Wednesday, July 20, 2011

BBC History 2011-07

Londoners never forget the sound of Hitler's revenge. First came that hideous burping noise of the approaching pulsejet; then the nerve-racking silence after the motor cut out and the robot plane dived to earth; and finally the ear-shattering explosion. The noise of a V1 flying bomb was haunting, but what was worse was the deadly silence of the V2 ballistic rocket. Plunging to earth at almost four times the speed of sound, you did not know about the attack until you heard the warhead detonate - unless of course you happened to be too close to the point of impact, in which case you never heard anything at all. Germany's propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels, dubbed the V1 s and V2s the Vergeltungswaffetiy or retaliation weapons. From June 1944 to March 1945, the V weapons tormented Londoners. Some 2,419 V1 flying bombs reached the city and claimed 6,184 lives and injured 18,000 people. Another 517 V2 rockets hit London, killing 2,700 people and injuring over 6,500 more. Although London was the main British target of the V weapons, other targets including Portsmouth, Manchester and Norwich were also hit. Apart from the cost in lives and injuries, the V weapons struck at British morale in the final stage of the war. While Allied forces began to squeeze the life out of the Reich from east and west, Londoners started to feel that victory belonged to them. Then, from out of the blue, came Hitlers high-tech revenge. The German army started experimenting with small rockets in the early 1930s, and large-scale research and development began in 1936. The strategy of using mass attacks with big rockets to win wars first caught Hitler's enthusiasm in August 1941.