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WPI

Weinhei von Biaun


An Ethical Analysis

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I. Intiouuction ####################################################################################################################################### $
II. Biogiaphy########################################################################################################################################### %
1. Family Backgiounu ####################################################################################################################### %
2. Eaily Life ######################################################################################################################################## &
S. Life in ueimany ########################################################################################################################### !'
4. Life in Ameiica ############################################################################################################################# !$
III. Nazi Reseaich anu the v-2 Piogiam ########################################################################################### !(
1. Nazi Nembeiship ######################################################################################################################## !(
2. v-2 Piogiam ################################################################################################################################# $'
S. Nittelweik Slave Laboi ############################################################################################################### $)
Iv. The 0niteu States, 0peiation Papeiclip anu Nazi Engineeiing ################################################ $&
1. 0peiation 0veicast###################################################################################################################### $&
2. Public 0pinion of Weinhei von Biaun ####################################################################################### *!
S. Woilu Wai II, 0S Wai with }apan ############################################################################################### *$
4. Colu Wai ###################################################################################################################################### **
S. 0S Space Race ############################################################################################################################## *%
v. Conclusion ####################################################################################################################################### *&
Appenuix: views of Weinhei von Biaun ########################################################################################## %$
1. Nichael }. Neufelu ######################################################################################################################## %$
2. Pio-von Biaun Authois ############################################################################################################### %*
S. Anti-von Biaun Authois ############################################################################################################## %%
4. Film anu Television ##################################################################################################################### %)
Bibliogiaphy ############################################################################################################################################ %&



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Few figuies in iecent histoiy inspiie as vigoious ethical uebate as Weinhei von Biaun, the
aichitect of both the Nazi v-2 missile piogiam anu latei the 0niteu States Satuin v missile piogiam.
Raiely can a figuie so easily be aigueu to lie on eithei siue of the ethical uiviue; an active paiticipant
in one of historys most ievileu iegimes on the one hanu and the vaunted hero of Americas victory
in the space iace on the othei. The auvances he maue in iocket technology aie iesponsible foi the
ueaths of ovei 7,uuu people in v-2 attacks, anu aie implicateu in the ueaths of 12,uuu moie foiceu
laboieis, thiough his oveiseeing the builuing of moie than Suuu missiles. 0n the othei hanu, he is
also largely responsible for the placement of the first men on the moon, one of mankinds greatest
technological achievements. Reconciling these two uiametiically opposeu extiemes in one man is a
uifficulty which has fuelleu uebate foi at least Su yeais. Wiiteis on each siue finu ieasons to eithei
conuemn von Biaun as a willing Nazi anu a villain, oi to piaise him as an Ameiican anu engineeiing
heio. Neithei of these polai viewpoints, howevei, tieats the subject with the nuance anu objective
uiscussion iequiieu by the stuuy of a ieal human being. The stuuy of Weinhei von Biaun anu his
woik with the Nazis tells of a man so focuseu on his single-minueu goal of human spaceflight he is
willing to woik foi whoevei will pioviue the suppoit anu funuing to fuithei this aspiiation, no
mattei the human anu moial cost, but who finus a measuie of ieuemption in usheiing in the space
age.
Noie impoitant than the uebate between those foi anu those against von Biaun is a ueepei
ethical pioblem. At its heait, it comes uown, on the one hanu, to the iesponsibility of a nation to
look out foi itself anu its people, auvancing inteiests which may be veiy much at ouus with those of
competing nations. This responsibility to look out for a nations own interests often clashes with its
moial iesponsibilities, with aiguably immoial acts being committeu foi the gieatei goou. 0n the
othei hanu lies the iesponsibility of the inuiviuual to balance the auvancement of human
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technology anu knowleuge with the piotection of human iights anu the pievention of haim to othei
people which may iesult fiom his woik. 0ui analysis in this inteiactive qualifying pioject (IQP) will
focus laigely on these two points.
We will fiist uiscuss Weinhei von Biaun the engineei, who was filleu with a passion foi
iocketiy anu manneu spaceflight fiom a veiy eaily age, but whose zeal foi this goal blinueu him to
his moial iesponsibilities. In oiuei to funu anu fuithei his iocketiy, he was willing to woik with the
Nazis, who weie all too happy to use his ievolutionaiy iockets as the fiist ballistic missiles to be
useu in wai, killing thousanus in Biitain, thousanus in Belgium, anu thousanus moie thiough foiceu
slave laboi in ueimany. Bis tenuency to ignoie the plight of the victims of the Bolocaust anu even
to use theii laboi, whethei it was his choice oi not, has foievei tainteu what is otheiwise
unuoubteuly a lifetime of amazing engineeiing feats. Bis postwai woik foi the 0niteu States in the
Colu Wai space iace again iepiesenteu his ability to attach himself to whatevei political cause oi
entity was willing to funu his ieseaich. It is peihaps thiough sheei chance that his new pations
weie on fiimei moial footing than the olu.
Seconu, we will look at the iole of the 0niteu States anu its agenua, iesponsibilities, moial
failuies anu possible justifications theieof. Bespite the hoiiois of Woilu Wai II anu the Bolocaust,
by the eaily Sus the 0niteu States was in a giowing stanu-off with its eistwhile ally of convenience,
the 0SSR, anu was willing to foiget the past injustices committeu by Nazi scientists anu engineeis in
exchange foi an auvantage in its new iivaliy. Weinhei von Biaun, then, iepiesenteu a tiump caiu
which the 0niteu States coulu not affoiu to ignoie anu was eageily obtaineu anu employeu in the
Satuin iocket piogiam. The conflict between the uesiie foi justice anu the neeu foi skilleu
engineeis foi the Colu Wai was ultimately ueciueu in favoi of acquiiing an auvantage against the
Soviets, a uecision which has been questioneu by many evei since it was maue public.
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Weinhei Nagnus Naximilian Fieiheii von Biaun was boin on Naich 2S
iu
, 1912 to Nagnus
Fieiheii anu Emmy von Biaun. Be was boin in what was then Wiisitz, in the piovince of Posen, in
the ueiman Empiie, but what is now, since the enu of the Seconu Woilu Wai, Wyizysk, Polanu.
Both of his parents came from the landed Junker Prussian aristocracy. The von Braun family
tiaceu itself back to at least 128S in Silesia, anu in 1S7S, the von Biauns weie maue
Reichsfieiheiien (ioughly, Baions) by the Boly Roman Empeioi Naximilian II foi theii success as
militaiy commanueis. Bis moie iecent von Biaun ancestois weie locateu in East Piussia, wheie
they weie wealthy lanuowneis in Neucken, south of Konigsbeig. It was at this estate in Neucken
which Weinhei's fathei Nagnus von Braun was born (in February, 1878) and raised. Magnus
fathei Naximilian was a Lieutenant Colonel in the Piussian militaiy, anu hau inheiiteu the von
Biaun estate uue to the ueaths of his thiee biotheis, also Piussian officeis, in the Austio-Piussian
Wai of 1866. Piussian militaiy values weie theiefoie a laige pait of the von Biaun iuentity, like
those of many of the families whom maue up the Piussian aiistociacy. With this focus on militaiy
paiticipation also came a uevotion to the Piussian leaueiship in the Bohenzollein uynasty, who by
Magnus birth were not only Kings of Piussia, but also the empeiois of a new ueiman Kaiseiieich
(Neufelu 8).
The youngest of five siblings, anu theiefoie with little chance of inheiiting the family estate,
Nagnus von Biaun joineu the Piussian civil seivice, aftei biief militaiy seivice that saw him
piomoteu to the iank of lieutenant in the aimy ieseive. Be seiveu in a vaiiety of low-level, often
unpaiu positions befoie being appointeu aujutant to the ministei of the Piussian Tiaue Ninistiy in
Beilin. It was theie that he met Emmy von Quistoip, whom he maiiieu less than a yeai aftei
meeting. The von Quistoips weie pait of the same }unkei aiistociacy to which Nagnus belongeu,
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though they weie ennobleu much moie iecently, being iaiseu to the aiistociacy in 1782 by the
Austiian empeioi (Neufelu 11).
In 1911, Nagnus von Biaun was appointeu County Commissionei in the town of Wiisitz. It
was in Wiisitz that Weinhei was boin, anu it was theie that the family liveu when the Fiist Woilu
Wai bioke out on }uly 29
th
, 1914. Like those of many people acioss Euiope anu the colonial woilu,
the life of the von Biaun family was thiown into upheaval by the wai. Nagnus iemaineu in Wiisitz,
wheie he oveisaw mobilization of the local aimy, anu kept the chiluien with him. Emmy, howevei,
travelled to Berlin, bringing with her the towns savings and financial documents to be stored safely
in the capital (Neufelu 1S). Foi peiious uuiing 1914 Wiisitz was uangeiously close to aieas
occupieu by the Russian invauing foices, but Nagnus iemaineu in Wiisitz, anu the Russians weie
ultimately uiiven back. In 191S, Nagnus was maue an aujutant in the Reich inteiioi office in Beilin,
but iemaineu County Commissionei in Wiisitz, anu commuteu back anu foith between the two
posts foi the next two yeais. In 1917 Nagnus was appointeu Piess Secietaiy foi the newly
appointed Chancellor, Georg Michaelis. Michaelis stint in office was extremely short lived and
unsuccessful, though, anu both he anu Nagnus weie foiceu to iesign meie months latei (Neufelu
14). Nagnus was calleu up fiom the aimy ieseives, piesumably as a iesult of this embaiiassing
iemoval fiom office, anu was maue auministiatoi in Lithuania anu Polanu, which weie unuei
ueiman occupation. Aftei Nagnus was iemoveu fiom office in Beilin anu thiough most of 1918,
Emmy anu the chiluien stayeu in Cienzow at the estate of hei biothei, who was a piisonei of the
Biitish. As a iesult, foi much of the wai, the chiluien saw theii fathei veiy little, though they
themselves weie insulateu fiom most of the pain the lowei classes went thiough at the time.
Victory on the Eastern Front and the collapse of Tsarist Russia saw Magnus fortunes improve
again, but this was shoit-liveu. victoiy in the east was followeu by uefeat in the west anu with it the
uismantling of the ueiman goveinment anu the Piussian buieauciacy to which he oweu his caieei.
Aftei the wai, Nagnus helu a hanuful of uiffeient positions in anu out of Beilin, but ultimately his
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conseivative politics pioveu unpopulai with the now socialist-contiolleu Piussian Pailiament, anu
he was appointeu Regieiungspisiuent in uumbinnen, East Piussia in oiuei to iemove him fiom
political life (Neufelu 1S).
0n Naich 1S, 192u the goveinment was taken ovei in a coup by conseivative monaichists
in what is now known as the Kapp Putsch, when ueneial Walthei von Lttwitz oiueieu the
NaiinebiigaueEhihaiut to occupy Beilin, iemoving the existing goveinment anu naming Wolfgang
Kapp, an elueily Piussian civil seivant, as Chancelloi. This coup occuiieu in uiiect iesponse to the
foiceu uismantling of much of the militaiy stiength of the ueiman Empiie unuei the veisailles
Tieaty, anu its membeis weie laigely of the Piussian militaiy class, whose uevotion to the
monaichy anu fieice nationalism hau not faueu in the yeai anu a half since the enu of hostilities.
0pon announcement of the new goveinment, the goveinoi of East Piussia publicly iecognizeu anu
suppoiteu the coup, anu Nagnus von Biaun quickly followeu suit. They weie two of the veiy few
officials who publically suppoiteu the coup, anu this tieu theii fates to that of Kapp anu the othei
conspiiatois. When the coup faileu aftei only foui uays, Nagnus was iemoveu fiom office anu put
unuei investigation. Though he was not tiieu foi tieason, unlike some who paiticipateu in the
putsch, this enueu his political caieei foi much of the Weimai Republic (Neufelu 18-19; Wikipeuia,
Wolfgang Kapp).
In 19S2, unuei piessuie fiom extieme paiamilitaiy oiganizations on both the left anu iight,
Weimai Piesiuent Binuenbuig appointeu the conseivative Fianz von Papen as Chancelloi, oiueiing
the foimation of a fai-iight cabinet which woulu help biing the Nazis into goveinment paiticipation
in a biu to auu to Binuenbuig's political base (Neufelu S6). Nagnus von Biaun was inviteu into the
cabinet, which was maue up of like-minueu iight-wing Piussian }unkeis, much moie ueuicateu to
the Kaiseiieich's conseivative politics than those of the Nazis. Nagnus was theiefoie an active
membei in the unconstitutional actions of the Papen goveinment which weie laigely iesponsible
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foi the iise of Auolph Bitlei anu the Nazis, such as the consoliuation of the Piussian goveinment
unuei the contiol of the Chancelloi anu his council. Eventually, fuithei attempts to biing the Nazis
into powei in an ill-thought-out attempt to shoie up the olu iight leu to Bitlei's Chancelloiship anu
the cabinet was uissolveu. Though Nagnus von Biaun's political loyalty belongeu to the ueiman
Reich anu the uays of the Kaisei, his anu his contempoiaiies' attempts to wiuen theii base thiough
alliance with the Nazis woulu ushei in the Thiiu Reich. Although Nagnus was, by his anu his sons'
accounts, opposeu to much of what Bitlei anu his Nazis stoou foi, he was all too willing to woik
with anu assist them to fuithei his own agenua. By his own account, hau he been given the chance,
he woulu have continueu in his iole in the cabinet unuei Bitlei (Neufelu 6u). This willingness to
woik with the Nazis uespite not being an aiuent paity membei was something which was echoeu in
the life of his son.
Nagnus von Biaun was the piimaiy souice of much of his son's political views. Thioughout
Wernhers young life, Nagnus was an aiuent conseivative, a uevout monaichist, anu a Piussian
elitist. Though his suppoit was fiimly behinu the Bohenzollein monaichy, he was moie bioauly
opposeu to uemociacy in geneial, especially the socialist-contiolleu uemociacy of the Weimai
Republic. Nichael Neufelu quotes Nagnus saying, as late as the 196us while living in America, This
democracy thing is just a passing fad (Neufeld 10). Wernher was very much raised in an
atmospheie of aiistociacy anu yeaining foi the state of things in the Empiie, as well as of intense
fiustiation with the loss of ueiman face, powei, anu the instability that uemociacy biought with it.
The fact that his familys status and comfort were directly negatively impacted by the Weimar
iepublic anu its left-wing policies suiely impacteu the young von Biaun. At the veiy least, his
ambivalence towaius the uestiuction of the Republic by the Nazis he woulu latei woik foi was
influenceu stiongly by this familial backgiounu.
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Though he obtaineu his conseivative, nationalist political views fiom his fathei, it was his
mothei anu hei family to whom von Biaun oweu his inteiest in the natuial sciences anu, of couise,
astionomy. Bis gianufathei Weinhei von Quistoip, in auuition to seiving in the Piussian cavaliy
anu embiacing his iole as an estate holuei, also followeu in the Quistoip family tiauition of
intellectualism (prior to the addition of the von to their name, the Quistorps were well known as
theologians, university professors, and merchants (Neufeld 11). Weinhei von Quistoip obtaineu
a uoctoiate in law as well as puisuing a lifelong love of oinithology, anu was in peisonal
coiiesponuence with many leauing oinithologists of the time. As a giil, she often assisteu with hei
fathers ornithological pursuits, as well as puisuing hei own inteiests in natuial science, biology,
anu astionomy. Emmy, theiefoie, was iaiseu in a setting wheiein love of science was nouiisheu
anu attempteu to cieate a similai setting foi hei sons (Neufelu 12).
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Fiom a young age von Biaun hau a passion foi the natuial sciences, a passion which was stokeu
by his mothei, Emmy. In 192S, foi his Lutheian confiimation, his mothei gave him a telescope
insteau of the golu pocket watch tiauitional foi those in his class. The gift was a huge hit, inspiiing
a love of astionomy in the young Weinhei which woulu last a lifetime (Neufelu 21-22). Bespite this
inspiiation, he latei hau gieat uifficulty in math anu physics while attenuing the Fiench
uymnasium. In an attempt to focus his iestless eneigy, his paients eniolleu him in the Beimann-
Lietz-Inteinat school on a sanuy Noith Sea islanu. It was heie that he ieceiveu a copy of !"# %&'#(#
)* +#, -.&,#(#,/0*1#, by Beimann 0beith, which igniteu his inteiest in iocketiy, a passion which
came to uefine his life. Pieviously, mathematics anu physics hau not inteiesteu him, but now he
suddenly found them necessary to understand the language of rocketry. Opening [Oberths
tieatisej I was aghast, said von Braun, according to a popular anecdote originating in a 1958
interview. Its pages were a hash of mathematical formulas. It was gibberish. I rushed to my
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teachers. How can I understand what this man is saying., I uemanueu. They tolu me to stuuy
mathematics anu physics, my two worst courses (Neufeld 24). Fiom this point on, he excelleu in
these two subjects, eventually auvancing past his peeis, in math especially. Oberths writings were
a huge inspiiation to von Biaun. Not only was 0beith a leauing pioponent of the possibility of
using iockets to ieach space, he also intiouuceu von Biaun to the iuea of iockets ueliveiing
explosive oi poison gas payloaus to enemy cities in futuie wais. Though von Biaun's own wiitings
at the time focuseu on civilian uses foi the technology, he was not opposeu to the iuea of theii
militaiy use (Neufelu S4). It was also at the Lietz School that von Biaun fiist showeu the leaueiship
skills which woulu piove vital in his latei life. As he focuseu on math anu began to auvance past the
othei stuuents, he was askeu to fill in foi a sick piofessoi anu began teaching the math class of the
students a year above him. Suddenly it became my responsibility to see that every classmate
shoulu get a passing mark, he would later say (Neufelu SS). That he excelleu in this iole is peihaps
no suipiise, given his latei achievements.
Aftei he giauuateu fiom the Lietz School in 19Su, he moveu back to Beilin to attenu the
Technische Bochschule (then calleu the Beilin-Chailottenbuig Institute of Technology) foi a uegiee
in mechanical engineeiing, as it was the closest then offeieu to aeionautics. Though he hau become
a membei of the veiein fi Raumschiffahit (Spaceflight Society) while attenuing the Lietz School,
he became a moie active paiticipant at this point. Nuch of the eailiei iocketiy ciaze hau peteieu
out just before von Brauns return to Berlin, and the leading rocketry journal was closed due to lack
of funus. As the lack of funuing became a moie geneial issue foi the fielu, some of the society,
incluuing von Biaun, tuineu to goveinment funuing, piimaiily fiom the militaiy. Thanks to iockets
being one of a small numbei of aieas of militaiy ieseaich alloweu by the veisailles Tieaty, the
uesiieu funuing was ieauily founu. At this point, howevei, von Biaun was simply a young man on
the siuelines of the society, helping clean up, when not stuuying. Even then, though, he impiesseu
most of those associateu with him with his zeal anu optimistic eneigy (Neufelu 4S).
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Aftei only a semestei, von Biaun tiansfeiieu to the Feueial Technical 0niveisity in Zuiich, but
tiansfeiieu back to Beilin to continue the uegiee aftei anothei semestei. While he was away, the
Rocket Society successfully testeu a liquiu-fuelleu iocket von Biaun hau assisteu with. 0pon his
ietuin, he continueu assisting with the iocketiy woik as much as possible. 0p to this point, though,
the militaiy funuing was foi the woik of otheis, with von Biaun meiely an assistant (Neufelu 44-
Su).

