Braun, Wernher von, 1912-1977

Braun, a trained rocket engineer, served as Minister of Agriculture in Papen’s government. At the age of 25 (1937) he was appointed Technical Director of the German Army’s Rocket Research Center at Peenemunde on the Baltic. Within a year he had produced a self- propelled rocket, the A-4 (a prototype of the V-2), which could carry an explosive warhead eleven miles. Experimentation continued but major development and production of the rockets were hindered, however, when HITLER chose to switch his priorities from rocket research to the Luftwaffe. It was not until 1943 that the V-2 rocket was given the full go-ahead. Variations were tested which could travel more than 200 miles to target and mass production began in earnest. The first V-2 rocket was fired against Britain on 8 September 1944 and in the following few months more than 3600 were ‘deployed’ to the UK and the Allied bases in the Netherlands and Belgium. Although the range of these rockets was more than adequate, they carried too small a warhead to yield the results Hitler had anticipated. Braun surrendered himself, his staff and research to the Americans in 1945. His expertise aided the US in its development of intercontinental ballistic missiles and in its space program.

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