Hello again everyone. I only realized now that I never actually formally introduced myself within the first part. You can call me Mark. Before we delve back into the story of my grandfather; Klaus Günther, there are a couple of things I’d like to address.
No, unfortunately I do not possess any physical transcripts, photos or videos of any of the events my grandfather describes. If I did, or ever do, then trust I will provide them. I wouldn’t hold your breath though, as there is a reason why these events have been expunged from the annals of history. More on that later though.
As far as answering any sort of questions goes, I’m afraid my knowledge is limited to what my grandfather wrote, and what I am able to find online and through those who knew him. I will do my best to address them as they arise, but I can only do so much. My grandfather’s document was written entirely in German, and printed upon manila pages.
And no, I’m sorry but I will not be posting transcripts of the original documents. My family is quite unnerved by this revelation, and wishes that my grandfather’s former alliances do not stain his offspring.
Also, I must reiterate that no living member of my family has any sort of ties to the Nazi party or any of their affiliate groups. As I’m sure you are aware, Nazi hysteria is on the rise as of late. I want to make it clear that neither I, nor any member of my family endorse or condone them in any capacity whatsoever. If nothing else, I hope that my grandfather’s testament can show exactly what those ideas lead to.
A daughter does not choose the actions of the father, nor does the father choose the actions of a daughter. My mother; Klaus’ youngest daughter, did not choose his path. She didn’t even know about his past until years after he was gone. I ask that you do not condemn them or me for the actions of my grandfather.
That’s all I got for now, so without further ado, let’s pick up where we left off.
I thought myself dead the moment I was dragged into that squalid cell, but it would seem fate had a different path in mind. After the meeting with Hans Scheffler and subsequent knowledge of what he had heard on the radio, I found my mind reeling. Could it really be true that Reisender2 was still alive? Had my friend simply imagined the things he heard?
Fünfter Forscher had enough provisions onboard to last the two occupants for several weeks, but if my estimates were correct, Reisender2 had already been away for several months. With Reisender1 deceased, she could’ve lasted alot longer, but the oxygen supply would not. At max it would’ve lasted two months, and yet she had been heard three months after by Scheffler.
All of it made no sense. Perhaps some delay had restricted the radio transmission from arriving until several months later, but that explanation has it’s own holes as well.
I never saw my friend again after that brief interaction. A couple days after, I was beckoned from my cell and taken away. I was led by brutish men, with eyes of fire and hands of steel down the desolate hallways and into a windowless room. There I met with my new apparent lawyer. The guards left us, remaining just outside the door.
The lawyer – if he even was one, was a very peculiar man. He wore a standard black suit and matching cap, and had eyes like a dazed babe, shimmering and vacuous. There was not a single strand of hair anywhere on him, with even his eyebrows and lashes being absent. He extended his hand and introduced himself as Mr. Green.
From there he laid out the things that were to come. I was set to stand trial against the league of nations in Nuremberg. Accused of aiding and abetting in crimes of war, genocide, unlawful torture and experimentation and blatant malpractice in the form of complete disregard for human life. Being found guilty of just one of those charges would’ve been enough to seal me away for the rest of my days.
I had worked under the shadow of a bloodthirsty dictator responsible for an estimated 50 million deaths, with that number growing every day. Some even claim it was well over 100 million. To say the odds were stacked against me would be disingenuous, as it would imply that I had any sort of fighting chance. Perhaps that was what I truly deserved. To be locked away and forgotten as the world attempted to mend the wounds. But then I was presented with option B.
Mr. Green told me about a plea bargain he was willing to offer. I would declare no contest, admit my guilt and denounce my former administration. In return, I would be granted relocation to America for employment under the United States government. The deal struck me as a bit odd. Would they really pardon me so easily?
“Men of your talent are needed for future endeavors.” Mr. Green clarified. He and I exchanged a long, uncomfortable stare, but I found no inkling of falsity within him. His eyes did not avoid my gaze, and the nervous twitching of liars was not present on his person.
I agreed to the offer and signed a document signifying my compliance. I was released then, and escorted home to collect what few belongings I had left. From there I was shanghaied aboard the old Munich express. I was accompanied the entire way by guards whose sharp eyes did not drift from me for even a moment.
Through the devastated lands we rode, and for the first time I glimpsed the destruction wrought by Hitler and his ilk firsthand. Cities reduced to rubble, families torn apart. Refugees and liberated POW’s shambled about like specters. Children, homeless and orphaned gathered around humanitarian workers who supplied food in the absence of their parents. I felt cold tears sting my eyes as I stared in horror upon the apocalyptic hellscape I had once known as home.
