Hubertus Strughold-“Father of Space Medicine”,but at what cost?

Hubertus Strughold

Every year since 1963, the Space Medicine Association has given out the Hubertus Strughold Award to a top scientist or clinician for outstanding work in aviation medicine.

Dr. Hubertus Strughold (1898-1986) is known as the “Father of Space Medicine”. He first coined the term “space medicine” in 1948 and was the first and only Professor of Space Medicine at the U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine. He was a co-founder of the Space Medicine Branch of the Aerospace Medical Association in 1950. In 1963, the Space Medicine Branch initiated the “Hubertus Strughold Award”, which is given each year for the greatest achievement in space medicine

Dr. Hubertus Strughold MD, Ph.D (June 15, 1898 – September 25, 1986) was a German-born physiologist and prominent medical researcher. Beginning in 1935 he served as chief of Aeromedical Research for the German Luftwaffe, holding this position throughout World War II. In 1947 he was brought to the United States as part of Operation Paperclip and held a series of high-ranking medical positions in both the US Air Force and NASA.

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For his role in pioneering the study of the physical and psychological effects of manned spaceflight he became known as “The Father of Space Medicine”.Following his death, Strughold’s activities under the Nazis came under greater scrutiny and allegations surrounding his involvement in Nazi-era human experimentation greatly diminished his reputation.

In April 1935 the government of Nazi Germany appointed Strughold to serve as the director of the Berlin-based Research Institute for Aviation Medicine, a medical think tank that operated under the auspices of Hermann Göring’s Ministry of Aviation.

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Under Strughold’s leadership the Institute grew to become Germany’s foremost aeromedical research establishment, pioneering the study of the medical effects of high-altitude and supersonic speed flight along with establishing the altitude chamber concept of “time of useful consciousness”. Though Strughold was ostensibly a civilian researcher, the majority of the studies and projects his Institute undertook were commissioned and financed by the German armed forces (principally the Luftwaffe) as part of the ongoing German re-armament. With the outbreak of World War II in 1939, Strughold’s organization was absorbed into the Luftwaffe itself as part of its Medical Service. It was renamed the Air Force Institute for Aviation Medicine, and placed under the command of Luftwaffe Surgeon-General(Generaloberstabsarzt) Erich Hippke.

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Strughold himself was also commissioned as an officer in the German air force, eventually rising to the rank of Colonel (Oberst).

In October 1942, Strughold and Hippke attended a medical conference in Nuremberg at which SS physician Sigmund Rascher delivered a presentation outlining various medical experiments he had conducted, in conjunction with the Luftwaffe, in which prisoners from the Dachau concentration camp were used as human test subjects.

These experiments included physiological tests during which camp inmates were immersed in freezing water, placed in air pressure chambers and made to endure invasive surgical procedures without anesthetic. Many of the inmates forced to participate died as a result. Various Luftwaffe physicians had participated in the experiments and several of them had close ties to Strughold, both through the Institute for Aviation Medicine and the Luftwaffe Medical Service.

Following the German defeat in May, 1945, Strughold claimed to Allied authorities that, despite his influential position within the Luftwaffe Medical Service and his attendance at the October 1942 medical conference, he had no knowledge of the atrocities committed at Dachau. He was never subsequently charged with any wrongdoing by the Allies. However, a 1946 memorandum produced by the staff of the Nuremberg Trials listed Strughold as one of thirteen “persons, firms or individuals implicated” in the war crimes committed at Dachau. Also, several of the former Luftwaffe physicians associated with Strughold and the Institute for Aviation Medicine (among them Strughold’s former research assistant Hermann Becker-Freyseng) were convicted of crimes against humanity in connection with the Dachau experiments at the 1947 Nuremberg Doctor’s Trial.

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During these proceedings, Strughold contributed several affidavits for the defense on behalf of his accused colleagues.

In October 1945 Strughold returned to academia, becoming director of the Physiological Institute at Heidelberg University. He also began working on behalf of the US Army Air Force, becoming chief scientist of its Aeromedical Center, located on the campus of the former Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Medical Research. In this capacity Strughold edited German Aviation Medicine in World War II, a book-length summary of the knowledge gained by German aviation researchers during the war.

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In 1947 Strughold was brought to the United States, along with many other highly valuable German scientists, as part of Operation Paperclip. With another former Luftwaffe physician, Richard Lindenberg, Strughold was assigned to the US Air Force School of Aviation Medicine at Randolph Field near San Antonio, Texas.

It was while at Randolph Field that Strughold began conducting some of the first research into the potential medical challenges posed by space travel, in conjunction with fellow “Paperclip Scientist” Dr. Heinz Haber.Strughold coined the term “space medicine” to describe this area of study in 1948. The following year he was appointed as the first and only Professor of Space Medicine at the US Air Force’s newly established School of Aviation Medicine (SAM), one of the first institutions dedicated to conducting research on the so-called “human factors” associated with manned spaceflight.

