Romanian and German physicist and engineer (1894-1989) considered one of the founding fathers of rocketry and astronautics. Handwritten and typed report in German, signed “H. Oberth,” three pages both sides (four handwritten pages, two typed), 8.25 x 11.75, February 22, 1945. Highly technical report of a meeting with Dr. Anselm Franz (of Junkers Flugzeug- und Motorenwerke, a major German aircraft manufacturer at that time) the previous day, concerning the development of a “wood-fueled power unit” for “midget aircrafts for enemy bomber combat.” Oberth submits a five-point catalogue of questions to Junkers, beginning by asking if he thinks the project is viable and promising, to which Junkers replies that fundamentally, the power unit is feasible, but it is hard for him to answer the question if it would be a promising endeavor—while Oberth aims for simplicity, cheapness, and ease of use with a relatively short flying distance, Junkerswerke’s goals are quite opposite, namely achieving the highest possible flying distances with high tech devices and a relatively well trained technical crew for their jet engines. He believes it would be worthwhile to look into the development of a midget plane to fight the enemy bombers, and sees other opportunities for its use as well. Oberth, first and foremost a rocket engineer, has the intent of building a model of the power unit first, while Junkers, an airplane engineer and manufacturer, would be more likely to support the approach of designing and calculating the actual airplane first and then building a suitable engine.
Oberth continues, asking if Junkerswerke would get involved, or if not, if they would be willing to let them use their ‘LTs’ (jet engines) for the trials. Junkers says that he is overloaded with orders and cannot take on any new projects, but refers Oberth to other companies in search of new work; he also says that Junkerswerke cannot offer the LTs to Oberth for his trials because as soon as they are manufactured, they belong to the Reich. Oberth then asks if Junkers sees any hidden problems that would be easily missed by someone who is not an aircraft engineer. Junkers reiterates that he is not entirely familiar with the subject matter, but that he sees big potential problems with reaching supersonic speed, although it has been done. All difficulties seem to be due to constructive failures; therefore he recommends executing a correct design draft and calculation. He particularly recommends paying attention to the fact that “air can clearly pass by the wood pieces and that the pipes between each separate piece be as wide as possible and not bent or angled, and that the plane encounter the least possible amount of air resistance even if it is not supposed to fly far.” In fine condition, with overall toning and slight show-through from typed text.
When the Nazi party came to power in 1933, Junkers—the company that had pioneered commercial aviation development for at least a decade—was taken over, with founder Hugo Junkers placed under house arrest and forced to transfer all his patents to the Nazis to ensure compliance with their plans. Replaced by Dr. Franz Anselm, who successfully developed the world’s first mass-produced turbojet engine, the company’s full focus shifted to supporting the Reich, with military production monopolizing all its resources. When approached by Hermann Oberth, one of the founding fathers of rocketry and astronautics, with whom Anselm had worked in the past, regarding a new type of wood-burning engine for a “midget aircraft,” Franz could do nothing but speculate. Already decorated with the War Merit Cross 1st Class, with Swords, for his ‘outstanding and courageous behavior’ during the attack on Peenemunde, Oberth continued his work on Nazi German rocketry projects—including the V-2 rocket weapon—before moving on to work on solid-propellant anti-aircraft rockets at the German WASAG military organization. Offering excellent technical insight into their military aviation projects during the final year of the war, this is a remarkable report, connecting the master rocket engineer with a key figure in German aviation.
Terms and abbreviations used in our descriptions.