On this fine Tuesday morning I bring you the second part of our first series, The V-1 Flying Bomb. The first post is located here for your convenience.
After the failure of Operation Sea Lion and the Luftwaffe’s subsequent inability to launch bombing raids on Great Britain, the Nazi leadership was eager to utilize the new V-1 bomb. After 1942, Germany has been largely unsuccessful at retaliating for and preventing the Royal Air Force of Britain’s attacks on German cities.
Enter the V-1, Hitler’s Vergeltungswaffe, or “Revenge Weapon.”
An unmanned ship capable of delivering a one-ton payload allowed Germany to continue to assault Britain without risking valued bombers and escorts. The buzz bombs were also highly accurate, almost always finding their target (unless, of course, they are destroyed en route).
In 2010, the BBC released “Blitz Street,” a four-part series that demonstrates the power of the bombs dropped on London. To do so, replica houses, built in a 1940’s style, were built. These houses were wired to record damage and force figures for the bomb tests.
This segment is from the V-1 segment (aired May 3, 2010) and is quite honestly fascinating to see. Look to see the initial damage, but also look for the shockwaves, which did the real structural damage to buildings.
Of the approximately 10,000 bombs launched, only 2,419 hit their target, London. This accounts for over six thousand deaths and almost eighteen thousand injured.
The Blitz of London was as much about material destruction as it was psychological warfare, however. The pulsejet engine of the V-1 was very easily identified. It was meant to be heard, to send people fleeing for cover, be it their homes or bomb shelters.
The missile would be kept on course by a gyrocompass-based autopilot, ensuring it would find its destination, but that “destination” could vary by kilometers. The bomb was given only enough fuel to reach London, an obvious but also operationally important method to control the bomb. Upon running out of fuel, the engine would suddenly cut, the V-1 entering a steep dive to the city below. The silence would terrify Londoners, knowing that they had no way of knowing where the V-1 would land, only knowing that it was only seconds until it did.
The engine cuts.
The bomb dives.
The people hope that they are not the next victims of the V-1.
Part III, the conclusion to our first ever series will be coming soon. It concerns the British response to the V-1 and the bomb’s eventual retirement.