Werner Von Braun
Werner von Braun was born in Wirsitz Prussia on March 23, 1912. From the time he was kid he was obsessed with rockets and space travel. He joined the Nazis party in November 1937. He developed rockets for the German Army.
After World War II, German-born rocket engineer Werner von Braun came to the US, where he developed rockets for the United States military and for NASA. His history of having been a member of the Nazi party and a key figure in the development of Germany's rocket program during the war made him a controversial figure. It was later calculated that thousands of people enslaved by the Nazis had been killed working in von Braun's missile projects, in addition to the thousands killed in London from the notorious V-2 missile, developed by von Braun. The V-2 was also used against Allied troops after D-Day.
Werner Von Braun - History
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The name Von Braun originated from the German engineer, Wernher Von Braun. Von Braun is known for being one of the most important weapons specialists to work on rocketry and jet propulsion in the United States. In 1945, after signing a contract with the U.S. Army, Von Braun was brought to Huntsville, Alabama from Germany. While in Huntsville Von Braun took on elite roles. His first was as the technical director of the U.S. Army Ordnance Guided Missile Project. Soon after Von Braun officially moved to Huntsville and became a U.S. citizen. He continued his work as the technical director but went on to hold the titles Director of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration&aposs Marshall Space Flight Center and Vice President at the aerospace company Fairchild Industries, Inc. He even founded the National Space Institute. Von Braun is also responsible for several satellites and rockets you may be familiar with such as Explorer I, Saturn IB, Saturn V and Saturn I, which is the rocket that was used for the Apollo 8 moon orbit in 1969. The U.S. Space program played such a huge role in Huntsville that Huntsville became known as the “rocket city.” Due to the efforts of Von Braun and the success he made of Huntsville it only seemed appropriate we be named the Von Braun Center.
OPENING DAY & ICONIC PERFORMANCES
Tickets for opening weekend attractions went on sale February 24, 1975. Opening day was highlighted by the Beaux Arts Ball sponsored by the Arts Council on March 14. March 15 was the premier performance of “Galileo Galilei” conducted by Dr. Marx Pales which had been commissioned by the Huntsville Symphony Association for the grand opening of the Concert Hall. Notable Huntsvillians that performed that night were Ken Turvey, Albert Lane, Lady Shivers Tucker and Mike Sheehy.
Rounding out the first month of operation were Holiday on Ice, Huntsville Little Theatre’s refoot in the Park” and Johnny Cash. Also appearing the first year of operation were Truman Capote, Linda Ronstad, Merle Haggard and Van Cliburn. The iconic Elvis Presley appeared May 30 through June 1 for an unprecedented five performances. It was the first time Elvis had played that many consecutive performances in a venue outside of Las Vegas. The Arena’s first rock show featured the Electric Light Orchestra with Sugarloaf and Jo Jo Gunne. Other rock groups appearing that year were the Doobie Brothers, the Jackson Five, Jimmy Buffett, the Allman Brothers and Jethro Tull. Country fans also enjoyed such acts as Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, Charlie Pride and Chet Atkins. In its first six months of operation, the Civic Center drew over a half million attendees. Later that year Fantasy Playhouse, a local theatre, began its 1975-76 season with a production of “Puss ‘N Boots” in the new VBC Playhouse. Other locally bred performances included Community Chorus with 𠇋rigadoon” and Broadway Theatre League with “Gene Kelly’s Salute to Broadway,” starring Ken Berry and Mimi Hines.
Iconic artists continue to perform here and is why people return to the Von Braun center time and time again. Recent performers include Harry Connick Jr, Miranda Lambert, Rascal Flatts, Jason Aldean, Weird Al Yankovic, Willie Nelson, The Beach Boys, Little Big Town, Elton John, Kid Rock and much much more!
In 2015 the Von Braun Center celebrated their 40th anniversary. In light of the celebration the VBC hosted the Von Braun Music Run & Open House. It took place on March 21st, 2015 at 9am and had over 2,500 people in attendance. The 5K included live music and entertainment throughout the route. Once participants reached the finish line they we able to enjoy a live band and other family friendly activities at the Von Braun Center in similar fashion to other great family friendly events the VBC hosts. It was at this event when Mayor Tommy Battle proclaimed March 2015 as Von Braun Center month in honor of the 40th anniversary.
CHANGES AND RENOVATIONS
The demand for space in the Civic Center quickly overwhelmed supply. To meet the demand in late 1980 additional exhibition and meeting room space was added with the addition of the West Exhibit Hall. Under the direction of Chef Tommy Armstrong, the center became “the” place to hold banquets. A much larger and more modern kitchen was added shortly thereafter. During the Tupperware Convention the civic center’s catering staff fed one thousand people a splendid prime rib dinner.
The ever-increasing popularity of the Center for banquets, conferences and receptions necessitated yet another expansion. The new North Hall was to be a stylish, well-appointed place of public assembly. Highlighted by oak trim and 18 chandeliers, the North Hall opened with fanfare in 1987. Due to budgetary constraints, the landscaping of the North Hall was done by the Civic Center staff. The final touches were completed only moments before guests arrived.
The demand for space escalated, and larger exhibitions and tradeshows gradually outgrew the available space. For instance to accommodate the Intergraph Graphic Users Group, meals were first served in a large tent which quickly became inadequate. Food service then moved to a makeshift dining hall created in the Monroe Street parking garage. During the typical five-day conference, over twelve thousand lunches alone were served. The logistics of food service in the City parking garage brought home the need for larger convention space. With the opening the South Hall, the Center could now accommodate these conventions as well as draw others of national significance. The new South Hall opened in January 1997, ahead of schedule and under budget, and was to have been inaugurated by the American Bowling Congress, a six-month event drawing bowlers from all across America. However, the early completion date enabled the Boat show to open first. To establish the center as a regional site for convention trade, the name was changed from Von Braun Civic Center to Von Braun Center.
Originally constructed in 1975, renovations were completed in 2010 transforming the VBC’s Arena into a dynamic modern venue. A $5 million donation from Bill Propst helped make renovations to the VBC Arena possible. The renovation changed the facade of the Arena to a modern glass frontage overlooking Big Spring Park and expanded the lobby adding more pre-function space and a pub. The project added over 1,000 seats to concert setups, VIP suites, and additional restrooms. The Arena was renamed the Propst Arena in honor of this considerable donation made by Huntsville businessman Bill Propst. Propst is well known in Huntsville for the success of Propst Drugstores and his entrepreneurial ventures in the marketing and manufacturing of generic pharmaceuticals.
Thanks to a generous $3 million donation from the Linda and Mark Smith Family Foundation the VBC Concert Hall underwent a major renovation completed in 2010. The gift given by the family of late prominent businessman, Mark C. Smith brought the Concert Hall up to date with the 21st century Propst Arena.
THE DEVLOPMENT OF THE VBC
Time and time again talented Huntsville citizens have stepped forward to share their expertise in leadership roles of great responsibility. They serve for no personal gain and motivated by a sense of community service and the desire to enhance the quality of life in the Huntsville community. The airport, public library, Huntsville Hospital and the botanical gardens are results of this kind of leadership and The Von Braun Center is no exception.
In the early 1960’s certain members of the community felt that Huntsville could do better than the meager arts facilities available at the time. Martha Rambo affiliated with the Symphony, Elvira Glover of the Art League, Martha Hamm with Community Chorus, Dexter Nilsson of Little Theatre and others began to voice the need for housing and performance space for the arts. City Attorney Charles Younger and Councilman Joe Peters embraced the cause. Charles Younger got the idea to fund the arts by way of a liquor tax. Huntsvillians traveled to Winston-Salem to observe, and Art Hanes, a member of the Hanes family of Winston-Salem where a successful Arts Council had been created, was invited to Huntsville to advise. As a result the Arts Council was born.
The Public Building Authority was able to make the old West Huntsville School available for an Arts Center. However, Arts Council members were careful to refer to it as the “temporary” Arts Center in fear of opposition to the proposed building project.
Today it is hard to imagine the city of Huntsville without the VBC but only a few decades ago to enjoy your favorite entertainment you had to travel to various venues around Madison County. Local theatre productions were presented in the auditorium of the old West Clinton School at the corner of Church and Clinton Street. Broadway Theatre League and the Huntsville Symphony Orchestra played at the Huntsville High School Auditorium. For rock and country music, one could enjoy the ambiance of the Madison County Coliseum which could only seat approximately 2,000 people. For elegant banquets the Russell Erskine Hotel and the Dunnavant’s Mall (now Medical Mall) were often the premier choices.
The want for a cultural center continued to increase and finally gained momentum in 1965 when The Public Building Authority, under the direction of Nathan Porter, contracted with Booz-Allen-Hamilton to make plans for a civic arts center. The original concept was for a large and small theatre along with an exhibition space and an art museum. In 1969 the Civic Center Advisory Board (CCAB) was chartered by the Huntsville City Council. Their mission was to advise the council on all aspects concerning the design, financing, construction and operation of a new facility to be called the Huntsville Civic Center. They were further charged with developing a master plan that included an auditorium that would seat 10,000. The council confirmed the belief that a large arena would be necessary to support the other facilities. One of the final recommendations of the CCAB was that a permanent Civic Center Board be established to oversee all aspects of the new facility. Original plans allowed for the building to be built in five increments but The Board insisted on all or none, as they deemed any negotiation for incremental development would jeopardize the overall project. As the building neared completion, famous Huntsville artist Ed Monroe offered to donate a portrait of Wernher Von Braun to the center. Dr. and Mrs. Von Braun were visibly moved at his stunning work.
The arts in Huntsville has never faced easy times. Its success in Huntsville is due primarily to the efforts of individuals who have inspired, challenged and motivated all of us to contribute our time and devotion to this great endeavor. The arts have not flourished because of the Von Braun Center rather the VBC has succeeded and will continue to succeed because of those who firmly believe in the importance of the arts. Thank you for continuing to support the arts and Von Braun Center.
On the one hand, Von Braun (1912 &ndash 1977) was a genius, visionary, and a brilliant engineering manager who is rightly credited as the father of America&rsquos space program. We went to the Moon, in large part, thanks to him, and if the day ever comes when humans set foot on Mars and colonize the Red Planet, it will also be thanks to him in large part. Mankind owes Von Braun a huge debt for his contributions to the space sciences. On the other hand, the man was a war criminal, responsible for the deaths of thousands of slave laborers who perished while toiling on his rockets in atrocious conditions, of which he was fully aware.
During WW2, Von Braun was an SS Sturmbanfuhrer &ndash equivalent to an army Major &ndash who developed and oversaw the manufacture of the V-2 rockets, the world&rsquos first ballistic missiles. His rockets, carrying a one ton explosive warhead, rained down terror and claimed the lives of thousands, the overwhelming majority of them civilians, in London, Antwerp, and other cities. After the war, he pretended to have been an oblivious scientist, too engrossed in his blueprints, calculations, and other pointy head work, to fully comprehend the horrors of the regime he served.
In reality, he had been quite comfortable with the Third Reich, the Nazi party, and the SS, until late in the war. Far from being oblivious to Nazi horrors, Von Braun was personally involved in Nazi atrocities, and was a direct, hands-on participant in war crimes. Among other things, he personally supervised the manufacturing of rockets, using tens of thousands of slave laborers. An estimated 20,000 slave workers toiling to build Von Braun&rsquos rockets died of starvation, maltreatment, or were murdered by their guards while building his rockets. He was often at the slave labor facilities, and had firsthand knowledge of the horrific workplace conditions.
After the war, he was one of the first Germans secretly moved to the US in Operation Paperclip. He was put to work by the US Army to develop its intermediate range ballistic missile program, and he developed the rocket that launched America&rsquos first space satellite. When NASA was created, he joined it as director of the Marshall Space Flight Center, and was put in charge of the Saturn V rockets that sent the Apollo Program&rsquos spacecraft to the Moon. In recognition of his services, he was awarded the National Medal of Science in 1975.
Wernher Von Braun thus presents a conundrum and a moral dilemma. He is a pioneer who undoubtedly contributed much to the advancement of mankind in the space sciences. If our species ever becomes a multiplanetary one &ndash something many scientists see as the only safeguard against our extinction in the next millennium &ndash it will be thanks in large part to Von Braun. It is no exaggeration to say that he was history&rsquos most important and influential rocket engineer and space advocate. So there is no question that the man did a lot of good in his life.
However, does that absolve him of his personal responsibility for having gone along with the Nazis&rsquo aggressive war plans? Does it wash away the stain of having been a loyal Nazi and member of the SS? Does it cleanse him of the sin of having been responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of slave laborers, who perished while building his precious rockets? Was Wernher Von a Braun a Nazi villain, space hero, or both?
Wernher von Braun’s Martian Chronicles
Astronauts plan for a trip to the Martian equator over snowy terrain (1954)
Assuming everything goes according to plan, NASA’s Curiosity rover will touch down on the surface of Mars this Sunday, August 5th at 10:31 PDT. Curiosity travels in the cosmic wake of not only the pioneering landers and rovers that have made journeys to Mars before, but also the innumerable visionaries who showed us how we might get there —well before it was possible.
From 1952 until 1954, the weekly magazine Collier’s published a series of articles on space exploration spread out across eight issues. Several of the articles were written by Wernher von Braun, the former Third Reich rocket scientist who began working for the U.S. after WWII. The Collier’s series is said to have inspired countless popular visions of space travel. This impact was in no small part due to the gorgeous, colorful illustrations done by Chesley Bonestell, Fred Freeman and Rolf Klep.
The last of the Collier’s space-themed series was the April 30, 1954, issue that featured a cover showing the planet Mars and two headlines: “Can We Get to Mars?” and directly underneath: “Is There Life on Mars?” The article, “Can We Get to Mars?,” by von Braun is a fascinating read that looks at everything from the impact of meteors on spacecraft to the stresses of living in cramped quarters during such a long journey. Even when astronauts finally arrived on Mars, they’d still be subjected to claustrophobic living conditions, as you can see from the illustration above by Fred Freeman. The astronauts—who in this illustration have landed on an icy Martian pole—live in inflatable, pressurized spheres that are mounted on tractors.
Von Braun’s story in the 1954 issue explained that he didn’t believe he’d see a man on Mars within his lifetime. In fact, von Braun believed that it would likely be 100 years before a human foot would touch Martian soil. But there was absolutely no doubt that we would get there.
Will man ever go to Mars? I am sure he will—but it will be a century or more before he’s ready. In that time scientists and engineers will learn more about the physical and mental rigors of interplanetary flight—and about the unknown dangers of life on another planet. Some of that information may become available within the next 25 years or so, through the erection of a space station above the earth (where telescope viewings will not be blurred by the earth’s atmosphere) and through the subsequent exploration of the moon, as described in previous issues of Collier’s.
But unlike NASA’s current Mars mission, von Braun’s vision for travel included humans rather than simply rovers. As Erik Conway, historian at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory explains, “There have also always been—since at least Wernher von Braun—people proposing expeditions to Mars with humans, with astronauts. Von Braun’s idea was to send a flotilla of spacecraft, not just one. As you’ve seen in the Collier’s magazines and so on, he was a big promoter of that. And that affected how the American public saw Mars as well. So it was being promoted as a future abode of life for us humans—and it still is in a lot of the enthusiast literature. That hasn’t changed. It’s just the funding isn’t there to actually accomplish it.”
The funding may not be there today, but the space interest revival we’re currently seeing under the unofficial leadership of astrophysicist and media personality Neil deGrasse Tyson could very well help change that. Look for a reboot of the late Carl Sagan’s 1980 mini-series Cosmos in 2013, starring Tyson.
For now, we’ll just have to settle for the exciting discoveries that (hopefully) will be beaming down from Mars next week and some good old fashioned space art. Below are samples of the amazing illustrations from the April 30, 1954 issue of Collier’s by Bonestell, Freeman and Klep.
Workers assembling 10 rocket ships for a mission to Mars
Wernher von Braun imagined that spacecraft would be assembled 1,000 miles from earth near a wheel-shaped space station.
Spacecraft being assembled near the wheel-shaped space station, as envisioned by Wernher von Braun
The cropped illustration above, by Chesley Bonestell shows four of the ten spacecraft von Braun imagined would undertake the journey.
The first landing party takes off for Mars. Two other landing planes will wait until runway is prepared for them, and the remaining seven ships will stay in 600-mile orbit. Arms on cargo ships hold screenlike dish antenna (for communication), trough-shaped solar mirrors (for power).
Charting a course to Mars in a 1954 issue of Collier’s
The illustration above by Rolf Klep explains how the earth and Mars must be positioned in order for a successful flight to occur.
This illustration above of astronauts preparing for their return flight was done by Chesley Bonestell.
After 15 month exploration, the Mars expedition prepares for return flight to earth. Two landing planes are set on tails, with wings and landing gear removed. They will rocket back to the 600-mile orbit on first leg of journey
This illustration, by Fred Freeman shows all ten spacecraft as they travel to Mars.
Illustration shows how the landing planes are assembled in 600-mile Martian orbit. Pointed noses are removed from three of 10 ships that made trip from earth wings and landing gear are fitted to them. Cutaway of plane in the foreground shows personnel, tractors in ship
About Matt Novak
Matt Novak is the author of the Paleofuture blog, which can now be found on Gizmodo.
Wernher von Braun was born on 23 March 1912, in the small town of Wirsitz in the Posen Province, then the German Empire. He was the second of three sons of a noble Lutheran family. From birth he held the title of Freiherr (equivalent to Baron). The German nobility's legal privileges were abolished in 1919, although noble titles could still be used as part of the family name. [ citation needed ]
His father, Magnus Freiherr von Braun (1878–1972), was a civil servant and conservative politician he served as Minister of Agriculture in the federal government during the Weimar Republic. His mother, Emmy von Quistorp (1886–1959), traced her ancestry through both parents to medieval European royalty and was a descendant of Philip III of France, Valdemar I of Denmark, Robert III of Scotland, and Edward III of England.   Wernher had an older brother, the West German diplomat Sigismund von Braun, who served as Secretary of State in the Foreign Office in the 1970s, and a younger brother, also named Magnus von Braun, who was a rocket scientist and later a senior executive with Chrysler. 
The family moved to Berlin in 1915, where his father worked at the Ministry of the Interior. After Wernher's Confirmation, his mother gave him a telescope, and he developed a passion for astronomy.  Here in 1924, the 12-year-old Wernher, inspired by speed records established by Max Valier and Fritz von Opel in rocket-propelled cars,  caused a major disruption in a crowded street by detonating a toy wagon to which he had attached fireworks. He was taken into custody by the local police until his father came to get him.
Wernher learned to play both the cello and the piano at an early age and at one time wanted to become a composer. He took lessons from the composer Paul Hindemith. The few pieces of Wernher's youthful compositions that exist are reminiscent of Hindemith's style.  : 11 He could play piano pieces of Beethoven and Bach from memory.
Beginning in 1925, Wernher attended a boarding school at Ettersburg Castle near Weimar, where he did not do well in physics and mathematics. There he acquired a copy of Die Rakete zu den Planetenräumen (1923, By Rocket into Planetary Space)  by rocket pioneer Hermann Oberth. In 1928, his parents moved him to the Hermann-Lietz-Internat (also a residential school) on the East Frisian North Sea island of Spiekeroog. Space travel had always fascinated Wernher, and from then on he applied himself to physics and mathematics to pursue his interest in rocket engineering.
In 1930, von Braun attended the Technische Hochschule Berlin, where he joined the Spaceflight Society (Verein für Raumschiffahrt or "VfR") and assisted Willy Ley in his liquid-fueled rocket motor tests in conjunction with Hermann Oberth.  In spring 1932, he graduated with a diploma in mechanical engineering.  His early exposure to rocketry convinced him that the exploration of space would require far more than applications of the current engineering technology. Wanting to learn more about physics, chemistry, and astronomy, von Braun entered the Friedrich-Wilhelm University of Berlin for doctoral studies and graduated with a doctorate in physics in 1934.  He also studied at ETH Zürich for a term from June to October 1931.  Although he worked mainly on military rockets in his later years there, space travel remained his primary interest.
In 1930, von Braun attended a presentation given by Auguste Piccard. After the talk, the young student approached the famous pioneer of high-altitude balloon flight, and stated to him: "You know, I plan on traveling to the Moon at some time." Piccard is said to have responded with encouraging words. 
Von Braun was greatly influenced by Oberth, of whom he said:
Hermann Oberth was the first who, when thinking about the possibility of spaceships, grabbed a slide-rule and presented mathematically analyzed concepts and designs . I, myself, owe to him not only the guiding-star of my life, but also my first contact with the theoretical and practical aspects of rocketry and space travel. A place of honor should be reserved in the history of science and technology for his ground-breaking contributions in the field of astronautics. 
According to historian Norman Davies, von Braun was able to pursue a career as a rocket scientist in Germany due to a "curious oversight" in the Treaty of Versailles which did not include rocketry in its list of weapons forbidden to Germany. 
Involvement with the Nazi regime Edit
Nazi Party membership Edit
Von Braun had an ambivalent and complex relationship with the Nazi Third Reich.  He applied for membership of the Nazi Party on 12 November 1937, and was issued membership number 5,738,692.  : 96
Michael J. Neufeld, an author of aerospace history and chief of the Space History Division at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum, wrote that ten years after von Braun obtained his Nazi Party membership, he signed an affidavit for the U.S. Army, though he stated the incorrect year:  : 96
In 1939, I was officially demanded to join the National Socialist Party. At this time I was already Technical Director at the Army Rocket Center at Peenemünde (Baltic Sea). The technical work carried out there had, in the meantime, attracted more and more attention in higher levels. Thus, my refusal to join the party would have meant that I would have to abandon the work of my life. Therefore, I decided to join. My membership in the party did not involve any political activity.
It has not been ascertained whether von Braun's error with regard to the year was deliberate or a simple mistake.  : 96 Neufeld further wrote:
Von Braun, like other Peenemünders, was assigned to the local group in Karlshagen there is no evidence that he did more than send in his monthly dues. But he is seen in some photographs with the party's swastika pin in his lapel – it was politically useful to demonstrate his membership.  : 96
Von Braun's later attitude toward the National Socialist regime of the late 1930s and early 1940s was complex. He said that he had been so influenced by the early Nazi promise of release from the post–World War I economic effects, that his patriotic feelings had increased. [ citation needed ] In a 1952 memoir article he admitted that, at that time, he "fared relatively rather well under totalitarianism".  : 96–97 Yet, he also wrote that "to us, Hitler was still only a pompous fool with a Charlie Chaplin moustache"  and that he perceived him as "another Napoleon" who was "wholly without scruples, a godless man who thought himself the only god". 
Membership in the Allgemeine-SS Edit
Von Braun joined the SS horseback riding school on 1 November 1933 as an SS-Anwärter. He left the following year. [ citation needed ] : 63 In 1940, he joined the SS  : 47  and was given the rank of Untersturmführer in the Allgemeine-SS and issued membership number 185,068. [ citation needed ] : 121 In 1947, he gave the U.S. War Department this explanation:
In spring 1940, one SS-Standartenführer (SS-Colonel) Müller from Greifswald, a bigger town in the vicinity of Peenemünde, looked me up in my office . and told me that Reichsführer-SS Himmler had sent him with the order to urge me to join the SS. I told him I was so busy with my rocket work that I had no time to spare for any political activity. He then told me, that . the SS would cost me no time at all. I would be awarded the rank of a[n] "Untersturmfuehrer" (lieutenant) and it were [sic] a very definite desire of Himmler that I attend his invitation to join.
I asked Müller to give me some time for reflection. He agreed.
Realizing that the matter was of highly political significance for the relation between the SS and the Army, I called immediately on my military superior, Dr. Dornberger. He informed me that the SS had for a long time been trying to get their "finger in the pie" of the rocket work. I asked him what to do. He replied on the spot that if I wanted to continue our mutual work, I had no alternative but to join.
When shown a picture of himself standing behind Himmler, von Braun claimed to have worn the SS uniform only that one time,  but in 2002 a former SS officer at Peenemünde told the BBC that von Braun had regularly worn the SS uniform to official meetings. He began as an Untersturmführer (Second lieutenant) and was promoted three times by Himmler, the last time in June 1943 to SS-Sturmbannführer (Major). Von Braun later claimed that these were simply technical promotions received each year regularly by mail. 
