Monthly Archives: October 2016

Chapter Eleven – The Royal Canadian Engineers at Cuxhaven, Germany 1945

Research and story by Clarence Simonsen

All rights reserved

Shortly after the Boer War ended, the Canadian government realized that in defence of Canada, the Army required more than just one infantry battalion and two artillery batteries for their permanent defence force. In 1903, the Royal Canadian Engineers were founded on the basis of a permanent military engineer force, while a militia force was created for future leadership development. The Royal Canadian Engineers expanded dramatically in both the First and Second World Wars, and provided post war reconstruction in Germany for civil rehabilitation.

It should be noted, unlike the United States of America, the United Kingdom, France, and the Soviet Union, Canada was not selected as one of the Occupying Powers of Germany in 1945, or a member of the Allied Control Commission. Once again Canada would fall under British control, and on 11 December 1944, the Canadian Government approved the participation of Royal Canadian Engineers in the British Army of Occupation in North-West Europe. By 1944, the Royal Canadian Engineers had reached their maximum WW II strength of 210 officers and 6,283 other ranks. Like the very beaver that graces their Canadian national emblem, the Royal Canadian Engineers were building and extending the Canadian and American airfields, with speed and precision unmatched in British history.

The Standard, Montreal, 23 October 1943. [Author collection]


Note R.C.E. badge on shoulder

The sudden death of the A/4 rocket research at Peenemünde officially came to an end on 7 May 1945, when Wernher von Braun surrendered to the American Army. This death was quickly followed by its rebirth under control of the British and Americans. On 27 May 1945, one American officer, tricked a German officer into revealing the location of 14 tons of hidden documents on the V-2, this caused some serious conflict between the British and Americans. The hidden V-2 documents had been stored in an abandoned iron mine, which was located in the soon to be British sector of Germany. The American smuggling act had taken place under the nose of the British and in return General Eisenhower sanctioned the use of captured V-2 rockets to be test fired by the British. On 22 June 45, the British operation “Backfire” was formed, which would result in the most comprehensive study and documentation of the V-2 weapon to that date. The amount of preparation would prove very difficult for the British: first they had to find a safe launch site, facilities, ground support equipment, flight hardware, and a cooperative German knowledgeable work force. The British selected an abandoned German naval gun range near Cuxhaven, on the coast of the North Sea. This site had radar, rail sidings, and other infrastructure for the V-2 launches, but still required enormous construction in a short period of time.

On 11 July 1945, the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division [with 25,000 men] arrived in North-West Germany, from the Netherlands. They were placed under command of the British 30th Corps District including the five Divisional engineer units of the Royal Canadian Engineers. For this reorganization they bore the prefix “2” before their respective numbers. These units were involved in Hospital construction, mine clearance, demolition of German bunkers, batteries, and radar towers, plus construction of shelter for displaced persons. In late July 45, approximately 2,000 Canadians were sent to Cuxhaven to assist with the construction the V-2 launch facilities. Records show two other Canadian units were posted to Cuxhaven, under British 21 Army Group Command. They were No. 17 Detachment of the Canadian Field Ambulance Section, and No. 6 Canadian Field Security Reserve Detachment. It is further stated that a large number of Canadian Engineers were employed at Cuxhaven under British Army Command, but never posted to the area under 21 Army Group. These Canadian Engineers were employed chiefly in construction and in three weeks Engineers succeeded in constructing the V-2 assembly area, test and checkout hangars, which included a 300 foot long facility with overhead crane. The V-2 checkout building was constructed from sections of Army Bailey Bridge.

The Canadian Engineers were experts in building airfield cement runways, and were most likely employed in the pouring of the cement pads for the V-2 launch.

It is believed members of the following Canadian units took part in the construction of the A/4 launch site at Cuxhaven 1945 and the last unit remained on site until 8 May 1946.

2/18 Canadian Field Company [R.C.E.] left Cuxhaven 23 March 1946, disbanded England 17 March. [German home base was Varel]

2/3 Canadian Field Company [R.C.E.] left Cuxhaven on 24 April 46, disbanded England 18 April. [German home base was Oldenburg]

2/6 Canadian Field Company [R.C.E.] left Cuxhaven, Germany, on 8 May 1946, disbanded England on 16 May. [German home base had been Leer]

V-2 checkout building at Cuxhaven, Oct. 45

Cement launch pad probably built by R.C.E. at Cuxhaven, Oct. 45

Chapter Ten – A/4 Tail Art Reborn – Cuxhaven, Germany

Research and story by Clarence Simonsen

All rights reserved

After fifteen amazing years, the German rocket research in Peenemünde came to a sudden end on 2 May 1945, when Wernher von Braun and his fellow technicians surrendered to the American Army. In the next eight months these top German scientists would experience extreme physical, mental, and psychological effects which I believe was expressed in their new ‘reborn’ rocket tail art.

In the construction of the base at Peenemünde, [August 1936 start] General Dornberger and von Braun had virtually spared no expense. Part of that reasoning was simple, if employees had the best of living and working conditions, they would also perform better on the job. The other reasoning was totally based on secrecy, and the site selection on heavily forested Usedom Island, located on the Baltic Sea coast was perfect. Usedom was first of all remote, separated to the south by Stettin Lagoon, to the west by the Peene River, and the Swina Channel to the east. The island was not connected to any major road and only three bridges allowed road and rail traffic to exit or enter. The administration buildings, housing settlement, workshops, rocket assembly and test stands were all widely separated over the well-planned eight mile peninsula, camouflaged among the many trees. The housing settlement was designed on a garden city concept and built just west of the Baltic white sand beach, only separated by a stand of pine trees. There were clubs for military officers and civilian workers, bakeries, butcher shop, grocery store, beauty salon, cafes, bookstore, school, tennis court, a large sports field, and four movie theatres. Peenemünde was a mix of paradise, an Army Camp, and a new social experiment for the top German rocket engineers and scientists. To all the employees, secrecy became the central fact of life and they soon became a secret society, located in a new secret world isolated from all of Nazi Germany. Military rank melted away and became secondary to professional technical qualifications. There were security regulations for everything, including even the spoken word. The major security object was to prevent any single German technician from learning the entire rocket operating system.

Vital technical drawings were held in one location, with a very limited and controlled employee access. All photos and drawings were top secret or stamped the highest priority “state secret.” Security forbids the use of any drawing, symbol, or insignia, thus preventing all employees from wearing any badge of pride or showing of their group achievement.

During the second A/4 launch on 13 June 1942, a tail art appeared on the rocket just before blast-off and this became routine for the next 32 known test rockets launches at Peenemünde from 13 June 42 to 17 August 1943. This secret art was only seen by a select few and each painting contained the launch number [V6, etc.] it also contained a mix of comic/political/female nude style tail art. German happy achievement related to space or the moon appears in eighteen paintings. Seven paintings contain political art directed against the Soviets, British, and Americans, including three directed at P.M Churchill. This good-luck, happy expression of rocket tail art was the scientific team’s way of expressing self-pride, a sense of belonging and group achievement. The art was allowed [by von Braun] for the simple fact it posed no threat to German security, since the average rocket burn was 60-70 seconds and then the A/4 crashed to earth or splashed-down in the Baltic Sea.

On the night of 17/18 August 1943, the RAF Bomber Command struck with a surprise attack on Peenemünde, the glory days were gone and mass production moved underground to the caves at Nordhausen. The Peenemünde employees had enjoyed such a peaceful life; it lulled everyone into a false sense of the real world at war in Germany. Now that this spell was broken, the rocket production would move, the secrecy of A/4 was known, and the rocket tail art disappeared. [The grandson of Gerd de Beek, recalls him telling how he was informed to stop painting his tail art] For the next eighteen months, further A/4 rocket testing would be conducted at Peenemünde but only one tail art is known to have been used in 1944, the 100th launch.

The official surrender of Wernher von Braun and his technicians to the American Army is dated 7 May 1945, and the Peenemünde secret research ended. Four months later, this sudden death of A/4 testing was quickly followed by its rebirth under control of the British and Americans. The British Government created “Operation Backfire” to evaluate the complete V-2 rocket assembly and then launch three rockets. The American Government soon realized that German rocket technology was fifteen years ahead of the world, and speed was the key element to obtaining it. The Americans had von Braun and his top rocket scientists, next came removing 341 train loads of V-2 components, including 100 V-2 rockets, from the soon to be Soviet occupation zone at the Mittelwerk underground factory. The Americans were still missing the 14 tons of central V-2 research records which von Braun had ordered hidden in an abandoned iron mine [British zone]. If Dr. von Braun had destroyed the original HAP-11 archive photo albums, the secret A/4 tail art would be lost and forgotten for all time.

This is a microfilm copy made in United States [Fort Eustis] in 1946-47 showing test results of an A/4 launch, V26, plus the black and white image of the rocket tail art painted by de Beek. Each tail art image was used to identify the launch records in the Helmat-Artillerie-Park II binder photo album at Peenemünde.

After tricking a German officer into revealing the hidden document location, in the soon to be British occupation zone, the Americans trucked the 14 tons of documents to Paris on 27 May. The A/4 research documents were transported to the U.S. Army Base Fort Eustis in Maryland, where they were recorded on microfilm. This American smuggling act had taken place under the nose of the British, which caused some Allied conflict, until the U. S. government agreed to loan 79 of their new U.S. bound German technicians to the British operation “Backfire.” On 22 June 1945, General Eisenhower sanctioned the use of captured V-2 rockets to be test fired on the north German coast at Cuxhaven, Germany. Over 2,000 Canadian Engineers [airport construction] were dispatched to the site by the British to begin construction of the new rocket launch site.

When Major General Walter Dornberger was first informed he would be assisting the British he was very reluctant, but in the end cooperated. The British would soon arrest Dornberger for his war crimes and he would spend almost two years confined. American political pressure would have him released to U. S. custody and this story has been published many times. Below is his dejected British POW mug shot.

German Federal Archives free domain image of Walter Dornberger taken by British in October 1945 at Cuxhaven, Germany.

Almost all of the rocket scientists were horrified with the idea they would be turned over to the British control. On 22 July 1945, the British picked 79 [America bound] German technicians housed at Garmisch-Partenkirchen, were trucked to Cuxhaven, Germany. I am positive graphic artist Gerd de Beek was one of the selected engineers, due to the large amount of drawings the British required. The organization chart shows 367 German technicians and labor forces of 224 were used in the four test launches. Total 591 Germans.

This British study resulted in the most comprehensive evaluations and documentation [including drawings and photos] ever undertaken on the A/4 [V-2] rocket. The British were surprised to learn that no previous evaluation had been allowed at Peenemünde due to the strict top security regulations. This followed the German secrecy rule; no single technician should learn the entire rocket system. Gerd de Beek was an exception to this rule and for that reason was most important to the new American White Sands Space program. Wernher von Braun picked the two German draftsmen [technicians] who would document and complete the hundreds of drawings required by the British. I believe that Gerd de Beek was the man placed in charge of the overall drafting and his second in command was Max Ernest Novak, a draftsman but also the technician in charge of the important A/4 rocket assembly.

It is important to note that soon after Gerd de Beek arrived in New York on 16 November 1946, he was placed in charge of the American V-2 rocket assembly at White Sands, New Mexico. In 1949, de Beek was moved to the Redstone Arsenal at Huntsville, Alabama, and became head of NASA Assembly Engineering Branch in 1960.

Max Novak was possibly another expert on the A/4 rocket parts, how they all came together and operated during launch. His history is still unknown outside the tight German/American group in Huntsville, Alabamia.

German Federal Archives image taken at Peenemünde in 1943. This Soviet POW is being used in the A/4 rocket drafting room. Is it possible Gerd de Beek and Max Novak worked together at Peenemünde, using Soviet POW’s with drafting skills?

This same procedure would be used at Cuxhaven, employing German POW’s from the labor force who processed art or drafting skills. The cover art on the memorandum book prepared for the British was drawn and signed Novak, and the question remains, who painted the new rocket tail art that appeared at Cuxhaven, Germany in October 1945?

Again I believe it was Gerd de Beek, who was the draftsman in charge, as he also had the free time to create and paint the new German A/4 captured rocket tail art. I also believe the four new tail art paintings created for the Cuxhaven launches contained a special meaning to the German scientists. [This has been fully explained in Chapter Eight]

While the British Army officers were in charge of the launch operation, it became the captured German Army scientists who were in total control. This Third Reich V-2 rocket missile was fifteen years ahead of the British scientists and the Germans knew this fact. The Germans could even control the time it took to assemble and launch a rocket. I believe this was done for the very first launch on 1 October 1945. This date was the thirteenth anniversary of Wernher von Braun joining the German Ordnance Office Rocket Program in Germany headed by his friend Walter Dornberger, who hired him. It was a special date shared by only the German rocket team but hidden to the British Army Officers.

The first launch attempt began at 09:30 hrs. 1 October 1945 and ended in failure at 15:54 Hrs. A second attempt began at 17:51 Hrs. and again this ended in failure at 18:15 Hrs. This rocket was returned to the Vertical Testing Chamber for overhaul.

This little German lady painted by de Beek never flew however I believe the art work had a connection to Wernher von Braun and his anniversary date of 1 October 1932.

The next rocket launch [third attempt] begins at 09:30 hrs. 2 October 1945, successfully launched at 14:41 hrs. This becomes the first A/4 launch observed by Allied personnel at close range.

The first German tail art launched by British.

The fourth launch begins at 09:15 hrs. 4 October 1945 and is successfully fired at 14:14 hrs.

This is the rocket that failed to fire twice on 1 October 45. It has new art with number “1”. The third and final rocket is launched on 15 October.

The topless lady with fruit?

The A/4 rocket art created for Cuxhaven contains four images, three are female, and two are nudes. I believe the three female images have a connection to the German lady – “Die Frau im Monde”, the lady in the moon.

