Walt Disney and Dr. Wernher von Braun (1954)
What's wrong with this picture?
Von Braun and President Eisenhower (1959)
Von Braun and President Kennedy (1963)
Von Braun's V-2 rocket launch at Peenemunde (1943)
Heinrich Himmler - Reichsfuhrer of the SS and head of the Nazi death camps - tours Peenemunde (1943)
Behind him is SS-Sturmbannfuhrer (SS-Major) Wernher von Braun in his SS uniform
Tunnel to the Mittelwerk factory at Nordhausen, Germany
(where von Braun's V-2 rockets were built underground)
Prisoners of war work as forced labor in the Mittelwerk tunnel
The U.S. Army liberates Nordhausen
20,000 POWs died building von Braun's V-2 rockets
Worn-out Mittelwerk slaves
SWASTIKA is Michael Slade's Nazi Wonder Weapons (Wunderwaffen) thriller. As with all Slade novels, the plot began in his boyhood. Here's the story behind it.
In the aftermath of World War II - with its V-2 rockets and atomic bombs - and the Mount Rainier and Roswell Incidents of 1947, North America became obsessed with outer space and terror from the skies. The metaphor that captured such hovering fear was the "flying saucer."
Flying saucers were in the movies...
THE FLYING SAUCER (1950)
THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL (1951)
THE WAR OF THE WORLDS (1953)
THIS ISLAND EARTH (1955)
EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS (1956)
In FORBIDDEN PLANET (1956)...
...the flying saucer has a human crew
Flying saucers were in the magazines...
And flying saucers were in the books...
...and the comics Slade read as a boy.
"E.C. challenges the U.S. Air Force..."
Note Al Feldstein's signature (see GHOUL)
"I discovered the Secret of the Flying Saucers!"
Slade and "flying saucers" were born in the same year: 1947. South of British Columbia - Slade's home since 1955 - Mount Rainier crowns Washington State.
On June 24, 1947 - less than a month after Slade's first breath - American aviator and businessman Kenneth Arnold made the first widely reported sighting of an unidentified flying object (UFO) in the United States. He saw nine flashing disks flying in a chain over Mount Rainier. Arnold described them as "saucer-like," so the press coined a catchy new term: "flying saucers."
Arnold's flying saucer sketch and letter to Army Air Force intelligence, July 12, 1947
Arnold and his crescent-shaped "flying saucer"
"THE TRUTH ABOUT THE FLYING SAUCERS" by Kenneth Arnold (1948)
In the first week of July 1947 - about two weeks after the Mount Rainier UFO sighting - a New Mexico rancher named Mack Brazel saddled up a horse and rode out to check on his sheep. Overnight, there'd been a fierce thunderstorm. Brazel found unusual debris strewn across a pasture. Whatever crash-landed there had gouged a shallow trench for hundreds of feet across the hard ground. Brazel drove into Roswell to report the incident, and the sheriff notified Roswell Army Air Field, home base of the 509th Bomb Group that dropped atomic weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki (see KAMIKAZE).
Roswell, New Mexico
The U.S. military locked down the crash site and retrieved the wreckage. On July 8, 1947, the commander of the 509th, Colonel William "Butch" Blanchard, issued a press release confirming that "the many rumors regarding the flying disk became a reality yesterday when the intelligence office of the 509th Bomb Group of the Eighth Air Force, Roswell Army Air Field, was fortunate enough to gain possession of a disk. The flying object landed on a ranch near Roswell sometime last week." The news made headlines in thirty afternoon papers across the nation.
Colonel (later General) William "Butch" Blanchard
The Roswell Incident, July 8, 1947
Major Jesse Marcel was the intelligence officer at the 509th Bomb Group. He was involved in the recovery of the Brazel wreckage. On July 8, the day of the Blanchard press release, Marcel took some of the debris to Texas to show to General Roger Ramey, the commander of the Eighth Air Force. Ramey quickly issued a chaser release claiming that the 509th had misidentified a weather balloon and its radar reflector as a crashed flying disk. As proof, Ramey displayed the balloon's remnants in his office and allowed photos to be taken. The press reported the correction on July 9.
To this day, that remains the Pentagon's official position. Case closed.
Major Jesse Marcel and the weather balloon remnants
General Roger Ramey
Ramey (left) and his chief of staff with the weather balloon
Enlargement of the memo in Ramey's hand
"RAMEY EMPTIES ROSWELL SAUCER" (July 9, 1947)
"Ramey says disk is weather balloon"
In 1978, Major Jesse Marcel voiced his suspicion that the debris recovered at Roswell was "not of this world." The wreckage was switched, according to him, for the weather balloon that appeared in the press photos. The debris "was not a weather balloon. Nor was it an airplane or a missile."
Consequently, Roswell morphed from being an almost forgotten incident to the most famous UFO mystery of all time. Witness accounts began to surface of outer space aircraft and alien autopsies. According to photo analysts, the memo in Ramey's hand refers to a "disk" in New Mexico and an air force cover-up.
In 1994, the Pentagon released "THE ROSWELL REPORT: CASE CLOSED." "There is no dispute that something happened near Roswell in July, 1947." Instead of "an airplane crash...a missile crash...a nuclear accident...or an extraterrestrial craft," it was an accident involving a "Top Secret balloon project designed to monitor Soviet nuclear tests, known as Project Mogul." The so-called Roswell Incident grew out of "overreaction by Colonel Blanchard and Major Marcel, in originally reporting that a 'flying disk' had been recovered."
