Unit 4

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A4 (National Air & Space Museum, Washington, ca.2004)

Unit 4 ( A4 ) was the type designation of the world's first functional large rocket with a liquid drive in 1942 . It was designed as a long-range ballistic artillery rocket and was the first man-made object to break through the boundary to space - at an altitude of 100 kilometers as defined by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale - on June 20, 1944 . From mid-1945 the A4 formed the starting point for space developments in the USA and the Soviet Union .

The A4 surface-to-surface missile was developed in the German Reich in the Peenemünde Army Research Center (HVA) on Usedom from 1939 under the direction of Wernher von Braun and was used in large numbers in World War II from 1944. In addition to the aircraft-like Fieseler Fi 103 , known as V1 , Nazi propaganda also described the A4 rocket as a “ miracle weapon ” that was decisive for the war . In August 1944 it was declared internally by Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels for the first time and publicly in October 1944 as retaliatory weapon 2 , V2 for short . In the German press from December 1944 at the latest, the "V 2" long-range weapon was mentioned . The Wehrmacht and SS launch units simply called them "The Device".


Walter Dornberger (left) and Wernher von Braun (in civilian clothes) in Peenemünde, spring 1941

From March 1936 the following requirement profile existed for the development of missiles in the Army Research Center (HVA): One tonne of explosives should be transported over 250 kilometers.

In addition to the technical director Wernher von Braun, a large number of scientists and engineers worked at the HVA, including Walter Thiel , Helmut Hölzer , Klaus Riedel , Helmut Gröttrup , Kurt Debus and Arthur Rudolph . The head of the HVA or its commander was Major General Walter Dornberger , head of the missile department at the Heereswaffenamt .

The previous models of unit 4 were only partially successful: unit 1 exploded during a fire test at the Kummersdorf Army Research Center , unit 2 made two successful starts on Borkum in 1934 and unit 3 had four false starts in December 1937 . Only the direct successor, Aggregat 5 , was successful in 1938. Unit 4 was developed from 1939 and tested for the first time in March 1942. On October 3, 1942, a successful start succeeded, with a top speed of 4,824 km / h (about Mach  4.5) a summit height of 84.5 km and thus for the first time penetrated into the border area to space. This was the first successful large rocket launch in human history. Due to several structural failures in flight, test starts began in June 1944, which were carried out vertically for the purpose of improved traceability. On June 20, 1944, an altitude of 174.6 km was achieved in a vertical take-off; The rocket thus clearly exceeded today's recognized space limit of 100 km (the Kármán line ) and was the first man-made object in space.

After the air raids by the Royal Air Force on Peenemünde (see Operation Hydra on August 17, 1943) it was decided not to carry out the training of the rocket troops and the testing of the A4 missiles in Peenemünde, but in south-east Poland outside the range of the Allied bombers: initially Inaccessible to the Western Allied bombers in the Sub- Carpathian region on the SS military training area Heidelager near Blizna in the Generalgouvernement , the exercises were later relocated to the SS military training area West Prussia in the Tucheler Heide north of Bromberg due to the advancing Red Army .

The population around Blizna was ruthlessly exposed to the A4 and Fieseler Fi 103 impacts. On-site leaflets only warned of dangerous fuel tanks, which were not bombs.

On May 20, 1944, members of the Polish Home Army seized parts of a crashed A4. The most important parts, together with the evaluations carried out in Poland, were flown to Brindisi on the night of July 25th to 26th, 1944 with a DC-3 of the RAF , which had landed near Żabno ( Operation Most III ). From there the parts came to London, which proved to the British government for the first time the existence of a German missile.

Test launches of A4 rockets were carried out from the HVA Peenemünde and Greifswalder Oie up to and including 20 February 1945.


Structure of the rocket "Unit 4"

The A4 rocket was 14 meters high and had a take-off mass of 13.5 tons when fully fueled. The single-stage rocket consisted of around 20,000 individual parts. The hull consisted of frames and stringers that were planked with thin sheet steel . The technology consisted of four assemblies:


The approximately 738 kg of explosives in an Amatol mixture were housed in the tip of the rocket. Since this heated up during the flight due to compression heat on the outer skin of the fairing, only explosives mixtures with an ignition temperature above 200 ° C could be used.


The stabilization and control was provided by the tail unit with the air rudders, which only took effect at higher speeds. Shortly after the start, the four graphite thrusters located directly in the gas flow were responsible for stabilization. All the rudders were moved by servo motors .

The A4 was one of the first missiles to be equipped with an inertial navigation system, which was very advanced for the time and which kept the set course automatically with two gyroscopes . The electrical energy for course control and rudder system was taken from the two on-board batteries that came from the Hagen plant of Accumulatoren Fabrik AG (AFA). The batteries were installed below the warhead in the equipment room, where the so-called "mixer" was also located, an electronic analog computer that evaluated the deviations from the transverse and lateral axes registered by the gyroscopes and controlled the servomotors of the jet and air rudders to correct course. In order to achieve better target accuracy, radio control was also tested in several experimental rockets, but this was not used in later use due to possible interference from the enemy.

The timer set at the start ensured that the angle of inclination of the gyro platform was changed after three seconds of burning time so that the rocket went from the vertical into an inclined flight path . An integration device (J device), which calculated the current speed based on the accumulated acceleration, switched off the engine at the correct speed in order to control the range. For this purpose, a value was set on the J device that could be taken from a shot table. The angle of inclination was the same with every shot. Before the launch, the rocket had to be placed exactly vertically on its launch table and rotated so that a specially marked fin pointed in the target direction.