Chapter Nine Death Comes At Night

Research and story by Clarence Simonsen

All rights reserved

On the warm summer night of 17/18 August 1943, RAF Bomber Command conducted a precision attack on the German V-2 rocket test site at Peenemünde. This operation was code named “Hydra” [RAF Operation order #176] and used an advance decoy raid to Berlin in an attempt to draw away the German night fighters from the main target on the Baltic coast, 150 kilometers north of Berlin. The raid was unique in many forms, as it was conducted in very thin cloud cover on a bright moonlight night, with the bombers flying at a low altitude of 8,000 feet. The force of 596 RAF bomber aircraft would attack the V-2 site in three separate waves. It took time for the German defenders to understand the main target was Peenemünde and not Berlin, and this allowed the first two waves of bombers to strike with full force. As the final wave of bombers arrived over Peenemünde the German night fighters had arrived in force, thus the majority of the 40 bomber casualties [243 killed, 45 POW] lost over Peenemünde came from the last wave. The Canadian No. 6 RCAF Group was part of the last wave and they suffered the highest casualty rate [19.7] in Bomber Command that night, when twelve of their 57 aircraft failed to return. Three RCAF squadrons [419, 428 and 434] each lost three aircraft over Peenemünde and this is the story of the loss of one new Halifax Mk. V bomber from No. 434 squadron, which carried rare newly painted nose art with German words – “Todt Kompt Bei Nacht”.


Lloyd Christmas was born in Hamilton, Ontario, on 21 July 1919, and during his youth, drawing and painting became a major part of his life. In High School Lloyd received his first instructional art lessons, which were interrupted due to the depression and family problems. Like many Canadian youth of this period, Lloyd was forced to leave school and go to work to support their family. He became an apprentice in a silk screen printing company, where the pay was poor, but jobs were hard to find and it gave him experience in the graphic arts.

Lloyd’s career in the RCAF began at a Manning Depot in Brandon, Manitoba, in early February 1941. He reported to Toronto Manning Depot the following month, and then two months guard duty at Camp Borden in June. In August he reported to Trenton – “they tried to make everyone a Wireless Air Gunner.” Lloyd was soon on a west bound train to No. 2 Wireless School in Calgary, Alberta. “Not finishing High School caused me many problems in the RCAF, long on art, but short on the math.” Lloyd failed the course and returned to Trenton, where he was sent for Air Gunner training, arriving at No. 6 Bombing and Gunnery School, just before Christmas 1941. Sgt. Christmas graduated Air Gunner on 2 February 1942, leave, marriage, and report overseas to Stormy Downs, Wales, advanced Gunnery course beginning on 24 May 42. On 28 June he crewed-up with P/Sgt. R. Wright at No. 22 O.T.U. Wellsbourne, flying Wellington aircraft. 1 October 42, conversion to Halifax bomber at No. 1652 H.C.U., joined No. 408 RCAF [Goose] squadron on 24 October. Lloyd flew his first squadron air to sea test firing [rear gunner] in Halifax DG239 on 26 November 1942. Beginning operations on 6 February 1943, Sgt. Christmas flew seven night operations as rear gunner with pilot Sgt. Wright, the last completed on 26 February, Halifax “J” DT769 to Cologne. This original crew was suddenly broken up due to the burn out of their pilot.
Sgt. Christmas next flew three night operations as fill-in for other crews. 4 April – Halifax “S” pilot P/O Harty, [rear gun] 10 April – Halifax “D” pilot F/Sgt. Wood, [rear gun] and 27 May – Halifax “R” pilot F/O Smith [mid-upper gun]. On 11 June 1943, Sgt. Christmas was assigned to fly to Dusseldorf with the crew of pilot Gregg McIntyre Johnston, from Rosetown, Saskatchewan. This veteran combat crew had their original mid-upper gunner killed and after this operation, ask Sgt. Christmas if he would join their band of comrades. Lloyd agreed to remain as their mid-upper gunner until the end of their operational tour. The following night the new crew flew Halifax “T” to Bochum.

In July 1943, three experienced aircrew were sent from No. 408 [Goose] squadron to help form the nucleus of No. 434 [Bluenose] Squadron. The crew of P/O Gregg Johnston became one of those selected for transfer.

“I do believe we thought up the nose art idea of painting something while we gathered in a pub at Leeming, which was adjacent to 408 Squadron. It never came to fruition until we received a brand new Halifax “G” EB276, on our transfer to No. 434 [Bluenose] Squadron.” “We had quite a bit of free time while No. 434 was getting itself organized. We went on leave and I was able to go hunting on the squadron property. After training flights in our new Halifax, I had time to paint my very first [and last] bomber nose art. We had kidded with the idea of using the call sign “G” for German and that led to the idea of painting nose art using German names – “Death Comes at Night”.

I had to first scout around the base to find someone who could give me the German words needed, and I still don’t know if they were correct. I also had much difficulty painting with the coarse brushes, which I borrowed from other ground crew. When I finished the painting, the black German letters TODT KOMPT BEI NACHT appeared in a white circle and the middle of the circle contained a white skull and crossed bones.” “I will now describe what I remember about 17 August 1943. It was a rare beautiful sunny day and the flight engineer [RAF Keith Rowe] and I had ridden my motorcycle into a nearby town. Near lunchtime we returned to the sergeant’s Mess, which was alive with speculation we were going to the ‘Big City’ – BERLIN. When it came time for briefing the big wall map was opened, revealing the tape stretching from Flamborough Head, due east across Denmark and then a right angle turn south in direction of Berlin. The thing that surprised us most was that it went only a little distance south and then turned back west toward England. I do recall we were warned that if we failed to destroy the target on this first try, we would go back as many times as it took to get the job done. That was the first time any of us had heard a statement like that. I remember as we taxied out and started our take-off, I noticed there was an unusually large crowd of personnel lined up parallel to and back from the runway. Because of the light, the sun was just going down; they all looked like a big line of crows. I felt a sense of foreboding.”

“Over the channel we test fired our guns and sure enough two of my 303’s refused to fire. I was still working on them when we arrived over the target. We came in north over the Baltic coast and turned flying north to south over the target, dropped our bombs, then turned west on a course home. We were now attacked three times by three different German night fighters. The first attack came shortly after we left the target; a single engine fighter was spotted by our husky French-Canadian rear gunner Doug Labelle. He quickly gave Johnny instructions to corkscrew to starboard and we lost him. Immediately a twin engine, Me110, attacked us and again we lost that one with a corkscrew.

Suddenly from below and off to the port side, obscured by a dark patch of ground, a third aircraft fired cannon shells that arched up like big orange balls, directly into our port inner engine, just below me. Our Halifax seemed to shake and then flame poured from the engine and soon spread along the complete wing. Pilot Johnny gave the order to bail.” “Pilot Gregg Johnston maintained control long enough to allow his crew to escape; but he could not get out and was killed on impact. The crew was captured and the following morning the Germans took rear gunner Labelle to the crash site, to identify his pilot who was lying in the nose section of the Halifax. He was promoted to Pilot Officer posthumously and cited for valor.”

During the raid the Germans used their new Schrage Musik weapons for the very first time. The Me110 aircraft was fitted with twin upward-firing cannons and this is what destroyed the Halifax Mk. V. Two of the new Schrage Musik Me110 aircraft found the bomber stream and they shot down six bombers.

When Sgt. Lloyd Christmas painted his little nose art on Halifax Mk. V, serial EB276, code WL-G, he had no idea how true his words ‘Death Comes At Night’ would become to the future Peenemünde history.

 This first precision raid of WW II was conceived by the RAF to not only destroy the Peenemünde testing facility, but it was also directed at the living and sleeping quarters of the many technical and administrative staff and families as possible. The first RAF wave would bomb the 2,500 buildings at Karlshagen Housing Estate located on Usedom Island, home to the top 500 German scientists and their families.

Because of the inaccuracy of the early Pathfinder aircraft, most of the first wave bombers [two thirds] dropped their bombs on the camp at Trassenheide, [two miles south] which housed [forced labor] foreign prisoners of war, killing 555. Although this part of the raid was not effective, two key figures, Walter Thiel and Erich Walther were killed together with their families. The raid cost the lives of 733 on the ground but only 178 of the over 4,000 in the residential area were killed. The attacks came too late to effect the development of the A-4 rocket and gave the Germans the opportune time to move the rocket production to the infamous Mittelwerk center in the Harz Mountains.

At the same time as Operation Hydra, a group of nine Mosquito bombers conducted Operation Whitebait, the dropping of Pathfinder markings over Berlin. This was a complete success and tricked over 200 German night fighters to the defense of the German capital city. During this confusion, the Luftwaffe Chief of Staff, General Hans Jeschonnek erroneously ordered Berlin’s air defenses to open fire on the German night fighters. On 18 August 1943, General Jeschonnek committed suicide by shooting himself in the head. [That is the official report.]
The Karlshagen Housing Estate was home to 1000 rocket scientists and over 3000 rocket personnel. If the first wave of RAF bombers had struck the intended target [F], the war and future space travel would have been altered. However the mistaken attack on the workers camp at Tassenheide [between rings #3 and #4] allowed all but one top German scientist to escape death. Only 178 rocket personnel were killed in the residential area, out of 4,000, which had no effect on future A/4 rocket development.
The continuous raids [post 18 Aug, 42] by RAF and American 8th Air Force against V-2 supporting facilities had a much larger effect on the A/4 future then the single attack on Peenemünde.

The Water Thiel family lived in apartment Hindenburg Road 56. They had escaped to the trenches in front of their home, but it took a direct hit by RAF bombs. Top rocket engine scientist Walter Erich Oskar Thiel was killed with wife Martha, daughter Sigrid, and son Siegfried. This death caused a major setback to the future A/4 rocket development at Peenemünde.

Eric Walther, Chief of Maintenance Workshops and family were also killed.

This post card shows the self-living model village housing estate constructed at Peenemünde, known as Karlshagen Siedlung. The construction was completed in October 1937, and housed 4,000 scientists including 500 of the most brilliant.

Had the RAF Pathfinder aircraft correctly marked this primary target, many experts technical and administrative, would have been killed. Three-quarters of the first wave bomber force struck the forced labor camp at Trassenheide, killing 555 prisoners of war. This mistake allowed the German A/4 rocket experts to escape to the bomb shelters and only two key figures were killed, Walter Thiel and Erich Walther. Post war interviews with German technicians [Helmut Zoike] even suggest the raid came at an opportune time, allowing the rocket production to be moved to the infamous Mittelwerk center.

In total seven hundred and thirty-three persons were killed on the ground, which included 555 in the Trassenheide labor camp.

In April 1943, Arthur Rudolph endorsed the use of S.S. forced labor in the production of the A/4 rockets in Peenemünde. In early June 1943, the first of 600 French and Russian prisoners of war arrived and began assembling A/4 production machinery.The RAF primary object was to kill as many expert A/4 rocket personnel as possible, including women and children, and this became a complete failure.

The facts in regards to the mistake of marking the wrong target have been covered in many publications by many authors. The RAF Pathfinders were the very best and on this moonlight night with light cloud covering they could not find the correct target? Is it possible one of the lead Pathfinder crewmembers could not bring himself to kill thousands of German women and children as they slept in their beds? The first causality in war is always the truth and the answer to my question may never be known.

This bombing error would affect the future of world space travel, landing on the moon and today’s space station.

British R.A.F. map of the Rocket Base at Peenemünde 17-18 August 1943. Main targets marked in red.
A – Test stand VII, the main A/4 launch pad.
B – Peenemünde south, Production plant, where forced labor worked.
C – Dock for oxygen plant.
D – Test pad
E – Peenemünde East, development works
F – This area housed over 6,000 rocket engineers. The north section was known as settlement I; further south was the Karlshagen Estates, which housed the 500 most brilliant scientists.

This was the primary target, but they bombed two miles south in ring 4.

Was this an error as recorded by all historians?

Chapter Eight – Cucumber Art Under 3 Flags

Updated 12 July 2019

The July 2019 issue of National Geographic contains many first time images and facts on the success of Apollo 11, fifty years ago. I remember this new era with fond memories, where I was in Ontario, Canada, and the people with me, as I watched in black and white Americans walk on the Moon. I found the article “Let’s Send Only Women to Space” the most interesting read, as in fact the very first image of a human in space was a nude female. Apollo 12 and 17 flights also carried nude female photos to the Moon, however you will not read that in National Geographic magazine.
On 3 October 1942, the first man-made [German] ballistic missile broke free of the earth’s atmosphere, and painted on it’s tail was a nude German lady called “Frau Luna” [Lady in the Moon] This is the true story of the German rocket art, and the German artist who painted the rockets, which NASA do not wish people to read.

Research and story by Clarence Simonsen

All rights reserved

Cover page

The Emblem Art on the Aggregat-4 [A4] Vergeltungswaffe-2 [V2] German Peenemünde [cucumber] Rocket

My painting depicts German engineer [graphic artist] Gerd Wilhelm de Beek finishing his art of “Frau Im Mond” [Women in Moon] prelaunch date 3 October 1942. Gerd de Beek was the technical rocket illustrator who served under Wernher von Braun at Peenemünde, Germany. This A/4 nicknamed “the Cucumber”, will be the first manmade object to leave the atmosphere, 50 miles above earth.

The German WW II rocket, technical name “Aggregat-4 [A/4] was developed at Peenemünde, established as the German Army Secret Rocket Experimental Base on 1 May 1937. Between 1937 and 1943, the German missile technology developed and tested at Peenemünde made its most remarkable and important world space achievements. In a short span of five years, the scientists achieved the Twentieth Century’s most impossible technological challenge, sending a rocket into space. During the development and testing period the technicians nicknamed their test A/4 rocket the “Cucumber” due to shape and color. A German technical illustrator and rocket drafting artist, Gerd de Beek, created a secret art form which was placed on the tail section of the A/4 test rocket before each launch. My research confirms each of the first 33 Peenemünde launched A/4 rockets carried secret German tail art before they were fired. Many images can be seen on launch film, but this fact has been over-looked by historians for the past 73 years. [3 October 1942 to 3 October 2015]


This German Federal Archive free domain image is showing an A/4 launch and a small white area [in black square] which contains tail art by Gerd de Beek.

In 1931, the German Army [Ordnance Rocket Dept.] established a research base at Kummersdorf weapons range, south of Berlin. On 1 October 1932, a twenty-one year old German civilian was officially hired to conduct new rocket artillery testing and his name was Wernher von Braun. By December 1934, Braun was appointed director of rocket research, with 60 researchers, and they successfully launched two rockets named “Max” and “Moritz”. Von Braun named these rockets for two German cartoon characters created by Wilhelm Busch in 1865.

Source Internet

I can offer no proof, but feel this was instrumental in the painting of future A/4 rocket tail art.

By 1936, Braun needed a larger test area and a new site was selected on Usedom Island, a heavily forested remote site named Peenemünde. The German Army and Luftwaffe poured money into the construction of a huge super-secret complex for housing, missile manufacturing, and rocket testing. By 1942, the complex housed 2,000 scientists plus 4,000 rocket personnel. Their new home was the first designed rocket launch site in the world, for development of the A/4 [later named V2] and other new German missiles like the Fi-103 flying bomb. General Walter Dornberger’s construction design was based on a huge first rate technical facility, combined with an attractive and comfortable living accommodation for his employees. The entire facility covered the northern peninsula of Usedom Island and proceeded south eight miles, almost to the village of Karlshagen. All of the buildings were carefully constructed among the pine forest that covered most of the island, which provided camouflage, plus saved the habitat for the deer and other wildlife that called this home. The pine forest was dotted with large oak and elm trees, which in the summer time was full of beautiful birds and many types of ducks covered the three regional lakes. Running parallel to the entire east coastline of the base was the Baltic seashore, with pure white sand and large sand dunes. The entire housing settlement was constructed just west of the beach and was only separated by a forest of pine trees. To the scientists, engineers, technicians and military officers, it soon earned the name “Paradise of Peenemünde”. In terms of money, complex-design, size and social considerations, it was without equal anywhere in the world. It was also without equal, in the fact it produced a secret society where secrecy became the everyday fact of life to all the occupants. In this secret world, the A/4 rocket was designed, assembled, and tested by this highly skilled German team led by Wernher von Braun and General Walter Dornberger. To the average German mainstream public this area did not exist. [The Americans would copy the Germans WWII secret base concept and years later, constructed “Area 51.”] This secret German society also produced a secret A/4 rocket tail art that lasted for only the flight time of each rocket, from 10 to 230 seconds. The original color tail art was seen by only a select few at the launch site and then was destroyed when the test missile exploded, or crashed on land or the Baltic. All of the original test research was photographed on motion picture film and black and white 35mm negatives. The 35mm prints were placed into a number of photo research albums which totaled 1,458 pages, with 5,178 photo images, including all the A/4 Peenemünde rocket tail art. These 38 tail art photos have been hidden from the public eye for the past 70 to 72 years. Each original tail art color image has been repainted to replica using the photos from the 1942-44 German photo albums. The first A/4 launch attempt came on 18 March 1942, at test stand VII, but ended in failure. Test stand VII or Prufstand VII [P-7] was the principal A/4 testing facility at Peenemünde and was installed with the world’s first closed-circuit television camera and screen to record each launch.

The true history will never be known as the original German Nazi Scientists took it with them to the grave.


Based on my research contained in Chapter One, I feel the first A/4 launch attempt V1 carried rocket art, and this could also be where the very first “Frau Im Mond” idea originated. I believe this idea of A/4 rocket tail art originated between Dr. Wernher von Braun and technical artist Gerd de Beek, which was supported and approved by Gen. Dornberger and maybe even Dr. Walter Thiel.

My painting is expressing the idea the tail art originated with the very first rocket, possibly based on a real person, actress of silent screen Gerda Maurus who played “Women in the Moon, in 1929 movie directed by Fritz Lang.

Dr. Walter Thiel was born on 3 March 1910, at Breslau, Germany. He became the third civilian hired by Gen. Dornberger, and joined the German rocket plant at Kummersdorf in 1936. Thiel and his team moved to Peenemünde in the summer of 1940, soon after the construction of the rocket test stands had been completed and were ready for testing. Thiel and fellow engineer Klaus Riedel, designed, developed, tested, and perfected a rocket motor with 56,000 pounds thrust, which powered the new A/4 test rocket. Although his rocket motor became part of the new German Nazi implement of war, he had dreams of building a rocket motor capable of manned flight to the moon and space.

Gerd Wilhelm de Beek was born in 1904 in Bremen, Germany. He was hired by von Braun himself and arrived in Peenemünde in fall of 1937. It is believed he first worked under Walter “Papa” Riedel in the drawing administration at Peenemünde. On 1 August 1944, de Beek was a manager in charge of a department of graphic technical art design. Gerd worked his whole life with the rocket team as a Graphic Engineer and technical illustrator for von Braun. It is believed he created all of the art paintings that appeared on the tail of the A/4 rockets until 17 August 1943.

On 23 March 1942, V1 is moved to the Peenemünde test tower [P-7] for the first full-scale static testing. The test was witnessed by Albert Speer, [recorded film] failed and it was scrapped. If this rocket contained any tail art it was possibly the de Beek painted image of “Frau im Mond” wearing a dress, black stockings and garter belt.


No restrictions to publish – Fred Ordway III collection donated to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center.

Could this be the very first “Frau Luna” painting completed by Gerd de Beek for use on A/4 launch testing Versuchsmuster-1, date – 23 March 1942? When this rocket was scrapped de Beek retained the original sketch for use on launch V-4. Wernher von Braun selected the same pose but requested a full nude “Frau Luna” for V-4 which is today space art history.

The 1899 German Operetta by Paul Lincke inspired the people of Germany when Berliners travel in a hot air balloon to the Moon and meet the lady in the Moon – “Frau Luna.” This music score is still a large part of the German classical culture today, and young von Braun was born and raised into this rich musical world. At age 15 years, [1927] he played the music of Schubert, Lincke, Haydon and Mozart, and even composed his own classical German music. In that same year a very striking beautiful blonde with high cheek bones and very expressive blue eyes came to the attention of German movie producer Fritz Lang. She would soon come to the attention of the film world.


Free domain Internet postcard

Gertrud Pfiel was born on 25 August 1903 in present day Croatia, the daughter of a Vienna engineer. She took singing and dancing lessons in Vienna, and at age fifteen, began her theatrical career in Vienna, Hamburg, and became famous in various theatres in Berlin.

This was the peak period of the “Weimar Republic” era [Chapter Two] with over 500 clubs or cabarets and no censorship on nudity, drugs, or prostitution. Gertrud changed her name to Gerda Maurus and this natural blonde beautiful lady used her charm to entertain the rich and famous of Europe plus Prohibition bound United States elite rich visitors. [This exciting part of her life many never be fully known!] During a performance in the fall of 1927, German film director Fritz Lang was over powered by her beauty and offered her a film contract without an audition.

During the filming of “Spies” in 1928, Lang fell in love with Gerda which led to the break-up of his marriage to film writer/wife Thea von Harbou.


Free domain German Federal Archives, Fritz Lang and wife Thea von Harbou at home in 1923-24.

In 1929 Gerda received the starting role in the new space film “Women in the Moon” and her beauty captivated an entire German male population including 17 year old von Braun.

Wernher von Braun had enrolled in the Berlin Institute of Technology by the summer of 1929, and that fall a movie “Frau im Mond” premiered in Berlin on 15 October 1929. We know this historic space movie had a great effect on von Braun, and I’m positive the stunning beauty of Gerda Maurus did not go unnoticed!

The movie by-product [money] allowed Hermann Oberth to develop his first German rocket [23 July 1930] and von Braun joined this important rocket group. Is it possible that von Braun met and even had sexual contact with Gerda Maurus, as she was only the part time lover of film director Fritz Lange, and never his wife? It is well documented that Gerda had sexual affairs with Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels and communist Friedrich Wolf, proving she was also attracted to other important Nazi males. In 1933, Hitler took control of Germany and Lang left for Hollywood, fearing for his future life in Nazi Germany. [Lang was Catholic and his mother was Jewish]

After divorcing Lang, von Harbou began working for the Nazi regime and climbed to the top of the UFA studio in Berlin, which was controlled by Joseph Goebbels. That is possibly how Goebbels became involved with actress Gerda Maurus. Those protruded cheek bones, combined with natural beauty and her forceful look “bewitched” many high class German men, and that is possibly why she became the seductive ‘heroine’ to rocket scientist von Braun. In 1934, von Braun obtained a doctorate degree in physics from the University of Berlin while he served as the technical director of rocket research at Kummersdorf. He is fast becoming a part of the new Hitler Totalitarian Society and the top scientist in the world of space travel, a fact that would not escape Gerda Maurus. If von Braun and Gerda had any serious connection it probably took place from 1935 until she married in 1937. Gerda Maurus married writer and director Robert A. Stemmle in 1937, however she continued to dance and sing on stage in Berlin until 1944.

I believe the idea and original drawing of the “Women in the Moon” wearing a dress, black stockings and garter belt, was inspired by Gerd de Beek for von Braun, based on the living silent screen actress Gerda Maurus.

This art was possibly originally drawn by de Beek for the launch of V-1 but after failure it was later offered to be painted on the launch of V-4. Von Braun himself possibly approved the design idea but did he direct the rocket art to be a fully nude lady? It is very important to note the second painting by de Beek featured the “Lady in the Moon” wearing only stockings and high top leather boots. These same boots are featured in paintings and titled “Whore Boots” from the wild drug and sexual “Weimar Republic” era.

Why this image was contained in the private collection of Frederick Ira Ordway III may never be known, however he owned a very large collection of original space paintings and this was obviously important to archive. Nothing is recorded on the back of the print other than his ARFOR Library and Picture Archives label.

My color painting is based on the original black and white image completed by de Beek.


Image taken 21 March 1941, Peenemünde pre-launch. German Federal Archives Free domain.

In late April 1942, lunch vehicle V2 is towed to the launch site, and damaged in the test tower. This delayed the testing, and 15 May, it is photographed by a RAF Spitfire [photo-recon.] aircraft. The British notice nothing unusual. This rocket becomes the first test launch attempt, and becomes damaged again during its fourth attempted test firing on 20 May 1942. Finally on 13 June 1942 it is launched in front of a powerful delegation of high ranking German officials. The test is a failure; rocket explodes, cart-wheeling into the Baltic, range 1.3 km.

The art work of Gerd de Beer can be seen on the rocket tail but the image is impossible to understand. I feel it is a German female face image, and possibly connected with “Frau im Mond”?


Image by Clarence Simonsen based on small rocket launch film, pure guess work? Was this the face of film actress Gerda Maurus who appeared as the 1929 “Lady in the Moon?”

On 16 August 1942, V3 is test fired, nose section broke off and rocket is destroyed, range 8-7 km. This rocket is the first space vehicle to break the sound barrier during 194 seconds of flight.

German Federal Archives free domain, date unknown but it should be the morning of launch on 16 August 1942. The A/4 launch V-3 is undergoing the many prelaunch preparations. The rocket has not been fueled with liquid oxygen as the body has no signs of white surface frost. The tail art by de Beek has not been painted on which leads to the question on the date of photo. This could be possibly the day before launch 15 August 1942.

This art was painted directly onto the rocket tail in oils painted by de Beek. The art work is very simple in design and thus would not take a long period of time to paint.

The pre-launch image from the HAP-11 BILD photo album, [Betr] Subject #3, photo B474/42, 16 August 1942. Microfilm from National Archives and Records Administration – public domain.

Image by Clarence Simonsen based on photo records and painted to replica size. In two publications, actress Gerda Maurus is described as having a bewitching effect on German males, could this be reflected in the witch art? Please see details in Chapter Four, German U-Boat Insignia and possible sexual content in this tail art.

On 3 October 1942, launch vehicle V4 makes world history, becoming the first ballistic missile and first man-made object to leave the atmosphere. Powered by Thiel’s engines the A/4 rocket flies at 1,322 m/s reaching 85 km above the earth and 190 km down range before crashing into the Baltic. It carries the tail art of a fully nude “Lady in the Moon” art with “V4 on the rocket tail.

Pre-launch photo from HAP-11 archive photo album, Subject #59, microfilm from National Archives and Records Administration – public domain.

This image was copied in black and white from the original Peenemünde photograph and became part of the private collection of Mr. Fred Ordway III, a NASA official and advisor to the movie “2001: A Space Odyssey”. It was donated to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, Dept. of Archives, at Huntsville, Alabama. This clearly shows artist de Beek completed two images for the 3 October 1942 launch, one with Frau Luna wearing a dress and one nude. I believe Wernher von Braun made the selection and picked the fully nude “Women in the Moon.”

The most obvious reason for the Frau Luna in a dress was the influential German film which premiered on 15 October 1929. This historical space movie was titled “Frau im Mond” [Women in the Moon] directed by Fritz Lange, who hired German space expert Hermann Oberth as his technical adviser. The film was remarkably accurate in moon rocket design, acceleration, weightlessness, and the first use of a countdown in seconds 3-2-1 before rocket ignition. This movie sparked the imagination of space travel for thousands of German male youth, and introduced German actress Gerda Maurus to the world.

This image by Clarence Simonsen is based on the original launch film and painted in full scale replica.

Michael Neufield is the expert on Wernher von Braun and his historical background at Peenemünde. In his book titled “Von Braun Dreamer of Space Engineer of War” in 2007, he states – “Von Braun had a charismatic personality and was known as a ladies’ man.” “As a student in Berlin, he would often be seen in the evenings in the company of two girlfriends at once.” The eighteen year old Braun attended the Technische Hochschule Berlin in spring 1930 and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in the spring of 1932. Braun was part of the team that constructed the very first German gasoline, liquid oxygen rocket, which was launched 23 July 1930. The fact remains, both German rocketry and their future leader, both came to power under the “Weimar Republic” era, 1919-1933. This was also the period of time where Berlin became the experimental sex and drug pleasure capital in Europe. Nudity flourished in most of the 500 cabarets, and all had some form of topless dancers, as well as in stage acts and German screen. The new found openness of nudity, allowed the gay males, lesbians, and transvestites to openly display and discuss their sexuality in the cabaret scene. Many pre-teen school girls became involved in the nude dancing, prostitution, use of drugs, all centered in the City of Berlin nightlife.

To what extent Wernher von Braun took part may never be known, but having sex with two girls would be considered very normal in Berlin, 1930-32. Is it possible that it is reflected in the rocket art of “Frau Im Mond” and the nude pose? A close look at the A/4 tail art rocket painting also gives another important clue. The German female has dark hair, is full nude, and wears only stockings and what was commonly called “whore boots.”


On 21 October 1942, A/4 launch vehicle number V5 was ignited from test stand VII; with a burn of 84 seconds it reached 147 km. De Beek painted art of a nude German male stepping onto a cloud in outer space from the earth, with his hands reaching to the stars.

This painting confirms the excitement and male enthusiasm for German space flight, and I believe was directed towards all the rocket experts at Peenemünde! At least one website has suggested this was part of the Weimar Republic nudity, gays, and transvestites. I do not believe that has any connection. It could possibly show the nude male as the new born German “Aryan” race, which has reached into space and will soon control the world. This is fully covered in Chapter Two German rocket nudity.

German Federal Archives image – V-5 Peenemunde, Germany. Free domain.

Artist Gerd de Beek has been painted directly on the A/4 tail skin in oil paints, approx. 30″ high by 20″ wide. Dr. Walter Thiel [Deputy Director of Peenemunde test facility] appears in pre-launch film with this tail art image.

This is the last tail art painted directly on the rocket skin, possibly due to lack of time to paint on rocket tail!

Original German Peenemunde photo #B786/42 BSM, copied on microfilm National Archives and Records Administration – public domain.

My painting titled “Man in Space” contains a scale replica of the German A/4 tail art, a replica of one of the 1942 gate signs at Peenemünde, a ground map of the test area, with test launch pad #VII marked in red. The SS trooper stands for the watchful eye von Braun is under, as one year later [Oct. 1943] he will be placed under surveillance and later arrested [mid-March 1944]. The insignia shows up in 1942 Peenemünde film and is the building used by the [Sturmabteilungen] S.A. Storm Troopers.

V5 [Subject #132] and V6 [Subject #131] located on same page in HAP-11 BILD photo albums, copied NARA public domain.


Free domain image from German Federal Archives, V-6 Peenemünde.

This image became the first art taped onto the A/4 rocket before launch and not painted directly onto the skin. This is the first image painted by de Beek in his office or at home and then taped onto the rocket just before launch. 

Note – This taping of art on the rocket tail will continue until 27 January 1954, when de Beek painted and taped his last known nude lady on the tail of a Redstone rocket at Cape Canaveral.

This rocket was launched on 9 November 1942 and reached 67 km high, 14 km down range. It clearly shows a time of joy and good luck for the German rocket scientists, “Gluckspilt” means ‘Lucky Me’ the fast growing rocket work, like growth of mushrooms.

V7 website

V7 is launched on 28 November 1942, failure when it tumbled after 37 seconds of flight. range 8.6 km.


V9 – Pigs in Space

The next two German A/4 rocket art images are both pigs and could be titled “Pig in Space”. The pig image came from the figure of speech to describe impossibility – “When Pigs Fly”.

I am positive this was painted by de Beek for von Braun and his huge ‘space flight’ achievement.

The pig image appears on an A/4 rocket which has the upper stage painted solid black and the lower body white. The number one and two fins are painted solid black, number three and four solid white. The pig appears to be approx. 20″ by 20″ and was painted directly onto the rocket above the tail unit thrust ring, between fin number one and two. This rocket film launch took place on 9 December 1942 and is V9.

This tail art appears in the HAP-11 BILD photo albums on page 92, identified as photo B355/42 BSM. Dr. Walter Erich Thiel [Deputy Director of Peenemunde Army Research] stands on the right beside unknown German scientist.

Reichsfuhrer [SS] Heinrich Himmler attended the launch of V9, which was a failure due to a steam generator explosion at +4 seconds, range 1 km.

This figure of speech pig tail art will appear on two more rockets, V10 and V17.

Photo Bild-Nr B355/42 BSM, Betr [Subject] #92, Blatt [Sheet] #45.

Scale replica of V9 pig without wings, A/4 tail art and sketch of Von Braun.

This period became a high point in the career of Von Braun and the “Pig in Space” may have reflected on his own feelings – “His pigs could fly”. This is pure space cartoon humor, combined with fact. The red flowers and gold neck band could reflect on the old Weimar Empire German national colors – Black-Red-Gold. The German rocket was born 23 July 1930, and in 12 years the pig flew.


The second pig art V10 was based on the first de Beek original design but appeared with the addition of white wings and red jet tail exhaust from the rear end. HAP-11 BILD album Subject #93, Sheet #45.

If any image fit the feelings and technical achievements of the Peenemünde scientists it was this one. Due to the strict rules on security this image would never appear as a logo, insignia, or symbol to display the group’s huge achievement.

My painting also contains the sketch of Walter Dornberger, when he was promoted to Major General on 28 May 1943. The German belt buckle logo image was very rare and only two are known to exist today.

This buckle was probably produced [without approval] by one single person, and due to strict security, appeared in late 1944. The German ID badge number 2249 was worn by a worker on the Peenemünde West [Luftwaffe] site.


National Archives and Records Administration – public domain.

V11 was launched on 25 January 1943, burn +64.5 seconds, range 105 km.

During the Third Reich period [1933-45] horse racing became a major spectator sport which grew into a special social event much like the Kentucky derby in the United States. The Brown Ribbon of Germany horse race was run annually in July at Munich racetrack from 1934 to 1944. The race attracted a large number of Nazi officials and fifteen German stamps were issued for this special “Das Braune” event.

This is the July 1942 issue showing the Brown ribbon of Germany banner, which probably inspired Gerd de Beek to create his V11 tail art painting. [free domain]

National Archives and Records Administration – public domain.


V12 had two tail art images painted by de Beek, it is possible both were placed on the rocket but not confirmed. 17 February 1943, burn +61 seconds, range 196 km.

These two tail art paintings appear on the same page in the HAP-11 BILD photo albums, dated 1943 and given Blatt [Sheet] #35. Both of these paintings appear to have been applied in oils directly onto the A/4 rocket skin. This is the second set of duel paintings completed for a launch, as V4 also had two, one Frau Luna dressed and one nude. The cameraman recording the image of the V12 nude lady also captured the shadow of the Meillerwagen [Meiller transport trailer] which is still in the lifting position and has just placed the rocket in the launch position.

“A Good Throw” for double six

The second nude Frau Luna riding a fire trailing Wolf to the moon.

Today we know wolves do not howl at the moon, they howl to rally pack meetings, signal a pack location to others, and most of all to attract a female in breeding season. In ancient civilizations they observed the wolf howling at the moon and this appeared in image and literature belief. The Roman goddess Diana, and Greek goddess Hecate both are associated with dogs, and Norseman mythology records a pair of wolves chasing the moon. Many Native American tribes believe the wolf howling brought the moon into existence. This A/4 rocket has taken the shape of a wolf which is transporting Frau Luna from Earth to Moon.


National Archives and Records Administration – public domain.

V13 was launched on 19 February, explosion at +18 seconds, range 4.8 km.

Watering a four leaf clover for the “Lucky 13” launch.


V16 is the first A/4 to introduce a new standard fin paint scheme and standard location for the de Beek tail art paintings. The overall A/4 painting scheme can be found in many publications and on websites. I only wish to detail the location of the tail art paintings.

The art is placed between tail fin #4 and #1, half way between the base and top of tail fin, [13 feet or 3,945 m. The thin tail stripe is 4 inches or 100 mm wide and the art is placed over the center. The Gerd de Beek art is 28 inches high or 711 mm. This becomes the stand tail art location for the next fifteen launches, until 29 June 1943 and V38. The National Air and Space Museum reported in 1969 that V38 lacked a 4 inch stripe between fin #1 and #2, plus one side of fin #2 was white.

National Archives and Records administration – public domain

The tail art image for V16 appears in the HAP-11 photo album with Blatt [Sheet] #44 and other technical data connected with the launch.

V16 launched 3 March 1943, burn +33 seconds then explosion, range 1 km. The German reads – Alle Neune “All Nine.”


National Archives and Records Administration – public domain.

V18 was launched on 18 March 1943, burn +60 seconds, range 133 km. Until this date the rockets have been launched in order of V number from V1 to V16. The rockets are now launched in any order with some that match test date with V number such as V18 on 18 March. The little blonde German angel or possibly “Frau Luna” with wings appears on V16 and V18.


National Archives and Records Administration – public domain.

V19 is launched on 25 March 1943, burn +60 seconds, 268 seconds of flight. This is the very first appearance of German political art showing a drunk P. M. Churchill consuming his second bottle of red wine. This painting is also the first to suggest that the A/4 will be used as a weapon of “major” destruction against the British, causing much stress for the P.M.

This marks a dramatic change in the style of A/4 rocket art by de Beek and it was possibly painted on instructions from von Braun to impress visiting Nazi members.

This tail art image is contained on HAP-11 album Sheet #50, which also contains a rare Russian/Jewish marking and German lettering. Was this painted by a Russian POW, and if so why was it recorded?


National Archives and Records Administration – public domain.

V17 is launched 3 April 1943, burn +64.5 seconds, range of flight 310 seconds.

This is the third and last use of the “Pig in Space” figure of speech in tail art. The drooling little ‘Miss Piggy’ with wings is attempting to break free from the earth gravity but remains tied by her hind, left leg. The patch indicates the many repairs [operations] to get the A/4 rocket to fly correctly. Very good use of cartoon art and most important to observe de Beek painting the early images of earth from space.


National Archives and Records Administration – public domain.

V20 is launched on 14 April 1943, burn +64 seconds, range 287 km.

This tail art by de Beek is clearly directed at the German Frau Luna and her trip to hug the man in the moon. Frau Luna has now appeared four times, V4 dressed, V4 nude, V12 nude, and now V20 dressed. It becomes obvious that Frau Luna, the moon, and space are the main theme in these first A/4 tail art paintings, however that will soon change.


National Archives and Records Administration – public domain.

V21 is launched 22 April 1943, burn +60 seconds, range 252 km.

I believe this tail art was painted for Dr. Walter Erich Thiel who moved from Kummersdorf test ground to Peenumunde in 1940. He became the deputy director of Peenemunde Army Research Center and recruited many new German scientists to speed up rocket testing. In total twelve of his scientists would come to the United States and build the Saturn V rocket. The hard and intense work of Walter Thiel powered the first successful launch of V4 into space on 3 October 1943. The Rabbit [Easter Bunny] and egg are connection to Easter Sunday which fell on the latest possible date, 25 April 1943. This will not occur again for 95 years, 25 April 2038. The pipe and glasses on the Easter Bunny are the trade mark of Dr. Thiel. The Easter egg is hatching a new baby A/4 rocket with very wet and soft tail fins, like a butterfly emerging from its cocoon.


National Archives and Records Administration – public domain.

V22 is launched on 14 May 1943, a burn of 62 seconds and range 250 km.

The smoke from a well dressed A/4 rocket reads “On Gent’s”


V26 website

free domain from internet

This is the first appearance of the secret code letters HAP which stood for Heimat [Home] Artillerie [Artillery] Park-11. This code name first appeared on 17 May 1943 and became official on 1 June 43. It appears the German HAP cook has prepared a new hot dish – “V26” for some special German visitors.

This day is explained in detail on page 76 of the book “V-Missiles of the Third Reich” by Dieter Holsken. This is the first meeting of long range weapon V.I.Ps from the Third Reich. They have come to Peenemünde to observed the ‘comparison firing’ of two A/4 rockets and the V-1 flying bomb. That is why the new code name “HAP” is painted for the first time on tail art. I’m sure von Braun directed Gerd de Beek to include the new name.

After lunch they watched a partly successful launch of V-25, burn 43 seconds, range 27 km, then the burn stopped and the rocket fell into the Baltic. The background photo shows the pre-launch image of V25 which contained tail art in a form of what appears to be a female head.

This was a special event for von Braun and major support for his rocket program was gained thanks to the twin test shoot-off and the VIP meetings. On 9 June 1943, priority classification for the A/4 program was ordered.

Was this rocket tail art another image of Frau Luna or could it have been the face image of the silent screen actress Gerda Maurus? This art is still contained in the HAP-11 albums in Munich, Germany.

My painting is based on pure guess work with no factual proof.

This National Archives and Records Administration rare image captures the two rockets [V25 and V26] which were launched on 26 May 1943.


V24 is launched on 27 May 1943, burn +56 seconds, range 138 km. It is unknown if this rocket contained tail art. Again the proof remains hidden in the photo albums in Munich, Germany!



National Archives and Records Administration – public domain.

V23 is launched 1 June 1943, burn +62 seconds, range 62 km.

The lady bug is much like the A/4 rocket, it has the shape like Hitler’s Volkswagens but surprisingly it can fly!



The de Beek tail art of V23 and V29 both appear on the HAP-11 photo album same page, sheet #72. V29 is the very first image to show an attack on the United States of America, combined with the Soviet Union and United Kingdom.

A copy of this V29 art is also found in the private collection of Fred Ordway III, donated to U.S. Space and Rocket museum at Huntsville, Alabama.

From the private collection of Fred I. Ordway III, donated to the U.S. Space and Rocket Museum at Huntsville, Alabama.

V29 is launched 11 June 1943, burn +63 seconds, range 238 km. This tail art is the second to take a political shot at Great Britain, plus adding Russia and United States. This is the only A/4 tail art to display the American national flag, showing the rocket being use as a missile of major destruction against the United States. Is this possibly a reflection on the events taking place that week? [V-Missiles of the Third Reich – page 77] Goring, Milch and von Axthelm meet to discuss the problems of A/4 launch sites. On 28 June, Hitler agrees to their decision to build four large A/4 launch bunkers and 96 field sites in France.


National Archives and Records Administration -public domain.

V31 is launched 16 June 1943, burn +61 seconds, range 238 km.


National Archives and Records Administration – public domain.

A/4 rocket V-28 was launched on 22 June 1943, burn was 36 seconds, then at 70 seconds the rocket exploded in mid-air, range was 75 km.

This de Beek tail artwork featured a huge cigar aimed at Churchill in the shape of a A/4 missile. The name “HAP Hausmarke” [House Brand] has constructed the missile [cigar] with brand name A/4 painted on rocket body. On 10 June, Hitler had remarked that all work for the A/4 project would be promoted in every way. More skilled workers were becoming involved in Peenemünde plus civilian trained workers involved in the project were having more close contact with the German scientist. Could this explain the hand and civilian suit holding the A/4 rocket?

This is the second appearance of the new Peenemünde code title “HAP” and the first usage of the secret code name for the German missile A/4 by artist de Beek. This would only be allowed due to the fact the rocket and art would be destroyed in seconds after launch. I’m positive Wernher von Braun would have approved this usage of two classified rocket codes in the tail art.


National Archives and Records Administration – public domain

V30 is launched 24 June 1943, burn +65 seconds, range 287 km.

