Sputnikfest 2014


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Saturday, August 4, 2012

Just about 30 miles south of Manitowoc, the City of Sheboygan also has unique ties to the space age – one of which is an interesting bit of historical trivia and the other being a very modern-day tie-in. 
Lets back up a bit to World War II to frame the story.  The V-2 rocket, built as a weapon by the Germans in World War II, was the first man-made object to achieve sub-orbital spaceflight - and was the grand-daddy of all modern rockets.  It was about 15 meters long, two meters in diameter and really scary for anyone living within its 200-mile range.  The V-2 traveled faster than sound, came down steeply, and hit its target without warning. 
By the spring of 1945 it was clear to Werner von Braun, one of the key scientists responsible for developing the V-2, that Germany was losing the war.  He made plans to surrender and take key members of his team, plans and equipment with him.  Given the devastation the V-2 had wrought on the Allied forces, and fearing the treatment he and his team might receive if they surrendered to the Russians or the French, he made up his mind to surrender only to American forces. 
On May 2, 1945 he sent his younger brother, Magnus von Braun out on a bicycle to find an American to surrender to.  Magnus approached a young Private named Fred Schneikert from Sheboygan, Wisconsin and told him that he represented Werner von Braun, inventor of the V-2 rocket – who was nearby and ready to surrender.  Private Schneikert did not believe Magnus and told him “I think you’re nuts” – but he did relay the message to his superiors, and sure enough, the surrender was arranged.  Private Schniekert was able to meet Werner von Braun after the surrender, and von Braun confided he was looking forward to continuing his rocket work in America.  Shniekert says “I told him I’d be back home before he ever saw America.  But I was wrong.”  Later in 1945, as part of a project code-named “Operation Paperclip”, Werner von Braun was among the German scientists who assisted America in developing its own rocket program. 
Today, Sheboygan is home of the only licensed spaceport in the Midwest – the Great Lakes Aerospace Science and Education Center (GLASEC).  What is a “spaceport”?  The website for GLASEC explains that a licensed spaceport is an area designated as having access to space.  Most of the United States is under restricted airspace – where flight is limited to 50,000 feet or less, for national security reasons.  The airspace over the Sheboygan Spaceport is “open” to space travel.  There are a few other licensed spaceports – in Florida, Texas, and California, for instance – but Sheboygan is the only one in the “interior” of the United States.  Planet Terry


  1. Damn!
    I never knew this!
    Sharing on FB.


  2. Interesting bit of historical trivia, no? Thanks for the feedback. Planet Terry

  3. We often heard this story told by my great uncle Freddie Schneikert. From what I was told, Freddie and von Braun kept in touch over the years.