The life of Fort Bliss

Throughout 1946, the Americans reassembled the nucleus of von Braun's old team at Fort Bliss. The documentation spirited away from Nordhausen arrived, and dozens of captured missiles and tonnes of parts from the Mittelwerk factories were shipped

COLLIER'S MAGAZINE

Between 1952 and 1954, von Broun, Willy Ley, and Hans Haber (an expert on the effects of space travel on the human body) explained their vision for the future of space exploration in the pages of Collier's magazine.

ROCKET SALESMAN

Von Braun soon proved himself as influential an advocate of rocketry and space exploration in the media as he was within the corridors of power. Here, he brandishes a model of the Redstone rocket at a press conference. In the 1950s, he would cement his place in the American public consciousness by collaborating with Walt Disney on a series of popular television documentaries.

LAUNCHING BUMPER

One of the Fort Bliss team's early projects was Bumper, a basic test of a two-stage rocket design consisting of a small WAC Corporal missile mounted on top of a V-2 first stage. The Bumper launches set a series of altitude records, topping out at 393km (244 miles). These missions, and the White Sands V-2 launches, were among the first to carry scientific instruments to the edge of space.

to America. The chief role for the group was to advise on the reconstruction and test-firing of the captured V-2s at the nearby White Sands range in the New Mexico desert and to help interpret the wealth of paperwork containing the secrets of the German rocket programme. By this time, there was another important factor driving the development of ballistic missiles - the devastating explosions over Japanese cities that had finally ended the Second World War in the Pacific had also heralded a new era of atomic warfare. The Soviets would now be racing to develop their own nuclear weapons, and while the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs had been dropped from aircraft, it was clear that if the United States was to maintain its military superiority, the delivery system of choice would be a continent-spanning supersonic missile armed with

COLLIER'S MAGAZINE

Between 1952 and 1954, von Broun, Willy Ley, and Hans Haber (an expert on the effects of space travel on the human body) explained their vision for the future of space exploration in the pages of Collier's magazine.

a nuclear warhead. Indeed, the desire of the superpowers to demonstrate superior missile technology became a key factor during the early decades of the Space Age.

The months spent at Fort Bliss were frustrating ones - work on reconstructing and testing the V-2s was painfully slow, not helped by a slender budget and occasional bureaucratic hold-ups caused, for example, by FBI director J. Edgar Hoover's fears that the rocket team was a security risk. The Germans leapt at any chance for more stimulating activity, such as writing reports and articles, and later devising the flight of scientific instruments and mice and a few small monkeys on board the V-2s.

Von Braun, as ever, was keen to promote the idea of spaceflight, and began to voice his opinions to anyone who would listen - both within the military and, increasingly, in the popular media. And so the American public began its complex relationship with Wernher von Braun - one that would see him

ROCKET SALESMAN

Von Braun soon proved himself as influential an advocate of rocketry and space exploration in the media as he was within the corridors of power. Here, he brandishes a model of the Redstone rocket at a press conference. In the 1950s, he would cement his place in the American public consciousness by collaborating with Walt Disney on a series of popular television documentaries.

pilloried as a closet Nazi in the satirical movie Dr. Strangelove, yet feted as the genius who ultimately put Americans on the Moon.

HISTORY FOCUS

LEGALIZING THE ROCKET TEAM

■H^r

As the Germans were joined by their families and became settled in America, Operation Paperclip faced a bureaucratic dilemma. Since the rocket team had been flown directly into the United States without visas, it was impossible to officially acknowledge their presence in the country. The eventual solution was somewhat farcical - the Germans were driven in buses across the Mexican border to the town of Juárez, where they applied for US entry visas before being readmitted to

As the Germans were joined by their families and became settled in America, Operation Paperclip faced a bureaucratic dilemma. Since the rocket team had been flown directly into the United States without visas, it was impossible to officially acknowledge their presence in the country. The eventual solution was somewhat farcical - the Germans were driven in buses across the Mexican border to the town of Juárez, where they applied for US entry visas before being readmitted to pilloried as a closet Nazi in the satirical movie Dr. Strangelove, yet feted as the genius who ultimately put Americans on the Moon.

ROCKET DREAMERS

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment