The V1 (Vergeltungswaffen 1) flying bomb was another secret weapon that was supposed to turn the war around for Germany in 1944.
Codenamed “Kirschkern” (cherry stone) and designed by Lusser and Gosslau, it had a 25 foot long fuselage constructed of welded sheet steel with 16 foot long plywood wings. It was powered by a simple pulse jet engine which pulsed 50 times per second, sounding like buzzing insects which gave rise to nicknames of “buzz bomb” or “doodlebug”, its 2000 pound warhead however gave this “bug” a deadly bite.
The V-1 could not take off under its own power and had to be launched by catapult or from a modified bomber aircraft. Once launched the V1 was capable of cruise speeds of 230 to 420 mph with 350 mph being the most typical. Most of the V1′s crossed the English coast between 3000- 4000 feet but some crossed at higher altitudes. (The flight guidance system was crude and inaccurate at best.)
The V1 was first launched in June 1944 shortly after D-Day and from then until March 29, 1945, a total of 9,251 V1 flying bombs were used against England. A total of 2,419 of them made it to their intended target the rest were either shot down by anti-aircraft guns, ran into obstacles, or were downed by the Royal Air Force. (2000 were credited to the Royal Air Force fighters.)
At first V1′s were shot down by gunfire but since the optimum range was under 600 feet the margin for survival was slim at best. In addition, machine guns had little effect on the V-1′s sheet steel structure, and if a cannon shell detonated the warhead, the explosion could destroy the attacker. There had to be a better way….
Spitfire pilots eventually learned that by placing the wing tip of their fighter plane underneath the V1′s outer wing, that this would often upset the missile, tumble the gyros, and send it crashing out of control into the English countryside. This maneuver was called “tipping off”. Because this practice sometimes caused damage to the pilot’s wing tip a later tactic of disrupting the airflow by placing a wing as close as possible to the V1′s wing, causing it to topple (“toppling”) was used.
At night this was not possible, the flame from the V1 blinded the pilot to everything else, though some Mossie pilots flew past closely in front of the V1, again causing it to topple. A very “gutsy” move!
It has been 71 years since the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor and occasionally photos “pop up” that haven’t been seen before, take a look at these!