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Wernher von Braun - from notebooks to Saturn-V

Article about: Early Life One of the leading figures in the development of rocket technology, Wernher von Braun, born to a noble family in Wirstiz, Prussia (nowadays Wyrzysk, Poland) during the spring of 1

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    Default Wernher von Braun - from notebooks to Saturn-V

    Early Life

    One of the leading figures in the development of rocket technology, Wernher von Braun, born to a noble family in Wirstiz, Prussia (nowadays Wyrzysk, Poland) during the spring of 1912, had a keen interest from an early age. His father, Magnus, was Minister of Agriculture during the Weimar Republic. His mother's ancestry included English, Scottish, French and Danish rulers. A fine pianist who also played the cello, von Braun had an early desire to become a composer and took lessons from Paul Hindemith. Aged 13, he attended boarding school at Ettersberg Castle near Weimar but mathematics and physics were not his strong point until he moved to another school on the East Frisian Island of Spiekeroog, where his early fascination with rocket engineering and space travel developed. In spring 1932, he graduated from the Berlin Technical University with a Bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering. Later, he studied again in Berlin and also Zürich. Despite working on military rocket technology during this period, space travel remained his primary interest.

    Nazi Involvement and SS Membership

    von Braun claimed to have been forced into joing the Nazi party in 1939, due to the pressure from being the technical director of rocket development at Peenemünde - a position that drew more and more attention from higher circles. His reluctance to give up his life work resulted in the decision to become party member number 5,738,692. Officially, von Braun had applied to join the Nazi Party in November 1937.

    Later, US War Dept. investigators were given the following reason for von Braun joining the SS:

    "In spring 1940, one SS-Standartenführer, 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 joining the SS would cost me no time at all. I would be awarded the rank of Untersturmführer and it was 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."

    Wernher von Braun joined the SS and was issued number 185,068. Later, he would claim to have only worn the SS uniform on one occasion - when photographed next to Himmler. A former SS officer at Peenemünde told the BBC in 2002, that von Braun wore the uniform regularly to attend offical meetings. During the war period, von Braun was promoted three times - eventually reaching the rank of SS-Sturmbannführer, although he himself claimed these promotions were simply received annually through the post.

    During the Nazi period, the Aggregat series of rockets - aka the "A" rockets, were developed. Wernher von Braun used American physicist Robert H.Goddard's research during this phase.

    Dr. Dornberger, von Braun's superior, took command of the military facility at Peenemünde, with von Braun acting as technical director. They worked alongside Luftwaffe developing liquid fuel rocket engines for aircraft, in addition to their continued development of the A-4 (V-2) ballistic missile. Toward the end of 1942, Adolf Hitler signed the order approving production of the weapon, hoping this Vergeltungswaffe (vengeance weapon) could inflict severe damage on tagets such as London. September 7th 1944 saw the launch of the first combat ready V-2 toward London. Wernher von Braun is reported to have said that the rocket worked perfectly...but landed on the wrong planet. An aspect of the V-weapons history that cannot and indeed, must not be ignored, is the cost of human life during the construction of the rockets. See the thread below, addressing the Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp near Nordhausen, for more details:

    KL-Mittelbau-Dora

    Arrest and Release


    Wernher von Braun was arrested and spent time in a Gestapo cell in spring 1944. A defeatest attitude and Himmler's false charges that he was a communist sympathizer had led to the arrest. Together, Dr. Dornberger and Albert Speer managed to secure von Braun's release and reinstatement to a position within the V-weapons program.

    Capture

    Not long after a car accident - his driver fell asleep at the wheel, resulting in a fractured left arm for von Braun, he surrendered to American forces in Austria, having managed to ignore demands to head to central Germany. Immediately, the Americans knew the importance of their catch.

    Later, I shall address the next part of the von Braun story.

    Carl
    Experienced guide and published author leading detailed study trips to the former KZ sites of Nazi Germany. Contact for further details.

    www.concentrationcamptours.com

    www.concentrationcampmoney.com


    "maka akaŋl oyate maŋi pi ki le, tuweŋi wíyópeya oki hi sni"

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    Images related to early life:

    1) A replica of the rocket-cart a young Wernher von Braun constructed as a small boy

    2) A copy of his notebook - cca 1924, filled with sketches, fuel calculations and materials required for a space journey. The book contains illustrations with Russian text - copied from Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, the physicist considered the father of modern rocket science
    Click to enlarge the picture Click to enlarge the picture Click image for larger version. 