The unit 4 was a liquid rocket and was propelled with a mixture of 75 percent ethanol and liquid oxygen . Under the direction of the engineer Walter Thiel , the best mixing ratio of the fuels, the injection nozzle arrangement and the shape of the rocket furnace were determined. A pump assembly was needed that could pump the large amounts of alcohol and liquid oxygen into the combustion chamber. An integrated steam turbine with an output of 600  hp was used to drive this double pump . In a steam generator, steam was generated by the catalytic decomposition of hydrogen peroxide using potassium permanganate . To convey the hydrogen peroxide, nitrogen compressed to 200  bar was on board in several pressure vessels; this also served to operate various valves. The gyro control and the precise and therefore very complex to manufacture pump unit were the two most expensive components of the A4.

The rocket had an initial thrust of 270 kN, corresponding to an output of 650,000 hp, and after a burning time of around 65 seconds reached its top speed of around 5,500 km / h, around Mach 5. The combustion gases left the kiln (rocket motor) at around 2,000 m / s. Since the entire flight lasted only 5 minutes with a range of 250 to 300 km, there was no way of defense against this weapon at the time.


Engine part of an A4 in the tunnel of the Dora-Mittelbau camp , 2012
Kohnstein, tunnel for the hull production of the V2, 1945

The production facilities for parts of the A4 were scattered all over Germany and Austria: under the cover name " Rebstock " near Ahrweiler an der Ahr, ground systems and vehicles for the rocket were produced underground in unfinished railway tunnels . Between 1942 and September 1944, production was also carried out in Oberraderach under strict secrecy . The area was cleared in January 1945 when French troops approached. Other suppliers were Gustav Schmale in Lüdenscheid , where parts of the combustion chamber were manufactured, and Accumulatoren Fabrik AG (AFA) in Hagen- Wehringhausen , which manufactured the special accumulators . At the beginning of 1944, an engine test stand began operating in the Redl-Zipf subcamp in the municipality of Neukirchen an der Vöckla .

In 1943, series production of the A4 took place in a total of four locations , which, according to Dornberger in a protocol to a meeting with Gerhard Degenkolb and Kunze, "was basically carried out with convicts". For this purpose, prisoners from the following concentration camps were called in : Buchenwald concentration camp (HVA Peenemünde from June), Dachau concentration camp ( airship construction Zeppelin “Friedrichshafener Zeppelinwerke” from June / July), Mauthausen concentration camp ( Rax works in Wiener Neustadt from June / July) and Sachsenhausen concentration camp ( DEMAG tanks in Falkensee near Berlin from March). Wernher von Braun personally selected individual scientific employees from among the prisoners in the Buchenwald concentration camp.

A total of 5,975 rockets were assembled from thousands of individual parts by forced laborers , concentration camp prisoners and German civilian workers during the Second World War .

On October 29, 1944, Dornberger was awarded the Knight's Cross of the War Merit Cross with Swords after using the V2 on the western front .

From 1944 onwards, the A4 was assembled in the subterranean complex of Mittelwerk GmbH in a tunnel in Kohnstein near Nordhausen by inmates from Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp . On average, around 5,000 inmates of the Mittelbau concentration camp were busy with the assembly under the supervision of around 3,000 civilian employees. Specialized imprisoned skilled workers and engineers from all over the Reich and the occupied states were also specifically brought in for the high-tech project. Although many of them were only deported to the Kohnstein after a manual examination, they did not expect better working and detention conditions there than in other concentration camps. Rather, they feared that they would no longer be released because of their insight into this state secret. How inhuman the treatment was at times by civil engineers is shown by a written instruction not to stab the prisoners with sharp objects if they miscarried. Nevertheless, there were repeated acts of sabotage, which, however, never seriously hindered the manufacture of the rocket. Although every second rocket turned out to be not fully functional during final acceptance and had to be improved, this was primarily due to the fact that the engineers from Peenemünde made structural changes almost daily, which significantly impaired the ongoing production process.


Corpses of concentration camp prisoners on the ground, Dora-Mittelbau barracks , April 11, 1945

According to cautious estimates, 16,000 to 20,000 concentration camp prisoners and slave laborers , most of them between the ages of twenty to forty, died between September 1943 and April 1945 in the Mittelbau-Dora camp complex and on liquidation or evacuation transports. Some 8,000 people lost their lives through the use of the weapon, the most in space London and Antwerp (s. U. Use ).

According to Jens-Christian Wagner, director of the Mittelbau-Dora Concentration Camp Memorial, “more prisoners were killed in the production of the weapon than [other victims] in its use. This is unique; I don't think there was any other weapon that claimed so many lives in production. ”The only V2 production engineer who was ever brought to justice was the DEMAG managing director and general director of Mittelwerk GmbH Georg Rickhey . Accused in the " Dachau Dora Trial " in 1947 , he was acquitted, although the co-accused prisoner functionary Josef Kilian testified that Rickhey was present at a particularly brutal mass strangulation of 30 prisoners on March 21, 1945 in Mittelbau-Dora .

In 1943 the Austrian resistance group around chaplain Heinrich Maier succeeded in having the exact drawings of the V2 rocket sent to the American Office of Strategic Services through connections to the Vienna city commandant Heinrich Stümpfl, who can probably be attributed to the resistance . Sketches of the location of V-missile manufacturing facilities in Peenemünde were also sent to Allied General Staffs in order to enable Allied bombers to strike air. The group was gradually recognized by the Gestapo and most of its members were executed.

