Y'herd thisun? 

“If someone asks me the question “Why are you interested in space?” the only answer I can give is “Why aren’t you?””
-Jeff Greason, President of XCOR

from Jeff Greason SpaceNews Profile

Where are the von Brauns today?


Does this page anger you?  If so, I humbly ask you to read this one.

[This appears to be a very popular page.. if you are looking for von Braun have you seen this page?]

I have a bunch of classic Manned Spaceflight related books, several with copyrights partially owned by Wernher von Braun.  Recently I noticed that some of these books are now going for very high prices on bookfinder and ebay even if the copies are torn up. 

I started wondering if maybe AIAA or Apogee Books might be interested in reprinting some of them because the fact is that many of them are still valuable in that their technical information is in no way out of date, not to mention that some of them were a whole heck of a lot better written than many of the books that have come out since.

I know that that seems odd, because after sixty years we must have a lot more data and experience that would logically lead to a better insight into the processes and thus a more refined way of describing and teaching the cores of launch, orbit and escape techniques.  In my humblest opinion however, if we have learned so much over the past decades we have in no way found a better way to explain much of it to the average or even above-average interested reader.  Some of the "classics" that current experts pooh-pooh are headscratchingly still right up to date. 

And I read a quite a few of these things, both old and brand spankin' new ;-).

So anyway, I did some checking with the publishers and in some important cases I found that no one appears to openly own the copyrights anymore. Significant works from the late 1940s through the early 1970s by several of the most respected names of the then-beloved American industry seem to be up for grabs.

To the point though, here I'll just mention one name that hopefully a typically schooled person who at one time had a passing interest in Spaceflight would know: Wernher von Braun. 

Some of his famous "Colliers Symposium" books were put out by Viking Press.  He and his series co-authors are now all dead.  Viking's catalog is now owned by Penguin.  On the Penguin site they make it clear that they do not want to be hounded by requests for copyright ownership of any of their titles and instead strongly urge interested persons to use their online database because it is their final word on such matters.  Thing is, looking up the von Braun books on Penguin's corporate portal brings no result at all. These Viking titles appear to be of no interest to Penguin any more. 

Moving over the the Library of Congress we find the books are all listed but the copyright information is decades old.

I'm not a Copyright Lawyer, but in a recent review conversation with the son of Dandridge Cole (another big name of the industry up through the mid 1960s... a man Gerard K. O'Neill and many others owed quite a bit to) I got the word that after his father's death his copyrights automatically became the property of his mother.  Granted all contracts are not alike but it seemed to me, from the amount I know about Wernher von Braun, he would have been likely to take a similar standard route for his general readership publications.

This is where things start getting unusual, especially if you are one of those people who believe that the Internet holds all the answers.  Wernher died of cancer in 1977... millions of links say this and many stick a picture of his Alexandria grave marker next to the notation.  Hundreds of those pages go on to state that Wernher left his wife Maria a widow... so she was alive after he died.  Most of the sites also list the three undeniably-American-citizen von Braun children Maria (b 1948 at Fort Bliss), Margrit (b 1952) and Peter Constantine  (b 1960).  But trustworthy confirmed life or death information on any of them beyond that?  The Internet comes up wanting.

It might all be out there and maybe I am just missing it, but it's not the low hanging fruit that you would assume it to be.  Believe it or not, Wernher von Braun was more famous than Jennifer Aniston and George Clooney combined for several decades that most of today's living people lived through.  He was, because the American Space program was, an International household name.

But go do a search for these folks yourself.  Maybe you will immediately find one of them... I found nothing but the oddest 'VON BRAUN WAS A NAZI EUGENCIS EXTERMINATOR'  rants that quite honestly made me feel dirty. 


Googling "Peter Constantine von Braun" I get within the top ten some of the most non-tech, non-space links where a "von Braun" name is mentioned just in passing with no relation to the rest of the host page (or to Wernher), followed by nothing but guff from folks who have found a religion out of cursing Wernher von Braun and his family with no apparent need to have any opposing sliver of doubt. 

I'll bet every one of the posters of this blind hatred goes to a church every Sunday, follows every the letter of their church law and never even gets a parking ticket or spits on a sidewalk. I'll also bet that not one of them ever heard that Von Braun was in charge of the German rocketry program before Hitler came to power, and that as such he was likely moved into the later work without much to say about it, or that he was once put in jail on the charge of treason against the Nazi government - no doubt a cushy minimum security American style white collar prison, the Nazis were well known for those ;-(.

I had gone into the copyright search figuring that the von Braun family would be proud of the work of Wernher and proud of their family name being so intrinsically tied to the postwar leadership power of the United States.  But seeing so much blind rape of the von Braun name being actually the norm I started considering otherwise. 

Perhaps... just perhaps... Marie, Margrit and Peter grew up and through a day to day unlike what I'd thought a Great Person's family ought to go through... and perhaps they decided that it would be best to change their names in order to hopefully live in peace in their own country.  If that is the case I am greatly saddened and even more I am ashamed.

And here's something for those haters - most every one of them born decades after the facts actually happend - to consider... America never got hit by a single buzzbomb or V2.  London got hit hard.  You would think that Brits, especially those who actually personally lived through the hell of the missile attacks, would be right on board with the calls of von Braun being the devil incarnate.  Well, contemplate this if you dare:  Patrick Moore, a guy who is nearly a Saint to the People of Great Britain, says this about Wernher von Braun:

"No-one could hate the Nazis more than me (they killed my fiancée, many of my best friends, and did their best to kill me). But on my knowledge of him I am ready to give von Braun a 'clean bill'. I do not believe that he was personally involved in atrocities, and it is also clear that he was in no position to prevent them. We will never know the full truth; I can only give my personal opinion."

Read it for yourself, right here.

But he only knew the man and he only lived through the war, bumpersticker believing forum feeders know the real truths, we never went to the moon and von Braun was the antichrist.

Peter?  I wish you a happy, quiet, 52nd birthday this summer.  And I for one sincerely apologize from the bottom of my heart for the pains that some of our fellow Americans have caused you and your family.


Does this page anger you?  If so, I humbly ask you to read this one.

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