This art displays the new improvement of the missile to hit the target [Ziel – Aim] and also being used as a weapon of major destruction to attack anywhere on the earth. This has nothing to do with space travel but clearly shows the A/4 being used to aim and hit a target.

Launch date 7 January 1944. This art was completed in June 1943 and V 32 should have been launched. Something went wrong and it was possibly moved back for repairs. It survived the RAF attack on 17/18 August 43, and was launched in the New Year, 7 January 1944.



National Archives and Records Administration – public domain

V36 is launched 25 June 1943, burn +65 seconds, range 235 km.

Peenemünde was established as the German Army Secret Rocket Experimental Base on 1 May 1937 and retained that title until 17 May 1943. On 1 June 1943, the official name became “Heimat [Home] Artillerie [Artillery] Park – 11” or code HAP11. Twenty-four days later de Beek featured the new code name in his tail art for V36. Is it possible the painting is based on a real German lady based at Peenemunde? This is the second art to contain the secret rocket code “A/4” and the third to use the code letters HAP.



National Archives and Records Administration – public domain.

V38 is launched 29 June 1943, and was this obviously special tail art created by de Beek for the second visit of Reichsfuher Heinrich Himmler and his SS entourage? [the first visit was on 9 December 42, launch of V9] V38 was a morning launch, which turned west at an altitude of 200 m and crashed into the woods at the airfield on Peenemünde West. Three aircraft were destroyed but no one was killed. This shows the A/4 being designed by the German scientists at Peenemünde for use as a weapon by the [Heer] German Army. V40 is launched in the afternoon and is a successful burn of 64 seconds.


V39 was painted by de Beek and possibly due to problems was never launched. I believe it was in the A/4 rocket assembly building, which was destroyed on the RAF attack 17/18 August 1943.



This tail art from V40 was also in the private collection of Fred I. Ordway III, donated to U.S. Space and Rocket Museum in Huntsville, Alabama, 2014.

This was painted for the afternoon launch witnessed by Himmler and his SS group who are attempting to take over the A/4 Army rocket program.

This becomes the third political attack on Great Britain by de Beek, [to please Reichfuher Himmler] showing a depressed and possible drunk [red nose] P. M. Churchill sitting of the White Cliffs of Dover as a lightning bolt from V-40 is about to strike him. V-40 was launched on 29 June 1943, burn 64 seconds, range was 236 km, a successful test rocket flight. A number of historical documents report Wernher von Braun and Himmler had openly talked about using the A/4 as a weapon of major destruction against the Allies. This tends to backup those reports, and was it possibly removed by Fred Ordway in the 1950s to protect the German scientist image at Huntsville?



V33 is launched on 1 July 1943, it is a failure and explodes after 2 seconds burn.

It would appear Gerd de Beek was inspired by this 1941 Deutlches Reich stamp. [free domain]

The German Hunting Horn has persisted in German culture for centuries and a hunt was not complete unless a bugler was present to sound commands. When the Nazis took control of Germany in 1933, Hermann Goering became head of all hunting and formed “Deutsche Jaegerschaft” which introduced many hunting reforms. This stamp of the day 1941 honours the new hunting controls and the sounding for the hunt to begin.

Is it possible this A/4 tail art reflected on Hermann Goering and the German Hunting Horn sounding the beginning of the new Space age rocket?



V41 is launched on the morning of 9 July 1943, this rocket fell onto a pump building and exploded. This art work is the most powerful in displaying the A/4 missile being used as a weapon of major destruction to destroy England in a mass of flames.



National Archives and Records Administration – public domain.

V34 is launched in the afternoon of 9 July 1943, exploded at 1.4 seconds.

Microfilm from the National Archives and Records Administration – public domain.

This is page 91 of the HAP-11 photo archive album which came to the United States in 1945. It records the last three tail art images created by de Beek before the RAF attack on Peenemunde 17/18 August 1943.



V54 was the last A/4 launched at Peenemünde before the RAF attack, 13 August 1943, it had a burn of 68 seconds and flew 270 seconds. It contained no tail art as de Beek had just finished V47 and was possibly still painting the special V50.



The tail art for V47 had been completed by de Beek but it never flew, due to the RAF attack on 17/18 August 1943. It was possibly slated for a launch date after 19 or 20 August 1943 and was lost in the bombing of the A/4 rocket assembly building.

De Beek has painted a total of 38 tail art images, 32 have been launched at Peenemunde, two missiles V4 and V12 have two tail images, and three images will never be launched, [V39,V47 and V50]. V54 was launched without tail art and it is unknown if V24 contained tail art.

Was V47 possibly the last tail art painting completed by Gerd de Beek just a day or two before the RAF attack on 17/18 August 1943? I believe this rocket art was in the A/4 assembly building on the night of the attack and was destroyed. This painting displays the old colors of the German flag, black, red, and gold. The aggressive looking eagle can be associated with the Third Reich which adopted the eagle as a national symbol [Hoheitszeichen] and the eagle above a swastika became the formal symbol of the Nazi Party. The eagle’s claws grasp a wreath of oak leaves surrounded by a swastika. Hundreds of these Reich Eagles remain today in Germany displayed as prominent decoration of the Nazi Party era, and most have the swastika removed, but not all. The original design showed the eagle’s head facing right when used as a national symbol on government buildings and architectural projects. The Nazi Party symbol showed the eagle’s head to the left when used on Nazi Party buildings or monuments. Gerd de Beek painted this eagle as looking straight ahead into the sky.



Microfilm from National Archives and Records Administration – public domain.

This pen sketch of the tail art for the launch V-50 marks the “Golden Jubilee” for the German scientists and de Beek plans to paint tail art which features fourteen of his past A/4 tail art creations, including the most famous. Top of “V” clockwise you will find – V7, V31, V3, V26, V23, V4, V17, V34, V6, V36, V11, V39 V13 and last V40.

I believe the tail art for V50 was completed and placed on the A/4 rocket for the proposed launch on 18 August 1943.


The sudden RAF raid on Peenemünde destroys the planned special launch and possibly damaged or destroyed the intended A/4 rocket in the Peenemunde assembly building.

On the evening of the attack German female test pilot Hanna Reitsch was a special guest of Wernher von Braun and it is believed the next morning was his special day, with the launch of V-50 for his famous German female pilot guest of honour. The rocket never flies and Peenemünde tail art will never be the same.

German Federal Archives free domain – undated, possibly 1936 Olympic Games, where Hanna Reitsch was the only female glider pilot entered in this special event.

The Peenemünde employees lived such a secret hidden peaceful lifestyle; it lulled everyone into a false sense of Germany being at total world war. When the RAF raid missed the most important main target, it not only saved the lives of the expert German technicians and scientific people, it in fact saved German rocket testing for two more years. Many families will be relocated to the Mittelwerk underground factory, while others were scattered around the Peenemünde area, including the family of Gerd de Beek. This surprise attack also put an end to the cartoon style A/4 tail art paintings as von Braun ordered de Beek to suspend his tail paintings. Many publications describe the depressed mood in Peenemünde and for that reason the tail art had lost its usefulness. After the RAF raid, the German S.S. took over all production of the A/4 Peenemunde test rocket.

The de Beek family remain at Peenemünde, moving from location to location to avoid any further bomb attacks. Gerd returns to his design duties as manager in charge of a department of graphic technical rocket art design in Peenemünde until May 1945.

Until the 18 August 1943 attack, it is confirmed 38 tail art images were completed by a Peenemünde artist believed to be Gerd de Beek. Not one image displays the Nazi Swastika and only V47 [never launched] displays possible Nazi party eagle symbol. On 26 August orders are proposed for the building of the huge underground rocket assembly at Niedersachswerfen near Nordhausen in the Harz mountains. A new development plant will be constructed at Lake Traun in Austria and a new firing range will be constructed in Poland. The glory days of Peenemünde and the rocket tail art will never return, however test launches will continue until 19 February 1945, and one more tail art appears. It is impossible to know who designed this new tail art for the 100th launch, which is again painted on paper and glued to the rocket tail. This image clearly shows a change in art design from space cartoon to a more German Military Heraldic symbol in the 100th shot painting. I believe this V100 tail art was designed by Gerd de Beek, as it features the old German National colors of “Black-Red-Gold” which was banned by Hitler in 1933. Rather than showing the swastika or the National Socialist colors, the 100th launch [shot] is directed again at space flight and the achievement of the German scientists.

Image taken from pre-launch film.

232 rockets will be test launched at Peenemünde until 19 February 1945, including the above 100th shot. This art was not painted directly onto the rocket, but pre-painted and glued onto the rocket. I can find no evidence to support any other rockets contained tail art, however it is possible a few did.

This painting on the Gezackt Ragged No. 1 rocket [test camouflage] design first appeared in the summer of 1944. The German rocket team are now under the watchful eye and total control of the S.S. and Himmler. Artist Gerd de Beek fully understood the power of his cartoon art, combined with the fact the rocket art would only be seen for some minutes or seconds, then gone and destroyed in space or on impact with the ground.

One huge advantage to using cartoon art is the fact, an image, will stay in the mind of the viewer long after the event has faded away.

I believe de Beek took advantage of this and was able to show the 100th shot with rocket into space, using the old German national colors, “Weimar” Republic” under the very eyes of the S.S.

I cannot find any evidence to support the use of V-2 tail art by the German Wehrmacht, who began launches against Allied targets in early September 1944. The book titled -“V-Missiles of the Third Reich The V-1 and V2” by Dieter Holsken contains four images of A/4 rocket tail art. On page 327, the author states – “So far as is known, operational V-2s did not feature any unit insignia or cartoons.” There is a simple reason for that, the launch tail art was only special to the German scientists who tested their rocket at Peenemünde.

In August 1936, thousands of workers began to arrive at the heavily forested island situated on the Baltic Sea, 95 miles due north of Berlin. From the very beginning Peenemünde was shrouded in total secrecy. Advertisements directed workers to send their applications to an anonymous address in Berlin. Once the applications were screened and secret interviews took place, the worker still had no idea where he was going until he arrived. The new employees were then educated in the new rules regarding security, but again had no idea what he was building or the nature of the job site. The site location was also picked by General Dornberger and Wernher von Braun due to the huge demand for secrecy. Usedom was a remote island, not directly connected to any major roads, and only accessible by three bridges. All heavy equipment arrived by ship and the road bridge traffic could be closely monitored. The northern peninsula allowed all secret rockets testing to be conducted over the Baltic, which avoided any crash in a populated area. In the settlement living section and the production and testing facility, virtually no expense was spared. They reasoned that if the select rocket specialists enjoyed the best living and working conditions, they would also perform better on the job. At the same time, they created a huge new secret world, which was isolated from Nazi-Germany, and even during total world war they lived a different life-style. Secrecy was the central fact of life in Peenemünde, and the occupants became a lost secret society. There were secret regulations for everything, including the spoken word. The new rocket was called ‘smoke trail instrument’ or ‘instrument A/4’. This new language and coding of all technology used orally or in correspondence became everyday life in Peenemünde. Military rank just melted away and became secondary to professional technical qualifications. Security zones, and check points became a normal part of life, and the metal ID badge with number replaced the name and identify of people. Peenemünde was somewhere between an Army Base and a new social experiment for rocket engineers and scientists. This tight formed group developed an engineering style and new secret social structure that designed a rocket for outer space. At the same time the security regulations forbid the use of an insignia, emblem, or symbol to display their great secret achievements as a group. They could not even call their ‘rocket’ a rocket. Someone in the group [de Beek ?] came up with the idea of painting a number of pre-launch rockets with a comic style painting, and this would have no effect on security. The A/4 test rocket burn lasted 60-70 seconds and then the rocket fell to earth or in most cases into the Baltic Sea after a flight of 230 seconds. Graphic artist Gerd de Beek may have suggested this idea, and when approved, [by Wernher von Braun] painted all the tail art images. As the war situation in Germany worsened, the paradise life on the Baltic coast continued with a vibrant and exciting culture all to themselves. While rationing in Germany made food scarce, the local deer, fish, and eel in the Baltic easily supplemented their rations.

A/4 rocket fuel was plentiful so the chemists distilled ethyl alcohol into pure alcohol and moonshine of many flavors was produced. They had parties with A/4 “instrument” fuel while Germany was being bombed to death. The Peenemünde employees lived such a peaceful life it lulled almost everyone into a false sense of war. On the night of 17 August 1943, [23:30 hrs] the RAF struck and their secret paradise was gone forever, including future rocket tail art.

This image appears in the German Federal Archives [free domain] and records General Dornberger and Wernher von Braun sharing a joyous moment during a 1944 Christmas banquet in Peenemünde. The card has a congratulatory message from possibly Hitler, as the War Service Cross with swords has been awarded to each space pioneer, [seen in photo].

It is possible this was the art work on the card, as this cartoon had the message – “Congratulations for Special Duties in the Army”. The little A/4 smiling rocket wears the War Service Cross as England burns and may also have appeared on a A/4 test rocket at Peenemünde.

The speed race to discover and capture the secrets of the German technology began even before the end of the war in Europe, and the Americans speed captured everything. On 10 April 1945, the advancing American troops of the Third Armoured Division entered the foothills of the Harz Mountains, and discovered the entrances to the Mittelbau tunnels, also named Dora. The American troops entered the first long tunnel and found German railway freight cars loaded with new V2 rockets. On 5 June 1945, this area of Germany would be in the Soviet zone of occupation, and the Americans would have to move fast, which they did. U.S. Col. Holgar Toftoy, Chief of Army Technical Intelligence formed “Special Mission V2”, which sent a team to investigate, and evacuate specialized parts, back to the United States. On the last day of May, the final section of 341 railway cars, 100 complete V2s and specialized parts left for the port at Antwerp. Sixteen American liberty ships would move the components to New Orleans and later to White Sands, New Mexico.

On 2 May 1945, Wernher von Braun and his V2 specialists surrendered to U.S. forces in Bavaria and were later moved to a prisoner enclosure were allied interrogators questioned them. At this point the Americans had the top German scientists, the best of the V2 missiles, but they were still missing the fourteen tons of Peenemünde documents that engineer Dieter Huzel, [from von Braun’s group], had hidden in an abandoned iron mine in the village of Dornten, Germany. On 12 May, American Major Robert Staver found and interviewed his first V2 engineer, Karl Otto Fleisher, who had been part of von Braun’s caravan to Bavaria. Karl Fleisher was the only person who knew the general location of the hidden documents, and on 20 May, he was tricked into revealing the location of the missing papers. On 5 June, the Dornten area would fall into British hands, and again the Americans had to scramble to move the fourteen tons of German documents to Paris, and then to Aberdeen proving grounds in Maryland, USA. It is very important to note these tons of paper material contained the HAP-11 research photo album archives of the A/4 launches, which included the 38 tail art photos of the original paintings by Gerd de Beek. While the original tail art was destroyed in each rocket launch and final crash, the black and white 35 mm images in the German photo albums saved de Beek’s art, recording a first space history.