Start list of the test starts in Peenemünde

Start of an A4 from test stand VII, summer 1943
A4 launch, test stand VII, March 1942
A4 at the start, test stand VII, 1943
Preparations for take-off of an A4, March 1942
Army research institute, relapse right next to the FR (E) (long-distance rocket train) on the siding, 1942
Model of the test bench VII
Trial starts in Peenemünde
No. date Burning time (s) Range (km) Remarks
1 16. Mar. 1942 - - Explosion upon ignition
2 June 13, 1942 36 1.3 rose about 4900 m until a fuel pump broke, rolled in flight, and crashed
3 Aug 16, 1942 45 8.7 broke the sound barrier, but then the tip broke off, flight time: 194 seconds
4th 0Oct 3, 1942 58 190 first successful flight, crashed into the sea after 296 seconds, summit height 84.5 km
5 Oct 21, 1942 84 147 Problems with the steam generator, flight time: 256 seconds
6th 0Nov 9, 1942 54 14th vertical ascent up to 67 km
7th Nov 28, 1942 37 8.6 staggered, lost fins
9 Dec 12, 1942 4th 0.1 explosion
10 0Jan. 7, 1943 - - Explosion upon ignition
11 Jan 25, 1943 64.5 105 too steep, rolled in flight
12 Feb. 17, 1943 61 196 Ascent too flat
13 Feb 19, 1943 18th 4.8 Fire in the stern
16 03rd Mar 1943 33 1.0 vertical ascent, stern explosion
18th 18 Mar 1943 60 133 too steep, rotation in flight
19th 25th Mar 1943 28 1.2 staggered, exploded
20th Apr 14, 1943 66 287 Crash in Pomerania
21st Apr 22, 1943 59 252 Crash in Pomerania
22nd May 14, 1943 62 250 Shutdown failed
26th May 26, 1943 66.5 265 Success, flight time: 349 seconds
25th May 26, 1943 40 27 Burns out after 40 seconds
24 May 27, 1943 55 138 -
23 0June 1, 1943 62 235 premature burnout
29 June 11, 1943 63.5 238 successful start
31 June 16, 1943 60.5 221 premature burnout
28 June 22, 1943 62.5 75 explodes after 70 seconds
30th June 24, 1943 65.1 287 first start from test stand X, shutdown failed
36 June 26, 1943 64.9 235 successful start
38 June 29, 1943 15th 3 Crash on airfield
40 June 29, 1943 63.6 236 Impact not observed
33 0July 1, 1943 - - Burn out after take-off, explosion
41 0July 9, 1943 4th 0.1 Crash on the pump house of test stand VII
34 0July 9, 1943 - - Burn out after take-off, explosion
- Aug 12, 1943 64 ? successful start
- 0Oct 6, 1943 68 ? successful launch with a duration of 272 seconds, first launch after the air raid on August 17, 1943
- Oct 21, 1943 63 ? successful start, flight time: 286 seconds
- 0Dec. 4, 1943 63 ? successful start, flight time: 286 seconds
- Dec 10, 1943 69 ? successful start, flight time: 247 seconds
- Dec 21, 1943 33 ? only partial success, premature failure of the engine, flight time: 104 seconds
- 0Jan. 7, 1944 43 ? exploded 43 seconds after takeoff
- Jan. 27, 1944 ? ? first test flight of a missile manufactured in Mittelwerk, failure
- 02nd Mar 1944 ? ? exploded
- 11th Mar 1944 59 ? successful start, flight time: 282 seconds
- 0Apr 5, 1944 ? ? exploded
- June 13, 1944 ? ? Crash in Sweden
- June 20, 1944 ? ? Vertical shot; as MW 18014 with the previous record height of 174.6 km and thus the first rocket to cross the Kármán Line , the internationally established limit of space.


  1. Unless otherwise stated, the start was from test stand VII .

No complete start lists are available for the period between July 1943 and February 1945. During a test launch on June 13, 1944 to test components of the waterfall anti-aircraft missile , an A4 missile launched from Peenemünde crashed in southern Sweden.


As early as the end of 1939, the draft was about a war missile for the attack. Hitler clearly threatened Great Britain in September 1940: "If they declare that they will attack our cities on a large scale - we will erase their cities!" In July 1941, Walter Dornberger promoted the new weapons system by referring to the "no longer existing air superiority " and thus pointed to the lost Battle of Britain . Hitler, who saw the "long-range missile" as the only remaining possibility for a direct attack on England, approved the development of the A4 up to operational readiness in August 1941, albeit without a corresponding level of urgency. At the end of March 1942, Dornberger specified the planning in such a way that “day and night at irregular intervals, regardless of the weather conditions, worthwhile destinations such as London, industrial areas, port cities, etc. be put under fire ".

From 1943 onwards, the Nazi leadership announced the use of new types of “ miracle weapons ” for attacks on England. These should be the military response to the ongoing air strikes against the German civilian population in the cities. The German war propaganda promoted the hope for the unique effectiveness of this technically completely new weapon, which should bring about the turning point in the war. It was important to ensure perseverance and fighting spirit at the front. The enthusiasm for the A4 rocket, which arose after the first successful missions from September 1944, soon evaporated because the hoped-for military turnaround did not occur. In his last radio speech on January 30, 1945, Adolf Hitler still promised himself a " final victory " through the increased use of "miracle weapons" despite the catastrophic war situation .

Damage from V2 attack, Camberwell Road, London, ca.1944

When the first A4 hit the London borough of Chiswick and not the city center itself on September 8, 1944 , Dornberger admitted that the A4 was an "inadequate" weapon. In spite of this, Propaganda Minister Goebbels immediately renamed the A4 V2 and propagated it as a "retribution weapon" V2. Equipped with warheads and from mobile launch ramps, London and later Antwerp were bombed with her ; London officially announced in retaliation for British bombing raids. The accuracy of the hit was low, but the sudden impacts without any warning had a previously unimaginable terrorizing effect ( demoralization ) on the population, which was completely different from the V1 , the flying bomb that had been fired since June 13, 1944. While it was still possible to trigger an air raid alarm during attacks by the V1 , this was almost impossible due to the high speed of the V2, as the sonic boom could only be heard after the sudden explosion.

