Speaking of Cruise Missiles

I stumbled across this due to a poorly-constructed google search. Search-botch-browsing is a whole new category of entertainment, as far as I am concerned; sometimes you find really interesting stuff.

Hanna Reitsch in 1938

Hanna Reitsch in 1938

Back in 2016, around when I was starting this blog, I did a posting on Hanna Reitsch, the nazi pilot who – in addition to being an amazingly hardcore young lady – flew an experimental manned V-1 “buzz bomb.” That posting is here: [stderr] and I hope it adequately captures my extreme ambivalence about Reitsch, who appears to be politically naive and unstintingly gave her loyalty to whoever put her in cool aircraft. So, she was an ardent nazi to her death because of the flight hours, or something. I’m grudgingly impressed by someone so skilled and monomaniacal. If there is a “warrior spirit” she had it.

Apparently her old “plane” – the piloted buzz-bomb – has turned up and is going to take its place in a museum where it belongs. This article is oldish news (2017) so presumably that has already happened [dm]

An incredibly rare Kamikaze version of Adolf Hitler’s deadly V1 terror weapon is about to go on display at a British museum 47 years after it was saved from the scrapheap – and restored in Germany.

The piloted Doodlebug was effectively a suicide bomb packed with one ton of explosives in its nose.

Towards the end of the Second World War, some 5,000 V1 rockets, the world’s first cruise missile, were launched by the Germans to bomb London, causing massive loss of life.

Because their aim was so random – the bombs dropped when they ran out of fuel – some were later modified with a small cockpit so they could be flown accurately towards a specified target, such as Buckingham Palace. 

According to Reitsch’s memoir, the piloted V-1s were a death-trap and several test pilots had already been killed attempting them before she strapped in and successfully flew and landed one. Reitsch writes, in her memoir The Sky My Kingdom:

The second model was a two-seater V-1 with one seat placed in front and the other behind the wing. It was fitted with dual controls and, being intended for training school use, had no power unit.

Landing a V-1 was at all times an extremely difficult and dangerous operation and, even when specially trained, pilots of average ability could never be certain of surviving the attempt. If our project was to come to fruition at all, we had to do our best to keep down the fatality rate among the men on whom the entire training scheme depended, namely, the instructors, and those were accordingly most carefully picked from among the best of the volunteers.

I assume that the double canopy was because having a pulse-jet engine a meter from your head is loud.

Look at the damage to the leading edge of the jet engine; I wonder if that thing sucked birds in. I suppose a pulse jet is more forgiving of bird ingestion than a compressor-bladed jet engine, but there’s no way that’s a good thing.

Controls? There’s “fast”, “up”, and “down.” We have all the controls! Including a thingie you can aim with:

“My daddy restored a buzz-bomb in his garage.”


The original plan was to train a bunch of hitler youth to fly the things, because they were small. As nazi Germany began to collapse under pressure from the Red Army and the allies, the hitlerian nihilists came up with lots of clever ways to throw away the hitler youth, including giving them panzerfaust single-shot bazookas and sending them out against soviet tanks. Fascists are always all about protecting the children.

Several of the suicide missiles were recovered and one was shipped over to England so that engineers could examine it. After that, it was scheduled to be scrapped but one of the engineers asked “can I have it, then?” and it wound up in a shed for decades. As a certified pack rat, I am humbled by the chutzpah of asking the MOD if you can take home a buzz-bomb and having them say “sure!”


  1. says

    There is a story I was told, but I am a couple steps from the source and it was years ago so, sum granum salis or however it goes.

    There was for a time an SR-71 precursor (an A-12 it appears) at the Air National Guard Museum in Minnesota. You might sensibly ask “how on earth does does some shitty little outfit in flyover country rate an A-12?” and the answer is, apparently, simply that they requisitioned it. They pulled a form off the stack, filled it out properly, and babied it through the system until the desired aircraft turned up.

    It looks like the USAF eventually noticed and took it back to stick it somewhere snazzier. But while I lived near MSP, you could see it sittin’ outside the National Guard hangers on the far side of the airport, if you knew where to look as you taxied for your gate.

  2. Just an Organic Regular Expression says

    Barely relevant, re pulse jets being loud? It turns out they are also quite easy to make, well within backyard mechanic abilities, and youtube is FULL of videos of pulse-jet powered bikes, carts, even a kayak. A deafeningly loud thing that spouts flames and smoke and is easy to weld up? PERFECT weekend project!

  3. says

    @Andrew Molitor:
    Yeah, there were some pretty amazing “give military stuff away for putting in front of the local Elks’ club” programs. In Philipsburg, a few miles from my house, there’s a little shitty monument to nationalism that includes a Sherman tank. The town has had to move the damn thing a couple of times, and repaint it, and otherwise try to stop it from leaking and rusting. There is a smallish howitzer parked in front of another memorial in Clearfield.

    Most Americans don’t notice the sea of militarist propaganda we swim in, because America’s militarist propaganda is: “we are not militarists!” Damn clever.

  4. says

    Just an Organic Regular Expression@#2:
    A deafeningly loud thing that spouts flames and smoke and is easy to weld up? PERFECT weekend project!

    Yeah, I’ve seen a few of those “put it on a bicycle and see how that works” videos. As someone who has some experience with how metal behaves when it’s hot, I’d be pretty worried that it might be hard to turn the damn thing off, or that it might suddenly and violently self-disassemble (I think that’s also called “exploding”) Any project that starts with “strap a propane tank to your go cart” is probably a bad path to go down.

  5. dangerousbeans says

    Am i the only one who gets an overwhelming feeling of NOPE! when looking at that thing?

    I kind of empathise with her; the one thing i dislike about how my brain works is that if someone can give me the right sort of complex problem i get distracted from the ethics. it’s not good.

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