"It was deep in Austria, and with the swift collapse of the German Army, a flood of civilian and Wehrmacht personnel came pouring through the Tyrolean mountain passes seeking to surrender. Suddenly a young German came to members of Anti-tank Company, 324th Infantry and announced that the inventor of the deadly V-2 rocket bomb was a few hundred yards away—and wanted to come through the lines and surrender. The young German's name was Magnus von Braun, and he claimed that his brother Werner, was the inventor of the V-2 bomb. Pfc Fred Schneikert, Sheboygan, Wis., an interpreter, listened to the tale and said just what the rest of the infantrymen were thinking, 'I think you're nuts,' he told von Braun, 'but we'll investigate.' Then a hectic night of interrogation, plans and counter-proposals followed as the Germans, even in defeat, tried to act like big-shots. Finally Magnus went out and in a short time returned with his brother, Maj. Gen. Walther Dornberger of the German General Staff, and a dozen Fritz scientists. Later developments showed that the party captured by the 324th Anti-tankers had been the key personnel at the great German research center at Peenemunde on the Baltic Sea ... but the dough-boys weren't impressed and their 'distinguished' prisoners were soon cooling their heels in a 44th POW enclosure."
from "Mission Accomplished. The Battle History of the 44th Infantry Division
Toward the end of the war, most German soldiers surrendered, if possible, such as these captives guarded by a tough looking 324th Regt. soldier in the city of Ulm.
As Hitler's Third Reich was crumbling in January 1945, von Braun made plans to move his team of about 125 leading rocket scientists and engineers of the world, south to surrender to the Americans. Rather than succumb to capture by the long-sworn enemies the Russians, von Braun organized a mass exodus from Peenemunde to surrender to the American troops in Austria. Unknown to von Braun, Hitler had ordered their execution to prevent their capture by the Allies. After a dangerous intrigue filled journey and secure in Austria, they waited for the American arrival. At that time, brother Magnus von Braun journey on a bicycle to meet them. The first soldier that he met was a sentry with the 324th Infantry Regiment, 44th Infantry Division, Private First Class Frederick Schneikert. Magnus was ordered to drop the bicycle and surrender, hands-up. In poor English, Magnus tried to explain his mission. The young soldier was not really sure what think of his claims. He turned the matter over to his commanding officer, First Lieutenant Charles L. Stewart. Stewart at first thought that Magnus was trying to "sell" his brother and the other scientists to the Americans. The contemporary report from the "Mission Accomplished, The Battle History of the 44th" is written with this prospective. The communications were soon cleared up and Lieutenant Stewart gave Magnus passes for the Germans, to ensure their safe passage to the American encampment. On May 2, 1945, von Braun and his rocket team surrendered to the US 44th Infantry Division. Had the Soviets captured von Braun instead, the post WW2 history might have been far different.
General Dornberger was of no value to the Americans. While the von Braun science team was whisked quickly to safety and building America's rocket program, the General was turned over to the British. Eventually Dornberger was tried and acquitted of war crimes for the V2 bombardment of London. He was deeply disliked as a prisoner. One British guard at his internment camp remembered that:
"…..Walter Dornberger was definitely the most hated man in the camp. He was confined to barracks very often. In fact, even his own people hated him - Von Rundstedt would not even talk about him. Only once I ever saw him and that was under guard inside the perimeter exercising. He never went out to the local farms to work like the other prisoners. Many prisoners turned their back on him."
Dornberger photo courtesy of a Island Farm Web-Site. For a fascinating view into the circumstance of important German captives interned by the British, including General Dornberger, visit http://www.islandfarm.fsnet.co.uk/
The V-2 is one of the most astounding weapons of WW2. A pure terror weapon and the first long range ballistic missile used in combat, it hurtled a one ton warhead 50 miles high and hundreds of miles down range to its target. No defense existed, once a V2 is launched. The V2 is the second most expensive and technically demanding of all weapon projects of the war, eclipsed only by the 'Manhattan Project', the American atomic bomb program. von Braun and his team successfully delivered the V2 'vengeance weapon' to Hitler in 1944.