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V 2 Rockets Peace Boon, Says Braun

""THIRTY - FOUR - YEAR - OLD \ Dr. Werner von Braun told the whole story of how he had invented the V 2 rockets which bombarded Britain. He told, too —and at times he laughed—of a strange visit to London which he made m 1934 ot how the German General Staff had been trying for years to perfect; rocket projectiles for years before Hitler came into power, and of his own two meetings with the Fuehrer. I found von Braun in the whitewalled bed-sitting-room of General Dornberger, head of the rocket research section, writes Gordon Young, in the "Daily Express. It is a room in a former museum in the little mountain town oi Garmisch, Partenkirchen, in Bavaria, to which rocket scientists from Peenemunde were moved during the Allied advance into Germany. Here they carried on their Y2 experiments right us to the time of the entry of the American Army.

Would They Work? From the start of our talk he made it clear that his one passion in life was the success of his rockets. It was immaterial to him whether they were fired at the moon or on littie homes in London so long as he could prove his invention worked efficiently. He feels no guilt at all. "I first became interested in the immense future possibilities of rocket projectiles while I was a student at the Institute of Technology in Berlin." said von Braun. "I was only 17 at the time, but I carried on my researches while a student subsequently at Zurich, and while I was taking my doctorate at Berlin University. I always thought, and still believe, that rockets will be the future means of high-speed travel." Here General Dornberger interposed excitedly: "Yes. that's right —why* you may soon be able to develop a rocket plane that will travel at well over 2000 miles an hour and take you, say, from Europe to America in an hour or so." "Yes." nodded von Braun. In 1932 They Had Plans "Anyway, it was along those lines that I began working in 1930, after I left university, with a little group of engineers in Berlin. But. after two years of experiments we began to come to the end of our money, and we had to find someone to support us. "Then I realised that our rockets had great military potentialities, too, and so I appealed to the Ordnance Department of Germany's War Office, and saw General Dornberger here, who was already at that time —1932—in charge of the rocket experimental department."

Von Braun explained that Dornberger had been up to that time concentrating on rockets propelled with gunpowder. "I persuaded him that liquid fuel- was what was needed," said von Braun. "while powder rockets were only suitable for field artillery. The general agreed."

Then he happily continued: "The support I got frdin the War Ministry was the first big step towards success. We decided to concentrate first of all on basic questions, and we built little rockets of many types for study purposes.

"In 1934, the year after Hitler came to power, we carried out the first secret test flights on Borkum Island, on the East Frisian coast, sending rockets into the North Sea. Later we used an experimental artillery range near Berlin. At that time the name used for the missiles was Aggregate No. 2."

"Why that nama? I asked. "It. was just a bit of camouflage," said Braun laughfng, "because it seemed better not to talk openly about rockets just then." A long series of experiments followed, and finally, by 1942, a rocket of the type that became V 2 was perfected. Ordered Mass Production "When he were certain of success," continued Braun, "I felt it safe to go and see Hitler myself. So I visited him at his headquarters in East Prussia, and gave him a private showing of a film I had made to demonstrate what the rocket would do. Hitler was astonished. He congratulated us enthusiastically and ordered mass production of the rocket."

So, remembering the smashed homes of southern England, I asked von Braun, "You were never in Britain yourself, of course?"

"Why, certainly I was," he replied. "I had a very nice trip to London in 1934, just after the experiments on Borkum Island. I did all the regular things, you know. I saw the British Museum and the Houses of Parliament, and lunched at the Savoy Hotel. Oh, yes, I had a fine time in London."

"But didn't you feel a bit odd about trying to smash* it up afterwards?" I asked him.

Von Braun laughted heartily again. "Well, you know how it is," he said, genially, "you have to suppress your feelings a bit in wartime."

Agents Reported Results "Did you have any idea where the V2s were actually falling?" I asked. "Yes," said von Braun, "we were able to keep track of about 70 per cent of our rockets, partly (from reports from our agents in' Britain and nartly by our radio devices."

"Then you knew that many fell very wide of their targets?" Von Braun seemed positively apologetic as he answered: I'm afraid some of them were. But you must understand that every tiny mechanical fault—even a loose electrical connection—can make a terrific difference. "Besides, our troops in Holland were riot using our latest and best types. We reserved those for Antwerp, a smaller target." Von Braun said the maximum range of the rockets used on London was about 225 miles, while that of the best experimental types was about 340 miles. * Two types of V 2 were made, one of which was radio-directed, and one which was not. "You see," he said, with a gay smile, "we were afraid the radio type might be subject to radio interference, and we naturally wanted to make quite sure of success." Von Braun said that two factors prevented the V2s achieving decisive results on London. 1 The R.A.F.'s attacks on lines of communication. 2 The fact that the rate of the manufacture of the rockets was not sufficiently speeded up before the war ended. "And now," said Dorriberger, "what we hope is that the world will use our experiences of the last 15 years for rocket development in travel and other ways."

"That's right," said von Braun eagerly, "our rockets are really a' great boon for peace if you only look at it the right way."

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Bibliographic details

V2 Rockets Peace Boon, Says Braun, Auckland Star, Volume LXXVI, Issue 177, 28 July 1945

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V2 Rockets Peace Boon, Says Braun Auckland Star, Volume LXXVI, Issue 177, 28 July 1945

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