The British Government protested the removal of the documents and pointed out that by prior agreement, half of the V2s should be turned over to them. The American Government ignored these protests, but gave the British the opportunity to gather as much material before the Soviets took control of the area. On 22 June 45, General Eisenhower sanctioned the British launching of long-range German V2 rockets to ascertain the German technique of launching, etc. 

Operation “Backfire” was the code name given to the British military scientific operation which went on a large scale search throughout Germany for V2 parts, to build and test the V2 rocket.

Over 400 German railway cars and 70 RAF Lancaster flights were needed to transport a quarter of a million parts and 60 plus specialized vehicles to the new built launch site at Cuxhaven, Germany, in the new British sector. Over 2,000 Canadian Army Engineers constructed the launch site. The British were able to assemble enough parts to construct eight V2 rockets for test firing, and four of these contained new tail art by Gerd de Beek.

By the middle of May 45, over 7,000 German rocket troops had been captured or surrendered to allied forces. These troops were known as V2 Division z.V [Division for Retaliation]. On 22 July 45, 70 Peenemünde scientists, [including von Braun and Gen. Dornberger] 128 V2 firing troops and 600 German P.O.W.s were transported to Cuxhaven.

The German V-2 forces, [renamed Altenwalde Versuchskommando] or AVKO, at first were not keen to work for the British, General Dornberger was most reluctant and almost all of the German scientists were horrified of being under control of the British. I’m sure the British had some strong feelings towards the Germans, but they required the technology to learn the procedures in the handling and launch of the V-2 rocket. German personnel wore their original uniforms [without insignia] and were ordered to perform their duties, which for the most part, they did willingly. Many of these Germans [127] had been picked for the V-2 testing in the U. S. and it was not wise to cause trouble for the British.

Cover art image from website website website

For this operation five rocket launch attempts were completed, and three V2 rockets were fired successfully. [above] All eight V2’s were painted in black and white, much like the original markings of the test rockets at Peenemünde. All of the British drawings, art sketches, and diagrams were completed by German artists Gerd de Beek and Max E. Novak. 

The British also filmed the three launches and took black and white photos of the complete operation. After fifty years the Crown copyright on the 35 mm negatives expired and the photos show an amazing part of German art work on the V2 launch rockets. For an unknown reason, the British allowed one of the German team members to paint four German V-2 tail art images, each with a launch number. The early Peenemünde rocket launch art has reappeared, glued on the British V-2’s before launch time.

The British launch A/4 tail art is reborn but completely different in style from the comic art painted on the rockets at Peenemünde. I believe they all contained a secret message directed at the British!

Photo website

Photo from website

[British neg. # 76-9074] 1 October 1945, two German V2 specialists glue the art work on the V2 rocket engine between fin numbers one and four. This was launch V-1 which began at 09:30 hrs and launch attempt at 15:54 Hrs, which failed. The rocket was rechecked and a second launch was attempted at 18:15 hrs. This also failed.

It is important to note that Wernher von Braun joined the German Army Ordnance Office Rocket Program on 1 October 1932. The first British attempted launch of a captured German V-2 was slated for 1 October 1945, but failed to launch twice. On 1 October 1958, NASA was created in the United States of American. Each of the last two important dates are thirteen years apart. Did von Braun have any connection to these special German space rocket dates?

The German V2 painted in the new British black and white rotation test colours. The little German lady, [approx. 30″ high by 20″ wide], has been glued on the V2 engine area between fin number I and IV.

The British Lancaster stands for the 70 flights of V2 parts that were required to build the eight V2s at Cuxhaven, Germany. The RAF roundel stands for all the aircrew killed in the operation to destroy the V2’s site at Peenemünde, 17/18 August 1943.

The German soldier with three V-1 rockets raining down on burning London was used by Nazi propaganda machine in an attempt to keep Italy in WWII. This was a stamp issued to show a new secret weapon [?] was about to be launched on England, the V-2.

The rocket V2 tail image in blue cloud was the British cover used for the documentation of Operation “Backfire”.

The little German lady is not very happy by the expression painted on her face, with high eye-brows and tight mouth, looking down at the British officials. She appears with old national German colors, gold hair, red dress, and black outline.

On 2 October 1945, the British prepared the second V-2 for launch which began at 09:30 hrs. British Crown Neg. # 76-9075 shows the impressive full nude German girl sitting on a barrel with lettering “Soft Soap” and end lettering “Targettc Co. Ltd.”

The rocket was launched at 14:41.12.3. Seconds and became the first British flown V-2 in Operation Backfire. It traveled 69.4 km high and 249.4 km down range. This little nude German lady has reached into space for the British.

Photo from website – credit Frank Micklethwaite

Full scale replica image based on photos

This art also contains a secret message, the nude lady could be “Frau Luna” and the expression on her face shows the German feelings towards the British. Targettc Co. Ltd. stands for the V-2 to the moon, and the “Soft Soap” is a play on words, don’t downplay the fact the Germans have the technology to place the lady on the moon.

This painting is titled “Soft Soap and Frozen Lightning”.

On 4 October 1945, at 09:15 hours, the fourth attempt and second launch is prepared. This rocket had twice failed to fire on 1 October. At 14:15.55.09 seconds the V2 is launched but after a burn of 35 seconds the engine cuts out, and the test is a failure. It traveled 17.4 km high and 24 km down range, flight time two minutes 16 seconds. This launch proved it was possible to fuel and then un-fuel a rocket, then later launch without any major overhaul.

For this launch the rocket carried new tail art with number “1”.

Photo from website

The post war security check by the U.S. Army in June 1945 assessed the Peenemünde scientists on political and security liabilities. They showed no realization there was anything wrong with Germany’s war or in using the V weapons. As a group they refused to acknowledge Germany started the war and instead believed they were the victims of foreign aggression. When Gen. Dornberger was informed he would be assisting the British he was most reluctant, but in the end was almost forced to cooperate. The German organization chart shows 367 technicians and a labour force of 224 were  loaned to the British for the test firing. Almost all the Germans were at first horrified to be working for the British, and giving away their secrets. I believe this clearly shows in the A/4 rocket tail art launched on 4 October 45. A German Horten [Ho-229] jet has just blown the head set off the bald head of a British scientist. This was in fact the secret German two engine flying wing which was rebuilt and tested in the U.S. [2009 documentary – Hitler’s Stealth Bomber] and found to be a ‘stealth bomber’ which was partly hidden from radar.

The third and final rocket is launched on 15 October 45, a demonstration to representatives from the United States, Russia, the Dominions, [Canada] Whitehall, and the World Press. This rocket behaved normal in flight and but fell 18.6 kilometres short and 5.3 km right of aiming point.

This rocket carried the final tail art image painted in Germany, featuring a topless girl with three pieces of fruit carried on a head basket. It is the most difficult to understand.

Is it possible the fruit stands for the United States, Russia, and United Kingdom, and the lady is again “Frau Luna”? website

On 22 July 45, 591 of these ex-V2 rocket troops are driven to the British test area being constructed at Cuxhaven, northern Germany.

These ex-retaliation rocket troops have their name changed to “Altenwalde Versuchskommando” [AVKO] for short by the British. Their first main task is the preparation of an English language memorandum book on the V2 overview and full operation which contains hundreds of technical drawings in fine detail. [Assembly of these parts was a major concern for the British to learn] website

The total contents can be found on line for free thanks to the released by the Smithsonian. A few of the drawings are signed “Novak” a draftsman who I believe was under the authority of Gerd de Beek at Peenemunde. website

Wernher von Braun was the man who picked his two German A/4 draftsmen to document and complete the drawings in the British memorandum book. He picked Gerd de Beek and Max Novak, the very same two draftsmen he had earlier chosen to come to American with his special rocket team [Paperclip].

The memorandum book cover image has German sketch art showing the launch of a V2 in the forest at Cuxhaven. The cover contains the German words – “Long Range Rocket Equipment and Accessories, and the large letters AVKO.

A German artist has signed – “Novak” to the cover page. Von Braun has selected him in the first group of German scientists for the testing at White Sands, N.M. in 1946, he was later [1950] identified as Max E. Novak, Assembly Chief of #4712, MSFC [Marshall Space Flight Center] R-M.

Max Ernest Novak was one of 55 scientists selected in group #1 [later Paperclip] and arrived in New York aboard the S.S. Argentina on 16 November 1946. In December 1945, he was photographed with a group of 104 German A/4 [V-2] Scientists at Fort Bliss, Texas, including his Peenemünde boss Gerd de Beek. In 1949, he moved to the Redstone Arsenal at Huntsville, Alabama, where he became head of the Assembly Engineering Branch in 1960. Max died on 24 July 1998, age 89 years. [Born – 28 Sept. 1908]

Max Novak is officially listed only with the members at Huntsville, Alabama, however nothing is known about his career in Peenemünde and the A/4 rocket. It is obvious he created many of the hundreds of drawings completed for the British Operation “Backfire” at Cuxhaven in the fall or 1945. He was an expert in the technical drawings of the German A/4 launch crews, the launch vehicles and the complete breakdown of the Peenemünde A/4 rocket design and most important rocket assembly operation. Is that possibly why he was selected by von Braun?

One question remains, did Max ever paint tail art on the German A/4 rockets? website

Cover art of 1945 memorandum book prepared for the British by ex-German V-2 rocket experts at Cuxhaven, North Germany. The cover art is signed Novak. The British records of Operation “Backfire” show five Germans under H.Q. Computing Section, and two are draughtsmen, Gerd de Beek and Max E. Novak.

The history of Max Novak is part of the Peenemünde story but I feel this is still protected by members of the American/German community at Huntsville, Alabama.

The launch site plan drawn by Gerd de Beek and Max Novak, Operation “Backfire’ Oct. 1945.

At the conclusion to the V-2 testing at Cuxhaven, most of these former V-2 Division rocket troops will return to a defeated Germany, to rebuild their shattered lives. A select few [127] will be interviewed and picked by the Americans to join the V-2 testing in White Sands, New Mexico, including Gerd de Beek and Max Novak.

The British had become involved in rocket research in 1944, and immediately after the war showed official interest in ballistic missile testing. During the “Backfire” search for rockets an enormous amount of documentation on the V2 was found around Germany, and shipped to the U.K. This formation combined with what they learned in Operation “Backfire” placed the British as leaders in ballistic missile research but the simple fact was, what the U.K. could afford was very limited, so programs had to be cancelled. In 1945, the U.K. owed Canada over 242 million dollars for the BCATP, a loan which was forgiven by Canada, but clearly shows the U.K. could not afford a space program.

In 1948, the British Government decided to leave ballistic system research to the United States, however the “Backfire” test was not a total loss as much of the V-2 test material had a large influence on the future design of U.K. aircraft and guided weapons sub-systems.

German Federal Archives and NASA free domain photo

On 23 February 1946, a group of 104 German scientists arrive at El Paso, Texas, to begin work in the new White Sands Missile Range. The above photo taken at Fort Bliss [Dec. 45] records the group which became known as “The Team”. The man standing in front row, fifth from the left is Max E. Novak, V2 assembly chief and artist. The man in back row fifth to the right is Gerd Wilhelm de Beek, MSFC MS-G Peenemünde graphic artist, and known V4 tail artist. During his briefing at Fort Bliss, 1946, von Braun told Americans of the plans to build an A11 and A12 rocket for the moon. He then directed Peenemünde illustrator de Beek to paint a cutaway of the future A11 rocket.

Number 36, Max Novak and number 90, Gerd de Beek are the only two artists in the original German group. One of these man painted the A/4 tail art at White Sands.

White Sands soon became the dumping ground for 431 train loads of WW II German captured V-2 rockets, material, and components were unloaded by the U.S. Army. The first static test of a German V-2 was conducted on 15 March 1946. Two weeks later on 16 April the first V-2 was launched in the New Mexico missile range. This marked the first press release to the American public on the German V-2 and featured a drawing titled “Star bound rocket.”

The first V-2 high altitude test was conducted on 10 May 1946, and this captured rocket carried German painted tail art.

I also believe this was another painting based on the German “Frau im Mond”, completed by Gerd de Beek for Wernher von Braun?

U.S. Army photo of the 10 May 1946, V-2 rocket launch at White Sands N.M.

The position of the German tail art can be clearly seen, the same location as the early 1942 launch rocket art at Peenemünde, Germany. Frau Luna or Frau Im Mond is back on course for her journey to the moon from American soil.

Von Braun understood a good scientific team required a strong sense of belonging, of self-pride, and achievement as a group. He handpicked many of the early German technicians at Peenemünde, and soon others followed through personal connections. In 1945, many of these original Peenemünde Germans came to United States with von Braun and reformed a sound, honest, trusting, rocket-building team. This tight formed group developed an engineering style and social structure that designed the most powerful Saturn rocket in the world, which launched the first humans [Americans] to land on the moon. They all came to America with a shared historical past and I believe the little Frau Luna art was a secret part of it.

German independence from their American hosts at White Sands became very clear early in 1946. Wernher von Braun was very adept at political manoeuvring and quickly befriended J. Edgar Hoover and Democratic Majority Leader in the U.S. Senate, Lyndon Baines Johnson. I believe this contributed to his free use of German V-2 tail art, the same as it had appeared on the rockets in Peenemünde, Germany.

While this art had little meaning to the U.S. Army officials, it did in fact mean much more to von Braun, as his heroine “Frau Luna” was once again on her way to the moon.

Is this the same German “Frau Im Mond” that began her trip at Peenemünde on 3 October 1942?

Gerd de Beek the forgotten A/4 rocket artist would spend his entire life working for his friend Wernher von Braun, in the graphic arts of the rocket team, at Peenemünde, Fort Bliss, White Sands, and Huntsville, Alabama. He died at Winter Haven, Florida, on 2 December 1989. His ashes and those of his wife Irma were returned to the family burial plot in Bremen, Germany.

