Rumors that the Nazis had developed a new weapon capable of traveling at a supersonic speed surfaced during the early 1940s, but Winston Churchill’s scientific advisor deemed the technology to be impossible. Yet, in 1944, the unthinkable happened: Britain came under a ballistic missile attack - courtesy of the German armed forces - from outside its borders. Hitler’s Rockets, by author and military historian Norman Longmate, recounts the history of this deadly weapon, featuring Englishman Steve West performing the text with his sonorous, dulcet voice.
Britain was the first country to ever suffer a ballistic missile attack from beyond its borders. This book tells the story of that attack. During 1942 and 1943, confusing rumours circulated about the German development of a 'giant rocket'. Most experts, including Winston Churchill's own scientific adviser Lord Cherwell, declared that such a weapon was impossible. It was only after the patient sifting of European intelligence that the most influential doubters were convinced such a weapon was being built. Then on 8 September 1944, the first V-2 landed in Chiswick. Between then and the final rocket impact on 27 March 1945, more than a thousand landed on British soil, killing nearly three thousand people and seriously injuring more than six thousand.
Arriving at supersonic speed, without warning, and with the defenses powerless against them they did enormous damage and had a serious effect on morale. In Hitler's Rockets, Norman Longmate tells the story of this technically brilliant weapon, the ancestor and forerunner of all subsequent ballistic missiles. He reveals the devious power-play within the German armed forces and the Nazi establishment which so influenced the creation of the rockets. He also shows through contemporary documents and protagonists' accounts how the British intelligence skillfully pieced together often contradictory evidence as it sought to establish the true nature of the threat.
©2009 Norman Longmate (P)2012 Audible, Inc.
Yes, absolutely. The book is a serious but accessible history of the V-2 program, covering the key developments in rocketry technology the made the V-2 possible in the late 1930s; the military and political imperatives that propelled its development by the Reich (but not by the allies) in the final years of the war; it's operational success and strategic failure; and ultimately, the V-2's role as the direct precursor of all strategic nuclear missiles, especially those which defined balance-of-power during the Cold War. It succeeds in doing all of this.
The level of technical detail is just-right for the average reader interested in learning more about this fascinating niche of warfare during WW II, and early modern ballistic rocketry more generally, and the pace is quick and entertaining. The book does not offer much if any new insight on military strategy and doctrines of Hitler and the Reich, but limits its scope to the V-2 program and it's impact (or lack thereof) on the air war in Europe.
Very good history. Well worth the credit.
Demons under the Microscope
Too little, too late, thank God.
This history of Hitler’s V2 rocket program is a well-researched, fact-abundant chronology of mankind’s first guided ballistic missile. It deals primarily with the period of 1941-45 and the efforts of the Nazis to develop/use it as a terror weapon and the British attempts to monitor its development and then, once it began to rain down on British cities, minimize its impact on morale. In this, the book succeeds mostly through its preponderance of facts, including an almost missile by missile account of devastation and causalities, interspersed with eyewitness statements. Clearly, Longmate has done his homework and my eyes were opened to both the scale of its use as well as the utter helplessness of the British to defend against/cope with it. What is lacking here though is really any compelling narrative to draw the reader in – Longmate does not offer much in terms of either the technical challenges the German scientists faced in developing it or the British in defending against it or the personalities, motives, and conflicts of the key figures on either side. Rather, what you get is a somewhat sterile chronological recap of events with perhaps the first quarter of the book devoted almost exclusively to the development of the V2 and the last three quarters to its effects as a weapon. A more adept writer might have found a way to interweave the two storylines throughout the book in order to create a more continuous and less fragmented narrative. Still, for those who want to know more about this small bit of WWII history, Hitler’s Rockets will satisfy but likely not delight
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