“Quit that shit.” One of the guards accompanying me suddenly snapped. The others looked to him. He rose from his seat, eyes like bayonets and mouth snarling like a jackal. He had a thick, black beard, and dozens of small scars along his neck and one below his eye. His voice was raspy and almost forced. He knelt in front of me, exhaling a plume of cigarette smoke.
“You don’t get to feel bad. Not now, not after what you’ve done. If it were up to me, I’d put a bullet in your head right now. But that would be too easy. First you gotta see what you have done. Then you will know true hell.” His gaze lingered on me, eyes quivering with the pain of a thousand unsaid words and forlorn memories. I said nothing.
There was nothing I or anyone could’ve possibly said in that moment, or any moment. No action I could’ve ever performed to right the wrongs and atone for my sins. I thought of our program, and the four souls we had sent to die alone in the outer reaches of space. Farther away from home than anyone had ever been. There would be no funeral for them, no bodies, and no explanation. The families – had they survived, would have only endless questions to fill the void. There is no forgiveness to be had, there is only attempting to craft a better tomorrow. No matter what I’ve done, or what I will do, the blood will always remain.
We arrived in Calais some days later. I was shepherded off of the train in chains, guards holding me firm the entire way. Through the crumbling city streets we marched, as those around us had begun to repair the shattered remains of their old lives. Children kicked a ball around in the streets, dressed in raggedy clothes and worn shoes. The men deployed the scaffolding, while others worked hard to sweep up rubble and debris on the road.
The way they all came together in the wake of absolute desolation was truly incredible. To see them able to still muster a smile, was a display of strength I had yet to learn. I was led into the harbor, and it is there we boarded the ship bound for America.
It was on that voyage that I learned I was not the only one who had been given the plea bargain. I recognized a man from the laboratory. He appeared disheveled, with a placid complexion as if he had been deprived both food and sleep for some time. I didn’t know him before, but he introduced himself as Volker Klein, a radiologist from Munich.
This deal – as I would come to find out, included more than 1600 former Nazi scientists, engineers and technicians. It was a hushed maneuver which managed to initially escape the eyes of the media in what is now known as Operation Paperclip.
Adolf Hitler and his mistress Eva Braun had taken the coward’s way out and ended their own lives when Berlin fell. The same however cannot be said for other members of his administration. Eichmann, Mengele and Stangl (stayn-gul) among many others escaped justice with most of them fleeing to South American countries who were sympathetic to the Third Reich’s cause. Many were eventually caught, but still, others have never been found.
My long and arduous journey finally came to an end when I stepped off the boat in Long Island. Me and my fellow countryman were ushered through customs and checked in through a separate area underneath the standard processing booths.
From there I saw a face that I recognized: Mr. Green. He welcomed me to America, but there was no reverence in his voice. I was booked through their customs, had my belongings stripped and relinquished my old identity. It was then I assumed a new alias: Robert Montgomery Hughes, and it was that name which I would use for my new life.
I was interrogated extensively, almost to the point of what may be considered torturous. I found then that there were others who matched the appearance of Mr. Green. Bald men, devoid of all hair and emotion. Always they would wear black suits and fedoras. None of them were much in the way of conversation, but they did ask a lot of questions.
I was never really given a substantial explanation as to who they were, or what exactly they wanted. They weren’t like normal people. They never held small talk with anyone, or each other for that matter. Their voices were almost robotic, in a sense. As if their words were not their own, but just a repetition of someone else’s. When they did talk, it only pertained to business matters.
They verbally scoured my mind for every single content I held within it. I told them of my time working under the regime. Of my schooling and employment in Munich. I told them of the crashed aircraft in Deisenhofer Forst, and how we had reverse engineered it’s technology. That response seemed to garner the most interest.
I went on to tell them of the Rhenium and the Zeta radiation. Project: Sternenklare Nacht (stur-nin-kla-ra, nokt) which was the official name of our program, and the Forscher probes. They didn’t seem to believe me at first, but after my continued insistence I could see them begin to turn.
I told them specifically of Fünfter Forscher and the rumored fate of Reisender1 and 2. How we had successfully landed probes on both the moon and Mars. I even told them what Hans Scheffler had told me. Reisender2 had survived well beyond her projected time.
For weeks the interrogation went on, and part of me felt as though it would never end. Finally, it did though, and I was once again loaded onto a train for a new destination. I was offloaded in the scorching suns of El Paso, Texas, and it was there that I was introduced to my new home. Fort Bliss, an outpost of the United States Army in northern Texas.
