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Pacific Campaign Challenges

Pacific Campaign Challenges

As we continue through the Road to Tokyo and into the Pacific Campaign Challenges gallery, we come to two immersive exhibits detailing the monumental obstacles American forces had to overcome for victory in the Pacific.

Building Bases in the Pacific (Seabees)

The vast geography and logistical challenges of the Pacific War led to the creation of hundreds of airfields, supply depots, ports, barracks and more by the Navy’s Construction Battalions (CB, or “SeaBees”) as well as other service engineers. Building Bases in the Pacific will explore the lives of these critical servicemen including the complexities of their work and the obstacles that they faced. Personal accounts will feature the difficulties of life in disease ridden and hostile environments, and the importance of building positive relationships with native island populations. Construction was vital for pushing toward mainland Japan, and this exhibit will discuss the various ways in which Navy SeaBees helped lead to Allied victory in the Pacific.

An Alien World

This exhibit will explore difficulty of life in the Pacific, as well as the medical advances that were made in light of many hardships. American forces serving in the Pacific had little opportunity to escape the war. Escape was crucial for troops to mentally and physically recover from their service, though there was little that compared to the comforts of home. Some troops were allowed furloughs in Australia and New Zealand, but many were trapped in the tedium of remote island locations, never allowing them a break from their environments. An Alien World will feature various accounts and memoirs of these trying times of Pacific campaign service men and women.


Donor Spotlight: Jones Walker LLP

The Building Bases in the Pacific exhibit within Pacific Theater Challenges (Seabees) has been made possible through a generous gift by Jones Walker LLP. Bill Hines is the Managing Partner of Jones Walker and also serves on The National WWII Museum Board of Trustees.

Jones Walker has been committed to and involved in the Museum’s growth since its inception. Many Jones Walker partners have personally supported the Museum both financially and through the development of its programs. Hines became actively involved as a member of the Board in 2007, and became a member of the Executive Committee in 2013. He currently chairs the Museum’s Audit Committee.

Jones Walker was especially interested in supporting the Museum’s Road to Victory Capital Campaign due to the efforts of the Museum’s Board Chairman, Richard Adkerson, CEO of Freeport-McMoRan. Adkerson introduced the firm to the upcoming Road to Tokyo galleries. Hines states that “many of our partners and I were moved by the exhibits, and we felt inspired to support this segment of the Museum’s visionary expansion.”

A Seabee in a road grader waves as a Boeing B-29 Superfortress prepares to land on Tinian in March 1945

A Seabee in a road grader waves as a Boeing B-29 Superfortress prepares to land on Tinian in March 1945

After the presentation, Jones Walker committed to sponsor the Building Bases in the Pacific (Seabees) exhibit. Hines says that “we were drawn to Seabees exhibit because of Richard Adkerson, whose father, J.W. Adkerson, was in the Seabees. We thought it was the perfect way to honor Richard’s father and the other noble men who fought in WWII for the cause of freedom.”

Commenting on his many years of involvement with the Museum, Hines states that President and CEO, Dr. Gordon “Nick” Mueller never fails to leave a lasting impact. Hines remarks that Dr. Mueller “has unparalleled knowledge about the detailed history of WWII and its importance to the world. His passion, vision, and drive for conceiving many of these exhibits and executing on the vision are great assets to our city and our country. Because of his work, our children and our grandchildren will know how important WWII is to our history as a nation. Seeing the Museum through to completion has made a great impression on me and many others at Jones Walker. “

When reminiscing of his time spent on the Museum’s Board, Hines states that he has found many of the Museum’s events both memorable and moving. One that stood out the most to him was the Grand Opening ceremonies for the Road to Berlin galleries last December. Hines states that “I found it to be one of the most inspiring and patriotic events I’ve ever attended.”

Hines believes that supporting the WWII Museum is most important in preserving our nation’s history and allowing future generations to be fully educated about the significance of WWII. He states that “it is an honor to have Jones Walker associated with such an amazing organization, and I would encourage others to consider supporting the Museum.”

