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  Rocket pioneer Werner Dahm (1917-2008)

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Author Topic:   Rocket pioneer Werner Dahm (1917-2008)
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posted 01-18-2008 10:20 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Hilary   Click Here to Email Hilary     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
We just received news here at MSFC that Werner Dahm, one of the Peenemuende team that came to Huntsville, passed away Thursday at the age of 90. More information can be found at The Huntsville Times: Huntsville has lost another one of the original team of German rocket scientists

In a side note, he worked everyday until he was involved in a car accident about 2 years ago. He retired from MSFC about a year ago.



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posted 01-18-2008 10:22 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for randy   Click Here to Email randy     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote


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posted 01-18-2008 10:32 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for NavySpaceFan   Click Here to Email NavySpaceFan     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote


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posted 01-18-2008 10:33 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Delta7   Click Here to Email Delta7     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote


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posted 01-18-2008 11:41 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for FFrench     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
If we are to honor this rocket pioneer with a moment of silence on this website, may I respectfully suggest that the moment of silence for this one man be allowed to include a thought for over twenty thousand slave laborers who died during the Nazi regime while manufacturing the rockets for the Peenemünde team, and who had no such opportunity to live out such a long, happy and rewarding life.

My thoughts also include the many civilians who died at the hands of the V1 and V2 during World War Two.


Just as we should never forget the important rocketry contributions of the Peenemünde rocketry team, may we also never forget those who died as a direct effect of their work.


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posted 01-18-2008 12:09 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for cddfspace   Click Here to Email cddfspace     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Dahm .

Laborers .

Civilians .

one dot for each group you speak of...

1202 Alarm

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posted 01-18-2008 04:05 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for 1202 Alarm     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thank you FFrench for your post.

Laborers? If you're kept in a tunnel for months, whipped, starved, if you work 18 hours a day and usually die within 4 months, I don't think you just deserve a 'dot' (!!) as a 'laborer' for your 'effort' in the space conquest. They were slaves, and they died by thousands.

Please take a minute to read this. I know, I know, everything's false on Wikipedia... and all pictures can be photoshopped... yeah, right.

Then, let's go back to our good old "Are You a Turtle?" routine.


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posted 01-18-2008 04:40 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for mjanovec   Click Here to Email mjanovec     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I don't think there is any question that prisoners were treated cruely throughout Nazi Germany...with Peenemünde being no exception.

But I also think we should be careful about associating Dahm to some of these acts, unless there is direct evidence than Dahm had some sort of say in how prisoners were treated or how the weapons that were developed were actually employed. I don't profess to know either way. But by bringing up this topic at this time, the implication is that Dahm was partly responsible for the inhumane acts that occurred.

As a young aerodynamics engineer, it was pretty much a given that Dahm would be employed in weapons development during the war...if not at Peenemünde, then somewhere else...just like a similar engineer in America or Britain (or any other country during the war) would likely be employed similarily for their own country for weapons development. I have to believe that some of the engineers at Peenemünde were good men...just like some of the engineers at Boeing were good men too.

I believe that ALL of the innocent victims of that war should be equally remembered...regardless of what side they were on, at whose hands they died, or what weapon killed them. No matter how you look at it, war is costly, cruel, and inhumane. No amount of "dots" will ever suffice in remembering the losses that took place during that war.

LCDR Scott Schneeweis
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posted 01-18-2008 04:55 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for LCDR Scott Schneeweis   Click Here to Email LCDR Scott Schneeweis     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Von Braun's brilliant team knew they were producing weapons of war; exploited use of concentration camp labor to build them and were thus complicit in Nazi atrocities. They wanted badly to practice their tradecraft at any cost and the Nazi's provided them that opportunity; conscience took a back seat. Dahm's post WWII contributions to human spaceflight, will always be overshadowed by his involvement in the War.


