Discussion:
Werner von Braun - How Historians Are Reckoning With the Former Nazi
(too old to reply)
a425couple
2019-07-19 15:12:25 UTC
Permalink
from
https://time.com/5627637/nasa-nazi-von-braun/

How Historians Are Reckoning With the Former Nazi Who Launched America's
Space Program
Werner von Braun (1912-1977), the German-born American rocket engineer
with model rockets.
Werner von Braun (1912-1977), the German-born American rocket engineer
with model rockets. Hulton Deutsch—Corbis via Getty Images
BY ALEJANDRO DE LA GARZA
JULY 18, 2019

Sporting a gray double-breasted suit, slicked-back curls and a slide
rule, rocket engineer Wernher von Braun cuts a suave, authoritative
figure in Disney’s 1955 television special Man and the Moon. Speaking
with a German accent, the then-director of development at the U.S. Army
Ballistic Missile Agency in Huntsville, Ala., uses a series of models
and illustrations to explain how America will reach the moon — with the
aid of an enormous nuclear-powered space station, of course.

The United States eventually planted a flag on the lunar surface, though
without the help of any orbital reactors. And all through the Space
Race, von Braun, a German scientist scooped up by the U.S. in the waning
days of World War II, was the public face of the American space program,
as well as one of its chief architects. But much of the Cold War-era
coverage of von Braun downplayed the darker details of his past: before
he was building rockets for America, he was building them for Hitler.
Germany launched more than 3,000 missiles of his design against Britain
and other countries, indiscriminately killing approximately 5,000
people, while as many as 20,000 concentration camp prisoners died
assembling the weapons.

In the years since the original Space Race has ended, historians have
begun to reassess von Braun’s legacy. Some have portrayed his time
working for the Nazis as a survival strategy, but others have gone so
far as to frame him as a war criminal, or something close to it. Von
Braun died in 1977, so there’s no possibility of hearing him out. But as
the country and the world celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Apollo
11 moon landing — a feat that might not have been possible without von
Braun’s contributions — his image, as Cold War hero, whitewashed Nazi
villain or something in between, is being debated more fiercely than
ever, as is the extent of America’s moral bargaining in using him to
propel its otherworldly ambitions.

Looking back on the father of the American lunar program, there are few
easy answers.

From Apollo 11 to Now: See the Future of American Spaceflight
The mission to the Moon opened the door to the decades of space
exploration that followed.
Play Video YOU MIGHT LIKE
MICHAEL COLLINS RETURNS TO HISTORIC APOLLO 11 LAUNCH PAD
TIME IMMERSIVE'S APOLLO 11 'LANDING ON THE MOON' EXPERIENCE

Born to an aristocratic Prussian family, Wernher von Braun became
obsessed with space travel early in life, studying fields like physics
and mathematics in order to grasp the fundamentals of rocketry. As a
young man, he launched primitive rockets with other enthusiasts at an
abandoned ammunition dump in suburban Berlin. The experiments, and von
Braun’s leadership of the group, piqued the interest of the German army.
In 1932, the 20-year-old wunderkind became the top civilian specialist
at the German army’s Kummersdorf rocket station, south of Berlin. By
1935, von Braun’s group had successfully fired two rockets using
liquid-fueled engines, a then-embryonic technology that became the basis
for modern spaceflight. The facility was soon moved to a new location on
the Baltic coast at Peenemünde.

With the start of World War II in 1939, von Braun came under increasing
pressure to produce useful military weapons. He delivered. In 1942, his
group successfully tested the A-4 missile, firing the weapon nearly 60
miles into the atmosphere. The trial caught Hitler’s attention, and the
Reich began to mass produce the rockets at a feverish pace, often using
slave labor. (The project also drew the interest of Heinrich Himmler’s
Schutzstaffel (SS), which briefly imprisoned von Braun as part of an
attempted takeover of the program.) By the later stages of the war, when
von Braun’s missiles began to rain down on London, Nazi propaganda had
given them a new name: the Vengeance Weapon Two, or V-2, so named
because they were intended as retribution for Allied bombings of German
cities.

The V-2 was a particularly terrifying weapon. The missiles traveled so
fast that victims, most of whom were civilians, often heard nothing
until after they struck. For his part, von Braun, who was apparently
still interested in space travel, is said to have remarked that the
rockets worked perfectly, except for landing on the wrong planet — a
line that, at best, paints him as detached from the consequences of his
work. But as fearsome as the V-2 was, it had little strategic impact and
failed to turn the war in Germany’s direction. As the Allies advanced
into the heart of Germany, von Braun and his engineering team headed
south to surrender to the Americans, rather than await the Red Army.

Von Braun was one of about 120 German scientists who, in a then-secret
U.S. project known as Operation Paperclip, were taken to the U.S. to
develop military technology. Rather than be held accountable like other
important figures in Nazi Germany, they were given new lives. The Soviet
Union also took German scientists for similar reasons, foreshadowing the
superpower showdown that was to come.

