Alabama’s Biggest Secret – Operation Paperclip

Mar 09, 2024 987.8K Views 4.4K Comments

In the north of Alabama is the city of Huntsville. It’s here where German scientists built NASA in secrecy after World War II. Operation Paperclip is still somewhat not talked about today in Huntsville. And for those who know, there are mixed feelings about it. Today we meet up with the grandson of one of the original German scientists to get an inside look at Operation Paperclip and how it left its permanent mark on the city of Huntsville.

► Video edited by: Natalia Santenello

MUSIC USED IN THE VIDEO 🎵
► Headlund – Small Mirage
► Headlund – Red Moon Rising

(gentle music)
– Morning, guys.
This is not your stereotypical
Deep South Alabama story.
This is the story of Huntsville,
a place where the US
government secretly recruited
1600 German scientists,
engineers, technicians,
to help develop this
city from a once small,
sort of provincial place,
into a hub of aerospace,
technology and defense.
So today we’re meeting up
with a man who’s the offspring
from one of these
original German families.
He said, “Peter, I can bring
you into the wild stories
and the history of what built Huntsville,
and why it is the way it is today.”
Let’s do this.
(gentle music)
(gentle music continues)
– If you see that
structure in the distance,
that is the Saturn V engine test stand
where the Saturn V-
– Oh, that structure
way out there?
– Yes.
– Okay.
– With the Saturn V engines
for the moon mission in the 1960s.
And that structure is being restored
and is in use by Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos,
for the construction of
their new rocket engine,
which they are testing there now.
– [Peter] And so 1600 German
scientists, engineers-
– 125.
– [Peter] Okay, why am I
reading 1600 everywhere?
– I don’t know.
The original assembly of German engineers
and scientists numbered 125.
That was the initial core group
that came at the beginning.
– [Peter] And that was your grandfather?
– Yes, he was a part of that team.
They were essentially captured,
they surrendered to the US forces.
– [Peter] So at that
time it was the Americans
and the Soviets trying to grab
all the scientists from Germany, right?
– Absolutely.
The United States did
not have that technology.
As it was explained to
me by my grandfather,
there were future developments
that were underway
that have really never been
released to public knowledge.
And that was a prime
consideration for the,
basically the capture of
the German team members,
the rocket team members.
So the US could capitalize
on their research.
And plans.
– So their choice was either
you go with the Americans
or go with the Soviets?
– Well, a large number of the team
were captured by the Soviets,
and that was the foundation
of the Soviet space program.
So basically you had Germans
working on weapons systems
against their coworker
Germans from Germany,
except I understand the Russians.
My understanding is that they observed,
they recorded and
documented all the knowledge
they could glean from those Germans
that they had in their
possession, they had captured,
and then at some point
they just released them
back toward, you know, demolished Germany,
because they wanted
their own space program.
– Okay.
– And the reason that we probably ended up
beating them in the space race, okay,
was because they did release
their German team members
and we kept ours here in the United States
and let them go full development
for the Saturn V missile to the moon.
– Do you think there were, like,
your grandparents were being monitored?
Like there was a lot of
oversight seeing how they lived,
hoping, you know, making sure
they weren’t double agents
working for the Nazis at that time?
Or Germany was so smashed
it was like not even a consideration?
– Well, I mean, once they were captured,
they were vetted by the OSS.
– Okay.
– Which is the Office of
Strategic Services at the time.
And that’s the precursor agency
to the Central Intelligence Agency.
And so they were vetted.
Whether or not those individuals,
the Paperclip Team members
represented any type
of future risk to the United States.
So they had to pass the vetting exercise.
– Okay.
So your grandfather was an engineer?
– That’s correct.
– Okay.
So he was an engineer before the Nazi-
– Yes.
– Government came into power?
– Yes, a civilian.
– Okay, so when you’re in that position,
you have no choice, right?
You gotta be with whatever
the Nazi government says
or what’s gonna happen?
Or how did that work, do you know?
– Well, he told me that the country
was in shambles before the war.
And I asked him very hard questions
because I am a retired US Army officer,
and I was in the programs at the time,
young officer, lieutenant, and
I asked him what it was like.
– Yeah.
– And how did this happen?
– Right.
– And he explained,
you know, his perspective.
You understand back in those
days that there is no media.
Okay? It’s all state-controlled media
by radio only in a country like that.
So the basic German only
knows what they’re told
via the media that they have, the outlet,
which is radio and newspapers.
– [Peter] Right.
– They were trying to
rebuild their economy,
but then of course
there’s always conflict.
And he was offered
employment into that program,
which was a saving grace for the family
because there was no food
and there was no money.
And so my grandfather did explain
that once they were
involved in the program,
and as the war developed,
they were under strict control
and supervision by elements
of the German government.
And he told me at one time it got so bad
because the missiles kept exploding.
You know, they’d launch
them and they’d blow up.
They had problems with expansion
of the liquid propellant
in the fuselage.
– Okay.
– And they were told if
that continued to happen,
then they would be building
tanks for the war effort.
– They would be building-
– They’d be building tanks.
– Manually building tanks.
– Manual labor building tanks
for the war effort if
their rockets didn’t work.
– So at that point in time,
they had no choice to do the work.
They had to do the work.
– Oh, once they were at
Peenemunde, they were locked in.
– What is it? Peenemunde?
– Peenemunde’s the name
of the research facility
on the North Sea, North Germany.
– Okay.
– And that was it because it
was over on the coastline.
So they could launch rockets,
and they could, you know,
when they do blow up
or go out of control,
they land in the ocean.
It’s the Redstone test site
for the Jupiter-C Redstone rockets
that launched satellites
and astronauts in space.
1958.
1961, Alan Shepard.
This the blockhouse
where the launch control people would sit
and test the rocket engines.
And this is the test site
itself in front of us.
And it has been, I see now repainted
and cleaned up with an
actual rocket on the pad.
– So was your grandfather involved
with any of this out here?
– He was in that bunker
right there with them, yes.
Oh yeah.
There was nothing else here but this.
(plane roaring)
– So Theo, we’re on a massive compound.
– Yes, we are.
– Massive.
– Yes.
– And you said camera down the whole time?
– That’s correct.
– Okay.
– But at this point,
this is a tourist site,
and if you were to sign up for a tour.
– Yeah.
– At the Space and Rocket Museum.
– Yeah.
– You know,
the US Space and Rocket Center,
they will take you out here with tourists
and they’ll come to this site.
– Okay.
– And potentially
other places.
– Okay.
– That are no longer in use.
They’re historically designated.
– Okay.
– Okay?
And they’re open for exhibits.
– Okay. But this compound,
massive new FBI building.
– That’s correct.
– We just passed that.
– Yes.
– What else is out here?
– There’s a lot of intelligence
agencies that are here.
Working technologies.
There’s space weapons
systems being developed,
and there’s Missile
Defense Agency is here.
The Space-
– NASA.
Big NASA building we just passed.
– NASA, Marshall Space Flight Center
is headquartered in Redstone Arsenal.
– [Peter] What is this tower over here?
Is that for a rocket?
(Theo sighs)
– You know,
I don’t know.
– They’re building something.
– It’s an old NASA stand.
As is that.
– [Peter] How many acres are
we talking in this place?
– Oh, the arsenal’s, I
don’t know, 29,000 acres.
So it’s huge.
(Peter exhales)
– So this is a real nerve
center for the US government?
– Absolutely.
Yeah, it’s a think tank.
– Like one of the big ones.
– It is.
– In the country.
– Yes.
– Okay, so this, does
a V-2 look like this?
– It’s much smaller.
– [Peter] And so your grandfather,
who worked on the V-2.
– Yes.
– [Peter] You were telling me
that it stood for something.
In German, what did it mean?
– The V, the V stood for Vergeltungswaffe,
which means revenge weapon.
– And the Germans were firing the V-2
at the end of the war, right?
Into the UK?
– Into the UK.
– Into Belgium.
– Into Belgium in mass, yes.
Into the UK.
And as he told me that the
largest challenge they had
with that missile was guidance systems.
– Okay.
– Because they didn’t have, you know,
there were no satellites and no GPSs.
They used gyroscopes.
So they had to be situated
properly on the terrain,
aimed properly, and then the gyros
had to be calibrated properly,
and they launched them and
they went off on their own.
And they were basically an area weapon,
not a precision strike weapon.
– Okay, but it was technology
the West didn’t have
and the Soviets didn’t have.
– That is correct.
– It was far ahead of everything else.
– They were using…
They had, I understand the Russians had
multiple launch rocket systems
that were on portable tracked vehicles
that would launch in the battlefield.
– Okay.
– You know, limited range.
But they were, you know,
these V-2s had the
capability to go, you know,
over to the English mainland
and into that area too.
And so the goal was always to
develop a delivery platform
for some payload to go further
and with more accuracy,
which they were actually
working on when the war ended.
They were developing a multi-stage,
intercontinental ballistic missile.
– Why were the Germans so far ahead?
– Well, I just think
that they have a unique
intricate interest in their minds
or seem to be tuned to
work towards, you know,
a high technology solution to a hobby.
Because rocketry was a
hobby back in those days.
Even in the United States.
– A hobby.
– Yes.
– What, like your little model rockets?
– Yes, kids.
Yes, they were here too.
But not to the degree of a perfection
that the Germans were working on.
– Mm.
Theo, you’re very strict
about the camera out here.
So keep it down, down, down
until we go to these tourist sites.
– Yeah.
Imagine you’re a tourist in a tourist bus.
They’ll tell you, “You
can come and take pictures
when we get out of the bus.”
They don’t want you filming the buildings.
– Nothing over there.
– And the building numbers.
You see, that identifies a location.
I mean, for obvious reasons.
– [Peter] Right.
– [Theo] Rocket Park.
These were rockets that
were developed here.
Now the one on the left looks
like a V-2, but it’s not.
I think that’s-
– That smaller one there?
– [Theo] Yeah, that’s the Hermes missile.
– So this is a new world for me.
Where am I wrong here, where am I right?
That NASA was mostly German
engineers in the beginning?
– Well-
– What percentage?
– The group that controlled
all of the development
of the space vehicle development
were the German engineers.
In fact, I understand that
Wernher von Braun ordered them
that they had to quit
speaking German at work
because the Americans they had under them
didn’t understand what
they were talking about.
So-
– So was-
– So they were training.
– Well let’s stop here,
’cause I don’t want to record up there.
– Right.
– So was that disrespectful
towards the American servicemen
that fought in the war,
and all of a sudden you have
all these Germans over here
working in your government?
Or people just get over things
really quickly and that’s how it works?
– Well, my dad was a US engineer.
He went to University of Pittsburgh.
– Okay.
– He was a World War II
veteran in the Japanese theater.
And I understand that, and
he was under the Germans,
you know, here, as were
all the American engineers.
There were no Americans
in charge of anything
– Really?
From what year to what year?
– I don’t know when that ended actually.
It was after, okay, it actually ended
after the successful landing
of man on the moon, 1969.
– So you’re saying after
World War II to ’69,
the Germans were running the show here?
– Absolutely.
– But they Americanized.
– Dr. Wernher von Braun
was running the show here.
– Yeah, but they Americanized?
– Yes.
They were given
naturalization citizenships.
– That was a risky move, don’t you think?
By the US government?
– Yes, I understand.
And it was told to me the other day
that even Dr. Von Braun was not allowed
to possess a top secret
security clearance.
Yet.
– Okay, but these were all
men that worked for the Nazis.
They were part of the Nazi regime.
– Yes, they were employed
under their special weapons
programs as contractors.
– And they knew what
was going on in Germany.
They agreed with it?
Or it’s hard to know? It’s
hard to get into their heads?
– Well, I was told that, you know,
they’re living in secure sites,
working in secure facilities.
They really didn’t know what
was going on around them
outside where they were,
because they were working on development
for propulsion systems,
or air foils, airframes
structures and whatnot.
But the war was raging.
So they were building, you know,
a delivery platform for
a weapon, for a warhead.
– They didn’t, you don’t think they knew
what the war was for?
Like concentration camps in Poland,
they didn’t have an
understanding of it, you think?
Or-
– They did not.
No, they did not.
But they did have some
labor associated with
the building of the missiles
that were prisoners.
– So they sort of knew what was going on.
– Yes.
– It’s so wild.
– It is.
– How humans operate, right?
– That is true.
But-
– I mean,
it’s not a direct comparison,
but it’s like Iraq.
If you’re in the army, you’re told to go.
– Right, I went.
– You went?
– Absolutely.
– How was that?
– It was not fun.
It was hard.
People died, they got hurt.
– Did you agree with it?
The war? Or no?
– Uh, well, at some point in time,
we were involved, you know,
in obvious hostilities,
and we were there as a support
unit with the National Guard.
So at that point,
we didn’t even think
about ideology anymore.
It was all about doing
your job and staying alive.
– Okay.
– You don’t worry about
ideology when you’re there,
because America is not there with you.
They are in spirit maybe.
You know, they are,
but you know, in the supplies and flow,
but you’re physically
located at another country,
engaged in hostilities with them.
