|By summer of 1944, SS General
Hans Kammler had gained full control of production and deployment of
the V2 missiles. General Dornberger was given the assignment of
training the first mobile field troops that would assemble and launch the
rockets. Two operational troops were formed: Gruppe Nord (north), Gruppe
Süd (south) - each consisting of several technical and firing batteries.
The deployment of the missile to it's
mobile firing sites, during it's limited months of actual operations against
Allied targets, was certainly not an easy task - but it was a task that
the Germans performed quite efficiently. The multitude of troops required
seemed to be the single biggest drawback.
Because of Allied air superiority,
V2s were launched from easily concealed areas - such as the wooded areas
of Den Haag (The Hague). The concentration of troops preparing a V2 for
launch would be a great temptation to any Allied fighter looking for ground
A Typical V2 Batterie consisted of
(5) platoons. All platoons also carried the usual weapons of a combat unit
and the normal equipment associated with their duties.
The rockets (normally 20 per shipment)
were transported to the general firing areas by rail where they were met
by a supply detachment of the technical troop. This was made up of about
100 cars, 62 tractors, 33 dispatch riders, some 22 Betriebstoffanhaenger
liquid oxygen tankers, 2 Strabo-cranes, 48 Opel Blitz alcohol tankers,
4 hydrogen peroxide tankers, 4 towed pump trailers, with the sodium permanganate
(z-stoff) off loaded in barrels.
Headquarters Group: Unit administration
and command communication.
Launching Group: Included (3) firing
units, each of the three having (1) Bodenplatte and (1) Feuerleitpanzer.
There were (3) Meillerwagens per each unit - so, a total of (9) Meillerwagens
Radio Group: Normal group communications,
the calculating of the launch site, Brennschluss and Leitstrahlstellung
Technical Group: Unloaded rockets, minus
warheads, from the rail cars that carried them to the operational areas.
Moved the rockets to the field stores. Tested and prepared them for the
launching platoon. The technical troop would use about (3) Vidalwagens
for each Meillerwagen - so, a V2 batteries technical troop would have approximately
Fueling Platoon: Included (3) sections
1st unit handled the supply of liquid
oxygen from railhead to firing site.
2nd unit handled the supply of alcohol
from railhead to firing site.
3rd unit handled the supply of warheads
and sodium permanganate to the field stores.
mobile 16 tons (15000 kg) capacity De Fries / Strabo crane was towed over
the rail tracks by the technical troops. The rockets were pulled beneath
the crane and then hoisted over to a waiting Vidalwagen, a light road transporter
trailer 46 feet long. The Vidalwagen transported the V2s to the field stores
(a concealed area near the firing sites.)
A field store could secure and store
many rockets, but this was not desirable - the rockets needed to be
fired almost immediately. These troops would receive the rocket and prepare
it for transfer to the firing troops. Tests performed at the field stores
included: checks of the propulsion systems, steering, alcohol tank pressurization,
wiring and to make each rocket ready for the internal power source. Any
problems that could not be repaired at the field stores, meant that the
rockets would have to be returned to the Mittelwerk. The technical personnel
would also attach the warheads to the rockets. The one-ton warheads were
delivered in special drums that had to be hoisted into place and secured
to the tip of the rocket. The technical troops also had to tow a giant
mobile crane from the railhead to the transfer point so that the four-ton
rocket (unfueled) could be lifted and transferred to the firing crew's
Meillerwagen transport/launch trailer. The Meillerwagen was fitted with
two large clamps that gripped the V2 around the airframe above the fins
and also around the warhead.
The launching platoon was divided
into three units of 39 men each. Each 39 man firing crew were assigned
one of the following duties: (1) The fire control crew with the Feuerleitpanzer
fire-control vehicle; (2) The surveying and adjustment crew; (3) The engine
crew; (4) The electrical crew; (5) The vehicle crew with the Meillerwagen
and firing table.
The firing crews would then proceed
to the launch site and place the towed launching table into position. Once
the legs of the launch table were extended, the table was raised enough
for the towing dolly to be removed. The 3600 lb. launching table (Abschussplattform)
was made from welded steel and was, in itself, very ingenious. It was relatively
small and portable considering the size of the V2. The launching crew next
would back the Meillerwagen up to the launching table and raise the rocket
into position on the table.
The V2 was now ready for fueling.
