David Holloway reviews a biography of Wernher von Braun by Wayne Biddle, in the New York Time Book Review:
A NASA Web site describes him as “without doubt, the greatest rocket scientist in history.”
Born in 1912, von Braun came from a conservative Junker family. As a student in Berlin, he fell in with a rather louche group of rocket enthusiasts. In the 1930s, patronage came from the army, which set up a special rocket base on the Baltic Sea, at Peenemünde, where von Braun worked from 1937 until 1945. It was there that he helped to build the A-4 (V-2) missile. Six thousand of these missiles were produced, and about 3,000 were launched against London and Antwerp in the last year of World War II.
After the war, von Braun claimed that his main interest had been in space flight all along. His work for the German Army had been an unfortunate necessity because that was where resources could be obtained, and, besides, it was dangerous to resist the Nazi state.
Biddle will have none of this. In his view, von Braun was very far from being an innocent visionary who took Nazi money in order to pursue his dream.