THE PEENEMUNDE WIND TUNNELS by Peter P. Wegener

THE PEENEMUNDE WIND TUNNELS

A Personal Memoir
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 The memoir of a young physicist, coming of age in Hitler's Germany, who was part of a secret experimental base that developed the V-2, the world's first large rocket-powered missile, under the direction of Wernher von Braun. Wegener, professor emeritus of engineering and applied science at Yale, whose specialty was wind-tunnel research, gives us valuable and candid insights into the pioneer German rocket program. Hitler hoped that the secret operation would provide wonder weapons to insure victory; instead, the technical information developed by the program helped the US to eventually put a man on the moon. Wegener is aware of his good fortune in being transferred from combat duty in Russia, in having had a technical education, and in having been trained by leading scientists whose recommendations paved the way for him to be part of this exotic program. The author believes that Allied spies discovered the secret base, since a heavy British bombing raid caused much destruction but missed the wind tunnels. The program was quickly moved to the quiet Bavarian mountains and installed in manmade caves. Wegener, a secret anti-Nazi, writes that few of these German scientists were Nazis; most had a passion for science and little interest in the practical outcome of their lethal work. He fails to dwell on the deadly effects of the V-2 rockets on the civilian population of London but does note the plight of the concentration camp prisoners forced to work on the assembly line. Wegener describes the last days of the war in Germany and the mad scramble to escape the Soviets, who were determined to capture scientists, precious equipment, and valuable documents. Eventually the von Braun team was invited to emigrate to the US, where it helped to develop the space program. A rare, absorbing study of one man's experiences during a dark and tragic time. (55 illustrations, not seen)

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-300-06367-9
Page count: 264pp
Publisher: Yale Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1996