A total of around 3200 A4 rockets were fired:

Start of a V2 from a forest near The Hague

1,039 rockets were launched from The Hague , mostly aimed at London. An Allied air raid on the launch pads on March 3, 1945 killed 510 people.

Reconstruction of an A4 rocket bunker, Northern France, September 1944

In France, several large bunkers were under construction or planned for the start of the A4, but their completion was unsuccessful as a result of bombing raids and the Allied invasion. The best known are the log house from Éperlecques , the domed structure from Helfaut - Wizernes and the facilities in the Cherbourg area .

In retrospect, the use of the V2 is primarily to be seen as a terrorist act against the enemy's civilian population, comparable to the Allies' area bombing of German cities. Military-tactical intentions were the eleven shells on the Ludendorff Bridge over the Rhine at Remagen and Erpel, which had been captured by the enemy, to prevent further penetration, as well as 1610 attacks on the seaport of Antwerp because of its importance for the supply of the enemy military. The impacts of the V2 rocket could significantly impede the transport of the Allies for at least a few weeks. But here, too, the civilian population suffered most. The last rocket in combat use was launched on March 27, 1945 by the German side against Antwerp.

After that, almost all A4 batteries were gradually dissolved. Nevertheless, preparations were made for the 8th special shooting. In addition, the former "teaching and testing battery 444", now renamed "teaching and testing department z. V. “, withdrawn from the mission in Holland on January 28, 1945 and ordered to rest and refreshment in Buddenhagen (Wolgast). From here, this department was relocated together with the “Trial Group” or the “Rethem Development Command” via Rethem (Aller) to the Kirchlinteln area ( Verden (Aller) district ). The aim of the special shooting was to "increase the center of gravity of accuracy and impact percentage". The target points were in the Wadden Sea east of the island of Sylt and between the Danish islands of Römö and Fanö . In the period from mid-March 1945 to April 6, 1945, around ten test rockets were fired from two launch positions. The control with the help of the guide beam steering was also used. After the withdrawal order of April 6, 1945 by General Hans Kammler , who presumably committed suicide on May 9, the “teaching and experimentation department z. V. ”from the“ position area Neddenaverbergen ”(today the municipality of Kirchlinteln, district of Verden / Aller) via the district of Duchy of Lauenburg to Welmbüttel in the district of Dithmarschen in Schleswig-Holstein, about 10 km east of Heide. Here the vehicles and special equipment that had been brought along and probably also some rockets, which had been delivered by a supply unit that was not known, were sunk or blown up in a bog. On May 1, 1945, 20 to 30 soldiers were deployed to a flak regiment in the Bargteheide / Trittau area. As of May 3, 1945, the last remaining and fully equipped A4 department was dissolved, as the remaining soldiers were officially dismissed by the superiors.

The use of the A4 as a terrorist instrument led to discussions in London about retaliation with chemical weapons .

In total, the use of the A4 missiles claimed more than 8,000 lives, mainly civilians. The greatest number of casualties in one fell swoop was on December 16, 1944 in Antwerp, when an A4 hit the packed cinema "Rex" and killed 567 people.

German developments

Size comparison: A4 (4th from left), A9 and A10 (right) A9 / A10, reconstruction
Size comparison: A4 (4th from left), A9 and A10 (right)
A9 / A10 , reconstruction

On January 24, 1945, a winged version of the A4 rocket, the A4b , was successfully launched for the first time in Peenemünde . It was supposed to reach twice the range of the A4, but crashed prematurely due to a broken wing. There were no further launches of this missile due to the war situation.

An ICBM was developed from 1943 until the end of the war in 1945 . This was designed as a two-stage long-range missile and was designated A9 / 10. It was about twice the size and height of the A4. The A9 / 10 consisted of two independent rockets, the A10 and the A9 , which remained connected to one another under a common shell until the burnt-out A10 rocket was detached. After the A10 burned out, the onward flight was to be taken over by the A9, which roughly corresponded to the plans for the later A4b. The projected range of this so-called "America missile", whose declared aim was to attack New York, was 5,500 km. However, the project did not get beyond the planning stage. The test stand VII of the HVA Peenemünde was dimensioned for the A9 / A10 rocket when it was built in 1938.

The former Reich Minister for Armaments and War Production Albert Speer later wrote about the evaluation of the V2 project: “Our most complex project was also our most pointless. Our pride and at times my favorite defense target turned out to be the only bad investment. "

After the war

The further development of rocket technology by the superpowers USA and USSR after the Second World War, with an extension of the range and an increase in the payload with rockets from both land and submarines , became a major driver of the increasing threat from the Cold War .

Starts in Cuxhaven

A4 on the Meillerwagen , a mobile launch pad, during Operation Backfire near Cuxhaven (autumn 1945)

In October 1945 the British had several A4 rockets launched by prisoners of war from former German launch units near Cuxhaven in order to demonstrate to representatives of the Allied occupying powers the “V2 miracle weapon” during launch ( Operation Backfire , →  rocket launches in Cuxhaven ). An initially secret documentary was also made, which can now be seen in the Peenemünde Museum.

In the USA

On March 29, 1945, the Americans fell into their hands on a military train at Bromskirchen station in Hesse, Germany, with ten complete A4 rockets of the artillery regiment zbV 901 (mot) with the mobile launch pads, fuel and operating instructions. This was discussed in detail in the Allied newsreels. The train was supposed to bring the rockets coming from the Westerwald on March 22nd via the Aar-Salzböde-Bahn to new positions in the Schelderwald area or near Marburg. These ten A4 were shipped three days later by the Americans from the port of Antwerp to the USA.

On May 2, 1945, Wernher von Braun put the armed forces of the United States and was, along with other scientists from his staff also in the United States brought ( Operation Paperclip ).

