The V2 rocket was the world's first ballistic missile. It was originally designated the A-4, as it was the fourth in a line of rocket developments, however, Joseph Goebbel's propaganda ministry renamed it Vergeltungswaffe 2 (Retaliation Weapon 2). It was naturally shortened to V-2.
Engineer Werner von Braun was the driving force in the development of the German ballistic missile program . He became the director of the German Rocket Development Center in Peenemunde. As an engineering student he was a member of the Verein fur Raumschiffahrt (Society for Space Travel) and was always interested in furthering the cause of rockets as a means of space travel. At the request of the Reichswehr Ordnance Department, he began work on rockets in 1932 upon graduation from the Berlin Institute of Technology. The fledgling Reichswehr's interest in rocketry was to legally get around the restrictions on the number and size of artillery pieces laid out in the Treaty of Versailles following WWI. Rockets were not included as artillery pieces.
Unlike the V-1 developed by the Luftwaffe, which flew low, and slow enough to be intercepted by fast aircraft, the V-2 was a true, guided, ballistic missile, rising into the stratosphere before plunging down to the target. The only warning of an approaching V-2 was the double boom as it broke the sound barrier shortly before impact. There was no defense against the V-2, so the English went after the launching sites. They did this very effectively in the Pas de Calais so that only mobile V2s could be launched. None of these systems were ever successfully attacked.
The U.S. War Department was very interested in this new weapon. After the army occupied the Peenemunde base, all the remaining V-2s were shipped back to the United States, along with many of the German scientists and engineers. About 500 German rocket specialists were used in "Operation Paperclip" for this purpose, including Wernher von Braun. The V-2 became the army's Redstone