The MegaMilitary Project | Online Edition #405
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The Capture of the German Rocket Secrets (1945)

The Capture of the German Rocket Secrets (1945)

Secret plans of the infamous V-weapons, known in German as Vergeltungswaffen

In February 1945, Peter Beasley, who was serving as a colonel in the U.S. Army at the time, received a summons to Washington while he was engaged in combat in Europe. Henry L. Stimson, Secretary of War, assigned him, along with other selected intelligence units, the task of apprehending the Speer Ministry, the organization responsible for developing Germany's rocket weapons

He was also tasked with gathering any available intelligence related to rocket weapons and producing a detailed report on the impact of Allied bombing on German industry.

In the early months of 1929, German engineers initiated a study on rocket and jet propulsion with the intention of utilizing it for mail transportation purposes. Upon Adolf Hitler assuming the position of Chancellor in 1933, the focus of these studies was redirected towards military applications, and the scientists were given explicit instructions to investigate all concepts, regardless of their fanciful nature.

Professor Dr. Wernher von Braun, who served as the technical director of the group of scientists working under the Speer Ministry for rocket research, was retained in his position. Enormous amounts of funding were allocated to the ministry, and unfortunately, a significant portion of these funds were wasted. However, the research efforts did yield weapons, with the most notable ones being the V-1 and V-2 missiles.

The V-1 flying bomb was created at the Volkswagen Works in Fallersleben and manufactured in large numbers at three facilities: Mittelwerke in Nordhausen, Bruns Werge in Stettin, and Fallersleben. Upon its launch against England in June 1944, the Germans possessed approximately 12,000 of these missiles. Roughly a quarter of them were faulty.

Peenemünde, located on the Baltic Sea, served as the central hub for the V-2 rocket program. After a destructive aerial assault conducted by the British in August 1943, the German Ministry for Armament and War Production relocated the V-2 rocket to an underground facility. The selected location was Nordhausen, situated in central Germany, where production commenced in February 1944.

Upon the conclusion of the European phase of World War II in May 1945, the production of V-1 and V-2 missiles was at its peak. The V-2 was an exceptional weapon. After a decade of development, the project had advanced by the end of the war to have a range exceeding 320 kilometers (200 miles) and a maximum speed of 3,600 km/h (3,500 m/h). It moved at such a high speed that it was imperceptible to both human vision and radar detection. As a result, the aircraft successfully reached its destination before the sound of its arrival could be detected.

Fortunately for England, the war concluded before a significant number of weapons were deployed. However, in London, Selfridge's department store, the Piccadilly Theatre, a railroad station, and several residential buildings were all struck. Fortunately, the development of the A-9 aircraft had not progressed beyond the initial blueprint stage, which was beneficial for both the United States and Canada. This weapon was created to resemble a V-2 missile with wings. The purpose of the aircraft was to transport a crew, and it was designed with pressurized cabins, a retractable undercarriage, and specific aerodynamic features to assist with landing. The aircraft had a range exceeding 4,800 kilometers (3,000 miles) and an expected speed of over 3,600 km/h (3,500 m/h).

The Speer Ministry was originally based in Berlin, but due to the relentless bombing from the air and the continuous progress of the Allied ground forces, its staff members were forced to disperse and seek refuge in the Black Forest and the Alps for protection. Washington and London were aware, through intelligence sources, that the documents were dispersed, and most of them were burned, except for the important ones. The whereabouts of the Speer personnel and the hiding places for these key documents were unknown.

Bad Eilsen was seized in March 1945. Bad Eilsen, situated approximately 32 kilometers (20 miles) away from Hanover, served as the central base for Focke-Wulf, one of Germany's leading manufacturers of fighter aircraft. Within the town, there were a couple of hotels that accommodated more than 1,500 engineers and technical personnel who were assigned to the Focke-Wulf Company.

Directly following the advancing Allies was Colonel Beasley, who had received orders from Washington. The composition of his unit consisted of two additional commissioned officers and two sergeants, with one of the sergeants being particularly proficient in the German language.

Following an extensive period of questioning, Focke-Wulf officials finally confessed to being in possession of crucial drawings and records. The items were concealed within the structural walls of a building's basement. The documents and drawings were dispatched to General Eisenhower's headquarters.

