Wednesday, December 24, 2008
This Day in the Long History of German Advances in the Technology of Warfare
On this day in 1942, the first powered flight of a V-1 cruise missile took place. Of course, the Germans didn't call it a cruise missile. It was unguided and had a timer to turn off the engine so that it would fall to the earth and explode somewhere on England. The engine (in red in the photo) was a pulse jet, which had two screens in front, one of which rocked back and forth many times per second. When the holes lined up, air was taken in and the fuel sprayed into the combustion chamber, when the holes didn't line up, the fuel air mixture was ignited and the gas expanded out the only way open to it and the thing flew. The rapidly stuttering burning of fuel created a buzzing sound so the Brits called it a buzz bomb. Its warhead in the lower area consisted of a ton of explosives. About 9,000 were used against Britain, of which only 2,000 some reached the target, causing about 6,000 casualties but the displacement of over a million and a half people out of the London area, at least for a short time. Good weapon, but slow. The V-2, a real liquid fueled rocket also carrying a ton of explosives was hypersonic and killed about ten times as many civilians because it was unstoppable and arrived with no warning.