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In 19S2, von Biaun began a seciet uoctoial uisseitation foi the aimy, at the Fiieuiich-Wilhelms-
0niveisitt in Beilin. Nuch of his uoctoial woik, which focuseu on liquiu-fuelleu iocket systems,
was kept seciet until 196u. While von Biaun was woiking on his uoctoiate, Bitlei became
chancelloi of ueimany, maiking the iise of the Nazi Paity. As a iesult, the political anu militaiy
climate in 19S4 when he giauuateu was veiy uiffeient fiom that when he began the uegiee
(Neufelu SS, S6).
0nuei the Nazis, civilian iocket tests weie outlaweu, anu the only avenue open to ueiman
iocketiy ieseaicheis was eithei to leave the countiy to puisue theii woik oi to woik foi the
militaiy. Weinhei von Biaun chose the seconu of the two options, woiking foi the Aimy at the
existing iocket fuel test site at Kummenuoif anu helping founu the Aimy Rocket Centei in
Peenemnue. In 19S7 he joineu the National Socialist Paity anu in 194u the Waffen SS, latei
claiming it was officially uemanueu of him, an explanation some uispute (Neufelu Su-6u).
While woiking as uiiectoi of the Aimy Rocket Centei, von Biaun famously uiiecteu the A-4
(latei v-2) liquiu-fueleu iocket pioject, which woulu become the fiist woiking ballistic missile useu
in waifaie anu is consiueieu the piecuisoi to all mouein iockets. The A-4 was also the fiist man-
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maue object to ieach space, when a piototype ieacheu an altituue of 2uukm in 1942 (Neufelu 6u-
70, Wikipedia V-2).
Buiing the piouuction of the v-2 iocket, piisoneis fiom the concentiation camp Nittelbau weie
useu as slave laboi unuei hoiiific conuitions, a fact of which he was aumitteuly awaie, though he
latei claimeu not to be iesponsible foi theii use, stating that he felt poweiless to pievent it. Some
piisoneis latei claimeu to have witnesseu a closei involvement with Nittelbiau than von Biaun
woulu evei aumit. Accoiuing to official SS uocuments, as many as 12,uuu slave laboieis uieu uuiing
the piouuction of the v-2 (Neufelu 1Su-17u).
In 1944 von Biaun was aiiesteu by the uestapo, following a yeai of suiveillance by the
Sicheiheitsuienst, uuiing which he was oveiheaiu telling colleagues that he saw no possibility of
victoiy in the wai. In auuition to this lack of faith in the wai effoit, it has been suggesteu that
Bimmlei was looking for an excuse to get rid of von Braun after he resisted Himmlers attempts to
gain moie contiol ovei the iocket piogiam by planting his own people in key positions (Neufelu
17u-175, Wikipedia Wernher von Braun).
In 194S, aftei the uowntuin in the foitunes of the Nazi wai effoit anu especially aftei his aiiest
anu inteiiogation by the uestapo, von Biaun became thoioughly uisillusioneu with the iegime. Bue
to this change of heait, he aiiangeu to be captuieu by the invauing Ameiicans, using his impoitance
to ueiman iocketiy to avoiu haish tieatment anu ietiibution foi his woik on the v-2 piogiam.


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As the wai neaieu its enu, the allies moveu evei ueepei into ueimany anu von Biaun anu
his fellow ueiman scientists weie oiueieu to move to southein ueimany as a piecaution. It was
heie that he suggesteu they shoulu suiienuei to the Ameiican foices. It seemeu to him the
oppoitune time to uo so, as Bitlers death had freed them from any potential obligation they may
have felt towaiu the Nazi paity. Be also believeu that they woulu be founu soon anyway, anu was
afiaiu that if the Soviet aimy founu them fiist, they woulu not be tieateu kinuly uue to the hoiiible
treatment the Russian prisoners at Dora had received (Neufeld 204). It was von Brauns younger
biothei Nagnus who was sent to make the initial contact with the Ameiican foices. Although the
Ameiicans weie skeptical, he knew the location of Weinhei von Biaun as well as othei key
scientists that they weie on the lookout foi. As a iesult they alloweu him to go with the piomise
that he woulu ietuin with them as he claimeu. Nagnus von Biaun ietuineu with Weinhei von
Biaun leauing an auvance team of seven scientists. Two of the scientists hau buiieu the aichive of
iocket ieseaich befoie they left, in the hope that they coulu use it to baigain with the Ameiican
foices
When Weinhei von Biaun aiiiveu to meet the Ameiican foices, he was tieateu veiy well, as
he hau been on the list of scientists the Ameiicans wanteu to inteiview. Bis name hau been known
to the British intelligence since 1943, Russian NKVD since 1935 and the United States intelligence
since 1944 (Neufelu 2u2). When they left ueimany, von Biaun anu his auvance paity of seven hau
left seveial thousanu of theii fellow scientists, as well as most of theii families, behinu. At the time
of his uepaituie theie weie no woiking oiganizeu communication seivices anu it was not until nine
months latei that von Biaun got woiu that his paients weie alive anu it woulu be a yeai fiom his
uepaituie befoie he woulu be able to see them again.
!*

