Prof. Dr. Herman Oberth and Dr. Wernher von Braun



Part I: Dr. von Braun
    In 1956, when I first met Dr. von Braun and Dr. Stuhlinger at an American Rocket Society
Meeting in Cleveland, I pictured the two of them and maybe a secretary and an
assistant. Imagine my surprise when I learned that there were 5,000 people more
or less working for von Braun at the Army Ballistic Missile Agency. In 1946, in
"Operation Paperclip", Major General Holger Toftoy brought 200 Peenemünde
engineers (but few or no technicians) to Ft. Bliss, Texas, along with captured
V2's and related equipment. They worked at Ft. Bliss for four years until the
Army transferred everyone to the Army Rocket and Guided Missile Agency at
Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, from which the Army Ballistic Missile Agency was later
created. When von Braun and his "team" would go to the Cape to test a Redstone
missile, they would sit around a fire on the beach after the launch and talk
about what they needed to launch a satellite, and to build a springboard to
space. They built the Explorer satellite but then were forbidden to launch it
while Eisenhower awarded the job to the Naval Research Laboratory for the
International Geophysical Year 1956-1957. It took total and disastrous failures
of the Vanguard launches, and the launch of Sputnik on October 4th, 1957, to
break the political stranglehold, and authorize von Braun, et al, to launch
Explorer in January, 1958. Dr. Stuhlinger pushed the red button that triggered
the launch.
    Dr. von Braun lived across the creek and up the hill from us. He liked to
walk over in our neighborhood, and I put on presentations for him and received
awards from him a few times. He had an encyclopedic knowledge of the details of
his rocket engines, gyroes, and other equipment, as well as the ability to work
out flight trajectories, etc. He was a Renaissance man. His wife had made him
sign a marriage contract in which he promised that he wouldn't go up in one of
his rockets himself.
    His office was on the ninth floor of the "von Braun Hilton".

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