March 14, 1945 – BBC World Service: London Column – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
With the War in Europe heading into its last weeks, a new last-ditch weapon was introduced by Germany; the V-2. It was the world’s first long-range guided ballistic missile. The missile, powered by a liquid-propellant rocket engine, was developed in Germany as a “vengeance weapon” and assigned to attack Allied cities as retaliation for the Allied bombings against German cities. The V-2 rocket also became the first artificial object to travel into space by crossing the Kármán line with the vertical launch of MW 18014 on 20 June 1944.
The rockets travelled at supersonic speed, impacted without audible warning, and proved unstoppable, as no effective defense existed. Teams from the Allied forces—the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union—raced to seize key German manufacturing facilities, procure Germany’s missile technology, and capture the V-2’s launching sites. But while efforts were being made to combat the effects of the V-2, Britain was reliving the old days during the Blitz, and one of the segments in this weekly radio series from the BBC, London Column, follows a Civil Defense rescue team from initial call to recovery of wounded civilians.
Also on the program is a segment featuring Captain Nichols of the American 10th Armored Division, interviewed by the BBC and discussing the speed with which Allied forces, particularly armored Tank columns, are overrunning and capturing towns and villages as they head east towards Berlin.
As a companion to the rapid advances piece, there is also a story about what happens once a German town is liberated, and the procedures the Allies take to establish order quickly.
But the V-2 piece is the most engaging as it’s on-the-spot reporting, with events happening in real time.
Even though the war wasn’t over, the anticipation of peace was palpable, as this episode of London Column for March 14, 1945 demonstrates.
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