The V-2 in America

DVD Review by Sven Knudson, IPMS #32490

The German V-2 rocket started out as a weapon of war but provided a jump-start to the American rocket and atmospheric research programs after the war. The newest DVD release from James Duffy at rocket.aero contains more than four hours of film from the US Army, Air Force, Navy and National Archives documenting the V-2 with particular emphasis on the American research programs. The DVD is divided into fivel sections: the Introduction, The Wartime V-2, The V-2 at White Sands, White Sands and Beyond, and a Bonus Materials Section.

The Introduction film is a sixteen and a half minute overview of the history of the V-2 starting with its beginnings in the German rocket societies of the 1930s, its use as a tactical weapon of terror during World War II and its use as a research rocket in the United States in the post war period. The video is a compilation of clips from footage youíll see in the rest of the DVD with a script written and narrated by James. It would certainly be something you could expect to see on The History Channel, back when it actually showed historical documentaries instead of reality shows about truckers, loggers and monsters. The film has an alternate audio track of modelerís notes narrated by James that discusses the various model kits of the V-2, including the Estes flying model rockets, and announces a new 1/24 scale styrene kit that he will be producing from Spacemonkey Models.

The Wartime V-2 section consists of two films. The first is silent black and white German footage of Peenemunde launch operations. Itís about six and a half minutes long and silent with an introductory narration by James. Image quality is good and includes some nice footage of the peculiar looking launch command car. The second film is a forty minute long black and white film produced by the British War Office describing the British launch tests of captured V-2s. It includes a lot of footage of the test missiles on the assembly line, including good interior shots of the missiles. This film also includes a detailed description of the steps required to launch a V-2 from reception of the missile at the railhead and delivery to the launch site, showing that it was definitely not a rapid-response weapon system. There are some wonderful shots of the ground support and fueling equipment that can inspire great ideas for modeling dioramas. Image and audio quality are good in this film.

The V-2 at White Sands section contains five films detailing the operations at the White Sands Proving Grounds after the war. The first film is a black and white 1947 War Department film detailing V-2 assembly and launch procedures at White Sands. It has more assembly line footage with great shots of interior components, the propulsion chamber, fuel pumps, and the tail unit interior and exterior, showing the placement of antennae at the base of two fins. There are good detail shots of the launch platform and gantry crane, with launch and recovery of the Blossom I flight in February 1947. Image and audio quality are good in the almost twenty minute film. The next three films, totaling over 39 minutes, are silent with introductory voice-overs by James describing V-2 preparation and launch operations, including missile erection, fueling operations with both the Meillerwagen and launch crane (depending on the flight), launch and recovery. There are also some good shots of the ground tracking equipment and lots of diorama ideas in these films. One film is in color, while the other two are in black and white. Image quality is fair to good in these films. The final film in this section is a fifteen and a half minute Air Materiel Command briefing film describing the Blossom I project. It has some missile assembly footage seen in the previous films, but also has some nice shots of the canister ejection tests and of the gantry crane used to service additional instrumentation in the missile. Image and audio quality are good.

The White Sands and Beyond section consists of four films covering Operation Sandy, Cape Canaveral Bumper WAC flights and more White Sands flights. Operation Sandy is covered by a short black and white silent film with a narrated introduction by James. It is some rather dark footage of the V-2 on its launch platform with braces to hold it steady. The braces are shown retracting just before a pretty dramatic liftoff. The Cape Canaveral Bumper WAC 7 and 8 flights are shown in a seven minute black and white silent film, again with James narrating the introduction. The next film in this section is a US Army Ordnance Corps film detailing the preparation and launch of V-2 round #59. It includes some nice detail shots of the nose cone and payload, transport, erection and fueling operations, along with some nice shots of the gantry crane and installation of the payload. Image and sound quality are good in this color ten minute and forty five second film. The final film in this section is what appears to be an ambitious home movie filmed and edited by Robert Messenger which includes the preparation and launch of V-2 rounds #28 and #31. It not only includes the missile operations, but also has some interesting aerial views of White Sands National Monument, the Trinity Site and White Sands Proving Grounds. It is silent with an introductory narration by James. Itís also in color: a bit washed out, but not too bad, and has a running time of about seventeen minutes.

The final section of Bonus Materials has three USAF films, only one of which concerns the V-2. The first film is a 1948 USAF Briefing Film titled "Guided Missiles." It includes footage of early guided bomb tests, including the Northrop Bug and other unmanned jet bombs. Image and audio quality are fair in this nineteen minute black and white film. The next film, "Laboratories Beyond the Sky," is another USAF Briefing Film from 1947 describing V-2 payloads and launches. Unfortunately, the original audio is missing. However the image quality is good in this twenty five minute color film. The final film is "The Cape," a color 1963 USAF documentary about Cape Canaveral showing lots of pad operations and launches of a myriad of rockets and missiles, from sounding rockets to the Saturn 1. Image and audio qualities are good in this twenty-six minute film.

James is providing a valuable service digitizing and preserving these examples of our early rocket history. Iím looking forward to seeing more from rocket.aero!

Thanx to James Duffy of rocket.aero for the review copy.

The V-2 in America

Published by rocket.aero
$19.95 US

rocket.aero's web page is at: http://www.rocket.aero/