Work under Nazi regime Edit
In 1933, von Braun was working on his creative doctorate when the Nazi Party came to power in a coalition government in Germany rocketry was almost immediately moved onto the national agenda. An artillery captain, Walter Dornberger, arranged an Ordnance Department research grant for von Braun, who then worked next to Dornberger's existing solid-fuel rocket test site at Kummersdorf.
Von Braun was awarded a doctorate in physics  (aerospace engineering) on 27 July 1934, from the University of Berlin for a thesis entitled "About Combustion Tests" his doctoral supervisor was Erich Schumann.  : 61 However, this thesis was only the public part of von Braun's work. His actual full thesis, Construction, Theoretical, and Experimental Solution to the Problem of the Liquid Propellant Rocket (dated 16 April 1934) was kept classified by the German army, and was not published until 1960.  By the end of 1934, his group had successfully launched two liquid fuel rockets that rose to heights of 2.2 and 3.5 km (2 mi).
At the time, Germany was highly interested in American physicist Robert H. Goddard's research. Before 1939, German scientists occasionally contacted Goddard directly with technical questions. Von Braun used Goddard's plans from various journals and incorporated them into the building of the Aggregat (A) series of rockets. The first successful launch of an A-4 took place on 3 October 1942.  The A-4 rocket would become well known as the V-2.  In 1963, von Braun reflected on the history of rocketry, and said of Goddard's work: "His rockets . may have been rather crude by present-day standards, but they blazed the trail and incorporated many features used in our most modern rockets and space vehicles." 
Goddard confirmed his work was used by von Braun in 1944, shortly before the Nazis began firing V-2s at England. A V-2 crashed in Sweden and some parts were sent to an Annapolis lab where Goddard was doing research for the Navy. If this was the so-called Bäckebo Bomb, it had been procured by the British in exchange for Spitfires Annapolis would have received some parts from them. Goddard is reported to have recognized components he had invented, and inferred that his brainchild had been turned into a weapon.  Later, von Braun would comment: "I have very deep and sincere regret for the victims of the V-2 rockets, but there were victims on both sides . A war is a war, and when my country is at war, my duty is to help win that war." 
In response to Goddard's claims, von Braun said "at no time in Germany did I or any of my associates ever see a Goddard patent". This was independently confirmed.  He wrote that claims about his lifting Goddard's work were the furthest from the truth, noting that Goddard's paper "A Method of Reaching Extreme Altitudes", which was studied by von Braun and Oberth, lacked the specificity of liquid-fuel experimentation with rockets.  It was also confirmed that he was responsible for an estimated 20 patentable innovations related to rocketry, as well as receiving U.S. patents after the war concerning the advancement of rocketry.  Documented accounts also stated he provided solutions to a host of aerospace engineering problems in the 1950s and 60s. 
There were no German rocket societies after the collapse of the VfR, and civilian rocket tests were forbidden by the new Nazi regime. Only military development was allowed, and to this end, a larger facility was erected at the village of Peenemünde in northern Germany on the Baltic Sea. Dornberger became the military commander at Peenemünde, with von Braun as technical director. In collaboration with the Luftwaffe, the Peenemünde group developed liquid-fuel rocket engines for aircraft and jet-assisted takeoffs. They also developed the long-range A-4 ballistic missile and the supersonic Wasserfall anti-aircraft missile.
On 22 December 1942, Adolf Hitler ordered the production of the A-4 as a "vengeance weapon", and the Peenemünde group developed it to target London. Following von Braun's 7 July 1943 presentation of a color movie showing an A-4 taking off, Hitler was so enthusiastic that he personally made von Braun a professor shortly thereafter.  In Germany at this time, this was an exceptional promotion for an engineer who was only 31 years old. [ original research? ]
By that time, the British and Soviet intelligence agencies were aware of the rocket program and von Braun's team at Peenemünde, based on the intelligence provided by the Polish underground Home Army. Over the nights of 17–18 August 1943, RAF Bomber Command's Operation Hydra dispatched raids on the Peenemünde camp consisting of 596 aircraft, and dropped 1,800 tons of explosives.  The facility was salvaged and most of the engineering team remained unharmed however, the raids killed von Braun's engine designer Walter Thiel and Chief Engineer Walther, and the rocket program was delayed.  
The first combat A-4, renamed the V-2 (Vergeltungswaffe 2 "Retaliation/Vengeance Weapon 2") for propaganda purposes, was launched toward England on 7 September 1944, only 21 months after the project had been officially commissioned. Von Braun's interest in rockets was specifically for the application of space travel, not for killing people.  Satirist Mort Sahl has been credited with mocking von Braun by saying "I aim at the stars, but sometimes I hit London."  That line appears in the film I Aim at the Stars, a 1960 biographical film of von Braun.
Experiments with rocket aircraft Edit
During 1936, von Braun's rocketry team working at Kummersdorf investigated installing liquid-fuelled rockets in aircraft. Ernst Heinkel enthusiastically supported their efforts, supplying a He-72 and later two He-112s for the experiments. Later in 1936, Erich Warsitz was seconded by the RLM to von Braun and Heinkel, because he had been recognized as one of the most experienced test pilots of the time, and because he also had an extraordinary fund of technical knowledge.  : 30 After he familiarized Warsitz with a test-stand run, showing him the corresponding apparatus in the aircraft, he asked: "Are you with us and will you test the rocket in the air? Then, Warsitz, you will be a famous man. And later we will fly to the Moon – with you at the helm!"  : 35
In June 1937, at Neuhardenberg (a large field about 70 km (43 mi) east of Berlin, listed as a reserve airfield in the event of war), one of these latter aircraft was flown with its piston engine shut down during flight by Warsitz, at which time it was propelled by von Braun's rocket power alone. Despite a wheels-up landing and the fuselage having been on fire, it proved to official circles that an aircraft could be flown satisfactorily with a back-thrust system through the rear.  : 51
At the same time, Hellmuth Walter's experiments into hydrogen peroxide based rockets were leading towards light and simple rockets that appeared well-suited for aircraft installation. Also the firm of Hellmuth Walter at Kiel had been commissioned by the RLM to build a rocket engine for the He-112, so there were two different new rocket motor designs at Neuhardenberg: whereas von Braun's engines were powered by alcohol and liquid oxygen, Walter engines had hydrogen peroxide and calcium permanganate as a catalyst. Von Braun's engines used direct combustion and created fire, the Walter devices used hot vapors from a chemical reaction, but both created thrust and provided high speed.  : 41 The subsequent flights with the He-112 used the Walter-rocket instead of von Braun's it was more reliable, simpler to operate, and safer for the test pilot, Warsitz.  : 55
Slave labor Edit
SS General Hans Kammler, who as an engineer had constructed several concentration camps, including Auschwitz, had a reputation for brutality and had originated the idea of using concentration camp prisoners as slave laborers in the rocket program. Arthur Rudolph, chief engineer of the V-2 rocket factory at Peenemünde, endorsed this idea in April 1943 when a labor shortage developed. More people died building the V-2 rockets than were killed by it as a weapon.  Von Braun admitted visiting the plant at Mittelwerk on many occasions,  and called conditions at the plant "repulsive", but claimed never to have personally witnessed any deaths or beatings, although it had become clear to him by 1944 that deaths had occurred.  He denied ever having visited the Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp itself, where 20,000 died from illness, beatings, hangings, and intolerable working conditions. 
Some prisoners claim von Braun engaged in brutal treatment or approved of it. Guy Morand, a French resistance fighter who was a prisoner in Dora, testified in 1995 that after an apparent sabotage attempt, von Braun ordered a prisoner to be flogged,  while Robert Cazabonne, another French prisoner, claimed von Braun stood by as prisoners were hanged by chains suspended by cranes.  : 123–124 However, these accounts may have been a case of mistaken identity.  Former Buchenwald inmate Adam Cabala claims that von Braun went to the concentration camp to pick slave laborers:
. also the German scientists led by Prof. Wernher von Braun were aware of everything daily. As they went along the corridors, they saw the exhaustion of the inmates, their arduous work and their pain. Not one single time did Prof. Wernher von Braun protest against this cruelty during his frequent stays at Dora. Even the aspect of corpses did not touch him: On a small area near the ambulance shed, inmates tortured to death by slave labor and the terror of the overseers were piling up daily. But, Prof. Wernher von Braun passed them so close that he was almost touching the corpses. 
Von Braun later claimed that he was aware of the treatment of prisoners, but felt helpless to change the situation. 
Arrest and release by the Nazi regime Edit
According to André Sellier, a French historian and survivor of the Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp, Heinrich Himmler had von Braun come to his Feldkommandostelle Hochwald HQ in East Prussia in February 1944.  To increase his power-base within the Nazi regime, Himmler was conspiring to use Kammler to gain control of all German armament programs, including the V-2 program at Peenemünde.  : 38–40 He therefore recommended that von Braun work more closely with Kammler to solve the problems of the V-2. Von Braun claimed to have replied that the problems were merely technical and he was confident that they would be solved with Dornberger's assistance.
Von Braun had been under SD surveillance since October 1943. A secret report stated that he and his colleagues Klaus Riedel and Helmut Gröttrup were said to have expressed regret at an engineer's house one evening in early March 1944 that they were not working on a spaceship  and that they felt the war was not going well this was considered a "defeatist" attitude. A young female dentist who was an SS spy reported their comments.  : 38–40 Combined with Himmler's false charges that von Braun and his colleagues were communist sympathizers and had attempted to sabotage the V-2 program, and considering that von Braun regularly piloted his government-provided airplane that might allow him to escape to Britain, this led to their arrest by the Gestapo.  : 38–40
The unsuspecting von Braun was detained on 14 March (or 15 March),  1944, and was taken to a Gestapo cell in Stettin (now Szczecin, Poland),  : 38–40 where he was held for two weeks without knowing the charges against him.
Through Major Hans Georg Klamroth, in charge of the Abwehr for Peenemünde, Dornberger obtained von Braun's conditional release and Albert Speer, Reichsminister for Munitions and War Production, persuaded Hitler to reinstate von Braun so that the V-2 program could continue   : 38–40  or turn into a "V-4 program" (the Rheinbote as a short range ballistic rocket) which in their view would be impossible without von Braun's leadership.  In his memoirs, Speer states Hitler had finally conceded that von Braun was to be "protected from all prosecution as long as he is indispensable, difficult though the general consequences arising from the situation." 
Surrender to the Americans Edit
The Soviet Army was about 160 km (100 mi) from Peenemünde in early 1945 when von Braun assembled his planning staff and asked them to decide how and to whom they should surrender. Unwilling to go to the Soviets, von Braun and his staff decided to try to surrender to the Americans. Kammler had ordered relocation of his team to central Germany however, a conflicting order from an army chief ordered them to join the army and fight. Deciding that Kammler's order was their best bet to defect to the Americans, von Braun fabricated documents and transported 500 of his affiliates to the area around Mittelwerk, where they resumed their work in Bleicherode and surrounding towns after the middle of February 1945. For fear of their documents being destroyed by the SS, von Braun ordered the blueprints to be hidden in an abandoned iron mine in the Harz mountain range near Goslar.  The US Counterintelligence Corps managed to unveil the location after lengthy interrogations of von Braun, Walter Dornberger, Bernhard Tessmann and Dieter Huzel and recovered 14 tons of V-2 documents by 15 May 1945, from the British Occupation Zone.  
While on an official trip in March, von Braun suffered a complicated fracture of his left arm and shoulder in a car accident after his driver fell asleep at the wheel. His injuries were serious, but he insisted that his arm be set in a cast so he could leave the hospital. Due to this neglect of the injury he had to be hospitalized again a month later where his bones had to be rebroken and realigned. 
In early April, as the Allied forces advanced deeper into Germany, Kammler ordered the engineering team, around 450 specialists, to be moved by train into the town of Oberammergau in the Bavarian Alps, where they were closely guarded by the SS with orders to execute the team if they were about to fall into enemy hands. However, von Braun managed to convince SS Major Kummer to order the dispersal of the group into nearby villages so that they would not be an easy target for U.S. bombers.  On 29 April 1945, Oberammergau was captured by the Allied forces who seized the majority of the engineering team.
Von Braun and several members of the engineering team, including Dornberger, made it to Austria.  On 2 May 1945, upon finding an American private from the U.S. 44th Infantry Division, von Braun's brother and fellow rocket engineer, Magnus, approached the soldier on a bicycle, calling out in broken English: "My name is Magnus von Braun. My brother invented the V-2. We want to surrender."   After the surrender, Wernher von Braun spoke to the press:
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 not by the laws of materialism but by Christianity and humanity could such an assurance to the world be best secured. 
