Magnus von Braun

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For the father of Magnus and Wernher von Braun, see Magnus von Braun (senior).
Magnus von Braun
Dornberger-Axster-von Braun.gif
Magnus von Braun (far left, cropped), two U.S. soldiers, Walter Dornberger, Herbert Axster, Wernher von Braun (center), Hans Lindenberg, and Bernhard Tessmann after surrendering to the Allies in 1945
Born (1919-05-10)10 May 1919
Greifswald, Germany
Died 21 June 2003(2003-06-21) (aged 84)
Phoenix, Arizona, USA
Fields Aerospace engineering, chemistry
Alma mater Technische Universität München
Doctoral advisor Hans Fischer
Spouse Hildegard Buchhold (1950-1955)
Nathalie "Nan" Heaton-Woodruff (1957-2003)
Children three
AUTOBIOGRAPHY:Braun, Magnus Freiherr von (1965). Weg durch vier Zeitepochen (Way through four time periods) (in German). Starke: Limburg an der Lahn. [1]

Magnus "Mac" Freiherr von Braun (10 May 1919 – 21 June 2003) was a German chemical engineer, Luftwaffe aviator, and rocket scientist at Peenemünde, the Mittelwerk, and after emigrating to the United States via Operation Paperclip, at Fort Bliss. He was the brother of Sigismund and Wernher von Braun.


Von Braun was born in Greifswald, Pomerania, to Magnus Freiherr von Braun and Emmy von Quistorp. After completing boarding school at Hermann Lietz-Schule in Spiekeroog, he began his studies in 1937 at Technische Universität München. There he remained after receiving his Master's degree in organic chemistry, and became an assistant to Nobel laureate Hans Fischer.[2]

Von Braun arrived at Peenemünde in July 1943 at the request of Wernher von Braun.[3] In March 1944 he was arrested with fellow rocket specialists Wernher von Braun, Klaus Riedel, Helmut Gröttrup, and Hannes Lüersen, but was later released.[2] In late summer 1944 he transferred to the Mittelwerk where he engineered V-2 rocket gyroscopes, servomotors, and turbopumps:

Mr. Huzel, would you wait a moment, please? ... As you may be aware, we are having difficulties at Mittelwerke in several critical areas. The inferior quality of certain components is seriously reducing output. We are just going to have to divert more people to get the program out of trouble. ... We've decided to send Magnus there to take over gyroscope production. Would you be interested in taking his place as my technical assistant?
—  Wernher von Braun, at meeting with Dieter Huzel and Magnus von Braun, October 1944 at Peenemünde Haus-4 [3]

Surrender at Reutte[edit]

After evacuating from Nordhausen, Magnus von Braun was at the Behelfsheim in Weilheim when Wernher von Braun arrived there from Oberammergau on 14 April 1945. The next day, Magnus had arrived at the Haus Ingeborg in Oberjoch by the end of the day. When Huzel became von Braun's assistant, Dr. Kurt Debus became Engineer in Charge of Test Stand VII—Huzel had served since May 1944 after replacing his old friend Hartmut Kuechen. The Mittelwerk was designated for production after the 17 August 1943 Operation Hydra bombing of Peenemunde, and production started well afterward, so Magnus von Braun's claim that he was selected to transfer in October 1943 is inaccurate.[3] After hearing the radio report of Hitler's death, Wernher von Braun announced to his group early in the morning of 3 May 1945 that "Magnus, who speaks English, has just left by bicycle to establish contact with the American forces at Reutte. We cannot wait here forever."[3] "It was quite courageous for Magnus to come down on his bicycle and find the American troops," said Dr. Ernst Stuhlinger, member of the V-2 team. "He had a white handkerchief tied to the handlebars of the bicycle and that was all he had to protect him."[4]

On May 10, 1919, I was born in Greifswald, the son of a government administrator, Magnus Freiherr von Braun, and his wife, Emmy, née von Quistorp. I spent my youth in Berlin, where I attended the Prep School and the French School until Easter 1934. Finally, I went to the Hermann Lietz School in Spiekeroog, North Sea, a boarding school from which I graduated Easter 1937. After having spent six months in the Arbeitsdienst, I began studies at the Technical Institute of Munich in the fall of 1937, majoring in organic chemistry. Then when I received my master's degree, I became the assistant in organic chemistry to Professor Hans Fischer (Nobel Prize winner in chemistry) for ¼ year, at which time I was drafted into the Air Force (October 1940). After the completion of flight training and a short stay as a flight instructor, I came to the Heimat Artillery Park II, Kalshagen, in July 1943. In Karlshagen, I worked with Mr. Gerhard Heller, the director of fuel chemistry, who put me in charge of hypergolic fuels for the newly developing Wasserfall Project. In this capacity, I worked in conjunction with the I. G. Farben Industry. In October 1943,[2] my brother, Professor Wernher von Braun, requested me to work as his personal assistant.
— Magnus von Braun, document presented to U.S. Army, May 3, 1945 [2]