So prone to "overreaction" was "Butch" Blanchard that the Pentagon had assigned him to supervise the dropping of the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, and to fly backup for the Enola Gay. Then after his itchy trigger finger in the Roswell Incident, Blanchard was given command of all atomic bombers, the atomic tests on Bikini atoll, the training of intercontinental nuclear strike crews, and the setting up of Strategic Air Command. He ultimately became Vice Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force as a four-star general.
So, what actually happened at Roswell in 1947? Was it somehow linked to the Mount Rainier sighting? And if there was a Pentagon cover-up, why?
American edition of SWASTIKA
In the closing days of World War II, Hitler summons SS-General Ernst Streicher to his Berlin bunker to discuss the Third Reich's only hope to win the war - the Wonder Weapons controlled by Himmler's dreaded SS. When an overnight raid by the Allies forces Streicher to abandon his underground Mittelwerk factory assembling V-2 rockets, it sets in motion a monstrous conspiracy that still lies hidden today.
In present-day Vancouver, the RCMP's Special X squad is on the hunt for a pair of Nazi-inspired killers. A Nazi swastika is carved into each victim's forehead. When Special X turns to the FBI for links to the swastika signature in the United States, the black world of the Pentagon picks up the clue and ties it to the long-kept secret of what crashed at Roswell, New Mexico, in 1947.
Moving between wartime Germany and the manhunt in Vancouver, SWASTIKA revolves around a deadly four-sided cat-and-mouse game embroiling the Mounties, Pentagon hit men, and the Nazi psychopaths.
Hitler on the rise
Hitler and Himmler reviewing SS troops
The last photo of Hitler (late April 1945)
Surveying bomb damage above his Berlin bunker
In April 1945, Hitler's war ground toward defeat. Night and day, Allied warplanes pulverized Berlin. As the Red Army closed in from the east and the U.S. Army from the west, Hitler spent his final weeks in a concrete bunker buried twenty feet deeper than Berlin's sewage system.
The door to Hitler's bunker (Deutsches Bundesarchiv)
The layout of Hitler's bunker
As Hitler descends into madness and drug addiction, SWASTIKA opens with a summons to the bunker.
At the end of April, Hitler married Eva Braun.
On April 30, as the Red Army stormed Berlin and captured the Reichstag...
Hitler and Eva Braun killed themselves in the subterranean bunker. Sitting on the sofa in Hitler's living room, she took poison while he bit down on a cyanide capsule and shot himself in the head.
Soviet troops examine the suicide sofa
Note Hitler's blood in the circle
V is for Victory
Winston Churchill sits on a damaged bunker chair (Berlin 1945)
The SWASTIKA puzzle
As the Third Reich crumbled in April 1945, the scramble was on by members of Himmler's SS to find a way out of paying the price for the Black Corps' inhuman atrocities, and by the invading U.S. Army to find a way into the maze of tunnels that hid the Swastika's arsenal of Wonder Weapons.
Weapons like the Messerschmitt 262 - dubbed the Schwalbe ("Swallow") - the world's first operational jet powered fighter.
Underground manufacture of the Me 262 (Deutsches Bundesarchiv)
Me 262, ready to fly (Deutsches Bundesarchiv)
Weapons like the V-1 - the "Flying Bomb," "Buzz Bomb," or "Doodlebug" - the world's first operational cruise missile.
Underground manufacture of the V-1
V-1, ready to launch
V-1, about to hit London
Weapons like SS-Major Wernher von Braun's V-2.
Underground manufacture of the V-2 in the Mittelwerk at Nordhausen
V-2, on the attack
V-2 rocket bombing of London, January 27, 1945
17 people killed, 20 houses destroyed, dozens more damaged
And weapons like the "Foo Fighters" - strange spherical "balls of fire" - seen by Allied airmen over Europe from November 1944 on?
Die Glocke (The Bell)
Underground development of Foo Fighters?
Sketch of Die Glocke
The uber Wonder Weapon?
Foreseeing the future?
Nazi flying saucer in AMAZING STORIES (July 1943)
Flying saucer technology isn't far-fetched. Basically, a flying saucer is an antigravity machine. When Slade was a boy, his uncle gave him a set of bar magnets. The attraction between the north and south poles of two bar magnets lacked fun. More exciting was to stand a bar magnet on end, north pole at the top, and push the north pole of another magnet down onto it. Release the upper magnet and it would spring into the air, because the two north poles repelled each other. So Slade finds it rationally easy to suspend disbelief of Nazi flying saucers.
Nikola Tesla (1856 - 1943) has been called "the man who invented the flying saucer."
Nikola Tesla (circa 1896)
The "Master of Lightning" in his lab
Note the round shape of the machine
Tesla with "balls of fire" in his hands
Mark Twain in Tesla's lab, holding a "ball of fire" (1894)
Tesla was a genius. An electromagnetic visionary. Unlike DC current, his AC current swapped its polarity at a regular rate. The Serbian-American engineer's system of AC power generation and transmission is universally used today. Tesla powers the world. His theories and inventions led to radio and television, hydroelectric dams, radar, xrays, remote control, lasers, and the manipulation of matter and energy.
In 1911, Tesla told the NEW YORK HERALD TRIBUNE about his theory of antigravity: "My flying machine will have neither wings nor propellers. You might see it on the ground and you would never guess that it was a flying machine. Yet it will be able to move at will through the air in any direction with perfect safety, at higher speeds than have yet been reached, regardless of weather and oblivious of 'holes in the air' or downward currents. It will ascend in such currents if desired. It can remain absolutely stationary in the air, even in a wind, for great length of time. Its lifting power will not depend upon any such delicate devices as the bird has to employ, but upon positive mechanical action."