Aftei Weinhei von Biaun anu his auvance team of scientists weie captuieu, they weie
piocesseu as pait of the Ameiican piogiam Operation Overcast, he was appointed his teams
spokespeison because he spoke the best English (Neufelu 2uS). The puipose of the piogiam was to
acquiie ueiman technology anu expeitise thiough the exploitation of Nazi scientists at the enu of
the wai. It was also often iefeiieu to as Pioject Papeiclip because papeiclips weie useu to maik the
files of the canuiuates that weie selecteu to woik foi the 0S. Initially the intent was just to
inteiview the scientists. Bowevei, upon heaiing theii inteiviews, Ameiican officials ueemeu theii
ieciuitment by the 0niteu States a necessity, specifically citing theii potential impoitance in the
Pacific war effort (Wikipedia Operation Paperclip). It was also clear to the people who conuucteu
the inteiviews that von Biaun anu otheis fiom his gioup helu some iacist views. Bowevei, of the
entiie auvance paity of scientists, he was iankeu as one of the scientists who weie most auaptable
to the Ameiican lifestyle (Neufelu 2u4). Finally, Weinhei von Biaun got his chance to piesent his
ideas to two British CIOS investigators in a memorandum: Survey of Development of Liquid
Rockets in Germany and Their Future Prospects (Neufeld 204). In it, he stateu that the v-2 iocket
was just an inteimeuiate step anu that the stuuy of iockets hau consiueiable potential foi both
militaiy anu civilian applications. Lastly, he uiscusseu the use of iockets foi space tiavel. What the
allieu foices hau leaineu fiom the wai, if nothing else, was that the key to futuie militaiy powei lay
with auvanceu technology (Neufelu 2u6). They saw this as a chance to use ueiman scientists to
fuithei this goal foi both the shoit teim anu the long teim.
Weinhei von Biaun was then tolu to acquiie anu assemble 1uu v-2 iockets; with the help of
the Ameiican foices he was able to accomplish this befoie the Soviet foices founu Peenemnue. It
was aiounu this time that the 0niteu States foices founu the Peenemnue aichive containing
ioughly 14 tons of uocuments that hau been hiuuen in a mine. von Biaun also helpeu compile a list
of names of scientists anu theii families to evacuate to the 0S that woulu constitute the minimum
amount of scientists anu uiveise expeitise necessaiy to continue his iocket ieseaich. The list he hau
!%

initially compileu hau been a longei list than the 0S foices hau wanteu to tiansfei but von Biaun
was eventually talkeu uown to an amount that the 0S thought to be acceptable. Though von Biaun
believeu the 0S to be the best place to continue his iocket ieseaich, some of his suboiuinates uiu
not shaie his enthusiasm anu haiboieu uoubts about the length of time they woulu stay in the 0S
anu the teims of the contiact iegaiuing theii new employment theie (Neufelu 2u6-21u).
In }uly 194S von Biaun anu his fiienus weie to be sent to the 0niteu States along with SSu
ueiman specialists, with the iationale that theii assistance was neeueu foi the wai against }apan.
Before he could be sent to the US, the British Backfire group (Englands version of the JIOA) askeu
foi the appiehension of von Biaun, as well as othei key scientists. This iequest was politely
ignoieu, because the Ameiican foices neeueu von Biaun as well as the othei scientists that the
Biitish weie iequesting. A month latei the Biitish gioup changeu theii iequest to boiiowing
Weinhei von Biaun, Axstei, Steinhoff, anu Rees foi one week; to which the 0S agieeu (Neufelu
211). Buiing his stay in Biitain he was inteivieweu anu he was also askeu about any ueiman
scientists he woulu iecommenu that the 0S was not taking. Be also took note of the uamage uone
to some of the builuings by his v-2 iockets, though in latei iemaiks about it he uiu not appeai to
show any iemoise foi it (Neufelu 212).
In Septembei 194S von Biaun anu his staff weie finally sent to Foit Bliss, Texas as pait of
0peiation 0veicast. As von Biaun was in the fiist gioup to be tiansfeiieu to the 0S he aiiiveu in
0ctobei 194S. Bowevei, the last gioup uiu not aiiive until }anuaiy 1946 (Neufelu 21S-216). Beie
he was met with less iespect than he was useu to. In ueimany he hau many engineeis who
answeieu to him, but now he hau to iepoit to a young Ameiican majoi, with whom he uiu not get
along. Initially, the ueimans founu theii living conuitions as well as the iestiictions placeu on them
intoleiable (Neufelu 217-218). As time went on, the iestiictions became moie lax at Foit Bliss, anu
von Biaun anu his followeis continueu to tiain Ameiican peisonal in iockets anu guiueu missiles.
!)

They also continueu to stuuy the futuie potential of iockets foi militaiy anu ieseaich application, as
well as othei piojects such as the supeisonic iamjet.
In 19Su von Biaun anu his team weie moveu to Buntsville, Alabama wheie he leu the
Armys rocket development team. Under his direction the Redstone rocket was created and was
latei useu foi the fiist live nucleai ballistic missile tests conuucteu by the 0niteu States. Latei a
mouifieu veision was useu to successfully launch Americas first satellite, Explorer 1, on January 31,
19S8, signaling the biith of the Ameiican space piogiam. Because the 0SSR hau launcheu Sputnik 1
in 19S7 (a yeai eailiei) theie was a giowing belief that the 0S was behinu the Soviet 0nion in the
emerging space race (Wikipedia Wernher von Braun). In an interview in July 1946, Wernher von
Biaun also uiscusseu the use of satellites as attack platfoims to uiop atomic bombs anu stateu that
the nation that first reaches this goal possesses an overwhelming militaiy supeiioiity ovei othei
nations, (Neufeld 211-212). Be cleaily was implying that if the 0S uiu not win the space iace, they
would have to deal with this threat from the USSR. Sputniks launch was also a personal
uisappointment to von Biaun, as his own satellite pioject hau suffeieu two yeais of official
setbacks, without which the 0S might have beat the 0SSR in launching a satellite into space
(Neufelu, S12).
0n }uly 29, 19S8 NASA was officially establisheu. A yeai aftei the cieation of NASA von
Braun and his development team were transferred to NASAs Marshall Space Flight Center. In a
Pentagon meeting, he tolu Beib Yoik that the continuation of the Satuin piogiam was a
iequiiement foi his tiansition to NASA (Wikipedia Wernher von Braun). In }uly 196u von Biaun
became the centers first director and remained in that post until Febiuaiy 197u. The fiist majoi
piogiam von Biaun was in chaige of was the uevelopment of Satuin iockets to caiiy heavy
payloaus such as satellites into earths orbit anu beyonu. The Apollo piogiam was latei uevelopeu
fiom this piogiam anu on }uly 16, 1969 his uieam foi mankinu to set foot on the moon became a
!+

ieality as a Satuin v iocket launcheu the ciew of Apollo 11 on its eight-uay mission (Neufelu SSS-
4SS).
0n March 1, 1970 von Braun was appointed NASAs Deputy Associate Administrator for
Planning at NASAs headquarters. On May 26, 1972 he retired from NASA after several conflicts
about the fate of the Apollo piogiam anu stiict buuget constiaints. At this time it hau become
obvious to him that his plans foi futuie space flights were in conflict with NASAs plans for future
space flights. It also fuithei fiustiateu him to see the ueclining of public suppoit foi manneu space
missions, once the 0S beat the 0SSR to the moon (Wikipedia Wernher von Braun). Aftei leaving
NASA, von Biaun became vice piesiuent at the aeiospace company Faiichilu Inuustiies in
ueimantown, Naiylanu on }uly1, 1972. In 197S von Biaun was uiagnoseu with kiuney cancei which
coulu not be contiolleu with suigeiy. Though he was ill, he continueu to tiy anu inteiest the public
in space flight by speaking to stuuents anu engineeis at univeisities anu colleges. Bis ueclining
health, howevei, foiceu him to ietiie fiom Faiichilu on Becembei S1, 1976 anu he was latei
awaiueu the National Neual of Science though he was hospitalizeu anu unable to attenu the
ceiemony (Neufelu 442-472). 0n }une 16, 1977 he uieu of pancieatic cancei, anu was buiieu in the
Ivy Bill Cemeteiy in Alexanuiia viiginia. Wheie the only giave maikei belonging to one of the most
contioveisial figuies in iecent 0S histoiy is a simple plaque beaiing his name, the yeais he liveu
anu a single insciiption: Psalms 19:1 (his favoiite biblical sciiptuie) (Neufelu 472).



!(

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It was shoitly aftei being appointeu to his post in Peenemnue that von Biaun officially joineu
the Nazi Paity. Latei, in 194u, he woulu become an officei in the Waffen-SS. This uamning
membeiship as a Nazi anu especially in the notoiious SS (who weie iesponsible foi most of the
atiocities committeu in the Bolocaust) was auuiesseu by von Biaun. Be woulu latei explain that he
was commanueu to join fiist the Nazi Paity anu latei the SS, anu that his iefusal woulu have been
the end of his career and the abandonment of his lifes work. Be claims that as much as he woulu
have likeu to avoiu joining the paity, it was piefeiable to him to the complete uestiuction of his
uieams anu his woik (Piszkiewicz I S8, Neufelu 12u-121). This stoiy is uismisseu by wiiteis such
as Bennis Piszkiewicz, who claim that photos showing him with top Nazi leaueis weaiing his SS
unifoim show that he was moie heavily involveu in the oiganization than he was latei willing to
aumit. In auuition, they claim the SS hau not shown any inteiest in Peenemnue at the time he
joineu (Piszkiewicz I S7-6u). 0n the othei hanu, Najoi }oseph Sestito, the secuiity officei
oveiseeing the Peenemnue team at Reustone Aisenal in Bunstville, AL, suppoiteu von Biaun's
explanation, saying "I'm faiily suie that these men became membeis moie oi less as a mattei of
expeuiency, iathei than iueology.", continuing "I believe they joineu Nazi oiganizations piimaiily to
holu on to theii jobs" (Lang 8u).
Weinhei von Biaun's exposuie to the Nazi Paity uiu not, of couise, begin with his woik on the
v-2. While completing his seciet uisseitation foi the Aimy aftei Bitlei's iise to the Chancelloiship
in 19SS, the Nazi takeovei was piogiessing aiounu him at an evei-incieasing pace. Be coulu not
possibly have been unawaie of events such as "the Nazis' toichlight paiaue uiiectly past the
Agiicultuie Ninistiy on the night of Su }anuaiy, the Reichstag fiie of 27-28 Febiuaiy, the mass
aiiests of Communists anu Socialists that followeu, the Reichstag's passage of an act giving Bitlei
!&

uictatoiial powei on 2S Naich |...j, the often thuggish anti-}ewish boycott of 1 Apiil, oi the now-
infamous book bonfiie stageu by Nazi stuuents at his 0niveisity on 1u Nay" (Neufelu 61). These
events, which gave much of the westein woilu pause, seem to have been insignificant to von Biaun,
who claimeu he was "veiy little inteiesteu in the 'woilu aiounu me,' anu uowniight naive in my
views of political matteis", claiming the gieatest impact Bitlei's iise hau on him at the time was that
his fathei "lost his job in the piocess" (Neufelu 61). The fact that, apait fiom his fathei, many of his
closest associates weie militaiy officeis who uiiectly benefiteu fiom the Nazis is suie to have
contiibuteu to this inuiffeience.
Bis claims of inuiffeience anu lack of political inteiest aie backeu up by much of the available
eviuence. Foi example, some of his closest associates anu fiienus weie fiom opposite extiemes of
the political spectium. Aithui Ruuolph, who was hiieu at Kummensuoif in August 19S4, anu woulu
woik with von Biaun thiough the Satuin v piogiam, was a committeu Nazi, who became a membei
of the SA "long befoie it was oppoitunistic to uo so" (Neufelu 7S). Be was also a spaceflight
enthusiast fiom an eaily age, anu easily bonueu with von Biaun because of it. Accoiuing to
Ruuolph, von Biaun anu he woulu often stay up all night uiscussing spaceflight anu ueveloping
foimulae, but Ruuolph makes no mention of political uiscussions. 0n the othei hanu, von Biaun
was also close fiienus with Klaus Rieuel, who was fai-left in political leanings (Neufelu 76). Bis
ielationships with both men seem to have ievolveu solely aiounu iocketiy woik, with little to no
attention paiu to theii veiy uiffeient political iueologies, at a time when such iueologies weie
paiamount foi many ueimans.
In 19SS all faculty with leftist political views oi }ewish ancestiy weie expelleu fiom von Biaun's
univeisity. This was followeu by significant piessuie on all stuuents to eithei join the Paity oi at
least to join SA-affiliateu oiganizations. When the SA gave a tempoiaiy allowing stuuent to sign up
foi a non-binuing piobationaiy peiiou, von Biaun joineu the SS hoiseback iiuing school of the
!,

