On June 13, 1944, Nazi Germany unleashed a new type of weapon: The Fieseler Fi 103 “flying bomb,” a small, pilotless, medium-range cruise missile. Launched from bases in northern France, the Netherlands, and western Germany, the Fi 103 enabled the German Luftwaffe to bombard Belgium, England, and France when the Allied air forces possessed air superiority over Western Europe. Because the Fi 103 could thus “avenge” Allied bombing raids on Germany, the German Propaganda Ministry called the Fi 103 Vergeltungswaffe Eins (“Vengeance Weapon 1”), or “V1” for short, and V1 is the name by which it is best remembered.
The entire V1 was a disposable vehicle powered by a primitive yet powerful “pulsejet” engine which gave the V1 a loud, raucous noise that could be heard from more than ten miles (sixteen kilometers) away. This rasping sound earned the V1 the nickname “Buzz Bomb.”
Germany built some 30,000 V1s and launched approximately 22,400 – most from ground-based ramps, but nearly 2,000 from modified Heinkel He 111 bombers. The Museum’s V1 was restored from parts salvaged from the notorious Mittelwerk factory at Nordhausen, Germany, where slave laborers from Concentration Camp Dora built V1s and V2 ballistic missiles.
Starting October 29, 2008, the V1 will be temporarily displayed in the Great Gallery before being hung in its permanent location in the Personal Courage Wing.