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OperationPaperclip.info Arthur Rudolph

Arthur Louis Hugo Rudolph (9 November 1906 – 1 January 1996) was a rocket scientist for Nazi Germany from 1934 to 1945, and helped develop the V-2 rocket. After World War II he was brought to the United States and worked for the Army and NASA where he managed the development of several important systems including the Pershing missile and the Saturn V moon rocket. In 1984 he was investigated for possible war crimes by the Office of Special Investigations and renounced his US citizenship. Contents

Early life

Rudolph was born in Stepfershausen, Meiningen, Germany. His family were farmers, with a long tradition in the area. His father Gustav died in World War I. His mother Ida noted that young Arthur had a mechanical gift and decided that he should attend technical training, while his younger brother Walter inherited the family farm.

From 1921 on, Arthur attended the technical school [1] in Schmalkalden for three years. In 1924 he found employment at a factory for silver goods in Bremen. In August 1927 he accepted a job at Stock & Co. in Berlin. After a few months, he became a toolmaker at Fritz Werner in Berlin.

In 1928 he attended the Technical College of Berlin, graduating in 1930 with the equivalent of a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering.


In 1930, he worked for the Heylandt Works [2] in Berlin where he met Max Valier. Valier had use of the factory grounds for his experiments in rocketry. Rudolph became interested and worked with Valier in his spare time, along with Walter Riedel. On 17 May 1930, just days after Rudolph began working on the project, an experimental engine exploded killing Valier. Dr. Paulus Heylandt forbade further rocket research, but Rudolph continued with Riedel and Alfons Pietsch. Rudolph developed an improved and safer version of Valier's engine, and Pietsch designed a rocket car. Dr. Heylandt conceded to back the project, and the "Heylandt Rocket Car" was born. The car was exhibited at Tempelhof Aerodrome. While it was a technical success, the fuel costs were greater than the admissions received and performances were discontinued. Rudolph joined the Nazi Party in 1931, then later the SA Reserve for a short period.

Rudolph joined the Verein für Raumschiffahrt (VfR, the "Spaceflight Society") where he first met fellow rocket enthusiast Wernher von Braun. In May of 1932 Rudolph was laid off and looking for work when he encountered Pietsch. Rudolph began design on a new engine, while Pietsch looked for a backer. Walter Dornberger had been tasked by the German Ordnance Department to develop a rocket weapons system. After demonstrating the new engine to Dornberger, Rudolph moved to the new proving grounds at Kummersdorf along with Riedel, and began working under von Braun. In December 1934, they successfully launched two A-2 rockets from the island of Borkum. Arthur Rudolph married Martha Therese Kohls (5 July 1905) on 3 October 1935 in Berlin.


The Kummersdorf facilities were inadequate for continued operations, so they were moved to Peenemünde in May 1937 and Rudolph continued work as an engineer on the A series rockets. Rudolph's daughter, Marianne Erika, was born 26 November 1937. In the spring of 1938, Dornberger put him in charge of the design for the new production plant to be built at Peenemünde. In August of 1943, as Rudolph was ready to begin production of the V-2, the British bombed Peenemünde. Martha and Marianne Rudolph were evacuated. The production facility was moved to a new location near Nordhausen called Mittelwerk. The facility was originally a gypsum mine that was being used as a storage facility. Rudolph was in charge of moving the equipment from Peenemünde to Mittelwerk, working under Albin Sawatzki. Sawatzki decreed that 50 V-2 rockets were to be produced in December, but Rudolph was barely able to produce four rockets that were later returned from Peenemünde as defective. In 1944, Himmler convinced Hitler to put the V-2 project directly under SS control, and in August replaced Dornberger with SS General Hans Kammler as its director. About 5,000 prisoners were used at Mittelwerk, being housed at the Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp. In January 1945 the SS ordered all of the civilians and prisoners to attend a public hanging of several prisoners. By March 1945, production had stopped due to a lack of parts. Rudolph and his staff were moved to Oberammergau where they met von Braun and others from Peenemünde. They finally surrendered to the American army and were transported to Garmisch.

US Army

From July to October 1945, Rudolph was transferred to the British to participate in Operation Backfire. He was then transferred back to the Americans. Martha and Marianne Rudolph were living in Stepfershausen, an area about to be occupied by the Red Army. The American army picked them up, and the Rudolphs were rejoined at Camp Overcast near Landshut. In November 1945, Operation Overcast brought Rudolph, von Braun and the rest of the V-2 team temporarily to the U.S. for six months. After President Truman approved Operation Paperclip in August 1946, most of the group stayed permanently.