On 1 October 1958, The National Aeronautics and Space Administration was formed, on the same date, 26 years before; [1 Oct. 1932] Wernher von Braun joined the German Army Ordnance Office rocket program. It should be noted that the first attempted launch of a British captured Nazi V-2 was on 1 October 1945. These historic events are both 13 years apart, and only important to one person -Wernher von Braun.

Ten days later, 11 October 1958, NASA launched Pioneer 1, from Cape Canaveral to the moon. This first American rocket failed to reach the moon, however this first attempt had a very special meaning to von Braun. Did Gerd de Beek paint a small image of “Frau im Mond” for his boss and hide it on Pioneer 1, launched 11 October 1958?

Free domain image taken at Redstone Army Airfield, Huntsville, Alabama, 18 May 1963. Did Wernher von Braun trick President Kennedy into creating NASA on the same date he had joined the German Army Ordnance Office rocket program?

Screen actress Gertrud Pfiel/Gerda Maurus passed away at Dusseldorf, [West Germany] on 31 July 1968. She would never know that man had landed on the moon or that possibly her movie name sake went along for the ride. I’m positive she would also be surprised [and maybe pleased] to learn that American nude pin-up girls from the pages of Playboy magazine travelled to the Moon and back to Earth on Apollo 12 and Apollo 16 space flights.

Keeping these facts in mind, it is also possible the image “Frau im Mond” was carried to the moon hidden on Apollo 11, inside the Lunar Module descent stage. The first Americans to land on the moon were assigned many scientific and technological tasks. Apollo 11 also transported an assortment of disks, medals and flags to the surface of the moon which the astronauts placed there.

American medals in the memory of astronauts Virgil I. Grissom, Edward H. White, and Roger B. Chaffee, who died in the Apollo 1 fire were taken to the moon and returned to the widows of the three men. The shoulder patch from the Apollo 1 crew was left on the surface of the moon. Soviet medals depicting the cosmonauts Yuri Gagarin and Vladimir Komarov were placed on the moon. They had been given to Apollo 8 commander Frank Borman by the Soviet Union. A small gray disk, the size of 50 cent coin, carried the goodwill message from the leaders of 73 countries. Each message was reduced 200 times and only appeared as a dot on the disk. Flags from 136 countries in special metal containers the size of a beer can was placed on the moon. A 3 ft. by 5 ft American flag remains on the lunar surface. The die proof of a stamp commemorating the moon landing made the trip to the moon and back to earth.

Two American flags carried through the entire flight were returned and presented to the American Congress. Smaller flags from the 50 states of the Union, and the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and American Samoa made the return trip. The flags of Army, Navy, and Air Force academies, the Chiefs of Staff of the armed forces, and Vice President Spiro T. Agnew, made the complete trip.

I have learned that the German space events were and still are [secretly] celebrated at Huntsville, Alabama, and the American moon landing had a secret cultural meaning to the German rocket team scientists in July 1969. Why not secretly hide a painting of Frau Luna on the surface of the moon? Even if the German image of Frau Luna never made it to the moon, the German/American scientists who built the Saturn V had their own personnel feelings.

Yes, they all knew their “Frau Luna” had finally made it home to her Moon!

Painting based on fictional idea of Clarence Simonsen.

Author Apollo badge collection and two of the Playmate nudes
that flew to the Moon and back to Earth on Apollo 12.

When the very first NASA Apollo astronauts set foot on the moon [Apollo 11] they carried little ‘cheat sheets’ which were attached to their wrists. These little checklists attached to their wrists outlined main stages of the surface extravehicular activities or [EVA]. These cheat sheets came with funny little cartoons, plus a special Playboy Bunny surprise. The Apollo 12 back-up crew secretly inserted reduced images of the nude pin-up ladies taken from issues of Playboy magazine. The full detailed histories with images are found on two websites, [including NASA] and were auctioned off in 2009. One Playboy gatefold of Ms. De De Lind was also smuggled aboard the Apollo 12 spacecraft and made the journey to the Moon and back.

The use of the “Playmate of the Month” image was not new to the American space age and in fact dates back to the beginning of the magazine in 1953 and the second test flight of the Redstone rocket. Al Reisz was born in the United States to German parents, joined NASA as a young propulsion engineer and was involved in the development, testing, and moon flights of the Saturn V during the complete Apollo program. Al has been most helpful with my research and attempt to record the tail art painted on the German and NASA rockets. In 2011, Al Reisz won the Hermann Oberth award for outstanding achievement in astronautics and space exploration. He was part of the human exploration of the moon and experienced firsthand the world events and achievements of certain men in reaching the surface of the moon. He personally knew each and every member of the German Peenemünde scientific rocket team and attended many events with this group.

These same German scientists had designed and developed this rocket in Peenemünde, Germany, in 1944. Hitler had forbid any production or testing of the new rocket as he believed the A/4 would win the war for him. The construction and testing of this rocket would not be approved in the United States until early 1952. The name “Redstone” became official on 8 April 1952, and the first twelve missiles were built at the Redstone Arsenal. Assembly [below] began in September 1952 and the engineers now needed a test stand to improve the missile design.

Free domain image U.S. Army early production assembly of Redstone Rocket, believed to be RS-1.

Wernher von Braun placed Fritz A. Vandersee in charge and he designed an interim test stand for the cost of $25,000, the maximum amount of money allowed. In the spring of 1953, the first rocket tests were conducted and after a number of successful test runs the rocket was transported to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station for the final test flight. Cape Canaveral had two launch pads built and numbered LC-4 and LC-4A.

Al Reisz recalls the first issue of Playboy came out in December 1953 and the new “Sweetheart of the Month” became a must see for even the American Redstone rocket team members. The Redstone missile was developed predominantly by the ex-Nazi German rocket team from Peenemunde. The new American rocket was a direct descendant from the testing at Peenemünde, Germany, and was designed as a surface-to-surface missile for the U. S. Army. The first launch of the Redstone [RS-1] came on 20 August 1953 at LC-4A at Cape Canaveral; however it suffered engine failure early in the launch and crashed.

NASA free domain image of 20 August 1953 launch of Redstone RS-1 at LC-4A.

During the early development of the Redstone at Huntsville, Alabama, it was suggested that German WWII artist Gerd de Beek paint a lady on the U. S. Army test missile like he had done at Peenemünde during WWII. The second test was conducted on 27 January 1954. Due to security and other issues it was impossible for de Beek to paint directly onto the Redstone skin, as he had done on the early missiles at Peenemünde, Germany. A nude lady image was selected from the gatefold of Playboy issue number one, and de Beek painted this voluptuous blonde nude [Frau Luna] on a large section of art board. This was based on the Playboy nude “Sweetheart of the Month” of Marilyn Monroe but it is not known if any original image exists. This art board painting was them taped to the rocket tail just like Gerd de Beek had done at Peenemunde, beginning with V6 on 9 Nov. 1942. The second test Redstone RS-2 lifted off and ascended just as scheduled. The force of the launch and rocket vibration caused the nude lady drawing to loosen and fall away. For some strange reason, unexplained by the space engineers, the ground tracking radar became fixed on the nude fluttering to the Atlantic, leaving the rocket to fly into space unrecorded.

The top space flight engineers were not amused and ordered – ‘that was our last Playboy Redstone.’ This also became the last recorded missile tail art, #45 painted by artist Gerd de Beek.

Artist de Beek used the “Sweetheart of the Month” from page 19 of the first issue of Playboy magazine for this Redstone rocket art, but it is not known if the original photo image exists. In following his style the number “2” would appear with the art or possibly the launch number RS-2.

It is believed that Gerd de Beek painted all 39 known paintings at Peenemünde, which contained ten female images, two nude and six connected to Frau Luna. At Cuxhaven, Northern Germany, he painted four more tail art images, three are females, two are nudes, and at least one is connected to Frau Luna. In the United States he again paints two more tail art images, one on a captured A/4 missile and one on the new Redstone RS-2. Both ladies are nude and I believe were connected to Frau Luna. In total de Beek painted 45 known tail art rocket paintings, fifteen are females, six are nude and ten are believed to be connected to Frau Luna.

It appears the next “Lady im the Monde” will become De De Lind centerfold of the Miss August 1967 Playmate which travelled to the moon and back with Apollo 12.

The most interesting nude artwork to make it to the Moon and back to Earth occurred on Apollo 16, which landed on the surface 16 April 1972. The cuff checklist [cheat sheet] of Charlie Duke contained a fully nude “Lady on the Moon” fully embraced with an American astronaut who is very sexually excited. This could be the only “soft Porn” to make it to the Moon, but only NASA can answer that question.

NASA free domain image of Charlie Duke and his left cuff checklist 1972.

The first A/4 rocket was towed to the test stand at Peenemünde in April 1942, and launched on 13 June 42 as V2. This rocket contained tail art which I believe was “Lady in the Moon” [Frau im Monde]. This was possibly the very beginning of the Wernher von Braun fantasy of flying Frau Luna to the moon and is it possible that same idea was realized by the crew of Apollo 16 in 1972, thirty years later?

Apollo 16 landed on the Moon on 16 April 1972, thirty years after the first launch of a German A/4 rocket. Could this be the “Happy Birthday” greeting the American astronaut is giving to the nude sexy “Frau Luna”, or Frau im Mond” or “Lady in the Moon” [Whatever your name is]?


Kevin Duckworth – 2015

The grandson of Gerd de Beek travelled to Peenemünde in June 2015, his first visit and could find only one item with the name of his artist Grandfather.

The Museum at Peenemünde contains the [improper] tail art painting of Frau Luna, plus no other historical information or mention of the original German artist.

Kevin Duckworth – 2015

Chapter Seven – Gerd Wilhelm de Beek – Graphic Rocket Artist

Research and story by Clarence Simonsen

All rights reserved

Gerd de Beek was born at Bremen, Germany, on 13 July 1904. After graduation from high school he first studied industrial art at Bremen and later attended art courses at Frankfurt, where he met his future wife Irma. He began a career as a self-employed oil-on-canvas artist but his dreams never materialized, and he was forced to become an industrial designer working for a silverware company in Luckenwalde, receiving meager wages. He was ‘recruited’ by Dr. von Braun [with an attractive job offer, along with a huge pay raise] arriving at Peenemunde in the fall of 1937. Daughter Magda remembers her father recounting that his rocket drafting job was “a job he needed to take or else”, referring to the German government. The new secret rocket testing base was still under construction as Gerd became totally involved in this early technical design of the A/5 and new A/4 test rockets. He was probably employed in the Drawing Administration Division, [Zeichnungsverwaltung] of the technical office under Walter “Papa” Riedel. This was an important part of the early rocket design and all material was rated top “State Secret.” He developed a camaraderie with von Braun, the expert in new guided missile design, and survived the 17/18 August 43 RAF bombing attack, continuing his job was a Department Manager of Graphic Engineering Design. De Beek was also a talented mural artist, who created images in oils on the military quarters at Peenemunde, thus adding a level of culture, otherwise missing from the day-to-day work; and later at Fort Bliss [1945] while serving von Braun as senior technical illustrator, with rocket cutaway drawings.


Possible Gerd de Beek drawing of A4 in 1942
[NASA image 9801811]

Mike Wright, NASA Historian at Marshall Space Flight Center, authored a booklet in the celebration of the 50-year culture and technological legacy of Dr. von Braun. Title – ‘Wernher von Braun’s Support of the Imaginary Arts’. ‘Gerd de Beek, a member of von Braun’s rocket team at their Peenemunde development center, found at least one way to employ art to help von Braun keep his imagination focused on exploring outer space and still satisfy the demand for the V-2 rocket. De Beek served von Braun as a technical illustrator and he painted the rocket scientist’s “heroine”, a figure entitled “The Girl in the Moon”, on the side of a V-2 rocket.’
[Marsha Freeman –We got to the Moon, 1993, page 140]

The [nude] Women in Moon art appeared on A/4 V-4 launch 3 October 1942, the first manmade object to reach into space. The “Girl in the Moon” image was in fact painted twice by de Beek, possibly for approval by von Braun.


This image from the private collection of Fred Ordway III is believed to be the very first A/4 rocket art completed, and was possibly created for the first A/4 static test on 23 March 1942? This was copied from an original Peenemunde photo black and white image, which came to the United States in 1945.

I believe this is where the “Frau Luna” creation all began and that is covered in another chapter. To Wernher von Braun this tail art was a good choice and his ‘heroine’ would appear from the beginning. In this German secret world, Frau Luna became the hidden symbol. This same idea was painted for the A/4 V-4 launch and von Braun possibly picked the full nude, [over the one with the dress] or at the very least had the art work approved.

I am positive de Beek painted all the A4 rocket tail art that appeared before launch at Peenemunde in the period June 1942 to 17 August 1943. This would total at least 38 known images [possibly 40] of A/4 rocket tail art for 33 launches.

Six early tail art images [June 1942 to January 1943] all share one thing in common, travel in space. Walter “Papa” Riedel was head of the Drawing Administration Division of the Technical Office in Peenemunde, and this operated under a number of very strict “Top Secret” guide lines. All original rough sketches had to be destroyed as soon as the original draft drawing was completed and de Beek worked under this enforced security each and every day. For the simple use of one A/4 tail art, permission had to be obtained from the highest level, Wernher von Braun himself. After the 17 August 43 attack by the RAF, von Braun ordered no rocket painting of tail art, and de Beek resigned himself, strictly to his designated job of rocket mechanical drafting. Following is a conclusion by the author and I am positive we will never know the whole complete truth.

I feel the art was allowed for two reasons, von Braun understood the need for a strong scientific design team, which required a sense of belonging, self-pride, and achieving a goal as a group. The tail art provided all points, plus it did not pose a risk to any top state secret classification. The A/4 rocket burn time was 65-70 seconds and then it returned to crash on earth or into the Baltic. The tail art was gone forever, but I am positive one or two of the original de Beek art works remain painted on the tail of an A/4 rocket in the Baltic seabed.

A very good illustration that I know of is that he believed, and I recall him having stated in similar words…


A well-created image will live-on in one’s mind.