Once he was settled in the U.S., von Braun’s career took off, largely
fueled by the U.S.-Soviet technological rivalry that would develop into
the Space Race. By 1953, his team developed America’s first ballistic
missile, the Redstone, which could hurl a nuclear warhead up to 250
miles downrange. The Jupiter-C, a modified version of the Redstone,
launched the United States’ first satellite, Explorer 1, in 1958 — a
full year after the Soviets launched their first satellite, Sputnik 1. A
von Braun TIME cover arrived in 1958, with the engineer’s calm, coifed
likeness superimposed over the flames of a missile launch. Von Braun
later became director of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, developing
the behemoth Saturn V rocket, which 50 years ago this week carried Neil
Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the moon’s surface, while Michael Collins
waited in lunar orbit.

The cheerful, well-spoken von Braun became the center of America’s space
obsession: an extraordinary engineer, communicator and manager who
promised America the moon and delivered, beating the arch-rival Soviets
in the process. But his past wasn’t completely hidden. TIME noted in
1958 that, to some, Von Braun’s “transfer of loyalty from Nazi Germany
to the U.S. seemed to come too fast, too easy.” That sentiment was
echoed in a 1967 song by satirist Tom Lehrer: “Once the rockets are up,
who cares where they come down? / That’s not my department, says Wernher
von Braun.”

Wernher von Braun TIME cover.

More recent examinations of von Braun’s life have gained distance from
the nationalistic fervor that prevailed at the height of the Space Race.
In Von Braun: Dreamer of Space, Engineer of War, Michael Neufeld, former
chair of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s space history
department, sheds light on how knowledge of von Braun’s collaboration
with the Nazi regime was purposefully suppressed. But Neufeld stops
short of casting him as a complete villain. It would have been dangerous
for von Braun to complain to Nazi leadership about his work or the
conditions in which his missiles were made, Nuefeld says. He also argues
that von Braun’s membership in the SS, which was classified information
in the U.S., was at least somewhat coerced. But at the same time, the
“missileman” seldom if ever seemed to consider anything beyond advancing
his own career.

“He was not ideologically very interested in Nazi ideas,” says Nuefeld.
“Although he was happy to profit from his status as an Aryan aristocrat.”

A more damning take comes from Wayne Biddle, a Pulitzer Prize-winning
journalist and author of Dark Side of the Moon. Biddle frames von Braun
as a war criminal with direct involvement in the V-2 slave labor
project, and a man who only escaped justice thanks to the efforts of the
American government, which was desperate for help in beating the Soviets.

“One always has a choice in life, and [von Braun] never made a choice
that moved him away from the Nazi regime,” says Biddle. He also echoes
Nuefeld’s characterization of von Braun as career-obsessed. “He always
made choices that resulted in his rapid advancement at a very young age.”

But von Braun wasn’t the only one who prioritized success. Confronted
with the growing power of Stalin’s U.S.S.R., the U.S. Government
sanitized von Braun and other German scientists’ images in order to use
their skills; to a large extent, the American public went along with it.
“There was public protest in early 1947 over the importation of the
Germans,” explains Nuefeld. “And then Cold War heat got worse, and it
pretty much went away.”

That moral calculation enabled von Braun to become an iconic leader in
the American space program, admired by many and untouchable out of sheer
national necessity. Decades later, Biddle argues, the reassessment of
his legacy may have had less to do with a growing understanding of his
crimes than the fact that the engineer was simply no longer needed.
“[Von Braun] was brought over originally to milk his knowledge,” says
Biddle. “Once that was used up, he became expendable.”

That we’re still debating Wernher von Braun’s legacy 50 years after his
rockets put men on the moon speaks to the profound effect he had on
America’s image. And while he was undeniably an engineering genius, that
this onetime cog in the Wehrmacht died a largely unquestioned American
hero speaks to what was perhaps his greatest skill: salesmanship. To
survive in Nazi Germany, he sold Hitler a dream of victory through
superior technology. Later, he sold the U.S. Army a vision of
intercontinental nuclear dominance. But von Braun’s biggest sale of all
is apparent in that Disney footage. To Americans, he sold the dream of
men in space and flags on the moon. And by and large, the nation bought
it, no questions asked.

Write to Alejandro de la Garza at ***@time.com.
Jim Wilkins
2019-07-19 18:01:00 UTC
Permalink
Post by a425couple
from
https://time.com/5627637/nasa-nazi-von-braun/
How Historians Are Reckoning With the Former Nazi Who Launched
America's Space Program...
Our hats aren't so white either. Allied bombers killed an estimated
600,000 German civilians. The Left in particular should be ashamed of
Roosevelt's cozy relationship with Stalin, whose evil matched or
exceeded Hitler's.
Jim Wilkins
2019-07-19 22:05:28 UTC
Permalink
Post by Jim Wilkins
Post by a425couple
from
https://time.com/5627637/nasa-nazi-von-braun/
How Historians Are Reckoning With the Former Nazi Who Launched
America's Space Program...
Our hats aren't so white either. Allied bombers killed an estimated
600,000 German civilians. The Left in particular should be ashamed
of Roosevelt's cozy relationship with Stalin, whose evil matched or
exceeded Hitler's.
To put the V rockets' threat in perspective, Allied bombers could drop
as much death and destruction on Germany in one day (USAAF) and night
(RAF) as their entire wartime total.
Vaughn Simon
2019-07-20 22:04:09 UTC
Permalink
Post by Jim Wilkins
The Left in particular should be ashamed of
Roosevelt's cozy relationship with Stalin, whose evil matched or
exceeded Hitler's.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_enemy_of_my_enemy_is_my_friend