Reiteistuim I in westein Beilin, wheie he claimeu he took iiuing lessons twice a week but uiu not
paiticipate in any SS activities outsiue of this (Neufelu 6S). Be woulu have been iequiieu to weai
his SS unifoim uuiing these lessons, as well as being subjecteu to inuoctiination. Two things in
paiticulai, though, back up von Biaun's claims to have not been a believei. Fiist, he only joineu
aftei significant piessuie was put on the univeisity, aftei seeing his piofessois expelleu aiounu
him. Seconu, he only joineu when a piobationaiy membeiship which he coulu back out of was
possible. Inueeu, as soon as this piobationaiy peiiou was ovei, he uioppeu out of the oiganization,
anu was not pait of the SS again until he iejoineu in 194u (Neufelu 64). This iejoining of the SS was
allegeuly again uue to piessuie fiom the Nazi establishment. Accoiuing to von Biaun, anu backeu
up by othei anecuotal accounts, he ieceiveu an offei of SS membeiship as 0nteistuimfhiei, anu it
was stiesseu to him that it was a very definite desire of Himmler that he join (Neufelu 121). Be
initially iesisteu but consulteu Boinbeigei befoie acting one way oi the othei. Boinbeigei,
accoiuing to von Biaun, infoimeu him that the SS hau been attempting to gain access to the
iocketiy woik, anu that if von Biaun wisheu to continue his woik, he hau no choice but to accept SS
membeiship. The offei came at the beginning of the wai, at a time when the political futuie of the
iocketiy gioup was veiy much in question. Nateiials anu funus weie scaice, anu theii gioup was
not a piioiity at that time foi the Nazi leaueiship. As a iesult, von Biaun claims to have felt tiappeu.
Peihaps unsuipiisingly, theiefoie, von Biaun accepteu the offei (Neufelu 121-122).
The question how much of a Nazi was he? is central to much of the writing about von Braun,
but his membeiship in the paity by itself is not necessaiily the complete enuoisement of the Nazis
that some have claimeu. The pictuie was likely moie nuanceu, anu the veiy ieal feai of enuing up
on the Nazi regimes bad side was pervasive in much of this period. Though some who iejecteu as
much paiticipation as von Biaun engageu in iemaineu untoucheu by the Nazis, the feai that was
cieateu in the minus of those who may have been on the fence was often much gieatei than this
woulu suggest, anu many weie in feai of being persecuted by the regime if they didnt play along.
$'

In auuition, much of the woik von Biaun was involveu in was incieasingly uifficult to uo without
Nazi membeiship. uiven this context, anu the eviuence that von Biaun uiu not paiticipate fiist-
hanu in the politics of the oiganizations, his membeiship is peihaps unueistanuable.

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Bis coopeiation with the iegime was ceitainly not, howevei, completely innocent. Though he
latei claimeu not to be a Nazi sympathizei, von Biaun was ceitainly at the veiy least a Piussian
nationalist, who hau no ethical pioblem assisting with the militaiy aims of his countiy. von Biaun
himself seems to have thought little about politics, whethei foi oi against the Nazis. Accoiuing to
those who knew him in ueimany, his political views miiioieu those of his fathei: that "the ueiman
Republic was no goou anu the Nazis iiuiculous", but he otheiwise believeu politics to be a
uistiaction to which he was at best inuiffeient (Neufelu SS). Pait of this set of social anu political
values inheiiteu fiom his fathei was loyalty to the monaichy anu a sense of uuty to seive in its
militaiy anu civil seivice. Theiefoie, when the militaiy maue its offei in 19S2 to hiie von Biaun at
Kummeisuoif, it was an offei he uiu not hesitate to accept.
When he began his militaiy woik, befoie the Nazi iise to powei, he seems to have seen the
militaiy as a simple souice of pationage, with little inteiest in how his ieseaich was useu by those
who funueu it. In a 19Su inteiview with 2#3 45/'#/ jouinalist Baniel Lang, quoteu in Nichael
Neufelds v5, 6/&*,7 !/#&1#/ 58 9:&;#< =,>",##/ 58 ?&/, he ieveals his thoughts going into his
militaiy-funueu research. We felt no moral scruples about the possible use of our brainchild, he
told Lang. We were interested solely in exploring outer space. It was simply a question with us of
how the golden cow could be milked most successfully. Though he referred in this case to the pre-
$!

Nazi Aimy, this ability to take funuing fiom the militaiy with no iegaiu to the lives his ieseaich
might cost continueu thiough the Nazi peiiou (Lang 8S, Neufelu S4).
Beginning just piioi to Bitlei's iise to powei, but iamping up significantly afteiwaius, a
conceiteu effoit was maue by the militaiy to establish a monopoly in iocketiy ieseaich. Beginning
in eaily 19SS, this effoit involveu aiiesting men like Rolf Engel, ostensibly foi woiking with the
Soviets, anu active haiassment of otheis such as Ruuolf Nebel, whose showmanship anu attempts to
populaiize his woik ian countei to the militaiy's uesiie foi complete seciecy. Be was ultimately
aiiesteu uuiing the Night of Long Knives on }une S4th, 19S4, foi publishing a leaflet which
uiscusseu militaiy uses foi iockets (Neufelu 66). Aftei the SS puige of the SA anu othei uissenteis
in that single night, all amateui iocketiy was completely stampeu out, with many pieviously
amateui paiticipants hiieu into Boinbeigei's Kummeisuoif gioup. In this context, then, von
Biaun's eailiei uecision to accept militaiy funuing foi his woik was now iiieveisible, at least
without his leaving the countiy. Bespite the assassinations giving von Biaun a "glimmei of the
natuie of the iegime" anu peihaps giving him seconu thoughts (Neufelu 69), it was now impossible
to continue iocket ieseaich in ueimany outsiue of the militaiy (Neufelu 76).
Milking von Brauns golden cow meant using his rocket research to build missiles for the
ueiman militaiy. Beginning with his woik foi Boinbeigei's Kummensuoif gioup in 19S2, von
Biaun was employeu by the militaiy in oiuei to uevelop iockets with the intent of using them as
weapons, ueliveiing eithei explosive oi chemical payloaus. Though his militaiy woik ueveloping
iockets was fiom the beginning explicitly foi theii use as weapons, most if not all of the ieseaich
woulu be uiiectly applicable to space flight. This alloweu von Biaun to please his pations yet
fuithei his own agenua as well. Bis eaily woik focuseu on liquiu-fueleu engines, but as time went
on, he began uiiecting highei-level systems, with the specifics being uesigneu by those unuei him.
Aftei successful uevelopment of the A-1 anu A-2 iockets, a new iocket site was uevelopeu in
$$

Peenemnue foi the builuing of the laigei A-S anu A-4 (v-2) iockets (Neufelu 8u,81). Bevelopeu
beginning in 1942, the v-2 was a laige, liquiu-fueleu missile, whose gyioscopic guiuance system
alloweu it to be fiieu with gieat accuiacy, ueliveiing its 2,2uu lb. waiheau to taigets up to 2uu miles
away. 0vei the couise of the wai, S,2uu v-2 missiles weie piouuceu, laigely at the Nittelweik
facility, using slave laboi. They weie fiist useu against the allies on Septembei 8, 1944, with an
attack on Paiis which causeu only minoi uamage. Fiom this point until the enu of the wai, missiles
weie fiieu at Englanu, Belgium, the Netheilanus, Fiance, anu even occupieu ueimany. The attacks
aie estimateu to have causeu 7,2Su ueaths of both militaiy peisonnel anu civilians, anu many moie
injuiies (Wikipeuia "v-2"). In auuition, the v-2 was the worlds first military ballistic missile,
capable of guiueu piecision at long iange, anu as such is to some extent the pieuecessoi of eveiy
militaiy missile piouuceu since. As the v-2 was largely von Brauns brainchild, a product of his zeal
foi goveinment pationage foi his space tiavel ieseaich, it is tempting to lay these ueaths anu
injuiies at his feet. Ceitainly he beais some iesponsibility foi them, but was his woik foi his
nations military in and of itself immoral?
von Biaun was, at least in his youth, a patiiotic Piussian ueiman fiom a militaiy aiistociatic
backgiounu. National seivice, especially in the militaiy anu goveinment, was a laige pait of his
upbiinging. In this context, it is peihaps foigivable that von Biaun accepteu militaiy funuing foi his
woik anu in ietuin pioviueu his countiy with new militaiy technologies. This is an act which is
miiioieu in neaily eveiy countiy on the globe anu is no moie immoial, by itself, than Sii Biiam
Maxims invention of the modern machine gun, responsible for many thousands of deaths in World
Wai I, oi that of the engineeis who uevelopeu unmanneu uiones useu by the 0niteu States touay.
These acts aie only immoial in as much as wai itself is immoial. Inueeu, the nation foi whom von
Biaun began his woik, the Weimai Republic, was, though inteinally chaotic, a pailiamentaiy
uemociacy without the oveit militaiism of the latei Nazi state. The ciucial uiffeience, howevei,
comes in his continueu militaiy woik aftei the Nazi takeovei, uespite his incieasing awaieness of
$*

the hoiiois which the Nazis tiuly stoou foi anu, especially, the lack of uiffeience this seems to have
maue to him anu his woik.
The ueath toll, mentioneu above, causeu by the v-2, incluuing the ueaths of slave laboieis, is
estimateu to be 2u,uuu foi the entiie wai. In contiast, the ueath toll in a single night, in the fiie-
bombing of Biesuen, has been estimateu anywheie between 2u,uuu anu Suu,uuu (Wikipeuia "Fiie
Bombing of Biesuen). The Lancastei bombeis useu in this bombing iun aie theiefoie iesponsible
foi at least as many civilian ueaths in one night as the v-2 causeu thioughout the peiiou it was useu.
Few ethical analyses have been uone on the moiality of the engineeis at Avio who uesigneu anu
built it, howevei. Peihaps the single most moially questionable chaiactei involveu with the
fiiebombing is Sii Aithui "Bombei" Baiiis, the Commanuei-in-Chief of Englanu's Bombei
Commanu at the time.
Sii Aithui Baiiis was a uiiving foice behinu the fiiebombing as well as othei contioveisial
aiea bombings with no specific militaiy taiget. When he was appointeu to the position of
Commanuei-in-Chief, Bombei Commanu hau only maue a minimal contiibution to the wai, anu he
saw it as his job to change that. The 0SSR was piessuiing the westein allies to uo something to aiu
them on the Eastein Fiont, anu the plan to use aiea bombing techniques was given the go-aheau
uespite its contioveisial natuie. The successes of the missions weie initially small uue to limiteu
aiiciaft anu the lack of navigational aius, howevei as these obstacles uiminisheu, successes
incieaseu. The official statements iegaiuing these aiea bombings weie that they weie attacking
specific taigets anu that any civilian casualties weie not intentional. Bespite the contioveisy, Baiiis
maue it cleai to the English goveinment that he wanteu the ieal ieason foi the bombings to become
public (Wikipedia Sir Arthur Harris, 1
st
Baronet).
The Combineu Bombei 0ffensive (the plan to utilize aiea bombing iuns against ueiman
civilians) coulu be aigueu to be immoial because of the countless civilian lives which weie lost
$%

especially uuiing the attack on Biesuen. It coulu be aigueu likewise that the Nanhattan pioject was
also immoial because the nucleai bomb was useu to uecimate two cities in }apan compiising mostly
a civilian population. It shoulu also be taken into account that the bombing of Biesuen was uone
late in the wai anu that Biesuen was not a key militaiy taiget. In contiast the nucleai bomb was
useu to foice }apan to suiienuei, iesulting in less loss of life then if they hau not useu it anu hau to
invaue }apan. The bombing of Biesuen towaius the enu of the wai was seen by some as unjustifieu,
as Biesuen hau little oi no militaiy significance. The bombing of Biesuen was also seen by otheis as
justifieu because it hau inuustiial taigets anu thus constituteu a legitimate taiget. The bombing of
Dresden remains highly controversial to this day (Wikipedia Bombing of Dresden in World War
II).
Peihaps a stiongei paiallel than that between Baiiis anu von Biaun exists between
Peenemnue anu the Nanhattan Pioject. Some of the eia's biightest physicists anu engineeis,
incluuing Eniico Feimi anu Robeit 0ppenheimei, woikeu as pait of a massive, top seciet militaiy
plan to uevelop an atomic bomb. Nany of the physicists weie, like von Biaun, piimaiily inteiesteu
in peaceful ieseaich, but weie uiiven to uevelop a weapon uuiing the wai. The fact that the 0S
Nilitaiy was willing to poui two billion uollais into the pioject must ceitainly have been a factoi as
well (Wikipeuia "Nanhattan Pioject"). Like von Biaun, these scientists weie conuucting ieseaich
in an aiea in which it was veiy expensive to fielu-test anu the militaiy was the only oiganization
willing to spenu the sums neeueu. When the pioject's cieations, Fat Nan anu Little Boy, weie
uioppeu on Biioshima anu Nagasaki in 194S, they causeu an estimateu 1Su-246,uuu ueaths
combineu (Wikipeuia "Atomic Bombing of Biioshima anu Nagasaki"). Though the ethics involveu
in this act have been stuuieu fai moie thoioughly than those of the conventional bombings of
ueiman cities, it helps put the v-2 piogiam into some peispective.
$)

