V-2’s, General Electric and Project Thumper: It’s the Defense!

Posted by on November 1, 2008

Hello Dear Readers and Subscribers!

Please forgive the lack of postings this week.  I’v had some sort of wierd illness….maybe it’s my cooking!  🙂

Anyway, I was doing research the other day and came across an interesting little project called:

Project Thumper!

Let’s get started!

While most American boys and girls in the pre-World War II years had their minds on the things of childhood such as this:

Source: NARA

(1)

German scientists and rocketry experts such as von Braun and others were feverishly developing the modern science of rocketry.  Braun, like Goddard is a central character in the development of this new field of science.  He had been interested in rocketry ever since his youth.  Says NASA’s History of Rocketry:

“… Radio commentator Paul Harvey tells a story of how young von Braun’s interest in rocketry almost got him labeled as a juvenile delinquent. At the age of 13, von Braun exhibited an interest in explosives and fireworks. His father could not understand his son’s consuming interest in so dangerous a hobby. He feared his son would become safecracker. One day the young teenager obtained six skyrockets, strapped them to a toy red wagon and set them off. Streaming flames and a long trail of smoke, the wagon roared five blocks into the center of the von Braun family’s home town, where they finally exploded…”

Growing up and connecting with others whose interest in rocketry were the same, in the late 1920’s they joined the group, Verein fur Raumschiffarht (VfR) (2).

Von Braun and others

(3)

As Germany careened towards totalitarism and Hitler in the late 1930’s, Von Braun and others found themselves recruited by those in power for their scientific skills in this new science.  Ultimately, their research resulted in the V-1 and V-2 series of rockets.  While championed by Hitler as the secret weapons which would save Germany, it was a matter of momentum, which a few rockets could not overcome.

Stepping back, however, during the war, there were those who realized that if the science of rocketry developed faster than expected, there was no way to protect the United States from these new weapons.  With this in mind, General Electric was recruited to come up with some method of defense.  This ultimately resulted in Project Thumper.  While working on the project, the basic conclusion resulted in this fact:

“….defense against V-2 rockets was not possible given the state of then-current technology.” (4)

However, this did not stop the determination of all involved to come up with some sort of method of defense.  By the mid-1950’s and early 1960’s, this work had resulted in Project Defender and Project Nike, which brought about the Nike-Zeus ABM (5)

There is much more to the story than what I have here.  Make sure you hit the links for more.  There were many more projects that centered around this grappeling historical issue.

Have a great day!

Links:

NASA Timeline

Von Braun biography

Von Braun history (Power to Explore)

NASA: Brief history of rocketry

Alternatives for Boost-Phase Missile Defense (Google Books)

MIssile Defense Controversy

Wikipedia: Project Nike

Nike MIssile Web Site (extensive documentation)

Nike Historical

Movie of Nike-Zeus Missile (Internet Archive)

Sources:

(1) NARA

(2) Biography of Wernher Von Braun

(3) NARA

(4) From Project Thumper to SDI

(5) MIssile Defense Controversy

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