V-2 Rocket Display
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V-2 Rocket on Display at the
White Sands Missile Range Museum

Page 3 of 14

Early History of the WSMR V-2 Rocket Display

     The "Vergeltungswaffe 2" or V-2, or A-4 as it was originally called, was designed and tested at Peenemünde located on the Baltic Sea at the mouth of the river Peene on the island of Usedom. On August 17-18, 1943 came a massive Royal Air Force air raid on Peenemünde. This raid and those that followed forced the Germans to look for "hardened" underground production locations for the V-2. The facility chosen was the Mittelbau, which refers to a complex of factories, storage depots, facilities and prisoner camps, some underground, that were used from August 1943 until April 1945 to manufacture and test the V-2 rocket near the town of Nordhausen in central Germany.
     In late summer of 1944, just before the start of the V-2 campaign, a small repair station was set up in an old potash mine at Kleinbodungen, near Bleicherode. This station worked at recycling V-2s that had been returned by the rocket launching units as a result of mis-firings, damage during transport, or other factors that made them unusable by the launching batteries. By October, the V-2 attacks had begun and Kleinbodungen began receiving defective missiles back from the front lines.
     When the White Sands Missile Range Museum's V-2 was refurbished, Mr. Rod Givens, of the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center's restoration facility, noted that the German serial number of the rocket was FZ04/20919. According to records found in London and Munich archives, #20919 came off the assembly line from Mittelwerk (underground manufacturing factory, part of the Mittelbau complex) around the 21st December, 1944.
     Rockets, with serial numbers before and after #20919 were launched at the end of 1944 by the Battalion 836 of Gruppe Süd (Group South) in the Westerwald frontier. Rocket #20919 was sent out to the firing sites in Westerwald, however, because of technical defect, it came back for maintenance at Kleinbodungen.
     On April 10, 1945, tanks and infantry of the US 83rd Armored Reconnaissance Battalion overran the German rear guard elements and fought with occasional Panther tanks. One of the platoons cleared the V-2 repair facility at Kleinbodungen, and found a number of V-2 rockets, complete except for warheads, lying on jigs. Among the rockets captured that day by the Americans was #20919. (Click Here to see photos of the Kleinbodungen Repair Facility)
     The White Sands Missile Range Museum's V-2 is unique in that; it was actually sent out to be fired "in anger" at Antwerp by the Germans rocket batteries, but because of some defect, it came back to the repair facility before it was captured by the Americans.
     Historical research provided by the International V-2 Research Group http://www.v2rocket.com/