---
This email has been checked for viruses by AVG.
https://www.avg.com
David E. Powell
2019-07-22 06:18:13 UTC
Permalink
Post by Vaughn Simon
Post by Jim Wilkins
The Left in particular should be ashamed of
Roosevelt's cozy relationship with Stalin, whose evil matched or
exceeded Hitler's.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_enemy_of_my_enemy_is_my_friend
I take it as nitpicking. Von Braun was also a civilian rocketing buff before the German Army called him. (A guy named Dornberger, before the Nazis took power.)

There is a lot of terrible stuff there, but he also did a lot for positive science and inspired a lot of future engineers.

I am not excusing the nastiness. Just pointing out that it wasn't all one way or the other. However: I wouldn't expect everyone who was a resident of London or Antwerp, or had family in those places, to agree.
Post by Vaughn Simon
---
This email has been checked for viruses by AVG.
https://www.avg.com
Jim Wilkins
2019-07-22 11:15:33 UTC
Permalink
Post by David E. Powell
Post by Vaughn Simon
Post by Jim Wilkins
The Left in particular should be ashamed of
Roosevelt's cozy relationship with Stalin, whose evil matched or
exceeded Hitler's.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_enemy_of_my_enemy_is_my_friend
I take it as nitpicking. Von Braun was also a civilian rocketing
buff before the German Army called him. (A guy named Dornberger,
before the Nazis took power.)
There is a lot of terrible stuff there, but he also did a lot for
positive science and inspired a lot of future engineers.
I am not excusing the nastiness. Just pointing out that it wasn't
all one way or the other. However: I wouldn't expect everyone who
was a resident of London or Antwerp, or had family in those places,
to agree.
Post by Vaughn Simon
---
This email has been checked for viruses by AVG.
https://www.avg.com
It's funny how the warriors who fought each other to the death can be
more willing to make up afterwards than non-participants. One of
Captain McVay's defenders at the USS Indianapolis trial was the
Japanese submarine commander who sank him.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mochitsura_Hashimoto
"Hashimoto was called to testify on behalf of the prosecution at the
court-martial of Charles B. McVay III, the commanding officer of
Indianapolis, a move which was controversial at the time. He was later
part of an effort to exonerate McVay, which was eventually
successful."

" He lost his entire family in the Little Boy atomic bombing of
Hiroshima days after the sinking of Indianapolis."

" Hashimoto's 50 minutes of testimony focused on whether or not
Indianapolis was "zigzagging" and he noted the ship did not deviate
from its course. However, he also noted that its position made such
evasive maneuvers incapable of diminishing his ability to attack the
ship."

"Commander Hashimoto was amazed by the Americans. While penned up in
his dormitory during the trial, he was treated more like an honored
guest than an enemy officer who had caused the deaths of so many
American boys."
Jim Wilkins
2019-07-22 12:40:39 UTC
Permalink
"November 24, 1999
Attn: The Honorable John W. Warner
Chairman, Senate Armed Services Committee
Russell Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510
"I hear that your legislature is considering resolutions which would
clear the name of the late Charles Butler McVay III, captain of the
USS Indianapolis which was sunk on July 30, 1945, by torpedoes fired
from the submarine which was under my command.

"I do not understand why Captain McVay was court-martialed. I do not
understand why he was convicted on the charge of hazarding his ship by
failing to zigzag because I would have been able to launch a
successful torpedo attack against his ship whether it had been
zigzagging or not.

"I have met may of your brave men who survived the sinking of the
Indianapolis. I would like to join them in urging that your national
legislature clear their captain's name.

"Our peoples have forgiven each other for that terrible war and its
consequences. Perhaps it is time your peoples forgave Captain McVay
for the humiliation of his unjust conviction.

Mochitsura Hashimoto
former captain of I-58
Japanese Navy at WWII
Umenomiya Taisha
30 Fukeno Kawa Machi, Umezu
Ukyo-ku, Kyoto 615-0921, Japan"
Peter Stickney
2019-07-31 22:04:16 UTC
Permalink
Post by David E. Powell
Post by Vaughn Simon
Post by Jim Wilkins
The Left in particular should be ashamed of
Roosevelt's cozy relationship with Stalin, whose evil matched or
exceeded Hitler's.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_enemy_of_my_enemy_is_my_friend
I take it as nitpicking. Von Braun was also a civilian rocketing buff
before the German Army called him. (A guy named Dornberger, before the
Nazis took power.)
It always amazes me the number of people who think that German Rearmament
started with the rise of the Nazis. It had been ongoing since the mid
1920s, during the Weimar Republic, once the Germans realized that the
Control Commission wasn't paying attention.
The Weimar era German Army started the rocket program in 1930, and
demonstration flights of their von Braun's and Dornberger's R&D
prototypes were made in 1932. At that point, the project was made into a
formal development project, and von Braun put on the payroll.

