The Berlin – New Jersey Connection
When I set out to write Whispers of Peenemünde I wanted to highlight how far the German scientists working for Hitler had gone in developing rocket weapons long before the first Wehrmacht solider crossed the Polish frontier. My research into the work of Von Braun, Dornberger and the others intent on building a new class of weapons also led to a trove of information on just how much had been done in several countries during the interwar period to develop these weapons.
In the USA, Robert Goddard, often called the father of modern rocketry never had the official backing that many in Europe and the Soviet Union enjoyed. The American press often mocked the work of Goddard, comparing his quest for a successful rocket to Buck Rogers and other comic book characters. While we like to think that the Germans, finely tuned engineers and scientists were in the lead in this effort, others were making important contributions to the science.
As I point out in my novel, one of the critical developments in addition to just getting the rockets to fly, was the development of internal guidance systems. After all, rockets and rocketry had been used in warfare as far back as the Mongol Empire. The trick for the modern rocketeers was how to successfully launch a missile and get it to its target–hence the name guided missile.
Somewhat coincidentally, I was working on a way to bring Harry Braham back into the picture. Readers may remember that Harry had to leave Europe somewhat abruptly after he had wrecked the Luftwaffe’s attempt to launch a wire-guided rocket from a plane. Even his old friend Reinhard Stiffler suggested that it was time for Harry to give up his sybarite Parisian lifestyle and return to the States.
So, there I was, thinking about how to get Harry, the rocket men of Peenemünde and a bunch of Nazi spies together in New York just as the balloon went up in Poland. I also needed to fill in the time gap between when Harry left Europe and then reappeared in Zurich in 1941 as he did in the end of The Last Voyage of the Paramaribo Queen. Then I remembered something that my father had told me about watching his neighbors on Central Avenue in Westfield having a grand party when they heard that Hitler was on his way to Warsaw. Yes, Virginia, there were Nazis in colonial Westfield. In fact, between the large German community in Yorkville on Manhattan’s east side, a large contingent out in Yaphank on Long Island and the goose-stepper’s favorite resort, Camp Norland in Andover, New Jersey, the metro New York area was awash with Brownshirts and their fellow travelers in 1940. In fact, there was a scheduled train going out to Yaphank known as the Camp Siegfried Express. (The appearance of Nazi flags at Trump-inspired events should be of no surprise, Fascism has always been just under the veneer of politics.)
So, in the spring of 1940, while Hitler and Stalin gobble up Poland and the world waits for the next blitz to come, German agents slip into New York bent on stealing American secrets using blackmail, coercion and threats of reprisals against relatives of Americans who are caught in the occupied territories of Europe. Harry Braham and his cadre of friends and fellow anti-fascists go about trying to upend the Nazi plot.
Murder and mayhem break out on the streets of Manhattan and in the wilds of New Jersey as Hitler’s henchmen try to carry out their plot. The characters may be fictional, but the places and events are real in Whispers of Peenemünde. This and all of my other titles are available at Amazon.com in soft cover or for Kindle.
Coming next September – another Harry Braham adventure – The Last Klimt