A number of tests were also performed, including a "dry" purge of the fuel
tanks with compressed nitrogen to locate any leaks. The rocket had to be
fueled in the vertical position because the fuel tanks inside of the V2
were designed to withstand the weight of the fuel in the upright position
only. The fueling trucks and trailers would then approach the rocket. These
consisted of two alcohol supply vehicles, one pump, and a towed liquid
oxygen vehicle. Hydrogen peroxide was also required. This array of support
vehicles around the rocket could also be a tempting target for prowling
Allied fighters. The launching crews first filled the V2 with alcohol,
then liquid oxygen. The hoses and clamps soon were covered in frost from
the super-cool liquid oxygen. The frost from the liquid oxygen can be seen
in most launch photos from the period as a band of white appearing around
the body of the rocket, just above the fins. Electrical power for the V-2
was provided by ground sources when it rested on the launching platform
and by batteries while in flight. Ground power was necessary for launch
preparations, including the firing system. When possible, the troops would
use local municipal electrical power sources.
The arm of the Meillerwagen was lowered
after the fueling was completed. The V2 was then oriented to its exact
firing position by using a dial-sight incorporated into the launching table.
The firing troops then would install the electrical igniter into the combustion
chamber. After all personnel and vehicles were cleared from the launching
site, the troop commander would enter the firing control vehicle. It was
from this armored vehicle that the final remote tests of the steering controls
were completed. The troop commander then at some point would give the order
to launch the V2. The liquid oxygen and alcohol then flowed by gravity
to the exhaust nozzle, where they were lit by the igniter, which resembled
a pinwheel, sparking as it rotated. This 8-ton burning in itself was not
sufficient to launch the rocket, but it did give the control officer a
visual indication that the rocket was burning properly. Once the launch
control officer believed the rocket was ready to fire, an electric command
was sent to start the fuel pumps. The fuel pump steam turbine reached full
speed, the fuel flow reached its full value of 275 pounds-per-second and
the engine thrust reached about 69,000 pounds. After the rocket was away,
the firing crews would swiftly depart from the area.
A4/V2 rocket had an operational range of 234 miles. The max. burning
time of the engine was 65-70 seconds, shortly before engine shutdown the
A4 weighed 4040 kg at a height of 35 km, starting with 1 G force, and at
shutdown 8 G, after shutdown the A4 flew to a height of 97 km and fell
to earth with a impact speed of 3240-3600 km per hour, at shutdown the
angle was approximately 40-45 degrees. The angle immediately after liftoff
was 90 degrees; 30 seconds after launch it reached speed of sound. When
launched against targets close to the operational range of the vehicle,
the deviation between target and impact was normally 4 to 11 miles (7-17
km away from target). This made the rocket only suitable for use against
widely populated areas. At shorter targeting ranges, the accuracy of the
A4 was improved. The Leitstrahl-device was a "guiding beam" that improved
accuracy of the A4 somewhat during the later days of the campaign. Less
than one quarter of all A4 rockets were guided with the Leitstrahlstellung.
(webmasters note: It is generally
believed that the A4/V2 was not an effective weapon because it was not
accurate enough to hit an exact target. While pinpoint accuracy was not
associated with the V2, it was much more accurate than generally reported.
Not every batterie received or installed the Leitstrahl-Guide Beam apparatus,
which, was crucial to the greater accuracy of the weapon. In the later
stages of the war the accuracy improved greatly, sometimes to within meters
of the target.)
A description of an A4/V2 impact would
be as follows. First, a whip cracking sound of a blast wave created by
the rocket (moving faster than the speed of sound) bounces off of the point
of impact just split seconds before the flash of impact. This was followed
by the chaos of the explosion with debris and earth churned skyward. Soon,
the whine and rush of whistling air as the sound catches up with the rocket
followed by a deafening roar of the incoming rocket, which tapers off to
silence. There could be no warning. The A4/V2 impacted at 3 times the speed
It is clear that the V2, as a weapon
of warfare, could not have turned the tide of war for Germany in 1944-45.
Only if the weapon had been operational 2-3 years earlier, might have the
Allied invasion been prevented by tens-of-thousands of A4/V2 missiles raining
on English ports. Since the V2 was not operational until late 1944, the
countless funds, materials, and manpower could have been better used to
produce more planes and tanks. It was purely a "Vengeance Weapon", but
there was no countermeasure that could stop it. The logistics that were
required to launch thousands of V2s, in the later stages of the war, make
the subject very interesting.