NAZI GHOULS FROM SPACE
Peenemunde German Rocketry Research Center and Proving Ground, Usedom Peninsula along the Baltic Sea, 261 kilometers northeast of Berlin, 3 March 1945
“We’re ready when you are, Herr Obergruppenfuhrer.”
“Thank you, gefreiter. Tell them I’ll be there in a minute.”
The gefreiter closed the office door. Obergruppenfuhrer Dr. Ing Hans Friedrich Karl Franz Kammler stood up from his desk. He stepped over to the mirror on the opposite wall and straightened his SS uniform. The reflection that gazed back was not that of a handsome man. Kammler had the Nordic blonde hair/blue eyes of a proper Nazi, but his features were hard and his expression stern. Not that it mattered. He possessed something much more valuable than good looks. Kammler happened to be a personal favorite of his boss, Reichsfuhrer Heinrich Himmler, and that esteem opened more doors for him than his physical appearance ever could. His services to the Fuhrer were immeasurable. He had overseen the design and construction of the Reich’s extermination camps as well as the installation of the crematorium at Auschwitz-Birkenau. He had been responsible for constructing the facilities related to Germany’s special weapons projects, including moving the V-2 rocket production facilities underground, which ensured their continued mass production despite the Allied strategic bombing campaign. And he had been in charge of all of the military’s missile projects since January 1945.
If events went well this morning, Kammler would be able to add to his kudos sending the first men into space.
Exiting the office, Kammler made his way outside where the gefreiter waited by his staff car. Upon seeing the Obergruppenfuhrer, the soldier snapped to attention and opened the rear door. After Kammler climbed in back, the gefreiter closed the door and rushed around to the driver’s side. They headed north to the Ordnance Test Area where the V-2 launch pads were located, in particular the pad at the far end that had been converted to hold the Amerika Rakete—the Reich’s long-range ballistic missile.
Back in January, with the Red Army in eastern Germany and American troops closing in on the Rhine, Hitler had summoned Kammler to Berlin and demanded he produce a vengeance weapon superior to the V-2 to strike the United States. The engineers at Peenemunde swore it couldn’t be accomplished, but Werner von Braun came forward with a unique solution. He had proposed developing a two-stage ballistic missile using an Aggregate-10 diesel oil- and nitric acid-fueled rocket as the first stage to boost a smaller Aggregate-9 second stage into orbit and onto a trajectory that would bring it down along the east coast of the United States. Because no guidance systems yet existed that would allow the A-9/10 hybrid to fly with accuracy, Kammler had ordered the A-9 reconfigured with a cockpit for a pilot, or astronaut, who would guide the second stage and its accompanying warhead onto its target. Yes, it would be a suicide mission, but Kammler didn’t care. He knew he could find enough fanatical soldiers willing to die for the Reich if it meant striking terror into the hearts of the Americans, and by extension allow Kammler to win favor with the Fuhrer.
As the staff car approached, Kammler leaned forward to look out the windshield. The northernmost V-2 launch pad had been extended in height with a make-shift service tower to support the Amerika Rakete. The project had been completed at a considerable cost in diverted resources from the V-2 program and lost lives among the Jewish slave laborers, but those efforts had paid off handsomely. The Amerika Rakete stood on its launch platform nestled inside the surrounding gantry. It looked similar to a V-2, only larger and more robust. The two-stage rocket towered twenty meters into the air, with a diameter just shy of two meters. It rested on four fins that gave it a wingspan of three meters. The access hatch to the cockpit sat open waiting for the astronauten to board. For this space launch mission, the second-stage cockpit had been reconfigured, removing the forward compartment for the warhead and utilizing the extra space to accommodate a three-man crew sitting in tandem. Kammler had ordered that three men be sent aloft to test the results of space flight on the human body. The pilot would land the rocket off the coast of Nova Scotia near a waiting U-boat that would rescue the crew, examine them, and radio their findings back to Peenemunde.
First, however, Kammler had to endure the obligatory photo opportunity.
As the staff car pulled up in front of the launch tower, Kammler saw his astronauten waiting for him. Because these soldiers would temporarily leave the atmosphere to gain enough trajectory to reach their target, special flight suits had to be developed to protect them from the vacuum of space and exposure to cosmic radiation. Each suit was comprised of a rubbery airtight bladder surrounded by a restraint layer made of fabric. For the Fuhrer’s benefit, each astronauten’s flight suit had been designed to resemble the uniform for the branch of service they represented—the Wehrmacht, the Luftwaffe, and the SS.
The gefreiter parked a few meters from the men and jumped out to get the door. When Kammler stepped out, the astronauten snapped to attention. A photographer darted around the group, snapping shots from various angles that would later be presented to the Fuhrer. Kammler ignored him. He stepped over to the officer wearing the Wehrmacht uniform and extended his arm in the Sieg Heil salute. The officer responded in kind.
“What’s your name, soldier?”
“Oberleutnant Friedhelm Strang.”
“What unit are you with?”
“I’m with the 1st Infantry Division.”
Kammler nodded. “Aren’t they currently defending Festung Konigsberg from the Red Army?”
“Yes, Herr Obergruppenfuhrer.”
“You’ll honor their sacrifice by what you’ll do here today.”
“Danke, Herr Obergruppenfuhrer.”
Kammler stepped over to the officer in the Luftwaffe uniform. “What’s your name?”
