Last Rocketeers Set Sights on Mars
8 December 2004
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- Four men and one woman, all around 90 years old, gather in a conference room and pour themselves coffee -- rocket fuel for the last of the original rocketeers.
Just outside, in Rocket Park, looms some of their handiwork: Gemini and Mercury rockets, a lunar lander and a gigantic rusting Saturn V from the Apollo program.
These five people were among 118 German rocket scientists bundled up and brought to the USA after World War II. Working for the Nazis, the rocket scientists had made Hitler's deadly V-2s. Reconstituted in Huntsville, the group vaulted U.S. rocket technology ahead by a decade and developed the rockets that allowed their adopted country to win the space race.
The group's inspirational leader, Wernher von Braun, helped persuade President Kennedy to make his famous commitment to put a man on the moon by the end of the 1960s.
Today, only 12 of that group are still living, including the five gathered here recently to help raise money to restore the Saturn V outside. Even as the remaining rocketeers fade away, they are suddenly relevant again to a new generation. For almost 30 years after Apollo, the American public seemed indifferent to space. But now, technology entrepreneurs -- members of a generation raised on Star Trek and Star Wars -- are again making space sexy.
Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen funded SpaceShipOne, which this fall won the X Prize for boosting civilian space travel. Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos has started a private company that will work toward putting people on Mars. Elon Musk, who founded online bill-paying service PayPal, has started a space company. Mogul Richard Branson is aiming to be the first to put hotels in space.
To this new generation, the German rocketeers are an inspiration. For the rocketeers, the techies are reviving their dearest hope: that man will go to Mars.
''If private industry takes tourists into space, it might uplift the whole program again,'' says Konrad Dannenberg, 92, a propulsion expert on Apollo. ''I'm very hopeful.''
Ernst Stuhlinger, 92, who was von Braun's right-hand man, twinkles when asked about the new generation's dreams of Mars flights. ''We old-timers have been thinking that way for a very long time.''
Forced to make missiles the rocketeers have long been haunted by their earlier lives.
In the 1930s, Germany was a hotbed of research into the new idea of launching rockets into space. A young von Braun took the lead, launching his first rockets in 1934. As World War II approached, the Nazis created a rocket team under von Braun at a secret base on an island at Peenemünde, Germany. They were ordered to make military missiles, not spaceships.
The team developed the V-2, which killed 2,500 British civilians. The rockets were built by concentration camp labor in tunnels.
The rocketeers have always said they had no choice. They say they wanted to build rockets to go to the moon and Mars, not to carry explosives. ''We couldn't even talk about space flight,'' Dannenberg says. ''Von Braun was at a party and talked about it with some people, and the Nazis found out and put him in jail.'' He was later released, but the message was clear.
As Germany's defeat seemed certain in 1945, the rocketeers made a calculated move. ''It was clear nothing was going to happen in Germany in space after the war,'' Dannenberg says. If the rocketeers wanted to pursue their dream, they would have to go elsewhere. The group decided they'd have their best shot with the Americans. They hid their research papers in a mine shaft, forged travel documents, and as many as 500 people -- scientists and their families -- moved toward the approaching American Army -- avoiding the Gestapo, who might have arrested or shot them. They holed up in an abandoned fortress in the Alps.
Von Braun sent his younger brother, Magnus, off on a bicycle to try to find the Americans. He stumbled across Pvt. Fred Schniekert of Sheboygan, Wis., and tried to explain that a whole team of rocket scientists wanted to surrender. Schniekert said, ''I think you're nuts,'' but relayed the message to his superiors, who recognized the value of the rocketeers.
The Army raced to Peenemünde to get there before the Soviets. The rocketeers' papers and every project and spare V-2 part were loaded on 300 rail cars that were shipped to the USA. And then the U.S. government took its own calculated risk: It transferred the 118 former enemy rocket scientists and their families to Fort Bliss, Texas, and eventually to an abandoned military base in Huntsville.