The question can be asked, “Why paint the A/4 tail art in the first place?” I believe Gerd de Beek was an oil-on-canvas artist first and a draft artist [job] second. He fully understood that one well painted image will last in the human brain for years after the main event is gone. Many of the early A/4 rocket launches lasted only 7 to 10 seconds, and then the rocket fell over, exploded or failed to achieve height and fell back to earth and exploded. The rocket and tail art were gone forever, however the tail art image [plus launch V-number] remained in the minds of the German scientific launch team for a lifetime, and de Beek fully understood that artistic power.

I cannot find any published material on de Beek painting his rocket tail art and his family have no knowledge, as he would not speak about his days in Peenemunde and the subject of tail art was never brought up in any family conversation. The following is what I believe took place at Peenemunde and the thinking of how one rocket artist painted his tail art, from the mind of another artist who repainted all of his A/4 replica tail art in color.

The very first A/4 rockets constructed at Peenemunde carried tail art illustrations painted by de Beek directly onto the tail section using oil based paints. These early rockets were handmade and also hand painted using a large brush, which left a crude appearance to the finish. These prototype rockets were finished with a gloss black and white paint scheme which was designed to aid the observers to film and track the movements after lift-off. The black and white colors were important to determine the rocket rotation as it climbed into space.


This is the free domain German Federal Archives image of A/4 pre-launch V5 which took place on 21 October 1942. This shows the black brush marks left on the rocket tail and the 30” by 20” oil based painting by artist de Beek. This nude male art has been explained in Chapter Five.

I believe Gerd de Beek created his early tail art in the rocket assembly building while the rockets were in fact being constructed. This would require special security clearance from von Braun himself. It is possible he also worked on two or three tail art paintings at the same time, during his evening off duty hours. He could paint on the tail section of one rocket and even finish another rocket which had been fully assembled. The assembly of one rocket took hundreds of man hours and this allowed de Beek many hours of free painting time. Even during the later mass production of A/4 rockets the tail assembly took almost 400 hours and two to six technicians. [See chart]



On 3 October 1942, von Braun’s German rocket scientists make world history, when the first man-made ballistic missile [V4] leaves the Earth’s atmosphere. De Beek creates a new tail art design to honor Wernher von Braun and all of the Peenemunde scientists. The little German pig [20” by 20”] with two red roses, is smiling in reference to the figure of speech to describe impossibility – “When Pigs Fly.” Reichsfuhrer S. S. Himmler will witness this launch on 9 December 1942. De Beek will create two more “Pigs in Space” tail art images and they will fly on V10 [7 January 1942] and V17 [3 April 1943].

After the full rocket assembly has been completed it is placed on a Meilerwagen and transported to the test launch site. I believe all of de Beek’s tail art was painted in the assembly building and seen by a limited few persons. The art is then only witnessed by the A/4 Launching Troop that erects the rocket to the vertical position and prepare for the test launch.


This is confirmed in a photo taken of V12 on 17 February 1943. The rocket is in the vertical position and the Meilerwagen has pulled away from the A/4. De Beek’s nude Frau Luna image is recorded on 35 mm film and you can see the shadow outline of the launching platform. It appears that V12 was painted on art paper and then glued to the rocket just before launch time. This gluing began with V6, V7, V11, and now V12. This rocket in fact had two different tail art images, but it is unknown if both flew on the launch. The launch was successful with a burn of 61 seconds and range of 196 k/m.


X – Showing the shadow outline left by the sun hitting the Meilerwagen vertical platform.

As the A/4 production was increased at Peenemunde, de Beek could no longer paint directly onto the tail in the assembly building and his art was painted on paper-mounted panels, which were glued to the rocket just before launch. The first paper tail art image appeared with V6 on 9 November 1942.


This is the first tail art image painted on paper and taped to the A/4 rocket. Free domain image from German Federal Archives.

Shortly after the German rocket experts surrendered to the American Army, [officially on 7 May 45] they were held at Garmisch-Partenkirchen, near the Austrian border. The American authorities gave full power to von Braun to select and persuade many of his fellow scientists to follow him to the new American space team in White Sands, New Mexico. During the early years at Peenemunde, [1937-40] von Braun handpicked many of the 60 top German rocket team members, which soon became the world’s best, honest, trusting, rocket testing group. Many of these same dependable Germans were again selected by von Braun for his new American team. Gerd Wilhelm de Beek became head of the graphic artists selected and agreed to come with his family to the United States. Before they could leave for U.S., the American authorities loaned the German group to the British who had built an A/4 launch site at Cuxhaven on the coast of the North Sea. The British located enough parts to reconstructed eight German A/4 rockets but lacked the knowledge to assemble, launch, or document the test results. In October 1945, five launch attempts were conducted by the Germans under British control, and three A/4 rockets roared into space. Four A/4 tail art images were painted on paper and placed [glued] on the rockets just before firing, the same procedure as de Beek used in Peenemunde beginning with V6 in November 1942.

The early 1942-43 Peenemunde A/4 rocket tail art was reborn on the North German coast and I believe all four were painted by Gerd de Beek. This little nude “Frau Luna” was launched on 2 October 1945, at 14:41 hours becoming the first successful flight under British control. These tail art paintings had a special meaning to the German scientists and I believe it was all connected to Frau Luna going to the Moon.


De Beek was part of the first 55 German rocket team experts to arrive in the United States aboard the S.S. Argentina on 16 November 1945. He was officially classified by the U.S. Army as – MSFC MS-G [Graphics Engineer], and housed with the U.S. Army at Fort Bliss, Texas. In this official group photo he is #90, public domain NASA. This original group of German scientists called themselves “the men.”


Mike Wright –

“De Beek was among those who moved to Fort Bliss and decorated a portion of the military post set aside for the Germans with his own paintings.”

A few of his mural paintings could survive in photo images.

In late August 1945, the first of 300 railway cars began to arrive at Las Cruces, New Mexico, carrying components of the 100 captured German V-2 rockets. While these components were being assorted, work had already begun on the new launch site at nearby White Sands Proving Grounds. The World War Two Alamogordo Army Air Base had been selected as the new test and development site for the captured German unmanned missiles and other research programs. The new A/4 [V-2] launch complex LC-33 was completed in October 1945, and now the complex assembly work had to wait until the new German scientists arrived in America from Cuxhaven, Northern Germany.

The U.S. Army set aside three large groups of soldier barracks in Fort Bliss, Texas, for the use of the new German scientists. These buildings became the living quarters, future school, and chapel for the new arrivals, who took possession in late December 1945. The first American priority was to make sure the German rocket experts were settled first and then the families would be later transported to Fort Bliss. The first S.S. Argentina groups of 55 Peenemunde scientists were selected for their technical background and this included Gerd de Beek who not only designed the A/4 rocket but knew how each part was assembled and functioned. Beginning in mid-January 1946, six German scientists were transported each day to Alamogordo Air Base, to complete the rocket assembly and prepare for the first static testing. They are recorded as – Dr. Ernst Steinhoff, [in charge] Kurt Linder, Hans Gruene, Werner Kuers, Heins Millinger and [graphic artist] Gerd Wilhelm de Beek. These six German scientists were the VIPs of the new American Space scientists and their families would become the very first moved to the United States.

Magda de Beek was the oldest daughter of Gerd, born in 1933; she arrived in Peenemunde at age four and remained for the next nine years. After the RAF attack on 17/18 August 1943, the de Beek family remained at Peenemunde, moving from one location to another fifteen times in the next twenty months of the war. Magda recalls her mother and younger sister, age three, arrived at New York City on an ex-WWII hospital ship and then departed for Mexico by train. They arrived in Mexico during the fall of 1946, possibly late November, and were housed very close to the state line of Texas. These first families had to bypass the standard American immigration process and she believes they became citizens of Mexico for a few weeks. This nontraditional immigration entry had been arranged by the U.S. Army and the U.S. State department in advance, and after two weeks they were driven across the border into Texas and arrived at Fort Bliss. Gerd de Beek was again reunited with his family; however he made daily trips to the test site in White Sands, an area the families were never allowed to see.

In 1944, the American War Department chose White Sands as a missile research and nuclear bomb test site. The Los Alamos Laboratory was approximately 200 miles north of White Sands, where the world’s first atomic bomb would be detonated at Trinity Test Site on 16 July 1945.

The U. S. Army corps of Engineers initiated construction of the main White Sands Headquarters in January 1945, and this would later include buildings for the assembly and testing of the over 300 railway car loads of Peenemunde vehicles, rockets, and related German launch material. In Peenemunde the Germans had experienced a large increase in A/4 launch failures when the rockets had been stored for extended periods of time. It was decided that all of the American captured missiles would be assembled at the White Sands Proving Grounds missile range site under German supervision, which also provided onsite training for new American specialists. A large Quonset hut was constructed for the assembly of the German A/4 rockets, and supervised work was initiated after Christmas 1945.

By early March 1946, German personnel at White Sands reached a peak of 39 Peenemunde A/4 rocket scientists, headed by Wernher von Braun, second in command Dr. Ernst A. Steinhoff. The first A/4 static rocket test firing took place on 15 March 1946, lasting only 57 seconds. It preformed perfectly.

On 16 April 1946, the first A/4 test flight took place, which the Germans called V1, just like Peenemunde, Germany. The Americans called it V-2, launch #1. This flight reached a height of 18,000 feet and was a success to this point. Then a steering vane broke off at 6 seconds, followed by the loss of a tail fin at 11 seconds after launch. At 19 seconds the engine cutoff and the rocket fell back to earth and exploded.

On 10 May 1946, a captured German V-2 rocket becomes the first successful launch at White Sands, New Mexico. This rocket carried a nude German female image, which I believe was Frau Luna, again headed for the moon. Al Reisz was a young American born jet propulsion engineer, who was involved in the development, testing, and moon flights during the “Apollo Program”, powered by the Saturn V rocket. He recalls the fact graphic artist Gerd de Beek painted two American rockets for his friend Wernher von Braun? The first was the captured German A/4 test flown on 10 May 1946. I believe this first American captured A/4 [V2] launch art had a special [hidden] message to the German [American] team. I also believe the nude German lady is “Frau Luna” and she is again on her way to the Moon thanks to the American Space Program. The rocket is painted in the American yellow and black test colors with red number “2” for the second launch. The nude lady and rocket form the letter “V” which stood for Versuchsmuster [test model]. In March 1947, all German scientists and rocket engineers were replaced by American contractor personnel, and no further A/4 rockets could be painted with German tail art.


The next and last known painting by de Beek occurred on a Redstone rocket RS-2 launch 27 January 1954. This painting displayed a full nude blonde haired lady “Sweetheart of the Month” from the pages of a new adult magazine called “Playboy.” This tail art was in fact based on the nude image of a soon to be famous 1949 pin-up of Marilyn Monroe. This tail art became the 44th [or possibly 45th] image and last known American flown test rocket painting created by de Beek, the only tail art image I have not been able to locate. [Details and color painting in Chapter Eight]

Grandson Kevin Duckworth reports his grandfather [Gerd de Beek] never spoke about Peenemunde and his tail art was a taboo subject. He was a very humble man and had a feeling of remorse for the evil that transpired from the A/4 rockets. Kevin recalls at some point in Peenemunde his grandfather was told not to paint, and I believe this came after the RAF raid on 17/18 August 1943.

De Beek spent his entire life working on rocket graphic design beginning in 1937 at Peenemunde, Germany, Fort Bliss, USA, [1945-46] White Sands, [Alamogordo Air Base] USA, [1946-49] and then Huntsville, Alabama, [1949-70]. Today his total rocket tail art creations are still unknown [hidden] and his artistic space history is missing in regards to this short lived 1942-43, test-launched tail paintings. In 1960, he became Head of Management Services, Graphic Engineering and Model Studies Branch, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center. This German A4 [rocket] artist died in Winter Haven, Florida, on 2 December 1989, after a two year battle with cancer. For reasons known mainly to the artist and his fellow rocket scientists, [he called – “The Men”] his rocket art and history remains a secret he took to his grave. His body’s ashes, were returned by the family, to the town of his birth, Bremen, Germany… The cemetery, located adjacent to the row-house where the family once resided, still stands… Ironically the family’s grave-plot is immediately behind his “old house”, separated only by a masonry wall.

I believe part of the reason for his lost tail art rejection came from a bureaucratic controversy which took place in the National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution at Washington, D.C. in November 1976. The full story is found in an excellent article by David H. DeVorkin and Michael J. Neufeld, tilted “Space Artifact or Nazi Weapon? – Displaying the Smithsonian’s V-2 missile, 1976-2011.

During the repainting of the NASM A/4 [V-2] rocket it was given the colors of the 3 October 1942 missile which made space history, however the nude women tail art was omitted due to the family audience. The original artist Gerd de Beek had presented the Smithsonian with photos of his original tail art, but this was totally rejected due to any Nazi controversy.


This 78th birthday photo was recorded at Treasure Island, Florida, on 13 July 1982.


The image was sent by grandson Kevin Duckworth [left, age five years at the time] and used with permission. In the background hangs one of de Beek’s original oil paintings; painted in his leisure, during the 1970s and into the 1980s.

Gerd de Beek was a German artist who painted on the world’s first revolutionary technological designed space missiles, which he also drafted and designed. His 44 or possibly 45 tail art paintings were all historical artifacts which were destroyed during or soon after the duration of the flight time. The original images are contained in 35 mm black and white images, all of which have been hidden from the public eye for the past 73 years. He was one of the original postwar German scientists in the U.S. intelligence program who was brought to American under “Operation Paperclip.” His rocket tail art images have been hidden from the general public due to the circumstances and nation security surrounding the German scientists work in the postwar United States. It is time to expose his paintings as a WWII military artifact, to be judged and interpreted by all historians and artists.

In Memoriam



Note by Kevin Duckworth, grandson of Gerd de Beck

The lime-green colored house that directly backs up to the cemetery, is actually the deBeek family house, dating back to pre-war in Bremen.  For decades after the war and up until sometime in the 1980s, it would remain to be occupied by someone in the family (brother, sister, cousin) of Gerd. 

The fact that the family’s cemetery plot happened to be a randomly assigned place was pure chance.  It was acquired as a available space and they were “issued” the spot some time not long after the house was bought as a burial plot to be used for his parents and later family members into the future (a brother or two and a sister are enshrined adjacently. 

I can attest that my aunt, mom and grandparents all considered it ironic its location in reference to the house… Pure chance as the cemetery itself was probably 4+ acres in size [my recollection when I visited]… Again what are the odds?!?