In Operation Overcast, later known as Operation Paperclip the Americans took the cream of the German scientists, in many cases against President Truman’s order to exclude Nazi sympathisers, before the Russians could get hold of them. Scientists such as Wernher von Braun simply had their political biographies resketched by the Joint Intelligence Operatives. Von Braun in fact was an SS officer and therefore a member of the Nazi Party. One must look objectively at this venture however. If these top ranked scientists and Nazi sympathisers were not enrolled into the American space program the Russians would have and to American Intelligence this was a no-go area. Von Braun was, like most German scientists at the time, possibly a victim of circumstances – he had a passion for rocket development and by not joining the SS meant that he could not continue with this program. This account is also open to debate, many anti-Nazi lobbyists claiming proof that Von Braun was indeed a fully fledged party supporter.
Von Braun’s interest in space travel came about at an early age, he studied at the Technical University of Berlin and conducted many tests on liquid fuel rocket engines as a member of the Spaceflight Society. His mentorship was from Rumanian born
Hermann Oberth, a scientist that paved the way in many aspects to Von Braun’s theory on astronautics.
Note: Oberth, Russian Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, American Robert Goddard are accredited to being the fathers of rocketry and astronautics.
Von Braun led the team that pioneered the A4/V2 rocket, the first successful hit being England in September 1944. This weapon was powered by alcohol and liquid oxygen, a very heavy and bulky means of propulsion. This form of propulsion was also fitted to a piston driven test aircraft (HE112) which managed to fly and land using the burner alone. This form of flight however was dangerous due to the high flammable alcohol, oxygen mix which later made way to the safer Hellmuth Walter hydrogen peroxide, calcium permanganate engine.
After the war Von Braun was enlisted into a half-hearted rocket development program by the Americans which failed to compete with the Russian advancement. He developed the Redstone rocket which was used in the first live nuclear ballistic test, a similar but modified motor eventually been used in the Jupiter-C which launched the Explorer satellite. This successful launch finally paved the way to the Americans acceptance of creating their own space program and NASA an official government program in 1958. Von Braun became NASA’s director from 1960 until 1970 and promoted the Saturn rocket, the Saturn V being the rocket that launched the Apollo 11 to the moon in 1969.
Von Braun passed away on the 16th June 1977 due to cancer. He will always be known for his contribution to space flight and being the most outstanding rocket engineer of his time.
The V2 (Vergeltungswaffe 2) (Aggregat 4) Long Range Ballistic Missile
The V2 (or V-2) missile motor comprised of an alcohol/liquid nitrogen fueled motor, the fuel been delivered through two steam turbine pumps powered by a calcium permanganate and hydrogen peroxide mix. The missile shut off motor propulsion at about 50 miles up and guided to its target through a gyroscopic controlled navigation system. There is a lot of content on the web covering Von Braun, Operation Paperclip and the V2 missile, the best information on this weapon found on this site: http://www.v2rocket.com/