After departing from Bad Eilsen, the search party proceeded to Kassel, the place of manufacture for the Fieseler aircraft. However, they received an ominous warning along the way. The soldier assigned to protect the colonel's aircraft was discovered bound to a tree, having suffered fatal stab wounds.

The officials of Fieseler were subjected to interrogation in Kassel. Upon receiving responses that aligned with the statements provided by Focke-Wulf officials, Colonel Beasley developed a suspicion that individuals from the Speer Ministry were concealing themselves in that specific vicinity. Furthermore, he suspected that crucial documents pertaining to German missile weaponry were also being concealed in close proximity.

Beasley obtained authorization from American authorities to conduct an exploration of the profound regions of the Harz Mountains and the Black Forest. In April, he assumed control of the barracks located in Ilfeld, a town situated to the north of Nordhausen. Unbeknownst to him, he had taken control of the exact barracks that had previously been used by Georg Rickhey, the director general overseeing the production of all German rocket weapons.

On the following day, Colonel Beasley and his group embarked on a journey to investigate the rural area. Easily, they discovered the Mittelwerke subterranean facility situated between Ilfeld and Nordhausen, where a significant proportion of both V-1 and V-2 missiles were manufactured.

Situated upon a hill, the subterranean facility was positioned at a depth of 200 to 300 meters (800 to 1,000 feet) below ground level. There were a pair of tunnels, each measuring 3.2 kilometers (2 miles) in length, 10 meters (32 feet) in width, and 11 meters (35 feet) in height. The two tunnels were located approximately 0.8 kilometers (or half a mile) apart. Linking them were approximately 40 additional tunnels of identical dimensions.

Within a particular tunnel, the northern section was utilized by Junkers for the production of aircraft engines. The other terminal for the production, assembly, and transportation of V-1's. The northern section of the second tunnel served as a multipurpose machine shop, while the southern section was dedicated to the production, assembly, and transportation of V-2 rockets. The Mittelwerke office was primarily located in a former hospital at Ilfeld, with a portion of it situated underground at the plant. The building at Ilfeld was marked with Red Cross symbols.

A thorough search of the premises was conducted to locate any documents or clues. No evidence was discovered, although a heap of ashes indicated the location in the courtyard where documents had been incinerated, likely a few days earlier. Convinced that there was no necessity for additional investigation in the vicinity of Mittelwerke, the intelligence team commenced exploring the mountains bordering Ilfeld.

Lacking any knowledge or strategy, they explored all secondary, intersecting, and primary routes within an 80-kilometer (50-mile) radius of Ilfeld. The group conducted extensive interviews, conducted nightly patrols on the roads until 1 a.m., and rotated shifts to maintain guard duty at their respective barracks.

Convinced that members of the Speer Ministry were hiding in the area, Colonel Beasley decided the most likely place was a town called Blankenburg, about 65 kilometers (40 miles) from Ilfeld. "In Blankenburg," the colonel wrote in his official report, "we found a school building with some miscellaneous papers bearing the Speer Ministry insignia…

"I felt sure someone who knew something about construction would be charged with hiding the records because if the Germans were successful in recapturing the area, then they would have the records on hand for immediate use. I also had a hunch that when they hid the records, they had done so in significant batches. If we could find them, we would obtain a cross-section of the entire Ministry...

"I made daily visits to the jails in the small towns to see if I could locate anyone who might interest me. After a couple of weeks, a part of a heavy tank company moved into Blankenburg and unearthed a German who knew something about construction. I took the man off the job to which he had been assigned, placed him under arrest, and began to interrogate him. I figured I had nothing to lose by taking the position that I knew who he was and all about him. This tactic brought unexpected results...

"It developed that he had been in the construction section of the Speer Ministry. As a second shot in the dark, I told him I knew he was charged with the building of a place and the hiding of the records of the Speer Ministry in a cave in the mountains not more than 16 kilometers (10 miles) from Blankenburg. I told him that because he was a German, he could use his own judgment as to what he cared to tell me. I could only promise him an attempt at protection. I could place him in custody and try to look after him, but I would not guarantee that he would not be assassinated if it was learned what he had done...

"He thought the matter over and told me he would show me where the records were. I immediately got an escort of half a dozen GI's and started to drive right out of town. We went about 11 kilometers (7 miles). During this period, he kept looking at me every once in a while. Finally, he said: 'Turn off the road to the right.'

"We drove into the forest for a few minutes, came up over a little hill, stopped, and he said the cave was right in front of us. I saw it at once and also could see it had been opened. He jumped out of the car in great agitation and ran to the cave. Meanwhile, I noticed people living in a little hut. I asked them if they had seen anyone at this cave. They said some Americans had been there a few days before. I then went into a town called Hüttenrode, which was nearby, and there I found a few members of a tank company...

"In the yard behind the house, the soldiers were occupying, and in a big pile beside a chicken coop were records of the Speer Ministry! Luckily, there had been no rain for several days, and the records were in excellent condition. The German construction man was visibly relieved and said that when we found an empty cave, he was convinced I would have him shot. I took him and the papers back to Ilfeld and put him to work tabulating and translating them. While the records were extremely important, we needed the top personnel of the Speer Ministry to decipher and analyze them...

"I continued my day-to-day visits to the jails, particularly the Blankenburg jail, which the tank company kept filled with constantly changing personnel. In this jail, I finally found Dr. Frank, Herr Nagel, and Dr. Bohn, three of the top people in the Speer Ministry. Dr. Frank was the administrative head and a lieutenant colonel; Herr Nagel was the head of motor transportation for all of Germany and a lieutenant general; and Dr. Bohn was the chief personnel officer. All three had worked with Dr. Speer in various agencies of the German government in addition to being with him in his architectural business before he entered the government...

"Taking the three men to Ilfeld, I began to question them. Beginning cautiously, I soon discovered a weakness that was common to almost every German "big shot" we caught-they were steeped in fear, the result of living in the shadow of the Gestapo. Fearful of resisting authority, it was simply a matter of getting the right information from them. With little hesitation, Dr. Frank said he would show me where the Speer records were hidden. He insisted, however, that he would not do so until after dark and then only if accompanied by armed guards...

"I agreed and asked him to put down the location of the hiding place and directions on how to get there. He did. The place was the same place, and the cave was the same cave we had visited. I then asked him to describe the records, how they were tied, how they were packed, and what they were packed in, explaining that I needed this information for purposes of identification. Suggesting that I would like to have him write out this information and that he inform Herr Nagel and Dr. Bohn of what he had told me, I took him into an adjoining room where all the records were piled in an orderly fashion...

"His face displayed astonishment as he recognized the neatly arranged piles." Commending him for his honesty in revealing the location of the hidden records, I instructed him and his two colleagues to thoroughly examine, organize, and present a comprehensive analysis of our captured materials. We encountered four stenographers in Ilfeld, three of whom were proficient in English. I utilized typewriters obtained from the V-2 factory to assign the three prisoners to labor. One of the documents included a letter directed to a retired lieutenant colonel, informing him that he would be given specific records to be stored in the secure safe of his hunting lodge located in the Black Forest.

Colonel Beasley and one of the sergeants in his group embarked on a mission to locate the lodge, which they successfully accomplished shortly before nightfall on the same day. The octogenarian retired lieutenant colonel disclaimed any awareness of having obtained any documents, but upon perceiving the letter, he retrieved the basement key from the soil in a flowerbox adjacent to the lodge's entrance. The records were stored in a basement safe.

The records were significant due to their analysis of the military capabilities of Germany, German-held countries, and enemy nations in conducting warfare. The statistics encompassed the raw materials accessible to Germany and its adversaries worldwide. The records were meticulously current, specifically up until February 1945.

During a conversation with Dr. Frank, Colonel Beasely asked if there were any additional records pertaining to the Speer Ministry that would be of interest. Dr. Frank reluctantly admitted that Dr. Speer had sent him all of his personal records, along with other records that Dr. Frank had not yet examined. Dr. Frank also expressed his willingness to reveal the location where the papers were concealed.

