From the young German aristocrat's leadership role in the development of the world's first ballistic missilethe infamous V-2 rocket used against the Allies during the invasion of Europeto his successes in the United States after the war, a picture of von Braun emerges as a brilliant scientist with limitless curiosity and a drive to achieve his goals at almost any price. Yet the author's lengthy research reveals that the apolitical von Braun accepted nominal Party membership and an essentially honorary SS commission only under heavy pressure, and that his connections to the notorious V-2 slave labor factory were largely peripheral.
Ward sheds new light on von Braun's extraordinary contributions to launching the first U.S. satellite, hurling the first American astronauts into space, and winning the "Moon race" with the Saturn V super-booster that powered Armstrong, Aldrin, Collins, and their successors to the lunar surface. But the author does not shy away from revealing facts about the space leader's humiliating final years with NASA in the nation's capital and his long battle with cancer. Along the way, readers are introduced to the human side of this charismatic visionary who mesmerized audiences across the country. A gregarious, whisky-drinking night owl who could out cuss any of his friends, von Braun also played the piano and cello, mastered scuba diving, flew an array of aircraft, spoke several languages, became a serious amateur astronomer, and was an avid reader and conversationalist, as much at ease discussing Nietzsche as nuclear fission. Including insights and recollections from a number of von Braun's celebrity friendsWalter Cronkite, Hugh Downs, and William Pickering among themthis is a book certain to appeal to von Braun's admirers and detractors....Continua