About two in the afternoon, Magnus returned, "I think it went well, I have safe conduct passes and they want us for further interrogation."[2] The Mission Accomplished: The Battle History of the 44th Infantry Division claim that there was a "hectic night of interrogation, plans and counter-proposals" after Magnus von Braun rode his bike downhill in the morning and met members of the "Anti-tank Company, 324th Infantry" "before he went out and in a short time returned with his brother" is inaccurate: Huzel, McGovern, & Ordway, in their researched works, distinctly state Magnus returned about 2 in the afternoon the same day.[5]

Dieter Huzel described the surrender of the group: "Thus, in the dull, rainy, late afternoon of Wednesday, May 2, 1945, seven men [Magnus & Wernher, Walter Dornberger, Axster, Huzel, Lindenberg, & Tessman] ... began their lonely descent from Adolf Hitler Pass toward ... Schattwald. ... Suddenly, around a curve, an American soldier ... waved us to a stop. Magnus got out and showed a piece of paper to the guard ... After about a half an hour, ... we were flanked by two ... "jeeps," ... We reached Reutte after dark. ... The next morning ... we emerged from the mess hall ... several Army photographers were on hand and spent some time taking pictures."[3] During a photo shoot the next day, Magnus von Braun commented "We're celebrating now, but I'll bet they will throw telephone books at us if we ever reach New York. By noon, Magnus von Braun (along with Axster, Huzel, Lindenberg, & Tessman) arrived in Peiting where forty other Peenemünde personnel already had arrived, and the Germans departed for Garmisch-Partenkirchen on 8 May.[2]

Operation Paperclip[edit]

Von Braun arrived in New York on 16 November 1945 aboard the SS Argentina and was soon at work at Fort Bliss, Texas and later at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama.[6] Von Braun was interrogated as a witness for the Andrae war crimes trial in which Mittelwerk general manager Georg Rickhey was acquitted.[7] Fort Bliss Army CIC agents believed Magnus von Braun was a "dangerous German Nazi", with one agent remarking, "his type is a worse threat to security than a half a dozen discredited SS Generals."[7][8]

In 1955, he began a career with Chrysler—first in the missile division and then in the automotive division.[2] After living in Michigan, he relocated to the UK, working in London and Coventry as Chrysler UK export director. Magnus also resided in Huntsville, Alabama, for a while. He retired from Chrysler in 1975 and remained in Coventry for a few years before returning to the States, where he settled in Arizona and resided until his death.


  1. ^ Neufeld, Michael J (1995). The Rocket and the Reich: Peenemünde and the Coming of the Ballistic Missile Era. New York: The Free Press. p. 346. ISBN 0-02-922895-6. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Ordway, Frederick I, III; Sharpe, Mitchell R (1979). The Rocket Team. Apogee Books Space Series 36. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell. pp. 4,7–12,53,311,391,423. ISBN 0-690-01656-5. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Huzel, Dieter K (1962). Peenemünde to Canaveral. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall. pp. 116, 164, 180, 187–9. OCLC 1374588. 
  4. ^ Cassingham, Randy (22 June 2003). "Magnus von Braun: an Honorary Unsubscribe". This is True. Retrieved 2008-01-29. 
  5. ^ "Victory: von Braun capture". Militaria. Flume Creek Company. LLC. 2008. Retrieved 2008-03-01. 
  6. ^ Wade, Mark (2007). "Von Braun, Magnus". Encyclopedia Astronautica. Knoxville, TN. OCLC 44281221. Retrieved 2008-03-01. 
  7. ^ a b Hunt, Linda (1991). Secret Agenda: The United States Government, Nazi Scientists, and Project Paperclip, 1945 to 1990. New York: St. Martin's Press. pp. 45,53,279,281. ISBN 0-312-05510-2. Retrieved 2008-03-01. 
  8. ^ Vanech, A. Devitt, Asst US Atty General (1947). Magnus von Braun JIOA dossier, RG 330, NARS. National and Archives Records Site (NARS). pp. 45,53,279.