After a brief interrogation in Boston, the team was sent to White Sands Proving Grounds to work on further V-2 engineering in January 1946. In January 1947 he was moved to the Ordnance Research and Development Division at Fort Bliss, El Paso, Texas, where his family finally joined him in April. Since he had been brought into the US without a visa, he and others were sent to Juárez, Mexico where he obtained a visa and officially immigrated to the US on 14 April 1949. During this time, he acted as a liaison to the Solar Aircraft Company, and spent much of 1947 and 1949 in San Diego, California.

During a 1949 inquiry by the FBI, Rudolph made the following statement on his participation in the Nazi party:

Until 1930 I sympathized with the social democratic party, voted for it and was a member of a socialdemocratic union (Bund Techn. Agst. u. Beamt.) After 1930 the economical situation became so serious that it appeared to me to be headed for catastrophy. (I really became unemployed in 1932.) The great amount of unemployment caused expansion of nationalsoc. and communistic parties. Frightened that the latter one would become the government I Joined the NSDAP (a legally reg. entity) to help, I believed in the preservation of the western culture.

On 25 June 1950 he was transferred to Redstone Arsenal, Huntsville, Alabama, and the group was redesignated as the Ordnance Guided Missile Center. He was naturalized as an American citizen on 11 November 1954 in Birmingham, Alabama. In 1956 Rudolph was appointed as Technical Director for the Redstone project. Rudolph was assigned as Project Manager for the Pershing missile project. He received an honorary doctorate of science degree from Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida on 23 February 1959. He later received the Exceptional Civilian Service Award, the highest Army award for civilians.


In 1961 Rudolph went to work at NASA, once again working for von Braun. In December 1961 he became Assistant Director of Systems Engineering, serving as liaison between vehicle development at Marshall Space Flight Center and the Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston. He served as the project director of the Saturn V rocket program from August 1963 to May 1968 and then became special assistant to the director of Marshall Space Flight Center. The first Saturn V launch lifted off from Kennedy Space Center and performed flawlessly on 9 November 1967, Rudolph's birthday. In July 1969, the Saturn V helped put man on the Moon. At the end of 1969 Rudolph retired from NASA. During his tenure, he was awarded the NASA Exceptional Service Medal and the NASA Distinguished Service Medal.

OSI investigation and controversy

The Rudolphs retired to San Jose, California to be near their daughter. Soon after moving, he had a heart attack and a triple bypass. In September 1982, he received a letter requesting an interview by the Office of Special Investigations (OSI). Apparently, Rudolph believed this was one of the series of interrogations he had gone through since his arrival in the US. The first of three interviews, it centered on his attitudes on racial superiority, his early participation in the Nazi Party and a possible role in the treatment of prisoners at Mittelwerk. On 28 November 1983, Rudolph, purportedly under duress and fearful for the welfare of his wife and daughter, signed an agreement with the OSI stating that he would leave the United States and renounce his United States citizenship. Under the agreement, Rudolph would not be prosecuted, the citizenship of his wife and daughter was not in danger of revocation and Rudolph's retirement and Social Security benefits were left intact. In March 1984 Arthur and Martha Rudolph departed for Germany where Rudolph renounced his citizenship as agreed. Germany protested to the United States Department of State, as Rudolph now had no citizenship in any country. In July, Germany requested documentation from OSI to determine if Rudolph should be prosecuted or granted citizenship. After receiving documentation in April 1985, the case was investigated by Harald Duhn, the Attorney General of Hamburg. In March 1987, the investigation concluded after questioning a number of witnesses and determining no basis for prosecution. Rudolph was then granted German citizenship.

Meanwhile, a great deal of controversy occurred back in the US. Rudolph had not told his friends of the investigation, but the OSI made a news release after his departure. Several groups and individuals were calling for an investigation into the OSI's activities regarding Rudolph. These included retired Major General John Medaris (former commander of ABMA), the city of Huntsville, the American Legion and former associates at NASA. Thomas Franklin interviewed Rudolph and wrote a series of articles in the Huntsville News that questioned the OSI investigation.

In 1985, Representative Bill Green of New York introduced a bill to strip Rudolph of the NASA Distinguished Service Medal. Rudolph applied for a visa in 1989 to attend a 20th anniversary celebration of the first Moon landing, but was denied by the State Department. In May 1990, the House of Representatives ordered hearings to determine whether the OSI was negligent in not pursuing the prosecution, or if it had violated the rights of Arthur Rudolph. In July the Rudolphs entered Canada for a reunion with their daughter. Since the OSI had placed Rudolph on a watch list, he was detained and expelled from Canada. Paul Fromm and Ernst Zündel (both alleged neo-Nazis) attempted to support Rudolph with demonstrations.

Arthur Rudolph died in Hamburg on 1 January 1996.

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