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5.41 Discuss the Soviet Union's and the United States' missile and rocket development after World War II.

The development of missiles did not occur overnight in either the United States or the Soviet Union. Both nations had been working on them since the end of World War II. Following the collapse of Germany in 1945, Dr. Wernher von Braun and most of his scientists surrendered to the United States. These scientists and the captured V­1s and V­2s formed the nucleus of America's research in rocketry following World War II. The Russians also captured German scientists and V-1s and V-2s, and this was also the Soviet Union's beginning in long­range rocketry.

Dr. Wernher von Braun

Military planners on both sides realized that missiles would be formidable weapons. While the Soviet Union placed a high priority on research In this area immediately after the war, the United States did not. The United States did not believe the Soviet Union could develop a missile for several years; and since they did not possess any nuclear weapons, the United States did not see much of a threat from the Russians.

Dr. von Braun and his team were taken to White Sands, New Mexico, where, until 1950, they helped the U.S. Army improve the V­2. In 1950, they were moved to the Army's Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama, and Von Braun became director of guided missile development.

A V-2 launch at White Sands Proving Grounds, NM.

Because the U.S. Air Force lacked experience in building large rockets, it concentrated on building subsonic Snark and Matador cruise missiles (both were phased out in the early 1960s).

Meanwhile, the Soviet Union, instead of building and launching V­2s as had the U.S. Army or cruse missiles like the U.S. Air Force, immediately undertook the task of building larger and more powerful missiles.

While developing the cruse missiles, the U.S. Air Force was working on the Atlas missile at a much slower pace. By the end of 1955, however, the Atlas program was given the United States' highest priority. This was brought about due to the threat from the Soviet Union developing nuclear weapons, the smaller size of nuclear weapons (they could now be carried on missiles), and political pressure. The Atlas pro gram moved quickly, giving the United States its first intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM), but not without some problems.


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