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Author, film researcher and member of the Swedish Military History Commission.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Hitler´s V-weapons

The story of the battle against the German V-1 flying bomb and V-2 rocket is more fascinating than I thought. The official history of this battle, recently compiled by John Grehan, reminds of how the unmanned aerial vehicle made its debut long ago and includes Norwegian and Swedish aspects.    

The very secret war against the V-1 and V-2 actually began in Norway already in November 1939, most unexpectedly. This was several months before the country was invaded and became a battleground. What happened was that the British Embassy in Oslo then received two letters from an anonymous German scientist whose name turned out to be Hans Ferdinand Mayer. The embassy staff passed on his letters to the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS/MI6) HQ in London for further analysis. The letters turned out to be a leak from the heart of German high tech weapons research, or as the official history puts it: "the first serious evidence to fall into British hands that the Germans were developing rockets for military purposes". 

It is almost beyond belief how much the Germans poured into the V-1 and V-2 projects and this new book brings home both the scale of the German efforts and how the British analysts and leaders learnt of them and tried to prepare themselves for what was to come, and then acted. What the rocket threat more exactly consisted of became a lot clearer thanks to a V-2 that accidentally flew to Sweden on the 13th of June 1944. It was an incredible moment to stand by this rocket´s crater - it is still well preserved in a dark forest not too far from Kalmar in south Sweden. In fact, this crater is one of the highlights in my latest book.  

Having recently researched the V-2 that ended in Sweden I can say that I know of no previous book that mentions the following aspect of what happened once the Swedish authorities had become aware of the cause of the explosion. Basically all relevant previous books report that debris from the exploded V-2 was collected and brought to Swedish technical experts and then the debris was sent on to the Allies, to British experts in Farnborough. However, Hitler´s V-weapons also states that two British technical intelligence officers were allowed to enter Sweden soon after the explosion, and here immediately made some important discoveries. In other words the first Allied examination  of a V-2 took place not in Farnborough but in Sweden.

There is also an exciting "what if" scenario in Hitler´s V-weapons - the Special Operations Executive (SOE) selected a German technician for capture, a key person for the V-weapons. But the man turned out to be so closely guarded that the SOE deemed it impossible to get him alive. 

Well, this 328 page book with 16 photographs (some quite moving) should please both V-weapon and UAV buffs, as well as civil defense and London historians.

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