“Hauptman Rudolf Altner, from the Air Ministry in Berlin. Reichsmarshall Goring selected me personally for this assignment.”
Kammler suppressed a smirk. That fat morphine addict was content to send his men to certain death, but was too afraid to travel near the front to see them off. “All of Germany is proud of you.”
“Viele dank, Herr Obergruppenfuhrer.”
Kammler moved to the last officer in line, who snapped ramrod straight. The man exuded strength, confidence, and arrogant superiority. “And you?”
“Standartenfuhrer Werner Konig.”
“You’re the pilot of this flight?”
“Yes, Herr Obergruppenfuhrer. I’m looking forward to bringing the war to American soil.”
“Don’t get overconfident,” warned Kammler. “This is only a test flight. But if it’s successful, soon we’ll be doing to New York and Washington what the verdammt Americans have been doing to Berlin these past few years. The Reich is counting on you…” He looked at all three officers in turn. “…all of you, to make this flight a success.”
Kammler stepped back and extended his arm one final time. “Heil Hitler!”
The officers responded in kind and bellowed, “Heil Hitler!”
As Kammler headed back to the staff car, the three astronauten made their way to the service tower where a ground crew of Luftwaffe personnel waited to escort them to the cockpit and strap them in. Upon arriving at the Bunker Control Room from where he would monitor the test flight, Kammler entered and quietly stayed in the background while the various technicians went about their final preparations. Nearly thirty minutes passed before the mission control director, SS Sturmbanfuhrer Hoess, stepped over.
“We’re ready, Herr Obergruppenfuhrer.”
Hoess turned back to the others. “Begin launch sequence.”
A scurry of activity ensued inside the bunker. The exterior air raid klaxon sounded, warning those outside of the imminent launch. A technician in civilian clothes called out, “Thirty seconds to launch.”
“All systems are within working parameters,” responded a technician in a Luftwaffe uniform.
“Electrical control circuits attached and functioning,” added a third technician in a white lab coat.
“Twenty seconds to launch,” called out the technician in civilian clothes.
“Prepare to activate pyrotechnic device,” ordered Hoess.
“Preparing to activate device,” responded the Luftwaffe technician.
“Ten seconds to launch,” called out the technician in civilian clothes. “Nine. Eight. Seven. Six. Five. Four. Three. Two. One.”
“Activate pyrotechnic device,” yelled Hoess.
“Pyrotechnic device activated,” said the Luftwaffe technician. “Propulsion has been initiated.”
The A-10’s engine ignited, generating 375,000 pound force of thrust. The Amerika Rakete lifted off the launch pad, rapidly gaining speed and altitude until it rocketed toward the heavens at a speed of 4300 kilometers per hour.
“Status,” ordered Hoess.
“All systems are functioning normally,” responded the Luftwaffe technician. “The rocket’s trajectory is normal.”
“Twenty-five seconds into burn stage,” called out the technician in civilian clothes.
“Prepare for second stage separation,” ordered Hoess.
The technician in the white lab coat replied, “Ready for second stage separation.”
“All systems are functioning normally,” said the Luftwaffe technician from his terminal. “The rocket has attained an altitude of two hundred and seventy-six kilometers. Trajectory is normal.”
“Forty seconds into burn stage,” called out the technician in civilian clothes.
“The rocket has attained an altitude of three hundred and seven kilometers. Trajectory is normal.”
“Burn stage will be complete in five seconds” The technician in civilian clothes began the countdown. “Four. Three. Two. Burn stage complete.”
The Luftwaffe technician added, “The rocket has attained an altitude of three hundred and ninety-four kilometers.”
“Initiate second stage separation,” ordered Hoess.
“Initiating second stage separation,” said the technician in the white lab coat. He toggled a switch, but the red display light above it remained on. He flipped it back to its original position and toggled again, with the same result. “Schiesse.”
Hoess made his way to the technician’s station. “Talk to me.”
The technician repeatedly toggled the switch. “I can’t initiate separation.”
Kammler stepped over to the technician. “What’s wrong?”
“I don’t know.” On the ninth attempt, the red display light went out and the green light came on. “We have second stage separation.”
“Status!” called Hoess.
“The rocket has attained an altitude of five hundred and seventeen kilometers.” The technician in civilian clothes looked up from his console. “The trajectory has not changed. The rocket will obtain low earth orbit.”
“What does that mean?” asked Kammler.
“The delay in separation boosted the second stage beyond its re-entry point. Rather than come back down near Nova Scotia, the second stage is about to go into orbit around the earth.” Hoess sighed. “Our astronauten are lost in space.”
“Ficken.” Kammler had hoped to end his career with the Reich on a high note, but fate had intervened.
“What happens now?” asked Hoess.
“I’ll fly to Berlin this afternoon and explain it to the Fuhrer myself.” Kammler plotted who he could blame this failure on. “He’ll be furious, but I should be able to talk him down.”
“No, Herr Obergruppenfuhrer.” Hoess paused. “I meant about the astronauten.”
Kammler shrugged. “I’ll put them in for the Iron Cross First Class.”
“Very good, Herr Obergruppenfuhrer.”
Hoess did not seem impressed, but Kammler could care less. The war would be over in a few months, and Peenemunde and everyone in it would either be dead or prisoners of the Red Army. So be it. Kammler had other concerns.
Such as surviving the collapse of Nazi Germany.
Nazi Ghouls From Space is available for the Kindle.