Terror from the skies

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The first V-1s began to fall on London in June 1944, but at least the distinctive engine sound from the flying bombs offered the civilians below some advance warning. When the V-2 was finally deployed in early September, its silent approach had a far greater psychological effect. As a ballistic missile, the V-2's engines only fired until it reached the peak of its trajectory. It then fell almost noiselessly towards its target. The guidance systems were too primitive to make the V-2 anything other than a blunt instrument, but when it did strike a populated area, the effect could be devastating: 567 people were killed when one struck a cinema in Antwerp, and 160 died in a strike on southeast London. The difficulty

Eyewitness to a V-2 attack, London, 1944

UNDER THE MOUNTAIN

Colour photographs from the Nazi era grimly capture the reality of life and work beneath the mountain at Nordhausen. Up to 10,000 forced labourers worked underground in the factory at its peak, helping to produce not only the V-2, but also the V-1. Many of the workers died of pneumonia in the cold, damp conditions.

in targeting meant that most of the missiles were aimed at major cities rather than smaller towns - between them, London and Antwerp endured some 90 per cent of more than 3,000 attacks by the rockets. Each V-2 carried a warhead with more than a tonne of explosives, and its final approach, dropping from an altitude of around 100km (60 miles) at up to four times the speed of sound, left no possibility for interception or defence.

By the time the V-weapons were deployed, though, the German Army was in retreat, and firing

UNDER THE MOUNTAIN

Colour photographs from the Nazi era grimly capture the reality of life and work beneath the mountain at Nordhausen. Up to 10,000 forced labourers worked underground in the factory at its peak, helping to produce not only the V-2, but also the V-1. Many of the workers died of pneumonia in the cold, damp conditions.

ENTRANCE TO UNDERGROUND FACTORY

At Kohnstein the US troops discovered a huge complex carved out ol the soft gypsum rock. In the early years of the Second World War the complex was used as a store for fuel and poison gas. Most prisoners who died at Mittelwerk had perished in the first few months of heavy labour.

THE PRODUCTION LINE

The assembly lines ran through two parallel tunnels, A and B, each 1.9km (1'A miles) long. Missiles were placed on carriages and rolled along the railway tracks that connected the many halls in Tunnel B. The final hall, over 15m (50ft) high, allowed missiles to stand vertically for testing.

STORES OF FINISHED PARTS

Tunnel A was used for transporting parts and equipment into and around the factory, while the numerous shorter cross-tunnels were used for storage. The production-line manufacture of the V-2s meant that large stores of completed parts were kept on site.

DORA ARTEFACTS

The Nazis kept paperwork on all aspects of the rocket programme, ranging from construction contracts to special camp banknotes.

"TAKE US TO IKE!"

Leoders of the V-2 team öfter copture in Bavaria. Von Braun had broken his arm in a car crash a few weeks earlier. Dornberger is on the left in the hat.

ALLEN DULLES

The US end of Operation Overcast/Paperclip was driven by Allen W. Dulles of US Army Intelligence, later director of the CIA under President Eisenhower.

ENTRANCE TO UNDERGROUND FACTORY

At Kohnstein the US troops discovered a huge complex carved out ol the soft gypsum rock. In the early years of the Second World War the complex was used as a store for fuel and poison gas. Most prisoners who died at Mittelwerk had perished in the first few months of heavy labour.

THE PRODUCTION LINE

The assembly lines ran through two parallel tunnels, A and B, each 1.9km (1'A miles) long. Missiles were placed on carriages and rolled along the railway tracks that connected the many halls in Tunnel B. The final hall, over 15m (50ft) high, allowed missiles to stand vertically for testing.

STORES OF FINISHED PARTS

Tunnel A was used for transporting parts and equipment into and around the factory, while the numerous shorter cross-tunnels were used for storage. The production-line manufacture of the V-2s meant that large stores of completed parts were kept on site.

"TAKE US TO IKE!"

Leoders of the V-2 team öfter copture in Bavaria. Von Braun had broken his arm in a car crash a few weeks earlier. Dornberger is on the left in the hat.

The winners take all

DORA ARTEFACTS

The Nazis kept paperwork on all aspects of the rocket programme, ranging from construction contracts to special camp banknotes.

The V-2 attacks revealed Germany's massive lead in rocket development, and as wartime alliance turned to Cold-War rivalry, the United States and the Soviet Union were racing to plunder the German rocket programme.

ALLEN DULLES

The US end of Operation Overcast/Paperclip was driven by Allen W. Dulles of US Army Intelligence, later director of the CIA under President Eisenhower.

Although their intervention had come too late to affect the outcome of the war, von Braun's missiles had proved one thing beyond doubt - the rocket was once again a formidable weapon: fast, almost silent on its final approach, and difficult to intercept. Clearly, ballistic missiles would have a major role to play in future warfare, and as the leaders of the democratic West and communist East contemplated a situation in which their rival spheres of influence would clash around the world, getting hold of superior German technology became a high priority.

In February 1945, Captain Robert Staver arrived in Europe under instructions to track down the V-2 masterminds and bring them into US custody. A month later, Colonel Holger Toftoy, head of Army Ordnance Intelligence in Paris, was ordered to track down as many intact V-2s as possible, for later use in a testing programme. For both men, it was a race against time - many of the Germany's key missile sites lay directly in the path of the advancing Red Army. Fortunately for the Americans, though, von Braun and his team had plans of their own.

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