How Effective A Weapon Was the V-2 Rocket?

From what I read, not very! The fact is , this rocket was expensive to produce, carried a very small warhead, and was not very accurate (it had a very crude guidance system).
Given the great expense, would the Germans have been better off if they had built Messerschmidt fighters instead?
As I said, for 1944, the V-2 was a technical marvel-but it inflicted very little damage on its targets (relative to the cost).

It was a terror weapon, not a precision guided system. As such it achieved what it set out to do, namely to terrorize the British population with a weapon that they had no active defense against (they could shoot down bombers and even V-1’s, but nothing could touch the V-2’s).

Could they have spent the money better by buying more conventional weapons systems? Yes and no. Certainly they could have bought more bombers or fighters (or put more funds into R&D for both), and gotten more of those weapons systems than they got V-2’s, but they would still have been up against the issue of manpower…they didn’t have enough (trained) warm bodies to effectively crew substantially more bombers than they were already producing, and by '44 they had been basically bled white on veteran crews. So, a fire and forget rocket that instilled fear in their enemies and (at least in theory) could potentially attack their morale and will to fight probably seemed a good trade off, even if it was pretty expensive.


In addition to the effect on morale, we’d need to figure in how many Allied resources were diverted to the task of taking out the V-2’s launch and production sites.

You’re confusing effective with efficient.

V-2 was a very effective weapon. It could do quite a lot of damage and was more than accurate enough to do its job - kill civilians and frighten people. V-2s were, in fact, every bit as accurate as British strategic bombers, and arguably MORE accurate.

What it was not was efficient. It was absurdly expensive.

when you have slave labor available then the cost is materials. By conquering most of Europe Hitler had all the production facilities, natural resources, and labor of the captured nations. Had he stayed out of Russia he could have dedicated all that material on V2’s and jet fighters. In theory Hitler could bomb England continuously with no loss of life. If the Horten 2-29 had made it into production they would have had a 600 mph fighter with (4) 30mm cannons and a payload of 1000 lbs for bombs. It was a plywood constructed aircraft designed to be radar low observable.

Russia took a 14% loss of population from Hitler’s second front. I think it would have been worse for Great Britain if the machinery and resources of the Russian front was converted to V1’s, V2’s and jet fighters.

They had a fairly big investment in “wonder weapons” as a propaganda tool, both to intimidate the enemy and to encourage their populace when things looked bleak.

Can’t find a cite right now but have read several accounts of how up to the very end, lots of Germans could be heard to be saying “The Fuehrer has a Secret Plan/Secret Weapon” up his sleeve. And, sort of, he did, just not soon enough, not effective enough, not able to be built in large enough numbers, to turn the larger tide.

More accurate than a bomber?

Doesn’t look like it. Accurate enough to hit a big city is about as good as it got for the V-2 (which was good enough for its purpose).

I love learning about things like the disinformation effort mentioned in Whack-a-Mole’s excerpt. It may not be as dramatic as storming the beaches, but it saved lives.

You’re probably aware of the book, but Cryptonomicon is a great read if you’re into that sort of thing - and don’t mind that it’s fiction.

The other aspect is would they have been better off building Messerschmidt fighters. The answer is no- the 109 was already outdated. It was effectively a mid 30’s design and was past its use by date.

That would have helped if his enemies had only attacked him with airplanes, I guess.

The “gosh, Hitler could just have stayed out of Russia” line of thought is simply not reasonable. War with the Soviet Union was going to happen sooner or later. The Soviets hadn’t built the world’s largest armed forces just to hold parades.

Which is about as good as British strategic bombing ever got. Most of Bomber Command’s bombs did not come within five kilometers of the target.

Well, he might have been referring to the Me 262, but of course it had problems of its own.

But which one was more effective on its second mission?

This is been debated a lot at the Axis Forums, basically it comes down to it was a very good terror weapon and had it come earlier in the war it may have made a bit of a difference.

In the end it wouldn’t have been enough to bring the British to the knees, the Brits would’ve adapted to being attacked, much the same way Iraq adapted when it was bombed by our smart bombs.

After the inital terror wears off you can cope with most forms of bombings. But had it come a lot earlier it could’ve incited a decent panic in the UK and who knows what would’ve happened then.

According to my father, who lived through it, the V1 was far more effective as a terror weapon. With the V2 you never knew it was coming; with the V1, you could hear it, and when its engine cut you then got seriously worried.

The V-1 and V-2 rockets—Hitler’s “vengeance weapons”—were indeed effective instruments of terror. In fact, my mother, to this day, still lives with some consequences that terror.

Mom was in her early twenties during WWll, living in Kent, England—part of “Bomb Alley”. When Nazi Germany turned its attention to sustained bombing (the Blitz) of Britain for ~9-months ’40 – ’41, she and her mother (father died during WWI, the result of contracting a rare and lethal infection skinning rabbits as a cook in the army) were bombed out of three houses. On the third occasion, my mother and grandmother sustained serious injury and their dog, Buddy, was killed. Luckily a forth explosion was averted when the bomb—landing directly on their roof, it would have been fatal—proved to be a dud (rendered harmless by the US Army, we still have that bomb casing). The nighttime air-raid sirens, black-outs, scrambling for shelter and lit-up skies were very terrifying to the English civilians, to be sure.