Tesla's "flying saucer" would escape from gravity by means of high voltage electromagnetic radiation, and propel itself with high frequency electromagnetic waves. With gravity excluded, the craft would be capable of fantastic acceleration and sharp turns at high speed without the crew inside feeling G-force effects.
Tesla's circular three-phase rotating magnetic field (licensed copyright)
When Tesla died of heart failure in 1943 - a suspicious year - research papers and a black notebook with hundreds of pages marked "Government" were found to be missing from his room at the Hotel New Yorker.
Those papers have yet to surface.
In the above photo, note the Tesla coil on the right. One of the coils in the film was actually made by Tesla. If Tesla's electromagnetic magic could produce this...
...Slade figured antigravity would be a snap! So here's the scoop on Die Glocke.
So important to someone was keeping the Bell a secret that 62 scientists who worked on the gadget were shot by the SS and buried in a mass grave in the final days of the war. The device itself was never found, but its existence came to light under KGB questioning of SS captives accused of war crimes in Poland.
The Bell was a weird science project by Third Reich engineers in an underground weapons plant code-named Der Riese ("the Giant") near the city of Breslau in the Sudeten Mountains, where the borders of Germany, Poland, and Czechoslovakia met. The Wonder Weapon contained a pair of concentric, counter-rotating cylinders. During tests, it emitted an eerie pale blue glow, and any electrical equipment within a radius of five hundred feet short-circuited. So unhealthy was exposure to its electromagnet field that five scientists died. By spinning in opposite directions, somehow the saucer-like cylinders countered the pull of gravity.
This "Henge" or "Fly Trap" still stands at the Sudeten site. Was it a test rig for the antigravity propulsion of Die Glocke?
FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON (1865)
Jules Verne's spaceship blasts off
A TRIP TO THE MOON (1902)
THE FIRST MEN IN THE MOON (1901)
Wells: The underground Selenites
As a boy, Wernher von Braun (1912 - 1977) became fascinated with the possibility of space exploration by reading the science fiction of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells. In his teens, he experimented with rocket propulsion by strapping fireworks to a wagon that he shot down a crowded street. Then he joined the VfR, the German rocket society.
VfR: teenage von Braun second from the right
Portrait of the rocketeer as a young man
Von Braun - like Tesla - was a mechanical genius. By 20, he was building rockets for the German army. The treaty that ended World War I had stripped Germany of weapons, but rockets were a loophole. Under a military grant, von Braun earned his Ph.D in rocket propulsion from the University of Berlin in 1934. That same year, he launched two rockets to heights of over a mile. By 30, he was technical director of the Army Rocket Center at Peenemunde, a site on the Baltic Sea suggested by his mother, whose father had duck-hunted there.
Peenemunde: von Braun and the generals (Deutsches Bundesarchiv)
Touring Peenemunde with von Braun (right)
Himmler (left) at Peenemunde
V-2 test site at Peenemunde
Von Braun's strength was also his weakness. He'd stop at nothing to reach for outer space, no matter what the cost.
In 1932 or 1937 (sources differ), the rocketeer joined Hitler's Nazi Party. Having joined the SS riding school in 1933, von Braun became an officer in Himmler's SS in 1940. From the rank of Second Lieutenant, he was promoted three times by Himmler to SS-Sturmbannfuhrer (SS-Major) in June 1943. And when von Braun personally showed a movie of the V-2's military potential to Hitler himself that July, the fuhrer was so pleased that he gave the rocketeer - though only 31 years of age - the honor of Professor.
The first V-2 was launched at Peenemunde on October 3, 1942. The Baltic Sea complex was home to 2,000 rocketeers and 4,000 other personnel. The labor shortage in Germany threatened V-2 production, so in April 1943, Arthur Rudolph, the site's chief engineer, urged the use of slave labor from Himmler's SS concentration camps. Von Braun agreed.
Jack "Johnny" Clarke gets his wings, age 19
Flight Sergeant Jack Clarke in combat
Not until 2003 - with the discovery of his father's combat archive - did Slade fully grasp his Dad's war. At the height of the Battle of Britain, Jack Clarke joined the Canadian air force in September 1940, and was shipped overseas to fly with RAF Bomber Command, #10 Squadron. Between October 1941 and December 1942, he flew 47 combat missions, with 1-in-5 odds of being killed in each raid. In the Battle of the Atlantic, he bombed the battleship Gneisenau, putting it out of action. In what marked the turning point of the air war, he flew in all the 1,000 Bomber Raids: Cologne, Essen, Bremen. In North Africa, he flew in the Battle of El Alamein, the turning point of the ground air. You'll find his Pilot's Flying Log Book and combat photos in CRUCIFIED.
By 1943, there were enough Canadians in the war to form #6 (RCAF) Group in Britain. Between March of that year and February 1944, Flight Lieutenant "Johnny" Clarke trained heavy bomber crews as a deputy Flight Commander, including those that raided Peenemunde on August 17-18, 1943.