– And it’s just day by day, right?
– And it’s day by day. It’s game on.
It’s game on.
– Okay, now looking back on that conflict,
do you agree with us going there or not?
– I really don’t know, you know,
what the real premise
was to invade into Iraq.
I thought it should have
been centric to Afghanistan.
– Yeah.
– Because of the Bin Laden, you know,
obvious, you know, control.
And he was the aggressor.
– They sold this on,
“They were tied together.”
– Right.
So I’m in no position to
actually have information
to question any decision made above me
at my level as just an aviator.
– Right.
– And so I went, you know,
I went and did my job
the best way I knew how.
– Yep.
– You have to follow the
principles that were taught to us.
– Yeah.
– In our academies.
You know, the rules of war
and how you handle people,
personnel, your own,
enemy combatants, prisoners,
wounded individuals,
you know, we have all these conventions.
The Geneva Convention is the biggest one.
And the rules of land and air warfare
that we’re trained in,
that we have to prosecute.
We have to prosecute those
actions with our soldiers.
– Yep.
– So, you know,
otherwise we are subject to prosecution
and internment at the
Federal Penitentiary,
the Military Correctional
Barracks at Fort Leavenworth.
At the time of my deployment,
I was serving in the National
Guard as a civilian employee
and a member of a unit as
a maintenance test pilot.
And our organization
received a mobilization order
initiated by President Bush Jr.
And it was for a period of two years.
And we had less than 20
hours to report for duty,
packed to leave for two years.
And I did.
– [Peter] How scary was that?
– It was pretty interesting
because there’s supposed
to be more lead time,
but the disconnect
between the National Guard
and the regular Army is obvious
at that point.
– So you’re just like,
I mean, if you have a fam.
Did you have a?
– At the time I was not
married, I had a home.
Lived alone.
I had to abandon everything in place.
My mother and family and
personal friends, accountants,
set up powers of attorney
with me and with my mom
and to my mother for my estate
in case I didn’t come back.
And so-
– And you just gotta go.
– And I-
– 24 hours.
– I was gone the next morning
and I didn’t see anyone
for a year and a half.
– [Peter] So we’re gonna
get to talk to your mother.
– Yes.
You get to talk to her.
– Oh, wow.
– Mm-hmm.
– [Peter] It’s beautiful.
– [Theo] It’s like living in the country,
but you’re in the city.
(footsteps thudding)
Hello, Mom.
– Hi!
– Hi, Mom.
– Hello, ma’am.
– This is Peter.
– Nice to meet you.
– Hi, Peter, I’m Gisela.
– Gisela, nice to meet you.
– I’m Theo’s mother.
– Okay.
– And this is
my medical associate and-
– Hi.
– Trusted friend.
– [Peter] Trusted friend.
That’s, you need those in life.
That’s important.
– Yes, yes, yes.
– Oh, and who’s this?
– This is Missy.
– Missy is so cute.
_ Missy’s our rescue dog.
– Holzhausen is my mother’s grandfather
from her mother’s side.
And he was an officer
in the German military
in the 1890s and early 1900s
as a military governor
in the German colony,
African colony of Tanga,
which is now Tanzania.
And he was involved in combat there
against other colonial powers.
– [Gisela] That was probably
taken at a NASA event.
Let’s see, what does it say here?
“To my friend and”, something else.
This is my mother, this is my father,
and that’s Dr. Von Braun.
– Dr. Von Braun was-
– He was the director.
He was the director of NASA.
NASA began as the National
Aeronautics Advisory Committee.
I think they called it NACA.
And then at some point
it morphed into NASA,
the National Aeronautics
and Space Administration.
And so Dr. Von Braun was
the first director of NASA
up until after the moon shot,
successful landing of man on the moon.
– That’s just me and my dog.
– Wendy.
– That’s here in Huntsville?
– Yes.
– [Peter] Do you remember Germany?
– Yes.
I went to school there.
My father worked in Peenemunde,
and they developed the V-2 rocket there.
My family decided that my mother,
I had a twin sister who’s deceased,
that we not move to Peenemunde,
so we spent a lot of summers there
because my father thought
it was a little bit
too dangerous for us to live there.
We stayed in a small town near Detmold,
North Central Germany,
and lived in an apartment
upstairs, somebody’s house.
And so when the war ended,
we didn’t know whether
my dad was alive or not.
You know, it took quite a while.
And all of a sudden he appeared,
and we couldn’t believe
it, you know? (laughs)
And then here came at, I
remember coming home from school,
and there was a British,
we were in the British sector at the time,
and there was a British truck there,
a military truck in front of our building,
and put us in that truck
in the back of the truck
and whatever little furniture we had,
and said we were going to another place.
So we got on the train
and went to Landshut,
which is in the foothills
of the Bavarian Mountains,
and stayed there in encampments.
The men had already gone to America,
and we were left in this encampment.
– [Peter] The men as in
the scientists, engineers?
– Yes, yes, uh-huh.
– [Peter] Okay. They were taken to the US?
– Right, mm-hmm.
And I think Von Braun’s group decided to,
when they left Peenemunde to go south
away from the Russians,
they preferred to be captured
by the Americans or whatever,
rather than Russians.
We lived in Landshut, I guess three years,
or something like that,
until they put us on this hospital ship.
And it took three weeks,
but we weren’t allowed to contact anybody,
be it, talk with anybody.
I remember when we
finally got to New York,
and we had to wait for our train car,
separate train car that we rode in,
you know, they attached
us to different trains
from New York to El Paso.
And a couple came by and they
heard us speaking German.
And there was always
military police with us.
And they told the people
not to talk to us.
And it wasn’t long after they came back
and had a sack full of candy.
And I’ve never eaten
such delightful sweets
in my entire life.
You know, candy was unheard
of back in the war in Germany.
And there were our fathers waiting.
They had spent a year,
little more than a year in
White Sands, New Mexico,
in the desert there,
and they all looked like
they weighed 100 pounds more
than they did the year before,
because they were stuck
in the desert there.
There was nothing to
do for them, basically,
you know, for excitement.
So they made furniture for us,
’cause we, you know,
didn’t have any furniture
or anything when we came over.
And I remember my dad, his
biggest love was music.
And he played in symphonies
wherever he lived.
And he was allowed to include the cello,
you know, to bring to the States.
And that I slept on a cello
box for about three years.
(Gisela laughs)
Called it my bed.
So they put us in this
encampment in the desert.
No sooner did we get there,
they brought American teachers
into this encampment for us,
for its children.
And they Americanized us
as quickly as possible.
– [Peter] How did they do that?