But, as bad as the Luftwaffe bombings were, they did not compare to terror evoked by the V-1 (Doodlebug/Buzzbomb) and V-2 rocket campaigns Hitler thrust upon the English citizenry later in the war (’44-’45). According to mom, the rockets had a very distinct, hellish sound. However, the real terror wasn’t hearing the sound; it was anticipating when the sound would stop. “We’d huddle together in the dark, listening to the whir, whir, whir of an approaching buzzbomb and just pray that it didn’t stop when it was directly overhead—that meant it was out of fuel and was coming down to earth, fast and furious”. Mornings after raids, they had the grim chore of going through the neighborhood, assessing the damage and tallying the dead. On one occasion mom’s neighbor, the mailman, was blown into the next block…and a little into the block after that.

Thankfully, my dad, US Army Air Corps, swept mom off her feet and gave her something bright to think about during these times of darkness. They got married in Orpington at the end of the war. Mom’s favorite wedding gift: her brother Jack was released from a German POW camp just in time to attend the ceremony and give her away. Thanks to the not-quite 5-Star accommodations offered by his couple of years vacation at the camp, he was about 50lbs underweight and prematurely white haired, but the wedding photos show a proud man in a baggy suit with a very toothy smile.

It helps a lot to thwart the goal of terror campaigns if the affected citizenry has pluck and determination, and the English in WWll had plenty of both. Say’s mom, “during the raids, in the dark, we’d sing, dance and tell jokes—usually at Hitler’s expense”. But, no matter how much pluck and determination you have, some terror seeps into your mind and doesn’t let go. When I was young, in the ‘60’s, I used to wonder why my mother would always duck to the ground, cover her head and shake during thunderstorms. Later, my dad told me it’s because the thunder claps and lightening remind her of the bombs and rockets she endured. At 89, he still comforts her during storms.

Here’s a good account of doodlebugand the rockets.

Quartz, I (and I’m sure others) would be interested in learning more about your father’s wartime experiences with the V-1 and V-2 (and perhaps other WW-ll recollections), if you care to share. Sounds like he and me mum may have some shared memories (memories that are fading fast from our collective consciousness). How old was he and where did he live in ‘44/’45, for starters?

My father had a quiet war. He lived in West London. He had one too-close encounter with a V1 - he was near a tree on a hill and a V1 went underneath the branches and went on to hit a cinema. He was just too young to fight (and went into shipbuilding so didn’t do National Service). His home had minor bomb damage - I’ve seen the claim form. His parents, my grandparents, tried to help two Jews escape by ‘employing’ them as maids, though that failed (obviously the employment would have ceased the moment they arrived). That’s about it, really.

No intent to detract from your mum’s horrific experience, but the quote above contains a widely held misconception:

Contrary to legend, the V-1 did not crash when/because it ran out of fuel. The V-1 had a fairly clean form and would have glided quite some way after running out of fuel. The guidance system would have tried to maintain altitude rather than airspeed, so it would soon stall, but if it quit overhead, you’d have been safe.

The engine DID, in fact, quit just before and above impact on the early ones, but not due to exhaustion of the fuel supply. This was a design flaw that was later corrected. The intent of the design was that the engine would remain running, and they would power-dive into the target, and the later ones did that. But by this time the “crashes because it ran out of fuel” belief was so widely held that there was no hope of it changing.

Pulse jets are fuel hogs, and become worse when their intake valves wear…and the Argus valves typically were very near end of life when the reached the target. It would have been difficult to hit England, much less London or Kent by relying on an empty tank to stop the bombs. Of course extra fuel meant less payload, so there was not much fuel remaining at the target, and a few surely did run dry before they got there.

How it actually worked:

There was a small propeller that ran geared mechanical counter that counted downward to the target: An air driven odometer if you will. When this hit zero, the V-1 was placed into a hard dive. This same mechanism delayed the arming of the bomb for some miles so as to reduce the danger from a failed launch. I’m not sure the reason the engine quit, but it may be that this hard “pushover” maneuver threw the remaining fuel to the top of the tank, and allowed the engine to suck air long enough to kill it. Pulse jets are quite fussy in this regard.

These counters were subject to manufacturing tolerances, and compensation for winds had to be made based on weather reports, so while it was superior to trying to trying to predict fuel consumption, the mechanism was still quite far from accurate…bad enough to make the “fuel” myth nearly plausible.

Mass producing a standard weapon could have made a difference, hard to tell. Probably more so where tanks were concerned.

Why is this question in great debates? It’s not as it the moral dimensions are in doubt.

Well, you say that now, but wasn’t stalin very surprised when he was actually attacked by his fellow dictator? And he’d killed most of resourceful commanders because he was a paranoid murderer.

From what I’ve been told, the V1 was much less effective and could be taken out. But there had been some bad choices delaying the devellopment of the V2, which was something completely different.
I was also told more people died producing these rockets than got hit by them.