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Bookmark this page, and return later in 2008!!!

A new section. New and more information on the Slave Camps,
Secret Weapons and Dr. Wernher von Braun.
The new project based on the 'Space Race'. Release Date 2008.

: DR.WERNHER VON BRAUN :

: INTRODUCTION :

Wernher von Braun was born into the Prussian aristocracy on 23rd March, 1912, in Wirsitz, Germany. Son of Baron Magnus von Braun, who was a politician and Agriculture Minister in the German government. This privileged background gave the young Wernher von Braun an extensive education, and it was his Mother that activated his interest in Astronomy. At the age of 13 his parents bought him a telescope and his interest in the stars was ignited, and it would be this interest that would lead him wanting to reach for the stars.

In 1925 von Braun, at the young age of 13, discovered in a amateur astronomy magazine an advert for Hermann Oberth's book "Die Rakete zu den Planetenr¤umen" (The Rockets Into Interplanetary Space). The young von Braun sent for the book, and it would be this book that would shape his destiny. The book captivated his imagination and at school he would write essays on space travel. In one such essay he confidently stated that man would one day walk on the moon.

After he left school von Braun joined an amateur rocket group, the Verein fur Raumschiffarht (Rocket Society), which was established in 1927. In the late 1920's and early 1930's, rocketry had become very popular and rocket clubs sprang up all over Germany. These amateur rocketeers were already looking toward the future, the future being liquid fuelled rockets unlike the solid fuel rockets of World War One. During World War One the rocket was used as a weapon of war, but during the years after the Great War rocketry became popular, and the general belief was that a large enough rocket could venture into space. In 1929, Oberth was asked to be the technical adviser on Fritz Lang's film "The Woman In The Moon" (Frau im Mond).

The film included many visions of the future, and foresaw many of the attributes that would be used in the future American and Soviet space programs. A liquid fuelled rocket of multi-stage design, the first launch countdown, and a rocket hanger similar to NASA's VAB building at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, USA. The film also tackled such things as weightlessness.

Von Braun would later admit that Oberth was his guiding light to his own visions of space travel. The problem with these amateur rocket groups was finding the funding for these experiments. There was one source that could help with funding for their work, and that source was the German army. During this period the German military had been searching for new weapons, weapons which would not openly attract attention. Not only because of The Treaty of Versailles, which was signed at the end of World War One, which the Germans constantly violated, but for the quest for new technology and more destructive weapons.

In the spring of 1932 von Braun met Artillery Captain Walter Dornberger, the officer in charge of the German army's rocket program, and Dornberger was looking at the military possibilities that the new rockets held.

In the summer of 1932 a demonstration was organised by the VfR to show the German army the group's latest liquid fuelled rocket. The army was not impressed with the demonstration when the rocket failed. But Dornberger was impressed with their work and enthusiasm, and promised funding for further experiments if the group agreed to work in complete secrecy, and for the German army. The offer was rejected by all the members except one, Wernher von Braun.

Wernher von Braun was hired and in 1932 at the age of 20, von Braun worked for the German army in the Rocket Artillery Unit. The unit was based at a top secret base at Kummersdorf, about 60 miles south of Berlin. While the German army sponsored him at University, von Braun built the army weapons. Von Braun would work at every level of development for the rocket, from design, building and testing. Three months after von Braun joined Dornberger, Hitler and his Nazi party came to power, and with the Nazis desire for rearmament funding would no longer be a problem for von Braun.

The facilities at the Kummersdorf base had become too small for the task, and von Braun wanted to expand his rocket programme, including personnel and facilities. So a new facility had to be built. Peenemunde, located on the Baltic coast about 120 miles north of Berlin, was chosen for the new site. The site was suggested by his mother, who remembered the location from where von Braun's father travelled to duck hunt. The location was perfect because of its remoteness, and so the research centre at Peenemunde was built quickly and in secret. These new facilities became the most advanced rocket research development installation in the world, and at the age of only 25 von Braun became its technical director.

Peenemunde was large enough to launch and monitor rockets over ranges up to about 200 miles, with optical and electric observing instruments along the trajectory, with no risk of harming people and property. By now Hitler had total control over Germany and Hermann Goering ruled the Luftwaffe. Dornberger held a public test of the A-2 which was a huge success. Funding continued to flow to von Braun's research team, and von Braun's dream was slowly becoming a reality as the team went to work designing and experimenting on the ideas for a liquid fuelled rocket. The German scientists went onto develop the A-3, and finally this new technology led to the development of the A-4 missile.

In 1938 von Braun joined the Nazi party, and 18 months later received an officers commission in the SS. SS Officer Major von Braun, its said, only wore his black SS uniform once, and that was when Himmler, head of the SS, visited Peenemunde for an inspection. The A4 missile was designed to carry a 1-ton warhead over a distance of hundreds of miles, and this project would need massive funding. It would need the full backing of the Fuhrer himself.

In March 1939 Hitler met with Dornberger and Von Braun at the old army rocket development centre to observe an engine test. Whatever Hitler thought of the test he was not impressed with the time-scale that Dornberger and Von Braun had estimated for the A4's completion. They estimated that the A4 would be completed within 5-10 years, but Hitler was already preparing for war and the invasion of Poland was only a matter of six months away.

On 3rd October, 1942, the A4 was ready for launch, and at 4.00pm in the afternoon the rocket ripped into the sky. It has been said that in a speech later that evening given by Dornberger, he said : "Today was the birth of the Space craft".

