In the final installment of his series of articles on the history of the V-2 rocket, historian Dr. Charlie Hall explores the legacy of the V-2 in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Be sure to read parts one and two in our series on the terrorizing Nazi weapon that failed to change the course of World War II, but drastically altered warfare and gave birth to mankind’s access to space, and the man behind it.
In February 1970, at a ceremony attended by the governor of Alabama, a U.S. senator, various other local dignitaries, and his wife and three children, Wernher von Braun was honored with a plaque in the state of Huntsville. The plaque listed his achievements in both missile development and the U.S. space program and concluded by saying that “he will forever be respected and admired by his local fellow citizens.”
The plaque did not mention von Braun’s membership of the Nazi Party or the SS, his meetings with Adolf Hitler, his frequent visits to the Mittelwerk underground factory where V-2 rockets were built by slave laborers in appalling conditions, or the number of people killed in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands in 1944-45 by the rockets he designed. When he died in 1977, von Braun was remembered not as a Nazi war criminal, but as an American hero with a favorable legacy that he had worked hard to cement.