The Museum is fortunate and grateful to have the support of Jones Walker, LLP in helping the Museum complete our Road to Victory Capital Campaign.

SciTech Tuesday–When the Rubber Meets the Road

As tensions escalated in Europe and Asia, Roosevelt knew he had to prepare the country for war. He was aware that there were critical parts of the manufacturing system that were weak, and that conflict would limit US access to resources in a way that might threaten national security. Using government institutions to support economic development was something his administration had a lot of practice with, so he turned to the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC), which had been created by Congress in 1932 under the Hoover Administration.

At Roosevelt’s direction the RFC created or purchased 9 different corporations. All of these helped develop resources (like rubber or fibers or metals) or supported development of manufacturing facilities. The Rubber Reserve Company at first just controlled strategic reserves of rubber. South Asia was where most rubber plantations were located, and it was coming under the control of the Japanese. Most of the research on synthetic rubber was being conducted by German chemists, who had become expert and developing oil and coal tar into other resources. When it was created the Rubber Reservc Company had about 1 million pounds of rubber.  That seems like a lot, but the military at that time was using about 600,000 pounds a year, and if production increased, so would the need for rubber.

Under the umbrella of the Rubber Reserve Company, several private corporations, including Firestone, Goodrich, and Goodyear,  signed a patent and information sharing agreement, and a committee met to develop a plan for producing synthetic rubber.

A form of polymer called styrene-butadiene rubber was chosen for production. It was the best form for making tire treads, as it is resistant to abrasion and holds its form well. It does, however, require more adhesive than natural rubber. Other polymers were chosen for other uses (such as wiring insulation).

Although the styrene-butadiene rubber could be used on the same manufacturing equipment as natural rubber, it’s use in manufacturing required a big research investment. They used monomers of butadiene and styrene, and mixed them with soap, water, and the catalyst potassium persulfate. By late fall of 1942 the companies had begun successful production. They shared over 200 patents in their consortium. all funded by the RFC through the Rubber Reserve Corporation.

By 1945 the US was producing almost 1 million tons per year of synthetic rubber, more than half of which was produced by the companies in the Rubber Reserve Corporation’s agreement. By 1955 the government had sold all the plants, and control of production was returned to private corporations.

Post by Rob Wallace, STEM Education Coordinator

A block of synthetic rubber comes off the line, and is headed for the baler. From the Library of Congress.

A block of synthetic rubber comes off the line, and is headed for the baler. From the Library of Congress.

Normandy Academy: From the Beaches to the Falaise Gap

IMG_2195After over a week in New Orleans and Normandy, the Normandy Academy students are nearing the end of their trip. They have enjoyed perfect weather throughout with sunny skies and only one evening rain shower. Cool breezes have kept the beach visits pleasant and marked a major change from their time in New Orleans.

On Friday, June 26, the day began with a visit to Ste-Mere-Eglise, where the students heard the story of the paratoopers of the 82nd Airborne Division who liberated the town. Specifically, they learned of the heroism of Gretna, LA native John P. Ray who saved the lives of both John Steele and Ken Russel shortly after receiving a wound that would prove fatal. The students then applied their knowledge of the paratroop drop to future campaigns by discussing the lessons learned in Normandy.

Debates and discussions continued throughout the site visits. At Utah Beach, the students debated the addition of the beach through a risk/reward scenario. On Omaha, the students discussed the flight patterns of the bombing raids, and in the Falaise Gap, they debated several issues involving the French civilians who found themselves caught in the crossfire.

A powerful experience came in the evening on June 28 as the students met French Resistance members Andre Heintz and Collette Marin-Catherine. The students heard the firsthand accounts of struggling against the German occupation against a general backdrop of hardship for all French civilians. After the discussion, Heintz and Marin-Catherine joined the students for dinner at Café Mancel inside the Caen Castle.

