Walter Dornberger

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Major General Walter Dornberger in British captivity (1945)
Walter Dornberger (left) and Wernher von Braun (in civilian clothes) in Peenemünde, spring 1941
Dornberger (left with hat) with von Braun (center) after their arrest by the US Army in Austria in May 1945

Walter Robert Dornberger (born September 6, 1895 in Gießen ; † June 27, 1980 in Obersasbach ) was major general of the German Wehrmacht and in the Army Weapons Office responsible for the entire German missile weapons program.


Walter Dornberger, son of Hermann Dornberger and Hedwig Dornberger, nee Roltsch, was born into a family of pharmacists in Gießen, which ran the Pelikan pharmacy from 1898 to 1984 in three generations. He had two brothers, Max (* 1893) and Wolfgang (* 1898). Walter Dornberger was married to Alice Dornberger, née Raeder (* July 16, 1913, † 1960). At the beginning of the First World War , he signed up as a volunteer. From October 3, 1918 to March 20, 1920 he was in French captivity. He was then accepted into the Reichswehr of the Weimar Republic and at the end of the 1920s he was assigned to study mechanical engineering at the Technical University of Charlottenburg . Here he acquired the academic degree of graduate engineer . After completing his studies, in 1932 he was assigned the development of solid rockets in the Army Weapons Office. Because of the stipulations in the Versailles Treaty , the German Reich was not allowed to develop or own large cannons. Long-range missiles were not mentioned in the contract.

In 1932 the Association for Space Travel approached the military with a request for financial support. Despite an unsuccessful flight demonstration, Dornberger offered the association funding, but on the condition that the missile development was kept secret and had a military orientation. The club refused, the young Wernher von Braun accepted the offer.

On July 24, 1935, Dornberger was appointed as a major to the department head in the Army Weapons Office . In 1935 he received an honorary doctorate from the Technical University of Berlin for his contribution to the gyro stabilization of rockets. In 1936 he was given responsibility for the army's rocket development, which led to the development of the unit 4 (A4, better known as V2 ).

From 1936 to 1943 Dornberger was head of the missile department of the Army Weapons Office . In 1943 he was appointed major general and commander of the Peenemünde Army Research Center . Dornberger was also responsible for the training and logistics of the V2 units from 1943 to 1945 . From September 1943, Dornberger was a member of the advisory board of Mittelwerk GmbH , which used inmates of the Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp to produce rockets in the tunnel in Kohnstein near Nordhausen . Even though Dornberger stated under oath in 1969 that no forced laborers were used in Peenemünde, the minutes of the meeting dated August 4, 1943, signed by him, penalized him: “The ratio of the German workers to the concentration camp prisoners should be 1:15, at most 1:10 be". In 1943 there were a total of 4 locations for A4 series production, the concentration camp inmates came from: Buchenwald concentration camp (HVA-Peenemünde from June), Dachau concentration camp ( “Friedrichshafener Zeppelinwerke” from June / July), Mauthausen concentration camp ( Rax-Werke in Vienna Neustadt from June / July) and Sachsenhausen concentration camp ( DEMAG superstructures for tanks in Berlin-Falkensee from March). Dornberger signed a protocol from the meeting with Gerhard Degenkolb and Heinz Kunze stating that the series production in all 4 plants was "basically carried out with convicts." On October 29, 1944, after using the V2 on the western front , Dornberger was with the Knight's Cross of the War Merit Cross awarded with swords .

On May 2, 1945, Dornberger and Wernher von Braun were captured by US troops in Reutte / Tyrol after they had given themselves up voluntarily. Together with 450 other missile specialists who were captured in Oberammergau on April 29, 1945 , he was interned and interrogated in Garmisch-Partenkirchen for several weeks . On May 16, 1945, the US Army was able to locate the hiding place of extensive V2 documents in the Georg-Friedrich mine near Goslar, which he and Wernher von Braun had arranged , and to put them aside in a secret operation, although the hiding place is in the British Occupation zone . As part of Operation Backfire , Dornberger fell into British captivity in August 1945 and was to be sentenced as a war criminal. Although the US sought his release, he remained detained in a camp in Wales until July 1947.

In 1947 he was allowed to emigrate to America, where he worked for two years as an advisor to the US Air Force at Wright Field in Ohio. A total of about 120 German rocket researchers were active in the USA at the time, and they and their families also received American citizenship . He then switched to the private sector at the Bell Aircraft Corporation in Buffalo and worked on the management team from 1959 until his retirement. Dornberger was instrumental in the success of the fastest manned aircraft, the North American X-15 . During this time he was also a consultant on the X20 Dyna-Soar project , a forerunner of the space shuttle . This aircraft was supposed to be launched into space by rocket propulsion and then slide back at hypersonic speed (above Mach 5).

