Author helped develop missiles

The Nazis developed the world’s first long-range ballistic missile, known as the V-2.

The rockets traveled in a suborbital space flight, meaning they would reach outer space before dropping back down toward the target. During the war, the Nazis launched more than 3,000 of these missiles, mainly toward London and Antwerp, Belgium. They had a goal of reaching targets in the United States, but were never able to develop a successful navigation system.

When the war was in its final stages, the Americans and the Russians raced to capture as many V-2 rockets as they could and the engineers responsible for them. The U.S. Army took more than 60 of these explosives and, as part of Operation Paper Clip, recruited then-Nazi rocket scientist Wernher Von Braun.

Research and development began in New Mexico, and that is where current Solana Beach resident William Yengst comes in. An electrical engineer, Yengst served in developing and testing the V-2 missiles, ultimately helping to create a more accurate navigation system.

In his latest book, “Lightning Bolts: First Maneuvering Reentry Vehicles,” which was released April 6, Yengst writes of programs and processes for launching, designing and testing these missiles in the mid-1960s. It tracks the development of the U.S. Armed Forces’ long-range missile systems into the 1980s.

The book provides a firsthand account of Yengst’s participation in White Sands, N.M., missile testing, where he said all 64 of the V-2s captured in Operation Paper Clip were detonated.

“I came across it because I lived it,” he said, adding that he hopes these stories will inspire high school and college students to pursue a career in electrical engineering.

If you go

- William Yengst signs copies of his new book
- 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. May 15
- Earth Song Bookstore, 1440 Camino del Mar
- (858) 755-4254,

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