Around 100 captured A4s and parts of them were loaded by US troops at Mittelwerk Nordhausen before the Red Army marched in and also shipped to the USA. They stood at the beginning of a whole line of development in American rocket technology and thus to the space developments in the USA. One copy is in the National Air and Space Museum in Washington (DC), another came back to Germany on the occasion of filming in the late 1950s and is now in the Deutsches Museum in Munich.

As early as 1946, test launches with A4 rockets took place, in which the Army made the space occupied by the warhead available to scientists. In June, for example, a rocket brought measuring instruments, including a Geiger-Müller counter tube for measuring cosmic radiation, temperature and pressure measuring devices, a spectrograph and radio equipment to an altitude of 107 kilometers.

On February 20, 1947, rye and cotton seeds as well as fruit flies were transported to an altitude of 109 kilometers and were described as the first organisms ever to enter space. In June 1949 another A4 was used to transport a mammal, the rhesus monkey Albert II, to an altitude of approx. 130 km for the first time. On return, the parachute did not open and the rhesus monkey died.

The modification of the A4 with a corporal rocket as the second stage was called bumper . On February 24, 1949, the upper stage of a bumper reached a height of 393 kilometers. The first rocket launches from Cape Canaveral in Florida were carried out with bumper missiles in 1950 .

In Huntsville (Alabama) a first center for rocket development was founded with the Redstone Arsenal , where a total of 67 A4 rockets were launched together with German scientists. They formed the starting point for the three-stage Redstone missile, flown from 1953, with a thrust of 347 kN and a burn time of 135 s in the first stage, which was put into service as a military ballistic missile. This was further developed under the direction of Wernher von Braun and first flown in 1956 in the research version Jupiter-C and later used as Juno I for the launch of the first American satellite Explorer 1 into space. This resulted in various further developments of war weapons, but ultimately also the Saturn V rockets for the first moon landing with Apollo 11 in July 1969.

As part of Operation Sandy , on September 6, 1947, the launch of an A4 from the flight deck of the American aircraft carrier Midway succeeded in launching a long-range missile from a ship for the first time.

In the Soviet Union

As early as August 1944, when the Soviet Union conquered the test site in Dębice, Poland, wreckage of dismantled A4 rockets and the remains of dismantled launching systems fell into their hands and made it possible to collect the first basic technical data on the German rocket program. During the occupation of Peenemündes on May 5, 1945, the Red Army took possession of a complete V2. After the US occupation troops had handed over the area around Nordhausen and thus also the facilities of Mittelwerk GmbH to the Red Army under the military leadership of Dmitri Ustinow in accordance with the agreements of the Potsdam Agreement at the end of June 1945 , the Soviet Union founded the Rabe Institute in July 1945 (Rocket construction and development) in Bleicherode , in order to restore the construction documents of the A4 including the on-board equipment of the steering system under the direction of Boris Tschertok and to enable the complete production of the A4 in the Soviet occupation zone . In September 1945, the Soviet authorities recruited Helmut Gröttrup , who for them was the most important person with experience from Peenemünde, as head of the Gröttrup office , who was soon joined by other top-class researchers who were able to reconstruct the components of the A4, including Werner Albring for aerodynamics and Kurt Magnus for the gyro control. In February 1946 the Rabe Institute and the Gröttrup Office were merged to form the Nordhausen Institute (also known as Zentralwerke ) under the direction of Major General Lev Gaidukow and the Soviet space pioneer Sergei Koroljow as chief designer. The German management was given to Helmut Gröttrup as General Director. In September 1946, more than 5,000 German employees and 700 Soviet employees worked to restore the calculations and construction documents for the A4 and to resume production of the A4 and its components, including the necessary test procedures. Valentin Gluschko headed the testing of A4 engines in Lehesten in the Thuringian Forest and later became chief designer of the Soviet rocket engines.

With the Ossawakim campaign on October 22, 1946, around 160 selected scientists from the Nordhausen Institute and their families, a total of around 500 people, were forcibly moved to the Soviet Union, first to Podlipki (around 20 km northwest of Moscow) and then gradually to the island Gorodomlija (approx. 380 km northwest of Moscow) to support the Soviet replica of the A4 with the newly founded branch 1 of the research and development facility for space missiles NII-88 and to analyze problems that arise. In addition, all production facilities in the Soviet occupation zone were dismantled and shipped to the Soviet Union. The 5 A4 completely assembled in Bleicherode as well as replica parts for a further 6 rockets were brought to the newly created Kapustin Jar rocket test site and tested there. The first successful start of an A4 took place on October 18, 1947.

On October 17, 1948, the first successful launch of an R-1 rocket built entirely in the Soviet Union took place as a copy of the A4. The R-1 had to use partially modified materials because not all of them were available in the Soviet Union, and in individual cases, such as sealing materials, had to use original German parts. However, through other improvements suggested by the German scientists, it was able to achieve a comparable range and payload.

The reconstructed and improved A4 thus formed an essential basis for the beginnings of Soviet space technology and missile weapons. During the work of the German collective in Gorodomlija, a number of other decisive improvements were worked out until 1949, including: a. the use of the tanks as a load-bearing outer shell to reduce weight, the conical shape of the rocket for better flight stability in all operating conditions, the bundling of many parallel engines into a large rocket, the vector control of the engines instead of the elaborate thrusters made of graphite and the separation of the payload from the burned-out one Launcher. These ideas were successively implemented and developed to maturity by the Soviet engineers under the direction of Sergei Koroljow. The western secret services underestimated the Soviet progress despite clear indications from the returnees from Gorodomlya. There were indications that the Soviet scientists, because of “their love for rocket technology” and “their appreciation of German work”, might well be the first to have long-range missiles at their disposal.