Note that the field artillery used by the Wehrmacht were all weapons
developed in secret during the Weimar era, waiting to be rolled out when
nobody was looking.
--
Pete Stickney
“A strong conviction that something must be done is the parent of many
bad measures.” ― Daniel Webster
Jim Wilkins
2019-07-31 23:55:43 UTC
Permalink
Post by Peter Stickney
Post by David E. Powell
Post by Vaughn Simon
Post by Jim Wilkins
The Left in particular should be ashamed of
Roosevelt's cozy relationship with Stalin, whose evil matched or
exceeded Hitler's.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_enemy_of_my_enemy_is_my_friend
I take it as nitpicking. Von Braun was also a civilian rocketing buff
before the German Army called him. (A guy named Dornberger, before the
Nazis took power.)
It always amazes me the number of people who think that German
Rearmament
started with the rise of the Nazis. It had been ongoing since the mid
1920s, during the Weimar Republic, once the Germans realized that the
Control Commission wasn't paying attention.
The Weimar era German Army started the rocket program in 1930, and
demonstration flights of their von Braun's and Dornberger's R&D
prototypes were made in 1932. At that point, the project was made into a
formal development project, and von Braun put on the payroll.
Note that the field artillery used by the Wehrmacht were all weapons
developed in secret during the Weimar era, waiting to be rolled out when
nobody was looking.
--
Pete Stickney
"A strong conviction that something must be done is the parent of
many
bad measures." ? Daniel Webster
https://warontherocks.com/2016/06/sowing-the-wind-the-first-soviet-german-military-pact-and-the-origins-of-world-war-ii/
jmreno
2019-08-01 16:00:21 UTC
Permalink
Post by Jim Wilkins
Post by Peter Stickney
Post by David E. Powell
Post by Vaughn Simon
Post by Jim Wilkins
The Left in particular should be ashamed of
Roosevelt's cozy relationship with Stalin, whose evil matched or
exceeded Hitler's.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_enemy_of_my_enemy_is_my_friend
I take it as nitpicking. Von Braun was also a civilian rocketing buff
before the German Army called him. (A guy named Dornberger, before the
Nazis took power.)
It always amazes me the number of people who think that German Rearmament
started with the rise of the Nazis. It had been ongoing since the mid
1920s, during the Weimar Republic, once the Germans realized that the
Control Commission wasn't paying attention.
The Weimar era German Army started the rocket program in 1930, and
demonstration flights of their von Braun's and Dornberger's R&D
prototypes were made in 1932. At that point, the project was made into a
formal development project, and von Braun put on the payroll.
Note that the field artillery used by the Wehrmacht were all weapons
developed in secret during the Weimar era, waiting to be rolled out when
nobody was looking.
--
Pete Stickney
"A strong conviction that something must be done is the parent of
many
bad measures." ? Daniel Webster
https://warontherocks.com/2016/06/sowing-the-wind-the-first-soviet-german-military-pact-and-the-origins-of-world-war-ii/
Didn't von Braun write an autobiography called:

I Aimed at the Stars

(but hit London)
David E. Powell
2019-08-03 04:32:24 UTC
Permalink
Post by Peter Stickney
Post by David E. Powell
Post by Vaughn Simon
Post by Jim Wilkins
The Left in particular should be ashamed of
Roosevelt's cozy relationship with Stalin, whose evil matched or
exceeded Hitler's.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_enemy_of_my_enemy_is_my_friend
I take it as nitpicking. Von Braun was also a civilian rocketing buff
before the German Army called him. (A guy named Dornberger, before the
Nazis took power.)
It always amazes me the number of people who think that German Rearmament
started with the rise of the Nazis. It had been ongoing since the mid
1920s, during the Weimar Republic, once the Germans realized that the
Control Commission wasn't paying attention.
The Weimar era German Army started the rocket program in 1930, and
demonstration flights of their von Braun's and Dornberger's R&D
prototypes were made in 1932. At that point, the project was made into a
formal development project, and von Braun put on the payroll.
Note that the field artillery used by the Wehrmacht were all weapons
developed in secret during the Weimar era, waiting to be rolled out when
nobody was looking.
Quite so, and the area of combat aircraft was not being neglected before the 1933 elections, either:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heinkel_He_51

<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heinkel_He_51>

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arado_Ar_64

<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arado_Ar_64>

<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Messerschmitt_Bf_109#Design_and_development>