Colonel Beasley accompanied Dr. Frank to a hamlet located in the mountains approximately 100 kilometers (60 miles) away from Ilfeld, one day later. Dr. Frank examined all of Dr. Speer's personal papers, which amounted to a total of 24 boxes, in a farmhouse located on the outskirts of the hamlet. Included in the records were comprehensive architectural plans for the reconstruction of Berlin in the event of its destruction by bombing. The documents were prepared by the Speer Architectural Company and were dated before September 1, 1939, which was the day when Hitler declared war on Poland.

Meanwhile, Colonel Beasley began the process of locating George Rickhey, the director general responsible for overseeing the production of all rocket weapons. It has been reported that Rickhey was employed in a salt mine located 145 kilometers (90 miles) away. Two officers, who were tasked with locating Rickhey, brought him back later on the same day.

"It was a very profitable catch," reported Colonel Beasley. "A nervous little man who smoked non-stop and always brought the conversation back to scientific or technical matters, Rickhey asserted he was pro-American, having two brothers in the United States. He rolled his eyes in frequent agitation during the first talk, clearly expecting the worst, and showed me a letter from the Third Army stating he had been interrogated and permitted to continue his work."

"You mean you were permitted to continue your work for the salt company?"

"Yes, sir."

"Did you tell the officer who interrogated you that you had been director general of the rocket weapons program?"

"No, sir." "Did he ask?" "No. sir."

"In other words, you just told him your name was George Rickhey, that you were an engineer or something like that, and you were working for the salt company?"

"Yes, sir."

"I've got a different kind of job for you. I want you to begin right now writing out a full description of yourself, all your activities, all the activities of the V-2 factory, and what your people were working on… everything! In a few minutes, you will be given a list of subjects I want covered."

Upon the completion of Rickhey's report, he was once again subjected to interrogation. Colonel Beasley explicitly stated that "we acknowledge your position as an official of the German Government; we possess both patience and ample resources in terms of manpower." From my perspective, you are a knowledgeable individual in the field of rockets, but it is undeniable that you have been defeated in the war. As an American officer, I desire for my country to acquire complete ownership of your entire knowledge. I will propose to my superiors that you be transported to the United States.

Rickhey enthusiastically agreed, stating that he was a scientist and desired to expand his knowledge in a pleasant environment, similar to what he had heard about in the United States from his brothers. "At this moment, I demand that you disclose the whereabouts of the concealed V-2 records," Colonel Beasley interjected. Rickhey consented to disclose the location of the concealed records and guide the colonel to the site, but only under the condition that it be done during the night and with a substantial number of guards present.

According to him, the records were comprehensive and included all the specific information about the entire rocket weapons program, such as production issues, experiments, and plans. He personally oversaw the packing of these records. According to him, he personally transported the records to the hidden cave using a truck. He also mentioned that he switched drivers three times during transportation. Later on, all three drivers were eliminated.

Contrary to Rickhey's desire to go after dark, Colonel Beasley, accompanied by Rickhey, departed for the cave. They were accompanied by a heavily armed escort. The records were discovered in a cave located 8 kilometers (5 miles) from Ilfeld in the Black Forest. The cave extends 90 meters (300 feet) into the side of a mountain. The individuals were transported to the central command center of a nearby heavily fortified military unit and confined to a designated chamber under constant surveillance by a guard for a duration of 24 hours each day.

During the examination of the documents, they revealed fundamental blueprints, work sheets, engineering tables, and advanced plans for nearly every covert weapon in the possession of German scientists. The capture was of utmost significance during the war, particularly in relation to rockets. In the absence of these individuals, American scientists would have been obligated to dedicate extensive periods of time, potentially spanning months or even years, to attain a comparable degree of understanding. Consequently, the advancement of the current space program would have been significantly postponed.

Colonel Beasley successfully accomplished his mission by capturing the master records of the secret weapons program. With the exception of Dr. Wernher van Braun, who managed to escape, the most prominent individuals in the Speer Ministry. Several days later, Lieutenant Robert C. Stanley of the 44th Reconnaissance Troop of the U.S. Army encountered Dr. van Braun on a secluded road connecting the towns of Imst and Landeck in Austria, close to the Italian border.