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posted 01-18-2008 08:36 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for dss65   Click Here to Email dss65     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote

Robert Pearlman

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posted 01-18-2008 10:03 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The following biography/obituary was provided by Dahm's son, Werner J.A. Dahm, who today is a professor with the Department of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Michigan:
Werner K. Dahm, an internationally recognized rocket pioneer from WWII whose work in Germany and in the U.S. made important contributions to the nation's ballistic missile programs and its manned and unmanned rocket programs, died on January 17, 2008 in Huntsville, Ala. He was the last of the German rocket scientists to work at NASA, and continued to work there until this past year. His death at age 90 marks the passing of an era in the nation's history.

He was the aerodynamicist in the future projects group on the original team of German rocket scientists working at Peenemuende with Wernher von Braun during World War II, when supersonic and hypersonic aerodynamics were still in relative infancy. He went on to make pioneering contributions in high-speed aerothermodynamics in the U.S. Army's ballistic missile development program, and in NASA's manned and unmanned space flight programs. He was Chief of the Aerophysics Division at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, and later Chief Aerodynamicist at the NASA Center. When he finally retired in 2006, at the age of 89, he was the last of the original German rocket scientists at NASA.

Werner Karl Dahm was born on Feb. 16, 1917 in Lindenthal near Koeln, Germany, the son of Anton Dahm and Maria Morkramer. The family moved to Bonn later that year. His father was the first engineer in a long line of merchants. After graduating from the Beethoven School in Bonn in 1936, he studied aerodynamics and aircraft design at the Technical University in Aachen, and later in Munich when the Nazis had closed other technical universities. In Munich he was one of just four students, out of several hundred, who refused to join the Nazi student club. He said he first simply pretended not to find it, and then since it was formally listed as a dueling club he avoided it by claiming religious objections. For this he was denied access to certain advanced aircraft courses, so he focused on courses relevant to rocketry. Before completing his degree he was drafted at the end of 1939, and sent with a signal corps unit to France and then to Czechoslovakia. In between, he was granted a one-semester break to complete the major part of his aerodynamics degree.

As a result of his technical background, in late 1941 he was assigned to the German rocket development effort at Peenemuende, led by Wernher von Braun. There, as the youngest member of the rocket team, he worked in the future projects division, a group composed mainly of physicists who needed a specialist in aerodynamics. At the time, theoretical understanding of high-speed aerodynamics was still in its infancy. He was one of a group that conducted pioneering experiments in a small supersonic wind tunnel to obtain essential insights and data to support designs for proposed new rockets. Among these was the A9/A10 rocket, designed to be the first intercontinental ballistic missile, based on a Mach 6 boost-glide approach using a winged derivative of the V2 rocket. He soon recognized in the wind tunnel results that a shift occurred in the aerodynamic center-of-pressure as the rocket transitioned to supersonic speeds, which would cause it to become unstable. This led to experiments and theories to understand the shift and determine aerodynamic configurations that would allow the rocket to remain stable.

He also worked on the Wasserfall rocket, a radar-guided supersonic anti-aircraft missile, in which the same center-of-pressure shift was being encountered. Along the way, he developed a conical rocket propellant tank that successfully overcame liquid fuel sloshing problems, for which he won an internal prize with a monetary award that he proudly never cashed. In August 1943, when Allied forces bombed the Peenemuende facilities, he received a commendation for saving critical wind tunnel data during the ensuing fires. The Wasserfall project continued almost to the war's end, and the rocket was successfully flown but never went into production. In 1944, he and others in the group were granted civilian status, and resumed the A9/A10 development effort. In January 1945, near the end of the war, two A9 test rockets were launched with control surface designs based on the group's solution to the center-of-pressure shift. The second of these achieved stable transition to supersonic flight.

Facing advancing Russian forces at the beginning of February 1945, he and most others on the rocket team moved to Oberammergau to allow a surrender to American forces. After his release in August 1945, he briefly worked in a candle factory of family friends in Bonn, until accepting an invitation from the U.S. as part of Operation Paperclip to join the U.S. Army's nascent rocket program with other members selected from von Braun's team. He insisted, however, on first being allowed to finish his degree, which was officially awarded in mechanical engineering due to postwar restrictions on further rocket work in Germany. In August 1947 he rejoined the other scientists from the von Braun team at Ft. Bliss, Tex. to begin work on the U.S. rocket program.

