If the United States is doing well in the Space Race, it is in no small thanks to a group of German expatriates who made their living causing terror and mayhem in the early half of the 1940s. I, of course, refer to Wehrner von Braun and his team of rocket scientists, half of whom were rounded up by the Allies after the War, the other half of whom apparently gave similar service to the Soviets.
I don’t know if the Russian group is still affiliated with the Communist rocket program–I don’t think so. Last I heard, they had all been repatriated. But bon Braun’s group is still going strong. Until last year, they worked under the auspices of the Army, but now they are employed in a civilian capacity by NASA. Their giant Saturn project is the backbone of our nascent lunar program.
Of course, the fact that an ex-Nazi is playing such a pivotal role in our space program may not sit well with some. Perhaps to address this concern, the rather hagiographic movie, I Aim at the Stars has been released. Interestingly, it’s not quite so sympathetic as it might have been. Von Braun is played as a rather soulless figure, unconcerned with the political ramifications of his work. He cares only about his rockets.
Or as a math student from the Bay Area has sung:
“Don’t say that he’s hypocritical.
Say instead that he’s ‘apolitical’.
‘Once the rockets are up, who cares
where they come down.
That’s not my department,’
says Wehner von Braun.”
A special comic book was made for the movie and handed out at some of the premieres. I’ve gotten my hands on one of them, and having been given permission to reprint, my editor is reproducing it in its entirety for those of you who won’t make it to the flicks to enjoy Curt Jurgens do a rather good job of not looking at all like Wehrner von Braun.