Steinhoff, Ernst August Wilhelm
Born: 1908-01-11. Died: 1987-02-12. Birth Place: Traysa.
German expert in guided missiles, worked at Peenemuende on submarine-launched rockets during World War II. Member of the German rocket team, arrived in America under Project Paperclip on 16 November 1945 aboard the Argentina from La Havre. As of January 1947, working at Fort Bliss, Texas. Died at Alamogordo, New Mexico.
New Mexico State Biography: Ernst A. Steinhoff
Ernst A. Steinhoff was born on February 11, 1908 in Treysa, Germany. After graduating high school in Kassel, in 1929, he enrolled in the Darmstadt Institute of Technology in Darmstadt, Germany. He received three degrees there: a Bachelor of Science degree in Aeronautics in 1931, a Master of Science in Meteorology in 1933, and a Doctor of Engineering degree in Applied Physics in 1940.
Ernst Steinhoff served as Department Head of the Aeronautical Engineering Department at the Bad Frankenhausen Polytechnical College at Bad Frankenhausen, Germany, from October 1933 through October 1936. He was then Chief of the Flight Mechanics and Flight Performance Measurements Division of the German Research Institute for Motorless Flight at Darmstadt. He held this position until June 1939, when he was appointed Director for Flight Mechanics, Ballistics, Guidance and Control, and Instrumentation at the German Army's Rocket Research Center at Peenemünde. There he was in charge of planning, development and testing of missile guidance systems and automatic controls. Steinhoff proved himself a good manager and administrator and he remained at Peenemünde, working on submarine-launched rockets, and V-2 rockets.
With the fall of Nazi Germany in May 1945, Dr. Steinhoff, along with Wernher Von Braun and about 350 other men, became a member of the rocket-pioneering group of German scientists and engineers brought to America by the U.S. Army in what was known "Operation Paperclip." Their contributions to postwar rocket research built the platform from which America launched rockets to the Moon in the late 1960's.
After a short assignment to the Ballistics Research Laboratories at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Aberdeen, Maryland, Dr. Steinhoff was Section Chief in charge of the Steering section of Ordnance Research and Development Division at Ft. Bliss, Texas from 1945 to 1950. He continued to work on guidance control systems there, responsible for the operation of V-2 missile flight termination systems in rocket firings in 1946 and early 1947.
In 1949, Ernst Steinhoff transferred to Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, but also worked closely with nearby White Sands Proving Ground, now White Sands Missile Range (WSMR). He played a prominent role in the early planning for range instrumentation to support missile firings from Holloman. He was widely recognized for his work in real time computing for missile flight guidance and control. His work led to more efficient processing of data from WSMR instrumentation. He left the Federal service in 1956 to work in the private sector of the aerospace industry.
Dr. Ernst Steinhoff returned to Holloman to be the Chief Scientist at the Air Force Missile Development Center in 1963. He remained there until 1972, when he retired to Alamogordo, New Mexico. He died there on December 2, 1987, at the age of seventy-nine.
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.
The cause of early detonation of the warhead during the engine burn time is understood, but the crashes at the end of the trajectory are still a mystery. Dornberger is ordered to report to Hitler at Berchtesgaden. The call is received at 7 pm in the evening, following a bomb raid and ice storm. Dornberger is told that on the following morning Von Braun, Riedel II, and Groettrup are to be arrested for sabotage of the A4 program. Groettrup selects Dr Steinhoff as his representative. The men are accused of not putting all their energy in development of the A4 as a weapon - instead only using the financing of the Reich to support their private plans for manned spaceflight. Dornberger know he cannot complete the program without these men - Von Braun and Riedel were the key leaders, and Groettrup was head of the electrical systems section. Dornberger finally achieves their release by demonstrating to the SS that the biggest impediment to the program was Hitler's dream that the A4 would never reach London. After a few days in detention, Von Braun was moved to Schwedt, and then freed. The others were allowed out a bit later.