The rocket used on October 4, 1957 to launch the first Sputnik 1 satellite based on the R-7 ICBM had clear similarities to the components of the A4 and to the ideas of the German collective, especially the G-4 or R concept, which was most recently developed -14. The R-7 reached a thrust of 3,900 kN at takeoff, which corresponds to approximately 4 × 4 = 16 bundled A4 engines. The Soyuz missiles used today are based on the technology of the R-7 and are considered to be very reliable.

In France

Véronique rocket in Reggane, Algeria (1962)

After the end of the Second World War, the French secret service tried to recruit German scientists for their own developments in rocket technology, but was at a disadvantage compared to the long-planned operations of the American and British secret services. Nevertheless, they were able to poach some specialists in Bad Kissingen , where German scientists were temporarily interned, and after the completion of Operation Backfire . a. Otto Müller for the rocket drive and Rolf Jauernik for the rocket control. Initially, the German specialists worked in Emmendingen in the French-occupied zone, and later in the Laboratoire de recherches balistiques et aérodynamiques (LRBA) in Vernon in Normandy . Projects to replicate the A4 and develop an A9 have been canceled. From March 1949, the LRBA designed a much smaller sounding rocket , the Véronique (VERnon-électrONIQUE) with only 40 kN thrust as the first airworthy liquid rocket in France.

In Great Britain

The United Kingdom was initially interested in the German missiles that had bombed London, and in the summer of 1945 directed Operation Backfire in Cuxhaven for its own technical analysis. At the end of 1946, efforts by the British Interplanetary Society for an independent further development of the A4 with the Megaroc project for the launch of a manned capsule were rejected by the government due to a lack of military use. From 1954 there was a collaboration with the USA to develop the medium-range missile Blue Streak , which was terminated in 1960 due to cost overruns.

Other events

As part of the Ansari X-Prize, the Canadian Arrow company planned an A4 rocket lengthened by two meters, which should bring a capsule with three passengers to 100 km and land using parachutes. It was voted the most beautiful rocket in the competition by the jury.

An official ceremony of the German aerospace industry under the patronage of the then federal government on the 50th anniversary of the first flight of the A4 was canceled at short notice due to international protests. Abroad, the A4 large rocket was closely associated with the Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp, where concentration camp prisoners also built the rocket in series.

Museum reception

True to the original painting Woman in the Moon of the V2 replica in the HIT Peenemünde

In the Military History Museum of the Bundeswehr in Dresden a completely preserved V2 rocket is erected in the permanent exhibition. There is also a complete A4 rocket in the aerospace department of the Deutsches Museum in Munich. The Army History Museum in Vienna has a V2 engine in the permanent exhibition “Republic and Dictatorship” (Hall VII), which was recovered shortly after the end of the war from Lake Toplitz , where numerous weapons tests were carried out between 1943 and 1945. The German Museum Flugwerft Schleißheim , the Defense Technology Study Collection in Koblenz and the German Museum of Technology Berlin each have an A4 engine on display. Connections and backgrounds are documented in the permanent exhibition of the Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp memorial (Nordhausen); Visits to the underground facility are possible.

See also


  • Ralf Blank : Energy for “retaliation”. Accumulatoren Fabrik AG Berlin-Hagen and the German missile program in World War II. In: Military History Journal . 66 (2007), pp. 101-118.
  • Volkhard Bode, Gerhard Kaiser: Missile tracks. Peenemünde 1936-2000. A historical report . Ch. Links, Berlin 2000, ISBN 978-3-86153-239-2 (212 pages).
  • Stefan Brauburger : Wernher von Braun - A German genius between delusion and rocket dreams. Pendo, Munich 2009, ISBN 978-3-86612-228-4 .
  • Franz Josef Burghardt : Spies of Retribution. The German defense in northern France and the secret service securing of the launching areas for V weapons in World War II. A socio-biographical study. Schönau 2018. ISBN 978-3-947009-02-2 .
  • Walter Dornberger: Peenemünde. The history of the V-weapons . Ullstein, Frankfurt am Main 1989, ISBN 978-3-548-33119-5 (352 pages).
  • TD Dungan: V-2. A Combat History of the First Ballistic Missile. (Weapons in History), Westholme Publishing, 2005, ISBN 1-59416-012-0 content ( Memento from July 21, 2010 in the Internet Archive )
  • Rainer Eisfeld : Moonstruck: Wernher von Braun and the birth of space travel from the spirit of barbarism . Rowohlt, Reinbek bei Hamburg 2000, ISBN 3-499-60943-6 (296 pages).
  • Joachim Engelmann: Secret armory Peenemünde. V2 - "Waterfall" - "Butterfly". Podzun-Pallas-Verlag, Friedberg, ISBN 3-7909-0118-0 .
  • Heinz-Dieter Hölsken: The V weapons: origin, propaganda, war effort . Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, Stuttgart 1984, ISBN 3-421-06197-1 (271 pages).
  • Dieter Hölsken: V weapons. Development and use in World War II . Fi 103 flying bomb and A4 rocket. Motorbuch, Stuttgart 2001, ISBN 978-3-613-02145-7 (350 pages).
  • Uli Jungbluth : Hitler's secret weapons in the Westerwald and adjacent areas. (=  Workshop contributions to Westerwald No. 2 ). Westerwald History and Culture Workshop, January 1, 1996, DNB  948504145 (144 pages).
  • Ruth Kraft : Island without a beacon. The great novel about Peenemünde, Hitler's V weapons and a young woman . Torgauer Verl.-Ges., Berlin 2004, ISBN 978-3-930199-13-6 (406 pages).
  • Kurt Magnus : Rocket Slaves. German researchers behind red barbed wire . Elbe-Dnjepr-Verlag, Klitzschen 1999, ISBN 978-3-933395-67-2 (360 pages).
  • Georg Metzler: A secret matter of command. Missile armament in Upper Swabia - the Saulgau subcamp and V2 (1943–1945). Wilfried Eppe, Bergatreute 1996, ISBN 3-89089-053-9 .
  • Jürgen Michels; Olaf Przybilski: Peenemünde and its heirs in East and West: Development and way of German secret weapons . Bernard & Graefe, Bonn 1997, ISBN 978-3-7637-5960-6 (333 pages).
  • Michael J. Neufeld: The rocket and the realm. Wernher von Braun, Peenemünde and the beginning of the rocket age . Henschel, Berlin 1999, ISBN 3-89487-325-6 (416 pages, American English: The Rocket and the Reich: Peenemünde and the Coming of the Ballistic Missile Era New York . First edition: Free Press, 1995).
  • Karsten Porezag: A secret matter of command. History of the "V weapons" and secret military actions of the Second World War on Lahn, Dill and Westerwald, documentation. 2nd revised edition. Verlag Wetzlardruck, Wetzlar 2003, ISBN 3-926617-20-9 .
  • Olaf Przybilski: The secret of the German rockets and rocket-propelled aircraft . In: Searching for traces . tape 10 . Podzun-Pallas, Wölfersheim 2002, ISBN 978-3-7909-0763-6 .
  • Thomas Pynchon : The ends of the parable . Rowohlt, Reinbek bei Hamburg 1981, ISBN 978-3-499-13514-9 (1200 pages, English: Gravity's Rainbow . 1973. Translated by Elfriede Jelinek , Thomas Piltz).
  • Niklas Reinke: History of the German space policy. Concepts, influencing factors and interdependencies: 1923–2002. Oldenbourg, Munich 2004, ISBN 3-486-56842-6 .
  • Gerhard Reisig: Rocket Research in Germany. How humans conquered space. Klaus Lenser agency, Münster 1997, ISBN 3-89019-500-8 .
  • Herbert Ringlstetter: Unit 4 / V 2 restart. In: Flugzeug Classic , December 2018, pp. 30–35
  • Johannes Weyer : Wernher von Braun . In: Rowohlt monograph . Rowohlt Taschenbuch, Reinbek bei Hamburg 1999, ISBN 978-3-499-50552-2 (160 pages).