For more information on the Normandy Academy, call 504-528-1944, ext. 257 or email travel@nationalww2museum.org.


As we continue our journey down the Road to Tokyo, and upon exiting the Guadalcanal gallery, visitors will come upon a rice hut, symbolizing the first Japanese structure captured by the Allies in the Pacific Theater. Here, visitors will have the opportunity to step back from battles for a moment to learn about the tremendous obstacles that American forces had to overcome in the Pacific. In the Pacific Campaign Challenges gallery, visitors will gain a deeper understanding of why this war was so difficult to win.

The Pacific war presented extreme environmental conditions, isolation, and vast distances never before faced by the American military. It took ingenuity and major engineering feats to build bases, airfields, and supply depots – all critical elements of a winning campaign. The harsh environment harbored flourishing tropical diseases that carried major physical and psychological impacts for US forces, threats that added to the uncompromising, kill-or-be-killed nature of the struggle against entrenched Japanese forces.

Exhibits within this gallery include Building Bases in the Pacific (Seabees) and An Alien World.


Donor Spotlight: Phyllis Taylor and the Patrick F. Taylor Foundation

Phyllis and Patrick Taylor

Phyllis and Patrick Taylor

The future Pacific Campaign Challenges Gallery has been made possible through a generous gift from the Estate of Patrick F. Taylor. This presentation of an essential part of the war story is one of many ways that the generous philanthropy of Phyllis and Patrick Taylor has impacted the Museum.

Phyllis and Patrick met when Phyllis was working at a hospitality booth at an oil show in Lafayette, Louisiana. Patrick was a guest of the company she was working for and was immediately smitten with Phyllis. He tricked her into going out with him by telling her that the man who was supposed to give her a ride home had been called off on a job and had asked Patrick to give her a ride home. The next day the two had lunch and that evening, Patrick announced to a friend that he had met the woman who would become his wife. Fourteen months later, Patrick and Phyllis were married. New Orleans became their home for the next 40 years.

The couple first became involved with The National WWII Museum through their friendship with Museum founder Stephen E. Ambrose. Patrick and Stephen were part of a group that met regularly at the Taylor ranch in Mississippi to “solve the problems of the world.” Phyllis had a special interest in WWII history because she had several family members who served in the war, including her godfather, an aunt, and two uncles.

Shortly after plans for The National D-Day Museum were put into place, the Museum learned of a Supermarine Spitfire that was to be auctioned off in London, and the Museum asked Patrick if he would act as its representative. Journalists in London were intrigued that two New Orleanians had arrived in London with intentions of purchasing the renowned fighter plane, and the next day The Times of London published an article about Patrick and Phyllis. The Museum provided the funds to back the winning bid for the plane, but needed additional funding to have the plane shipped to the United States and then fully restored. Patrick and Phyllis generously covered those costs, and the Spitfire still hangs in the Louisiana Memorial Pavilion today.

Patrick was always a student of history. Phyllis shared that the two of them “were elated with the establishment of the Museum and overjoyed when it became The National WWII Museum” in 2004.

Tragically, Patrick passed away before the beginning of the Museum’s Road to Victory Capital Campaign. Phyllis felt that “there was no more appropriate tribute to him than to provide funding in support of the Museum’s expansion.” Phyllis chose to name Pacific Theater Challenges in Road to Tokyo to ensure that Museum visitors recognize that American involvement in World War II came about as a result of Japan’s attacks at Pearl Harbor and elsewhere across the Pacific. Phyllis said it is important to support The National WWII Museum because “to make a contribution to the Museum is in fact contributing to the preservation of our history. I can think of no better gift to give to our country than just that.”

“The Museum and its staff have done an incredible job to not only convey the message and make it thought-provoking, but also to make it fun and enjoyable, which is certainly a criterion to engage the younger generations,” Phyllis said. She loves attending Museum events to see the smiles on the faces of the WWII veterans as they exchange stories. She called making that experience possible is “my greatest gift.”

