During World War II, Peenemünde was the location of the Heeresversuchsanstalt, an extensive rocket development and test site established in 1937. Prior to that date the team headed by Wernher von Braun and Walter Dornberger had worked in Kummersdorf, south of Berlin. However, Kummersdorf was too small for testing. Peenemünde, located on the coast, was chosen as rockets could be launched and monitored across about 200 miles of open water.
From 1937 until 1945, the Peenemünders developed many of the basics of rocket technology and two weapons, the V-1 and the V-2. Test firing of the first V-1 occurred in early 1942 and the first V-2 (then called the A-4) on October 3, 1942 from Prüfstand VII.
There is much controversy about how the allies found out about Peenemünde. The official British version is that all information was collected by air reconnaissance. However there are witnesses and documents which state that Peenemunde was discovered thanks to Polish underground army (Armia Krajowa or AK) intelligence and some information from others (including Danish pilot who photographed something looking like a V rocket near Peenemünde). After that there were a number of heavy air-raids, including an attack by almost 500 RAF heavy bombers on August 17, 1943. At the end of World War II, von Braun and most of the scientists fled to be captured by the Americans while the site and most of the technicians were captured by the Soviets. The actual site was, in accordance with an agreement, destroyed with explosives by the Red Army.
English intelligence for years denied that it received any information about Peenemünde from Poland. However copies of reports were found after the war in Poland. R. V. Jones contradicted himself, first denying that fact, and later in his book The Wizard War writing that many bombs fell on camps of foreign workers who gave the allies information (he failed to mention that these workers were Poles and were from AK). Within the last few years Polish politicians and historians have demanded access to British archives (since most if not all AK reports were stored in England). So far the British authorities have answered that all AK reports were destroyed.