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Messerschmitt_Bf_109#Design_and_development
Post by Peter Stickney
--
Pete Stickney
“A strong conviction that something must be done is the parent of many
bad measures.” ― Daniel Webster
Dean Markley
2019-07-22 11:39:34 UTC
Permalink
Post by a425couple
from
https://time.com/5627637/nasa-nazi-von-braun/
How Historians Are Reckoning With the Former Nazi Who Launched America's
Space Program
Werner von Braun (1912-1977), the German-born American rocket engineer
with model rockets.
Werner von Braun (1912-1977), the German-born American rocket engineer
with model rockets. Hulton Deutsch—Corbis via Getty Images
BY ALEJANDRO DE LA GARZA
JULY 18, 2019
Sporting a gray double-breasted suit, slicked-back curls and a slide
rule, rocket engineer Wernher von Braun cuts a suave, authoritative
figure in Disney’s 1955 television special Man and the Moon. Speaking
with a German accent, the then-director of development at the U.S. Army
Ballistic Missile Agency in Huntsville, Ala., uses a series of models
and illustrations to explain how America will reach the moon — with the
aid of an enormous nuclear-powered space station, of course.
The United States eventually planted a flag on the lunar surface, though
without the help of any orbital reactors. And all through the Space
Race, von Braun, a German scientist scooped up by the U.S. in the waning
days of World War II, was the public face of the American space program,
as well as one of its chief architects. But much of the Cold War-era
coverage of von Braun downplayed the darker details of his past: before
he was building rockets for America, he was building them for Hitler.
Germany launched more than 3,000 missiles of his design against Britain
and other countries, indiscriminately killing approximately 5,000
people, while as many as 20,000 concentration camp prisoners died
assembling the weapons.
In the years since the original Space Race has ended, historians have
begun to reassess von Braun’s legacy. Some have portrayed his time
working for the Nazis as a survival strategy, but others have gone so
far as to frame him as a war criminal, or something close to it. Von
Braun died in 1977, so there’s no possibility of hearing him out. But as
the country and the world celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Apollo
11 moon landing — a feat that might not have been possible without von
Braun’s contributions — his image, as Cold War hero, whitewashed Nazi
villain or something in between, is being debated more fiercely than
ever, as is the extent of America’s moral bargaining in using him to
propel its otherworldly ambitions.
Looking back on the father of the American lunar program, there are few
easy answers.
From Apollo 11 to Now: See the Future of American Spaceflight
The mission to the Moon opened the door to the decades of space
exploration that followed.
Play Video YOU MIGHT LIKE
MICHAEL COLLINS RETURNS TO HISTORIC APOLLO 11 LAUNCH PAD
TIME IMMERSIVE'S APOLLO 11 'LANDING ON THE MOON' EXPERIENCE
Born to an aristocratic Prussian family, Wernher von Braun became
obsessed with space travel early in life, studying fields like physics
and mathematics in order to grasp the fundamentals of rocketry. As a
young man, he launched primitive rockets with other enthusiasts at an
abandoned ammunition dump in suburban Berlin. The experiments, and von
Braun’s leadership of the group, piqued the interest of the German army.
In 1932, the 20-year-old wunderkind became the top civilian specialist
at the German army’s Kummersdorf rocket station, south of Berlin. By
1935, von Braun’s group had successfully fired two rockets using
liquid-fueled engines, a then-embryonic technology that became the basis
for modern spaceflight. The facility was soon moved to a new location on
the Baltic coast at Peenemünde.
With the start of World War II in 1939, von Braun came under increasing
pressure to produce useful military weapons. He delivered. In 1942, his
group successfully tested the A-4 missile, firing the weapon nearly 60
miles into the atmosphere. The trial caught Hitler’s attention, and the
Reich began to mass produce the rockets at a feverish pace, often using
slave labor. (The project also drew the interest of Heinrich Himmler’s
Schutzstaffel (SS), which briefly imprisoned von Braun as part of an
attempted takeover of the program.) By the later stages of the war, when
von Braun’s missiles began to rain down on London, Nazi propaganda had
given them a new name: the Vengeance Weapon Two, or V-2, so named
because they were intended as retribution for Allied bombings of German
cities.
The V-2 was a particularly terrifying weapon. The missiles traveled so
fast that victims, most of whom were civilians, often heard nothing
until after they struck. For his part, von Braun, who was apparently
still interested in space travel, is said to have remarked that the
rockets worked perfectly, except for landing on the wrong planet — a
line that, at best, paints him as detached from the consequences of his
work. But as fearsome as the V-2 was, it had little strategic impact and
failed to turn the war in Germany’s direction. As the Allies advanced
into the heart of Germany, von Braun and his engineering team headed
south to surrender to the Americans, rather than await the Red Army.
Von Braun was one of about 120 German scientists who, in a then-secret
U.S. project known as Operation Paperclip, were taken to the U.S. to
develop military technology. Rather than be held accountable like other
important figures in Nazi Germany, they were given new lives. The Soviet
Union also took German scientists for similar reasons, foreshadowing the
superpower showdown that was to come.
Once he was settled in the U.S., von Braun’s career took off, largely
fueled by the U.S.-Soviet technological rivalry that would develop into
the Space Race. By 1953, his team developed America’s first ballistic
missile, the Redstone, which could hurl a nuclear warhead up to 250
miles downrange. The Jupiter-C, a modified version of the Redstone,
launched the United States’ first satellite, Explorer 1, in 1958 — a
full year after the Soviets launched their first satellite, Sputnik 1. A
von Braun TIME cover arrived in 1958, with the engineer’s calm, coifed
likeness superimposed over the flames of a missile launch. Von Braun
later became director of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, developing
the behemoth Saturn V rocket, which 50 years ago this week carried Neil
Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the moon’s surface, while Michael Collins
waited in lunar orbit.
The cheerful, well-spoken von Braun became the center of America’s space
obsession: an extraordinary engineer, communicator and manager who
promised America the moon and delivered, beating the arch-rival Soviets
in the process. But his past wasn’t completely hidden. TIME noted in
1958 that, to some, Von Braun’s “transfer of loyalty from Nazi Germany
to the U.S. seemed to come too fast, too easy.” That sentiment was
echoed in a 1967 song by satirist Tom Lehrer: “Once the rockets are up,
who cares where they come down? / That’s not my department, says Wernher
von Braun.”
Wernher von Braun TIME cover.
More recent examinations of von Braun’s life have gained distance from
the nationalistic fervor that prevailed at the height of the Space Race.
In Von Braun: Dreamer of Space, Engineer of War, Michael Neufeld, former
chair of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s space history
department, sheds light on how knowledge of von Braun’s collaboration
with the Nazi regime was purposefully suppressed. But Neufeld stops
short of casting him as a complete villain. It would have been dangerous
for von Braun to complain to Nazi leadership about his work or the
conditions in which his missiles were made, Nuefeld says. He also argues
that von Braun’s membership in the SS, which was classified information
in the U.S., was at least somewhat coerced. But at the same time, the
“missileman” seldom if ever seemed to consider anything beyond advancing
his own career.
“He was not ideologically very interested in Nazi ideas,” says Nuefeld.
“Although he was happy to profit from his status as an Aryan aristocrat.”
A more damning take comes from Wayne Biddle, a Pulitzer Prize-winning
journalist and author of Dark Side of the Moon. Biddle frames von Braun
as a war criminal with direct involvement in the V-2 slave labor
project, and a man who only escaped justice thanks to the efforts of the
American government, which was desperate for help in beating the Soviets.
“One always has a choice in life, and [von Braun] never made a choice
that moved him away from the Nazi regime,” says Biddle. He also echoes
Nuefeld’s characterization of von Braun as career-obsessed. “He always
made choices that resulted in his rapid advancement at a very young age.”
But von Braun wasn’t the only one who prioritized success. Confronted
with the growing power of Stalin’s U.S.S.R., the U.S. Government
sanitized von Braun and other German scientists’ images in order to use
their skills; to a large extent, the American public went along with it.
“There was public protest in early 1947 over the importation of the
Germans,” explains Nuefeld. “And then Cold War heat got worse, and it
pretty much went away.”
That moral calculation enabled von Braun to become an iconic leader in
the American space program, admired by many and untouchable out of sheer
national necessity. Decades later, Biddle argues, the reassessment of
his legacy may have had less to do with a growing understanding of his
crimes than the fact that the engineer was simply no longer needed.
“[Von Braun] was brought over originally to milk his knowledge,” says
Biddle. “Once that was used up, he became expendable.”
That we’re still debating Wernher von Braun’s legacy 50 years after his
rockets put men on the moon speaks to the profound effect he had on
America’s image. And while he was undeniably an engineering genius, that
this onetime cog in the Wehrmacht died a largely unquestioned American
hero speaks to what was perhaps his greatest skill: salesmanship. To
survive in Nazi Germany, he sold Hitler a dream of victory through
superior technology. Later, he sold the U.S. Army a vision of
intercontinental nuclear dominance. But von Braun’s biggest sale of all
is apparent in that Disney footage. To Americans, he sold the dream of
men in space and flags on the moon. And by and large, the nation bought
it, no questions asked.
Jan 1958 launch of Explorer I is hardly a "full year" after Oct 1957 launch of Sputnik I.
Peter Stickney
2019-08-25 19:28:56 UTC
Permalink
Post by Dean Markley
from https://time.com/5627637/nasa-nazi-von-braun/
How Historians Are Reckoning With the Former Nazi Who Launched
America's Space Program
Werner von Braun (1912-1977), the German-born American rocket engineer
with model rockets.
Werner von Braun (1912-1977), the German-born American rocket engineer
with model rockets. Hulton Deutsch—Corbis via Getty Images BY ALEJANDRO
DE LA GARZA
JULY 18, 2019
Sporting a gray double-breasted suit, slicked-back curls and a slide
rule, rocket engineer Wernher von Braun cuts a suave, authoritative
figure in Disney’s 1955 television special Man and the Moon. Speaking
with a German accent, the then-director of development at the U.S. Army
Ballistic Missile Agency in Huntsville, Ala., uses a series of models
