Friday, May 22, 2015

How I met Wernher von Braun's Bodyguard

During the heyday of the Apollo space program, Wernher von Braun was everywhere -- on the TV coverage of the Apollo missions, in the news magazines -- I even saw him once on a daytime talk show.  He was an all-American hero -- living proof that our German rocket scientists were better than the Russians' German rocket scientists.  Just don't talk about the war...

About twenty years later, at a birthday party in Chicago, I met a man who had done his military service following World War II and had served in that capacity as von Braun's bodyguard.  I can't remember his name, so I'll just call him Mr. Cooper.  Recall that after the war, the US captured recruited German rocket scientists as part of Operation Paperclip and brought them to the US as prisoners employees.  Cooper said that von Braun needed a bodyguard because there was still a great deal of anti-German sentiment following the war, and the army was worried that someone might try to attack him.

Cooper told us an interesting story about his interactions with von Braun.  Mrs. von Braun evidently misunderstood Cooper's role -- she thought he was more of a valet or a personal servant.  So one day she took Cooper aside and asked him, "Is Wernher treating you well?"

Cooper replied, "Oh, yes, he's very good to me, but I do have one problem. He keeps telling me these stories about how we're going to go to the Moon someday.  I'm not a child anymore, so I wish he would stop telling me these children's stories about going to the Moon."

At this, Mrs. von Braun became very indignant, and she said (in a thick German accent), "If Werner says we are going to the Moon... then we are going to the Moon!"


Anonymous said...

thank you

Phillip Helbig said...

Being new at your blog, I just have to mention that (although I have lived in Germany most of my life, despite having no German ancestry) I was born in Huntsville and new Wernher von Braun personally, because my mother used to work for him at NASA.

Anonymous said...

The body guard was Michael Parrell. He was one of the Amy's top boxers and was screened for the very position.