Lieutenant Stanley discovered the German scientist in a chalet, accompanied by several test pilots and mechanics. Several pieces of equipment, such as the jet rocket aircraft, were situated on the chalet premises. All individuals were relocated to the back and handed over to the 324th Infantry Regiment.In February 1945, Peter Beasley, who was serving as a colonel in the U.S. Army at the time, received a summons to Washington while he was engaged in combat in Europe. Henry L. Stimson, Secretary of War, assigned him, along with other selected intelligence units, the task of apprehending the Speer Ministry, the organization responsible for developing Germany's rocket weapons. He was also tasked with gathering any available intelligence related to rocket weapons and producing a detailed report on the impact of Allied bombing on German industry.

In the early months of 1929, German engineers initiated a study on rocket and jet propulsion with the intention of utilizing it for mail transportation purposes. Upon Adolf Hitler assuming the position of Chancellor in 1933, the focus of these studies was redirected towards military applications, and the scientists were given explicit instructions to investigate all concepts, regardless of their fanciful nature.

Professor Dr. Wernher von Braun, who served as the technical director of the group of scientists working under the Speer Ministry for rocket research, was retained in his position. Enormous amounts of funding were allocated to the ministry, and unfortunately, a significant portion of these funds were wasted. However, the research efforts did yield weapons, with the most notable ones being the V-1 and V-2 missiles.

The V-1 flying bomb was created at the Volkswagen Works in Fallersleben and manufactured in large numbers at three facilities: Mittelwerke in Nordhausen, Bruns Werge in Stettin, and Fallersleben. Upon its launch against England in June 1944, the Germans possessed approximately 12,000 of these missiles. Roughly a quarter of them were faulty.

Peenemünde, located on the Baltic Sea, served as the central hub for the V-2 rocket program. After a destructive aerial assault conducted by the British in August 1943, the German Ministry for Armament and War Production relocated the V-2 rocket to an underground facility. The selected location was Nordhausen, situated in central Germany, where production commenced in February 1944.

Upon the conclusion of the European phase of World War II in May 1945, the production of V-1 and V-2 missiles was at its peak. The V-2 was an exceptional weapon. After a decade of development, the project had advanced by the end of the war to have a range exceeding 320 kilometers (200 miles) and a maximum speed of 3,600 km/h (3,500 m/h). It moved at such a high speed that it was imperceptible to both human vision and radar detection. As a result, the aircraft successfully reached its destination before the sound of its arrival could be detected.

Fortunately for England, the war concluded before a significant number of weapons were deployed. However, in London, Selfridge's department store, the Piccadilly Theatre, a railroad station, and several residential buildings were all struck. Fortunately, the development of the A-9 aircraft had not progressed beyond the initial blueprint stage, which was beneficial for both the United States and Canada. The designers created this weapon to resemble a V-2 missile with wings. The purpose of the aircraft was to transport a crew, and it was designed with pressurized cabins, a retractable undercarriage, and specific aerodynamic features to assist with landing. The aircraft had a range exceeding 4,800 kilometers (3,000 miles) and an expected speed of over 3,600 km/h (3,500 m/h).

The Speer Ministry was originally based in Berlin, but due to the relentless bombing from the air and the continuous progress of the Allied ground forces, its staff members were forced to disperse and seek refuge in the Black Forest and the Alps for protection. Washington and London were aware, through intelligence sources, that the documents were dispersed, and most of them were burned, except for the important ones. The whereabouts of the Speer personnel and the hiding places for these key documents were unknown.

Bad Eilsen was seized in March 1945. Bad Eilsen, situated approximately 32 kilometers (20 miles) away from Hanover, served as the central base for Focke-Wulf, one of Germany's leading manufacturers of fighter aircraft. Within the town, there were a couple of hotels that accommodated more than 1,500 engineers and technical personnel who were assigned to the Focke-Wulf Company.

Directly following the advancing Allies was Colonel Beasley, who had received orders from Washington. The composition of his unit consisted of two additional commissioned officers and two sergeants, with one of the sergeants being particularly proficient in the German language.

Following an extensive period of questioning, Focke-Wulf officials finally confessed to being in possession of crucial drawings and records. The items were concealed within the structural walls of a building's basement. The documents and drawings were dispatched to General Eisenhower's headquarters.