and illustrations to explain how America will reach the moon — with the
aid of an enormous nuclear-powered space station, of course.
The United States eventually planted a flag on the lunar surface,
though without the help of any orbital reactors. And all through the
Space Race, von Braun, a German scientist scooped up by the U.S. in the
waning days of World War II, was the public face of the American space
program,
as well as one of its chief architects. But much of the Cold War-era
coverage of von Braun downplayed the darker details of his past: before
he was building rockets for America, he was building them for Hitler.
Germany launched more than 3,000 missiles of his design against Britain
and other countries, indiscriminately killing approximately 5,000
people, while as many as 20,000 concentration camp prisoners died
assembling the weapons.
In the years since the original Space Race has ended, historians have
begun to reassess von Braun’s legacy. Some have portrayed his time
working for the Nazis as a survival strategy, but others have gone so
far as to frame him as a war criminal, or something close to it. Von
Braun died in 1977, so there’s no possibility of hearing him out. But
as the country and the world celebrates the 50th anniversary of the
Apollo 11 moon landing — a feat that might not have been possible
without von Braun’s contributions — his image, as Cold War hero,
whitewashed Nazi villain or something in between, is being debated more
fiercely than ever, as is the extent of America’s moral bargaining in
using him to propel its otherworldly ambitions.
Looking back on the father of the American lunar program, there are few
easy answers.
From Apollo 11 to Now: See the Future of American Spaceflight
The mission to the Moon opened the door to the decades of space
exploration that followed.
Play Video YOU MIGHT LIKE MICHAEL COLLINS RETURNS TO HISTORIC APOLLO 11
LAUNCH PAD TIME IMMERSIVE'S APOLLO 11 'LANDING ON THE MOON' EXPERIENCE
Born to an aristocratic Prussian family, Wernher von Braun became
obsessed with space travel early in life, studying fields like physics
and mathematics in order to grasp the fundamentals of rocketry. As a
young man, he launched primitive rockets with other enthusiasts at an
abandoned ammunition dump in suburban Berlin. The experiments, and von
Braun’s leadership of the group, piqued the interest of the German
army. In 1932, the 20-year-old wunderkind became the top civilian
specialist at the German army’s Kummersdorf rocket station, south of
Berlin. By 1935, von Braun’s group had successfully fired two rockets
using liquid-fueled engines, a then-embryonic technology that became
the basis for modern spaceflight. The facility was soon moved to a new
location on the Baltic coast at Peenemünde.
With the start of World War II in 1939, von Braun came under increasing
pressure to produce useful military weapons. He delivered. In 1942, his
group successfully tested the A-4 missile, firing the weapon nearly 60
miles into the atmosphere. The trial caught Hitler’s attention, and the
Reich began to mass produce the rockets at a feverish pace, often using
slave labor. (The project also drew the interest of Heinrich Himmler’s
Schutzstaffel (SS), which briefly imprisoned von Braun as part of an
attempted takeover of the program.) By the later stages of the war,
when von Braun’s missiles began to rain down on London, Nazi propaganda
had given them a new name: the Vengeance Weapon Two, or V-2, so named
because they were intended as retribution for Allied bombings of German
cities.
The V-2 was a particularly terrifying weapon. The missiles traveled so
fast that victims, most of whom were civilians, often heard nothing
until after they struck. For his part, von Braun, who was apparently
still interested in space travel, is said to have remarked that the
rockets worked perfectly, except for landing on the wrong planet — a
line that, at best, paints him as detached from the consequences of his
work. But as fearsome as the V-2 was, it had little strategic impact
and failed to turn the war in Germany’s direction. As the Allies
advanced into the heart of Germany, von Braun and his engineering team
headed south to surrender to the Americans, rather than await the Red
Army.
Von Braun was one of about 120 German scientists who, in a then-secret
U.S. project known as Operation Paperclip, were taken to the U.S. to
develop military technology. Rather than be held accountable like other
important figures in Nazi Germany, they were given new lives. The
Soviet Union also took German scientists for similar reasons,
foreshadowing the superpower showdown that was to come.
Once he was settled in the U.S., von Braun’s career took off, largely
fueled by the U.S.-Soviet technological rivalry that would develop into
the Space Race. By 1953, his team developed America’s first ballistic
missile, the Redstone, which could hurl a nuclear warhead up to 250
miles downrange. The Jupiter-C, a modified version of the Redstone,
launched the United States’ first satellite, Explorer 1, in 1958 — a
full year after the Soviets launched their first satellite, Sputnik 1.
A von Braun TIME cover arrived in 1958, with the engineer’s calm,
coifed likeness superimposed over the flames of a missile launch. Von
Braun later became director of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center,
developing the behemoth Saturn V rocket, which 50 years ago this week
carried Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the moon’s surface, while
Michael Collins waited in lunar orbit.
The cheerful, well-spoken von Braun became the center of America’s
space obsession: an extraordinary engineer, communicator and manager