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    Experienced guide and published author leading detailed study trips to the former KZ sites of Nazi Germany. Contact for further details.

    www.concentrationcamptours.com

    www.concentrationcampmoney.com


    "maka akaŋl oyate maŋi pi ki le, tuweŋi wíyópeya oki hi sni"

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    Link to a BBC website feature on von Braun, posted earlier today:

    BBC - Future - Wernher von Braun
    Experienced guide and published author leading detailed study trips to the former KZ sites of Nazi Germany. Contact for further details.

    www.concentrationcamptours.com

    www.concentrationcampmoney.com


    "maka akaŋl oyate maŋi pi ki le, tuweŋi wíyópeya oki hi sni"

  4. #4
    CBH
    CBH is offline
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    Great post Carl ! I asked in an earlier thread about photos of Wernher von Braun in his SS uniform , you mention a photo of him with Himmler . I would love to see that photo , that is if it wasn't burnt by the US military as part of " Operation Paperclip " and or the white washing of the past of the Father of the US Space Program , after all American Heros aren't supposed to be former SS officers . Keep up the great work .
    Cheers

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    Very interesting! Thanks for creating and sharing!

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    Quote by CBH View Post
    Great post Carl ! I asked in an earlier thread about photos of Wernher von Braun in his SS uniform , you mention a photo of him with Himmler . I would love to see that photo , that is if it wasn't burnt by the US military as part of " Operation Paperclip " and or the white washing of the past of the Father of the US Space Program , after all American Heros aren't supposed to be former SS officers . Keep up the great work .
    Cheers
    I found this image on a Czech website - the jawline certainly looks like von Braun...
    Click to enlarge the picture Click to enlarge the picture Click image for larger version. 

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    Experienced guide and published author leading detailed study trips to the former KZ sites of Nazi Germany. Contact for further details.

    www.concentrationcamptours.com

    www.concentrationcampmoney.com


    "maka akaŋl oyate maŋi pi ki le, tuweŋi wíyópeya oki hi sni"

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    I was only thinking about him yesterday watching the Soyuz rocket launch from Russia with our Tim Peake aboard

    Begs the question, should he have been tried for war crimes.......

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    Operation Overcast aka Operation Paperclip and US Army Career

    Prior to being recruited to the US as part of Operation Paperclip, von Braun was likely interviewed at length by the British, eager to find out what they could before he was taken away to assist the Americans. The British were patently concerned that they would lose out in the information stakes, so a team including L.S. Snell, later the chief designer for Rolls-Royce and inventor of Concorde's engines, spoke with von Braun at length. The information they gained remained top secret.

    June 1945 saw von Braun, among other scientists, approved by the US secretary of State for transfer to the US. For von Braun and other scientists, the Joint Intelligence Objectives Agency saw to it that Nazi connections and regime affiliations were removed from public record. Wernher von Braun and his team were among the last to arrive at their new home, in late 1945. Their new home, Fort Bliss Army installation north of El Paso, was the site for training and teaching of many rocket students for the next several years - work which included reburbishment and assembly of a number of V-2s shipped over from Germany.

    In 1950, von Braun was sent to Huntsville, Alabama, were various rocket projects, such as Jupiter-C, kept von Braun and his team busy for years. Although practically working on military rocket engineering, von Braun continued to pursue his dream and life work of space rocket exploration development and went on to publish articles related to his concept of a manned space station, in a series entitled "Man Will Conquer Space Soon".

    His idea was for a toroid structure, capable of housing tens of astronauts and rotating above Earth whilst serving as a base for future manned lunar exploration missions. Over a decade later, the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, drew heavily on von Braun's design work.

    The Cold War


    At the height of the Cold War, von Braun developed and published his design concept for the space station - with added notes that it could be used in a military capacity, although adding such application would be "particularly dreadful"

    Later, a brief look at von Braun's NASA career.
    Experienced guide and published author leading detailed study trips to the former KZ sites of Nazi Germany. Contact for further details.

    www.concentrationcamptours.com

    www.concentrationcampmoney.com


    "maka akaŋl oyate maŋi pi ki le, tuweŋi wíyópeya oki hi sni"

  9. #9
    CBH
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    Thanks for the reply , but I believe it states in the SS records that von Braun , wasn't awarded any metals or sport badges , the person in the photo is wearing a award . Great thread please keep it going .

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    I have seen elsewhere a comment stating that von Braun is not in the picture shown...would be good to see an actual confirmed image of him in said attire, if, as you already stated, one actually exists.

    Carl
    Experienced guide and published author leading detailed study trips to the former KZ sites of Nazi Germany. Contact for further details.

    www.concentrationcamptours.com

    www.concentrationcampmoney.com


    "maka akaŋl oyate maŋi pi ki le, tuweŋi wíyópeya oki hi sni"

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