After departing from Bad Eilsen, the search party proceeded to Kassel, the place of manufacture for the Fieseler aircraft. However, they received an ominous warning along the way. The soldier assigned to protect the colonel's aircraft was discovered bound to a tree, having suffered fatal stab wounds.

The officials of Fieseler were subjected to interrogation in Kassel. Upon receiving responses that aligned with the statements provided by Focke-Wulf officials, Colonel Beasley developed a suspicion that individuals from the Speer Ministry were concealing themselves in that specific vicinity. Furthermore, he suspected that crucial documents pertaining to German missile weaponry were also being concealed in close proximity.

Beasley obtained authorization from American authorities to conduct an exploration of the profound regions of the Harz Mountains and the Black Forest. In April, he assumed control of the barracks located in Ilfeld, a town situated to the north of Nordhausen. Unbeknownst to him, he had taken control of the exact barracks that had previously been used by Georg Rickhey, the director general overseeing the production of all German rocket weapons.

On the following day, Colonel Beasley and his group embarked on a journey to investigate the rural area. Easily, they discovered the Mittelwerke subterranean facility situated between Ilfeld and Nordhausen, where a significant proportion of both V-1 and V-2 missiles were manufactured.

Situated on a hill, the subterranean facility was positioned at a depth of 200 to 300 meters (800 to 1,000 feet) below ground level. There were a pair of tunnels, each measuring 3.2 kilometers (2 miles) in length, 10 meters (32 feet) in width, and 11 meters (35 feet) in height. The two tunnels were located approximately 0.8 kilometers (or half a mile) apart. Linking them were approximately 40 additional tunnels of identical dimensions.

Within a particular tunnel, the northern section was utilized by Junkers for the production of aircraft engines. The other terminal for the production, assembly, and transportation of V-1's. The northern section of the second tunnel served as a multipurpose machine shop, while the southern section was dedicated to the production, assembly, and transportation of V-2 rockets. The Mittelwerke office was primarily located in a former hospital at Ilfeld, with a portion of it situated underground at the plant. The building at Ilfeld was marked with Red Cross symbols.

A thorough search of the premises was conducted to locate any documents or clues. No evidence was discovered, although a heap of ashes indicated the location in the courtyard where documents had been incinerated, likely a few days earlier. Convinced that there was no necessity for additional investigation in the vicinity of Mittelwerke, the intelligence team commenced exploring the mountains bordering Ilfeld.

Lacking of any knowledge or strategy, they explored all secondary, intersecting, and primary routes within an 80-kilometer (50-mile) radius of Ilfeld. The group conducted extensive interviews, conducted nightly patrols on the roads until 1 a.m., and rotated shifts to maintain guard duty at their respective barracks.

Convinced that members of the Speer Ministry were hiding in the area, Colonel Beasley decided the most likely place was a town called Blankenburg, about 65 kilometers (40 miles) from Ilfeld. "In Blankenburg," the colonel wrote in his official report, "we found a school building with some miscellaneous papers bearing the Speer Ministry insignia…

"I felt sure someone who knew something about construction would be charged with hiding the records because if the Germans were successful in recapturing the area, then they would have the records on hand for immediate use. I also had a hunch that when they hid the records, they had done so in significant batches. If we could find them, we would obtain a cross-section of the entire Ministry...

"I made daily visits to the jails in the small towns to see if I could locate anyone who might interest me. After a couple of weeks, a part of a heavy tank company moved into Blankenburg and unearthed a German who knew something about construction. I took the man off the job to which he had been assigned, placed him under arrest, and began to interrogate him. I figured I had nothing to lose by taking the position that I knew who he was and all about him. This tactic brought unexpected results...

"It developed that he had been in the construction section of the Speer Ministry. As a second shot in the dark, I told him I knew he was charged with the building of a place and the hiding of the records of the Speer Ministry in a cave in the mountains not more than 16 kilometers (10 miles) from Blankenburg. I told him that because he was a German, he could use his own judgment as to what he cared to tell me. I could only promise him an attempt at protection. I could place him in custody and try to look after him, but I would not guarantee that he would not be assassinated if it was learned what he had done...

