Author T.D. Dungan's "V-2: A Combat History of the First Ballistic Missile," is much more than its title implies. It is actually a comprehensive and detailed history of the genesis, development, testing, production, operational deployment and legacy of the liquid-fueled rocket with which Nazi Germany bombarded London, Antwerp and other targets during the last seven months of World War II. The brainchild of Dr. Wernher von Braun, who came to America after the War and headed NASA's Saturn V moon rocket program in the 1960s, the V-2 ("Vergeltungswaffe Zwei," or "Vengeance Weapon Two") was the world's first operational ballistic missile weapon system. Even though it was relatively unreliable and not very accurate, the V-2 occupies a special place on the road to space. Historians may argue about whether or not the German rocket team really had their eyes on the stars when they built the V-2. But it is undeniable that the big Nazi rocket, hundreds of which the United States and Soviet Union confiscated and launched after the War, jump-started the space programs of both nations.
"V-2" is uniquely valuable because it integrates rarely-seen technical information with the overall story of the rocket. If you like "engineering detail," you won't be disappointed. For example, there are excellent annotated line drawings of both the V-2 (internal and external) and its "Meillerwagen" transporter/erector. There is a detailed layout of a typical V-2 launching site in a forest clearing that includes all the vehicles and ancillary items of equipment required to service, prepare and launch the missile. There is an interesting double-page drawing of northwestern Europe that shows all V-2 launching sites and the missiles' trajectories to their targets. There is also a drawing of the notorious "Mittelwerk" underground assembly plant in the Harz Mountains, with the 46 tunnels identified as to which part of the manufacturing process each one housed in the production of V-1s, V-2s and Junkers "Jumo" turbojet engines.
Well-illustrated with black-and-white photographs, some of which I have not seen in print before, "V-2" is a superb stand-alone volume. An extensive bibliography steers the interested reader to sources of more information. My only criticism, and it is so minor that it scarcely deserves mention, is that there are several typographical and grammatical errors (such as the author's consistent misspelling of "ordnance" as "ordinance") that one last word-by-word proofreading would probably have corrected. But none of these are errors of fact, and they in no way detract from the readability, usefulness and historical value of this outstanding work. I give "V-2" my highest recommendation.