Year
1944

Germans launch V-1 rocket attack against Britain

On this day in 1944, Germany launches 10 of its new V1 rockets against Britain from a position near the Channel coast. They prove to be less than devastating.

Mired in the planning stages for a year, the V1 was a pilotless, jet-propelled plane that flew by air-driven gyroscope and magnetic compass, capable of unleashing a ton of cruise missile explosives. Unfortunately for the Germans, the detonation process was rather clumsy and imprecise, depending on the impact of the plane as the engine quit and the craft crash-landed. They often missed their targets.

This was certainly the case against Britain. Of the 10 V1, or Reprisal 1, “flying bombs” shot at England, five crashed near the launch site, and one was lost altogether—just four landed inside the target country. Only one managed to take any lives: Six people were killed in London. The Germans had hoped to also mount a more conventional bombing raid against Britain at the same time the V1s were hitting their targets—in the interest of heightening the “terror” effect. This too blew up in their faces, as the Brits destroyed the German bombers on the ground the day before as part of a raid on German airfields.

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