The American high command was well aware of how important their catch was: von Braun had been at the top of the Black List, the code name for the list of German scientists and engineers targeted for immediate interrogation by U.S. military experts. On 9 June 1945, two days before the originally scheduled handover of the Nordhausen and Bleicherode area in Thuringia to the Soviets, U.S. Army Major Robert B. Staver, Chief of the Jet Propulsion Section of the Research and Intelligence Branch of the U.S. Army Ordnance Corps in London, and Lt Col R. L. Williams took von Braun and his department chiefs by Jeep from Garmisch to Munich, from where they were flown to Nordhausen. On the following days, a larger group of rocket engineers, among them Helmut Gröttrup, was evacuated from Bleicherode 40 miles (64 km) southwest to Witzenhausen, a small town in the American Zone.  The Red Army eventually took over Thuringia as part of the Soviet occupation zone after 1 July 1945, as agreed by the Yalta Conference.
Von Braun was briefly detained at the "Dustbin" interrogation center at Kransberg Castle, where the elite of the Third Reich's economic, scientific and technological sectors were debriefed by U.S. and British intelligence officials.  Initially, he was recruited to the U.S. under a program called Operation Overcast, subsequently known as Operation Paperclip. There is evidence, however, that British intelligence and scientists were the first to interview him in depth, eager to gain information that they knew U.S. officials would deny them. [ citation needed ] The team included the young L.S. Snell, then the leading British rocket engineer, later chief designer of Rolls-Royce Limited and inventor of the Concorde's engines. The specific information the British gleaned remained top secret, both from the Americans and from the other allies. [ citation needed ]
U.S. Army career Edit
On 20 June 1945, U.S. Secretary of State Edward Stettinius Jr. approved the transfer of von Braun and his specialists to the United States as one of his last acts in office however, this was not announced to the public until 1 October 1945. 
The first seven technicians arrived in the United States at New Castle Army Air Field, just south of Wilmington, Delaware, on 20 September 1945. They were then flown to Boston and taken by boat to the Army Intelligence Service post at Fort Strong in Boston Harbor. Later, with the exception of von Braun, the men were transferred to Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland to sort out the Peenemünde documents, enabling the scientists to continue their rocketry experiments. 
Finally, von Braun and his remaining Peenemünde staff (see List of German rocket scientists in the United States) were transferred to their new home at Fort Bliss, a large Army installation just north of El Paso. Von Braun would later write he found it hard to develop a "genuine emotional attachment" to his new surroundings.  His chief design engineer Walther Reidel became the subject of a December 1946 article "German Scientist Says American Cooking Tasteless Dislikes Rubberized Chicken", exposing the presence of von Braun's team in the country and drawing criticism from Albert Einstein and John Dingell.  Requests to improve their living conditions such as laying linoleum over their cracked wood flooring were rejected.  Von Braun remarked, "at Peenemünde we had been coddled, here you were counting pennies".  Whereas von Braun had thousands of engineers who answered to him at Peenemünde, he was now subordinate to "pimply" 26-year-old Jim Hamill, an Army major who possessed only an undergraduate degree in engineering.  His loyal Germans still addressed him as "Herr Professor," but Hamill addressed him as "Wernher" and never responded to von Braun's request for more materials. Every proposal for new rocket ideas was dismissed. 
While at Fort Bliss, they trained military, industrial, and university personnel in the intricacies of rockets and guided missiles. As part of the Hermes project, they helped refurbish, assemble, and launch a number of V-2s that had been shipped from Germany to the White Sands Proving Ground in New Mexico. They also continued to study the future potential of rockets for military and research applications. Since they were not permitted to leave Fort Bliss without military escort, von Braun and his colleagues began to refer to themselves only half-jokingly as "PoPs" – "Prisoners of Peace". 
In 1950, at the start of the Korean War, von Braun and his team were transferred to Huntsville, Alabama, his home for the next 20 years. Between 1952 and 1956,  von Braun led the Army's rocket development team at Redstone Arsenal, resulting in the Redstone rocket, which was used for the first live nuclear ballistic missile tests conducted by the United States. He personally witnessed this historic launch and detonation.  Work on the Redstone led to development of the first high-precision inertial guidance system on the Redstone rocket. 
As director of the Development Operations Division of the Army Ballistic Missile Agency, von Braun, with his team, then developed the Jupiter-C, a modified Redstone rocket.  The Jupiter-C successfully launched the West's first satellite, Explorer 1, on 31 January 1958. This event signaled the birth of America's space program.
Despite the work on the Redstone rocket, the 12 years from 1945 to 1957 were probably some of the most frustrating for von Braun and his colleagues. In the Soviet Union, Sergei Korolev and his team of scientists and engineers plowed ahead with several new rocket designs and the Sputnik program, while the American government was not very interested in von Braun's work or views and embarked only on a very modest rocket-building program. In the meantime, the press tended to dwell on von Braun's past as a member of the SS and the slave labor used to build his V-2 rockets. [ citation needed ]
Popular concepts for a human presence in space Edit
Repeating the pattern he had established during his earlier career in Germany, von Braun – while directing military rocket development in the real world – continued to entertain his engineer-scientist's dream of a future in which rockets would be used for space exploration. However, he was no longer at risk of being sacked – as American public opinion of Germans began to recover, von Braun found himself increasingly in a position to popularize his ideas. The 14 May 1950 headline of The Huntsville Times ("Dr. von Braun Says Rocket Flights Possible to Moon") might have marked the beginning of these efforts. Von Braun's ideas rode a publicity wave that was created by science fiction movies and stories.
In 1952, von Braun first published his concept of a crewed space station in a Collier's Weekly magazine series of articles titled "Man Will Conquer Space Soon!". These articles were illustrated by the space artist Chesley Bonestell and were influential in spreading his ideas. Frequently, von Braun worked with fellow German-born space advocate and science writer Willy Ley to publish his concepts, which, unsurprisingly, were heavy on the engineering side and anticipated many technical aspects of space flight that later became reality.
The space station (to be constructed using rockets with recoverable and reusable ascent stages) would be a toroid structure, with a diameter of 250 feet (76 m) this built on the concept of a rotating wheel-shaped station introduced in 1929 by Herman Potočnik in his book The Problem of Space Travel – The Rocket Motor. The space station would spin around a central docking nave to provide artificial gravity, and would be assembled in a 1,075-mile (1,730 km) two-hour, high-inclination Earth orbit allowing observation of essentially every point on Earth on at least a daily basis. The ultimate purpose of the space station would be to provide an assembly platform for crewed lunar expeditions. More than a decade later, the movie version of 2001: A Space Odyssey would draw heavily on the design concept in its visualization of an orbital space station.
Von Braun envisioned these expeditions as very large-scale undertakings, with a total of 50 astronauts traveling in three huge spacecraft (two for crew, one primarily for cargo), each 49 m (160.76 ft) long and 33 m (108.27 ft) in diameter and driven by a rectangular array of 30 rocket propulsion engines.  Upon arrival, astronauts would establish a permanent lunar base in the Sinus Roris region by using the emptied cargo holds of their craft as shelters, and would explore their surroundings for eight weeks. This would include a 400 km (249 mi) expedition in pressurized rovers to the crater Harpalus and the Mare Imbrium foothills.
At this time, von Braun also worked out preliminary concepts for a human mission to Mars that used the space station as a staging point. His initial plans, published in The Mars Project (1952), had envisaged a fleet of 10 spacecraft (each with a mass of 3,720 metric tonnes), three of them uncrewed and each carrying one 200-tonne winged lander  in addition to cargo, and nine crew vehicles transporting a total of 70 astronauts. The engineering and astronautical parameters of this gigantic mission were thoroughly calculated. A later project was much more modest, using only one purely orbital cargo ship and one crewed craft. In each case, the expedition would use minimum-energy Hohmann transfer orbits for its trips to Mars and back to Earth.
Before technically formalizing his thoughts on human spaceflight to Mars, von Braun had written a science fiction novel on the subject, set in the year 1980. However, the manuscript was rejected by no fewer than 18 publishers.  Von Braun later published small portions of this opus in magazines, to illustrate selected aspects of his Mars project popularizations. The complete manuscript, titled Project Mars: A Technical Tale, did not appear as a printed book until December 2006. 
In the hope that its involvement would bring about greater public interest in the future of the space program, von Braun also began working with Walt Disney and the Disney studios as a technical director, initially for three television films about space exploration. The initial broadcast devoted to space exploration was Man in Space, which first went on air on 9 March 1955, drawing 40 million viewers.   
Later (in 1959) von Braun published a short booklet, condensed from episodes that had appeared in This Week Magazine before—describing his updated concept of the first crewed lunar landing.  The scenario included only a single and relatively small spacecraft—a winged lander with a crew of only two experienced pilots who had already circumnavigated the Moon on an earlier mission. The brute-force direct ascent flight schedule used a rocket design with five sequential stages, loosely based on the Nova designs that were under discussion at this time. After a night launch from a Pacific island, the first three stages would bring the spacecraft (with the two remaining upper stages attached) to terrestrial escape velocity, with each burn creating an acceleration of 8–9 times standard gravity. Residual propellant in the third stage would be used for the deceleration intended to commence only a few hundred kilometers above the landing site in a crater near the lunar north pole. The fourth stage provided acceleration to lunar escape velocity, while the fifth stage would be responsible for a deceleration during return to the Earth to a residual speed that allows aerocapture of the spacecraft ending in a runway landing, much in the way of the Space Shuttle. One remarkable feature of this technical tale is that the engineer von Braun anticipated a medical phenomenon that would become apparent only years later: being a veteran astronaut with no history of serious adverse reactions to weightlessness offers no protection against becoming unexpectedly and violently spacesick. [ check quotation syntax ]
Religious conversion Edit
In the first half of his life, von Braun was a nonpracticing, "perfunctory" Lutheran, whose affiliation was nominal and not taken seriously.  As described by Ernst Stuhlinger and Frederick I. Ordway III: "Throughout his younger years, von Braun did not show signs of religious devotion, or even an interest in things related to the church or to biblical teachings. In fact, he was known to his friends as a 'merry heathen' (fröhlicher Heide)."  Nevertheless, in 1945 he explained his decision to surrender to the Western Allies, rather than Russians, as being influenced by a desire to share rocket technology with people who followed the Bible. In 1946,  : 469 he attended church in El Paso, Texas, and underwent a religious conversion to evangelical Christianity.  In an unnamed religious magazine he stated:
One day in Fort Bliss, a neighbor called and asked if I would like to go to church with him. I accepted, because I wanted to see if the American church was just a country club as I'd been led to expect. Instead, I found a small, white frame building . in the hot Texas sun on a browned-grass lot . Together, these people make a live, vibrant community. This was the first time I really understood that religion was not a cathedral inherited from the past, or a quick prayer at the last minute. To be effective, a religion has to be backed up by discipline and effort.
On the motives behind this conversion, Michael J. Neufeld is of the opinion that he turned to religion "to pacify his own conscience",  whereas University of Southampton scholar Kendrick Oliver said that von Braun was presumably moved "by a desire to find a new direction for his life after the moral chaos of his service for the Third Reich".  Having "concluded one bad bargain with the Devil, perhaps now he felt a need to have God securely at his side". 
Later in life, he joined an Episcopal congregation,  and became increasingly religious.  He publicly spoke and wrote about the complementarity of science and religion, the afterlife of the soul, and his belief in God.   He stated, "Through science man strives to learn more of the mysteries of creation. Through religion he seeks to know the Creator."  He was interviewed by the Assemblies of God pastor C. M. Ward, as stating, "The farther we probe into space, the greater my faith."  In addition, he met privately with evangelist Billy Graham and with the pacifist leader Martin Luther King Jr. 
Concepts for orbital warfare Edit
Von Braun developed and published his space station concept during the time of the Cold War when the U.S. government put the containment of the Soviet Union above everything else. The fact that his space station – if armed with missiles that could be easily adapted from those already available at this time – would give the United States space superiority in both orbital and orbit-to-ground warfare did not escape him. In his popular writings, von Braun elaborated on them in several of his books and articles, but he took care to qualify such military applications as "particularly dreadful". This much-less-peaceful aspect of von Braun's "drive for space" has been reviewed by Michael J. Neufeld from the Space History Division of the National Air and Space Museum in Washington. 