Normandy Academy Students Arrive in France

Normandy Academy students with Mr. Dan Ombredanne at Chateau Periers.

Normandy Academy students with Mr. Dan Ombredanne at Chateau Periers.

The Normandy Academy students arrived in France after three full days of touring at the Museum. Once in France, they stopped at the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, and Notre Dame. Now they were ready for their trip to Normandy.

Arriving in the town of Bayeux, the students were immediately impressed by the Bayeux Cathedral, first completed in the 11th century with some portions completed later The cathedral now has an impressive blend of architectural styles. It was commissioned by William the Conqueror, and it is the original home of the Bayeux Tapestry. The students were in for a surprise when they found that their hotel was just two blocks from the cathedral. After their first French meal and a good night’s rest, they awoke reading and willing to visit the Normandy battle sites.

The first day of touring brought the students to the areas around Sword Beach. The first stop was at Chateau Periers, a private home just three miles from the coast. In this chateau, Marie-Louise Osmont kept a diary of her life from the German occupation of her home in August, 1940 until the last British soldier left her home in August, 1944. Her diary gives many insights into the life of both German soldiers and French civilians under occupation. The current proprietor of the chateau, Mr. Dan Ombredanne welcomed the students to the chateau along with the town mayor to give a tour of the grounds and the interior.

Later in the day, the students visited Pegasus Bridge, the Riva Bella Tower, and the German Battery at Longues sur Mer. At each stop the students debated decisions made in the course of the battle. At Pegasus, the students debated whether the bridges along the Orne, Dives, and Merderet Rivers should be destroyed or preserved prior to the landings. At Longues sur Mer, the students discussed the length of the naval barrage—How long? When should it cease?

Still awaiting the students are visits to Utah Beach, Omaha Beach, Caen, and a conversation with a veteran of the French Resistance. The students will return to the United States on June 30, 2015.

For more information on the Normandy Academy, please call 504-528-1944, ext. 257 or email travel@nationalww2museum.org.

Home Front Friday: Rum & Coke

Home Front Friday is a regular series that highlights the can do spirit on the Home Front during World War II and illustrates how that spirit is still alive today!

“Drinkin’ rum and Coca-Cola
Go down Point Koomahnah
Both mother and daughter
Workin’ for the Yankee dollar”

-The Andrew Sisters, “Rum And Coca-Cola”

Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, NYWT&S Collection, [reproduction number, e.g., LC-USZ62-111157]

The Andrews Sisters

Rum and coke – the match made in heaven! It’s such a staple of the American bar that few probably have wondered who had the brilliant idea to put them together. During wartime, soldiers made many new discoveries abroad and brought them back to the States. One of those discoveries was the combination of rum and Coca-Cola. Coca-Cola was invented in the 1880s by a pharmaceutical chemist named John Pemberton, and by WWII Coca-Cola had grown into a global franchise operation. Most stories of the invention of the drink spawn from the Spanish-American War at a bar in Havana. But regardless of where it started, it spread throughout the Caribbean.

When the US was threatened by German submarines in 1940, FDR met with Winston Churchill to address the issue. The United States provided England with ships and rifles to aid in the war (remember, we had not yet entered!), and the United States were able to increase their defenses on British-controlled islands in the Caribbean – including the Bahamas, Jamaica, St. Lucia, Antigua, Bermuda, and Trinidad. Thousands of servicemen were sent to these islands, greatly influxing the local populations and affecting a cross-cultural movement. Rum was cheap, and by 1941, the drink of choice (at least on Bermuda) was rum for a mere quarter! Coca-Cola was dedicated to providing the troops with a soda for a nickel – roughly 10 billion Cokes were served to soldiers all over the world during WWII! So, naturally, the two together couldn’t be beat.

Listen to Lucien Laborde talk about seeing the Andrews Sisters perform at the Commodore Hotel when he returned to the States.