I was watched like a hawk when I entered the base, and felt eyes on me for pretty much my entire time there. Mr. Green and his men led me inside the staggering base, and it was there I met someone I never thought I’d see again. I entered the board room, and there he was. Seated at the end of the table with two others by his side. His blonde hair combed to the left as he always kept it, and blue eyed stare. His lips cracked into a genuine smile as I entered the room, while mine turned into a look of complete disbelief.
“Hello Klaus.” He spoke. Quickly I glanced around, nervous that my real name had been spoken and what the others may think of my former association.
“It’s alright. You’re among friends here.” Wernher von Braun lifted both his hands and gestured to the two men standing beside him. One of which was the man I had met on my way over from France: Volker Klein. The other I did not recognize, but his golden-blond locks hinted at his lineage.
“Wernher? But… how?” He sauntered over to me, a chuckle escaping his lips.
“Long story… very complicated.” He smiled and put both hands on my shoulders.
“It’s good to see you again my friend. Welcome to your new home.” He gestured around the room. Along the walls sprawled a menagerie of decorated generals, American presidents and heroes of war.
I stared in astonishment, still confused about the situation. I greeted Volker Klein and was introduced to the other man; Albert Wolf. He as it turned out was also a radiologist. He and von Braun had met while they were stationed at Peenemünde.
The three of them gave me a tour of the facility, showing me my personal room and laboratory which I had been assigned to work. I met other members of the team as well, some American and some of my fellow German’s.
I assimilated into the group rather well. Despite my initial concern, I soon found that the other members were incredibly kind and welcoming. Whether my American counterparts were privy to the knowledge of my past I can’t say, but I never spoke of it, and they never asked.
Over time they learned more about me and I to them. My accent was of course thick, as English was my third language behind German and French. This made it impossible to cover up, and in time I concocted a story of my family fleeing political persecution before the war began. I told them that my family had fled the Third Reich, and changed our family name when we were granted amnesty in America. It seemed a good enough explanation for them, and in time the lies I told others became the truth my new life was founded upon.
After several years with my new home, I began to finally settle into it. The food was difficult to get used to, as cheeseburgers and steaks have never truly replaced Rouladen (wu-lah-din) and Schweinshaxe (shvine-shak-suh).
Work was much different as well, less uptight and more easy-going. One thing I have always admired is the American sense of humor and comradery. My colleagues were wonderful in helping me to acclimate myself. In particular a man by the name of David Bagby became a very dear friend. He was an electrical engineer, and amateur musician. He and I became close, and in time he became a very dear friend.
I even met a woman during this time; Teresa, who later became my wife. A young scarlet-haired girl with a cluster of freckles on her cheeks and a fiery personality that matched. The daughter of Irish immigrants, her and her family had fled the isle when the war began and settled down in the American south.
One may find it odd that she, a girl of only 29 would take such interest in an aging 40-year-old such as myself. I don’t know how it happened, but it did, and before I knew what was happening I found myself madly in love with her. We married in 1958, and she came to give me more than I could’ve ever asked for.
Four beautiful children arrived one by one. Jacqueline, my eldest daughter. A quiet, more reserved girl who wrote poetry and played piano. Andrew, my only son, a smart boy who yearned for knowledge and to follow one day in my own path. Evelyn, a feisty little thing with a love for animals and fiction coupled with a fiery personality reminiscent of her mother. And finally, little Colleen, the one I never got to meet.
It was more than I ever deserved. A beautiful family and a loving wife. I felt I had been given a second lease on life, and was determined to persevere, but never again repeat the mistakes of my former employers. For so long my world had been all work, but it was then that I finally learned about the finer things in life.
Our research at Fort Bliss was of course geared once again towards rocket technology. This was around the 1950’s and tensions with the USSR grew increasingly pronounced every day. Wernher von Braun had also spilled the beans about Sternenklare Nacht and the five Forscher probes. Our mission picked up where it had left off as we sought to replicate the technology used once before. Only this time, we had no craft to copy.
It had become common knowledge at the time that the Soviets were well on their way to reaching space, and in 1957 they succeeded. Their satellite known as Sputnik1 became the “first” man-made object to break through the atmosphere and orbit the earth. At least that’s how history remembers it.
In response, American president Dwight D. Eisenhower authorized the formation of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in 1958. Thus, NASA was born. Our group was merged with this new organization, and suddenly the race for cosmic dominance was ramped up.