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Under Strughold, the School of Aviation Medicine conducted pioneering studies on issues such as atmospheric control, the physical effects of weightlessness and the disruption of normal time cycles.In 1951 Strughold revolutionized existing notions concerning spaceflight when he co-authored the influential research paper Where Does Space Begin? in which he proposed that space was present in small gradations that grew as altitude levels increased, rather than existing in remote regions of the atmosphere. Between 1952 and 1954 he would oversee the building of the space cabin simulator, a sealed chamber in which human test subjects were placed for extended periods of time in order to view the potential physical and psychological effects of extra-atmospheric flight. Strughold obtained US citizenship in 1956 and was named chief scientist of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Aerospace Medical Division in 1962. While at NASA, Strughold played a central role in designing the pressure suit and onboard life support systems used by both the Gemini and Apollo astronauts. He also directed the specialized training of the flight surgeons and medical staff of the Apollo program in advance of the planned mission to the Moon. Strughold retired from his position at NASA in 1968.

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During his work on behalf of the Air Force and NASA, Strughold was the subject of three separate US government investigations into his suspected involvement in war crimes committed under the Nazis. A 1958 investigation by the Justice Department fully exonerated Strughold, while a second inquiry launched by the Immigration and Naturalization Service in 1974 was later abandoned due to lack of evidence. In 1983 the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations reopened his case but withdrew from the effort when Strughold died in September, 1986. Following his death, Strughold’s alleged connection to the Dachau experiments became more widely known following the release of US Army Intelligence documents from 1945 that listed him among those being sought as war criminals by US authorities.

These revelations did significant damage to Strughold’s reputation and resulted in the revocation of various honors that had been bestowed upon him over the course of his career. In 1993, at the request of the World Jewish Congress, his portrait was removed from a mural of prominent physicians displayed at Ohio State University. Following similar protests by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the Air Force decided in 1995 to rename the Hubertus Strughold Aeromedical Library at Brooks Air Force Base, which had been named in Strughold’s honor in 1977. His portrait, however, still hangs there. Further action by the ADL also led to Strughold’s removal from the International Space Hall of Fame in Alamogordo, New Mexico in May 2006.

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Further questions about Strughold’s activities during World War II emerged in 2004 following an investigation conducted by the Historical Committee of the German Society of Air and Space Medicine. The inquiry uncovered evidence of oxygen deprivation experiments carried out by Strughold’s Institute for Aviation Medicine in 1943. According to these findings six epileptic children, between the ages of 11 and 13, were taken from the Nazi’s Brandenburg Euthanasia Centre to Strughold’s Berlin laboratory where they were placed in vacuum chambers to induce epileptic seizures in an effort to simulate the effects of high-altitude sicknesses, such as hypoxia.

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While, unlike the Dachau experiments, all the test subjects survived the research process, this revelation led the Society of Air and Space Medicine to abolish a major award bearing Strughold’s name. A similar campaign by American scholars prompted the US branch of the Aerospace Medical Association to announce in 2012 that it would also consider rechristening a similar award, also named in Strughold’s honor, which it had been bestowing since 1963. The move was met with opposition from defenders of Strughold, citing his massive contributions to the American space program and the lack of any formal proof of his direct involvement in war crimes

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Test Stand VII-V2 launch: October 3rd 1942

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Today marks the 74th anniversary of the first successful launch of a V-2 /A4-rocket from Test Stand VII at Peenemünde, Germany.Making it the 1st official man made object to reach space, making space exploration a fact.

However the Nazi’s weren’t really interested in space exploration for the betterment of humankind.

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Test Stand VII(P-7) was the principal V-2 rocket testing facility at Peenemünde Airfield and was capable of static firing of rocket motors up to 200 tons thrust. Notable events at the site include the first successful V-2 launch on 3 October 1942.

Two distinguishing features of P-7 were the 670-yard-long ,elliptical high-sloped sand wall and the wide concrete-lined trench (flame pit) with a large symmetrical water-cooled flame deflector of molybdenum-steel pipes. The concrete trench, nearly 25 feet (7.6 m) wide with 3 feet (0.91 m) concrete walls, sloped gradually away from each side of the flame deflector to a depth of 20 feet (6.1 m), rising again symmetrically toward the side of the arena. Beside the flame pit was a long underground room where 4 feet (1.2 m) diameter delivery pipes were housed to route cooling water at 120 gallon per second from three huge pumps in the pumphouse to the flame deflector in the pit.