Web links

Commons : Aggregate 4  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Commons : White Sands Missile Range Museum  - Album of Pictures, Videos and Audio Files

Individual evidence

  1. a b Michael J. Neufeld: The rocket and the realm. Wernher von Braun, Peenemünde and the beginning of the rocket age .
  2. London "V 2" fantasies. In:  Kleine Wiener Kriegszeitung , December 10, 1944, p. 2 (online at ANNO ).Template: ANNO / Maintenance / kwk
  3. ^ Johannes Weyer: Wernher von Braun. rororo, Hamburg 1999, p. 32 ff.
  4. ^ A b Rainer Eisfeld : Moonstruck. Wernher von Braun and the birth of space travel from the spirit of barbarism. Paperback, 2012, ISBN 978-3-86674-167-6 , p. 142.
  5. ^ K. Gatland: Project Satellite. Allan Wingate Limited, London 1958.
  6. David Irving: Company Crossbow. (PDF 2.62 MByte) The fight of the British secret service against Germany's miracle weapons. In: Der Spiegel 47/1965. November 17, 1965, accessed May 4, 2019 .
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  8. Roger Ford: The German secret weapons of the Second World War. Eggolsheim 2008, ISBN 978-3-89555-087-4
  9. Helmut Hölzer: Helmut Hoelzer's Fully Electronic Analog Computer used in the German V2 (A4) rockets. (Word) with comments by James E. Tomayko. Annals of the History of Computing, July 1, 1985, accessed on May 10, 2019 (German, English, Early 1990 Dr. Helmut Hoelzer gave a talk at the ”Museum for Transport and Technology” in Berlin (now known as: Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin)).
  10. Information about the mixer. collected by "Stichting Centrum voor Duitseverbindingen en aanverwante Technologieën". Retrieved December 30, 2012 .
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  13. Cf. Christoph Bach: The government bunker and its history. Eifel-Verlag, Jünkerath 2016, pp. 18-25 (rocket parts in the “Rebstock” concentration camp).
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  15. ^ Lüdenscheider News ; March 25, 2006.
  16. ^ Ralf Blank: Hagen 1939-1945. Accumulatoren Fabrik AG Berlin-Hagen (AFA). Historical Center Hagen, accessed on May 9, 2019 .
  17. ^ Rainer Eisfeld: Moonstruck. Wernher von Braun and the birth of space travel from the spirit of barbarism. Paperback, 2012, ISBN 978-3-86674-167-6 , p. 106 f.
  18. ^ Rainer Eisfeld: Moonstruck. Wernher von Braun and the birth of space travel from the spirit of barbarism. Paperback, 2012, ISBN 978-3-86674-167-6 , p. 106.
  19. Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp 1943–1945. Accompanying volume for the permanent exhibition at the Mittelbau-Dora Concentration Camp Memorial. Göttingen 2007, p. 49 f.
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  23. See Hansjakob Stehle: The spies from the rectory. In: Die Zeit of January 5, 1996.
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  27. Hellmuth Vensky: Second World War: Adolf Hitler wants to "erase" the British cities. In: Zeit Online. December 29, 2010, accessed March 27, 2016 .
  28. Bernd Leitenberger: The A-4 (V2) rocket. Retrieved November 22, 2019 .
  29. German Historical Museum Berlin: The “wonder weapons” V1 and V2.
  30. Audio to Die Rakete V2 - Hitler's miracle weapon. ( Memento from March 23, 2016 in the Internet Archive )
  31. a b c Peter Schiller, Hans Rahlf: The air force at the end of the war in Schleswig-Holstein: airports, units of the air force, V weapons in northern Germany. History working group in the Trave-Land Office (ed.), Duderstadt 2008, ISBN 978-3-936318-67-8
  32. ^ Federal Archives - Military Archives Department, RH 8/1265.
  33. ^ Federal Archives - Military Archives Department, RH 24 - 30/272.
  34. Federal Archives - Military Archives Department, RH 8/1307, No. 160.
  35. Home calendar for the district of Verden 2011 and 2012
  36. ^ Federal Archives - Military Archives Department, RH 24-30 / 274 fol 83.
  37. Dithmarscher Landeszeitung from May 14, 2003.
  38. Albert Speer: Memories. Ullstein-Verlag, 1969.
  39. Jürgen Michels; Olaf Przybilski: Peenemünde and its heirs in East and West: Development and way of German secret weapons . Bernard & Graefe, Bonn 1997, ISBN 978-3-7637-5960-6 (333 pages).
  40. V2 rocket Vergeltungswaffe 2. (Video, 21:00 min) Retrieved on May 10, 2019 (English).
  41. A Digest Of War News 1945. (Video, 4:23 min) May 8, 1945, accessed on May 10, 2019 (English, newsreel with film about the transport of the V2 (from approx. 0:30 to 1:00)) .