– Oh, like we learned
to pledge allegiance,
couldn’t speak English.
You know, and, “My country ’tis of thee.”
And we couldn’t speak the
language, but we adlibbed it.
And it was interesting. (laughs)
So when September came,
they put us on a bus with
a military police again,
put us in a public school in El Paso.
And we were welcomed as children.
I think they probably knew
that there was some foreigners coming,
and they’re harmless. (laughs)
And we thrived in that school.
Did very well, you know?
So we lived there, what, three years?
And then we were told that our dads
were being transferred to a place
very similar to the foothills of Germany.
Huntsville, Alabama.
A small town, I think what,
like 29,000 population.
And my dad became a founding member
of the Huntsville Symphony.
Then we rented a house,
and the owner would come once
a month to collect his rent,
but he never spoke to us.
He’d just say thank you and leave,
until after three, I guess three years.
Yeah.
When my dad bought a
new house, just built,
in seven, I think it was
in the $7,000 bracket.
We just thought that was living the life
because we’d never owned
anything really before.
– [Peter] Did people know
of Operation Paperclip here?
The locals, the local Americans?
Or was that sort of a secret thing
nobody really had an understanding of?
– I guess some people did,
but maybe the city fathers, you know?
But other than that we
were just technical people
arriving from Germany, the
enemy country. (laughing)
But we were okay. (laughs)
We didn’t make any trouble. (laughs)
– [Peter] Have you lost
some of your German,
or do you still speak fluent German?
– Perfect.
(Peter speaking German)
– Uh-huh.
(Gisela speaking German)
No, I just, you know, I
figured when I had children,
there wasn’t much I could give them,
but I could give them
the knowledge of German,
my native language.
– [Peter] How has the US been for you?
– For me? Oh, so good, so good.
Coming, you know,
foreigners, to Huntsville,
they accepted us here.
They were very accommodating, hospitable.
We built this house.
It was in the country back then.
That was 53 years ago.
And I’ve been in this house ever since.
– [Peter] And you’re, what, 63 years old?
(Giselle chuckles)
– You wish.
I wish!
I’m 86, pushing 90. Isn’t that wonderful?
I’ve had my happiest
times in my life here,
my saddest times in my life here.
And I just wouldn’t have it any other way.
– [Peter] This is where the
original Germans were staying,
a lot out here.
– Yeah, they would live here.
– [Peter] Okay, in these smaller homes?
– Yes, that’s correct.
I believe their home was that one.
– Your grandfather’s?
– Yes, he lived in this house.
Now I’ll say this, in the last five years,
a lot of work’s been done
to a lot of these homes.
And the original residents
have been displaced.
– [Peter] Just the
value’s gone up or what?
– Yes.
Three years ago, four years
ago, you buy properties here,
and you’ll double your
money in a year, easily,
by doing nothing.
And so because they’ve just
run out of places to live.
But you see, these are mill houses.
We had numerous mills here, cotton mills.
Everybody that worked
here back in the 1930s
worked for the company
and the company store.
They were paid in company money.
– Like scrips.
Like scrip?
– Yes.
– Like with the coal mines.
– Well, they worked for the cotton mills.
– The cotton mill had scrip also?
– Yes. This is a cotton mill community.
– [Peter] Oh my God!
– They’re all the same size dimensionally.
Now the mill is long, it’s
called the Dallas Mill.
The Dallas Mill is no longer standing.
There is one building, but
it’s now an art center.
My daughter sells candles in there.
– Okay, so for those of you
that don’t know what scrip is,
it’s the payment system by the factory
or the coal mine company or
the plantation company, right?
– Yes.
– And so they’re paid in this scrip,
this currency that can only be used
at the stores owned by the company.
– The company store.
– Right.
So the money works nowhere else.
– Correct.
– You’re stuck.
– That’s it.
– You’re stuck with them.
And that went on here until when?
– Well, I think the 1950s.
– Nah.
– ’40s.
’40s? Yeah.
– Come on!
– ’30s.
– That long?
– Yeah!
– Okay, we don’t know exactly.
– I don’t know exactly.
– Is that what you’re saying?
Okay, if someone knows, in the comments,
please let us know.
– What you see here is
all new construction.
That’s a office space.
And it’s been built within
the last year and a half.
Down the street is what
once was Butler High School,
where my mother went to high
school, graduated in 1955.
The Butler Rebels.
And I took my mother here two years ago,
and she walked through for the
first time since high school,
straight to Ale Brewery,
owned by Bruce Weddendorf,
30 year NASA engineer.
And she said everything is different
except the concrete floors.
And that she pointed to
the principal’s office,
and it said tattoo parlor on the door.
The bar was made from the
bleachers in the gymnasium.
– [Peter] Okay.
– And the gym is back here.
As you can see-
– Oh, wow!
– They’re brewing in here.
And so this was the high school gym
where my mother used to
go to to watch games,
basketball and whatever.
– [Peter] Oh yeah, the
scoreboard’s still up!
This place has changed rapidly, huh?
Over the years?
– [Theo] Oh yes.
– [Peter] At nighttime, this takes off?
– Oh yeah.
This whole strip is super busy.
– So most of the people
coming here work in aerospace,
defense contractors.
– Defense contracting is big.
Boeing, Intergraph, the Arsenal.
The footprint of the arsenal
is about the same size as Huntsville.
Half of our lunch menu or
lunch customers during the week
are people from out of
town, from DC mainly.
– [Peter] What’s your feel
about Huntsville these days?
– I like the way it’s going,
but I was born and raised here.
I’d kind of like to slow up a little bit.
I miss my small town, but, you know,
other than that, I’m for it.
I’m for progress, I’m for growth.
It could slow down a
little bit though. (laughs)
– [Peter] You agree?
– I concur,
I’m from here too.
– Yeah.
– Yeah.
– It’s harder to find
somebody born and raised here.
– I went to Weatherly Elementary
and Whitesburg Middle
School and the Grissom.
– Okay.
– You know.
– ’60s and ’70s.
– I was Colonial Hills, Lakewood.
– Yeah.
– Calvary Hills,
Lee High School.
– Mom lived in Colonial Hills too.
Their first house was out there.
– Okay.
– Yeah,
when they first came here.
– Do you know about Operation Paperclip?
Do you know much about it?
– The Nazis? The scientists?
– Yeah.
– Wernher von Braun?
Oh yeah. Oh yeah, fully aware.
– [Peter] You know? Do most
people know that story, or?
– Nope, I don’t think so.
I don’t think enough
people know that story,
but yeah, I don’t think they do.
– [Peter] What’s your take on it?
– I like the progress they made,
but I don’t know if it’s necessarily right
to bring Nazis over to help us.
It’s like forgiving ’em for
an exchange for information.
I don’t think it’s…
I don’t think that’s a good thing.
We would’ve eventually made
the progress we needed to make.
– Okay.
– Without them, I think.
– They have a lot of discussions
out at the university
about that topic,
and a lot of yelling goes
on back and forth in town.
– [Peter] Okay, so it’s
a bit controversial-
– Yes, it is.
– In town.
– Yeah, it is.
– Okay.
– For those that know.
– Okay, so he’s against it.
– Clearly.
– Yeah.
– Right.
– [Peter] How does that make you feel?
Did you-
– Doesn’t bother me at all.
Well, I faced that when
I was an Army officer.
You know, they knew my background as well.
My first assignment as an aviator
in a combat aviation battalion,
I was assigned as a liaison in Germany
to the 35th West German Panzer Brigade.
They put me in a Panzer unit
because I was a US Army officer
that was fluent in German
with a vetted background.
And they had a hard time accepting me
also in the Panzer Unit.
– [Peter] So that doesn’t bother you?
– It happened to me in Germany.
So you’re just used to-
– In a German army.
– You’re used to it?
– Lifelong.
Yeah, absolutely.
I see it all the time.
So we’re close to the
entrance, to the speakeasy.
– Okay, okay.
– Can you show me where it is?
– [Peter] The entrance to the speakeasy
is right here, obviously.
– Yeah.
No.
Oh!
– Loose lips sink ships.
(Peter laughs)
– Well, that’s the other room.
I gotta stay to here?
– [Customer] You know
there’s a door right here.
You’re gonna get in there.
– You’ve gone too far.
– I’ve gone too far?
– Yeah.
– Entrance to the speakeasy.
– [Customer] Keep going.
– I’ll tell you where it is.
– Where is it?
– It’s right behind you.
– I was saying that, but it’s…
That goes right-
– It slides.
The whole thing slides out.
– But it goes right to-
Oh, there is a…
Yeah!
– And there he is.
The gatekeeper.
– [Peter] This is so cool.
– So this is the old band room.
– [Peter] So this is just
a party zone late night.
– Oh yes.
A lot of private parties.
More extensive cocktails.
We feature our absinthe in here.
We make all our own liquor.
Old gym floor, old bleachers.
That whole thing is all old bleachers.
– [Peter] Ah, it’s beautiful.
How long you worked here?
– [Bruce] Five and a half years.
It’s one of the best jobs I’ve ever had.
– [Peter] Good community here
in Huntsville?
– Oh, absolutely.
I love Huntsville.
I’m biased, but.
– So a little bit north of
here, we’re talking Appalachia,
a little bit south of
here, it’s deep south.
– Yep.
– What is this?
It’s sort of like this
hybrid zone I would say.
– It is.
This is a melting pot city.
– Okay.
– ‘Cause you do have, you
know, the mountain folk,
the deep city, you
know, the deep rednecks.
I like to think of Huntsville,
if Alabama’s the heart of Dixie,
Huntsville’s the heart of Alabama.
You know, that’s the way
I like to look at it.
– I’m sure Montgomery and
Birmingham wouldn’t agree.
– Yeah, I’m sure they
wouldn’t, but. (laughs)
– And Fairhope definitely not.
– Oh, definitely not.
But I think there’s a reason
why we’re growing and
they’re not, you know.
– ‘Cause you have the jobs.
– Absolutely.
And we accept the outsiders.
You know, we want people to
move here from California,
Texas, Washington, wherever.
– [Theo] I think we’ve hit our limit.
(Bruce laughs)
– I say all is welcome.
– All is welcome.
– All is welcome.
– All right. As long as
they’re respectful and-
– Yeah, absolutely.
I find the longer people from
out west, up north, live here,
they get more accustomed
to the slower pace,
how polite people are on a normal basis.
You know, southern hospitality
is definitely a thing.
It’s not dead.
– It’s happening here.
– Oh yeah, absolutely.
– [Peter] Not the pretentious
style, but the real deal.
– The real deal, yeah.
I can’t walk through a
Publix or a Home Depot
without getting into five
different conversations
with absolute strangers.
If people need stuff,
we’re still there to help.
You know, if somebody’s
short a couple bucks
at the gas station,
just throw it onto mine, I got you.
– Yeah.
– Just pay it forward.
– [Peter] That’s cool.
Even with all this development.
– Mm-hmm.
– That’s great.
– Mm-hmm.
I would like to think
that we rub off on people
if you’re here long enough.
(upbeat music)
– That was an interesting
moment in there where he’s,
you know, against-
– Oh yeah.
– What happened.
– Oh yeah.
Well that’s commonplace.
– And you’re-
And you grew up here.
– Yeah.
– You didn’t grow up in Germany.
– No.
– And we’re all products
of our circumstances and conditions.
– Yes.
– But you handle it very well.
– ‘Cause I’m used to it.
You just don’t talk about it.
– [Peter] But you’re talking about it.
– Well, I’ll talk about it.
I talk about it openly to a lot of people,
but a lot of folks are
uncomfortable with the conversation.
You know, you know?
– Right, they’re not-
– I have a government
security clearance, yeah.
They always ask questions before,
and I say, “How old do you think I am?”
Do I look like I was somewhere there?
And this conversation just stops.
What was going on in 1959 when
I was being born in Alabama?
And they can’t answer that.
Then their face turns red.
– Oh, right.
Because segregation was
full on in ’59 down here.
– Well, oh yeah, absolutely.
In fact, you know, but this town was-
– Separate schools.
– Absolutely.
– Everything.
– Polarized.
It was when I grew up.
– Okay.
– Yeah. I mean, I grew up
in the south end of town.
– And so the kin of those
plantation owners are still here.
– Absolutely.
– Living on that land.
– Absolutely.
– Okay, so you have the ultimate comeback
when someone hits you on this one.
– Yeah, I just don’t bring it up.
I could.
Maybe if I drank two of
the monkey knots, I could,
I’ll go back and bring it up again.
– Straight to ale and drop that.
– Just need to drink a
monkey knot and say, “Hey,”
and then ask Bruce to come out, the owner.
You know, I wouldn’t do that.
But you’re right.
I just ignore the entire conversation.
So we’re headed towards the Big Spring.
It’s the foundation of
the city to the right.
– Okay.
– It’s downtown.
– The sign explains it all.
Pure water was a marvel to
Indian and frontiersmen alike
prior to the 19th century.
John Hunt.
That’s where
the name comes from?
– Huntsville.
– [Peter] Okay, gotcha.