NASA career Edit
The U.S. Navy had been tasked with building a rocket to lift satellites into orbit, but the resulting Vanguard rocket launch system was unreliable. In 1957, with the launch of Sputnik 1, a growing belief within the United States existed that it was lagging behind the Soviet Union in the emerging Space Race. American authorities then chose to use von Braun and his German team's experience with missiles to create an orbital launch vehicle. Von Braun had originally proposed such an idea in 1954, but it was denied at the time. 
NASA was established by law on 29 July 1958. One day later, the 50th Redstone rocket was successfully launched from Johnston Atoll in the south Pacific as part of Operation Hardtack I. Two years later, NASA opened the Marshall Space Flight Center at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, and the Army Ballistic Missile Agency (ABMA) development team led by von Braun was transferred to NASA. In a face-to-face meeting with Herb York at the Pentagon, von Braun made it clear he would go to NASA only if development of the Saturn were allowed to continue.  Von Braun became the center's first director on 1 July 1960 and held the position until 27 January 1970. 
Von Braun's early years at NASA included a failed "four-inch flight" during which the first uncrewed Mercury-Redstone rocket only rose a few inches before settling back onto the launch pad. The launch failure was later determined to be the result of a "power plug with one prong shorter than the other because a worker filed it to make it fit". Because of the difference in the length of one prong, the launch system detected the difference in the power disconnection as a "cut-off signal to the engine". The system stopped the launch, and the incident created a "nadir of morale in Project Mercury". 
After the flight of Mercury-Redstone 2 in January 1961 experienced a string of problems, von Braun insisted on one more test before the Redstone could be deemed man-rated. His overly cautious nature brought about clashes with other people involved in the program, who argued that MR-2's technical issues were simple and had been resolved shortly after the flight. He overruled them, so a test mission involving a Redstone on a boilerplate capsule was flown successfully in March. Von Braun's stubbornness was blamed for the inability of the U.S. to launch a crewed space mission before the Soviet Union, which ended up putting the first man in space the following month.  Three weeks later on 5 May, von Braun's team successfully launched Alan Shepard into space. He named his Mercury-Redstone 3 Freedom 7 
The Marshall Center's first major program was the development of Saturn rockets to carry heavy payloads into and beyond Earth orbit. From this, the Apollo program for crewed Moon flights was developed. Von Braun initially pushed for a flight engineering concept that called for an Earth orbit rendezvous technique (the approach he had argued for building his space station), but in 1962, he converted to the lunar orbit rendezvous concept that was subsequently realized.   During Apollo, he worked closely with former Peenemünde teammate, Kurt H. Debus, the first director of the Kennedy Space Center. His dream to help mankind set foot on the Moon became a reality on 16 July 1969, when a Marshall-developed Saturn V rocket launched the crew of Apollo 11 on its historic eight-day mission. Over the course of the program, Saturn V rockets enabled six teams of astronauts to reach the surface of the Moon.
During the late 1960s, von Braun was instrumental in the development of the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville. The desk from which he guided America's entry in the space race remains on display there. He also was instrumental in the launching of the experimental Applications Technology Satellite. He traveled to India and hoped that the program would be helpful for bringing a massive educational television project to help the poorest people in that country. 
During the local summer of 1966–67, von Braun participated in a field trip to Antarctica, organized for him and several other members of top NASA management.  The goal of the field trip was to determine whether the experience gained by U.S. scientific and technological community during the exploration of Antarctic wastelands would be useful for the crewed exploration of space. Von Braun was mainly interested in management of the scientific effort on Antarctic research stations, logistics, habitation, and life support, and in using the barren Antarctic terrain like the glacial dry valleys to test the equipment that one day would be used to look for signs of life on Mars and other worlds. 
In an internal memo dated 16 January 1969,  von Braun had confirmed to his staff that he would stay on as a center director at Huntsville to head the Apollo Applications Program. He referred to this time as a moment in his life when he felt the strong need to pray, stating "I certainly prayed a lot before and during the crucial Apollo flights".  A few months later, on occasion of the first Moon landing, he publicly expressed his optimism that the Saturn V carrier system would continue to be developed, advocating human missions to Mars in the 1980s. 
Nonetheless, on 1 March 1970, von Braun and his family relocated to Washington, DC, when he was assigned the post of NASA's Deputy Associate Administrator for Planning at NASA Headquarters. After a series of conflicts associated with the truncation of the Apollo program, and facing severe budget constraints, von Braun retired from NASA on 26 May 1972. Not only had it become evident by this time that NASA and his visions for future U.S. space flight projects were incompatible, but also it was perhaps even more frustrating for him to see popular support for a continued presence of man in space wane dramatically once the goal to reach the Moon had been accomplished.
Von Braun also developed the idea of a Space Camp that would train children in fields of science and space technologies, as well as help their mental development much the same way sports camps aim at improving physical development.  : 354–355 
Career after NASA Edit
After leaving NASA, von Braun became Vice President for Engineering and Development at the aerospace company Fairchild Industries in Germantown, Maryland, on 1 July 1972. 
In 1973, during a routine physical examination, von Braun was diagnosed with kidney cancer, which could not be controlled with the medical techniques available at the time.  Von Braun continued his work to the extent possible, which included accepting invitations to speak at colleges and universities, as he was eager to cultivate interest in human spaceflight and rocketry, particularly his desire to encourage the next generation of aerospace engineers.
Von Braun helped establish and promote the National Space Institute, a precursor of the present-day National Space Society, in 1975, and became its first president and chairman. In 1976, he became scientific consultant to Lutz Kayser, the CEO of OTRAG, and a member of the Daimler-Benz board of directors. However, his deteriorating health forced him to retire from Fairchild on 31 December 1976. When the 1975 National Medal of Science was awarded to him in early 1977, he was hospitalized, and unable to attend the White House ceremony.
Von Braun's insistence on further tests after Mercury-Redstone 2 flew higher than planned has been identified as contributing to the Soviet Union's success in launching the first human in space.  The Mercury-Redstone BD flight was successful, but took up the launch slot that could have put Alan Shepard into space three weeks ahead of Yuri Gagarin. His Soviet counterpart Sergei Korolev insisted on two successful flights with dogs before risking Gagarin's life on a crewed attempt. The second test flight took place one day after the Mercury-Redstone BD mission. 
Von Braun took a very conservative approach to engineering, designing with ample safety factors and redundant structure. This became a point of contention with other engineers, who struggled to keep vehicle weight down so that payload could be maximized. As noted above, his excessive caution likely led to the U.S. losing the race to put a man into space with the Soviets. Krafft Ehricke likened von Braun's approach to building the Brooklyn Bridge.  : 208 Many at NASA headquarters jokingly referred to Marshall as the "Chicago Bridge and Iron Works", but acknowledged that the designs worked.  The conservative approach paid off when a fifth engine was added to the Saturn C-4, producing the Saturn V. The C-4 design had a large crossbeam that could easily absorb the thrust of an additional engine.  : 371
Von Braun had a charismatic personality and was known as a ladies' man. As a student in Berlin, he would often be seen in the evenings in the company of two girlfriends at once.  : 63 He later had a succession of affairs within the secretarial and computer pool at Peenemünde.  : 92–94
According to a 2015 book The Hidden World Part 2, von Braun had a secret relationship with another test pilot and ardent Nazi, Hanna Reitsch, and in 1932 the pair had a child, Alicia Webber. She also had a relationship with the already married, German-born Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands, who in turn fathered Webber's daughter, Alicia von Bielefeld (born ( 1952-02-21 ) 21 February 1952). 
In January 1943, von Braun became engaged to Dorothee Brill, a physical education teacher in Berlin, and he sought permission to marry from the SS Race and Settlement Office. However, the engagement was broken due to his mother's opposition.  : 146–147 Later in 1943 he had an affair with a French woman while in Paris preparing V-2 launch sites in northeastern France. She was imprisoned for collaboration after the war and became destitute.  : 147–148
During his stay at Fort Bliss, von Braun proposed marriage to Maria Luise von Quistorp (born ( 1928-06-10 ) 10 June 1928), his maternal first cousin, in a letter to his father. He married her in a Lutheran church in Landshut, Bavaria on 1 March 1947, having received permission to go back to Germany and return with his bride. He was 35 and his new bride was 18.  Shortly after, he became an evangelical Christian. He returned to New York on 26 March 1947, with his wife, father, and mother. On 8 December 1948, the von Brauns' first daughter together Iris Careen was born at Fort Bliss Army Hospital.  The couple had two more children: Margrit Cécile, born 8 May 1952,  and Peter Constantine, born 2 June 1960. 
On 15 April 1955, von Braun became a naturalized citizen of the United States.
In 1973, von Braun was diagnosed with kidney cancer during a routine medical examination. However, he continued to work unrestrained for a number of years. In January 1977, now very ill, he resigned from Fairchild Industries. Later in 1977, President Gerald Ford awarded him the country's highest science honor, the National Medal of Science in Engineering. He was, however, too ill to attend the White House ceremony. 
Von Braun died on 16 June 1977 of pancreatic cancer in Alexandria, Virginia at age 65.   He is buried at the Ivy Hill Cemetery. His gravestone cites Psalm 19:1: "The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament sheweth his handywork" (KJV). 
- director Sam Phillips was quoted as saying that he did not think that the United States would have reached the Moon as quickly as it did without von Braun's help. Later, after discussing it with colleagues, he amended this to say that he did not believe the United States would have reached the Moon at all.  : 167
- In a TV interview on the occasion of the US Moon landing in July 1969, Helmut Gröttrup, staff member in Peenemünde and later head of the German collective in the Soviet rocketry program, set up the thesis that automatic space probes can get the same amount of scientific data with an effort of only 10 or 20 percent of the costs, and that the money should be better spent on other purposes. Von Braun justified the expenses for manned operations with the following argument: "I think somehow space flights for the first time give mankind a chance to become immortal. Once this earth will no longer be able to support life we can emigrate to other places which are better suited for our life." 
- The von Braun crater on the Moon is named after him.
- Von Braun received a total of 12 honorary doctorates among them, on 8 January 1963, one from the Technical University of Berlin, from which he had graduated.
- Von Braun was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1967 for designing and developing rockets and missiles.
- In Huntsville, Alabama:
- Von Braun was responsible for the creation of the Research Institute at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. As a result of his vision, the university is one of the leading universities in the nation for NASA-sponsored research. The building housing the university's Research Institute was named in his honor, Von Braun Research Hall, in 2000.
- The Von Braun Center (built in 1975) in Huntsville is named in von Braun's honor.
- The Von Braun Astronomical Society in Huntsville was founded as the Rocket City Astronomical Association by von Braun and was later renamed after him.
Dates of rank Edit
- SS-Anwärter: 1 November 1933 (Candidate received rank upon joining SS Riding School)
- SS-Mann: July 1934 (Private)
(left SS after graduation from the school commissioned in 1940 with date of entry backdated to 1934)
- SS-Untersturmführer: 1 May 1940 (Second Lieutenant)
- SS-Obersturmführer: 9 November 1941 (First Lieutenant)
- SS-Hauptsturmführer: 9 November 1942 (Captain)
- SS-Sturmbannführer: 28 June 1943 (Major) 
- , First Class with Swords in 1943 in 1944
- Elected Honorary Fellow of the British Interplanetary Society in 1949 
- Commander's Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany in 1959 in 1962 
- Inducted into the International Aerospace Hall of Fame in 1965  in 1967 
- in 1969
- Inducted into the International Space Hall of Fame in 1969 in 1969.  in 1975 in 1975
- Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement in 1975  World Citizenship Award in 1970  (1982) 
Film and television Von Braun has been featured in a number of films and television shows or series:
Wernher von Braun’s life in USA — Apollo program
His beginnings in the USA were not easy. The government gave him and his team limited resources and had him under constant surveillance. In the early post war years, he developed a Redstone rocket which led to the first nuclear ballistic missile test conducted by the US.
While the Soviet team led by Korolev was developing the Sputnik program, the US government didn’t show particular interest in the space programs.
He tried to popularize space travel and space exploration with a series of articles and he even worked closely with Walt Disney on television films about space exploration.
In 1957 the Soviet Union successfully launched the first satellite, Sputnik. US government realized they were lagging behind, therefore they opened the budget for space exploration and the Space race began.
