V-2 Rocket Launch, 1943

The V-2 rocket was developed in Germany during WWII – its technical name was Aggregat 4 (A4), but the name used in general parlance was Vergeltungswaffe 2 (Retribution Weapon 2) or ‘vengeance weapon’ – as it was assigned to attack allied cities in retaliation for allied fire bombings perpetrated against heavily populated German cities.

Although it was the the world’s first long-range strategic missile, it was also a major technological breakthrough in the development of large rockets. Innovations included a rocket engine burning liquid oxygen and alcohol, pioneered use of turbo-pumps to pressure-feed the propellants into the rocket’s combustion chamber, a radio guidance system, and a gyroscopic system which corrected any course deviations.  

After WWII, several V-2 rockets were appropriated by the US and the USSR and became the ultimate rocket teaching tool for both states and their individual space programs. On 24 October 1946, the first photo from space was taken from a V-2 launched by US scientists.


Oh wait!
It’s not flat!





Slave laborers at the Dora Concentration Camp building V2 rockets for Wernher Von Braun. More:

These photos were taken by a Nazi-sanctioned photographer for propaganda purposes (note the staging, skilled rather than manual labor, clean clothes, relatively healthy-looking prisoners), and they’re still painful to look at. I can’t imagine how horrific the reality was.

At a minimum, 20,000 laborers died constructing V-2s. At the Mittelwerk underground factory in Kohnstein, 250 laborers died per day.

An estimated 2,754 civilians were killed in London by V-2 attacks with another 6,523 injured, which is two people killed per V-2 rocket. However, this understates the potential of the V-2, since many rockets were misdirected and exploded harmlessly.