In the U.S. he was initially involved in tests at White Sands Missile Range using V2 rockets. These results led directly to the Redstone rocket and laid the basis for every other rocket developed in the United States since. The White Sands work included a Mach 3 cruise missile known as the Hermes II, based on a V2 first stage with a radical linear ramjet concept for the second stage. His work on the Hermes II continued after he moved in 1950 with much of the von Braun team to Huntsville, Ala. as part of the Army's ballistic missile program. There he developed the external aerodynamic design for the Army's Redstone missile, which served as the launch rocket for the nation's first live nuclear missile tests and later also launched the first U.S. astronaut into space. He developed a successful Mach 5 ballistic re-entry nose cone using a purely theoretical approach, at a time when no hypersonic wind tunnels existed to test the theories or provide needed data. He subsequently continued pioneering contributions in high-speed aerothermochemistry in the Army's Jupiter intermediate-range ballistic missile program, and then on the Army's Pershing medium-range ballistic missile and the large Saturn I booster rocket.

Following the Russian Sputnik launch, in July 1960 he moved with other von Braun rocket scientists from the Army Ballistic Missile Agency to the newly founded NASA. There, as part of the Apollo moon-landing program, he made major contributions working on the Saturn V booster rocket, on aerothermodynamics, and on liquid hydrogen propellant systems. He subsequently was involved in numerous projects contributing to the nation's manned and unmanned space flight programs, especially Skylab and the Space Shuttle. In the Shuttle development effort he led a team working on vehicle aerodynamics and the main engines, which included developing full-scale component tests and scaling methodologies, and applying computational fluid dynamics to overcome a wide range of aerothermochemistry problems.

He was Chief of the Aerophysics Division at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center until 1992, when he became Chief Aerodynamicist at the NASA Center. He was awarded the AIAA Aerodynamics Award in 1997 for his exceptional lifetime contributions to the aerodynamic design and analysis of strategic missiles and manned/unmanned launch rockets, and received the NASA Exceptional Service Medal in 2003. He continued working in science positions at NASA until his retirement, at 89, in 2006. David King, director of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, said "America's space program is preeminent because folks like Mr. Dahm contributed to building it into the best in the world. His life and life's work are an example of his energy, dedication and humble leadership, which has played a significant role in humanity's peaceful use of space."

He married Kaethe Elizabeth Maxelon in 1955, who preceded him in death in 1976. He later married Nell Sheppard Carr in 1981, who also preceded him in death in 2000. He is survived by his sister, Hilde Semmelroth of Bonn, Germany, by four sons, Stephan Dahm of Huntsville, Ala., Werner J.A. Dahm of Ann Arbor, Mich., Martin Dahm of Huntsville, Ala., and Thomas Dahm of Plano, Tex., and by two grandsons, Johann Dahm and Werner K.S. Dahm, both of Ann Arbor, Mich.


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posted 01-19-2008 12:55 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for cspg   Click Here to Email cspg     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
A "dot" is associated with what Dahm has accomplished for the U.S. program. That's it.

If you're thinking of attributing "dot(s)" to anybody who's close to being a saint, I'm afraid the list will be extremely short - if there's a list at all. And we might as well drop the "dot" thing altogether.


for everybody, Dahm, slaves (past, current, future), POWs, soldiers, refugees etc... and for anybody else who tried to survive on this living hell we call "Earth".

Originally posted by 1202 Alarm:
I don't think you just deserve a 'dot' (!!) as a 'laborer' for your 'effort' in the space conquest.
If they don't deserve a dot, what do they deserve? A dot for Dahm and slave laborers is not mutually exclusive, although the dot attribution will come from different reasons.

Robert Pearlman

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posted 01-19-2008 01:14 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The "dot" provides those without something to say about the deceased with a means to indicate to others that a moment of silence has been observed.

Whether that moment of silence is used to mourn the departed or to consider the person's role in history (or the lives he/she impacted), is regardless of the meaning of the "dot", which is applied without qualification.

Henk Boshuijer

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posted 01-19-2008 04:20 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Henk Boshuijer   Click Here to Email Henk Boshuijer     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote

E2M Lem Man

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posted 01-20-2008 04:01 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for E2M Lem Man     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote

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