Wernher von Braun was instrumental in the launch of the first US satellite Explorer-1 into space. After NASA was established in 1958, he and his team were merged into NASA.
In 1962 he developed Saturn V rocket, which would launch ten Apollo missions. In 1969 Apollo 11 crew of Michael Collins, Buzz Aldrin, and Neil Armstrong set foot on Moon.
Several months after moving to Peenemünde in 1937, von Braun was told to join the National Socialist Party. In this August 1938 photo, he is wearing the swastika badge. From the archives at the U. S. Space & Rocket Center, Huntsville, AL.]
Six weeks before the historic, December 1968 Apollo 8 mission to orbit the Moon, the director of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, Wernher von Braun, received an unpleasant surprise. A West German court asked him to testify in the trial of three former SS men from the Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp, which had supplied slave labor for the production of the V-2 ballistic missile. Von Braun had been the technical director of that project and visited the associated Mittelwerk factory a dozen times. Now the head of the center that managed the gigantic Saturn V Moon rocket, he was afraid the attendant publicity would damage his reputation and that of NASA. He tried to beg off, but in the end spoke to the judge and the court at the West German consulate in New Orleans on February 7, 1969. An excerpt from his press interview afterward appears near the beginning of Chasing the Moon, part 3. He denied any personal responsibility and put as much distance as he could between his Peenemünde rocket development center and the Mittelwerk complex.
As his long-time press person, Ed Buckbee, notes in Chasing the Moon, von Braun had received few such inquiries. He and his employer from 1945 to 1960, the U.S. Army, had effectively neutralized most of the uncomfortable questions surrounding his former service for Adolf Hitler. In autobiographical articles and press interviews, he stuck to the line that he was an apolitical scientist who only wanted to go into space. He built missiles used against Allied cities because it was his national duty in wartime. He admitted that he had been a member of the National Socialist Party but labeled it nominal and necessary to protect his career in a totalitarian society. If he mentioned concentration-camp labor, it was only obliquely, while assigning all blame to the SS. In fact, very little information about the camp story was available to the public, in part because the Army classified much of it. The military did the same with von Braun’s SS officer rank and the Nazi records of the more than one hundred associates who had come to the U.S. with him. The one thing he was willing to talk about was his March 1944 Gestapo arrest. He allegedly made drunken remarks at a party about Germany’s likely defeat and his preference for building a “spaceship.” It made him look like a victim of the Nazis, rather than a perpetrator.
Von Braun died prematurely of cancer at age 65 in 1977 and thus missed the storm that broke out seven years later. One of his closest associates, Arthur Rudolph, voluntarily went back to Germany in 1984 rather than contest a denaturalization hearing over his role as production manager in the underground plant. The Justice Department released records relating to Rudolph, von Braun and the Mittelbau-Dora camp. Von Braun’s SS membership first became widely known then, although Communist East Germany had tried in the 1960s, with little success in the West, to publicize it. Thanks to the work of investigative journalists in the 1980s and scholars in the 1990s, everything about his Nazi record, and those of associates, came out. Belatedly, many became aware of the deaths of thousands of prisoners in the V-2 program and the potential implication of von Braun, and a few key associates, in those crimes.
What do we know about his Nazi record? Born in 1912, von Braun grew up in a very conservative, nationalist aristocratic family, but became obsessed with space travel in his teens. Driven by a dream to someday lead an expedition to the Moon, he took the unusual course for a Prussian baron (as he actually was) to pursue an engineering career. In late 1932 the German Army offered to finance his doctoral dissertation if he worked in secret on liquid-propellant rocketry. Shortly thereafter, Hitler became Chancellor. Von Braun was a right-wing nationalist by upbringing but seems to have taken little interest in Nazi ideology or anti-Semitism. As money began flowing into rearmament and eventually into the rocket program, he became more enthusiastic about the regime. In 1933-34, he was a member of an SS riding group in Berlin, but National Socialist organizations were then pressing non-member students to participate in paramilitary activities. In 1937, now the technical director at age 25 of the new Army rocket center at Peenemünde on the Baltic, he received a letter asking him to join the Party. Since it required little commitment, and it might damage his career to say no, he went along.
In spring 1940, an SS man approached him with an invitation from Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler to rejoin the SS as an officer. He asked his military superior, Walter Dornberger, who advised him that it was politically inconvenient for the missile program if he turned it down. Lacking any convictions that would make him say no, von Braun once again went along, although he probably could have made excuses to get out of it. By 1943 he had ascended to the rank of Sturmbannführer (major), thanks to Himmler’s appreciation for his rocket work.
An A-4 (V-2) ballistic missile being prepared for launch in 1942/43. It was the technological accomplishment that made von Braun’s career, but also drew him into deeper complicity with Nazi crimes. Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (NASM 77-14261)
In October 1942, the V-2 made its first successful flight. Hitler, motivated by a worsening war situation, soon approved production despite the missile’s technological immaturity. The problem was where to get the labor when the Eastern Front’s insatiable demands made German manpower scarce. As elsewhere in the war economy, the answer was the brutal exploitation of foreign workers and concentration-camp inmates. Thanks to Arthur Rudolph’s recommendation, an SS camp was founded at Peenemünde. In parallel, prisoners were brought to two other potential V-2 factory sites. But after a massive British air raid on Peenemünde in August 1943, Hitler and Himmler decided to concentrate manufacturing in an underground plant, leading to the founding of the Mittelwerk and the Dora camp. Von Braun had been out of the decision-making chain about camp laborers, but the new situation put him into direct contact with them and with decisions how to deploy them. He admitted to the West German court in 1969 that he had seen terrible conditions underground, although he never admitted seeing dead bodies or receiving sabotage reports that led to prisoner hangings. In summer 1944, he tried to help a French physicist prisoner, Charles Sadron, but he also talked to the commandant of Buchenwald concentration camp about transferring skilled prisoners to Mittelbau-Dora for a laboratory that he hoped Sadron would lead (Sadron refused). Some men were apparently transferred, which could further implicate him in crimes against humanity.
In the interim, the Gestapo really had arrested von Braun. He was freed by the intervention of Gen. Dornberger and Armaments Minister Albert Speer, who testified as to his indispensability for the V-2 program. The dangerous, ten-day arrest seems to have crystallized von Braun’s alienation from the Nazi regime and from Hitler, whom he had met four or five times. In my view, von Braun had sleepwalked into a Faustian bargain with the Nazis, who promised him all the money and power he wanted to build rockets, as long as they did it their way, for their purposes. He belatedly realized he was trapped, but he was still a imbued with Nazi ideas and was loyal to the Army and his superiors. Late in the war he was seen more often in SS uniform, which provided him some protection against Nazi true believers as Germany headed toward catastrophic defeat. He was lucky to be salvaged from that situation by surrendering to the U.S. Army in the Alps on May 2, 1945, along with others.
Von Braun with his American superiors, Maj. James Hammill (left) and Col. Holger Toftoy, at Fort Bliss, outside El Paso, Texas, probably in 1945/46. Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (NASM A-4075).]
Thanks to American military interest in V-2 technology, he arrived in the U.S. in September and was quickly sent to Fort Bliss outside El Paso, Texas, to prepare for the arrival of his team. Their journey was part of a larger program to import German engineers, scientists and technicians that is best known as Project Paperclip. Due to a growing Cold War, that soon became a program of permanent immigration, which required that the dubious Nazi records of some, like von Braun, be covered up. In 1950, the Army moved his group to Huntsville as part of the consolidation and buildup of its missile work. That was where his parallel career as a space advocate took off.
Von Braun was indeed driven by a dream of spaceflight, but he was also a German nationalist who almost effortlessly became an American patriot. In both cases he had no problem building missiles for his country. He was doubtlessly an opportunist, although not one, as Tom Lehrer’s song parody would have it, completely without principles. He was, in my view, the most important rocket engineer and space promoter of the twentieth century, but his legacy will forever be tarnished by his service to a murderous regime.
Michael J. Neufeld
Michael J. Neufeld, a Senior Curator at the National Air and Space Museum, is the author of The Rocket and the Reich (1995), Von Braun: Dreamer of Space, Engineer of War (2007), and Spaceflight: A Concise History (2018), among other works.
Wernher von Braun and Peak Whiteness
“… a good Rocket to take us to the stars, an evil Rocket for the World’s suicide, the two perpetually in struggle.”
Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow (1973)
Hitler understood the biggest military problem with Werner von Braun’s V-2 Rocket back in the Wolf’s Lair in ’43. What good was having this sexy missile if all you could do was stuff conventional explosives into the tip? Not much bang for the Deutschmark, or Dollar, Pound or Ruble for that matter. What if you could put something far more lethal up there, like chemical or biological weapons? Or better yet, how about one of those new Atom bombs the Americans used on Japan? Now there’s a world changing science and engineering project!
The Americans were a full decade behind the Germans in Rocket technology, and the Germans a similar decade behind the Americans in Atomic weapons design. Germany had long since given up on its Nuclear program as too expensive and uncertain. Many of the scientists who designed and built the American bomb — like Albert Einstein, Enrico Fermi, Leo Szilard and Edward Teller — had fled Fascism in the 1930s. Besides, Rockets were easier to explain to the Führer than fission (which he always suspected was some form of Jewish sorcery). So the real magic weapon, the one actually capable of ending this War, was still a secret in the hands of the enemy, not ready in time to be dropped on a German city. Its destiny lay in the East. Yet WvB felt the lure of this new, greater power, this new aspirant to a still higher stage of Peak Whiteness, and he made up his mind to surrender to the Americans.
Like Candide or Forrest Gump, WvB seemed to simply wander through the world unscathed by either consequences or conscience, believing that Peak Whiteness, the upward path of scientific Progress as a map for white supremacy, was still in his future, a goal to be chased from Nazi Germany to Jim Crow America to the Moon.
On 12 March 1945 — with the end of the Third Reich well in view — WvB’s driver fell asleep at the wheel, struggling to keep up with his boss’ frantic schedule. When their big German sedan rolled over WvB broke his arm in three places. WvB plotted his surrender from a hospital bed, ordering two loyal subordinates to collect millions of pages of technical documents on the V-2, box them up and bury them in a mine to use as leverage with the Allies.
Two weeks later, the last combat Rocket of the War blasted off — falling short of Antwerp and killing about 20 big pine trees and injuring dozens more. By April Fools Day, with the sound of Soviet guns audible to the East, the order came to evacuate Peenemünde, sending hundreds of German scientists south to Bavaria with the knowledge that special units of American, British and Russian intelligence agents were on the hunt for the Rocket men. On 11 April American troops liberated the camp at Dora-Mittelbau, uncovering a smoldering pit of high-tech, half-built Rockets and jet planes, countless unburied bodies and a few thousand starved and battered survivors. It was in places like Dora, through the photographs circulated among soldiers and the press at home, that Americans came to appreciate the real (and largely retroactive) reasons why we fought “the Good War.”*
At the same time, some two and a half million Soviet troops encircled Berlin. In this final battle, more than 125,000 Germans die and tens of thousands of German women raped, while most high ranking Nazi party officials either scurried for the rat-lines to Switzerland and Argentina, or plotted mass suicides in a final act of loyalty to their Führer.
Meanwhile, privileged to the last, WvB and Dornberger drank champaign in the finest hotel in the Austrian Alps, awaiting the rescuing embrace of their former enemies. “There I was, living royally in the ski hotel on a mountain plateau,” WvB recalled for The New Yorker. “There were the French below us to the west, and the Americans to the south. But no one, of course, suspected we were there. So nothing happened… Hitler was dead, the war was over, an armistice was signed — and the hotel service was excellent.”* The story of his capture is almost quaint. Once they had had their fill of Austrian luxury, WvB sent his brother Magnus down the mountain on a bicycle to find the Americans. There arrangements were made for WvB and Dornberger to come down and surrender on 3 May 1945.
