Hermann Oberth, Joint Intelligence Objectives Agency, National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Nazi V-2 Rocket Scientists, Operation Paperclip, President Harry S. Truman, President Thomas Woodrow Wilson, The Rocket Into Planetary Space, Vergeltungswaffen-1 Rocket, Vergeltungswaffen-2 Rocket, Wernher Van Braun

The Competition for the Nazi V-2 Rocket Scientists Amung France, Great Britain, the United States and the Soviet Union

Wernher Von Braun Rocket Experiment In Duetchland
Dr. Wernher Von Braun, second from the right side of the photo, experimenting on rockets with other Germans in the 1930s. Photo Credits: National Aeronautics and Space Administration / Marshall Space Flight Center

In the 1930s, German scientists were the first in the world to build liquid fueled rockets, with the potential to reach the atmosphere of the earth, after their development of the Vergeltungswaffen-1 Rocket.

Hitler commanded that the space program, for the Vergeltungswaffen-1 Rocket (which during the war was also called the Vergeltungswaffen-1 Flying Bomb), be converted to a weapons program, so that the rockets could be used to hit structural targets of adversaries in Europe.  On June 13, 1944 the first Vergeltungswaffen-1 Rocket attacks against London occurred a week after the D-Day landings.

Before, the first rocket attacks against London occurred, a larger ballistic missile was already in development. In October 3, 1942, the Vergeltungswaffen-2 Rocket became the first device to reach space after flying 118 miles.  On September 8, 1944, Vergeltungswaffen-2 Rockets were launched for an attack against Paris.

A V-2 rocket is prepared for launch in Cuxhaven, Germany. 1944.
A 1944 photo of a V-2 rocket on a launchpad in Cuxhaven, Germany. Photo Credit: Rare Historical Photos

After the end of World War II, part of the negotiations between Great Britain, France, the Soviet Union and the United States involved dividing the scientists who had worked on the Vergeltungswaffen-1 and the Vergeltungswaffen-2 rocket programs between each country.  In 1946, President Harry S. Truman’s administration and the Stalin regime in the Soviet Union had a severe deterioration in relations as highlighted by the Miller Center of the University of Virginia.  The “Russia Report” that had been created by Truman’s white house aids, further added to Truman’s determination to counter the expansion of the Soviet Empire.  This deterioration of relations between the Soviet Union and the United Stated, further contributed to the, then deemed, national security necessity of the Joint Intelligence Objectives Agency’s Operation Paperclip.

In the United States, several scientists and Vergeltungswaffen-2 rockets, were taken to the U.S. Army’s White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, to test them for the space program.  Wernher Van Braun, whom was compelled to study rocketry after reading Hermann Oberth’s book The Rocket Into Planetary Space, and other German scientists working for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics that were given new identities under Operation Paperclip, were instrumental in building the Saturn V rocket that took the first humans to the moon.

Doctor Wernher von Braun explains the Saturn Launch System to President John F. Kennedy at Cape Canaveral, Florida on November 16, 1963.
On November 16, 1963, Doctor Wernher von Braun explains the Saturn V Launch System to President John Fitzgerald Kennedy at Cape Canaveral, Florida. Photo Credit: New York Post

Respectively, France, Great Britain and the Soviet Union also had different German scientists, who had worked on the Vergeltungswaffen-1 and the Vergeltungswaffen-2 rocker programs, work on their missile and space programs.

Author’s Note:

The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) was formed after the Naval Appropriations Act, which had a rider creating NACA for the regulation of flight, was signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson in March 3, 1915.  NACA was the predecessor to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and was dissolved October 1, 1958.

Further References:

Behind The Secret Plan to Bring Nazi Scientists to the U.S.

Records of the Secretary of Defense (RG 330)

How Britain Put Nazi’s Top Men to Work

German Legacy in Soviet Rocketry

Operation Paperclip

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