  42. Horst W. Müller: A mysterious train crossed the hinterland in 1945. Hinterland history sheets, No. 1, Biedenkopf March 2005, p. 127.
  43. Karsten Porezag: Secret command matter . History of the "V weapons" and secret military actions of the Second World War on Lahn, Dill and Westerwald, documentation. 2nd revised edition. Wetzlardruck, 2003, ISBN 3-926617-20-9 , pp. 326-344.
  44. ^ The Upper Atmosphere Rocket Research Panel
  45. Constance McLaughlin Green, Milton Lomask Project Vanguard: The NASA History , Courier Corporation, 2012, ISBN 978-0-486-14153-4 on page 6
  46. Upper Air Rocket Summary V-2. February 20, 1947, accessed May 10, 2019 .
  47. a b Space history: The animal heroes of space travel. Zeit Online, March 25, 2011, accessed May 10, 2019 .
  48. Ulli Kulke : '69: The dramatic race to the moon . Langen Müller, Munich 2018, ISBN 978-3-7844-3452-0 (240 pages).
  49. a b c d e Matthias Uhl : Stalins V-2. The technology transfer of German radio controlled weapons technology to the USSR and the development of the Soviet missile industry from 1945 to 1959 . Dissertation with reproduction of many original documents. Bernard & Graefe Verlag, Bonn 2001, ISBN 978-3-7637-6214-9 (304 pages).
  50. ^ Peter Hall: Topics for the Rabe Institute. Retrieved on May 13, 2019 (tasks and organization of the RaBe institute and the central works).
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  52. ^ Peter Hall: Biography Lev Michailowitsch Gaidukow (1911-1999). Retrieved August 13, 2019 .
  53. ^ Peter Hall: German employees at the Nordhausen Institute. Retrieved August 13, 2019 .
  54. ^ Anatoly Zak: Tests in Kapustin Yar. Retrieved on August 24, 2019 .
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  56. Boris E. Tschertok: Rockets and people . German missiles in Soviet hands. tape 1 . Elbe-Dnjepr-Verlag, Mockrehna 1998, ISBN 978-3-933395-00-9 (492 pages).
  57. ^ Paul Maddrell: Gateway to the Soviet Union: The Occupation of Germany and the Spying of the USSR by the British Intelligence Service. (PDF; 1.92 MB) In: Vierteljahrshefte, Volume 51, Issue 2. Institute for Contemporary History, 2003, pp. 35–36 , accessed on June 17, 2019 : “Based on the messages, the Gröttrup and other“ Dragon Returns ” did, the British and Americans came to the conclusion in September 1954 that there was indeed a separate Soviet program for guided missiles. "
  58. ^ Paul Maddrell: Spying on Science: Western Intelligence in Divided Germany 1945-1961 . Ed .: Oxford University Press. 2006, ISBN 978-0-19-926750-7 (English, 344 pp., Detailed insight of British intelligence and spying during the Cold War, especially the Operation Dragon Return for interrogating returned scientists like Helmut Gröttrup).
  59. a b Development of guided missiles at Bleicherode and Institut 88. (PDF; 1.1 MB) In: CIA Historical Collection . January 22, 1954, accessed on August 24, 2019 (English, extensive summary of the work results of the German collective in NII-88): “Besides this love for rocket technique, there exists a second mental consideration which affects Soviet decisions, and that is respect for work in the West, especially German work. Data emanating from Germany were regarded as almost sacrosanct. "
  60. Uwe Rätsch; Daniel Maurat: Sputnik. Retrieved May 5, 2019 .
  61. ^ Franz Kurowski : Allied hunt for German scientists - The Paperclip company . Kristall bei Langen-Müller, Munich 1982, ISBN 3-607-00049-2 , p. 115–119 : “After all, 120 German specialists lived in the Wittelsbacher Hof in Bad Kissingen, some with their families. US guards guarded the hotel from all sides. Nevertheless, two French intelligence officers managed to penetrate the Wittelsbacher Hof and, going from room to room, to discuss things with the researchers. They promised them golden mountains if they came to France. By the time the Americans intervened, it was already too late. Some scientists were convinced and went with the French. "
  62. Otto Müller: Dossier pour Mr Hautefeuille. (PDF; 884 kB) January 1987, accessed on October 28, 2019 (French, information on the German scientists who have worked in the cadre of the Laboratoire de recherches balistiques et aérodynamiques (LRBA) in Vernon since 1947).
  63. Mark Wade: Megaroc. In: astronautix.com. Retrieved July 24, 2020 .
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  65. ^ Manfried Rauchsteiner , Manfred Litscher (Ed.): The Army History Museum in Vienna. Graz / Vienna 2000, p. 82.
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