In his post-war recounting, WvB never worried about his safety, feeling confident that if the circumstances were reversed, and the Nazi invasion of UC Berkeley a success, he would have made Professor Oppenheimer the same deal. “We wouldn’t have treated your atomic scientists as war criminals,” WvB said, speaking in the conditional on behalf of the victorious Nazis, “and I didn’t expect to be treated as one. No, I wasn’t afraid. It all made sense. The V-2 was something we had and you didn’t have. Naturally you wanted to know all about it.” So WvB turned on the charm for his next round of new friends, his penchant for braggadocio unleashed. “If we hadn’t caught the biggest scientist in the Third Reich,” said one confused American GI, “we had certainly caught the biggest liar.”*
Liar or no, his surrender made for some awkward photos. The handsome young scientist, his broken arm suspended in an involuntary salute, smiles into the camera to celebrate the death of his homeland. To his left, wearing his best I-am-not-a-Nazi-in-disguise leather trench coat and fedora, is General Dornberger. US Army and British intelligence officials debriefed WvB for the next several weeks, easily concluding that the man was totally amoral. In their reports, WvB exhibited no guilt whatsoever for his participation in anything, seemingly unable to recognize how his lack of empathy might appear even to British officials whom he had been trying to kill more or less randomly for the past seven months.
The Americans took far less offense, easily classifying WvB: “Not a war criminal and not an ardent Nazi.” Ideology be damned, Operation Paperclip had gotten their top man. By September 1945, WvB was on his way to the United States as a “warden of the Army.” “My country had lost two wars in my young lifetime,” said WvB explaining his understanding of loyalty. “The next time, I wanted to be on the winning side.”*
Operation Paperclip may well have been the first move in the Cold War. Daniel Lang’s New Yorker profile of WvB, entitled “A Romantic Urge” (21 April 1951), describes Paperclip as a “melancholy contest” in which each of the Allies, now turned competitors, deployed “uniformed talent scouts” across the occupied Zone in a race to capture Nazi scientists. The Americans that stumbled upon WvB and other “strategically valuable German expatriates” were among those “carefully chosen units to forage for this human booty.” The Russians had their own talent scouts in the German Zone, the British too, “but our military leaders are of the opinion,” reports Lang, “that the Paperclip agents got the better bag.”*
In the end, Operation Paperclip brought more than 1500 German engineers, scientists and intelligence operatives into the United States to work for the Pentagon, the CIA and the Military Industrial Complex. Like General Dornberger, who became just Mr. Dornberger when he went to work for Bell Helicopters, the largest supplier of US military hardware during the Vietnam war. As a former Wehrmacht General, Dornberger was too compromised to work for the US Army, but private industry, especially a defense contractor, had no problems at all. President Truman tried to ban the recruitment of Nazi party members to Paperclip, so the OSS simply scrubbed the records of dozens of recruits like WvB and Arthur Rudolph, to conceal their SS membership.* In the end, Paperclip recruited biological and chemical weapons experts, doctors who participated in medical experiments on prisoners, various anticommunist spies and intelligence officers, along with nearly all of WvB’s Peenemünde Rocket team.
104 of members of WvB’s Germans Rocket team gathered for a group photograph near their barracks at the Army Ordinance base at Fort Bliss, near El Paso, Texas in 1946 (image top). Of WvB’s original Paperclip team, 90 were under the age of thirty, 14 held Ph.Ds, more than half were members of the Nazi party, 21 had joined the Stormtroopers, and two — including WvB (#73) — were members of the SS.
“I’m fairly sure that these men became members [of the Nazi party] more or less as a matter of expediency, rather than ideology.” These are the words of Major James P. Hamill, the Army officer in charge of the German contingent at the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville. “In fact, any political attitude they have have towards their work seems to shape up as a neat syllogism out of some latter-day Goebbels:” explained Major Hamill. “Germanic culture has always been the leader of Western culture Western culture is now being championed by the United States against Russia’s Eastern culture therefore, the United States is the champion of Germanic culture.”*
This Goebbels syllogism is an apt depiction of Peak Whiteness, and Major Hamill’s admission reveals just how seamlessly these former Nazis fit into the new Pax Americana. Hamill carefully explained just how little had changed for WvB and his men since they left home, how much working at Redstone was like old the Peenemünde. Army work is Army work. “Still developing military rockets. And still hoping for spaceships. Only now I’m doing it in a different country,” WvB explained. “But soon it won’t even seem like a different country.”* Yes, he’s brazenly opportunistic, but that last line is so chilling because it leads me to wonder if he is talking about how the Germans were assimilating into America or if his secret America was transforming itself into a new Reich?
“There is nothing secret about the broad objective” for WvB and his team, writes Lang, “that objective is to build a guided missile capable of carrying an atomic warhead to any point on the face of the earth.”*
In the Spring of 1946 WvB submitted a report to his superiors, originally written in German as a letter to J. Robert Oppenheimer, entitled: “Use of Atomic Warheads in Projected Missiles.” It took no great imagination to combine the two most significant technological achievements of the War into one theoretical superweapon. However, the problem for WvB was not ethical but technical, the serious matter of how much an Atom bomb weighs? Such information was deeply classified, and WvB did not yet have top secret clearance. The V-2 carried only 2k libs of explosives, and bigger Rockets were on the drawing board that could carry 6k lbs. However, the Atom bombs tested over the Pacific in the fall of 1946 weighed over 10k lbs. So a true Atomic missile would have wait for the Hydrogen bomb to miniaturize the warhead. WvB was once again living “in the future.”
In the meantime, demobilization meant cuts. “‘Frankly, we were disappointed with what we found in this country during our first year or so,” recalled WvB. “At Peenemünde, we’d been coddled. Here you were counting pennies.’”* Because no one could stop WvB from fantasizing on the government payroll, he wrote a novel.
“It is the vision of tomorrow which breeds the power of action,” writes WvB, sounding a bit Mein Kampf-ish in the forward to his novel Project Mars: A Technical Tale(1950). Written in the mathematical-realist style, the novel offers a technological exploration story, lacking in all melodrama, and backed up by an appendix of equations that doubled the length of the already unreadable text. No publisher would touch the book, it was dull, full of math, no sex, and the author was of dubious character. But WvB was persistent and when the book did see print, the speculative geopolitics behind the trip to Mars reveals just how little of his world view changed with the end of the war. Indeed WvB seems to be refighting the same War.
WvB sets the fictional stage in A.D. 1980. “The final catastrophic conflict was over. The great Eastern Bloc,… had finally succumbed to the last despairing blows of the almost exhausted Western Powers. The great Asiatic mass had become a group of smaller states, slowly digging out from under the ruins of the war.” And now the Congress of the United States of Earth sits under a great dome built “overlooking Long Island Sound from the hills above Greenwich, Connecticut.”* Peace reigns, maintained by the threat of prompt death and destruction at the hands of Rockets fired from space.
“And above it all,” continues WvB in awe of its imagined beauty, “invisible yet omnipresent Lunetta, the man-made Moon, circled silently far above the stratosphere.” While Lunetta keeps the peace in the present, back in the War she was a first strike angel of death. “Lunetta’s acid test had taken place in the final World War,” writes WvB. “During the dread winter of 1974–75, the motorized forces of the Western allies had ground to a solid stop in the vastness of the Asian steppes. The chilling cold had numbed the blood and the courage of the most intrepid soldiers. Air attacks on the industrial centers of Siberia had almost ceased by reason of the incredible accuracy and effectiveness of the adverse anti-aircraft rockets. But these rockets could not reach Lunetta in her dizzying heights, and the courageous crew of 440 men and women who manned her directed their atom bombs by remote control at the enemy’s manufacturing plants to such good effect that the scales of victory could only incline towards the Allies.”*
This introduction reveals WvB to be a wholly unreconstructed Nazi, dreaming in detail about completing the Führer’s promise to destroy the Soviet Union. The military narrative is an explicit rewriting of Operation Barbarossa — Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 — right down to the terrible winters and racial conflict along the vast “Asian steppes.” Rockets seem to be the key strategic factor in all phases of the battle, including submarine mounted missiles (doesn’t get more German than a V-2 on a U-Boat), anti-aircraft missiles and most importantly, the Nuclear Rockets launched from space. But this time, blessed with Lunetta — the annihilating techno-woman on the moon — der Führer, uh, excuse me, the “Western Powers” prevail, destroying the enemy through weaponizing space.
Lunetta is the ultimate high ground in the last war in Earth’s history. The rest of the novel is about where we should invade next: Mars. But in the meantime, did Wernher von Braun want to leave the Earth or blow it up?
At first, WvB’s life in the West Texas desert was “a romantic Karl May affair,” referring to a popular writer of boy’s adventure novels most beloved by Hitler.* But living in an Army barracks, surrounded by engineers, WvB decided that he needed to change his life. On the one hand, he chose to marry, and in a letter to his folks, then living in an Army relocation camp in Germany, WvB proposed marriage to Maria von Quistorp, a beautiful woman, just over half his age, who was also his first cousin. Right around the time he received word of an enthusiastic yes from his family, WvB decided to become “born again” in a small wooden church in West Texas. That’s right, if there is one thing Southern Evangelicals and German Aristocrats have in common its a propensity for marital consanguinity.
Shortly thereafter, more than 300 family members of Operation Paperclip men arrived in El Paso. If WvB discovered the American racial order in a Pullman car on a secret cross-country trip in 1945, the rest of the Germans came to learn what it was to be an American on a desegregating Army base along the Mexican border. New German families took root in the Southwestern desert, including three blond children for happy Wernher and Maria von Braun. “‘They learned English with a Texas twang,’ Major Hamill said. ‘They had sombreros and cowboy boots to go with it. Their children went to El Paso schools, where they generally received high grades from their teachers, and bloody noses from the American and Mexican kids, who thought the war was still on.”*
Typical immigrant stuff, I suppose. Except WvB and gang did have just about the strangest Southern border crossing in history.
Funny thing about whiteness, it is its own kind of passport. When WvB and his crew first entered the United States they did so as a military secret. None of them entered the country legally, leaving open the question of whether these former Nazis and their families were illegal aliens or merely undocumented workers? To fix this problem, on 2 November 1949, WvB and his crew crossed the bridge over the Rio Grande into Cuidad Juárez where they took the street cars to the US Consulate. There they filled out their visa forms in an act of theater prearranged by the State Department. According to their papers, WvB and family embarked at the port of Juarez, their port of arrival was El Paso, the method of travel indicated as the Juarez city trolly line. When they arrived at the border to present their visas, they claimed to have arrived from not from Germany but from Mexico. With stamped passports and a job from the Army, they became resident aliens of the United States with the possibility of becoming US Citizens. Whiteness wins again.
In 1950 the Army moved WvB and family, along with most of the remaining Germans, to Huntsville, Alabama. Huntsville has a history not unlike the rest of the region, a small town surrounded by farms and slavery, long since turned into sharecropping. The Depression lifted in this part of the deep South only when the War Department built the Redstone Ordinance Plant to manufacture chemical weapons. The city once again went into recession after the War, to be revived again when WvB and team relocated to what became the US Army Ordinance Rocket Center at the Redstone Arsenal. By 1960 the cite was handed over to NASA, renamed the Marshal Space Flight Center, and commission to build the Saturn V Rocket. In 1958 Time Magazine described Huntsville as a city of “gracious antebellum homes, squalid Negro slums, and $15,000-per-unit development homes for Redstone’s 16,000 employees.”* Though this sounds like a Jim Crow version of today’s gentrification, it was enough for Huntsville to declare itself Rocket City, USA.
In oral histories collected by Monique Laney, many long time black residents of Huntsville recalled that during the war German POW’s were held at the Redstone Arsenal. These are bitter memories for Huntsville’s African American community, as most recall German prisoners receiving better treatment than they did, claiming a greater measure of freedom than black Americans by virtue of their Teutonic whiteness. Enemy prisoners outranked even second class citizens when crossing the color line.
So when a second wave of Germans arrived at the Redstone Arsenal, many black residents felt the same distance, the same insult. Although other black residents of Huntsville recalled the moderating force the high-tech sector had in their city. “It was a very pleasant kind of place to be,” recalled one resident. “It was just as segregated as anywhere else, but it was not rabid. You seldom heard ‘nigger,’ you know.” As Laney argues, the Germans in Alabama were model, even liberal middle class citizens, but their role in Huntsville was never neutral.*
When WvB arrived in Alabama, the lush green of Huntsville after the dry desert of Texas reminded the him of Bavaria, or at least that is what he said. No longer required to live on the Army base, WvB and the Germans gradually assimilated into suburban life in Alabama. Whiteness is a passport, and WvB and crew became “Our Germans” in the Jim Crow South, meaning that their children went to segregated schools with all the other white kids, they took up seats on segregated busses, spent weekends at the segregated public library, pool or movie theater, and they lived in segregated neighborhoods, rarely if ever mixing socially with Negroes.
“We were no longer surprised when people called each other by their first names a few minutes after being introduced,” noted WvB, the old Aristocratic ways dying hard. “And when we saw a supermarket here in Huntsville, we knew we were all set.”* The von Braun family found their Lebensraum in suburban Alabama.
Huntsville began to grow rapidly into a high-tech center in an otherwise poor state. The town grew from 16k in 1950 to more than 72k in 1960 (growth of 340%), adding again to 123k by 1964. But as Huntsville grew in size and wealth, it also grew more unequal. Blacks in Huntsville were largely cut out of the Cold War boom in space spending, in which the government built all of their major Rocket instillations across the South: in Huntsville, Houston and Cape Canaveral in Florida. Jim Crow segregation meant systemic educational discrimination, and local black colleges did not teach the higher level engineering courses needed to work at MSFC. Black engineers with required skills were hard to attract to Alabama, especially when there were so many new aerospace jobs available in California. The results in Huntsville looked a lot like what we now think of as gentrification: the city got richer and the black population of Huntsville actually shrank as a percentage of the population from some 32% of the in 1950 to 14% in 1960.
With all this government spending, came an all white male technocratic workforce complete with a new array of ultra-modern white collar anxieties. Take for example the deep worry on the face of the lead engineer in this IBM ad from January 1952. Slide rule in hand, he ponders the fate of his white on white tribe which multiplies into free floating cubicles behind him. Together these anxious employees of the Military Industrial Complex fear that their talents — like slide ruling, or slide rulering or whatever the now extinct verb was for using a slide rule — will some day be rendered obsolete, replaced by a big, expensive electronic brain. Perhaps some fraction of them also worry about their moral identification with the huge white thumb that presses the big red FIRE button that launches the missile —“Ready as a rifle bullet” — that ends the world. Personal anxiety and universal annihilation have rarely stood so closely together as in the all white male world of Rocket science.
As the leader of thousands of tech workers like these, WvB never showed the slightest hint of fear. “‘The more you’re in this business,’ he says, ‘the more conservative you get.’”* In fact, he seems to have been especially talented at managing men like our depressed slide-ruler-er here. WvB encouraged these men to wield the big white thumb of doom with confidence and to dream big, one calculation at a time.
He had escaped the Nazi Götterdämmerung, found the American God in the desert, married the girl next door, moved to the all white suburbs and gotten the top job, and now (despite that first part) WvB became a major celebrity selling Americans the Moon.
“I have to be a two-headed monster,” WvB told Time Magazine, “scientist and public-relations man.”* In these years, as his name and still thick accent became more familiar, WvB became pop culture’s living embodiment of the “Rocket Scientist.” In the early 1950s WvB worked in collaboration with Collier’s Magazine and Walt Disney to produce a complete model of a future American Space Program. In a series of magazine articles and TV programs directed at the center of the 1950s American mass market, WvB and his collaborators narrated the history of rocketry, offered a scientific prophecy of orbital spaceflight, outlined a mission to land on the Moon, and prepared for the future colonization of Mars.
Published to great publicity in the 22 March 1952 issue of Collier’s, WvB explains how “Man Will Soon Conquer Space.” Beautifully illustrated by Rolf Klep and Chesley Bonestell, the series offers a complete overview of the still theoretical science of human space flight. “If we do it,” writes WvB, “we can not only preserve the peace, but we can take a long step towards uniting mankind.”
This universalism of the Space Program sounds nice, right? For all Mankind and all that. But to read WvB’s words it becomes clear that his immediate goals are far more militaristic. Preserving the peace means that the beautiful space station is actually his old love Lunetta. “No place on Earth, from pole to pole,” writes WvB with pride, “would be safe from such a weapon fired from a satellite in space.” Such a space station is also an observation platform of unrivaled access that “will keep under constant inspection every ocean, continent, country and city… Nothing will go unobserved…” After the space program’s essential lethality and superior surveillance potentials are established, the rest of the essay delights in design details, from how fast the Rocket would need to go to escape into the proper orbit (17,500 mph) to what is the best color to paint the space station to regulate temperature (white). In his estimation, such a project could be ready in 25 years if we were only willing to spend more money than on the Manhattan Project.*
WvB’s sense of why we needed to enter space was a harmonious union of military objectives and the fantasies of exploration, and in the followup “Man on the Moon” issue from 8 October 1952, WvB set out a plan for “The Journey” looking as much like Columbus as possible. He imagines a convoy of three ships, carrying 50 men (and only men), “bound for the great unknown.”*
The relationship between the voyage of Columbus and the Rocket, between settler colonialism and the “conquest of space” is no mere coincidence, it is legally binding. At least this is the argument in the accompanying article “Who Owns the Universe?” by Oscar Schachter, Deputy Director, Legal Department, United Nations. Jurist Schachter argues that the extension of national sovereignty to celestial bodies must be based upon the legal precedents set by Columbus and the Pope in the early 16th century. Schachter asserts three components of a legal theory of establishing interplanetary sovereignty over extraterrestrial territories. The first is the principle of mare liberum or freedom of the seas, that all ships in space must fly under a national flag and preserve the shared commons of outer space (and yes he is worried about space pirates). Secondly, territory can be claimed on other planets on the basis of terra nullius, or of empty land (a legal claim designed to prevent wars between competing colonial powers that amounted to a warrant for genocide for indigenous and aboriginal peoples in the 16th to 18th centuries). Lastly, Schachter argues that legal claims to planetary territory cannot be made on the basis of discovery alone, but that “through settlement it acquires sovereignty.”*
Nowhere in this essay on the legal basis of settler colonialism as extended into the universe does the author mention the existence of indigenous peoples, they have been erased by the United Nations legal dept. Perhaps Collier’s already had a good idea that there were no Indians or Tasmanians on the Moon. But it does make one wonder: is it for want of Indians and Tasmanians on the Moon that we never went back, that we don’t live there now, nearly five decades after the first landing? Columbus left much of his crew behind after being the first white man to land in Haiti. All the Apollo missions left on the Moon was junk and the American Flag. But then, all they found on the Moon was dust and rocks.
Walt Disney made the same connection between the Western frontier and the Space frontier. Disney was keen to use Television to promote his new theme park, Disneyland, which opened in Anaheim California in 1955. When Disney read the Collier’s essays, all but one of the park’s four sctions was fully designed. Frontier Land offered a pastiche of the American West via Davey Crocket Fantasy Land relied upon the Disneyfied German fairytales and king Ludvig’s castle and Adventure Land promised a simulated safari through a Kiplingesque Dark Continent. Disney, it seemed, was building an animatronic nostalgia factory for the lost eras of Peak Whiteness
What the park lacked was an understanding of what Tomorrow Land should be or where Peak Whiteness will go in the future. After reading the Collier’s articles, Disney and his producer Ward Kimball reached out to WvB, who leapt at the chance to promote his vision of space travel in the park and on TV. On his many trips to the West Coast to confer with various aerospace contractors like Rocketdyne and Aerojet, WvB began spending a great deal of time with Kimball and the Imagineers at Disney. Together they produced three “Science Factual” movies about the potential for space travel. The films worked so well because they consciously combined the language of Frontier Land, the white male explorer tropes of Adventure Land with the bright colors and magic sparkle of Fantasy Land to produce a Rocket-centric vision of Tomorrow Land.
Airing on ABC television on 9 March 1955, “Man in Space” reached some 42 million viewers, an absolutely enormous audience.* Though the film featured three Germans on camera, including the Antifascist rocketeer Willy Ley and space medicine scientist Heinz Haber, WvB stole the show. WvB played the “Ghür-mann” scientists roll to perfection. Wearing white shirtsleeves, waving around a sliderule and playing with his model Rockets while speaking in a high pitched, rigorously cadenced, deeply accented English, “Man in Space” made WvB an instant star. With the grandfatherly Walt Disney vouching for him, this former Nazi slipped the political yolk to become the face of a new technocratic stereotype, a postwar American fantasy of what a scientist looks and sounds like.
One month after making his world television debut, WvB and his family gathered at the segregated Huntsville High School auditorium to be sworn in as US citizens. “I have never regretted the decision to come to this country,” said an emotional WvB. “As time goes by, I can see even more clearly that it was a moral decision we made that day at Peenemünde… Some how we sensed that the secret of rocketry should only get into the hands of people who read the Bible.”*
As well as being one of the world’s most outstanding space scientists, ‘von Braun was also a practising Lutheran, active in church and Christian life’. 4 He had full confidence in the truth of the Bible, describing it as ‘the revelation of God’s nature and love’. 5 He acknowledged his dependence on God in prayer, not only in times of crisis such as during his escape from Nazi Germany, but also in his work—such as praying for the safety of the manned space flights.
The Mars Project: The Prophecy of Werner von Braun
Wernher von Braun in 1949 finished writing a book he had begun back in the 1940s, but it was not published for the first time until 1952. Ilon Musk’s plans to fly to Mars are widely publicized, but what is striking is that in addition to the calculations and drawings of rockets to fly to Mars, Brown’s book contains a striking coincidence: “The Martian government was run by ten men, whose leader was elected by popular vote for five years and was called ‘Elon’… Why did Brown use that particular name? After all, Elon Musk is Elon Musk. Would you agree that the name Elon, is rare enough that it’s just an amazing coincidence or prophecy?
This never-before-published science fiction novel by the original “rocket man” Werner von Braun combines technical facts with human history in a way that only a true dreamer can understand. Covering the entire story of the journey, this novel moves from the initial decision to go to Mars to the planning of the mission, the construction of mighty spaceships, the journey, the amazing discoveries made on Mars, and the return home. The author’s attention to the actions and feelings of the characters, both those who left and those who stayed, makes this a human-scale adventure, not just another sci-fi tale. Included with this exclusive Von Braun treasure is an appendix with his original technical drawings from the late 1940s on which the story’s plot is based.
“It has long been recognized that Mars is the planet in our solar system most capable of supporting life. In 1949, when this book was written, Wernher von Braun was convinced that an underground civilization existed on Mars that was more or less equal to our own. And it is a peaceful civilization, seeking neither conquest nor paranoia about attack. In this story of the first human mission to Mars, ten spacecraft make the journey to the Red Planet.
Up to 1,000 missions to orbit Earth required to build, supply and fuel these ten ships. This was an international collaborative project.
The mission plan does not include a stay to colonize or set up a Martian base, which, again, is realistic for a first mission, von Braun did a tremendous job preparing the plot for this story. The calculations and technical drawings he developed for the mission to Mars, and on which he then based the story, are included in the 65-page appendix to this book.
This book can also be seen as a proposal–for international cooperation in human missions to Mars. Von Braun clearly believed this was possible (the action of this story takes place in the 1980s) and went to great lengths to prove it, both in his professional work and in his writing.
When this story was written in 1949, a manned flight to Mars was considered science fiction for the average person, but very few today deny that it is possible. The reasons we still haven’t done it are economic, not technical.”
Excerpt from chapter 24 of the book:
Long and tedious were the official receptions of the three Erflings by the Martian authorities. Holt and his two companions finally found enough free time to compose for themselves a coherent picture of the great variety of new impressions with which their week of greetings had showered them.
Not once did they feel any suspicion that their arrival from the depths of space might be due to anything other than the friendliest of feelings and intentions. At first they thought that perhaps the Martian consciousness of absolute technical superiority over the Earthlings was the basis for the dignified courtesy and attention shown to them by the dignitaries. After all, an interplanetary visit could not have been an ordinary event even in their lives. But gradually Holt and his companions began to realize. that they were acting primarily out of entirely different motives the pictures of life on Earth they were enjoying were to them only the final confirmation of the universal deep religious conviction that God had created man in his own image, wherever he was. Earthmen’s attempts to subjugate nature on their planet seemed to the Martians to be technically extremely primitive.
The Martian government was run by ten men, whose leader was elected by popular vote for five years and called Elon. The two houses of parliament made the laws that Elon and his cabinet were to administer. The upper house was called the Council of Elders and consisted of only 60 people, each appointed by Elon for life as vacancies occurred.”
The French SEIS seismometer on the American landing gear InSight recorded an earthquake on Mars for the first time in&hellip
The orbital station Mars Express received an amazing shot, as a wave of dust clouds is moving on the surface&hellip
The CIA in 1988, resorted to very unusual methods in order to reconnoiter the situation on Mars. Information about this&hellip