That Time Polish Partisans Stole a Nazi V2 Rocket
It was the dawn of the ballistic missile era, and with the invention of the V2 rocket, the Germans had beaten everyone to the punch. Eager to get their hands on one of these horrific new devices, the Allies embarked on an audacious plan to steal one. Here’s the fascinating story of how they did it.
Indeed, the potential for the Peenemünde Aggregat A4 V2 rocket to be a game changer in the war was not lost on the Allies. It was a weapon from the future — an advanced piece of technology that Hitler saw as the deus ex machina he was looking for. When Wernher von Braun showed him the launch of the V2 on color film, Hitler reportedly jumped from his seat and shook Braun’s hand with excitement, proclaiming, “This is the decisive weapon of the war. Humanity will never be able to endure it,” adding that, “If I had had this weapon in 1939 we would not be at war now.”
But patience and luck was on the side of the Poles. In early 1944, a V2 rocket crashed onto a muddy bank of the River Bug near the testing ground at Sarnacki not far from the village of Mezenin near Klimczyce. And remarkably, the V2 did not blow up. The Polish underground, who had been waiting for such a situation, rushed to the rocket and disguised it with bulrushes and osier bed. The Germans, desperate to retrieve it, quickly organized an aerial and ground-based search mission, but failed to locate the now-camouflaged rocket. The Polish Home Army then contacted London to let them know that they had a virtually complete V2 rocket disassembled and hidden away. Eager to get their hands on the pieces, the Allies organized Operation Most III, a mission to retrieve the disassembled rocket by plane and bring it back to Britain. As they prepared for the mission, some components (namely the guidance system) were smuggled into Warsaw where Polish scientists examined it, and fuel samples were shipped to London.