Oct. 3, 1942–72 years ago–an A-4 test rocket was launched from Peenemuende Army Research Center. The fourth A-4 to be tested, it was the first to successfully fly. It was also the first rocket to reach the edges of outer space (it flew about 85-90 kilometers above the Earth).
If you’ve never heard of the A-4, there’s another name for it you’re probably more familiar with: V2. So yes, the Germans, NAZI Germans in particular, were responsible for achieving a very historic moment–something everyone should have been proud of. It’s unfortunate that NAZIs were the ones to do this with their V2 for the very obvious reasons that were later exposed through history.
However, such a feat is what led the US government to eventually hire ex-NAZI German scientists after the war, in a secret program called Operation Paperclip. The US intelligence agencies were convinced the Germans were at least 25 years ahead of the US scientists and engineers. So they recommended vetting the NAZI scientists, and if they passed certain criteria, they recommended thne hiring the best brains of Germany.
Celebrate, then, the achievement of the first spaceflight conducted by man. The rather rotten roots of that labor yielded fruit that helped to accelerate the US space and missile programs. But remember, there were people in the war who were involved–both criminals and victims–who should be thought of as well. About 27,000 victims died as they assembled and constantly perfected the V2 as a weapon for the Reich. If you’d like to read more about this particular aspect of NAZI space history, please read my 7 part series, starting with this particular post, here. Warning–it can get a little depressing.