Beating Russia to the moon over the next decade, the rocketeers didn't have much to do. ''We called ourselves PoPs -- prisoners of peace,'' Stuhlinger quips. John F. Kennedy was elected president in 1960 and soon after fell from grace with the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba. A few years before, the USSR had beaten the USA to space with its Sputnik satellite.
''Kennedy wanted to do something to regain America's prestige,'' Stuhlinger recalls. Kennedy asked Vice President Lyndon Johnson to write letters seeking advice. One went to von Braun.
Stuhlinger has copies of memos that bounced between von Braun and the White House. Von Braun laid out everything he knew about the capabilities of U.S. and Soviet rockets. He concluded that the USA would have little chance of beating the Soviets to a manned space lab, but would have a ''sporting chance'' of beating them to an orbit of the moon and ''an excellent chance'' of beating them to a moon landing.
In other words, the USA didn't go to the moon because it was there. We went because we could get there first.
In a speech in May 1961 Kennedy laid out one of history's great mission statements: ''This nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth.''
''The irony is that in the 1960s, we went from nothing to landing a person on the moon in eight years,'' says space entrepreneur Musk. ''Today it would take two or three times as long, and that's crazy.''
Astronaut Walter Schirra, 81, who flew three space missions, was one of the seven original Mercury astronauts when he heard about Kennedy's speech. ''I couldn't believe we'd made that commitment,'' he recalls. ''So many things happened so fast. I'd just flown Mach 2 for the first time in 1958.'' To get to the moon would require speeds of Mach 25, which would take engines 60 to 70 times more powerful. ''That's a big leap.''
The von Braun team numbered 400 in 1961. It quickly swelled to 8,000. But the Germans were the leaders, and von Braun was the star. ''That was important,'' Stuhlinger says. ''We had a von Braun. There is no von Braun today.''
''If the Germans had not been here, the technology would've been delayed by 10 years, 15 years,'' says Mark Smith, who knows the Germans from his years as CEO of Adtran,a Huntsville tech company. ''No group of people is indispensable, but they shrunk the time frame.''
Rules about federal contracts and processes were tossed. ''We could make decisions in almost no time,'' says Walter Haussermann, who led development of guidance controls. He remembers talking with IBM about supplying the mission's computers. He was able to say yes in two days. ''Today, it would take years,'' he says.
Thanks to the Germans' experience, glitches rarely slowed the project. The only disaster: a fire in the Apollo 1 that killed the three-man crew. Manned flights were delayed for nearly two years to make sure it didn't happen again. Ask the Germans how they accomplished so much so quickly, and they struggle for an answer. They note the commitment from Kennedy, the military and the American public -- all pulling toward a single goal. Schirra, who often worked closely with the Germans, says the space race was like a years-long adrenaline rush. ''It was a competition with Russia, and we had to beat them,'' he says.
Mostly, though, the Germans seem nonchalant, as if it were easy to put a man on the moon in eight years. ''We all believed it could be done,'' Dannenberg says with a shrug.
New generation takes over so now comes a new age.
Interest in space dropped after the first moon landings. Travel to Mars seemed unlikely. Discouraged, the Germans dropped out of NASA. Von Braun died in 1977.
But a young generation at NASA has put two robot rovers on Mars and wowed the public. President Bush has talked of Mars missions. Mostly, though, entrepreneurs have picked up where the rocketeers left off.
Claims have been made that Nazi Occult societies were involved in the development of unconventional saucer craft such are now in the hands of M-12. One such, the ‘Vril Society’ was allegedly ‘channelling’ messages from an alien civilisation in the Aldebaran solar system and planned to develop a craft that could make physical contact with the civilisation there.
Whatever the truth of this, by 1934 the Vril Society had apparently developed its first UFO shaped aircraft, known as the Vril 1, which was propelled by an anti-gravity effect. (This was the same year as Viktor Schauberger discussed his flying disk ideas with Hitler.)