Major attraction spring water being pumped
96 feet through hollowed cedar logs.
So this is great water.
– [Theo] Uh.
– (laughs) Maybe not.
– Before the geese.
– Before the ducks, yeah.
– From the source.
(water splashing)
– [Peter] Oh, this is beautiful!
Right smack in the center.
– Years and years ago, it
was just a rock wall here.
And so it had a wire
mesh cage in the front.
These stairs weren’t here.
And so the spring feeds out.
I think right now it’s coming
from that crack over there,
you know, but it’s a fresh water supply,
and it’s been explored by the
National Speleological Society
who are headquartered here in Huntsville.
And so they never found the end of it.
It goes for miles.
The building behind you
is the first Alabama bank.
– [Peter] Uh-huh.
– [Theo] That was robbed
by Jesse and Frank James.
– [Peter] No way!
– They said they escaped,
jumped out through that door.
Here’s the triangular building
that I could have bought for $30,000.
– This building right here?
– Yes.
– 30,000.
– Yes.
– [Peter] When?
– That was in the early 1980s.
Everything was for sale.
– This lady’s styling.
– [Theo] Cheap.
– [Peter] So the ’80s
was a down cycle here
and then it just took off?
– Absolutely.
– [Peter] Took off ever since?
– [Theo] It was all for sale dirt cheap.
– [Peter] So, ’50s, ’60s, ’70s thriving.
Then what happened with
NASA and everything?
Like why did it go down so much?
– After the NASA accomplished
its main objective
under Dr. Wernher von
Braun and his German team,
you know, by delivering man to the moon,
it fell out of favor
with the American public.
And then came the advent of Skylab,
which was a, you know,
orbital space laboratory.
And it eventually fell out
of orbit and other projects.
– [Peter] Mm-hmm.
– So it was no longer the forefront
of the national objective.
– [Peter] So jobs left town.
– Yes, layoffs at NASA occurred,
and the space industry began
its decline at that point.
But there is a defense industry here, so.
– Yeah.
– That sustained
the community.
The US Army’s Missile Defense Agency
is headquartered at Redstone Arsenal.
– [Peter] So you’re downtown here,
I haven’t seen one homeless person.
I’ve seen no trash.
Is that the story here,
or what’s going on?
– [Theo] It was a major effort
to revitalize the downtown area
beginning over 15 years ago.
– Oh yeah, this is beautiful.
These old buildings are really well kept.
– [Theo] Harrison Brothers
Hardware established in 1879,
oldest hardware store in Alabama.
My daughter has her products
on display in there.
– [Peter] Oh, cool. What are they?
– [Theo] She makes essential oil candles
in vintage china vessels.
– [Peter] Many young people here?
– They are now.
Used to not be that way.
There’s been a huge effort
to attract young
professionals to the city.
By 1975, ’76, if you had
$10 on a Friday night,
you could put half a tank of gas
in your 1966 Pontiac GTO convertible,
you could go to the drive-in
theater with a date,
you could get in and pay for two tickets,
you could have two friends
in the trunk of the car.
Okay? So they got in for free.
You could go in and park.
It was drive-in theater. You
hung the speaker in the window,
and you go inside the stand
and you could buy a bag
of popcorn and some sodas
and have a six pack of
Wiedemann’s beer that cost $1.89,
go back to the car, eat
popcorn, drink Cokes and beer,
and you had money left over.
And that’s the truth.
– So that was your
favorite time period here?
– It was.
– The ’70s?
– The ’70s.
The social landscape of
the south in this area
was way different.
For example, most of the state was dry.
You couldn’t buy any alcohol.
If you did, you went to the bootlegger
in south of here, across
the river, Morgan County.
There was only one.
Everybody knew him. They
raided him once a year.
Took his two cases of beer away,
paraded him under five
deputies in handcuffs
and let him go the next night.
He’s open for business.
– That’s why moonshine
is a big thing, right?
– Still is.
– Still is.
– Yeah. If you can find it.
And that’s the game.
Because actual moonshine,
if it’s made properly,
they don’t use radiators
anymore from cars with lead.
– Yeah.
– You know about that, right?
So they, actually as I understand it,
it doesn’t make you as ill
as commercially produced
alcohols would because it’s pure.
– Okay.
– Although albeit stronger.
– Okay.
So it’s illegal, moonshine?
– Yeah, for tax reasons.
Only for tax reasons.
– Okay.
But no one really cares, right?
They’re not arresting people?
– Yes, they are.
Oh, yes, the ABC Board in this state is-
– Well, they’re not going into
your home and finding you.
– For a while before the
microbreweries opened,
one of my neighbors had
a huge vat in his garage.
He was the founder of
the first microbrewery
that I showed you, the Below the Radar,
and he’s a NASA engineer,
won’t mention his name,
but he was brewing at the house,
and he was part of a super
secret society of brewers
that were all educated at
the graduate and PhD level.
And they’re the ones that
began the microbrewing,
you know, operations in
town when it became legal.
2009.
– I mean, the liquor laws
are more conservative
here than Utah.
Than Salt Lake City.
– Yes.
– I think that they opened
up earlier than you guys.
– Right.
This community was very resistant.
This is one of the main streets.
These are the old structures of town
in the oldest part of town.
– [Peter] And so how did
people have the money
back then for this?
– [Theo] They owned land.
They were wealthy business people.
– Okay.
– This is the Propst Mansion.
Dr. Propst was the chief
pharmacist for Walmart.
And he’s a local pharmacist.
He had his own drugstore here.
– Okay.
– Became that.
And then they started their own
pill manufacturing
facility in the country,
and they became billionaires.
So they held the most personal asset
in this community of anyone else.
– Look at that one.
– So they host
a lot of social events.
– [Peter] Look at these
places, they’re huge!
– [Theo] At one time, this one right here
was a room and boarding house
for young women in college,
and you could live there cheaply.
– [Peter] There’s a lot
of money in Huntsville.
– Yes.
Tremendous amount money.
– So old and new money.
– Behind us we passed is
the Masonic Twickenham.
This is called the Twickenham District,
is the Masonic Temple.
And as a youth, I was
in the Order of DeMolay,
I don’t know if you’ve heard of that
– [Peter] I haven’t. That’s
under the Masonic label?
– [Theo] It’s the Young
Man’s Youth organization
under the Masonic Temple.
I was the master counselor of my chapter.
– What was that like?
– It was deeply versed
in the Masonic Order,
although we were not permitted
to know the Masonic Order’s ritual.
And it was in the Scottish Rite Temple,
and so I wore a white cape
with the emblem of the crusaders on it.
It was the Knights Templar Organization.