While the elliptical sand wall was for blocking high sea winds and blown sand, concrete structures were integrated into the wall and under the ground to protect equipment and personnel from rocket explosions and enemy bombing (a sand-filled dummy warhead, called “the elephant”, was normally used). A large gap in the wall allowed easy entry by vehicles (particularly rail cars with propellants), and an open tunnel through the ellipse wall at the narrower southern end also allowed entry. Integrated into the ellipse wall next to the tunnel was a massive observation and measuring blockhouse containing the control center. The control center had a double door with a bulletproof glass window from which an observer maintained telephone communication with the Telemetering Building at a remote location from P-7. A receiver in a lighthouse near Koserow provided telemetry from rockets with the Wolman System for Doppler tracking. For rockets that used radio control for V-2 engine cutoff, the Brennschluss(burn-out) equipment included a transmitter on the bank of the Peene about 7.5 miles (12.1 km) from P-7 and the Doppler radar at Lubmin (a motorized Würzburg radar, the “rhinoceros”

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Beginning in September 1944, over 3,000 V-2s were launched by the German Wehrmacht against Allied targets during the war, first London and later Antwerp and Liège.

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According to a 2011 BBC documentary, the attacks resulted in the deaths of an estimated 9,000 civilians and military personnel, while 12,000 forced laborers and concentration camp prisoners died producing the weapons.

“This third day of October, 1942, is the first of a new era in transportation, that of space travel…”

— Speech at Peenemünde, Walter Dornberger, 3 October 1942
Walter Dornberger
The control room  had switchboards, a row of four periscopes, manometers, frequency gauges, voltmeters and ammeters, green/red/white signal lamps, and switches at the propulsion console and guidance panel to dynamically display approximately 15 measurement points within the rocket. Additionally, the control room had a big “X-time” countdown clock that display the time until launch, which was announced via loudspeakers as “X minus four minutes“, etc. In addition to the control room, the blockhouse also contained offices, a conference room, a small dormitory with double bunks and an adjoining shower, a wash room, and a workshop. A long underground corridor led from the measurement blockhouse to a room in the concrete foundation by the flame pit, and multiple rows of measurement cables covered the walls of the tunnel. A different gradually rising tunnel led from the long flame pit room to the exterior of the arena near the pumphouse . Near the pumphouse were high wooden towers to cool the water, and 25 feet (7.6 m) high tanks for the recooling water were integrated into the ellipse wall.
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The prominent tower within the arena was a mobile test frame/crane (Fahrbare Kranbühne)which could be moved over the flame pit to position the rocket nozzle 25 feet above the deflector, and which allowed an entire missile to be gimbaled in two directions up to five degrees from vertical. The tower included an elevator and a German-made Toledo scale for thrust measurements. Actual launches were from a steel table-like structure (firing stand, Brennstand) across the railway from the flame pit on the test stand’s large concrete foundation. Under the concrete foundation were the recorder room, a small shop, an office, compressed nitrogen storage cylinders, and catch tanks. The arena also included an engine cold-calibration pad for conducting flow test measurements by pumping water (instead of Liquid oxygen) and alcohol(which was recovered afterward) via the turbopump through the combustion chamber. Since the V-2 motor had no controller for the turbopump, cold-calibration allowed the determination of “freak cases” of equipment.
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Launch Description

“The heavy missile … rose only 15 feet above the firing table. Then it stood still! It stood upright in the air, showing no desire to turn over or to revolve about its longitudinal axis. It was an unbelievable sight. At any moment the rocket would topple or fall back, crash and explode. … But I still kept my binoculars on the rocket. … There must have been an interruption in the output of the steam generator for the propellant-pump turbine. … The film operator, Kühn, had taken up position facing me on the [elliptical] wall of the test stand. He must have had good nerves. The rocket hung in the air just 100 yards away.[from Kühn] Nothing daunted, … He certainly knew from experience that the moment the projectile fell back he would be in mortal danger. He just went on cranking. … Our exhaust vanes were doing a wonderful job. The rocket stood unsupported in the air, as straight as a ramrod. Only 4 seconds had passed, … The rocket was bound to topple now. The tilt [for trajectory control] would now begin automatically. … The rocket grew lighter owing to the steady fuel consumption. Almost imperceptibly, yard by yard, it began to climb. Its nose turned very gradually eastward. … At a height of 30 to 40 feet it moved slowly, still practically upright, toward the cameraman. He went on cranking. I caught my breath. Just a little more tilt and the rocket would certainly capsize and explode … Now it was over the wall. Kühn knelt down and pointed his camera almost straight upward. It was going to be some film! … I knew what was bound to come. … I saw him get up slowly, still cranking. His camera was now practically horizontal. Then he pointed it diagonally down from the high wall. Boom! … Smoke, flames, fragments of sheet-metal, branches, and sand whirled through the air. The rocket had crashed … 40 yards beyond the wall … The cameraman was still cranking. … I was filled with an immense pride. … only with men like this, could we finish the job that lay before us.”

Walter Dornberger, c. 1943.

It is such a shame that the Nazi’s only had death,destruction and annihilation in mind when they designed both V1 and V2 programs.
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