The main uiffeience between these examples anu the v-2 was the iegime foi which it was maue.
Though the uesiie of the aimy of the Weimai Republic to simply iebuilu anu iegain face aftei the
humiliation of the veisailles Tieaty was ieplaceu by a iabiu Nazi uesiie foi expansion anu iacial
puiification, von Biaun continueu his woik, appaiently unbotheieu. Bis goluen cow was now much
moie sinistei than it hau been, but he uoes not seem to have uislikeu the milk it pioviueu enough to
act on it. If he evei seiiously questioneu his iole in this woik, especially befoie the outbieak of wai,
it was not enough to cause him to give up his position oi his goals. Najoi }ames P. Bamill, the
Peenemnue gioup's militaiy hanulei in 0peiation 0veicast anu beyonu, saiu of von Biaun's iocket
tunnel-vision: "That guy ... wants to go to the moon. That's his passion- inteiplanetaiy tiavel.
Whethei it will be wai oi peace on eaith comes aftei that foi him" (Lang 81). As the Nazi iegime
went fuithei with theii plans in the Bolocaust anu von Biaun was pulleu evei ueepei into
complicity with some of the atiocities committeu theiein, he continueu his woik towaius this
uieam without iegaiu foi the effects of his woik, whethei thiough blinuness oi lack of caiing.

E& N=;;,+*,(B O+"P, D"9)(

von Biaun came face to face with the Nazi regimes true character at the latest in 194S, when
seveie laboi shoitages causeu some in the Nazi establishment to begin using concentiation camp
slave laboi to push foiwaiu militaiy constiuction. An unueigiounu factoiy was built, nameu
Nittelweik, which useu laboieis piimaiily fiom the Nittelbiau-Boia laboi camp, anu which
piouuceu both the v-1 flying bomb anu the v-2 missile. Weinhei von Biaun latei aumitteu to
having been awaie of the use of slave laboi, as well as the extieme ciuelty with which the laboieis
weie tieateu. Be is known to have been shown multiple constiuction camps, incluuing Nittelweik,
anu must have been awaie on some level of the conuitions theie (Neufelu 161). Be also latei
$+

aumitteu to having peisonally chosen laboieis fiom the Buchenwalu concentiation camp anu was
ceitainly awaie of the hoiiois occuiiing theie. Accoiuing to one latei account, von Biaun allegeuly
tolu his associate Einst Stuhlingei that conuitions foi the laboieis weie "hellish. Ny spontaneous
ieaction was to talk to one of the SS guaius, only to be tolu with unmistakable haishness that I
shoulu minu my own business, oi finu myself in the same stiipeu fatigues!", continuing that he
"iealizeu that any attempt of ieasoning on humane giounus woulu be utteily futile" (Stuhlingei 44).
This seems to have enueu any attempt on his pait to engage with the SS oi the Nazi establishment
to change things foi the bettei, though at least one piisonei, the non-}ewish Fiench physicist
Chailes Sauion, was piotecteu by von Biaun anu placeu in ielatively goou conuitions in the factoiy.
Theie is no eviuence, howevei, that this piotection of piisoneis was wiuespieau, anu it shoulu be
noteu that Sauion was not only an establisheu iocket scientist but also non-}ewish (Neufelu 178).
In auuition, some piisoneis, such as Robeit Cazabonne, iecalleu aftei the wai that von Biaun hau at
least been piesent foi many of the atiocities, incluuing the hanging of piisoneis fiom chains. 0ne
piisonei in paiticulai, captuieu Fiench iesistance fightei uuy Noianu, claimeu that von Biaun
actually oiueieu him floggeu anu foiceu him to say that he ueseiveu to be hangeu (Biuule 124-12S).
While these extieme allegations aie unable to be confiimeu, theie is ceitainly eviuence that von
Biaun was actively involveu in the allocation of slave laboi to uiffeient paits of the piogiam.
0veiall iesponsibility foi the use of slave laboi lay with his supeiiois, anu he ceitainly was not
given a choice as to theii use, but that von Biaun was awaie of much of what was going on is neaily
ceitain (Neufelu 16u-166).
Though he was unuoubteuly awaie of some of the conuitions the piisoneis faceu, whethei oi
not he actually paiticipateu in the Bolocaust is less ceitain. Bis claims that he hau no choice but to
uo as he was tolu aie, on the one hanu, unueistanuable. The Nazis weie capable of incieuible
biutality anu hau shown no iestiaint pieviously in acting against those whom they saw as acting
against the partys interests. In this atmosphere of paranoia and the very real danger of a visit from
$(

the uestapo at any moment if one stiayeu fiom the paity line (a visit they woulu eventually pay von
Biaun), it is uifficult to tiuly conuemn someone foi failing to act. Some psychological ieseaich
peifoimeu since the wai, incluuing the famous Nilgiam expeiiment, has shown that the von
Biaun's failuie to question his situation may be the noim insteau of the exception (Kowalski S6-
S8). In fact, his own account of questioning the beatings anu being tolu it was not his iesponsibility
is a veiy close paiallel to the expeiiment itself. 0n the othei hanu, this is an excuse useu by many
peipetiatois of hoiienuous acts uuiing the Bolocaust, anu it is ceitain that von Biaun was not only
awaie of what was going on, but that he actively paiticipateu in it, even on a low level of
iesponsibility. von Biaun seems to have accepteu his situation anu the iuea that he was poweiless
to effect ieal change, avoiuing looking into matteis too ueepy. Be simply continueu in his woik,
allowing his uieams of space flight to obscuie any uoubts that he may have hau. At the same time,
his actions uo not seem to be those of a tiue Nazi believei. The possibility that he piotecteu Sauion
as well as iesistanceu the attempteu SS takeovei of Peenemnue show that his tiue feelings, though
he alloweu them to be suppiesseu foi his woik, weie not in line with those of the uppei Nazi
echelon. By most accounts, when appioacheu by Beiniich Bimmlei about the tiansfei of authoiity
to the SS, von Biaun uiu not play along, iesulting in his impiisonment anu inteiogation by the
uestapo thiee weeks latei. Be was only ieleaseu thiough the actions of Boinbeigei anu Albeit
Speei, who took the issue uiiectly to Auolf Bitlei. Bespite these shows of iesistance to SS
infiingement, von Biaun's Nazi caieei speaks mostly of inaction anu acceptance of authoiity.
0ltimately, this inaction, whethei it stemmeu fiom a feeling of feai anu helplessness oi fiom a
genuine lack of caiing about the plight of otheis, oi even a combination theieof, tainisheu his latei
caieei anu causeu him to become foi many the aichetype of the inhuman scientist, willing to accept
any human cost to fuithei his woik. This ieputation may oi may not be tiuly ueseiveu, but he
unuoubteuly was at the veiy least complicit in the evils of otheis, anu this moial failing continues to
uog his ieputation touay.
$&


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5& S@,(";=)# SP,(<"/;

At the enu of the wai Weinhei von Biaun anu many othei ueiman scientists weie ieciuiteu to
woik foi the 0niteu States unuei 0peiation 0veicast. Not eveiyone appioveu of this plan, anu it
was even suggesteu that all the ueiman anu }apanese scientists who helpeu cieate weapons uuiing
the wai shoulu be confineu to a uistant islanu (Lasby S1). Aftei the scientists weie inteivieweu, a
telegiam was sent to the pentagon iequesting the evacuation of the ueiman scientists. The fall of
ueimany hau cieateu a powei vacuum in Euiope, as well as a mau giab foi ueiman technology anu
expeitise. As the Tiuman auministiation uiu not allow the ieciuitment of scientists with a stiong
connection to the Nazi goveinment only those who weie moueiate membeis oi weie uiiectly
against the Nazi paity weie accepteu (Lasby 21u-212).
Buiing Woilu Wai II, the 0niteu States anu uieat Biitain allieu themselves with the 0SSR foi
the specific puipose of fighting ueimany, which was seen as the gieatei of two evils. The Ameiicans
anu the Biitish weie by no means fiienus of the 0SSR uuiing oi befoie Woilu Wai II. Thus the
Ameiicans anu the Biitish went back to seeing the 0SSR as an auveisaiy as soon as ueimany was
uefeateu. It was also well known that the 0SSR was gatheiing up all of the ueiman technology it
coulu aftei ueimany was uefeateu. This gave iise to a giowing feai in the West that the 0SSR might
attack the 0S anu its allies with theii captuieu ueiman technology. This feai of what the 0SSR
might potentially do with German technology played more than a small role in the United States
uecision to obtain what ueiman scientists they coulu to pievent as much ueiman knowleuge as
possible fiom falling into Soviet hanus. The Ameiican acquisition of ueiman scientists anu
$,

knowleuge may have also helpeu pievent a possible thiiu woilu wai by pieventing the 0SSR fiom
gaining a militaiy technological auvantage.
Buiing the final uays of the wai in Euiope, as the westein allies auvanceu into ueimany, they
began finuing concentiation camps, wheie the piisoneis hau liveu anu uieu en masse unuei
meicilessly biutal conuitions. An example of such a slave laboi camp was Boia, which pioviueu
woikeis foi Nittelweik, wheie the piisoneis weie foiceu to builu ueiman iockets unuei the
uiiection of von Biaun anu his team. At the same time, the 0niteu States iemaineu at wai with
}apan, anu the neeu foi ueiman scientific anu engineeiing expeitise was piessing. They knew,
howevei, that if they uiu ieciuit the ueiman scientists with Nazi pasts linkeu to concentiation anu
slave laboi camps, the public ieaction woulu be iesounuingly negative. The moial uilemma facing
the 0S, was to eithei continue on without the ueiman scientists in the wai against }apan, oi ieciuit
the ueiman scientists uespite theii involvement in the atiocities of the concentiation anu slave
laboi camps. The hiiing of the ueiman scientists howevei, might give them the possible leg up they
neeueu foi the wai against }apan anu the invasion of the }apanese mainlanu that was being planneu.
The moiality of 0peiation 0veicast is intiinsically tieu to the inuiviuuals being ieciuiteu. Nost
if not all of the ieciuits fiom von Biaun's Peenemnue gioup weie involveu solely in the
engineeiing anu management of the v-2 Piogiam. Though some may have agieeu moie oi less
stiongly with the iacial policies of Nazi ueimany, eviuence uoes not suggest that any weie in a
position to act in the atiocities being committeu. The slave laboi at Nittelweik, foi example, was
manageu solely by the SS, anu SS leaueiship weie ultimately iesponsible. Though many have
ueciieu the tenuency of some paity membeis to claim, aftei the wai, to have been unwilling
witnesses to the acts of otheis, without peisonal iesponsibility foi those acts, this seems to have
genuinely been the case foi many woiking on the v-2.
0ltimately, what makes one ieciuit moially acceptable anu anothei unacceptable is his oi hei
peisonal iesponsibility. While ieciuiting a man like von Biaun, weighing his involvement in
*'

Nittelweik against the neeus of the countiy, can be aigueu to be moially justifiable, haiuly the
same aigument coulu be maue foi the likes of Auolph Bitlei oi Beiniich Bimmlei. No mattei the
national inteiest, the uiiect causation of the ueaths of 6 million innocent people cannot be
outweigheu. Though these extieme examples may seem obvious, a finei compaiison can be maue
by looking at Albeit Speei, the aichitect of the Nazi iegime, anu Ninistei of Aimaments foi the
seconu half of the wai. Speei was, by most accounts, not in full suppoit of the Nazi Paity's use of
slave laboi, similaily to von Biaun. Speei was completely swept up by the cult of Bitlei, howevei,
anu was a tiue believei of the ueiman leaueiship neaily to the enu. Be was maue Ninistei of
Aimaments in 1942 anu excelleu beyonu all expectations in the iole of oiganizing the countiy's wai
effoit. Pait of this oiganization, though, was the use of slave laboieis taken fiom the occupieu
teiiitoiies. Though the piogiam was not favoieu by Speei, he was eventually convince to
implement it. As the heau of neaily all wai piouuction in the countiy, he was uiiectly iesponsible
foi factoiies such as Nittelweik anu the use of slaveiy theie anu even touieu Nittelweik peisonally.
Theie is even moie contioveisy anu uispute ovei Speei's peisonal involvement with the Bolocaust
than ovei von Biaun's, but it is ceitain that not only uiu Speei know about the use of slave laboi, he
uiiecteu it (Wikipeuia "Albeit Speei"). This peisonal iesponsibility foi the uecision making
sepaiates him fiom the men of the Peenemnue gioup, who weie by most accounts simply tolu
they weie to use the slaves anu weie not given a choice in the mattei. It is on this point of peisonal
iesponsibility, then, that the closest thing to a line can be uiawn sepaiating those who might
possibly be justifiable ieciuits fiom those whose ieciuitment woulu be immoial iegaiuless of
context, uue to the seveiity of theii ciimes.

