Thursday, October 04, 2012

Remembering Adolf Hitler's Lethal V-2 Rocket 70 Years Later

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V-2 Rocket Launch - 1942

By Michael Marek

One of the most dangerous weapons during the Nazi regime was built in Peenemünde: the V-2 rocket - the second German "Vengeance Weapon," developed by Wernher von Braun, that killed thousands.

      October 3, 1942: For the first time in history, a missile makes it to outer space - from Peenemünde, on Usedom, an island in the Baltic Sea. The first successful launch of the Aggregat 4 rocket (A4) was one of the most dangerous technical breakthroughs at the time. The rocket reached four times the speed of sound, was able to transport explosives and is considered the prototype for all modern military and civilian booster rockets. It was in the harbor village of Peenemünde that German engineers, physicists and military personnel developed the so called "Vengeance Weapon" or V-2, the better-known name of the A4. Today, the former Nazi area has been turned into a museum.

The Peenemünde Historical Technical Museum (HTM) contains documents, original rocket parts, interviews with witnesses and documentary films. Right at the museum's entrance, visitors can spot the cigar-shaped A4 rocket. The HTM is the largest technical monument in the state of Mecklenburg-West Pomerania and one of the biggest German museums and centers of attraction for people from all over the world. Some 200,000 people visit the site every year.

The Nazis started building the production facility at Peenemünde in 1936 and temporarily employed up to 15,000 people - mostly forced and foreign workers. There was a tram on site that departed every five minutes. Scientists developed a high-duty motor under the direction of physicist Wernher von Braun that could transport one ton of explosives. Von Braun was given a professor title by Hitler, which was never revoked - not even in the US, where von Braun became NASA's deputy director in the 1970s. . . .

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