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National Museum of the U.S. Air Force
V-2 & Meillerwagen Trailer, Dayton, Ohio
(Photos by Phil Broad, Rod Givens, John Kiever & Tracy Dungan)
   The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio, recently completed restoration of its V-2 rocket and Meillerwagen erector/trailer. The beautiful display is now open to the public in the WWII aircraft building. Being one of only three Meillerwagen trailers remaining in the world, this is the only Meillerwagen trailer in the United States.

   The NMUSAF (formerly USAFM) acquired (at no cost) the V-2 rocket and Meillerwagen that had been on display at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland for many years. The Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center completed the rocket restoration portion ($95,000.00) at their restoration facility in Hutchinson, KS. The Cosmosphere's restoration staff carefully resurrected this piece of history to represent, as accurately as possible, a wartime A-4/V-2 from the 1944-45 period. With the work completed, the rocket was flown in a giant C5A back to the NMUSAF in mid 2002.

   The museum restoration staff tackled the restoration of the Meiller-trailer, fabricating many missing parts to match the German field operational version. The Meillerwagen's tires, and VW Motor for the erector hydraulics, were obtained from private sources in the Czech Republic for aproximately $2,000.00. A private contractor sand blasted it for $3,500.00. Aproximately $4,000.00 was spent on special steel that was need for replica parts. The machining of replica parts, and painting, were done by museum staff employees. For some reason they chose to paint the Meillerwagen an incorrect shade of pea-green, instead of the original color of German sand-yellow.
 

The USAFM V2 and Meillerwagen as seen in 1962 at Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland.
Later, the V2 and Meillerwagen were moved to an outdoor display at Aberdeen, where it wasted away in the weather for many years

   During WWII, the USAF, along with the RAF, were responsible for hunting down the shipments of V-2s heading to the western front. Allied aircraft attacked V-Weapon rail shipments and occasionally V-2 launching sites. Many high-flying USAF bomber crews were witness to the soaring rockets in flight heading towards London and Antwerp. So it is fitting to see this historic piece of equipment on display at the USAFM.

   There is some indication that this rocket was possibly caught in the open and attacked by Allied tanks while sitting on a railcar near Bromskirchen, Germany. There were 50-caliber bullet holes and damage to almost every portion of the rocket. The Cosmosphere restoration workers found a 50-cal bullet still remaining inside one of the fuel tanks! While it is true that this could have been done at anytime immediately after the war - the fact that all intact rockets were being rounded up to be sent to the U.S. for research, tends to point to the story at Bromskirchen as the likely source of the bullet holes. The truth may never really be known about how the rocket was damaged, but it is interesting to think about.

   The tiny town of Bromskirchen, located northeast of Westerwald, about 15 miles north of Biedenkopf, was captured by Combat Command B of the American Third Armored Division on March 29, 1945. In the morning, a train was coming into Bromskirchen from the marshaling yard at Allendorf-Eder. The train had many flatcars and was exceedingly long with hardly an end in sight. At the head of the line was an oil-fired locomotive, and further back was a coal-fired locomotive. After moving a few miles, it so happened that the train came to a stop near Bromskirchen because the coalpowered locomotive ran out of water. The operators of the train did not want to be stuck there in the open for fear of being attacked by the dreaded Jabos. Quickly they disconnected the train in the middle, and the commanding officer ordered the first half of the train to continue under the power of the oil locomotive toward Winterberg. For some reason, this portion of the train only made it to the tunnel at the Brilon Forest. When it was discovered by the Americans later that day, they found seven railway cars, each containing 12 V-2 warheads.

   The remaining section of the train with the steam locomotive waited about 20 minutes at Bromskirchen to fill up with water. Suddenly an American tank appeared on the road and opened fire on the train with its machine guns. The locomotive received a direct hit, damaging the main steam pipes and leaving a large hole in the side of the locomotive. The railway workers jumped from the train and escaped. After its capture, the Americans found ten railway cars containing nine damaged and partially burned V-2s, plus the scattered parts of another V-2 and some warheads.

   T Dungan, V-2; Combat History of the First Ballistic Missile, 2005

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   Another curious detail to consider is the apparent writing by Mittelbau prisoners on the top of the alcohol tank during the rockets construction (see below).

Below are photos of 2001-2002 restoration in Kansas and arrival in Dayton.

(CLICK ON THUMBNAIL TO ENLARGE)

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   The V-2 and Meillerwagen display is now open to the public at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton. Shown below is the current configuration, but it is rumored that eventually the museum intends to build a diorama depicting the rocket raised on a firing platform and being serviced as if ready for launching. Thanks to John Kiever for the detailed photos of the Meillerwagen details.

(CLICK ON THUMBNAIL TO ENLARGE)

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