F/L Clarke, England 1943
BOMBER COMMAND handbook
Art by Roy Nockolds
Photos by Trevira (licensed copyright)
Peenemunde: RAF target map
Navigator on Peenemunde raid
From "Tomorrowland" in SWASTIKA:
V-2 test site: before and after RAF raid
Of its 57 bombers in the Peenemunde raid, #6 (RCAF) Group lost 12 and their 7-man crews (20 percent). They were in the last run over the target, when diverted Nazi night fighters arrived with a new weapon: Me 110s equipped with Schrage Musik ("jazz music") guns, upward-firing cannons. RAF bombers had no belly gun turrets.
The Peenemunde raid set V-2 production back at least two months. What if those missiles had been ready to rain down on D-Day forces? The morning after the bombing, Himmler went to Hitler in his Wolf's Lair and used the attack to seize control of von Braun's rockets. V-2 production required a new hardened SS factory hidden underground, and the only man with the slaves to build it was Himmler.
SS-General Hans Kammler
Kammler: Nazi Party ID (1932)
Kammler: note the Death's Head cap badge
Kammler (left) at work
SS-General Ernst Streicher - the Nazi summoned to Hitler's bunker - is a fictitious character. He did, however, have a real-life counterpart: SS-General Hans Kammler.
Kammler joined the SS in 1933. A civil engineer, he designed Auschwitz and other death camps. Kammler upped the output of their gas chambers and crematoriums from 10,000 to 60,000 prisoners a day. After the Warsaw Uprising in 1943, Himmler had Kammler demolish the Ghetto in retaliation.
No more than a week after the Peenemunde raid, Kammler trucked slaves from the Buchenwald Camp to Nordhausen, in the Harz Mountains of central Germany. There, a pair of gypsum tunnels wormed into Kohnstein Mountain. Night and day, the slaves were whipped to build the V-2 Mittelwerk. Infractions led to hanging in the roll call yard at new Camp Dora-Mittelbau.
Mittelwerk and Camp Dora-Mittelbau, Nordhausen, Germany
Camp Dora-Mittelbau outside the Mittelwerk
Dora crematorium: note the huge chimney
Tunnel to the Mittelwerk factory inside Kohnstein Mountain
Ladder-like layout of the underground factory tunnels
Slave labor building the Mittelwerk
Drawing by Andre Guichard, a Dora prisoner
Slave-driving: note the Gummi cudgel, an electric cable wrapped with rubber
Drawing by Leon Delarbre, a Dora prisoner
Dora hangings: note the wood gags in their mouths so they can't curse the Nazis
Drawing by prisoner Leon Delarbre
The Mittelwerk was a hellhole. Construction of the factory cost 6,000 lives. Building the rockets cost 14,000 more. That's four lives for every missile produced. The slaves from Buchenwald were mostly French, Polish, and Russian prisoners of war. Hitler refused to let Jews sabotage his Wonder Weapons. By asking the SS for slave labor, the V-2 rocketeers had made a pact with the devil. Arthur Rudolph, von Braun's chief engineer, worked in the tunnels. So did Magnus von Braun, Wernher's younger brother. He was in charge of gyroscopes installed in Hall 41, where overhead cranes stood the missiles on end. By 1945, the same cranes were mass-hanging prisoners. Though still testing V-2s at Peenemunde, Wernher von Braun made visits to the Mittelwerk. In May 1944, he went to Buchenwald and asked the commandant for 1,800 skilled French POWs.
Propaganda photo: V-2 rocketeers in the Mittelwerk
Shot by Walter Frentz, "Hitler's cameraman"
The "Hangman of Buchenwald" in the "singing forest," named for the screams
By April 1945, Kammler was head of all SS missile projects and aerospace Wonder Weapons like Die Glocke, the Bell. With the U.S. Army closing in fast on Nordhausen, he ordered the abandonment of the Mittelwerk. His arm in a cast from an auto accident, SS-Major Wernher von Braun lived in the area. As his top 500 rocketeers were evacuated to Bavaria on the Vengeance Express as Kammler's bargaining chip, von Braun hid his papers and blueprints in a deserted mine, then drove south to the Alps by car.
To keep the Mittelwerk slaves from becoming witnesses against the Black Corps, Kammler should have blown them up in the factory. But the rockets in the tunnels were another bargaining ploy, so instead, he sent the prisoners north on a forced death march.
On April 11, the U.S. Army liberated Nordhausen, and reporters got their first look at a concentration camp.
U.S. soldier helps a survivor
Those are the Mittelwerk slaves who didn't make it to Camp Dora's overworked oven. Out back of the crematorium was a giant pit filled with human ash.
Looking at those photos, you wonder how neo-Nazism can be on the rise in so many countries today. Or, do the photos - a dark thought - actually explain why? Hello, Xenophobia. "Pleased to meet you. Hope you guess my name..."
In SWASTIKA, Hans Kammler is fictionalized as Ernst Streicher to give him two Hitler Youth sons. Fritz, 15, and Hans, 14, have trained as Werwolf (Werewolf) commandos. The Werewolves were a last-ditch Nazi plan to create a guerrilla force of boys that would operate behind enemy lines as the Allies invaded Germany. When Hitler summons Streicher to his bunker at the start of the novel, the SS general takes his sons along. Hitler's last official photo was of him face-patting some Hitler Youths. Obsessive Fritz forms a sexual fixation on Eva Braun.
From Hitler's bunker, Streicher and sons return to the Mittelwerk. The general has another bargaining chip to secure, so he dispatches Fritz and Hans as guards on the death march. In fact, the prisoners evacuated from Dora were slave-driven north to the town of Gardelegen. There, on April 13, 1945, a thousand slaves were herded into a grain barn, and the doors wedged shut with stones. As if the Mittelwerk wasn't hellhole enough, the barn was torched and they were burned alive. Any trying to escape were shot by the guards.