"He thought the matter over and told me he would show me where the records were. I immediately got an escort of half a dozen GI's and started to drive right out of town. We went about 11 kilometers (7 miles). During this period, he kept looking at me every once in a while. Finally, he said: 'Turn off the road to the right.'

"We drove into the forest for a few minutes, came up over a little hill, stopped, and he said the cave was right in front of us. I saw it at once and could also see it had been opened. He jumped out of the car in great agitation and ran to the cave. Meanwhile, I noticed people living in a little hut. I asked them if they had seen anyone at this cave. They said some Americans had been there a few days before. I then went into a town called Hüttenrode, which was nearby, and there I found a few members of a tank company...

"In the yard behind the house, the soldiers were occupying, and in a big pile beside a chicken coop were records of the Speer Ministry! Luckily, there had been no rain for several days, and the records were in excellent condition. The German construction man was visibly relieved and said that when we found an empty cave, he was convinced I would have him shot. I took him and the papers back to Ilfeld and put him to work tabulating and translating them. While the records were extremely important, we needed the top personnel of the Speer Ministry to decipher and analyze them...

"I continued my day-to-day visits to the jails, particularly the Blankenburg jail, which the tank company kept filled with constantly changing personnel. In this jail, I finally found Dr. Frank, Herr Nagel, and Dr. Bohn, three of the top people in the Speer Ministry. Dr. Frank was administrative head and a lieutenant colonel; Herr Nagel was head of motor transportation for all of Germany and a lieutenant general; and Dr. Bohn was chief personnel officer. All three had worked with Dr. Speer in various agencies of the German government in addition to being with him in his architectural business before he entered the government...

"Taking the three men to Ilfeld, I began to question them. Beginning cautiously, I soon discovered a weakness that was common to almost every German "big shot" we caught-they were steeped in fear, the result of living in the shadow of the Gestapo. Fearful of resisting authority, it was simply a matter of getting the right information from them. With little hesitation, Dr. Frank said he would show me where the Speer records were hidden. He insisted, however, that he would not do so until after dark and then only if accompanied by armed guards...

"I agreed and asked him to put down the location of the hiding place and directions on how to get there. He did. The place was the same place, and the cave was the same cave we had visited. I then asked him to describe the records, how they were tied, how they were packed, and what they were packed in, explaining that I needed this information for purposes of identification. Suggesting that I would like to have him write out this information and that he inform Herr Nagel and Dr. Bohn of what he had told me, I took him into an adjoining room where all the records were piled in an orderly fashion...

"His face displayed astonishment as he recognized the neatly arranged piles." Commending him for his honesty in revealing the location of the hidden records, I instructed him and his two colleagues to thoroughly examine, organize, and present a comprehensive analysis of our captured materials. We encountered four stenographers in Ilfeld, three of whom were proficient in English. I utilized typewriters obtained from the V-2 factory to assign the three prisoners to labor. One of the documents included a letter directed to a retired lieutenant colonel, informing him that he would be given specific records to be stored in the secure safe of his hunting lodge located in the Black Forest.

Colonel Beasley and one of the sergeants in his group embarked on a mission to locate the lodge, which they successfully accomplished shortly before nightfall on the same day. The octogenarian retired lieutenant colonel disclaimed any awareness of having obtained any documents, but upon perceiving the letter, he retrieved the basement key from the soil in a flowerbox adjacent to the lodge's entrance. The records were stored in a basement safe.

The records were significant due to their analysis of the military capabilities of Germany, German-held countries, and enemy nations in conducting warfare. The statistics encompassed the raw materials accessible to Germany and its adversaries worldwide. The records were meticulously current, specifically up until February 1945.

During a conversation with Dr. Frank, Colonel Beasely asked if there were any additional records pertaining to the Speer Ministry that would be of interest. Dr. Frank reluctantly admitted that Dr. Speer had sent him all of his personal records, along with other records that Dr. Frank had not yet examined. Dr. Frank also expressed his willingness to reveal the location where the papers were concealed.

Colonel Beasley accompanied Dr. Frank to a hamlet located in the mountains approximately 100 kilometers (60 miles) away from Ilfeld one day later. Dr. Frank examined all of Dr. Speer's personal papers, which amounted to a total of 24 boxes, in a farmhouse located on the outskirts of the hamlet. Included in the records were comprehensive architectural plans for the reconstruction of Berlin in the event of its destruction by bombing. The documents were prepared by the Speer Architectural Company and were dated before September 1, 1939, which was the day when Hitler declared war on Poland.

