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German V-Weapons: Desperate Measures

"I am informed by the Fuhrer for the first time that the big rocket bomb weighs 14 tons. This, of course, is a devastating murder weapon. I suspect that when the first projectiles plunge down into London, the English public will panic."
- Josef Goebbels, Nazi propaganda minister

"The employment of this weapon represents a new effort by the enemy to shake the morale of our civilian population. In doing so, they have false hopes of preventing the threatened defeat on the field by that means."
- Winston Churchill, British prime minister

Near the end of World War II, Germany used "vengeance weapons" (Vergeltungswaffe) against the Allies to strike terror into civilian populations and disrupt military operations. V-weapons could not be used effectively to strike with precision or support advancing troops -- they were terror weapons that could only hamper Allied operations behind the front and affect civilian morale. V-weapons included the self-guided V-1 Buzz Bomb and the V-2, the world's first rocket-powered long-range ballistic missile.

As waves of Allied bombers struck Germany with increasing effect in 1944-1945, the Germans -- having lost the ability to bomb Great Britain effectively -- sought revenge by launching V-weapons at Allied population centers and strategic ports. V-1 and V-2 attacks did inspire public fear as intended, but inaccuracy made them militarily ineffective. Also, the ever-increasing Allied strength in Europe following the June 1944 invasion of France made the V-weapon mission practically hopeless from the beginning. Germany could not perfect the weapon fast enough or produce enough of them to avoid defeat in WWII.

German V-weapons killed more than 15,000 people and wounded another 47,000 in England, Belgium, Poland, France and Germany. Main V-weapon targets included London, Antwerp, Brussels and Liege. By the end of the WWII, a total of more than 15,000 V-1s and V-2s struck England and Belgium, but flak and fighters destroyed another 6,000 Buzz Bombs before they reached their targets. The Nazis used forced labor to build V-weapons and an estimated 20,000 people died producing them in brutal work-camp conditions.

Both the V-1 and V-2 foreshadowed future weapons development. The V-1 Buzz Bomb's pilotless, self-guided aircraft features reappeared in later cruise missiles, and the V-2, as the first practical rocket-guided ballistic missile, pointed the way toward nuclear-armed ballistic missiles.

Click on the following links to learn more about German V-weapons.

Flying Bomb and Rocket Development
Slave Labor Built V-Weapons
Post-War Testing and Development

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Find Out More
Related Fact Sheets
Republic/Ford JB-2 Loon (V-1 Buzz Bomb)
V-2 with Meillerwagen
Other Resources
Preemptive Defense: Allied Air Power Versus Hitler's V-Weapons, 1943-1945 (Provided by AFHSO)
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