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Dark Side of the Moon: Wernher Von Braun, the Third Reich, and the Space Race Hardcover – 3 Nov 2009
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"[Biddle] assembles facts, omissions, or inconsistencies in von Braun's postwar accounts of the V-2 that cast doubt on von Braun's minimization of his knowledge about the concentration camp where the missile was constructed...A stern, prosecutorial portrait of the famous German American rocketeer." -- Gilbert Taylor
About the Author
Wayne Biddle won a Pulitzer Prize for his New York Times reporting on the "Star Wars" anti-missile project. He has written three nonfiction books and is a member of the writing seminars faculty at the Johns Hopkins University. He lives near Baltimore, Maryland.
Top customer reviews
The book also shows how after the war the US Government turned a very blind eye to the Nazi activities of Von Braun and his boss, General Walter Dornberger. And not just the US government; at least one British learned institution honoured Von Braun in the early 1950s. The book makes clear how Von Brauns charisma, flare for self promotion and showmanship allowed him to exploit not only Hitler and Himmler but also three US Presidents.
Having said that, I found the book difficult to read for one overpowering reason, that is that the footnotes, instead of being more conevntionally simply referring to sources, are in numerous instances whole tracts of texts, often stretching to half a page. A lot of this should be in the main text which would both make the main text more readable and the footnotes easier to use.
I also found the book's sub-title somewhat misleading: "Wernher Von Brown, the Third Reich, and the Space Race". The first two topics are covered in detail but I felt that the third topic was not dealt with nearly as well. Although the book makes clear the US government turned a blind eye, it doesn't make clear that the whole of Operation Paperclip (the project to import the German scientists to the US) was based on flagrant disregard of US immigration law. It also fails to identify the individuals responsible for this (it certainly can't have been just one person), and those reponsible for the continued disinformation in the 1950s and 1960s, although a couple of the photo captions hint at this.
Despite these criticisms, I value this book, and most of what you need to know is there provided you are prepared to dig for it.
Gordon B Dennis
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Pretty quickly the book bogs down as it starts before World War I with Werner’s father’s childhood and some of his mother’s. Stories of his grandparents as well fill the pages. It felt like it took half the book to actually get to Werner and his experiences.
The author makes Werner out to sound like a silly school boy who really wasn’t that smart, someone who simply played on family history and titles, while riding the coattails of other smarter men. The promise not to whitewash seems to fall short, not that there is much whitewashing but there seems to be lots of conjecture and circumstantial evidence. That might be due to the fact that it simply is hard to find hard evidence considering the time that has passed and the amount of documentation from the war that was destroyed. Still the author does his best to paint the portrait of von Braun as a man not totally innocent when it comes to what occurred during the war, a man who took advantage of the concentration camp prisoners to build his rocket factory.
Overall the book left me wanting more information about Werner himself, about what he did or didn’t do during the war, what happened after he came to the States. While it was an interesting book it fell short on the claim to reveal the dark side, and it just didn’t feel detailed enough, it felt like something was missing and I will certainly be looking for more books about von Braun.
Who knows for sure what happened or what is in the heart of a man? What is certain is that von Braun used both the German and US government to satisfy his desire to build rockets, but that is not news either. The Americans wanted to believe his innocence in WWII atrocities and Biddle claims this has been covered up; but seems to present no new evidence. What he does write are many snide comments and innuendos such as commenting on von Braun's arm cast, when he was captured, saying it resembled the `party salute'; he states Redstone Arsenal was well on its' way to resembling Peenemunde and then states Cape Canaveral shows a remarkable resemblance as well.
Biddle dismisses von Braun's arrest during the war as a lucky break...`no one has been inclined to shed light on the story`s factual basis or historical context', even stating the recollections of Albert Speer might not believed concerning this episode where von Braun claimed pressure to join the SS.
I found this book to be sadly lacking any new information and much of what is written becomes contradictory.
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