Born: 1905. Died: 1981-01-01.
Speer meets with Von Braun and Dornberger. A 1:100 model of the planned bunker construction-launch facility for the rocket to be built by Organisation Todt on the British channel was exhibited. Speer reveals that Hitler could not decide about the rocket as a weapon. He did not believe the rocket team's plans could be made to work. But Speer did authorise them to proceed with construction on his own authority - he hoped Hitler could be brought around eventually. But he emphasised that Dornberger would have to use his personal connections to get industry moving on the project. But Dornberger was thwarted when the Army put Degenkolb in charge of organising production of the missile. Degenkolb was a sworn enemy of Dornberger's, and had been implicated in the 'suicide' of General Becker in early 1940. Degenkolb set up a Nazi-supported bureaucracy in parallel to that of Dornberger's, requiring the approval of the Army weapons bureau on any decisions. Degenkolb had the sponsorship of Todt and Saur, who in turn followed the party line - 'like the Fuehrer, we are not yet won over to the concept of a long range missile'.
In order to productionise the A4 design, Degenkolb began authorising many detailed changes. He didn't understand that every change had to be proven in test first, and only incremental steps could be taken. Stahlknecht had planned to produce 300 A4 missiles per month by January 1944, and 600 per month by July 1944. Degenkolb unrealistically decreed that 300 per month be achieved by October 1943, and 900 per month by December 1943.
A government commission, consisting of Speer, Milch, Doenitz, and Fromm viewed launches of the competing missiles at Peenemuende. The V-1/Fi-103 was much cheaper than the V-2/A4, but it was slow and low - it operated at 160 m/s at an altitude of between 200 and 2000 m - and vulnerable to enemy flak batteries and interceptors. It provided the enemy with a forewarning of attack by its characteristic engine noise and the cut-off of that noise when it went into its terminal dive. It could only be launched from fixed concrete launch ramps, making the launchers vulnerable to enemy air attack. The V-2 was mobile, more accurate, could not be intercepted, and gave the enemy no warning of attack in its supersonic ballistic course to the target. In the end, the commission could find no overwhelming advantage to either of the very different weapons, and both were ordered into production. The positive advantages of each weapon outweighed the negatives. In the tests before the commission, the Fi-103 had bad luck, and achieved no successful shots for two of the A4. '2:0 for your team', Milch told Dornberger. Speer claimed he 'always supported' the A4 but Dornberger ruefully noted they had lost 18 months in delays, primarily due to Degenkolb's incompetence. Speer pressed Dornberger - if Degenkolb really can't make it happen, then just give me the word. He'll be dismissed. But Degenkolb was not dismissed - he had Saur's complete backing.
Dornberger, Von Braun, and Steinhoff (at the controls) fly aboard a He-111 to the Fuehrer bunker in East Prussia. There they give Hitler a review of the V-2 program, the first since his visit to Kummersdorf in March 1939. The appointment was for 11:30, but then delayed to 17:00.
When they were finally ushered into his presence, Dornberger was shocked at the terrible and changed appearance of the Fuehrer. The team begins their briefing, in the presence of Hitler, Keitel, Jodl, Butale, and Speer. The presentation began with a film of preparations and launch of an A4 on the 3 October 1942. Von Braun narrated the film, which had proven a real crowd-pleaser in the past. It showed the A4 in production at the vast assembly hall at Peenemuende, the vertical roll-out, the huge launch complex, and finally launch. Von Braun then presented a model and plans for the hardened production/launch bunker that was being built on the English Channel.
Hitler loved the bunker model, and declared he wanted to build not one, but three such facilities. Dornberger argued that mobile launchers would be militarily less vulnerable and less costly, but Hitler was unconvinced. The 7 m thick bunker walls, he declared, would 'draw every allied bomber like flies to honey. Every bomb they drop there will be one that does not fall on Germany'. Hitler asks if the payload can be increased to 10 tonnes (in order to accommodate a nuclear warhead) or if a 2,000 per month production rate was possible (in order to make mass attacks on Britain with conventional explosive or chemical payloads). Dornberger replies that it would take four to five years to develop a missile with greater payload, and that production was limited by the German industrial capacity for alcohol (used as fuel in the missile).
Dornberger noted that they did not dream of the possibility of short-term availability of nuclear energy in 1936, when the specifications for the missile were set. In any case, after the loss of the heavy water plant in Norway, it would take years to develop nuclear weapons. Hitler was visibly upset that the V-2 would not turn out to be a war-deciding weapon. But Dornberger pointed out it was a great psychological weapon - unstoppable, something against their which there was no defence.
Hitler stated that 'I have only had to excuse myself to two men in my life - and one of them was von Brauchtisch, who always championed the importance of your work, and the other is you. If we had this weapon in 1939, Britain would have conceded, and there would have been no war.
Hitler finally ordered that the V-1 and V-2 missile programs be given the highest priority in the defence ministry. Immediately needed staff and material began flowing into the program. Saur immediately ordered a production goal of 2,000 missiles per month, despite the fact that there was no prospect of producing enough alcohol fuel or training enough launch crews to actual fire the missiles at such a rate. However, there was no disagreement, since any industry leader who did not commit to meeting this production goal was threatened with immediate replacement. German alcohol production would mean the maximum number that could ever be fired was 900 per month.
Speer puts Dornberger in charge of an office within the Munitions Ministry to oversee further development of the A4 and other rockets, drawing on staff from Peenemuende. Everyone knew the war would be over in a few months -- nothing could be accomplished. Kammler still made sure that Dornberger was only responsible for technical aspects. All further developments of the A4 had been on hold for years, and any further work was now impossible. Only simple things could be worked on, such as converting 6 cm smoke rockets to use as an air-to-air weapon. In the short turnaround typical of the times, the team drove to Kummersdorf and built a 21-cm diameter pipe that could fire a barrage of four smoke rockets. Two days later, it was reported back that the device was used successfully in combat, and it was put into production. It was first used against allied bombers over Schweinfurt in January 1945.
F. A. Speer, Mission Operations Manager at MSFC, advised NASA Hq. of plans for S-IVB and spacecraft separation and employment of a "slingshot" trajectory following insertion into the trajectory toward the moon. Residuals in the S-IVB, said Speer, could be used to place the stage in a trajectory that would avoid recontact with the spacecraft and impact on either the earth or the moon - with preclusion of spacecraft-launch vehicle collision as the most important priority.