Von Braun’s legacy

In the April 2023 article, “The harshest reality,” the author referred to Wernher von Braun as “the former Nazi who became the agency’s leading space visionary … ” At best, that was a lazy reference to von Braun’s wartime involvement with the Nazi Party and the SS. His NASA bio states: “Von Braun was a member of the Nazi Party, and an SS officer yet was also arrested by the Gestapo in 1944 for careless remarks he made about the war and the [V-2] rocket.” I will not try to rehash in 250 words what von Braun said and what the FBI determined about his wartime work and associated issues. I do believe that a leading aerospace magazine would have treated one of the world’s greatest rocket engineers and key to America winning the race to the moon with a little more care than simply to introduce him as a former Nazi.

Raymond Maddalone, AIAA senior member

Fishers, Indiana


Editor’s note: We identified von Braun as a visionary and former Nazi because he was a member of the Nazi Party and SS. As technical director of the V-2 missile program, he was “at least tangentially involved in the murderous exploitation of concentration-camp prisoners in missile production,” according to the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.


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Von Braun’s legacy