Sunday, December 27, 2015

Documentary Review: Nazi Mega Weapons: V-2 Rocket Bases (2013)

This is a PBS series aired in 2013.  It described the roll of Wernher von Braun in the development of the rocket.  His initial goal was to build a rocket to assist men to get to the moon.  However his ideas were taken by the Nazis in a different direction.  A secret experimental base was established.  Then followed many failed experiments.  There were no computer generated rehearsal at this time, just trial and error, and poor visual of the results.  They finally had some positive results after a couple years, and Hitler wanted the rockets to start rolling out.  However the Allies had discovered the base, and bombing raids left this facility vulnerable.  An alternative was found in Germany.  Close enough to England for the rockets to hit, but this was an abandoned mine, so the facility would be underground.  By this time the Nazi labor resources were limited, so the construction and assembly of the rockets fell to forced labor.  The rockets still had problems.  80 percent of them would launch correctly, but then would go off in strange directions.  von Braun needed more information about the cause of the problem.  However watching the rockets in flight was very difficulty.  He finally risked his own life to get a better look, and realized the hulls of the rockets were buckling from the forces of supersonic speed.  He had to reinforce the hull.  Also the production method had caused some damage to the hull and this was changed.  
A special roof was on the launch facility, with a domed roof off of which most bombs would bounce off.  However larger bunker busting bombs were used against this facility and the launch site was no longer adequate.  Finally it was determined mobile launchers would be used.  It was only late in the war that the V-2 was finally used against England.  It had a very destructive effect.  However it was already too little too late.  Had the V-2 been in operation just six months earlier, it may have stopped D-day.  As it was, the Allies were already threatening any spot from which the rockets could be launched against England.  In all about 3000 such rockets were launched against England and Belgium.  They resulted in loss of life of about 6000 people, about two per rocket.  At a cost of billions of dollars, the program did not prove effective in terms of economic success.  Had Hitler used this money for conventional weapons, the result of the war may have been different.  However he was looking for a super weapon.
After the war, von Braun and 100 V-2 rockets were shipped to the United States.  In the States von Braun was able to work on his original goal, of landing a man on the moon.  He was instrumental in helping the U.S. land someone on the moon.

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