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Operation Backfire (WWII): Map

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A German V-2 rocket fired by the British during Operation Backfire, 1946.
Operation Backfire was a military scientific operation during and after World War II, which was performed mainly by British staff. It was part of the Allies' scramble to acquire as much German technology as they could.

For this operation, four V-2 rockets were launched during October 1945 from a launch pad at north-east of Arenschmarker near Cuxhavenmarker in Germanymarker, in order to demonstrate the weapon to Allied personnel.

The Americans had already removed most of the V2 rocket technology from the German underground Mittelwerk facility at the Mittelbau-Doramarker concentration camp near Nordhausenmarker. Before the Soviets took occupation of that area, the British were given the opportunity to gather material themselves. They were able to assemble parts sufficient to build eight V2 rockets. Some parts were, however, still missing and there was a large-scale search throughout Germany. Some 400 railway cars and 70 Lancaster flights were used to bring the quarter-of-a-million parts and 60 specialized vehicles to Cuxhaven, the most elusive part being batteries to operate the guidance gyros. The US supplied some tail assemblies from those that they had taken. Many of the rockets and the hydrogen peroxide fuel used in the operation was provided by T-Force, a secretive British Army unit that had, in spring and summer 1945, searched for German military technology and scientists.

The handling and launch procedures were unknown, so German personnel were ordered to perform these, which, for the most part, they did willingly . The launches were filmed and, because the personnel wore their original uniforms and the rockets were painted in near to their original livery, this footage, often used for documentaries, has been mistaken for actual footage of wartime German launches.

At the site of the former launchpad there is a trough and some remnants of shelters.

During and after the launches, the British attempted to recruit German personnel, even those transferred from US custody and due to be returned, to assist with their own missile programme.

Launch details

Three rockets were launched, as follows:

Date Time Maximum height Length of flight Remarks
October 2 1945 14h41 69.4 km 249.4 km
October 4 1945 14h16 17.4 km 24 km Engine failure shortly after launch
October 15 1945 15h06 64 km 233 km Some sources incidate launch took place on October 14 1945
October 17 1945 80 km Final Flight


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