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STEVEN J. ZALOGA, illustrated by JIM LAURIER
The ramp catapult was powered by a gas generator mounted on the Dampferzeuger trolley which was wheeled into place behind the ramp. These were nicknamed the Kinderwagen and were built by the Mansfeld GmbH in Leipzig beginning in September 1943. Each firing site had two of these. (T. Desautels)
Churchill demanded that more action be taken to silence the missile batteries. Air attacks against the modified sites were intensified in early June 1944 but proved difficult as they were easy to camouflage and quick to move. More lucrative targets were the large missile storage centers, or Feldmulag (field munition depots), located in old quarries north of Paris. The Luftwaffe had planned to create 17 of these which could have sheltered about a thousand missiles each, but only three were operational: Leopold No. 1106 near St. Leu d'Esserent, Nordpol No. 1111 near Nucourt, and Richard No. 1116 near Rilly la Montague. The two first sites were hit by the US Eighth Air Force in late June, but the thick caves at Leopold required another attack by the RAF's No. 5 Group with massive Tallboy bombs, which collapsed the tunnels during bombing on July 4th/5th. There was a decline in V-1 attacks for a few weeks until new supplies could be brought forward.
An FM03A-1 is loaded on the ramp with the Dampferzeuger catapult trolley in place and ready for launch. The Anlassgerät starter device immediately behind the wing provided the missile with pressurized air and electrical power prior to launch. (NARA)
Even though one third of the missiles were being shot down by the London defense in early July, this was still not good enough. A significant problem for the air defense was achieving the proper mixture of guns and aircraft since, when fighters were present, the guns had to remain silent. To improve the air defense system, the anti-aircraft and lighter commands agreed to reorganize and introduce improved equipment. The anti-aircraft guns would be shifted to the coast where the new American SCR-584 gun-laying radars would have an unobstructed view of the missiles as they approached. The move took place on July 16th-17th, 1944, and required re-laying almost 2,000 miles of telephone cable and moving thousands of tons of weapons, ammunition, and equipment. The US Army also added a further improvement with the first combat use of its top-secret "variable-time" (VT) fuze which proved to be more than five times as effective as conventional fuzes. The VT fuze was a miniaturized radar proximity fuze that detonated the projectile when it approached close to the target (standard anti-aircraft fuzes had to be set before firing according to the predicted height of the target and were therefore less accurate). The US Army had been reluctant to use the new design, fearing that, if any fell into enemy hands, a German copy could wreak havoc among the Allied heavy bombers over the Reich. The improvement was dramatic. During the third week of July, the guns accounted for half of all flying bombs reaching the London area and continued to improve, reaching 83 percent by the end of August. The redesigned defenses proved much more effective, downing about 40 percent of the Doodlebugs before the move, and nearly 60 percent after the move.
This illustration from the FZG-76 technical manual shows the manner in which the Anlassgerät starter device was attached to the missile. This included the electrical line to the fuzes (A); compressed air line to the engine intake (B); electrical line to the engine spark plug (C); electrical connections to the autopilot (D); connection to the launch ramp (E); air pressure connection (F); attachment controls (G); control panels (H); and air pressure cylinders (I).
A Walter Schlitzrohrschleuder WR 2.3 catapult abandoned in northern France in late August 1944. The front end of the ramp has collapsed, but this photo gives an impression of its great length. The ramp was constructed of six to eight modular sections with a length of 36-48m (118-158ft). (NARA)
The peak V-1 assault occurred on August 3rd when 316 missiles were launched, of which about 220 reached London. But the number launched subsequently began to fall due to the growing problems of supplying the sites, and the gradual loss of the launching areas. After having started with 72 launch sites on June 12th, the regiment suffered gradual attrition due to Allied air attacks, averaging 34 operational launchers per day during the course of the summer campaign. By mid-August, Allied forces were across the Seine river and threatening the launch area. General Heinemann ordered all surplus equipment moved towards Antwerp and bases in the Netherlands. On August 9th, IVAbteilung was ordered to pull out, and the neighboring III Abteilung the following day. The corps headquarters was moved from France to Waterloo in Belgium on August 18th-19th. By the end of August, only 1 Abteilung continued to launch missiles, firing its last from France at 0400hrs on September 1st.
A view of a Walter WR 2.3 launch ramp abandoned near Amiens in August 1944. The missile was placed on a Spazierstock frame, one of which is evident in the foreground. A piston was placed in the circular tube inside the ramp which clipped to the missile. (NARA)
During this first phase of the missile campaign, a total of 8,617 V-1 missiles was launched by FR155W, of which 1,052 crashed immediately after take-off and 5,913 made ii to Britain; 3,852 were knocked down by air defenses (1,651 by guns). So only about 2,300 missiles actually impacted in the target area, about a quarter of those launched.