Meanwhile, Colonel Beasley began the process of locating George Rickhey, the director general responsible for overseeing the production of all rocket weapons. It has been reported that Rickhey was employed in a salt mine located 145 kilometers (90 miles) away. Two officers, who were tasked with locating Rickhey, brought him back later on the same day.

"It was a very profitable catch," reported Colonel Beasley. "A nervous little man who smoked non-stop and always brought the conversation back to scientific or technical matters, Rickhey asserted he was pro-American, having two brothers in the United States. He rolled his eyes in frequent agitation during the first talk, clearly expecting the worst, and showed me a letter from the Third Army stating he had been interrogated and permitted to continue his work."

"You mean you were permitted to continue your work for the salt company?"

"Yes, sir."

"Did you tell the officer who interrogated you that you had been director general of the rocket weapons program?"

"No, sir." "Did he ask?" "No. sir."

"In other words, you just told him your name was George Rickhey, that you were an engineer or something like that, and you were working for the salt company?"

"Yes, sir."

"I've got a different kind of job for you. I want you to begin right now writing out a full description of yourself, all your activities, all the activities of the V-2 factory, and what your people were working at - everything! In a few minutes, you will be given a list of subjects I want covered."

Upon the completion of Rickhey's report, he was once again subjected to interrogation. Colonel Beasley explicitly stated that "we acknowledge your position as an official of the German Government; we possess both patience and ample resources in terms of manpower." From my perspective, you are a knowledgeable individual in the field of rockets, but it is undeniable that you have been defeated in the war. As an American officer, I desire for my country to acquire complete ownership of your entire knowledge. I will propose to my superiors that you be transported to the United States.

Rickhey enthusiastically agreed, stating that he was a scientist and desired to expand his knowledge in a pleasant environment, similar to what he had heard about in the United States from his brothers. "At this moment, I demand that you disclose the whereabouts of the concealed V-2 records," Colonel Beasley interjected. Rickhey consented to disclose the location of the concealed records and guide the colonel to the site, but only under the condition that it be done during the night and with a substantial number of guards present.

According to him, the records were comprehensive and included all the specific information about the entire rocket weapons program, such as production issues, experiments, and plans. He personally oversaw the packing of these records. According to him, he personally transported the records to the hidden cave using a truck. He also mentioned that he switched drivers three times during transportation. Later on, all three drivers were eliminated.

Contrary to Rickhey's desire to go after dark, Colonel Beasley, accompanied by Rickhey, departed for the cave. They were accompanied by a heavily armed escort. The records were discovered in a cave located 8 kilometers (5 miles) from Ilfeld in the Black Forest. The cave extends 90 meters (300 feet) into the side of a mountain. The individuals were transported to the central command center of a nearby heavily fortified military unit and confined to a designated chamber under constant surveillance by a guard for a duration of 24 hours each day.

During the examination of the documents, they revealed fundamental blueprints, work sheets, engineering tables, and advanced plans for nearly every covert weapon in the possession of German scientists. The capture was of utmost significance during the war, particularly in relation to rockets. In the absence of these individuals, American scientists would have been obligated to dedicate extensive periods of time, potentially spanning months or even years, to attain a comparable degree of understanding. Consequently, the advancement of the current space program would have been significantly postponed.

Colonel Beasley successfully accomplished his mission by capturing the master records of the secret weapons program. With the exception of Dr. Wernher van Braun, who managed to escape, the most prominent individuals in the Speer Ministry. Several days later, Lieutenant Robert C. Stanley of the 44th Reconnaissance Troop of the U.S. Army encountered Dr. van Braun on a secluded road connecting the towns of Imst and Landeck in Austria, close to the Italian border.

Lieutenant Stanley discovered the German scientist in a chalet, accompanied by several test pilots and mechanics. Several pieces of equipment, such as the jet rocket aircraft, were situated on the chalet premises. All individuals were relocated to the back and handed over to the 324th Infantry Regiment.

Period/s:
WWII (1939-1945)
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