What kid, growing up, does not want to be an astronaut?
When I was a teen, I fell in love with James Michener’s novel Space, and I needed to learn more about these German scientists.
Since that day, one of my heroes has been Wernher Magnus Maximilian, Freiherr von Braun.
Wernher von Braun discover the idea of space travel as a 13-year-old boy in a German boarding school, and dedicated his life to physics and math with the goal of sending men into space.
Von Braun is credited with the invention of the V2 for Nazi Germany, and the Saturn V for the United States. Wernher von Braun is considered the “Father of Rocket Science” by NASA.
So, how did a Nazi rocket scientist make a rocket that sent men into space?
In 1937, von Braun was the Technical Director at the Army Rocket Center at Peenemunde. He was a member of the Nazi Party out of necessity, and in 1940 became a member of the Allgemeine SS (ordinary SS).
Von Braun was not a Nazi by belief but out of needing to show loyalty to continue to build rockets.
Because of his position with the Party, and his job at Peenemunde, he was on EVERYONE’s radar.
The Nazis watched him, and the British, Americans and Russians all wanted him and his staff.
The United States launched Operation Paperclip in an attempt to gather as many of these scientists before the Soviets could and bring them to the United States.
Von Braun and his men had been moved to a village in the Bavarian Alps with SS guards that had orders to execute the scientists instead of letting them fall into enemy hands.
The scientists managed to get to allied occupied Austria where they surrendered to a US Army Private.
Wernher von Braun spoke to the press after his surrender:
“We knew that we had created a new means of warfare, and the question as to what nation, to what victorious nation we were willing to entrust this brainchild of ours was a moral decision more than anything else. We wanted to see the world spared another conflict such as Germany had just been through, and we felt that only by surrendering such a weapon to people who are guided by the Bible could such an assurance to the world be best secured.” – Wikipedia
Just days before they were to be turned over to the Soviets, von Braun and his scientists were smuggled into US occupied territory on June 19, 1945.
70 years ago today, November 16, 2015 Wernher von Braun and his scientists were brought to the United States to work on our rocket program.
Some of these scientist had to have new military and employment records because President Truman did not want former Nazis brought to the United States. Operation Paperclip was named for the paperclips holding the new resumes for these scientists.
These men were vital to the National Security of the United States. We were entering into a Cold War with the Soviet Union. When I was involved in the Cold War, I worked with Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles–the great-grandsons of the V2 rocket.
The situation pointed out one of the many ironies connected with the Cold War. The United States and the Soviet Union, once allies against Germany and the Nazi regime during World War II, were now in a fierce contest to acquire the best and brightest scientists who had helped arm the German forces in order to construct weapons systems to threaten each other. – history.com
These German scientists were just that–they were scientists first, and Germans second. They all had a goal of manned Space flight. Because of these men and their families, we have many things that we take for granted in our daily lives. Things like satellite television and GPS navigation. Warner von Braun was responsible for Explorer 1 being launched into space as the United States’s first satellite.
It was these scientists that put the man on the moon and we owe so much that we have to their desire to be men of science.