*!

6& M19+=< S@=#=)# ): T,(#0,( P)# >("1#

In Becembei 1946 a uallup poll was taken (sponsoieu by the uallup Poll News Seivice) which
askeu the Ameiican public if biinging ovei ueiman scientists was a goou oi bau iuea (see uallop).
The majoiity of Ameiicans ueciueu it was a bau iuea (Lasby 191-2u4). Theie was howevei a
uefinite coiielation between the iesults anu the amount of foimal euucation ieceiveu; those with
moie euucation favoieu the plan anu those with less opposeu it. The iesults also seemeu to uepenu
on the aieas of the countiy wheie the poll was taken. Those who voteu against the impoitation of
ueiman scientists uiu so foi many ieasons. They believeu that the ueiman scientists coulu not be
tiusteu anu woulu influence how Ameiicans thought, anu that they also woulu gain knowleuge
fiom the 0niteu States anu use it against us someuay (Lasby 191-2u4). Those who voteu in favoi of
the impoitation of ueiman scientists believeu that the 0S coulu piofit fiom theii knowleuge anu
that it woulu be bettei to have the scientists heie than in Russia (Lasby 191-2u4). The public
impression of von Braun when he was introduced to America varied. In Tom Lehrers satirical song:
Wernher von Braun; he is described as apolitical, opportunistic and that he did not care what
happeneu as long as his iockets got off the giounu (Lehiei). It can also be cleaily seen how otheis
were charmed by him as evident in the uncritical article A Romantic Urge written by Daniel Lang.
In the article he describes von Braun as exuberant, and is inspired by his romantic ideas of space
flight. The articles title itself was a reference to this and showed how the author was charmed by
von Biaun (Lang). Nowheie in the aiticle uoes von Biaun talk about the questionable siue of his
Nazi past (such as the use of slave laboi in the builuing of the v-2 Rockets) anu Baniel Lang uiu not
ask him eithei. What they uiu talk about incluueu such topics as the honois von Biaun ieceiveu foi
his iocketiy woik in ueimany, whethei he went to chuich oi not uuiing his time in ueimany, anu
von Brauns family. 0veiall, the aiticle uepicts him as an iueal family man. In geneial, Ameiicans
*$

who uistiusteu oi appioveu of him uiu so foi the same ieasons as inuicateu by the poll taken befoie
his intiouuction to the Ameiican public.
In 19S9 the 0niteu States Aimy paiu foi the piouuction of a movie foi the ueiman auuience
entitled I Aim for the Stars (Hbner). The US Army did this because they saw von Brauns
celebrity status as a useful promotional and recruiting tool (Stafford). In the movie he was
poitiayeu as a scientist that only wanteu to builu iockets, anu hau no ieal Nazi political ties.
Bowevei, the geneial public ieaction to the movie in Ameiica was that it was unciitical. The movie
also uiu not ieceive goou ieviews fiom Biitish ciitics, which is piobably uue to the uamage his
iockets hau causeu (Staffoiu). In 2uu2 a uocumentaiy was maue foi ueiman television about von
Braun entitled Rocket Man for War and Peace. It showeu how Nazi scientists, especially von
Biaun, hau helpeu Ameiica aftei the fall of ueimany in Woilu Wai II anu how he was able to
accomplish gieat things while woiking foi the 0niteu States, such as helping the 0S win the space
iace. By the 21st centuiy, uocumentaiies like this show that the public opinion of von Biaun in
ueimany hau come moie into alignment with the view of the movie I Reach for the Stars almost
Su yeais eailiei.
E& T)(+4 T"( !!R QO T"( *=;0 ."@"#

Despite the fact that she was militarily finished, Japans leaders were going to fight right on.
To not lose national face was moie impoitant than hunuieus anu hunuieus of thousanus of lives.
And the people concurred, in silence, without protest (Jones 242). They did this because not
suiienueiing was a ueeply engiaineu aspect of theii cultuie (}ones 242). Inteicepteu }apanese
messages also inuicateu that the }apanese believeu they coulu fight the Allieu invasion foices long
enough to bieak Ameiican moiale anu negotiate a moie favoiable outcome than an unconuitional
suiienuei (Fiank). Nilitaiy analysts gave vaiieu estimates of casualties in the piojecteu invasion.
The casualty estimates iangeu as high as 1.7-4 million Ameiican casualties anu S-1u million
**

}apanese casualties in a iepoit by William Shockley foi the Secietaiy of Wai (Fiank S4u). With the
use of the atomic bomb, a weapon that was suie to cause untolu anu inuisciiminate uamage, they
coulu save many moie lives that woulu have suiely been lost otheiwise. At the time, though, theie
was no guaiantee that if the atomic bomb mission was a success, it woulu necessaiily enu the wai.
The appioval foi ueiman scientists to come to woik foi the 0niteu States was maue by the 0S
Secietaiy of Wai in }une 194S, but not announceu to the Ameiican public until 0ctobei 194S
(Bungan). As he was the Secietaiy of Wai, he woulu have also known about the then highly seciet
0S atomic bomb pioject, anu that it was not guaianteeu the atomic bomb woulu enu the wai.
Because of this engineeis like von Biaun, with knowleuge that coulu be immeuiately useu to builu
weapons that coulu help in this event, weie absolutely necessaiy. Also, those in chaige of
0peiation 0veicast weie of the geneial opinion that the coveiing-up of a ielatively small gioup of
ueiman scientists was justifieu when compaieu to the millions of Ameiican lives that woulu be
saveu. Theie was also some question as to whethei oi not the atomic bomb woulu woik, as it was
not tested until July 16, 1945 a month after von Brauns hiring by the US was approved. When the
atom bombs weie eventually uioppeu anu the wai enueu, the piogiam which was alieauy in place
to use the Nazi scientists continueu unuei the now-imminent Soviet thieat.

G& ')+4 T"(

Aftei the wai, both the 0niteu States anu the 0SSR staiteu piogiams foi iocket ieseaich baseu
on acquiieu ueiman uesigns. Weinhei von Biaun anu his team hau cieateu the Reustone Rocket by
the 19Sus which was the fiist iocket to launch a live nucleai bomb in tests. This, as well the powei
vacuum cieateu in Euiope, the uevelopment of the atomic waiheau by fiist the 0niteu States anu
then the 0SSR, the expansion of the spheies of influence of both the 0niteu States anu the 0SSR anu
a giowing lack of tiust weie contiibuting factois which piecipitateu a colu wai between the 0niteu
*%

States anu the 0SSR. The latei uevelopment of inteicontinental ballistic missiles (ICBNs) in 19S9 by
both siues fuithei heighteneu the tension of the Colu Wai. The 0niteu States ICBN uesign also
stemmed from von Brauns A9/A10 rocket, which he had designed earlier in his career, when he
woikeu foi the Nazis. Without von Biauns help, the United States may not have been able to create
the iockets anu ICBNs which weie stockpileu uuiing the Colu Wai as quickly as they uiu, anu it
coulu have enueu veiy uiffeiently.
U& QO O@"<, 2"<,

In the 1950s the United States Army and later NASA began an extensive effoit to sell the
Ameiican public on space flight. In 19SS von Biaun woikeu with Walt Bisney as a technical uiiectoi
foi thiee television shows: "Man in Space", "Man and the Moon" and "Mars and Beyond. Be also
wiote seveial aiticles and books popularizing his ideas on space travel such as Project MARS: A
Technical Tale, First Men to the Moon, and Man Will Conquer Space Soon. In these shows anu
aiticles von Biaun helpeu sell the Ameiican public on space flight. Thus it was thiough the
populaiization of space flight that he was also solu to the Ameiican public.
The 0S hau establisheu a sounuing iockets (atmospheiic iockets) naval ieseaich centei in
Becembei 194S, but this piogiam was shelved when the Armys V-2s became available. Latei,
uuiing the space iace, the 0S chose to mouify theii sounuing iocket technology iathei than mouify
theii militaiy iockets. Thus pioject vanguaiu was establisheu in Septembei 19SS. Bowevei the
vanguaiu iockets it piouuceu pioveu unieliable. Buiing this time the aimy was tuineu uown
iepeateuly in theii iequests to use the }uno-1 caiiiei vehicle that von Biaun anu his team of
Redstone rocket scientists had designed. With the launch of the USSRs Sputnik, von Brauns teams
caiiiei vehicle (}uno-1) was finally given the go-aheau, anu on }anuaiy 19S8 it launcheu the 0niteu
States' fiist satellite.
*)

Initially, Piesiuent Eisenhowei ueclaieu that the 0niteu States was not in a space iace with the
0SSR. Aftei the launch of Sputnik on 0ctobei 4
th
19S7 the 0S officially enteieu the space iace uue
piimaiily to the effoit of Senatoi Lynuon B. }ohnson (Wassei). In a speech to the 0S Senate, he useu
the geneial feai the iecent launch of Sputnik causeu anu expounueu upon the potentially
uevastating technological poweis the winnei of the space iace woulu have. If the 0S continueu not
to make the contiol of space a national piioiity, then the 0SSR woulu most ceitainly possess such
technology befoie them. Theiefoie, the 0S coulu not affoiu to continue to make theii uecisions fiom
the stanupoint of theii buuget alone. Thus, the 0S public was swayeu to suppoit the space iace
thiough feai initially causeu by the launch of Sputnik, anu feai of what might happen if the 0SSR
won the space iace.
Weinhei von Biaun also pioveu to be inuispensible uuiing the space iace as it alloweu him to
finally put all of his effoit uiiectly into the uevelopment of space tiavel technology, anu he pioveu
to be a wholeheaiteu willing paiticipant in the enueavoi. Both countiies also saw the space iace as
necessaiy foi national secuiity anu as a way to piove theii technological anu iueological
supeiioiity. Theii victoiy oi uefeat in this technological aims iace woulu have gieat effect on each
countrys power and sphere of influence. However with the launch of Sputnik by the USSR two
yeais aftei the unofficial beginning of the space iace, many Ameiicans believeu the 0SSR to be
ahead, and Wernher von Braun and his German teams experiences weie finally put to use in
cieating an oibital launch vehicle. Weinhei von Biaun anu his team launcheu the Exploiei I
satellite a yeai latei using a mouifieu Reustone Rocket calleu the }upitei-C, signaling the biith of the
Ameiican space piogiam. The team hau actually launcheu a }upitei-C iocket befoie the Soviet
Sputnik, but only to test nose-cone ieentiy technology. Latei von Biaun was appointeu uiiectoi of
the Naishall Space Flight Centei of the newly cieateu NASA in 196u wheie he again pioveu his
value to the 0niteu States. The fiist majoi piogiam he uiiecteu was the uevelopment of Satuin
Rockets to caiiy heavy payloaus into space. The Apollo piogiam was latei cieateu utilizing the
*+

