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  Space Cover 107: 1947 USS Midway V-2 Test

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Author Topic:   Space Cover 107: 1947 USS Midway V-2 Test
stevedd841
Member

Posts: 164
From: millersville, maryland, usa
Registered: Jul 2004

posted 05-01-2011 09:12 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for stevedd841   Click Here to Email stevedd841     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Space Cover of the Week, Week 107 (May 1, 2011)

On August 30, 1947, USS Midway documented the on-loading of two German V-2 rockets on board this modern U.S. Navy aircraft carrier in preparation for a V-2 rocket test to be conducted 200 hundred miles south of Bermuda in the Atlantic Ocean. The joint U.S. Navy and U.S. Army shipboard V-2 rocket test to be held on USS Midway was known as Operation Sandy. Years later, the test was declassified by the U.S. Military although much of the test information remains obscure and exceptionally difficult to find.

During WWII, German engineers had proposed V-2 rocket attacks on the United States from both submarines or air launched attacks from antipodal bombers, but real war exigencies and urgent priorities had preempted these. This postwar USS Midway cover records the first and only test of a V-2 rocket from the deck of a combatant ship, September 6, 1947, south of Bermuda in the Atlantic Ocean. The USS Midway cover for Operation Sandy is cancelled five days later, September 11, 1947. The V-2 rocket test was not public knowledge as it was classified.

Space Cover #107: USS Midway V-2 Rocket Test, 1947

The V-2 rocket test was sponsored by both the U.S. Navy and U.S. Army at the highest military echelons. However, information concerning the V-2 rocket test on USS Midway was classified with little to minimal public information being released to the general public. Receiving two rockets and a dummy rocket for training from U.S. Army Ordnance personnel at White Sands Proving Ground, New Mexico, USS Midway deck department personnel loaded the two V-2 rockets and the training rocket onto the largest and most modern U.S. Navy aircraft carrier at the time, in Norfolk, Virginia, August 30, 1947.

The purpose of the V-2 rocket test as designed by high ranking military and civilian personnel was to determine if modern rockets such as the V-2 rocket could be fired successfully fired from a moving and rolling shipboard platform and to determine if the rocket after launch could operationally perform its mission. At the time of the test, there were serious questions as to whether or not major modifications would be necessary for combatant ships such as USS Midway to be able to launch missiles at sea.

On September 6, 1947, 200 miles south of Bermuda in the Atlantic Ocean, Navy personnel completed the countdown for the ship’s staged and poised V-2 rocket, and the rocket blasted-off the deck of USS Midway, majestically thundering away from the ship. Rapidly reaching a velocity of 8,500 miles per hour after launch and achieving an altitude of approximately six miles, the rocket suddenly exploded. As the broken rocket components dramatically splashed down into the ocean at some distance away from the ship, the V-2 rocket test was abruptly completed almost as quickly as it had begun.

In spite of early termination of the V-2 rocket test due to explosion and loss of the rocket, high-ranking naval and military officers considered the test a major success, opening the era of modern rocket warfare for ships. The completed V-2 rocket test, though, would not be repeated, and Navy officials decided in the future to use solid fuel rockets in place of liquid fuel V-2 rockets to better protect ships launching rockets and to ensure the safety of embarked personnel.

Photo of V-2 rocket test conducted from the after flight deck of aircraft carrier USS Midway, CVB-41, 200 miles south of Bermuda in the Atlantic Ocean, September 6, 1947. News concerning the V-2 rocket test leaks to the general public after September 11, 1947. An official press release concerning the rocket test is made later, October 13, 1947 by the military. Photo credit: USS Midway website.

Steve Durst, SU 4379

Bob M
Member

Posts: 1367
From: Atlanta-area, GA USA
Registered: Aug 2000

posted 05-01-2011 11:47 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Bob M   Click Here to Email Bob M     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Great covers, Steve, and fascinating story about something I had never heard of.

Larry McGlynn
Member

Posts: 805
From: Boston, MA
Registered: Jul 2003

posted 05-01-2011 05:17 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Larry McGlynn   Click Here to Email Larry McGlynn     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
What impresses me is the sailors standing in the open just forward the island. They are probably about 400 or 500 feet away from a V-2 launch. I would venture to say that is rather close for an unprotected viewing area.

Gotta love the "Greatest Generation." Stood outside to watch nuclear bomb tests and stood next to launching rockets.

We don't do that today.

FFrench
Member

Posts: 3093
From: San Diego
Registered: Feb 2002

posted 05-01-2011 05:33 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for FFrench     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
If you wished to visit the launch site and stand on that deck, the USS Midway is now in San Diego and open for visits and tours.

stevedd841
Member

Posts: 164
From: millersville, maryland, usa
Registered: Jul 2004

posted 05-01-2011 06:57 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for stevedd841   Click Here to Email stevedd841     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Bob, Larry, and Francis, many thanks for your comments.

I was stationed aboard USS Midway many years later from 1981 to 1983, and first learned about the V-2 missile test at that time. Later while assigned to the Pentagon in Washington, DC, from 1984 to 1987, I tried to get information about the V-2 test, but because the test had been classified, there was not much information even available, although, I could talk to Navy historians about it and to eventually piece things together.

The Internet has finally opened that door, however, and I highly recommend those people who are interested in the test on USS Midway to take a look at the photos on the USS Midway site referenced above. Even in writing this article, I learned that the V-2 rockets were probably loaded at Portsmouth, VA, and not Norfolk; and that there were three rockets, two were operational V-2 rockets and one additional rocket was a training or dummy rocket.

I further learned that one of the rockets had been damaged so it would not have been shot off the ship for the test. Additionally, I also learned that Werner von Braun, developer of the V-2 rocket in Peenemunde, Germany, was one of the civilian technical experts invited to witness the test on board the ship. The civilians embarked aboard USS Midway via U.S. Navy LCM craft and am thinking that was probably from either NOB, Norfolk, VA, or Little Creek, VA, where the craft would have been able to make a short trip to the ship in the stream.

So you see, even after studying this test for many years, I am still learning about it, too.

Larry McGlynn
Member

Posts: 805
From: Boston, MA
Registered: Jul 2003

posted 05-01-2011 08:08 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Larry McGlynn   Click Here to Email Larry McGlynn     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Steve, it's pretty impressive to look at those photos. I visited the Midway a couple of years ago. It is well displayed.

I also met a guy here on the East Coast, Sherman Baldwin, who flew EA-6Bs off the deck in the Gulf War. He wrote a book and that is how I met him.

I also recently met Adm. "Skip" Furlong at the Naval Aviation Museum. He was on the Midway when the OV-1 Bird dog landed with a Vietnamese officer, wife and four kids on the deck of the carrier back in 1975. I saw that "bird dog" on display in Hanger One of the NAM.

The ship has a lot of history to her.

(Have a nice Challenge coin from the ship too.)

yeknom-ecaps
Member

Posts: 458
From: Northville MI USA
Registered: Aug 2005

posted 02-11-2012 09:05 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for yeknom-ecaps   Click Here to Email yeknom-ecaps     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote

A free mail cover postmarked aboard the US Navy aircraft carrier USS Midway, September 16, 1947. It is a monarch envelope that bears the return address of Commander Carrier Division 1 and is autographed by Rear Admiral J. J. Ballentine. This was only 10 days after the V-2 launch from the USS Midway.

OLDIE
Member

Posts: 169
From: Portsmouth, England
Registered: Sep 2004

posted 02-12-2012 03:06 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for OLDIE     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks for those truly fascinating pics. I must try to visit USS Midway someday.

All times are CT (US)

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