who promised America the moon and delivered, beating the arch-rival
Soviets in the process. But his past wasn’t completely hidden. TIME
noted in 1958 that, to some, Von Braun’s “transfer of loyalty from Nazi
Germany to the U.S. seemed to come too fast, too easy.” That sentiment
was echoed in a 1967 song by satirist Tom Lehrer: “Once the rockets are
up, who cares where they come down? / That’s not my department, says
Wernher von Braun.”
Wernher von Braun TIME cover.
More recent examinations of von Braun’s life have gained distance from
the nationalistic fervor that prevailed at the height of the Space Race.
In Von Braun: Dreamer of Space, Engineer of War, Michael Neufeld,
former chair of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s space
history department, sheds light on how knowledge of von Braun’s
collaboration with the Nazi regime was purposefully suppressed. But
Neufeld stops short of casting him as a complete villain. It would have
been dangerous for von Braun to complain to Nazi leadership about his
work or the conditions in which his missiles were made, Nuefeld says.
He also argues that von Braun’s membership in the SS, which was
classified information in the U.S., was at least somewhat coerced. But
at the same time, the “missileman” seldom if ever seemed to consider
anything beyond advancing his own career.
“He was not ideologically very interested in Nazi ideas,” says Nuefeld.
“Although he was happy to profit from his status as an Aryan aristocrat.”
A more damning take comes from Wayne Biddle, a Pulitzer Prize-winning
journalist and author of Dark Side of the Moon. Biddle frames von Braun
as a war criminal with direct involvement in the V-2 slave labor
project, and a man who only escaped justice thanks to the efforts of
the American government, which was desperate for help in beating the
Soviets.
“One always has a choice in life, and [von Braun] never made a choice
that moved him away from the Nazi regime,” says Biddle. He also echoes
Nuefeld’s characterization of von Braun as career-obsessed. “He always
made choices that resulted in his rapid advancement at a very young age.”
But von Braun wasn’t the only one who prioritized success. Confronted
with the growing power of Stalin’s U.S.S.R., the U.S. Government
sanitized von Braun and other German scientists’ images in order to use
their skills; to a large extent, the American public went along with
it. “There was public protest in early 1947 over the importation of the
Germans,” explains Nuefeld. “And then Cold War heat got worse, and it
pretty much went away.”
That moral calculation enabled von Braun to become an iconic leader in
the American space program, admired by many and untouchable out of
sheer national necessity. Decades later, Biddle argues, the
reassessment of his legacy may have had less to do with a growing
understanding of his crimes than the fact that the engineer was simply
no longer needed.
“[Von Braun] was brought over originally to milk his knowledge,” says
Biddle. “Once that was used up, he became expendable.”
That we’re still debating Wernher von Braun’s legacy 50 years after his
rockets put men on the moon speaks to the profound effect he had on
America’s image. And while he was undeniably an engineering genius,
that this onetime cog in the Wehrmacht died a largely unquestioned
salesmanship. To survive in Nazi Germany, he sold Hitler a dream of
victory through superior technology. Later, he sold the U.S. Army a
vision of intercontinental nuclear dominance. But von Braun’s biggest
sale of all is apparent in that Disney footage. To Americans, he sold
the dream of men in space and flags on the moon. And by and large, the
nation bought it, no questions asked.
Jan 1958 launch of Explorer I is hardly a "full year" after Oct 1957 launch of Sputnik I.
The Army Ballistic Missile Agency was capable of putting Explorer I (It
it had been cobbled together) into orbit in 1956, after the development
of the Jupiter C Redstone variant built to test the ablative reentry
vehicle for the Jupiter IRBM. The Huntsville team was, in fact warned
off from doing so, for several reasons - Without the implementation of
the Minitrack network, and its amateur adjunct Project Moonbeam, there
was no way to verify that the satellite was indeed orbiting.
There were also concerns about the fact that Redstone Arsenal was, of
course, a weapons development shop - The Navy Research Lab's Vanguard
Project, in addition to implementing the necessary tracking systems, was
a quasi-civilian organization which wasn't using weapon-derived systems.
This was considered important by the Eisenhower Administrations for
establishing orbital space as a neutral environment, and setting up a
policy of "non-territorial space" - free passage for any orbiting non-
weapon vehicles. Hot on the heels of the IGY satellite efforts, you see,
the Air Force and the CIA were developing Corona, a dedicated
reconnaissance satellite system to allow overhead photography of the
Soviet Union and other denied areas. Initial studies for the project date
back to 1948, and actual design commenced in late 1954.
It was known that improving Air Defense capabilities would prevent
aircraft overflights by the late 1950s, and satellites, if able to orbit
without interference would provide the necessary capability.
After Sputnik's launch, and U.S. acceptance of it traveling in space over
U.S. territory, and Vanguard's initial failure, the von Braun team was
allowed to dust off their stored Jupiter Cs and, 90 days after the
authorization, placed Explorer I in orbit.
--
Pete Stickney
“A strong conviction that something must be done is the parent of many
bad measures.” ― Daniel Webster
Loading...