Vergeltungswaffe 2 (Vengance Weapon 2)
The V-2 rocket was a long-range missile developed at the beginning of WW2 by the Germans, targeted at Belgium and England. Father of modern rocketry, the V-2 was the first success in reaching sub-orbital space.
The V-2 was the most expensive development project of the Third Reich. Around 3,000 V-2's were launched from Germany during the war, accounting for more than 7,000 Allied civilian and military deaths. Facing a worker shortage, the Nazis would turn to slave labor to continue production, mostly using prison camp inmates. It is estimated that 20,000 these slave laborers died in the production of the V-2.
After the war, the United States initiated Operation Paperclip, designed to import German scientists and technology into the states, and thereby keeping the information from the Russians and British. These German scientists would figure heavily into the space race to come, and the work carried out on the V-2 would make way for larger, more powerful rockets capable of landing man on the moon.
Above a V-2 is seen on the pad with a black and white checkerboard pattern. This pattern made it easier to tell if the rocket was rotating correctly in flight. Below a V-2 with a camouflage paint job used more commonly toward the end of the war.
Below we see the V-2 surrounded by not Germans, but Americans in this photo taken after the war.
It's hard to reflect on the roots of our greatest achievement. The technology that will one day save humanity was intended, initially, to burn it alive.
Finally, a cross-section of the top-secret V-2 for your viewing pleasure: