During WWII, the Nazi Germans were developing a wide range of superweapons that would turn the tide and ensure ultimate victory. Most of them never made it off the drawing boards and only a few saw active service but a number of them laid the foundation for weapons that are still being used today.
We start off with the most famous trio, the V weapons.
V1 – The First Cruise Missile
It is safe to say that the V rockets were an obsession of Der Fuhrer. He was so wrapped up in the creation of these rockets, that many felt this compulsion caused the Luftwaffe’s compromised state in 1944, since the development of the V rocket diverted precious resources that could have been used for repair parts and new planes. Yet despite these accusations, one can see the rationale behind improving these unguided killing machines.
During the last year of the war, over 5,000 V1 rockets were fired into London and the surrounding areas from launch sites in Holland and France. At times, over a hundred a day fell on Britain’s island nation. In some ways the launch of these rockets might have been seen as a response to D-Day, since the first V1 rocket was launched on June 13, 1944, seven days after the Normandy Landings.
Despite the large onslaught from these deadly weapons, the V rocket suffered from two fatal flaws. One was that they could go only as far as fuel would allow them to; if they ran out of fuel before reaching their targets they would land wherever they fell. The other flaw was that there was no way to actually aim these rockets or make corrections if calculations were off.
V2 – The First Ballistic Missile
While all the major powers fielded short-range rockets, only Nazi Germany put serious effort into the development of long-range, liquid-fueled rockets. The result was the V-2, a 14-ton, vertically launched missile with a range of 200 miles and a top speed of 3,500 miles per hour.
The V-2 was one of two long-range weapons deployed by the Germans, the other being the V-1 flying bomb. Both the V-1 and the V-2 were launched in the thousands, mainly against London and the port city of Antwerp in Belgium.
V3 – The Nazi Super Gun
The V-3 (Revenge weapon 3) was a German supergun which worked on the multi-charge principle whereby secondary propellant charges are fired to add speed to a projectile.
From two large bunkers in the Pas-de-Calais region of northern France, the weapon was planned to be used to bombard London, but they wrecked beyond repair by Allied bombing raids before they were completed. Two smaller but similar guns were used to bombard Luxembourg from December 1944 to February 1945 during the battle of the Bulge.