The V2 rocket was the world's first ballistic missile. It was
originally designated the A-4, as it was the fourth in a line of
rocket developments, however, Joseph Goebbel's propaganda
ministry renamed it Vergeltungswaffe 2 (Retaliation Weapon 2).
It was naturally shortened to V-2.
Engineer Werner von Braun was the driving force in the
development of the German ballistic missile program . He
became the director of the German Rocket Development Center in
Peenemunde. As an engineering student he was a member of
the Verein fur Raumschiffahrt (Society for Space Travel) and was
always interested in furthering the cause of rockets as a means
of space travel. At the request of the Reichswehr Ordnance
Department, he began work on rockets in 1932 upon graduation
from the Berlin Institute of Technology. The fledgling
Reichswehr's interest in rocketry was to legally get around the
restrictions on the number and size of artillery pieces laid out
in the Treaty of Versailles following WWI. Rockets were not
included as artillery pieces.
Unlike the V-1 developed by the Luftwaffe, which
flew low, and slow enough to be intercepted by fast aircraft,
the V-2 was a true, guided, ballistic missile, rising into the
stratosphere before plunging down to the target. The only
warning of an approaching V-2 was the double boom as it broke
the sound barrier shortly before impact. There was no defense
against the V-2, so the English went after the launching sites.
They did this very effectively in the Pas de Calais so that only
mobile V2s could be launched. None of these systems were ever
The U.S. War Department was very interested in this new
weapon. After the army occupied the Peenemunde base, all
the remaining V-2s were shipped back to the United States, along
with many of the German scientists and engineers.
About 500 German rocket specialists were used in "Operation
Paperclip" for this purpose, including Wernher von Braun.
The V-2 became the army's Redstone missile and it was the
beginning of the United states Space Program. Von Braun
became it's director..