Two days later, the U.S. Army found the barn as the dead were being buried.
Outside the barn
Inside the barn
Piled up at the door
The barn was strewn with gasoline-soaked straw
Note the straw in the hand
Tunneling to escape
In the late 1990s, a German woman told Slade an intriguing story. At the end of the war, her father and his brother were captured by the Allies. The American and Russian armies were dividing up spoils, including captives. By chance, the dividing line fell between the brothers. The woman's father went on to thrive in the West, while his brother suffered abuse behind the Iron Curtain.
In 1967, Slade backpacked through Europe. The highlight was a train trip into the Soviet Union that took nine months to arrange. The Cold War was on, but Russia required dollars, so tourists were let in. The bleakness made Slade think he was living a John le Carre novel. Lots of stories, including brief arrest by the secret police. How was Slade to know that civilian and military airports were side by side? He was simply snapping a picture when he got grabbed by these big beefy guys and hauled off to a torture chamber.
Well, a stark interview room, with some threatening voices, and no one speaking English. The only Russian Slade knew was "Nyet stryelyay!" ("Don't shoot!" taught him by the Lithuanian refugee dad of the friend who introduced him to chopsticks. See CUTTHROAT.) Slade's attempt at humor did not go over well.
Later that Summer of Love, he hitchhiked through East Germany to West Berlin, and crossed through Checkpoint Charlie to East Berlin. That was even bleaker. Using a penknife, Slade could literally pry World War II bullets out of building walls. The East was frozen in the 1940s, while West Berlin glittered beyond the Wall.
On a bright July day, Slade went to Dachau. A field near the concentration camp was brilliant yellow with rapeseed, yet Slade felt ominous gray oppression in the air. It was most likely psychological, but you never know. When that many people die in one place, do they leave a dark aura?
So, when Slade heard the woman's story of the line between the brothers, SWASTIKA's plot sprang to mind.
Two serial killers are taking hate crimes to the extreme...
Dubbed Swastika and the Aryan, they're acting as cleansers of society - necessary evils to empower a new Master Race. But there's still one secret about them no one knows...
Assigned to hunt them down is Special X, an elite team of investigators. But the closer they get, the sooner they discover a link to a terrifying government conspiracy - a mystery buried in the secrets of World War II-era Germany.
Now the Special X investigators are the hunted - shadowed by two deranged killers bent on slaughter and by a faceless band of agents who will stop at nothing to prevent the secrets of a dark new world from coming to light...
Of far greater interest to the Pentagon than all those bodies found rotting at Camp Dora-Mittelbau and Nordhausen was what the U.S. Army discovered in the Mittelwerk tunnels. If the new bomb being developed by the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos, New Mexico, exploded as planned (it did, a month later on July 16, 1945), imagine a warhead like that arming von Braun's V-2 rocket. Would such a missile not keep the "Russkies" in line and let the Soviet Union know who was boss in the postwar world?
Aladdin's Cave: U.S. soldier in the Mittelwerk
The clock was ticking. The Mittelwerk was in the soon-to-be Soviet Zone (the Allies had divided up Germany), so the U.S. Army emptied the tunnels of half-made rockets and shipped them off to the States.
V-2 parts heading for New Mexico
The race was on to find the brains behind the V-2, so SS-Major Wernher von Braun topped the Pentagon's wish list. The rocketeers Kammler was hiding in Bavaria as a bargaining chip were under SS guard. Von Braun convinced the head guard to disperse the scientists against Allied air attacks, and used the ploy to sneak off and surrender to the U.S. Army.
Von Braun, his arm in a cast, surrenders to U.S. Army Counterintelligence on May 2, 1945
Magnus von Braun, his brother, is next on the right
Von Braun greets U.S. soldiers
Project Paperclip was the U.S. operation that saw von Braun and his rocketeers spirited out of Nazi Germany to build V-2 missiles for the Pentagon. President Truman expressly ordered that anyone found "to have been a member of the Nazi Party and more than a nominal participant in its activities, or an active supporter of Nazism militarism" was to be excluded. To subvert the law, the Pentagon "red-lined" all Nazi connections out of the V-2 scientists' files. The project took its name from the paperclip used to attach the "bleached" background clearance to each Nazi's immigration file. When SS-Major Wernher von Braun flew to America in September 1945, he arrived as squeaky-clean and as whitewashed as Tom Sawyer's fence.
Project Paperclip team of 104 German rocket scientists at Fort Bliss, Texas, in 1946
Von Braun, front row, has his hand in his pocket
In April 1946, von Braun launched the Pentagon's first V-2 at the White Sands Proving Ground in New Mexico, a few miles from the site of the Roswell Incident the following year.
Slade was born into a time of high anxiety. The unexpected explosion of the Soviet Union's first atomic bomb in 1949 sent shock waves through the Pentagon. To counter that new threat, von Braun and his team were moved to Huntsville, Alabama, to upgrade nuclear missiles. Result: the Redstone rocket.