The Andrew Sisters’ catchy tune is actually a recording of a song Trinidadian locals were singing around the Island after all the soldiers appeared. It ended up being the most requested Andrew Sisters’ song on USO tours. With the help of this song, rum and Coke became the undeclared national drink of our troops! And to think, it is still an easy, go-to drink!

All you need is rum, coke, and a lime (if you’re feeling crazy), turn on the Andrews Sisters, and be transported by that calypso beat and sweet drink to the Islands!

Posted by Laurel Taylor, Education Intern and Lauren Handley, Assistant Director of Education for Public Programs at the World War II Museum

A busy year in Distance Learning

It was another successful school year for the Museum’s distance learning programs, reaching over 25,000 students near and far. This year, the Museum also launched its webinar series for adult life-long learners. With a wide array of programming, there’s something for every audience interested in connecting with the Museum, no matter the distance.  As we’re hard at work planning programming for the coming months, here are some of the highlights from this past year in distance learning:

A Mystery Skype program with students in Wisconsin.

A Mystery Skype program with students in Wisconsin.

Student webinars with special guests and museums:

This year’s series of free student webinars featured diverse topics such as production on the Home Front, the Holocaust, the Battle for Iwo Jima, and the race to build the atomic bombs, welcoming special guests to share their unique perspectives.

Educators from the Yankee Air Museum helped viewers explore the historic Willow Run plant,  which churned out almost one B-24 per hour at its peak production levels.

On International Holocaust Remembrance Day, students posed questions to survivor Luna Kaufman, as she advocated to listeners, “You have to open your eyes and arms to other races, other religions, and other cultures to see that we are all equal and that we all need to work with each other because that’s the only way this world will survive.”

The 70th Anniversary to the day of the Flag Raising on Iwo Jima, connected students with the National Museum of the Marine Corps and one of their veteran volunteers, Frank Matthews, who recounted what it was like to land, fight, and survive on the volcanic island.

In May, graphic novelist Jonathan Fetter-Vorm shared his debut book Trinity: A Graphic History of the First Atomic Bomb alongside Museum educators demonstrating the powerful scientific principles behind the development of the weapons.

Explore these and all of the archived student webinars at any time.

Setting a new Skype record:

The Museum set a new record for furthest Skype connection, with primary school children in Havelock North, New Zealand. That’s  7,647 miles away from New Orleans and 17 hours ahead in time.  Students participated in the Museum’s Mystery Skype program. Their task is to guess the location and subject of the Museum by asking yes- or- no questions and using only a world map. It’s fun and challenging geography guessing game! Once they solve the mystery, they are taken on a virtual tour of the US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center with a Museum educator.

Check out Mystery Skype and all of the Museum’s interactive Skype programs.

Launch of the Adult Learning Webinars:

Distance learning isn’t just for students anymore. With the successful launch of our Adult Learning Webinar programs, eager life-long learners from all across the globe get inside access to the Museum, expert staff, and special guest presenters. One of highlights this year was the in-depth series commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Battle for Iwo Jima. Over three separate sessions, participants interacted with Museum curators, educators, and historians, while examining artifacts not on view to the general public and listening to veteran oral histories from the Museum’s Digital Collection.

Want to take part? Viewing is easy—all you need is a computer with high speed internet connection. Test it out by viewing a recording of yesterday’s Adult Learning Webinar with writer James Scott about his book The War Below: The Story of Three Submarines that Battled Japan. Or, you can register for our next Adult Learning Webinar on August 20th, featuring the Museum’s upcoming special exhibit, Fighting for the Right to Fight: African American Experiences in WWII and curator Eric Rivet.

