Book 'V2-VERGELTUNG' from The Hague
The Allied countries recognised the enormous importance of the German V2. At the end of the war they went to great lengths to get hold of the V2 technology and the technicians involved. The fact that most rocket technology was in the future Eastern or Soviet zone complicated the matter considerably for the Western Allies. Although key personnel tried to flee to the West to avoid being captured by the Russians a lot of the scientific equipment and a large number of rockets and rocket parts had to be left in the Eastern Zone.
In their attempts to acquire important German weapon technology and technicians, the Allies turned a blind eye to war crimes. When the Cold War came to a head in the sixties, very few of the scientists involved were accused of war crimes.
In a late reaction, former prisoners of Dora living in the USA protested28 against the nationalistic euphoria regarding the successful NASA space program. Due to that success, criticism regarding the 'dirty past' of the rockets and their designers had been pushed into the background. In the Dutch press critical articles were published. More and more evidence piled up and the anti- feelings were very strong. In 1977 Wernher von Braun died of cancer and consequently escaped to stand trial for his war crimes. Rudolph, the former production leader in Dora, was forced to leave the USA in order to escape judicial prosecution. His citizenship was thereby revoked29.
127 German rocket technicians, amongst them Wernher von Braun, were brought to the USA together with as huge amount of V2 parts. The operation was called ‘Project Paperclip’. 207 German technicians had applied for a job in the USA; 80 of them were refused because of their war crimes. One of those refused was Helmut Gröttrup, who consequently offered his services to the USSR. In White Sands Base in New Mexico the development of the rocket continued inherently based on the fundamental knowledge of the V2. The first static test took place on March 15th 1946, and on April 1st the first successful test flight was made. Between 1946 and 1952 67 V2 rockets were assembled and launched. A V2 trial rocket was launched on September 6 1947 from the US carrier Midway under the codename 'Sandy'.
As early as 1944 a V1 was captured in France and re-designed in the States. In January 1945 wind-tunnel tests were carried out, with the plan in mind to use it against Japan. When the V2 program commenced, there was no more talk of a launch at Japan; it was clearly at this moment that the arms race with the Soviet Union had begun.
In September 1946 Colonel Holger N. Toftoy, head of the US Army Rocket Development Division, underlined the enormous importance of the acquired German experience: ‘By using German V2 missiles …… our designers will save years of research and millions of dollars. We profit by the 12 years of intensive German research and gain practical knowledge of what not to do as well as what to do in developing the weapons which are revolutionizing the art of war’30.
Not all flights had a military purpose. On October 24th 1946 the first images were made from a V2, on which the curvature of the earth can be seen, and on July 26th 1948 pictures were taken of more than 1 million square kilometres of the surface of the earth.
A special unit - Team 163 - under the command of Colonel Cook operated in Germany to acquire as much rocket technology as possible. Under the code name ‘Operation Backfire’ the British obtained 75 rockets. Three of them were launched in Cuxhaven near Hamburg with the help of German personnel. These launches were documented extensively on photo and film.
On July 13th 1944 Churchill informed the Soviets by letter on the existence of the German long distance rockets. In September of the same year the Red Army captured Dembidze in Poland, a place with V2 test facilities. Although the Germans had destroyed the majority of their installations, a wreck of a V2 was captured. In the spring of 1945 the Polish resistance provided the Soviets with various rocket components, which were immediately removed by plane. A team of specialists under the supervision of V.F. Bolkovitinov managed to reconstruct the V2 rocket. The Soviets acquired parts to assemble about 1000 V2s through an operation called 'Ossavakim'. The production of V2 rockets was restarted at the end of May 1945 under the command of Stalin in the occupied parts of Eastern Germany. The German technicians worked on behalf of the Soviets with engineer Helmutt Gröttrup as their manager. As already noted after being refused by the Americans he had offered his services to the Soviets. Then suddenly on October 22nd 1946 Gröttrup's group was deported to the Soviet Union. In veiled imprisonment they produced the Russian style V2. In November 1953 the majority of the German technicians were sent back to the DDR32.
The NATO designation for the Soviet V2 rocket was SS-1a Scunner. An improved version was the 'SS-2 Sibling’ which was shown for the first time during the 1962 May-Day Parade in Kiev. The rocket techniques and the launching vehicles etc. were copies of the German originals.33
Up to this day people are used as hostages against air raids. This happened for example in 2003 in Bagdad. Inhabitants were deliberately forced to live in between factories and compounds to serve as ‘human shields’ against possible American air raids. On January 23rd 2003 it was announced that ten Dutch volunteers had offered themselves as human shields in Iraq. Their goal was to avoid a war and bombardments in which civilians could also become victims. The American marine Nichols was the leader of this particular peace mission, claiming he could recruit hundreds or even thousands of volunteers. Although a number of volunteers arrived in Iraq, it soon became clear that the regime wanted to use them to protect weapon depots and suchlike. Disillusioned, the human shields returned home. Their disillusionment became even greater when a number of American volunteers were persecuted for violating the UN embargo.
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First English edition, Almere – The Hague, August 2005
Translation: Dily Damhuis, Paul Fowlie, Sylvia en Johan van Oosten en Trees Teunissen.
Original Dutch version published, Almere – The Hague, September 2003 (2nd edition)