Encyclopedia Astronautica
Moureu


Moureu, Henri French scientist and manager. Responsible for acquiring German rocket technology and German rocket experts for France after WW2.

Henri Moureu was head of the State Research Laboratory in Paris at the time of the German occupation of France. In October 1944 an Operational Group for Guided Missiles (GOPA) was organised within the DEFA armaments ministry. The group's objective was to obtain for France all available information on advanced German weapons systems developed during the war. Moureu took the lead in this activity. Once the Americans had occupied Paris, he cooperated with American intelligence teams to identify V-2 component parts manufactured in France. On 21-23 December 1944 he went together with his assistant Chovin and Frederic Joliot-Curie to study the fixed V-2 bunker that the Germans had been building at Wizernes.

On 9 to 17 May 1945 Moureu and his team went to Bodensee to inspect the V-2 engine test stands there. On 15 June he was at the V-2 underground production factory at Mittelwerk, and was able to ship back to France nine wagonloads of material, including four complete V-1 cruise missiles. He and Jean-Claude Barre were not able to obtain any V-2 ballistic missiles, but before leaving on 18 June the US Army promised to send ten complete V-2's at a later date. In September 1945 Moureu's latest expedition returned several tonnes of V-2 documents and a sketch of a German atomic bomb design back to Paris. Meanwhile the American had second thoughts and the promise to supply ten V-2 missiles was withdrawn on 27 February 1946.

A plan to establish a Center for Study of Guided Missiles (CEPA) was adopted in May 1945, with Moureu at its head. CEPA was charged to exploit GOPA data in order to organise the French launch of a V-2, in addition to beginning additional projects to improve the design and produce a French ballistic missile. On 13 August 1945 the instructions were changed urgently to include construction and launch of a V-2 by France at the earliest possible date. Meanwhile MOSEC (the UK Ministry of Supply Establishment, Cuxhaven) was mounting an extraordinary effort, Operation Backfire. This involved assembling hundreds of German experts in order to demonstration-launch three V-2 missiles from Cuxhaven in the British zone of occupation. In October 1945 Chovin and Carrere from Moureu's team were the French delegates to the final V-2 launch under Operation Backfire. CEPA was formerly funded on 14 November 1945.

On 17 May 1946 a location in the forest on the plateau of Vernon was chosen as the site for the Laboratory for Ballistic and Aerodynamic Research (LRBA). Here German specialists would be brought to assist France in development of a ballistic missile. Herbert Weiss had worked at Cuxhaven, and returned to Emmendingen thereafter. He talked to other German engineers about French rocket plans, including Jauernick and Habermann. It was agreed to send Doctor Graf to Paris in May 1946 to negotiate contracts between the scientists and the French government. By 15 May 1946 35 Peenemuende veterans at Cuxhaven had signed contracts with the French. Until the facility at Vernon could be completed, the French organised the German engineers in two groups. The Emmendingen Research Office was organised with Jauernick as Head of the Engine Group, and Otto Mueller in charge of the Guidance Group. Another 12 engineers were organised at Puteaux outside Paris. Between March and May 1947 all of these engineers, by then around 90 in number, were moved to the new LRBA facilities at Vernon. The group had already been completing preliminary design work on a 40 tonne thrust hypergolic engine for the Super V-2.

Birth Place: French.

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

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