By 1939 the SS had produced the RFC-5, which it called the Haunebu 1. In August 1939 the machine made its maiden flight and proved its viability, being more than 65 foot in diameter and offering considerable storage space. By the end of 1940 the RFC-2 (Haunebu II) had entered service as a reconnaissance aircraft and there is certainly photographic evidence to support this, for example an RFC-2 was photographed near Antarctica (Point 103?) in 1940.
After the end of the war in 1945, Russian and American intelligence teams began a hunt to track down this perceived military and scientific booty of the advanced German technology. Following the discovery of particle/laser beam weaponry in German military bases, the US War Department decided that the US must not only control this technology, but also the scientists who had helped develop it "to ensure that [America] takes full advantage of those significant developments which are deemed vital to our national security." It therefore launched a project to bring these personnel to the United States. Whilst initially publicized, the nature, extent and secrecy of the project, later termed ‘Operation Paperclip’ remained classified until 1973.
Operation Paperclip was carried out by the Joint Intelligence Objectives Agency (JIOA) and had two aims: Firstly, to exploit German Scientists for American research by rounding up Nazi scientists and taking them to America. and, secondly, to deny these intellectual resources to the Soviet Union. (The name ‘Operation Paperclip’ derived from the fact that those individuals selected to go to the United States were distinguished by paperclips on their files joining their scientific papers with regular immigration forms. We know that the Karotechia benefitted greatly from this operation.
By this time the Nazi Intelligence leader Reinhard Gehlen had met with the future CIA Director (26th February 1953 – 29th November 1961), Allen Dulles (right), and they had hit it off. Gehlen was a master spy for the Nazis and powerful adept, and had infiltrated Russia with his vast intelligence network. (In 1942 the future CIA Director Dulles had moved to Bern, Switzerland, as Head of Office of Strategic Services to negotiate with some Nazi leaders who were already convinced they were going to lose WWII and wanted a deal with the US about a possible future war with the USSR.)
Operation Paperclip also had a part to play in events at Maury Island. Washington State, itself, was the location of several aerospace defence contractors, which were benefiting from the then secret Paperclip Operation. It was also the location of sightings in 1947 of a number of aircraft that looked suspiciously like some that had been seen on Nazi drawing boards and in the skies above Europe towards the end of the war.
In 1959 Jack Judges, a freelance cameraman was flying over this company’s plant in Canada when he saw and photographed this picture of a disk shaped craft sitting on the ground.
1947 brought the passage of the National Security Act, the start of the Nazi germinated CIA and NSA. The influx of at least a hundred Nazi scientists, engineers, etc., into the United States and Canada. (Note: Other sources claim that eventually over 3000 Nazi S.S. agents entered the U.S. in this manner. NOT former Nazi's but ACTIVE Nazi SS who still maintained the national socialist philosophy and agendas which they intended to carry through on to their planned conclusion. They were given refuge within the military-industrial complex with the help of members of the Bavarian-based black gnostic -- serpent worshipping -- lodges in America, such as the Jesuit-spawned Scottish Rite and related lodges who control the oil-military-industrial complex. The leaders of the Military-Industrial Complex or M.I.C. not only gave these fascists refuge following the war, but also had financed the Nazi war machine itself during the Second World War.
A Nazi aeronautical engineer, a certain Herr Miethe -- who had designed four different types of saucer shaped craft by 1943 using either rocket power or donut configuration jet turbine engines, with the cabin stabilized by gyro, the compressors rotating in one direction and the expansion chambers and vectored exhausts rotating in the opposite direction -- was traced to Canada in 1947 and began work for the A. V. Roe company [Avro disk]. The phony AVRO 'Aircar' was definitely to disinform the press as to the real projects underway underground in Canada.
The eight mile long train that went out of Austria in 1945 [672 train cars!], to the coast of Brittany, the contents loaded on board SHIPS, eventually end[ed] up underground in Southwestern Canada. At the same time over 100 prefab factory buildings were shipped from England to British Columbia.
The Nazis had everything before any other country, they had radar in 1933, they had infra-red sensors, heavy water, etc., etc.
We have been told lie after lie in terms of who invented these things.
If anyone in the world had access to 'alien' technology it was the...'Aryans' [Nazis]. Their metallurgy and casting were flawed or they would have conquered the world. As you probably know, many expatriate Nazis were given carte blanche, new I.D.'s., and were included in [the] startup of more than several departments of the CIA in 1947. Departments including 'genetics and cloning' [with some of the same 'doctors' who had given death camp residents gangrene, etc.] 'designer drugs and mind control' using the same scientists who had designed Methadone and Methedrine for Hitler's maniac efforts. In 1952, a public stir caused the CIA to shuffle these fab fellows out of town. My guess is to various underground centers that were being built.
~Jim Bennett, director of the research organization 'PLANET-COM'
A CIA memo of that year confirmed that the craft was based work undertaken by German scientists, notably Miethe, during WWII. The design was later abandoned in the late 1960s with the Air Force maintaining it was still at an experimental stage when abandoned. The 1990s were to reveal the craft was part of the secret ‘Project Silver Bug’, a project to develop a craft that had VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) capabilities that would dispense with the need for runways – and reduce the risks of such runways been targets of attack thus immobilizing any aircraft that may rely on it.
There have certainly been rumours circulating for many years that the German designs were actually man-made attempts to reproduce crashed real ‘flying saucers’ - attempts that failed because the engineers and scientists involved were unable to recreate the steering and propulsion systems of the alleged crashed craft.
Col. Philip J. Corso (Ret.) has published a book entitled The Day After Roswell: A Former Official Reveals the US Government’s Shocking UFO Cover-up’in which he makes a number of revelations.
Corso’s background itself is formidable. He was Chief of the US Army’s Foreign Technology Division, and was a member of President Eisenhower’s National Security Council. He later went on to work for Senator Strom Thurmond after retiring from the army in 1963. Corso was interviewed by Michael Lindemann of CNI News on 5th July 1997 and asked:
ML: There have been rumours and speculations that Roswell, and what came from Roswell – the way we exploited Roswell technology – might not have been the very first time such a thing happened. There have been indications or speculations that the Nazis had done such a thing, that some of their extraordinary technological developments may have come from a similar source. What do you think of that?
PC: Yes. True. I had German scientists on my team. I discussed this with them. I discussed this with Oberth, von Braun. I was part of ‘Project Paperclip’ with General Trudeau… There were crashes elsewhere, and they [the Germans] gathered material too. The Germans were working on it. They didn’t solve the propulsion system. They did a lot of experiments on flying saucers. They had one that went up to 12,000 feet. But where all, we and they, missed out was on the guidance system. In R&D we began to realise that this being [a captured alien] was part of the guidance system, part of the apparatus himself, or itself, as it had no sexual organs."
Certainly this ‘deeper story’ was confirmed by the father of the modern rocket, Hermann Oberth. He independently confirmed that during the war years there was a Nazi-Extra-terrestrial connection when he stated, "we cannot take credit for our record advancement in certain scientific fields alone. We have been helped." When asked by whom, he replied, "the peoples of other worlds."
Wernher von Braun was equally frank about the issue and did not doubt that extraterrestrials were visiting the Earth nor that many of the advancements he was involved in were a result of back engineering alien technology. Indeed, he talked openly about the issue following an incident on 3rd June 1959 when the ‘Discoverer III’ failed to achieve orbit, having been deflected whilst travelling, von Braun commented, "We find ourselves faced by powers, which are far stronger than we had hitherto assumed, and whose base is at present unknown to us. More I cannot say at present. We are now engaged in entering into closer contact with those powers, and in six or nine months it may be possible to speak with some precision on the matter."
If these reports from Oberth and von Braun are to be believed, then clearly the Germans held a knowledge not previously available to the Western allies. And it appears that the scientists entering the US after the war under the auspices of Operation Paperclip shared this knowledge with the US military who within weeks set in place one of the fastest but little known invasions of the Twentieth Century.