altitude of 80-90 km with an average speed of 1500-1800 m / s. After the engine was turned off, the rocket began to descend, hitting the target 5 minutes after launch. Due to the short flight time, the shelling of London and other cities was unexpected and often destructive. After the missile hit the target, the launch team quickly evacuated all the equipment in order to prevent allies from detecting or responding to an attack.
All that could be opposed to the launch of the V-2 missiles by the allies was air strikes against possible German missile divisions and launch positions. The command of the Royal Air Force of Great Britain for the continuous search and destruction of the launch sites of the missiles allocated special forces of fighter-assault aircraft as part of the 12 th fighter air group. Throughout October 1944 - March 1945, this air group made more than 3800 sorties to the area of The Hague, from where the launches were made. During this time, the group dropped tons of bombs to the vicinity of the order of 1000. But the high mobility of V-2 rocket launchers and urban areas, in which both launch pads and missiles could easily be masked, did not allow Allied aviation to effectively deal with them. In addition, the aircraft inactive at night and in bad weather. The losses of the German missile attackers from air strikes amounted to the entire order of 170 people, 58 vehicles, 48 missiles and 11 tankers with liquid oxygen. At the same time for all the time of the bombing of any V-2 rocket was not lost on the launch pad.
By the fall of 1944, changes had occurred in the organization of ballistic missile units and their control systems. After the unsuccessful assassination attempt on Hitler in July 1944, they were transferred to the command of the SS Gruppenführer Kamler, who became the special commissioner for V-2. He was appointed to this post by Himmler. In August of the same year, on the orders of Kamler, all the Reich missile units, which numbered about 6 thousand people and 1,6 thousand cars, relocated from their permanent bases to the concentration areas that were chosen in Holland and West Germany. At the same time, they were reorganized. Two groups were formed: "North" and "South", each of which consisted of two batteries, as well as a separate 444 training test battery, which was operatively subordinated to the "South" group. At the same time, one battery from each group remained at the test site for the implementation of test and test launches of V-2 missiles.
5 September 1944 of the North Group was in positions in the Hague area in full readiness to launch missiles in London. The South group, with a separate battery assigned to it by the 444, was located in the Eiskirchen district (100 kilometers east of Liege), ready for strikes on cities in France. The 444-I battery was designed to strike directly in Paris. September 6 The 444-I battery made two unsuccessful attempts to launch missiles in the French capital. The first successful launch was made only in the morning of September 8, and it was the only one, since the advance of the Allied forces forced the Germans to leave the starting positions and redeploy to Holland on the island of Volkheren, where the 444-I battery subsequently hit the UK.
The attacks of the V-2 ballistic missiles in England also began on September 8 1944, but in the evening hours. On this day, the North group from the outskirts of The Hague Wassenaar launched two rockets around London. The first of these killed 3 man and injured 17, the second missile did not cause damage. A week later, the 444-I battery joined the strikes in London. The aiming point for the German rocket engineers was the center of London (approximately 1000 meters east of Waterloo Station). But soon the Germans again had to change positions, they were frightened by the Allied airborne troops near Arnhem. This landing operation ended in failure, but the Germans for a time were forced to regroup their missile units, which led to the cessation of attacks on England.
25 September, when it became clear that the Arnhem offensive operation of the Anglo-American forces ended in failure, the 444-I battery was launched in the Stauverin region (north coast of Seider See Bay) with the task of launching rocket attacks on the cities of Ipswich and Norwich, but after several days, she returned to the region of The Hague, where, from October 3, she began to strike again in London. In total, in September 1944, the active operations of the German rocket units armed with V-2 missiles, using 2-3 batteries, lasted only 10 days (September 8-18). During this time, they launched X-VUMX X-VUMX rockets across London, England's 34 missile systems were detected by missile systems: 2 exploded within the city, 27 - in various parts of England, two rockets fell into the sea. The number of casualties and damage caused by explosions of rockets, each of which carried about a ton of explosives, were small. On average, each rocket destroyed 16-9 at home and hit an 2-3 man.
The launch of V-2 missiles repeated the situation that developed at the beginning of V-1 operations. The Germans could not achieve a massive strike. They did not have a strategic surprise, the Allies had information about the capabilities of German ballistic missiles. However, tactical surprise remained throughout the entire period of use of these missiles, since the short approach time did not allow the population to be warned in time, and the large dispersion of the missiles prevented observers from determining the place of their fall.