Post by Chrissy Gregg, Virtual Classroom Coordinator

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Normandy Academy Ready to Hit the Beaches

Normandy Academy

This morning 25 high school and college students from all across the country will be traveling to France with The National WWII Museum as part of the Museum’s week-long Normandy Academy student travel program.  These students, guided by academic mentors and Museum professionals, will visit and explore the iconic D-Day battle sites such as Omaha Beach, Ste-Mere-Eglise and Pointe-Du-Hoc as they follow in the footsteps of the Greatest Generation.  In preparation for their journey, students have completed readings, participated in strategic as well as moral and ethical debate scenarios and examined artifacts and primary sources documents on-site at The National WWII Museum.

The National WWII Museum’s Normandy Academy is an overseas educational journey that challenges today’s students and tomorrow’s leaders to consider the same impactful choices made by WWII officers and soldiers during the historic D-Day invasions. Along the way, students will gain hands-on leadership and decision-making skills to prepare them for their futures.

Learn more about the Normandy Academy student travel program. 

This post by Collin Makamson, Student Programs Coordinator @ The National WWII Museum







Two LSTs on a beach on Guadalcanal with Henderson Field Runways in 1943.

Two LSTs on a beach on Guadalcanal with Henderson Field Runways in 1943

As we continue down the Road to Tokyo and through the second half of the Guadalcanal gallery, we come to the final two exhibits that detail the visual experiences had by the Allied forces within the ruthless jungle terrain and the tactics used to secure victory.

Turning Point

This exhibit explores the central strategic importance of control of the Henderson Field air base to both sides in the campaign. Battles at sea and land raged around gaining ultimate possession of Henderson Field, including the Battle of Santa Cruz, the Naval Battles of Guadalcanal, and the Battle for Henderson Field. An environmental projection will project still images and historic footage related to Henderson Field with an ambient war soundtrack. As well as being a visual component to the scenic environment, the projection is meant to be a visual diary of the experiences of American troops on Guadalcanal throughout the campaign.

War Without Mercy

War Without Mercy will explore the cruel nature of the Japanese enemy and their fighting tactics in an unforgiving jungle environment. The Japanese used the ridges and foliage to their advantage, approached silently, utilized snipers in trees to slow American advances, and attacked relentlessly all through the night. These tactics, which created a frightening “jungle as a bogeyman” feeling, left many marines and soldiers feeling disconcerted and grappling within a war of nerves. Learning hard lessons, US troops responded by developing new tactics and learned to use the terrain and foliage to their own advantage.


Donor Spotlight: Gustaf W. McIlhenny Foundation

Rod Rodriguez

Rod Rodriguez

The War Without Mercy exhibit has been made possible through a generous gift by The Gustaf W. McIlhenny Family Foundation.

The McIlhenny family, well known in Louisiana and worldwide for the creation of the iconic Tabasco products, is steeped in military history and includes John McIlhenny who was a Rough Rider with President Teddy Roosevelt.

The Gustaf W. McIlhenny Foundation was formed in 1997 by Edwin “Rod” Rodriguez at the request of Gustaf W. McIlhenny.  The Foundation focuses on funding institutions nationwide, though primarily in Louisiana, which promote community conservation, health and education programs that stress traditional values. The Foundation has been an advocate of The National WWII Museum dating back to 2004.

Though having been involved with the Museum for many years, Rod Rodriguez became a member of the National WWII Museum’s Board of Trustees in 2014. His father was a key player on the Home Front, working as the head of a working gang at Higgins Industries during the war. He first took his family to visit the Museum soon after the 2000 opening, having purchased bricks honoring his wife Elizabeth’s father, Douglas McIlhenny.

Walter McIlhenny, Elizabeth’s cousin, was in the first wave of Marines at Guadalcanal. He was attacked by a Japanese solider wielding a Samurai sword and struck in the head, but his helmet protected him. He survived the blow, killed his attacker and went on to serve throughout the Pacific, winning the Navy Cross for his courage. Gustaf, whose name the Foundation bears, was not in the military himself, but had three brothers who served throughout the war.

