Republibot 3.0
Republibot 3.0's picture

Ok, I've been slamming Von Braun pretty hard, calling him an Nazi Party Member and a Major in the SS, and some people have complained to me about dissing the guy who put us on the moon, and that none of that stuff doesn't matter any more than the current Pope having been an unwilling member of the Hitler Youth. Well, (A) I'm not catholic, so I don't care, and (B) I'm not taking any of it back, and I'm not going to say any of his circumstances mitigated his poor choice of friends, but in order to present a balanced picutre, I'll mention that he was fundamentally apolitical, and joined the party because Rockets were considered a "national defence" project, and in a one-party democracy/dictatorship they wouldn't give him access otherwise. While he was in the SS, and that's more or less unforgivable, it was also more or less honorary: Everyone working on the Rocket instantly got Schutzstaffel rank, whether they wanted it or not. And of course the Nazi high command were never entirely trusting of Von Braun, and even threw him in jail at one point. And he *did* betray them at the earliest opportunity, spiriting away hundreds of German scientists and their families, and engineering their "Capture" by American forces, though this might simply have been self-preservation: The Soviets would have gotten them if we hadn't.

So was Von Braun a good man, or a bad man? I can't say. I'm not God. As a kid, he was my hero, as an adult, when I realized more about the glossed-over activities of his youth...well, he stopped being a hero. Sometimes you could see it eating at him, though, his past. I knew a guy once - a Polish refugee who rode out World War II in London - he worked as an observer, watching Von Braun's V2 rockets crashing on the city, and phoning in the impact locations to the RAF. He lost an eye in the process. That sort of thing changes your perspective of someone, you know? Some people say "Werner never killed anyone," and that's true, sort of, he never killed anyone himself. But in another way of looking at it, he killed thousands of people in London, and he took my friend's eye in the process.

One could say that the Apollo program was his way of atoning for what he'd done, but one can also say that he would do or say anything for the benefit of space exploration, and was just playing us to get what he wanted. Again, I don't pretend to know which is true.

In the meantime, check this out: It's more moon mission, Disney style: