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Wernher von Braun, the father of modern rocketry, is a hero to some and villain to others, and the many books written about him are either bitterly critical or adoring. This biography is neither. After seven years of investigation, veteran aerospace journalist Bob Ward has rejected the extremes and presents a revealing, even-handed portrait of the onetime Nazi Party member who brought the United States into the Space Age. As it chronicles von Braun's life, the book explodes many myths and misconceptions about this controversial genius. From the young German aristocrat's leadership role in the development of the world's first ballistic missile?the infamous V-2 rocket used against the Allies during the invasion of Europe?to his successes in the United States after the war, a picture of von Braun emerges as a brilliant scientist with limitless curiosity and a drive to achieve his goals at almost any price. Yet the author's lengthy research reveals that the apolitical von Braun accepted nominal Party membership and an essentially honorary SS commission only under heavy pressure, and that his connections to the notorious V-2 slave labor factory were largely peripheral. Ward sheds new light on von Braun's extraordinary contributions to launching the first U.S. satellite, hurling the first American astronauts into space, and winning the "Moon race" with the Saturn V super-booster that powered Armstrong, Aldrin, Collins, and their successors to the lunar surface. But the author does not shy away from revealing facts about the space leader's humiliating final years with NASA in the nation's capital and his long battle with cancer. Along the way, readers are introduced to the human side of this charismatic visionary who mesmerized audiences across the country. A gregarious, whisky-drinking night owl who could out cuss any of his friends, von Braun also played the piano and cello, mastered scuba diving, flew an array of aircraft, spoke several languages, became a serious amateur astronomer, and was an avid reader and conversationalist, as much at ease discussing Nietzsche as nuclear fission. Including insights and recollections from a number of von Braun's celebrity friends?Walter Cronkite, Hugh Downs, and William Pickering among them?this is a book certain to appeal to von Braun's admirers and detractors. AUTHOR Bob Ward, a former editor-in-chief of The Huntsville Times, has written on space subjects for decades, and covered the von Braun rocket team as a reporter. He has four other books to his credit. ILLUSTRATIONS 41 b/w photographs