Satuin Rockets (though von Biaun hau no uiiect involvement in the Apollo piogiam) anu finally, in
1969, the 0S beat the 0SSR in the last anu most impoitant event of the space iace, as Ameiican
astionauts lanueu on the Noon.
The fiist moon lanuing was, among othei things, an impoitant public ielations victoiy foi the
0S. Buiing the Space Race theie was a belief that whoevei hau the auvantage in space woulu
contiol space anu thus contiol the eaith. The 0niteu States lanuing on the moon fiist, then, signaleu
the enu of the space iace, anu that the 0S hau gaineu the auvantage in space. It also was a testimony
to the new technologies that weie cieateu anu honeu foi the puipose of senuing a team of men to
the moon. As von Biaun helpeu the 0S gain this auvantage, anu he helpeu hone ICBN technology
thiough iocket piopulsion uiscoveiies gaineu uuiing the space piogiam, it can ieauily be seen how
von Biaun pioveu to be an asset uuiing both the space iace, anu the colu wai.
The ieciuitment of von Biaun by the 0niteu States uespite his Nazi Paity affiliation coulu be
aigueu by many to constitute a moial failuie. Bowevei, it shoulu be taken into account that if Woilu
Wai II has shown anything, it is that the countiy with the most auvanceu technology has a
significant auvantage in wai. Bau ueimany manageu to peifect anu use the many technologies they
hau in the woiks a bit eailiei, it is conceivable they might have won the wai, oi at least foiceu an
enuing that uiu not involve unconuitional suiienuei. Also, as pieviously uiscusseu, eviuence
suggests that von Biaun was not an aiuent Nazi, but iathei an engineei who caieu foi nothing else
but builuing a iocket that coulu achieve space flight at all costs. Though this is still veiy weak moial
footing, von Brauns further contributions to the US during the Cold War and space race were
inuispensible. The 0S winning the space iace biought us some sense of peace of minu as it pioveu
the 0S hau gaineu a significant technological auvantage ovei the 0SSR which acteu as a ueteiient to
wai. Bau the 0SSR lanueu on the moon fiist it woulu have shown that they hau a technological
auvantage anu the colu wai coulu possibly have enueu moie in theii favoi. It is conceivable that if
*(

the 0S hau not ieciuiteu von Biaun thiough 0peiation 0veicast, then the histoiy of the 0S coulu be
veiy uiffeient fiom what we know touay. Though the ieciuitment of ueiman scientists anu the
hiuing of theii Nazi affiliateu pasts was aiguably a moial failuie of the 0S to, it was one which most
involveu woulu suiely have lookeu at as a haiu baigain that paiu off.
*&

K& ')#<+1/=)#

Wernher von Brauns life was one ueuicateu wholeheaiteuly to the goal of putting men in space
anu on the moon. To achieve this goal, he maue many moially questionable uecisions which have
been uiscusseu evei since. Be caieu only about ueveloping iockets foi space tiavel, paying no
attention to politics, accepting funuing fiom whichevei militaiy was willing to suppoit his woik,
anu, ultimately, not caiing how his ieseaich was useu. As satiiist Tom Lehiei famously, yet
accuiately, said, in his song about von Braun, Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come
down? Nuch of von Biaun's eaily auult life was spent builuing iockets foi the Nazis, culminating
in the v-2 piogiam, which causeu moie ueaths to slave laboieis builuing them than it uiu to enemy
soluieis anu civilians. In staik contiast, his post-wai life was spent managing the manneu space
flight piogiam at NASA, iesulting in one of the most lauueu technological achievements in human
histoiy, when the Apollo piogiam successfully lanueu men on the moon. Bowevei, uespite this
uichotomy anu woik by many authois to paint von Biaun as eithei a Nazi anu full paiticipant in the
hoiiois of the Bolocaust oi as the pation saint of the Ameiican space piogiam, von Biaun's life was
not so simple as to allow such black anu white chaiacteiizations.
Weinhei von Biaun was iaiseu as a patiiotic Piussian, fiom a cultuie of militaiy anu political
seivice, anu his ieauy acceptance of militaiy funuing foi his ieseaich was theiefoie a natuial
outgiowth of his upbiinging. Bis uevelopment of the v-2 anu its use against Biitish, Fiench anu
Belgian cities was in anu of itself no moie immoial than the actions of many engineeis, of vaiious
nations, who uevelopeu weapons which weie useu in the wai. The Biitish Lancastei bombeis
which uioppeu incenuiaiies on Biesuen, ueimany, in the infamous fiiebombing of Febiuaiy, 194S,
killeu magnituues moie civilians in that single bombing than the v-2 uiu uuiing the wai, even
factoiing in slave laboi ueaths. Though the taigeting of civilians uuiing times of wai is ceitainly
*,

aiguably immoial, the v-2 piogiam, on its face, was no less moial, anu of fai lowei magnituue in its
effects, than many similai actions by the allies. What is fai less easily uefenueu is von Biaun's
involvement in the use of slave laboi. This complicity in the Bolocaust, no mattei how supeificially
he himself may have been involveu, was a black maik which woulu mai his caieei, no mattei the
heights to which it might latei iise. Any moial uiscussion of von Biaun, theiefoie, must centei on
this issue. In the enu, though, the eviuence suggests that his woist ciime was to be so uiiven by his
passion foi space flight that he ignoieu anu accepteu the actions of otheis aiounu him. Though von
Biaun was haiuly the only ueiman to tuin a blinu eye to the atiocities of the Nazis, he was face-to-
face with slave laboieis on a uaily basis. Though he expiesseu iegiet foi his inaction late in life, he
maue no seiious attempt at the time to stop the use of slaves to builu his iockets. It is unceitain
whethei it was uue to the abuse of slave laboi oi simply the uisappeaiing hopes of the ueiman
militaiy effoit, but late in the wai, von Biaun was enough at ouus with the Nazi Paity to be
outspoken about his ciiticisms of the iegime, iesulting in his impiisonment by the uestapo. This
act, in tuin, ultimately causeu him to uefect to the auvancing Ameiicans, an act which woulu set the
stage foi the next peiiou in his life.
From the beginning, von Brauns new life in the US revolved around bringing the technical
expeitise of his Peenemnue gioup to beai on the US militarys rocket program. Largely through
his and his groups efforts, the US recovered from early losses in the space iace to eventually lanu
men on the moon, an event still seen as one of the uefining moments foi humanity. Cowoikeis in
NASA have consistently claimeu that this woulu not have happeneu without von Biaun at the helm
of the Satuin v piogiam. In oiuei to achieve these technological victoiies, though, the 0niteu States
goveinment fiist hau to make the uecision to facilitate the acquiiing of von Biaun anu his gioup. In
the piocess, the Nazi pasts of those involveu weie laigely ignoieu anu, in some cases, actively
iewiitten. The seconu component of any ethical uiscussion of the life of von Biaun, then, is the
%'

moial choice faceu by the 0niteu States when balancing the pasts anu actions of a gioup of people
which it saw as a potential technical golu mine.
At the time von Biaun anu his gioup weie acquiieu by the 0S, the wai against }apan was still
iaging, anu piojecteu to go on foi a peiiou of yeais. The atomic bomb was still a wilu caiu anu any
auvantage which coulu be gaineu fiom using the iocket expeitise of the ueiman engineeis was
weigheu with this context in minu. After Japans surrender in 1945, the priorities changed
somewhat, anu the focus shifteu to the 0SSR anu the thieat they poseu. The Soviets weie all too
happy to snatch up any ueiman technology anu peisonnel they came acioss as they moveu west
towaius Beilin and the US risked falling behind if they didnt seize any advantage presented to
them. The v-2 programs success showed the potential for rockets to target enemy cities out of
iange of aitilleiy, without the massive iisk to peisonnel a bombing soitie involveu. Combineu with
the Manhattan Projects success with the atomic bomb anu the soviets following suit with theii own
bomb, the potential foi ICBNs as the uefining weapon of the colu wai was cleai. The auvances
which von Biaun hau the potential to achieve with his iocketiy ieseaich weie, theiefoie, uiiectly
applicable to the uevelopment of these ICBNs.
In auuition to puie militaiy auvantage, the 0S eventually saw a massive potential foi a
morale and PR victory in von Brauns work. The prestige gained by the Soviet Union after they,
fiist, successfully inseiteu Sputnik into eaith oibit anu then sent Yuii uagaiin into space anu back
was humbling foi the 0niteu States anu its westein allies. Being the fiist to senu a man to the moon
and back was seen as Americas chance to reverse the effects of these losses. As the Colu Wai
uevelopeu into a tiue nucleai stanu-off, uiiect militaiy confiontation became impossible. The
competition between the two supeipoweis was, theiefoie, focuseu onto pioxy wais like vietnam
anu Afghanistan, cultuial competitions such as the 0lympics, anu the technological Space Race. In
this context, the success of the Satuin v anu Apollo piogiams gaineu significant national
%!

importance. Though von Brauns past was not completely ignored, the US government, in this
context, hau an inteiest in not focusing too long on any potential blemishes they might finu in his
caieei foi the Nazis.
0ltimately, Weinhei von Brauns greatest moral failing was his focus, to the exclusion of all else,
on achieving manneu spaceflight. Bis entiie life was spent stiuggling to attain this goal, anu hau he
been boin in Ameiica oi Biitain, a uiscussion of his life woulu likely be fai moie one-uimensional.
As it happeneu, he giew up in a ueimany that was in inteibellum tuimoil, anu began his iocketiy in
eainest at the time of the iise of Auolph Bitlei anu the Nazis. Bis complete uisinteiest in politics
anu events in the woilu aiounu him alloweu him to be willingly pulleu into the atiocities of the SS
anu complicity, on some level, in the ueaths of 12,uuu slave laboieis. Be may not have been the one
uiiectly iesponsible foi theii ueaths, but his lack of action in the face of the Bolocaust is a lesson to
all engineeis anu scientists. No scientific oi engineeiing woik takes place in a vacuum, anu
although von Brauns situation is an extieme example, it is still illustiative of the iesponsibility of
all engineeis to not only ensuie theii woik itself is ethical, but that the context of theii woik is
ethical. Wernher von Brauns desire to put men into space was in and of itself a worthy goal, but by
integiating himself into the Nazi establishment in oiuei to achieve it, he alloweu his woik, oveiall,
to become tainteu.





