Brow Beat

Celebrate 71 Years of Great American Scientist Wernher von Braun With Tom Lehrer

On June 20, 1945, 71 years ago Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Edward Stetinnius Jr. approved the resettlement of rocket scientist Werhner von Braun in the United States so that he could work for the military. Von Braun was given a a false employment history to prevent him from being dogged by his former co-workers.

Von Braun standing with a bunch of Nazis in uniform
His former co-workers.

Deutsches Bundesarchiv

The decision wasn’t made public until 1946, under the Los Angeles Times headline “Nazi V-2 Bomb Inventor on Army’s Rocket Staff,” and the blunter New York Times headline “Nazis Planned Rocket to Hit U.S.” So the anniversary is a pretty slim reason to post a video of one of Tom Lehrer’s darkest songs, “Wernher von Braun.” But when it comes to Tom Lehrer, any reason is a great reason. (The question of von Braun’s immigration and work for the United States is a complicated one and can’t be considered in detail in a post that is, let’s face it, an excuse to put up an amusing vintage novelty song.) So enjoy Lehrer’s 1967 tribute to the father of rocket science: Here’s to 71 years of American ingenuity, forged employment records, and of course, British widows and orphans!