What Might Have Been

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Behind Winston Churchill's words at the close of the war in Europe were bone-chilling facts about V-3, the abortive third of Germany's secret weapons.

Said Churchill: "It was only . . . when all the [German] preparations being made on the coasts of France and Holland could be examined in detail . . . that we knew how grave had been the peril. . . . Only just in time did the Allied armies blast the viper in his nest. Otherwise the autumn of 1944 . . . might well have seen London as shattered as Berlin."

Long-distance German guns were indeed almost ready to rain ten V-3 rocket shells a minute on the British capital. At Mimoyecques, near Calais (95 miles from London), Allied troops found 50 smoothbore gun barrels, each 400 feet long, sunk 350 feet into chalk hills. The installation was partly protected by 18-ft. concrete roofs, impervious to bombs. But steady air attack had slowed the Todt Organization's construction of the site until it was too late. Also found were seven other elaborate installations on the French coast. At least one was for another secret weapon, still a secret.