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Today in History

V-1_cutaway V! “Doodlebug”

In the early years of WWII, Nazi Germany fired 10,000 V1″Doodlebug” rockets at England, killing over 6,000 Londoners by 1943. The subsonic V1 was an effective terror weapon, but the “low and slow” trajectory and short range of the weapon lacked the strategic power to end the war in the Nazi’s favor.

The V2 was different.  It was the dawn of the ballistic missile era, and Nazi Germany was first off the starting line.

The Peenemünde Aggregat A4 V2 was an early predecessor of the Cruise Missile, delivering a 2,148-pound payload over a 236 mile range at 5 times the speed of sound. You could hear the V1 “Buzz Bomb” coming and seek shelter.  Not so the V2.  Victims of the V2 didn’t know they were under attack until the weapon had exploded.

When Wernher von Braun showed Adolf Hitler color film of the launch of a V2…

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7 thoughts on “July 25, 1944 V2

    1. Kazimierz Szrajer was born in Warsaw on December 30 1919 and began flying gliders when he was 16. When the Germans invaded his homeland, he joined many of his countrymen and made the exhausting journey to freedom through Hungary and Yugoslavia, finally arriving in England from France.

      After training as a pilot he joined No 301 (Polish) Squadron in September 1941 to fly the Wellington bomber. Over the next months he flew 22 bombing operations against some of Germany’s most heavily-defended targets. Three times his bomber was damaged and he was forced to crash land on his return.

      In May 1942 Szrajer was transferred to No 138 (Special Duties) Squadron, where a Polish Flight was being formed. From the airfield at Tempsford he flew his Halifax to many parts of Europe to drop supplies and agents to Resistance forces, conducting 13 missions to France, five to Norway and four to Poland.

      On October 29 he took off for Warsaw. But on the return flight his aircraft was badly damaged by a German night fighter and Szrajer had to ditch his bomber in the North Sea. One dinghy was punctured, so the seven-man crew had to clamber aboard the one remaining. After a few hours in the sea, they were rescued by a launch.

      At the end of his tour in July 1943, Szrajer was awarded the DFC and the Virtuti Militari, Poland’s highest award for gallantry.

      In January 1944 Szrajer returned to operations when he joined No 1586 Flight at Brindisi. He flew many sorties to support Italian, Yugoslav and Greek partisans, and dropped agents and supplies over Poland on six occasions before his epic flight to retrieve the V-2 parts.

      Following the Polish uprising in Warsaw, seven Halifax aircraft took off on the night of August 4/5 to drop the first supplies to the beleaguered city. Szrajer was the pilot of one of the aircraft; it was his 100th and final operation.

      Towards the end of the war, Szrajer flew to the Far East to repatriate survivors from Japanese prisoner of war camps. He remained in the RAF flying transport aircraft until the end of 1948, when he embarked on a civilian flying career almost as adventurous as his wartime experiences.

      He joined the Lancashire Aircraft Corporation and flew converted Halifax bombers. In July 1949 he flew to Schleswig in Germany and over the next few months flew 149 sorties ferrying supplies into Berlin during the Airlift.

      In October 1955 he and his family left for Canada, where everyone knew him as “Paddy”. He flew supplies to the Arctic to support the construction of the Distant Early Warning Radar Chain (DEW Line) that stretched from Alaska to Greenland. Over the next few years he made long-range charter flights to destinations all over the world.

      After the outbreak of civil war between Nigeria and the province of Biafra, he volunteered in 1969 for a Canadian charity, Canairelief, to take food to the starving millions. Flying a four-engine Lockheed Constellation, he flew by night to an airstrip on a converted stretch of the highway in the jungle at Uli in Biafra.

      Szrajer later became the chief pilot of Nordair and converted to the Boeing 737 jet airliner. He was the captain of the airline’s longest-range charter when he flew to Guam in the Pacific to pick up refugees from Vietnam destined for Montreal. He flew his last flight on May 12 1981, having amassed more than 25,000 hours’ flying time. He retired to Barry Bay in Ontario.

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