– The emblem of the Crusaders?
– The Knight’s Templar.
– Huh.
– Jacques DeMolay was a Knight’s Templar.
He actually existed.
And he was killed and burned at the stake
by the Spanish Inquisition.
So we would replicate those actions
through what we call rituals
and reenact them inside the chapter room.
– Like you’re reenacting the killing.
– Exactly.
We all had to memorize the entire rituals
committed to memory.
In the center of the room is
an altar with the Holy Bible.
We had the flower talk
to honor our mothers.
We talked about honoring
mothers and family.
It was to teach young men
to be grown men and head of families.
– Okay.
– And follow all the principles
essentially as outlined in the Bible.
– Are you glad you did it?
– Absolutely.
– Gave a lot of good structure, or?
– Yes.
And so, I mean, forever,
I will always hold that.
I was a past master counselor
and representative DeMolay.
They gave me a special pin.
So I’m a subset of a higher
order within that organization.
– Okay.
– As I got older,
of course, I was out of the organization.
They did try to recruit me
and they told me to postpone college
and join the Masonic Order,
and that they would at some
point, if things went right,
take care of my college needs
to ascend you higher
into their organization.
– [Peter] So why aren’t
you in the Freemasons now?
– Because I went to college
and I went into Army ROTC
and became an officer on my own.
And I just broke away from it.
We’re now headed up Monte Sano Mountain.
This is the highest
elevation point in the city.
Many of the Germans that worked for NASA,
the founding members had property up here,
as did my grandfather,
because it reminded them of Germany.
The temperature differential
is about five degrees in the summertime.
And they could sit up here in
their balcony with binoculars
and look at the launchpad
stands, the test stands.
And they were minimalists.
They didn’t live in the big houses.
– [Peter] So all these new big
homes are just new big homes?
– Exactly.
The older ones that are small,
that’s where the Germans lived.
– Like that little one?
– Yes.
And this one right here.
My mother pointed out
this home in particular.
There was one German engineer,
and I forget his name, but he lived there,
and she kept saying up
until he passed away,
as one of the team members,
he could have lived in a much nicer home,
but he probably had his furniture
from the 1950s in there.
And nothing new.
That’s typical.
– Just frugal.
– Frugal.
– Saving it.
– Waste nothing.
Absolutely.
In that house.
That’s the one she keeps talking about.
– [Peter] What’d they do with their money?
They were getting paid well, right?
– Oh, absolutely.
So what’d they do?
– Invested.
Hid it.
Some of the Germans,
and I’ve been to them,
you know, there’s a book out
called “The Bomb Shelters
of Madison County”.
Because of the Soviet threat in the ’60s,
they built their own bomb shelters
in their basements or in the backyards.
And there’s a publication
out entitled as such.
And I’ve gone to estate sales,
every now and then you’ll stumble across
another Cold War bomb shelter
in someone’s backyard
or in their basement.
I mean, hardened walls, four feet thick,
hand poured concrete.
They did it all themselves in secret.
They were so concerned about the Russians.
Even while they lived here.
– [Peter] Those were the times, right?
You were doing drills at
school under the desk, right?
– Yes, yes.
– Like that would-
– The ’60s.
The ’60s, absolutely.
And so the Germans, my
grandfather didn’t do it,
but many of them built bomb shelters
complete with provisions and radios.
They were big into ham radio.
– [Peter] Well, they knew what war was.
– Oh yeah.
And they knew what the Russians are,
militarily.
And that’s my personal
experience as an officer
in Europe in the 1980s on the border.
– [Peter] What was it?
– Oh, the Soviet Union,
the Russian people,
and even the East Germans didn’t,
they do not conduct
themselves in accordance
with the same morals and values
that we do as a western society.
They have a low poor
regard for human life.
(gentle melancholy music)
(gentle melancholy music)
(gentle melancholy music)
This is the U.S. Space and Rocket Center.
I don’t know what that is.
Could be a booster phase.
It’s a booster for something.
– [Peter] What about that one over there?
– [Theo] I don’t know
the model of that either.
That’s an earlier version.
I know that on the top
it’s called the Q-Ball.
You see on the top of the capsule?
– [Peter] Yep.
– [Theo] You see that spire on top?
– [Peter] Yep.
– That’s the emergency jettison device.
So if the rocket fails on launch,
the crew can ignite a
booster rocket that’s on top
and it separates the capsule
with the astronauts in it
away from the failing-
– The very top part there?
– The very top, yeah.
– Okay.
– And so they then deploy parachutes
as the rocket is ascending.
Say it has a failure of
a main propulsion system,
and it begins to lose power
or the bottom blows up.
Well, the crew has an escape tool,
and my grandfather worked on those designs
because I have some of those documents
and handwritten notes.
– [Peter] So where is NASA right now?
I mean, isn’t it all SpaceX?
– NASA has made the decision
to basically no longer produce, you know,
internally manufactured
launch platforms, per se.
Although they have the Artemis,
I think it was the Artemis missile
that they launched recently.
But that’s using, as again,
commercial construction.
Okay? It’s all farmed out to contract.
So you just can’t venture into space
(engine roaring)
from this country
without approval from the organizations
that control access to space
as viewed by our administration.
And they’ve turned over, you know,
future space flight potential
development technologies
to commercial development.
– [Peter] Why do you think
they’ve lost their mojo?
– I really don’t know.
I don’t know the answer.
It’s a probably an economic tool
to encourage commercialization
of space travel
for either research or travel
or any other means or military.
– [Peter] ‘Cause NASA was
such an exciting organization
back in the day.
– Yes, it was.
– Like it was-
– And the next push
is sending man to Mars.
– And that’s Elon.
– That’s correct.
They have a German Biergarten Festival
in here in the summer months.
I believe it’s on Thursdays.
It’s not truly authentic German food,
but it’s the best they can do.
And you can come in and you can dine
underneath the Saturn V rocket
that’s on display inside.
And you can stand and admire
an actual V-2 missile from World War II.
– That’s the V-2 right there.
– That’s a V-2, yes.
– Okay.
– That’s a real one.
And the engine is set
aside also if you look.
I can see it.
– [Peter] Theo gets pretty pumped with it.
– That’s the V-2 engine right there.
That’s the propulsion system.
Kind of hard to see, but it’s
my favorite spot out here.
(both chuckling)
– Okay, so what were you
saying about documents?
– Ah, there’s an effort
spearheaded by relatives
of the original team members to collect
all of the personal data, photographs,
family history, work history.
They used to be stored here,
and they used to have a huge
display of those people.
The Germans in the Cape
Kennedy, Canaveral and here.