At school, Slade's grade 1 class was taught how to hide under its desks against nuclear attack. Air raid sirens were tested without warning to keep people on their toes. Gripped by "hero hunger" (Fess Parker's term) in that uncertain era, boys like Slade found their idol when DAVY CROCKETT premiered on TV's DISNEYLAND in 1954. So rampant a surge was Crockettmania - the birth of modern mass culture - across North America that 10 million coonskin caps were sold, endangering the species
Fess Parker as Davy Crockett
Slade's Davy Crockett coonskin cap
TV's DISNEYLAND was in effect an ad for the new amusement park being built in California. In Davy Crockett, Walt Disney had an icon for the "Frontierland" segment of the show. Next, he required an icon for "Tomorrowland," which he found in Dr. Wernher von Braun.
Von Braun discussing concepts for Disney's Tomorrowland
In 1952, von Braun had published THE MARS PROJECT and been the brains behind a bestselling COLLIER'S series on conquering space.
THE MARS PROJECT
MAN IN SPACE was broadcast in March 1955. After the war, Slade's father flew for what is now Air Canada. Everything aerospace was in the family's blood, so Slade was hooked by von Braun and had the Disney comic. A month later, von Braun and his 100 Paperclip rocketeers became American citizens. Then Disney broadcast MAN ON THE MOON in December.
The amusement park of Disneyland opened that same year. The Moonliner rocket in Tomorrowland was designed by von Braun. It's a modified V-2.
Aerial view of Disneyland in 1956
Note the Moonliner toward the upper right
On December 10, 1956, nine-year-old Slade awoke to the news that his father's plane was missing in the Cascade Mountains of British Columbia, known to pilots as "the Graveyard of the Air." His DC-4 propeller aircraft had run into a violent winter storm the night before. Suffering engine failure amid severe icing, turbulence, and subsidence (downdrafts), the flight was returning to Vancouver when it vanished from radar screens. So extreme was the weather that it wrenched strapped-in search and rescue crews out of their seatbelts. Snow fell constantly for a month, so the fate of the 62 people aboard remained a mystery until the wreckage was found next May by mountain climbers. The North Star plane had crashed into a 7600-foot peak of Mount Slesse. (See HEADHUNTER)
Wreckage of Flight 810 clinging to Mount Slesse (1957)
Take a revolver with five chambers and one bullet. Spin the cylinder 47 times and trigger it 47 times at your temple. That game of repeated Russian roulette equals the odds of Slade's Dad having survived the war in lumbering bombers loaded with gas and high explosives, with no fighter cover, surrounded by flak from anti-aircraft guns, and stalked by deadly night fighters. How ironic that he should die in a civilian air crash. So instantaneous was his death, the boy was assured, that the wires in his Dad's headphones were driven inches into the rock.
"To a fatherless child, all things are possible and nothing is safe," says the writer Mary Gordon. That sums up Slade in 1957. To ease the pain of losing his Dad, his Mom took him to Disneyland. There, under the influence of Wernher von Braun, the boy stared up at the Moonliner and fantasized that he was Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon in the Big Little Books he'd inherited from the generation before.
"All things are possible" turned to "nothing is safe" when headlines across North America blared "Pearl Harbor of the Stars!" and "Red Conquest!" on October 5, 1957. The Russians had launched Sputnik, the world's first satellite. The space race was on, and America lagged behind.
The panicked Pentagon tried to launch its own Vanguard rocket. When it exploded on takeoff, the press dubbed it "Stay-putnik." Then von Braun got the green light to give it a try, and within four months of Sputnik, his rocketeers used Jupiter-C (a modified V-2) to put Explorer 1 in space.
Published in 1960
By 1960, von Braun was the head of NASA's George C. Marshall Space Flight Center, the civilian agency that usurped the Pentagon's role in the space race. With Arthur Rudolph as his project director, the whitewashed SS-Major created the mighty Saturn 5 booster rocket, which put Americans on the moon in 1969.
Von Braun gives Disney a tour of the West Test Area (1965)
FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON
Von Braun's awesome Saturn 5
Slade was an undergraduate in World War II and Cold War history when he rushed home from a day at the beach - July 20, 1969 - to watch his boyhood hero Dr. Wernher von Braun fulfill 1955's mission on TV's DISNEYLAND as "One small step for man..." put Commander Neil Armstrong on the moon.
U.S. commemorative stamp (1969)
FIRST MEN TO THE MOON
Armstrong's photo of Lunar Module Pilot "Buzz" Aldrin
"The Eagle has landed..."
America showered accolades and awards on Wernher von Braun. LIFE magazine crowned him one of the 100 most important Americans of the 20th century. The Smithsonian gave him the Langley Medal; the Daughters of the American Revolution, their Americanism Medal; NASA, its Distinguished Service Medal; and President Gerald Ford, the National Medal of Science.
Von Braun died of stomach cancer in 1977. Two years later, the first memoir by a Mittelwerk survivor was published in English. The rusting of the Iron Curtain exposed long-hidden Nazi archives and the photo of Himmler and his SS-Major together in Black Corps uniforms. Now that's what you call "an inconvenient truth."
How disillusioning for Slade to discover his boyhood hero was a false idol. With a little imagination and a dash of irony, von Braun (whose boyhood inspiration was THE FIRST MEN IN THE MOON) got metaphorically carried away by subterranean Selenites in hidden-from-view tunnels like those in the H.G. Wells images above.
Death saved von Braun from scrutiny by the OSI - the Office of Special Investigations - activated by Congress in 1979 as a Nazi-hunting agency. Arthur Rudolph, von Braun's right-hand man at Peenemunde (who advocated slave labor), and in the Mittelwerk (while 20,000 died), and at NASA (after "bleaching" by the Pentagon), renounced his U.S. citizenship and fled to Germany to avoid a possible war crimes trial.
