Surprise another space book LOL, I really can’t help it not that I would if I could. I love space! Anyway as I was looking for books about NASA I decided it was past time for me to read a biography of Wernher von Braun, the man behind the Saturn V rocket that launched the Apollo missions into space and to the moon. There are as you can imagine many biographies of the man but one caught my attention Dark Side of the Moon: Wernher von Braun, the Third Reich, and the Space Race by Wayne Biddle. All of the other books had synopses that were very positive and praising of von Braun, understandable but this book was different. It promises not to whitewash the events of von Braun’s life and participation in the Third Reich, World War II, and a rocket factory in a concentration camp. This intrigued me, I knew that von Braun like many of the rocket scientists early on at NASA came from Germany, specifically from the Nazi war machine but I knew none of the details.
Pretty quickly the book bogs down as it starts before World War I with Werner’s father’s childhood and some of his mother’s. Stories of his grandparents as well fill the pages. It felt like it took half the book to actually get to Werner and his experiences.
The author makes Werner out to sound like a silly school boy who really wasn’t that smart, someone who simply played on family history and titles, while riding the coattails of other smarter men. The promise not to whitewash seems to fall short, not that there is much whitewashing but there seems to be lots of conjecture and circumstantial evidence. That might be due to the fact that it simply is hard to find hard evidence considering the time that has passed and the amount of documentation from the war that was destroyed. Still the author does his best to paint the portrait of von Braun as a man not totally innocent when it comes to what occurred during the war, a man who took advantage of the concentration camp prisoners to build his rocket factory.
Overall the book left me wanting more information about Werner himself, about what he did or didn’t do during the war, what happened after he came to the States. While it was an interesting book it fell short on the claim to reveal the dark side, and it just didn’t feel detailed enough, it felt like something was missing and I will certainly be looking for more books about von Braun.