The first Patriot anti-aircraft missile position of the US Army Europe was set up in 1984 at Hohe Warte near Giessen and named after Walter Dornberger by the German Defense Minister Manfred Wörner . The fourth battalion of the 43rd Air Defense Artillery used this position until 1991.



  • V2 - the shot into space. Bechtle, Esslingen 1952; Revised and expanded new edition with the title Peenemünde. The history of the V-weapons. :
    • Bechtle, Esslingen 1981, ISBN 978-3-7628-0404-8
    • Moewig, Rastatt 1985, ISBN 978-3-8118-4341-7
    • Ullstein, Frankfurt am Main et al. 1989, (19th edition, 2013), ISBN 978-3-548-33119-5
    • RhinoVerlag, Ilmenau 2018, ISBN 978-3-932081-88-0
    • Translations:
      • V-2 - Hitler's Space Age Missile - The secret weapon that almost changed the course of World War II , Bantam War Book 12660, The Viking Press Inc., New York City 1954, ISBN 978-0-553-12660-0
      • L'arm secrète de Peenemünde (Les fusées V 2 et la conquête de l'espace) , Arthaud, Paris 1954
      • 宇宙空間 を め ざ し て: V2 号 物語 / V 2 gô monogatari Uchû kûkan o mezashite , Iwanami Shoten, Tokyo 1970
      • V-2 & Hitler , PT Pustaka Utama Grafiti, Jakarta 1989 ISBN 978-979-444082-7
      • ФАУ-2. Сверхоружие Третьего рейха. 1930-1945 / Fau-2: sverchoružie Tretʹego rejcha 1930-1945 , Centrpoligraf, Moscow 2004, ISBN 978-5-9524-1444-0
  • Walter Dornberger, Krafft Ehricke : San Francisco to New York in 75 minutes by rocket transport , Look. Jan. 1955
  • The Rocket-Propelled Commercial Airliner (= Research Report. No. 135, ZDB -ID 596797-1 ). University of Minnesota, Minneapolis MN 1956 (reprinted in: Robert Godwin (Ed.): Dyna-Soar. Hypersonic Strategic Weapons System. Apogee Books, Burlington 2003, ISBN 978-1-896522-95-1 , pp. 19-37) .
  • Satellite teletype message, 1960 Oct. 9. Article written for the 80th anniversary issue of the Buffalo Evening News postulating a day in the space age, transmitted via Courier satellite
  • The German V-2 , in: Technology and Culture, Vol. 4, No. 4, The History of Rocket Technology (Autumn, 1963), pp. 393-409, doi : 10.2307 / 3101376
  • Important steps in the development of meteorology and space vehicles , 1963
  • Ernst Klee , Otto Merk , Walter Dornberger, Wernher von Braun : Back then in Peenemünde: at the birthplace of space travel , Gerhard Stalling, Oldenburg and Hamburg 1963
  • Walter Dornberger, Heinrich Lübke : Space alternative: with words on space travel by Federal President Heinrich Lübke , Verlag "Mensch und Weltraum", Cologne 1967


  • Rainer Eisfeld : Moonstruck. Wernher von Braun and the birth of space travel from the spirit of barbarism. zu Klampen, Springe 2012, ISBN 978-3-86674-167-6 .
  • Jens-Christian Wagner (ed.): Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp 1943–1945. Wallstein-Verlag, Göttingen 2007, ISBN 978-3-8353-0118-4 , p. 37.

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Jens-Christian Wagner (ed.): Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp 1943–1945. Göttingen 2007, p. 37.
  2. ^ Rainer Eisfeld: Moonstruck. Jump 2012, p. 20.
  3. ^ Rainer Eisfeld: Moonstruck. Springe 2012, pp. 106-107.
  4. ^ Franz Kurowski : Allied hunt for German scientists . Kristall bei Langen Müller, Munich 1982, ISBN 3-607-00049-2 , p. 53-56 (295 pp.).
  5. Michael J. Neufeld: The Rocket and the Reich: Peenemünde and the Coming of the Ballistic Missile Era . The Free Press, New York 1995. , pp. 19, 33, 55.

Web links

Commons : Walter Dornberger  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files