In August 1944, Londoners thought the war might be over by Christmas. But on September 8, 1944, in the London suburb of Chiswick, a thunderous double-boom was heard followed by a huge plume of black smoke rising high into the air. Several minutes later another explosion rocked the earth near Epping. There had been no warnings, no drone of aircraft above, just sudden devastation. "Operation Penguin," the V-2 offensive, had begun. The A-4 rocket, better known as the V-2, Vergeltungswaffen Zwei, or "Vengeance Weapon 2," was the first ballistic missile to be used in combat. Soaring over 50 miles high at supersonic speeds, the V-2 would strike its target within 5 minutes of launching. Once in the air its deadly warhead was unstoppable.
The ancestor of all Cold War and modern day ballistic missiles, as well as the rockets used for space exploration, the V-2 could not win the war for Germany - it was too expensive, too complicated, and too inaccurate - but its unprecedented invulnerability and influence on Allied war planning made the V-2 and the advancements it represented the ultimate war prize, and British, American, and Soviet forces scrambled to seize German rocket technology along with its scientists and engineers. T. D. Dungan relies on an unparalleled collection of original documents, unpublished photographs, and accounts from those who were there to provide a complete description of the V-2 program, the missile's use in combat, and the race to capture its secrets.