In July 1943, Dornberger and von Braun showed Hitler a film of an A4 launch in a private theatre inside Hitler's headquarters. At the end of the film Dornberger and von Braun placed a caption that read "Wir haben es doch geschafft!" (We made it after all!). Hitler was pleased with the rocket and demanded immediate mass production and wanted 200 missiles produced per month for his war machine.

Hitler had many "Wonder-Weapon" (secret weapons) projects under development, in the hope that these "Wonder Weapons" could halt the advancing Allies and turn the course of the war in the Nazis' favour. Enraged by extensive Allied bombing of German cities during 1942 and 1943, Hitler sought revenge in the shape of these terror weapons. He called them "Vergeltungswaffen" - Vengeance Weapons. It was something that the Nazi propaganda machine would use to its full advantage. One such project, the Fi-103 cruise missile, became the V1 (Flying Bomb). Von Braun's A4 missile became the V2 "Vengeance Weapon 2".

On August 17th 1943, acting on aerial photography, 600 British bombers attacked the secret rocket base at Peenemunde. Their mission, code name 'Operation Hydra', was to destroy the threat of Hitler's new vengeance weapons. After the raid the Nazis moved the testing and production of these weapons out of the reach of further Allied air attacks. The SS took total control of the whole operation, especially the Mittelwerk factory that produced the V2, and used labour from its network of slave camps and concentration camps.

Fourteen months after Hitler ordered the rocket into production, the first combat A-4, now called the V-2, was launched toward western Europe and on 8th September, 1944, the V2 stunned Londoners as the missile landed in Chiswick, the London Borough of Hammersmith. The reign of terror from this new secret weapon had began. When the first V2 hit London von Braun remarked to his colleagues : "The rocket worked perfectly except for landing on the wrong planet."

Von Braun was briefly arrested by the SS and the Gestapo, charging von Braun for crimes against the state. He was overheard at a party talking about his plans for after the war, after Germany's defeat. The conversation was a discussion in how the project could continue in working towards von Braun's dream of space travel and building rockets, which would go into Earth's orbit, and perhaps go to the Moon.

His crime was seen as treasonous, indulging in frivolous dreams when his duty was to supply rockets for the Nazi war machine. Captain Dornberger convinced the SS and the Gestapo of von Braun's importance to the rocket programme, and how the Fuhrer might react to their actions. Von Braun was released. After his arrest and release, Hitler awarded von Braun with Germany's highest civilian decoration, for his services to the Reich.

On arriving back at Peenemunde von Braun immediately planned for the future, and for the time when Germany would be finally defeated. In January 1945, the Russian guns could be heard from Peenemunde, and rather than break up his team or disperse individually, and even a worse fate of falling into the hands of the advancing Russian army, von Braun gathered his team together and evacuated Peenemunde. After stealing a train with forged papers, von Braun led 500 people related to the rocket programme south towards the Bavarian Alps.

The German rocket scientists, with good reason, were frightened of falling into the hands of the Russians. It was felt that the French and the British did not have enough money and resources for a rocket programme. Which only left the Americans.

The Russians, Americans and the British knew of the V2 rockets, and how important it was to obtain the German scientists, and as much of the new technology as possible. The Nazis also realised that this technology was important and considered it dangerous if it fell into the hand of the Allies. The SS were issued orders to kill the German scientists and engineers. The race was on.

The Americans beat the Russians to Peenemunde and to the Mittelwerk underground factory, both locations later fell in the Russian zone after the war. The Americans seized parts and complete V2's, including documentation regarding the project. Everything was shipped back to the United States, and before the Russians occupied the zone the Americans destroyed both locations with explosives.

The day after the announcement of Hitler's death Dornberger, von Braun and his brother Magnus surrendered to the US army. Von Braun had broken his arm in a car crash, but he had achieved his goal in reaching the relative safety of the US army. The US army then transferred all the German rocket scientists to Fort Bliss in Texas, USA. They intended to learn all they could about this new technology from the Germans.

Those voices that were critical about bringing the German scientists to the United States, at the end of the war, were silenced in 1949 when the Soviet Union successfully tested their first Atomic bomb, and fear gripped the US. New frontiers had been drawn since the end of the war and Americans faced a new enemy, communism.

The Germans would teach the Americans all about the V2 rocket, and in the years following the war would launch over 70 V2's at the White Sands Proving Grounds in New Mexico. These tests would be a prelude to a new range of missiles that would be designed and built for a new enemy, in the new war, The Cold War.

Von Braun's dream of exploring outer space would be put on hold again because of war. For the time being he would be a "Cold War Warrior", and again funding would come from a military source.

Later von Braun's dream would be realised as The Space Race would be played out as a propaganda war within the Cold War. Von Braun and his team of German scientists would spearhead America's reach for the moon, and a life long dream would became a reality.

These pages at present act as background information regarding the project 'A Promise Of Peace', based on World War II. Further information on Dr. Wernher von Braun, and events up to his death in 1977, will be published soon. These pages will be part of the background information regarding the new project based on 'The Space Race'. Bookmark this page to continue the story of the life Dr. Wernher von Braun.

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For those visitors that have entered to this site, directly to this page, we would like to inform you that this page is part of a series of pages, within a section that acts as a backdrop to 'The Puzzle' project. 'The Puzzle' is a musical project that looks at different events from the 20th-21st Century.

This section is part of the 'World War II' zone. 'A Promise Of Peace' tells the story, in chronological order, of World War II.

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