%$

H@@,#4=VW K=,*/ ): T,(#0,( P)# >("1#

5& N=<0",+ .& I,1:,+4

Nichael }. Neufelu's @5, 6/&*,7 !/#&1#/ 58 9:&;#< =,>",##/ 58 ?&/ is a compiehensive
biogiaphy, which makes an eainest effoit to be a faii, unbiaseu account of von Biaun's life. The
chaii of the Space Bistoiy Bivision of the Smithsonian's National Aii anu Space Nuseum, Neufelu
also wiote an eailiei, similaily balanceu book on Peenemnue, specifically, entitleu AB# %5;'#( &,+
(B# %#";B7 -##,#1C,+# &,+ (B# D51",> 58 (B# 6&.."E("; F"EE".#G Though AB# %5;'#( &,+ (B# %#";B is
ceitainly full of peitinent infoimation to oui uiscussion, this infoimation is iepeateu in !/#&1#/ 58
9:&;#, anu the latei woik is theiefoie useu in oui analysis. Neufelu's woik is heavily iefeienceu in
this IQP, as it is, in oui opinion, the most balanceu, unbiaseu, anu at the same time compiehensive,
woik on the topic of von Biaun anu the moiality of his life's woik that cuiiently exists. Wheie
many othei authois, as we shall uiscuss, wiite theii biogiaphies with an agenua, eithei foi oi
against von Biaun, Neufelu's only agenua seems to have been to uocument the tiuth. This is not to
say that theie aie not inheient biases in many of the souices he useu, but foi the most pait these
aie cleaily stateu. Wheie othei authois uwell on photos of von Biaun in full Nazi unifoim, foi
example, anu otheis ignoie them altogethei, Neufelu uiscusses not just the photos, but the context
aiounu them, veiy iaiely speculating fuithei than the eviuence allows. Bue to the quality of the
woik both as an exhaustive souice on von Biaun anu as an unbiaseu account of his uegiee of
involvement in the Nazi wai ciimes of Woilu Wai II, ?#/,B#/ H5, 6/&*,7 !/#&1#/ 58 9:&;#<
=,>",##/ 58 ?&/ is oui piimaiy souice in this IQP. (Neufelu)

%*

6& M()LP)# >("1# H1;0)(/

The biogiaphies of von Biaun which can be saiu to be biaseu foi von Biaun aie laigely
wiitten by people who woikeu with him in his time at NASA. The foiemost of these authois aie
Einst Stuhlingei anu Fieueiick 0iuway, both of whom woikeu with von Biaun. Stuhlingei was a
membei of the Peenemnue gioup unuei von Biaun, anu was biought to the 0S along with the iest
of the team as pait of 0peiation 0veicast. As such, he was a cowoikei of von Biaun's foi
appioximately SS yeais, both in ueimany anu the 0S, anu any moial failings von Biaun may have
hau woulu have been, at least in pait, shaieu by Stuhlingei. 0iuway, on the othei hanu, was an
Ameiican scientist, who woikeu foi NASA at the Reustone Aisenal, anu was a cowoikei of von
Biaun's uuiing appioximately 2S yeais of his Ameiican woik. Both authois piouuceu woiks on
von Biaun, incluuing his woik in Woilu Wai II foi the Nazis. Both also laigely leave von Biaun out
of the pictuie foi any uiscussion of slave laboi anu wai ciimes. In 0iuway's AB# %5;'#( A#&1, the
use of slave laboi is uiscusseu, though not to the extent it is analyzeu in less positively biaseu
woiks, but the blame foi it is placeu wholly in the hanus of the SS, stiessing that the engineeis anu
scientists weie not even peimitteu to talk to the laboieis without SS supeivision. Though AB#
%5;'#( A#&1 coveieu the entiie Peenemnue gioup, as well as many NASA woikeis who weie not
pait of Peenemnue, it is inteiesting to note that von Biaun himself uoes not come up in the
uiscussion of slave laboi at all (0iuway 7u-71).
A latei book, specifically about von Biaun, was wiitten by 0iuway anu Stuhlingei togethei,
entitleu ?#/,B#/ H5, 6/&*,< D/*E&+#/ 85/ 9:&;#7 I 6"5>/&:B";&. F#15"/#. This woik again uiscusses
the use of slave laboi. In this case, it uoes uiscuss von Biaun's iole, but claims he knew little of what
was ieally going on, anu in fact maue effoits to make life bettei foi at least one piisonei, Chailes
Sauion. Some of the claims maue in this woik aie ciiticizeu by Neufelu in !/#&1#/ 58 9:&;# foi
being contiaiy to known eviuence of von Biaun's knowleuge of the concentiation camp laboi, anu
%%

that attempts to assist Sauion actually iesulteu in ueepening von Biaun's complicity in the abuse of
otheis (Stuhlingei & 0iuway, Neufelu 179).
In auuition to the biogiaphies by those who actually woikeu with von Biaun at NASA, othei
authois have piouuceu pio-von Biaun woiks without being uiiectly involveu in his space ieseaich.
The fiist of these authois we will uiscuss is Bob Waiu, a iepoitei foi the Buntsville Times in
Buntsville, AL, who wiote the biogiaphy !/G 9:&;#7 AB# J"8# 58 ?#/,B#/ H5, 6/&*,G Though not a
NASA employee oi a cowoikei of von Biaun's, Waiu nonetheless sees von Biaun thiough the eyes
of an Ameiican NASA enthusiast. !/G 9:&;# is laigely unciitical of von Biaun's past, anu a common
ciiticism of his woik is that it uiaws heavily fiom letteis anu memoiies of von Biaun's fiienus anu
cowoikeis (Publisheis Weekly ieview). Nuch of the bias in !/G 9:&;# inueeu comes fiom the fact
that Waiu laigely uses biaseu souices anu accepts them unciitically. The iesult is much like the
woik of Stuhlingei anu 0iuway: glowing piaise of von Biaun anu his NASA accomplishments with
little uiscussion of his involvement in the use of slave laboi oi his Nazi membeiship.
E& H#;=LP)# >("1# H1;0)(/

In contiast to the woiks of those involveu with NASA anu Peenemnue anu theii unciitical
piaise, some authois can be uesciibeu as vehemently anti-von Biaun. Foiemost of these authois
aie Bennis Piszkiewicz anu Wayne Biuule. Piszkiewicz has authoieu two books, AB# 2&)"
%5;'#(##/E7 !/#&1E 58 9:&;# &,+ D/"1#E 58 ?&/ anu ?#/,B#/ H5, 6/&*,7 AB# F&, ?B5 95.+ (B#
F55,, while Biuule wiote the iecent !&/' 9"+# 58 (B# F55,7 ?#/,B#/ H5, 6/&*,< (B# AB"/+ %#";B< &,+
(B# 9:&;# %&;#. Both authois aie open in theii puipose: to show that Weinhei von Biaun was
actively involveu in Nazi wai ciimes anu the holocaust, anu that he shoulu have been tiieu anu
convicteu foi these activities along with many othei Nazis. No attempt at balance is maue by these
authois, which taints what aie often otheiwise valiu aiguments, many of which aie uiscusseu, with
%)

context, by Neufelu. Foi example, uocuments fiom the time show that von Biaun visiteu the camps,
anu was involveu in piisonei selection, to some uegiee. Wheie Neufelu simply uiscusses what we
actually know about these souices anu von Biaun's activities, Piszkiewicz anu Biuule use them as a
staiting point foi speculation on unsubstantiateu, much ueepei involvement in the holocaust.
These authois uiscuss many of the same iueas we piesent in this IQP, but unfoitunately, theii open
bias ienueis them laigely unusable in a scholaily uiscussion. Theii ieal puipose, then, is as
examples of an impoitant public view of von Biaun, which is laigely in uiiect iesponse to the
unciitical stance of NASA, the 0S goveinment, anu many of the pieviously uiscusseu authois. To
many, his woik with the Nazis, his Nazi anu SS membeiship, anu his knowleuge (the uegiee of
which is uebateu) of slave laboi in anu of themselves aie enough to conuemn him. The goveinment
anu NASA's subsequent unueiplaying of this histoiy aie theiefoie seen a sinistei covei-up
(Pizkiewicz, Biuule) (not exactly suie how to iefeience these, since I uiscusseu them at a top level,
not uetails on specific pages).
G& %=+A "#4 3,+,P=/=)#

As mentioned above, in the 1959 movie I Aim for the Stars or Ich Greife nach den
Sternen, Von Braun is portrayed as a scientist who only wanted to build rockets and that he hau no
ieal political ties to the Nazi goveinment. It is cleai when watching it, that it is a biaseu film that is
in favoi of von Biaun. This is piobably uue in no small pait to the fact that von Biaun was involveu
heavily with the making of the movie. The uiiectoi of the film also makes it cleai that, uuiing the
making of the movie, he wanteu to make it moie ciitical but was unable to anu was not happy with
how it tuineu out (Bbner Wernher von Braun: Rocket Man for War and Peace).The movie was
also geneially vieweu as unciitical anu was suspecteu of being whitewasheu (Bbner Wernher von
Braun: Rocket Man for War and Peace).
%+

The documentary entitled Rocket Man for War and Peace, glorified von Braun and
expounueu upon all his accomplishments. It biiefly mentioneu his use of slave laboi to builu the v-2
iockets, howevei that was not the uocumentaiies focus anu only consisteu of the fiist thiiu of the
uocumentaiy. It also uiu not appeai to be veiy ciitical iegaiuing his moial iesponsibilities foi the
atiocities the slave laboieis suffeieu builuing his iockets uuiing Woilu Wai II. The uocumentaiies
main focus was what he accomplisheu aftei he was biought to Ameiica, anu how he was
instiumental in getting a manneu mission to the moon. The most ciitical pait of the movie was
when Thompson, J. L. the director of Ich Greife nach den Sternen, talked about his experience
with von Biaun. Be talkeu about how he always got into aiguments with von Biaun, because he
woulu state that he was not a Nazi anu yet he hau joineu the Nazi paity (Bbner Wernher von
Braun: Rocket Man for War and Peace).
The song Wernher Von Braun by Tom Lehrer is a satirical song that is biased against von
Braun. In the song he describes von Braun as apolitical, that he didnt care wheie his iockets went
down as long as they went up, and that he didnt care if you called him a Nazi. The song was clearly
meant to play on the iesentment people felt about having ueiman scientists such as von Biaun
woiking foi the 0niteu States. The song goes on to sarcastically say that we should be grateful, like
the widows and cripples in old London town who owe their large pensions to Wernher von Braun,
(Lehiei)
The NASA NSFC Bistoiy 0ffice website was cleaily biaseu in favoi of von Biaun. The
biogiaphy on von Biaun appeais to gloss ovei the fact that he was a Nazi anu that he useu a slave
laboi foice to help builu his iockets. The aiticle mainly focuses on his builuing of the iockets anu
how his v-2 iockets weie the pieuecessois of the iockets useu in the 0niteu States space piogiam.
The book Project Paperclip, by Clarence Lasby proved to be an unbiased source
conceining the impoitation of von Biaun anu othei ueiman scientists. The authoi iemaineu
%(

objective when he talkeu about how the scientists came to woik foi the 0niteu States anu why. The
authoi also makes no mention oi implication of whethei oi not the biinging ovei of ueiman
scientists was ultimately a bau oi goou iuea. Insteau he just suggests that only the futuie will piove
this to be one way oi the othei.

The Wikipedia article: Wernher von Braun, was relatively critical. It talked about his time
as a Nazi anu gave accounts of both siues of the stoiy, of whethei he was an aiuent Nazi oi just an
apolitical oppoitunist. It also talks about his eaily life piioi to him becoming a Nazi, anu his life in
Ameiica aftei he suiienueieu to the Ameiican foices at the enu of Woilu Wai II. The web aiticle
goes on to talk about his accomplishments at NASA, anu his contiibutions to the Ameiican iocket
piogiam.


%&

>=9+=)?("@0-

Albeit Speei (last mouifieu 1S Becembei 2u11) in ?"'":#+"&
http:en.wikipeuia.oigwikiAlbeit_Speei
Atomic Bombings of Biioshima anu Nagasaki (last mouifieu 4 Becembei 2u11) in ?"'":#+"&
http:en.wikipeuia.oigwikiAtomic_bombings_of_Biioshima_anu_Nagasaki
Biuule, Wayne (2uu9). AB# !&/' 9"+# 58 (B# F55,G
New Yoik: W. W. Noiton.
Bombing of Biesuen in Woilu Wai II (last mouifieu 6 Becembei 2u11) in ?"'":#+"&
http:en.wikipeuia.oigwikiFiie_bombing_of_Biesuen
Bungan, T. (n.u.). @K%LDM=AGDLF. Fiom http:www.v2iocket.comstaitchapteispapeiclip.gif
Fiank, Richaiu B. (1999). !53,8&..7 (B# #,+ 58 (B# "1:#/"&. N&:&,#E# #1:"/#. New Yoik: Ranuom
Bouse.
Fiank, Richaiu B. (August 8, 2uuS). Why Tiuman uioppeu the bomb. AB# F&>&)",#, v0L.1u, N0.44
The uallup Poll #S86. (2u11). Fiom AB# O&..*: L/>&,")&("5,
http:biain.gallup.comuocumentsquestionnaiie.aspx.ST0BY=AIP0uS86
Bbnei, Naitin (Biiectoi). (2uu2). ?#/,B#/ H5, 6/&*,7 %5;'#( F&, 85/ ?&/ &,+ -#&;#
|Television Bocumentaiyj. ueimany: Cattle C. Stuuios, Piouuction of NBR
Feinsehen

%,

ICBN. (last mouifieu 29 Novembei 2u11). Retiieveu Becembei 8, 2u11, fiom ?"'":#+"&
http:en.wikipeuia.oigwikiICBN
}ones, }ames (197S). ??PPG New Yoik: uiosset & Bunlap.

Kowalski, Robin anu Westen, Biew (2u11). -EQ;B5.5>Q< R(B #+G
Boboken, N}: }ohn Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Lang, Baniel. (19S1, Apiil 21). A Repoitei at Laige: A Romantic 0ige. AB# 2#3 45/'#/<
Pages 7S-9S.
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