The wait is over! My first post of (hopefully) many is finally here, and it’s the start of a series on the V-1 Flying Bomb, developed by Germany during the Second World War.
So, without further ado, the V-1 Flying Bomb—
Initially, the V-1 was designed to be a remote controlled bomb meant to strike military installations belonging to the Allies. Argus Motoren, a German company, had already created and successfully tested a radio-controlled, unmanned aerial vehicle known as the AS 292. This new aircraft, as proposed by Fritz Gosslau, would deliver over one ton of explosives over three hundred miles. Despite the promise of such effectiveness, the German Air Ministry rejected the idea. The aircraft would presumably be subject to enemy interference and radio jamming, potentially taking over control of the craft and ensuring it never reaches its intended target.
Gosslau pressed on, scrapping the remote control capabilities in favor of a flying bomb capable of regulating its own flight. Upon taking a position at the Fiessler aircraft company, Robert Lusser, working with Gosslau, improved the design of the craft to use just a single pulse jet engine. With this engine firing over fifty times per second, the V-1 earned the nicknames “doodlebug” and “buzz bomb.” Click here to hear why.
The V-1 had a fuselage made of welded steel, and despite a takeoff speed of three hundred and sixty miles per hour, had wings made of plywood. A video of one such takeoff can be seen here (actual launch begins at approximately 0:25). The V-1 is unable to launch under its own power, so the bomb is thrown into the air by an aircraft catapult or some other means of propulsion.
Traveling at speeds at which RAF fighter pilots could intercept and destroy in flight (though those speeds are approximately five hundred miles per hour), the “buzz bomb” was used heavily to bomb Britain, specifically London. Despite its vulnerability to enemy fire and only 25% of bombs hitting their target, the V-1 was one of the most cost effective weapons devised during the war.
Compared to the Panzer tank, arguably the best armor on any front as well as psychologically intimidating to Allied troops, the V-1 thrived on its simplicity. At only 5,000 Reichsmarks per bomb, a V-1 cost less than 5% of one Panzer tank and also used relatively little material (remember, the wings were made of plywood).
Most shocking is the cost-effectiveness of the “doodlebug.” For every $1 spent producing bombs, $4 in damage was dealt. At that’s just with 25% of the bombs finding their targets.
And that takes us to the end of the first installment of this series. Future posts will discuss the damage done by a V-1 bomb and the ways in which Britain worked to protect its citizenry. As always, leave any comments or questions below.
-Nick the White