Progress without the aid of our old notes and the blueprint of the Deisenhofer aircraft was agonizingly slow. Instead of Zeta based propulsion, we were back to using systems based in archaic internal combustion engines powered by petroleum fuel. It was like flying an FW-190 around the world one day, and then being told to perform the same feat again using a horse-drawn buggy and carriage.
There was really no comparison between the two technologies. We knew of the Rhenium and Zeta radiation used previously, but found replicating the technology from scratch to be a monumental task.
On top of all of that, we were no longer able to operate free from the constraints of human resources. Where once we could’ve taken a POW and fired them from a rocket to see what would happen, we had no such ability anymore. Science requires risk, and human rights organizations made sure that our risk was minimal at all times. This is not in any way trying to justify the strategies and operating procedures used in Munich, but one has to note that without such options, progress is severely hampered.
The Soviets on the other hand operated under no such logistical boundaries. They didn’t think twice about blasting one of their own to his doom if it meant learning a new trick along the way. Many a cosmonaut had been lost as a result of the USSR’s brash tactics. Knowledge was their only goal, and for them, the ends always justified the means.
The Soviets successfully put the first animal into space, followed soon after by the first man. Urgency began to increase as America and it’s leaders were severely worried about the Soviets achieving dominance in space. In 1961 a new American president, John F. Kennedy ascended to the oval office. This new president was young, charismatic and incredibly charming. A year later in 1962 he gave his now world-famous Apollo speech, urging Americans to support the mission to put men on the moon.
Funding for our organization skyrocketed after the event, and once more the urgency was increased. We set to work harder than ever before. I was in the lab one day, working on equations with David Bagby when someone interrupted us.
“Robert Hughes.” I turned, recognizing the voice as one I knew all too well. Wernher von Braun stood at the doorway, arms anchored on his hips. His face wore a perturbed look, and I knew right away something had happened. He beckoned for me to follow, and I did so without question.
Von Braun led me alone down the hallway and into the underground parking garage. There we found Mr. Green, or at least someone who looked exactly like him with a fellow hairless operative at his side. The four of us piled into the van and drove out and into the harsh Texas sun. The ride was stifled by an uncomfortable silence the entire way. Finally, von Braun sighed.
“You must never tell anyone of what you are about to see or hear.” His eyes met mine with a granite stare. I felt my heart slink downward in my chest as the memories of the last time I heard those words resurfaced.
“What is this about?” Von Braun sighed and reached into his trench coat pocket. He pulled back a small manila envelope and handed it to me.
“A couple nights ago. The radio team picked up a signal of unknown origin. They’ve been searching for the source ever since…” He trailed off, staring out into the desert around us. I opened the envelope and found a photograph within. It was the grainy picture of a man with glasses dressed in a suit. I recognized him right away.
“Do you know who that is?” Von Braun asked, his eyes narrowing on me.
“Yeah, Hans Scheffler. I knew him back in Munich.” I replied. Don’t know if I mentioned before, but Hans was the man who had come to visit me when I was locked in the jail cell. The man who had told me about what he heard on the relay.
“What about him?” I asked.
“Apparently, he works with the Soviets now, though it doesn’t sound like he was given much of a choice. We received a letter the other day, supposedly from him. Didn’t say much though.” He gestured to the envelope, and I found another piece of paper inside. I removed it and read the words.
“Don’t listen to her.” It read. I glanced back up to von Braun.
“What is that supposed to mean?” von Braun shrugged.
“I was hoping you could tell me.” I racked my brain for a moment, trying to remember our last interaction, though at the time such thoughts eluded me. Von Braun finally spoke after a while of waiting.
“The signal they received, sounded like gibberish to me, but some of the boys swear they can hear something in it. Singing.” My eyes opened tenfold as soon as the words left his mouth. Could it really be possible? My look of utter bewilderment must’ve betrayed me.
“Comms have managed to confirm one thing though. The signal is not of earthly origin.”
“It’s not possible…” I replied, voice shaking with a slight quiver. Von Braun met my astounded stare with a look of curiosity.
“That was almost twenty years ago, there’s no way…” I cut myself off. Von Braun nodded, and stared out the window as the van entered a no-man’s land. There were no cities or residences anywhere in sight.
“I thought so too, but it appears there’s much we never anticipated.” I found myself at a loss for words, dazed and almost unwilling to accept the information.
“Apologies for this Klaus, but I need you to put this on.” Von Braun handed over a polyester mask of some sort, with the eyes blocked out. I stared at him in shock as I held the mask.
“What is this?”
“Standard procedure. Please.” He beckoned again to me, and begrudgingly I did as he requested.
“Where are we going?” I asked. Von Braun remained silent for a moment before replying.
