August 26, 1946
A Swedish astronomer, gazing through his telescope one quiet night last week, saw a luminous something—no bigger than a glowworm—appear on the horizon. Within ten seconds it had grown into a 90-ft.-long, torpedolike missile whose fiery tail spewed blue and green smoke. Said the astronomer: "I had visions of doomsday."
All of Sweden was having similar visions (TIME, Aug. 19). Individual missiles had been streaking over the country since May, but now they were coming in swarms. Last week, Stockholm's Aftonbladet reported that an Army plane collided with one of the "things." Three flyers were killed. Two Swedes boating on a lake barely missed being sunk by one "thing."
Officially, military authorities declared that there was no conclusive proof that the "frequent celestial phenomena" were caused by a foreign power; they suggested tactfully that most of the missiles, after cruising in a wide semicircle over Sweden, proceeded toward Russia. Unofficial Swedes simply called the mystery missiles "Russian V-4s."
What were the Russians up to? Observers ventured three guesses: 1) the Russians were testing rocket equipment left by the Germans at Peenemünde, the now Russian-occupied V-bomb launching site (110 miles from Sweden); 2) they were trying to impress the world; 3) they were underlining, perhaps coincidentally, their suggestion that Stockholm give Moscow a one billion kronor ($278,500,000) credit, more than Sweden can afford without disrupting her economy.