– Okay.
– 1960s and ’70s
in the main building,
but I was told that a lot of that material
was getting destroyed in unusual fires.
– Oh, okay.
– In a storage building in
the back of this complex.
So I personally resisted the effort
to turn over any documents.
– You have a lot of documents?
– I have them in the trunk of the car.
Just wanted to show them to you.
There’s some of them.
Let them do it like this.
This is “Das Marsprojekt”,
written by Dr. Wernher von Braun, okay?
And so this book is actually
a little weather worn,
but this was his thesis
on the flight to Mars.
And here’s where he signed
it to my grandfather,
Wernher von Braun in ’52.
– Von Braun.
– Yeah, that’s an original signature.
’52, thanking him for his participation.
And this is-
– “Das Marsprojekt”.
– Yeah, this is his theory,
thesis on travel to, flight to Mars.
And it’s all in German.
– [Peter] Elon Musk would
probably love this, right?
– Yeah. There’s only a
few of these that exist,
and most of them are in the
Sanctuary Library at UAH.
So I mean, look, he worked all this out.
Sorry.
Von Braun worked out the orbital data.
I mean, it’s just amazing.
All this was done with slide rules.
(Theo chuckles)
Here’s a very rare book.
It’s on the V-2 rocket.
You see the profile of
the rocket on the front,
and it’s in German.
Written by Dr. Dornberger.
And so, I mean, it’s just a very old book.
It’s a dissertation on the V-2 rocket.
It’s an actual photograph from Peenemunde.
And that’s an actual
tactical launch of one
in the woods, you see?
And so there’s a diagram of the V-2.
If you could read technical
German, it’s all in German,
you would have a great
time with this book.
His photographs of the Peenemunde,
the test site where they
worked on the East Sea, Ostsee.
And here’s one with wings.
I don’t really know what that is.
The A-9, okay.
So I was told, my grandfather
told me the next level
of development was the A-9 and the A-10.
That was past the V-2,
and it has wings.
And so I’ve slowly over time
tried to collect data on that development.
And what he told me at
the time, as I recall,
was that the A-9/A-10 was the move towards
a multi-stage intercontinental
ballistic missile.
The V-2 is a single stage rocket.
The Saturn V is a multi-stage
moon delivery platform.
You know, drops the booster off,
and then it continues on with the next
level of boosters and goes.
So the V-2 stays together
intact its entire flight.
The next level was the A-9/A-10.
Some of that’s documented in this book.
And that was to be a two stage rocket.
The goal, which never came to fruition,
look at these guys,
never came to fruition,
was to build a two stage
intercontinental ballistic missile
to carry some type of massive warhead.
And the problem at the time,
as my grandfather said,
was guidance systems that, you know,
they didn’t have the technology
to deliver a pinpoint,
you know, strike, I mean to a target set.
And so that information is
still shrouded in secrecy,
I believe.
Although they were
developing that technology.
So they were planning to have a crew
fly the second stage to the target.
And he showed me on a globe,
I have the globe at home.
He took his finger and he said
the range would be from here.
And he went to the right,
which is over into the
Middle East somewhere,
which no one really cares about.
He swung his finger over the top,
through the Soviet Union, just
kind of lingered over Moscow,
and then his finger went over here
towards the Northeastern US Coast
and put his finger
directly on New York City.
So that was a future target set.
New York City, Philadelphia
and Washington D.C.
For a two stage intercontinental
ballistic missile.
To be flown, it would
launch in the direction,
and then it would separate
from the booster stage
and minimal data that I’ve seen,
but it would essentially skip
off the atmosphere as a glider
and be flown to the target by men.
– [Peter] And the Germans
were working on that
during World War II.
– They were working on
the spacesuit technology
for that in World War II.
And all that information
that was garnered through
human experimentation
was captured by the United States
and used in our spacesuit
in high altitude flight equipment designs.
But that’s an interesting,
interesting book.
– [Peter] Oh yeah.
– Here’s my grandfather’s
Project Paperclip contracts.
His original contracts, documents.
They were contractors.
That’s when they brought
them over in Paperclip, they-
– [Peter] They were
considered contractors.
– Yes.
– [Peter] But they didn’t have a choice.
– Exactly.
You can stay home in the rubble,
or you can come to America
and make a new life and help mankind.
So,
see, here’s the contractor,
that’s his name, Theodor Vowe.
This is a one year contract
from the war department.
15 September, 1945.
Supplemental agreements.
Here, $5,400.
– A year.
– A year.
– [Peter] Which was big back then, huh?
– Oh yeah, that’s a lot of money.
These are the slide rules that he used
when they were building the V-2 rockets.
This is how they did their computations.
This is personal slide
rule in Germany, you know,
during the early of missile
programs in Germany.
Oh yeah.
Drafting tools.
I love it. Look at, nails.
– Oh cool.
– This is a drafting set.
You know, so tools of the trade.
That’s my mother.
– [Peter] Space hostess Gisela.
– Yeah.
– Your mom.
– [Theo] And she was 22.
– [Peter] You often
discussed what in the family?
– Well, you know, what exposure, if any,
did NASA have to any
instance of possibility
of an alien intelligence?
And so it is documented in
a particular publication,
Wernher von Braun,
Dr. Wernher von Braun speaking
to one of the astronauts,
and I forgot which one,
but he told him while smoking a cigarette
outside one of the hotels
in Cocoa Beach, Florida,
that he said,
“We know we’re being monitored
by an alien intelligence.”
– Huh.
– That was Wernher von Braun.
And another thing of note
that was passed down is,
this is all verbal history.
– Sure.
– You know about
the incident at Roswell, New Mexico?
The crash?
– It’s foggy. Yes, yes.
– Yeah, and it was a big
national security issue,
and the Army’s report on that
was that it was a crashed weather balloon.
You know, if you look,
and they had pieces of metal
that couldn’t be destroyed
or broken, but it bent, and it bent easy.
It crumpled up, but it was indestructible.
– Right.
– And a large cleanup
event and secured site,
no one could go in.
A lot of people disappeared
later in life and this and that?
So you still see it on television.
It is being addressed all the time.
It’s the original alien crash theory.
And so it was relayed to me verbally
through the descendants
of the team members, okay?
If that was just a weather balloon crash,
then why was Dr. Wernher von Braun
immediately secreted
away to that crash site?
Why would he have to be there
to look at a weather balloon?
♪ Doo doo doo ♪
– What was it? Exactly.
And that’s verbal knowledge,
because amongst their social group
of the first generation
descendants of the German team,
that’s discussed, you know, amongst them.
Something to think about.
(gentle music)
(gentle music)

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