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In retrospect, the V-1 was a far more effective weapon than the V-2 in terms of the much smaller cost of developing, manufacturing, and employing the missile. Paradoxically, the greater vulnerability of the V-1 to interception prompted the Allies to expend a great deal of effort to defend against it, both in the initial Crossbow bombing campaign, as well as the air defense efforts over London, Antwerp, and Liege. Nevertheless, the Allies could afford to divert resources to counter the V-1 while it is questionable that the German efforts on the V-weapons were commensurate to the results. The warheads of die V-weapons consumed the equivalent of half the total explosive consumption of the entire Wehrmacht in the critical months of July, August, and September 1944, and equal to the total explosives production of the fall of 1944. At a time when the fate of the Third Reich was in the balance, the V-weapons were wasting more than half of the available explosives to kill a thousand British and Belgian civilians a month. By the fall of 1944, the prodigal expenditures of the V-weapons program led to a shortage of explosives that was so acute that rock salt was being used as an extender in explosives for artillery ammunition, and severe limits had to be placed on the anti-aircraft defense of the Reich due to the ammunition shortage. While the V-1 attacks caused considerable misery for Londoners in the summer of 1944, the end of the war was in sight and the attacks had no profound impact on British morale. The attacks on Antwerp were even more severe, but only a couple of hundred V-1s actually landed within the port area, the ostensible objective of the campaign, and caused little significant damage. While the V-weapons may have satisfied Hitlers thirst for revenge, from a military perspective, they were utter folly.

Although this is one of the best-known photos of a Reichenberg piloted missile, the configuration is a bit suspect. This particular example was assembled from parts found at the Karlwitz munitions depot near Dannenberg in May 1945 by a US Navy Technical Mission Europe team. It is by no means clear that this particular type of plywood warhead casing was actually intended for this version. The officer demonstrates how difficult it would have been for the volunteer pilot to have escaped from the missile while wearing the prescribed life vest. (NARA)

The Reichenberg piloted missile

The most notorious version of the Fi-103 was the Fi-103R Reichenberg, a piloted version intended for attacks on high-value targets. Hitler's favorite adventurer, Otto Skorzeny, and the famous test pilot, Hanna Reitsch, have both laid claim to the idea. The pilot would steer the missile at the target and, if lucky, would parachute out at the last second. Many Luftwaffe commanders were disturbed by the suicidal nature of the scheme, recognizing that other guided missiles such as the Hs-293 or the Mistel could perform the same role. But in the paranoid atmosphere of the time, it was unwise to challenge the pet projects of Hitlers associates.

Modification of the Fi-103 was fairly simple, and the Henschel plant at Berlin-Schönefeld designed a rudimentary cockpit plus a pair of ailerons to provide better flight control. Flight tests of a prototype began at the Rechlin test center in September 1944. The pilot of the first flight suffered severe spinal injuries due to the high speed of the landing and the use of a rudimentary landing skid without shock absorbers. During the second flight, the canopy blew off and the pilot was seriously injured during the landing. After improvements were made, additional flights were conducted, including several by Willy Fiedler of Fieseler and Hanna Reitsch.

Since most of the Reichenbergs discovered at Dannenberg lacked a warhead, many of the examples sent back to the United States for display ended up with bogus noses. This particular example was part of a display in Washington, DC, immediately after the war and has both a fake nose and a phony swastika marking on the tail. (MHI)

The Fi-103Re.1 proved difficult to fly, and so in September a two-seat, unpowered trainer was built as the Fi-103Re.2 and in November the Fi-103Re.3 powered two-seat trainer was assembled. During the second test (light of the Fi-103 Re.3 on November 5th, 1944, the left wing fell off due to vibrations from the engine, though test pilot Heinz Kensche managed to extract himself from the cramped cockpit. This inadvertently demonstrated the enormous difficulty of parachuting from the Reichenberg, even for a skilled test pilot.

Reichenberg operations were assigned to the "Leonidas Staffer of the special-operations unit, KG200. The Inspector of Bombers, Generalmajor Walter Storp, wanted to create an entire suicide division, dubbed Jägerdivision Hermann Göring. Of the 70 volunteer pilots, about half had received some measure of training by late February 1945, when further training was suspended due to a lack of fuel. Testing of the Reichenberg continued at Rechlin, and on March 5th, 1945, test pilot Kensche's luck ran out when a modified Fi-103Re.3 with shortened wings had both wings peel oil dining a test flight. This was the last straw for the commander of KG200, Oberstleutnant Baumbach, who got into a bitter argument with General Storp over the stupidity of the whole venture. Baumbach asked the head of the German war industry, Albert Speer, for help. On March 15th, Speer and Baumbach visited Hitler and Speer helped convince him that suicide attacks were not part of the tradition of German warriors. Hitler agreed, and later that day, Baumbach ordered the commander of IV/KG200 to disband the unit. Over 200 Reichenberg missiles were converted by Luftwaffe munitions depots at Dannenberg and Pulverhof, but none were ever deployed except for those at the Rechlin test establishment.

Curiously enough, Japanese liaison officers visited the facility on several occasions. German technological assistance formed the basis for the Japanese analog of the Reichenberg, the Kawanishi Baika ("Plum Blossom") kamikaze aircraft which was not finished before the end of the war.


The JB-2 Thunderbug

The US Army Air Force in 1944 was very impressed with the V-1 if for no other reason than the enormous amount of resources used to combat it. Nearly a ton of V-1 parts were rushed to Wright-Patterson Field on July 12th, 1944, and the staff was ordered to build 13 copies called the JB-2 (Jet Bomb 2). Amazingly, these were completed in three weeks, and a recommendation was made to begin quantity production. The War Department was not very keen on the idea, pointing out that its lack of accuracy limited its use to terror bombing. But production was finally authorized with an understanding that its guidance would be improved. In late July 1944, the USAAF ordered 1,000 JB-2 missiles with Republic and Willys building the airframe, and Ford the engine. Northrop designed a new ramp with rocket sled since details of the German launcher were not available. The USAAF planned to order 1,000 per month, increasing to 5,000 per month by September 1944. General Spaatz (commanding US strategic bomber forces in Europe) was not keen on deploying the JB-2 in Europe, feeling that it would adversely impact the supply of more conventional ordnance and that it was not accurate enough to be worth the trouble. After the initial burst of enthusiasm, a more sober appreciation of the limitations and high cost of the program sank in, and in late January 1945 the War Department stopped any further production contracts for the JB-2. When production ended in September 1945, 1,391 JB-2s had been built.

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