We drove for another twenty minutes or so, mostly in silence as I contemplated the things von Braun had told me. Finally, the van slowed and came to an eventual stop. A brief interaction was heard between the driver and someone outside.
A scraping noise of metal on dirt was heard and the van once again began moving. A few minutes later and I felt the surrounding heat of the desert lessen substantially.
“You can take that off now.” Von Braun said. I removed the mask, and found that we had entered some sort of parking garage. The four of us exited the vehicle and made our way towards the door leading into the facility. Two guards waited for us at the door.
Von Braun flashed a badge of some sort and the two guards beckoned our group inside. There were several checkpoints upon our entry. I gave thumb prints, took a mugshot and was sprayed down in a glass chamber with some sort of chilled vapor. Finally, we were given the green light to enter.
We continued down the lone hallway, and at the end came to a large metallic door. Von Braun again slid his badge through the key slot, and the sounds of mechanical activity began. A few moments later the door opened, and the four of us stepped onto the elevator. It descended for a good two minutes before the door finally opened.
Once outside the elevator, I immediately became aware of how vast this facility truly was. There were paths that seemed to extend endlessly, and multiple rooms that were sealed by stainless steel doors.
“What is this place?” I asked. Von Braun continued strolling onward, never once looking back.
“AVION, this is the true mission control.” As the words left his mouth we reached a large door. Von Braun slid his badge once more through the door terminal. A beeping noise was heard and the door opened. A plethora of computers, screens and scientists awaited us inside. One of which I recognized as Volker Klein. We met eyes for a moment and he quickly made his way over to us.
“So good to see you again Klaus.” Klein said as he extended a hand. I nodded to him and shook. He and von Braun also shared a quick nod of affirmation.
“Show him what you showed me.” Klein quickly booted up a nearby terminal. I watched as the screen shifted into what appeared to be an audio graph with fluctuating lines. I listened for a moment, hearing mostly gurgled sounds and the roaring of winds.
“This is the signal?” I asked. Klein nodded. I focused on the transmission once more. Then I heard it, faint but undeniably there. The sounds of a female voice singing or humming. It was impossible to make out what she was saying, but there was no doubt it was there.
“This is a recording?” Klein shook his head.
“It’s a continuous broadcast, been going on almost seven months now. Probably longer, but we weren’t listening.” Klein adjusted the glasses on his face and looked to von Braun who was staring up at the main screen. I ran over the development in my head one last time, before coming to an undeniable conclusion.
“Reisender2.” Klein seemed hesitant to confirm, so von Braun spoke up.
“It would appear so, despite how unlikely that would seem.”
“You mean to tell me that she has been on the surface of Mars for almost twenty years, just singing?” Klein again opted to remain silent, and again von Braun responded.
“That is our best explanation, yes.” I lacked the words to react.
“But that’s just the beginning, come I have something to show you.” Von Braun turned and began to walk towards the door we had entered from. I exchanged one last nervous glance with Klein before turning to follow von Braun. I followed him through the halls and he began to lecture again.
“In 1947, there was an incident in Roswell, New Mexico in which an unknown aircraft crashed. Military claimed it was a testing balloon, but that’s not the truth. The recovered craft was taken, in hopes that more could be learned about it’s origin which despite the narrative pushed in the media, was not of earthly origin.” Von Braun paused at the door, and turned back to look at me.
“You been paying attention to the news lately?” He asked.
“Well then of course you are more than familiar about the ongoing battle of wits with the Soviets. The Space Race, they are calling it.”
“That’s what we’re here to do right?” I asked.
“Initially yes, but now that is only secondary. There are a great many powerful people with vested interest into our findings, and particularly what we have here.” Von Braun slid his card key and the door opened. Once inside, I felt my jaw nearly hit the floor. It was a sort of hangar bay, with a large metallic craft placed on stands in the middle of the room. It looked almost identical to the craft from Deisenhofer Forst some 40 years ago.
“All you’ve seen and heard from the media about the race to the moon is a smokescreen. They are theatrics, to distract the world from the true prize: Mars.” I stared down at the craft, once more befuddled.
“You remember the Zeta radiation?” I nodded, still enamored with the sight of the craft.
“We confirmed where it’s coming from.” I turned away from the craft and stared at him in bewilderment. All of this was just so much to take in at once.
“Mars.” I responded almost without hesitance. Von Braun nodded and put a hand on my shoulder.
“I want you on board for this Klaus, to pick up where we left off. I’ve waited decades for this chance again. And now it’s here. We’re going back.”