Rod believes that it is important for the Gustaf W. McIlhenny Foundation to support the expansion of The National WWII Museum because of its ever-growing importance as an educational institution. He said that “the older this country becomes, our next generations are not going to know the great sacrifices that were made during WWII by America,” and that this needs to be kept in the forefront of all minds. He noted that the Museum is a repository for history and must act as a learning center for the future. Now that the Museum has achieved such success, and become more acclaimed nationwide, he stated that the Foundation is determined to help further its success and statue on an international basis.

Rod recognizes that the Museum is a tremendous asset to the city of New Orleans and the state of Louisiana.

While his time with the Museum has produced many memorable moments, Rod particularly treasures the conversations he has had with the Medal of Honor recipients the Museum has highlighted over the years. Rod believes that these servicemen and women “function at another level.” They completed extraordinary feats “because they were in the situation to save their brothers…there are really no words to justify some of the things these people have done.” He mentioned specifically the presentation of Walt Ehlers’ Medal of Honor by his daughter Cathy, during the dedication ceremony of Road to Berlin last December. He states this powerful moment is hard to top.

Rod went on to note the importance of bringing his children, and now grandchildren, to the Museum in order for them to “realize the sacrifices this country has made for democracy and freedom.” He mentions that while each generation deals with these sacrifices on a different scale, the actions of the Greatest Generation should never be forgotten.

The Museum is fortunate to have the encouragement of Rod Rodriguez and The Gustaf W. McIlhenny Foundation in helping the Museum complete our Road to Victory Capital Campaign.



SciTech Tuesday–First V-1 rockets launched June 1944

On June 13th 1944, the Germans launched the first attack of V-1 rockets on England. The rockets were really pilotless planes that depended upon compasses and gyroscopes for navigation. Detonation was achieved when the engine ran out of fuel and the vehicle crash landed. Of the rockets launched in this initial raid, five crashed near the launch site on the coastt of France, and 4 landed in England. One of the latter landed in London and killed 6 people.

The launch of these V-1 rockets was timed to match a large conventional bombing raid, but the Royal Air Force had successfully targeted the bombers on the runway the day before.

But over the next couple of weeks almost 3000 V-1s were launched against England. Many were brought down over the English Channel by fighters or anti-aircraft guns. About 800 missiles hit greater London in those early summer weeks.

In September the first V-2 rocket attacks were launched, simultaneously with V-1s. About 9000 V-2s were launched against England, killing about 2500 Londoners.

The full name of the V-1 was the Vergeltungswaffen 1. Vergeltungswaffen roughly translates as “retaliatory weapon.” They were launched after the Allied invasions on D-Day, and were also used against Belgium. The launches of V rockets continued until the launch center was over-taken by Allied forces in March 1945.

The V-1 had a fuselage of steel and wings of plywood. It was propelled by a pulsejet engine that fired 50 times per second—giving it the characteristic sound that got it the nicknames ‘doodle bug’ and ‘buzz bomb.’ The gasoline jet engine didn’t provide enough force for takeoff, so the missile was launched with a chemical explosive that got it’s speed up over 350 mph. The V-1’s mechanically complex guidance system led to its low success rate of 25%. They were, however, relatively easy and cheap to manufacture, and caused the Allies to spend a great deal of time and resources to defend against them.

The V-2 used a liquid propellent system of ethanol/water and liquid oxygen. This was a much more powerful system that allowed the missile to travel further and actually cross the boundary of space. The rocket propelled the missile up at an angle for about 65 seconds, after which it sut off and the rocket travelled under the power of gravity. The earlier V-2s used an analog computer to calculate when to shut the engine off. Later models used a radar controlled switch, so that they could be controlled from the ground.

Post by Rob Wallace, STEM Education Coordinator

A cutaway schematic of the V-1 rocket, which was really an unmanned jet aircraft.

A cutaway schematic of the V-1 rocket, which was really an unmanned jet aircraft.

A cutaway schematic of the V-2 rocket, which was propelled by liquid gas.

A cutaway schematic of the V-2 rocket, which was propelled by liquid gas.