Arthur Rudolph, von Braun's project manager, holding a Saturn 5 model
Dr. Hubertus Strughold (1898 - 1986) also entered America under Project Paperclip. Known as "the Father of Space Medicine," he coined the term "space medicine" in 1948, and played an important role in developing the pressure suit worn by American astronauts. In 1942, the doctor had participated in the conference that led to "medical experiments" on prisoners at Dachau: torture and death by being immersed in water, placed in air pressure chambers, forced to drink sea water, and exposed to freezing temperatures.
Dr. Hubertus Strughold
As a student of history, none of that surprised Slade. He'd lived through the Kennedy assassination and all the conspiracy theories around the "grassy knoll," the Vietnam War and the lies exposed in the Pentagon Papers, the Watergate coverup and "I am not a crook."
In 1994, however, he did get a surprise. "Have you seen the morning papers?" a friend called to ask. For close to 40 years, Slade had believed his father was atomized by the Slesse crash, the wires in his headphones driven into the rock. But in fact, much of the wreckage had fallen 2,000 feet to the bedrock below.
Back in 1957 when the wreckage was found, government searchers had buried 26 bodies in mass graves marked with a makeshift wooden cross. No attempt was made to identify the victims, and relatives weren't told about the crash site remains or their treatment.
Mass grave and makeshift cross
But the 1994 media coverage didn't focus on that. Instead, it centered on grave robbing.
Between the time the wreckage was found and when the bodies were buried, a mountaineer had climbed to the crash site and collected macabre trophies. He'd cut the buttons and the pilot's wings off Slade's Dad's uniform, and then had treasure-hunted his pilot's licence. Finally, someone had snitched, and Slade recovered the relics.
Captain Jack "Johnny" Clarke loses his wings, age 35
The button on the right was caved in by the crash
To add insult to injury, the B.C. government - despite promises made in 1957 to protect Mount Slesse as a perpetual cemetery - had forgotten to act. What to this day remains Western Canada's worst aviation disaster had quickly slipped collective political minds. Ah yes, politicians.
In 1994, the scramble was on to do the right thing, and when an archeological study was done on the crash site, field workers found a visible piece of leather engraved with Slade's Dad's name, blown by the crash from the briefcase given to him by Winnipeg air cadets when he'd moved to Vancouver in 1955.
Trophy hunters missed this
1995 order designating Mount Slesse Commemorative Site, 38 years late
After the 1994 grave robbing jolts, when government deception affected Slade personally, he was psychologically primed for 2003.
In January of that year, Slade's Mom collapsed in her long-time home. His parents had bought the house the year before his Dad died. When his mother succumbed to pancreatic cancer that May, Slade chartered a helicopter to fly him and a bagpiper up to the summit of Mount Slesse to spread her ashes where his father lay.
In clearing out his Mom's house for sale, Slade opened the attic behind the split-level's linen closet, and discovered his Dad's wartime archive, undisturbed since the crash.
Lose your father at nine-years-old and your memories of him are hazy. But here was a treasure trove time machine, and there was the Internet full of cyberlinks, and that's how Slade assembled the part his Dad played in stalling the threat of SS-Major Wernher von Braun's V-2 rockets.
Caught up in that personal odyssey, Slade was researching von Braun's links to SS-General Hans Kammler while the Pentagon was banging the drum for war with Iraq. On February 5, 2003, Secretary of State Colin Powell - backed by the full force of Pentagon Intelligence and all its modern tools - made a dramatic presentation before the UN Security Council, offering undeniable proof that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction that threatened not only the Middle East, but also the rest of the world.
The Pentagon's UN depiction of Iraq's mobile production facility for biological weapons
Invading Iraq failed to find weapons of mass destruction. That deception, plus waterboarding, rendition, Abu Ghraib, and Guantanamo Bay, got Slade thinking. As the saying goes, "If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything." Given the Pentagon's record of flouting the President to embrace and whitewash Nazis in Project Paperclip, what if SS-General Hans Kammler had made the "Arsenal of Democracy" an offer it couldn't refuse? "In exchange for freedom and no war crimes trial, I'll give you the ultimate Wonder Weapon."
In criminal law, that's called plea bargaining. So, members of the jury, consider the evidence.
In the dying days of World War II, Kammler behaved strangely. America and the United Kingdom each lost under 500,000 dead in that conflict. The Soviet Union lost more than 26,000,000. And the SS used Einsatzgruppen death squads to terrorize the country.
Einsatzgruppe D at work in the Soviet Union
No SS officer in his right mind (and certainly not the one who built Auschwitz, raised the output of all death camp gassings and ovens, and killed thousands of Russian POWs in the Mittelwerk) would chance falling into the hands of the vengeful Red Army (as history would later prove), instead of the U.S. Army. So why did Kammler - after he had secured von Braun and his rocketeers in the Alps - rush east to Czechoslovakia, where Czech partisans were summarily executing every Nazi they encountered?
To get Die Glocke, the Bell?
The last trace of SS-General Hans Kammler
Official order signed in Germany on April 23, 1945
Kammler's body was never found. Only divergent rumors tell of his fate somewhere near Prague. He was killed in action; he committed suicide; or Himmler had him assassinated to keep the Wonder Weapons a secret. There's also the intriguing fact that a long-range, six-engine Junkers 390 plane left Prague with a secret cargo. Did Kammler spirit the Bell away to parts unknown?
