Dreamer of Space, Engineer of War
On Sale: September 25, 2007
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The first authoritative biography of Wernher von Braun,
chief rocket engineer of the Third Reichâ€”creator of the
infamous V-2 rocketâ€”who became one of the fathers of the
U.S. space program. In this meticulously researched and
vividly written life, Michael J. Neufeld gives us a man of
profound moral complexities, glorified as a visionary and
vilified as a war criminal, a man whose brilliance and
charisma were coupled with an enormous and, some would say,
As one of the leading developers of rocket technology for
the German army, von Braun yielded to pressure to join the
Nazi Party in 1937 and reluctantly became an SS officer in
1940. During the war, he supervised work on the V-2s, which
were assembled by starving slave laborers in a secret
underground plant and then fired against London and Antwerp.
Thousands of prisoners diedâ€”a fact he well knew and kept
silent about for as long as possible.
When the Allies overran Germany, von Braun and his team
surrendered to the Americans. The U.S. Army immediately
recognized his skills and brought him and his colleagues to
America to work on the development of guided missiles, in a
covert operation that became known as Project Paperclip. He
helped launch the first American satellite in 1958 and
headed NASAâ€™s launch-vehicle development for the Apollo Moon
Handsome and likable, von Braun dedicated himself to selling
the American public on interplanetary travel and became a
household name in the 1950s, appearing on Disney TV shows
and writing for popular magazines. But he never fully
escaped his past, and in later years he faced increasing
questions as his wartime actions slowly came to light.
Based on new sources, Von Braun is a brilliantly nuanced
portrait of a man caught between morality and progress,
between his dreams of the heavens and the earthbound
realities of his life.
Talk of the Nation - October 26, 2007
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