Encyclopedia Astronautica
Degenkolb


Degenkolb, Gerd German Phantom cosmonaut. Leader of the Special Group for the A4 and supervisor of manufacturing for the 'war locomotive'.

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Associated Countries
See also
  • Phantom Cosmonaut Over the years the Western press named a number of cosmonauts that were never acknowledged by the Soviet Union. Most were said to have died in space. More...

Bibliography
  • Michels, Juergen and Przybilski, Olaf, Peenemuende und seine Erben in Ost und West, Bernard & Graefe, Bonn, 1997.

Degenkolb Chronology


1943 January 8 - . LV Family: V-2. Launch Vehicle: V-2.
  • Showdown meeting on A4 - . Nation: Germany. Related Persons: Degenkolb; Dornberger; Hitler; Speer; Todt. Speer meets with Von Braun and Dornberger. A 1:100 model of the planned bunker construction-launch facility for the rocket to be built by Organisation Todt on the British channel was exhibited. Speer reveals that Hitler could not decide about the rocket as a weapon. He did not believe the rocket team's plans could be made to work. But Speer did authorise them to proceed with construction on his own authority - he hoped Hitler could be brought around eventually. But he emphasised that Dornberger would have to use his personal connections to get industry moving on the project. But Dornberger was thwarted when the Army put Degenkolb in charge of organising production of the missile. Degenkolb was a sworn enemy of Dornberger's, and had been implicated in the 'suicide' of General Becker in early 1940. Degenkolb set up a Nazi-supported bureaucracy in parallel to that of Dornberger's, requiring the approval of the Army weapons bureau on any decisions. Degenkolb had the sponsorship of Todt and Saur, who in turn followed the party line - 'like the Fuehrer, we are not yet won over to the concept of a long range missile'.

    In order to productionise the A4 design, Degenkolb began authorising many detailed changes. He didn't understand that every change had to be proven in test first, and only incremental steps could be taken. Stahlknecht had planned to produce 300 A4 missiles per month by January 1944, and 600 per month by July 1944. Degenkolb unrealistically decreed that 300 per month be achieved by October 1943, and 900 per month by December 1943.


1943 February 3 - . Launch Site: Peenemuende. LV Family: V-2. Launch Vehicle: V-2.
  • Peenemuende privatisation - . Nation: Germany. Related Persons: Degenkolb; Dornberger; Siemens. In a meeting with Professor Hettlage, of the Financial and Organisational Ministry of the German Defence Industry, it was proposed that Peenemuende be made a private country, with the Nazi Party and selected corporations (AEG, Siemens, Lorenz, Rheinmetall) being its shareholders. Dornberger saw Degenkolb behind this plan, and was determined to keep Peenemuende an Army proving ground. He felt that an asset, on which several hundred million Marks had been invested by the government, was being handed over to private hands for 1 to 2 million Marks. The investors intended to recover their entire investment back on a fee paid for each missile built. In the end Dornberger managed to keep Peenemuende an Army proving ground, but then he had to fight off an attempt by AEG to take over the electronics side of the development team. The rocket team's electronic engineers were years ahead of the rest of the industry, and a tempting target.

March 1943 - . Launch Site: Peenemuende. LV Family: V-2. Launch Vehicle: V-2.
  • A4 production plans - . Nation: Germany. Related Persons: Degenkolb. A4 missiles were to be produced at Peenemuende, Friedrichshafen, and the Raxwerken at Wiener Neustadt. But problems began immediately - the Army expected the rockets to be as easy to build as locomotives; there was no engineering staff or time available to productionise the prototype design; there were no staff available to properly train production engineers and technicians. Degenkolb threatened to imprison the rocket team's engineers if they didn't get the missile into production on schedule. He was oblivious to the difficulties of achieving this.

1943 May 26 - . Launch Site: Peenemuende. LV Family: V-1; V-2.
  • V-1/V-2 fly-off - . Nation: Germany. Related Persons: Degenkolb; Dornberger; Speer. A government commission, consisting of Speer, Milch, Doenitz, and Fromm viewed launches of the competing missiles at Peenemuende. The V-1/Fi-103 was much cheaper than the V-2/A4, but it was slow and low - it operated at 160 m/s at an altitude of between 200 and 2000 m - and vulnerable to enemy flak batteries and interceptors. It provided the enemy with a forewarning of attack by its characteristic engine noise and the cut-off of that noise when it went into its terminal dive. It could only be launched from fixed concrete launch ramps, making the launchers vulnerable to enemy air attack. The V-2 was mobile, more accurate, could not be intercepted, and gave the enemy no warning of attack in its supersonic ballistic course to the target. In the end, the commission could find no overwhelming advantage to either of the very different weapons, and both were ordered into production. The positive advantages of each weapon outweighed the negatives. In the tests before the commission, the Fi-103 had bad luck, and achieved no successful shots for two of the A4. '2:0 for your team', Milch told Dornberger. Speer claimed he 'always supported' the A4 but Dornberger ruefully noted they had lost 18 months in delays, primarily due to Degenkolb's incompetence. Speer pressed Dornberger - if Degenkolb really can't make it happen, then just give me the word. He'll be dismissed. But Degenkolb was not dismissed - he had Saur's complete backing.

1943 May 28 - . Launch Site: Peenemuende. LV Family: V-2. Launch Vehicle: V-2.
  • Dornberger promoted - . Nation: Germany. Related Persons: Degenkolb; Dornberger. Dornberger was promoted to Major General. But Degenkolb was still in charge of A4 production, and had sent four engineers to spy at Peenemuende, asking them to provide recommendations on reorganisation of the place, promising the four that they would be made directors of the new enterprise.

August 1943 - . Launch Site: Peenemuende. LV Family: V-2. Launch Vehicle: V-2.
  • V-2 program in crisis - . Nation: Germany. Related Persons: Degenkolb; Dornberger; Thiel, Walter. With only four months to go before Degenkolb's mandated production of 900 missiles per month, the engineers declare the missile is not ready for production. A workable engine has been developed, but it is complex, suitable for prototypes only, and the engineers involved do not have the experience to turn it into something designed for mass production. Continuous changes on the engine also affect other parts of the rocket, resulting in drawing changes simultaneous with the effort to mass-produce detailed parts. Thiel and his team declare that in fact development of the A4 can never be finished before the war's end. They recommend that plans to put it into production should be stopped. Thiel, at the verge of a nervous breakdown, led this engineering 'revolt', although Rees was the spokesman. They declare they would stop work at Peenemuende and retire to the university. Von Braun argued against this position, demanding that production continue. Dornberger suffered a crisis of confidence in the rocket team as a result of this fight, but decided to continue trying to get the missile in production and fielded with the Germany Army.

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