Martin Bormann, another high-ranking Nazi who left no corpse, was tried in absentia by the Nuremberg war crimes tribunal. So why not Kammler? There's almost no reference to him in the court proceedings. And most of those charged with war crimes at Dora-Mittelbau were released when the Pentagon refused to produce von Braun as a witness.
Something crashed at Roswell in 1947, in the same area as the Pentagon's other Wonder Weapons: 509th Group's atomic bombs and von Braun's V-2s. It was described as a "flying disk," the same configuration as the Bell's whirling cylinders and the "flying saucer" seen days before near Mount Rainier, on a flight path down from the wilds of British Columbia. If the Pentagon could create modern weapons of mass destruction out of nothing in the deserts of Iraq before the high-tech eyes of the world, surely it could make a defective Wonder Weapon disappear in the 1947 locked-down landscape of New Mexico.
In plotting SWASTIKA from all those jigsaw pieces, Slade discerned two secrets behind the Roswell Incident. Given the location, timeline, deaths, and experiments involved in developing the Bell in the Sudeten Mountains, one secret is so dirty that the Pentagon can never let it see the light of day. That secret involves this monster:
In his 1961 Farewell Address to the Nation, President Eisenhower warned America "we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex." His words fell on deaf ears, and today the Pentagon's annual budget for secret "black world" projects exceeds $50 billion.
The airlock protecting the black world is the "Weird Shit" Division, spawned by the Manhattan Project and the Philadelphia Experiment. When a UFO crashed into Saturday Peak near Bakersfield, California, on the sweltering night of July 11, 1986, a "red team" removed all traces of the "non-existent" F-117A Stealth fighter, and seeded the site with bits of a 1960s Voodoo fighter.
Nor will you find Area 51 on a map.
So when the SWASTIKA killings lead Big Bad Bill, the head honcho of the Weird Shit Division, to suspect that at last the Tesla Secret lost in World War II has surfaced, he dispatches a red team of Ajax, Lysol, and Mr. Clean up to the Phantom Valley of British Columbia and down into the Skunk Mine to see what's going on.
Estonian edition of SWASTIKA
"THROUGH THE PAST...DARKLY. Since the mid-80s, Michael Slade has made a trademark out of merging the traditional police procedural with the grotesqueries of modern psychological horror. SWASTIKA is a present-day serial killer whodunit rooted deep in the Third Reich that offers up an unflinching and only partially fictionalized look at the final months of Nazi Germany." - Rue Morgue
"Michael Slade has a reputation for conducting extensive research before beginning to write his novels, and there is much evidence of this in SWASTIKA. The scenes in Hitler's bunker and the V-2 rocket factory are so descriptive that it's difficult to know where historical fact leaves off and fiction begins. The story races along like a hound on the scent. SWASTIKA will please anyone who enjoys a good thriller with a historical bent." - Quill & Quire
"A perfect blend of historical background, police procedure, and lightning-fast-paced action with a dash of horror. Slade's skill at intertwining the past and the present is uncanny. They flow together seamlessly while drawing you further and further into the story. The attention to detail is unsurpassed. Don't start SWASTIKA unless you can finish it. You won't want to put it down."
- CrimeSpree Magazine
"In SWASTIKA, a fast-paced, far-reaching RCMP thriller directly inspired by the WWII archives of F/L Jack 'Johnny' Clarke, an artist who volunteered for the RAF in September of 1940, Slade hunts through the annals - and factories - of World War II history to celebrate his father's war record and expose a Pentagon cover-up." - ABCBookWorld
"A time-bending novel that's at once a mystery, a historical adventure, a serial killer crime novel, and a tribute to the author's father, whose dashing persona lends a noble atmosphere to the protagonist's quest. This is fiction with a bite of historical fact. Inherently readable, consistently entertaining, and often illuminating. The psychopaths' megalomania and murderous tendencies achieve operatic levels. Slade has a wild imagination and proven storytelling abilities. The plot will keep you guessing even when you think you've solved it." - ChiZine
"Slade blends crime genres like no other writer. Serial killer novels are rarely mysteries in the Agatha Christie tradition. Though Slade provides readers with access to his killers' psyches, he also manages to disguise their identities. SWASTIKA is a clever whodunit that will challenge the sharpest readers. Slade has the art of misdirection down to a veritable science." - Hellnotes
"Nazi-era facts prove to be stranger than fiction. What do quantum mechanics, Nikola Tesla, military "black ops," crystal meth, V-2 rockets, genetic chimera, the American space program, the 1947 Roswell Incident, Hitler's last days, and a herd of hungry pigs have in common? They are all featured in SWASTIKA. The portrait of a palsied, drug-addled, hysterical Hitler is very well done. According to my trusty ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE THIRD REICH, this material is largely true." - Edmonton Journal
"The King of Psychothrillers. Readers who relish monsters wearing a human face must read Michael Slade." - Midwest Review of Books
"Slade has developed a hell-bent style that works like a ticking bomb." - The Province
"CSI: NAZI GERMANY. The attention to detail in SWASTIKA makes for an unsettling read. Slade knows his trade well, and is able to get inside the head of a grizzled cop and a psychotic neo-Nazi with equal skill. Fans of the author's hardboiled style and CSI-style technicalities won't be disappointed." - Montreal FFWD Weekly
"An action-packed, techno-conspiracy thriller. It is no small testament to Slade's ability as a writer that he can craft a genuine emotional core amidst such a maze of plotlines." - Calgary Herald