Implications of the impact of the Fow-2 on London, March 9 1945
In early October, 1944 was launched from ballistic missiles from the regions of The Hague and Stauverin in London, the cities of eastern England and Belgium. But already on October 12, Hitler ordered Fau-2 strikes only on London and Antwerp, the main supply base of US-British troops in Europe. The North group and 444-I separate battery were deployed to the suburbs of The Hague - Gaagishe-Bosch, from where they launched V-27 missiles at London, Antwerp, and later at Brussels and Liege until March 1945.
It is worth noting that the loss by the Germans of the rocket supply system created in Northern France forced the Gruppenführer SS Kammler and his headquarters to quickly create new intermediate points for storing, checking and repairing missiles and warehouses. Germans have created similar warehouses near The Hague in the settlements of Raaphorst, Terhorst and Eichenhorst. The V-2 missiles were transported by the Germans in the strictest secrecy. The rocket trains that departed from the Peenemünde or Nordhausen factories could transport 10-20 ballistic missiles. When transporting the V-2 loaded in pairs. Each pair of missiles occupied the 3 railway platforms, which were well disguised and very carefully guarded. The delivery time of ready-made rockets from factories to warehouses or to Vlizna, where tests were conducted, was 6-7 days.
V-2 ballistic missile launches were made from various points in the vicinity of The Hague. Since the missiles did not require a bulky launcher, as for the V-1 (a catapult with a length of 49 meters was necessary), their starting positions were constantly changing. This circumstance made them almost invulnerable to Allied aviation. V-2 on a special platform was brought directly to the launch site, installed vertically on a concrete or asphalt platform where the rocket was filled with oxidizer and fuel, after which it was launched on a given target.
Consequences of hitting the V-2 rocket in Antwerp
For half a year, despite the 30 multiple air superiority of the allies and the intense bombing of the Anglo-American Air Force, not a single V-2 ballistic missile was destroyed at the start. At the same time, the Nazis managed to increase the intensity of attacks on London. If in October 1944 of the V-32 rocket exploded in the British capital in October, then in November the 2 of the ballistic rocket exploded, in January and February of the 82 of the year in 1945, and in March of the 114. The Germans managed to improve the accuracy of hitting missiles at the target. If in October it was only 112% of the number of missiles that fell on English territory, then from November onwards, more than 35% of the missiles that flew over hit objects within London.
By the end of March 1945, ballistic missile strikes against targets in England and Belgium were stopped. In total, the United States 1115 V-2 missiles were detected by the air defense system of the UK air defense system, of which 517 exploded in London (47%), 537 in England (49%) and 61 rocket fell into the sea. The losses from the impact of these missiles amounted to 9277 people, including 2754 killed and 6523 injured. In total, from September to the end of March 1945, the Germans fired more than 4-x thousand V-2 missiles at London, South England, Antwerp, Brussels, Liege and Remagen, as well as other targets. So in London it was released from 1400 to 2000 missiles, and according to Antwerp, which was the main supply base of the allies in Europe, to 1600 missiles. At the same time, approximately 570 V-2 rockets exploded in Antwerp. A large number of rockets simply exploded when launched on the ground or in the air, or failed in flight.
Despite the imperfection of the design, the strikes of the first ballistic missiles sometimes led to serious casualties among the civilian population and the military. So 1 November 1944, two V-2 rockets killed 120 people, 25 November, 160 was killed and only 108 people were injured by the rupture of just one rocket in London. In the morning of March 8, one of the German missiles hit the London shop, 1945, broke through it and exploded in a subway tunnel under it, the building collapsed completely, and 110 people died. But the greatest number of victims from the use of V-2 rockets by the Germans was 16 December 1944 of the year in Antwerp. On this day at 15: 20, a ballistic missile hit the building of the Rex movie theater, where the film was being shown. During the screening, all 1200 seats were occupied in the cinema. The rocket blast killed a 567 man, a 291 man was injured. The 296 dead and the 194 injured were British, American and Canadian military personnel.
Scene of destruction at Farringdon Road in London after the fall of the V-2 rocket, 1945 year.
The moral effect that V-2 rockets had on civilians was also quite large. This was due to the fact that protection against new weapons simply did not exist, and the Germans could launch missiles at any time of the day. Because of this, the residents of London were constantly in a state of tension. The most difficult psychologically were the night hours, when the Germans carried out shelling of the British capital with Fau-1 “shells”.
Yet, until the end of the Second World War, the Hitlerite command failed to achieve truly massive missile strikes. Moreover, it was not about the destruction of entire cities or individual industrial areas. On the part of Hitler and the leadership of Germany, the effectiveness of the “weapon of retaliation” was clearly overestimated. Rocket weapons of such a technical level of development simply could not change the course of the conflict in favor of Germany and even more so prevent the inevitable collapse of the Third Reich.
Orlov A.S. The secret weapon of the Third Reich. M .: Science, 1975. 160 with.