The historiography of the V-1 missile

Jonathan Beard's picture

In 1944 the Germans began launching both the V-1 cruise missile and the V-2 ballistic missile against London. Thanks to several factors, we know quite a bit about every aspect of the V-2. Walter Dornberger and Wernher von Braun both wrote about the early development of the rocket, and its use during the war. Michael Neufeld covered that same ground with a much more critical perspective. His book and others on Operation Paperclip and then the US space program provide lots of information about the postwar exploitation of German engineers and technology.  But there seems to very little about most aspects of the V-1. I have just read Colin Dobinson’s new book: Operation Diver: Guns, V1 Flying Bombs and Landscapes of Defence, 1944-45. It gives an extremely detailed account of how the gunners of AA Command dealt with the challenge of the buzzbombs. It provides a little on the German side of the battle, for instance how Oberst Max Wachtel of Flak Regiment 155, which fired the weapons, had to move north as Allied troops overran Northern France and Belgium after D-Day. I was able to discover that Wachtel enjoyed a sterling postwar career, as Flughafendirektor, managing the Hamburg Airport. But there seems to be almost nothing on the operational history of the V-1—the impact of Allied bombing raids on German operations, the abandonment of launch sites as Canadian units approached, the later use of He-111s as airborne launch vehicles—from the German side. And there also seems to be little in the way of books or articles on the postwar exploitation of the missile and its designers, though it is well known that the USSR and US, at least, tested captured buzzbombs and developed improved cruise missiles based on their design. Since the V-1 was a far more effective weapon in combat than the V-2, this is ironic. Have I overlooked some good sources on this story?

Categories: Query
Keywords: V-1, guided missiles, V-2

Phillips O'Brien's How the War Was Won (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2015) has an excellent analysis of Operation Crossbow and the impact of the V-1 on Allied and German operations and resources.

There is an extensive assortment of books covering the V-1. Start with the easy stuff. Get my three Osprey books and read the bibliographies for a listing of both books and government studies. Osprey New Vanguard 106 "V-1 Flying Bomb" (2005) is a succinct technical primer on the missile itself, and heavily based on archival records. Osprey Fortress 72 "German V-Weapon Sites 1943-45" (2008) covers the evolution of V-1 launch sites and explains how they operated. Osprey Air Campaign 5 "Operation Crossbow" (2018) covers the pre-emptive Allied air campaign against the V-1 sites as well as providing a summary of Operation Eisbar, the initial campaign by Flak-Regiment.155(W) against London. I have a copy of the Kriegstagebuch of FR.155(W) which formed the basis for the German side of the campaign account. The best single account of the technical aspects of the V-1 is Yannick Delefosse's "V1: Arme du Despoir" (the new 2011 edition from Lela, not the old one). If you want more detail on FR.155(W) once it was forced out of France and Belgium and back into Germany, see Wolfgang Guckelhorn's "V1-Eifelschreck" (Helios 2004). There is also a recent Dutch book on German missiles operations from the Netherlands, but it mainly focuses on the V-2. For a brief overview of US exploitation of the V-1, I have and Opsrey Vanguard due out next year on "US Guided Missiles of World War II" that has a short section on the Americanized V-1 in it. Soviet exploitation of the V-1 is covered in a variety of Russian aviation journals including the old Nevskiy Bastion and various books by Shirokorad. These are hard to locate short of haunting the bookshops in Russia. In any event, there is a short summary on the Soviet programs in my Osprey New Vanguard book. There is an extensive selection of books from the UK on various British aspects of the V-1 campaign, especially British defense efforts including both the AA defenses and fighter defenses. There is also a British account of the air-launched V-1 attacks, but it is very thinly sourced from the German side.

Jonathan Beard,

>> But there seems to be almost nothing on the operational history of the V-1—the impact of Allied bombing raids on German operations, the abandonment of launch sites as Canadian units approached, the later use of He-111s as airborne launch vehicles—from the German side.

This ought to scratch your itch. See:

Employment of V-weapons by the Germans during World War II.

Author Helfers, M. C.

Abstract The technical aspects of German V-weapons have been covered in literally hundreds of published books and magazine articles, not to mention the many classified studies which deal with them. The field commitment of V-weapons, the operational aspects of V-weapon units, the things a military historian looks for in this subject, have been hardly touched in existing literature. This monograph was an attempt to pave the way for such military history.

http://cgsc.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/p4013coll8/id/3...