I was born on August 21st, 1945 in Havre de Grace, Maryland, 15 days after the United States dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and 13 days before Japan surrendered to Allied Forces on September 2nd, ending World War II. My mother told me she had been thinking of naming me “Victoria Joanne” if it turned out I had been born on VJ Day.
My father, Loyd Dorsett, was serving in Europe at the time. The Nazis had surrendered on May 8th, VE Day, and many of Germany’s top scientists had chosen to surrender to the Americans instead of the Russians. Among them was Wernher von Braun.
According to my father, a Captain in the U.S. Army serving as an Intelligence Officer tasked with interviewing German rocket scientists, he was the first American officer to debrief von Braun after he surrendered. He told me that as they sat across from each other in the debriefing room, von Braun was reluctant to cooperate and not forthcoming when questioned so my father pulled out his pistol and placed it on the table in front of him saying, “I lost a brother in this war.” Then he waited. Apparently after that, no more needed to be said because von Braun began answering questions and offering information as required.
My father never talked much to my brothers and me about his time in the service. He had graduated from college with a degree in Physics at the age of 19, worked for a couple of years before he married my mother, and joined the Army in anticipation of the U.S. getting into the war. He was sent to Aberdeen Proving Ground in Aberdeen, Maryland, where he and other American scientists and engineers worked on rockets. I think the work my father did was highly secret and when he died in 1999, he took those secrets with him.
After the war, my father started a business developing remote electronic weapons and guidance systems for rockets, and won contracts with the U.S. Government. Because of his line of work, my father came into contact with von Braun on a few occasions. And, from what my father told us, those meetings were friendly.
I can’t ever know what my father actually experienced during his time in the military, but from the evidence – he was called back to serve for several months during the Korean War – he was a valuable asset. That made me proud.
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Thank you for sharing this. I feel it is important to get the voices from those who served, those who loved those who served, and anyone involved in those times. History is, as Ken Burns has so brilliantly demonstrated, the ordinary person as well as the leader. And we need to hear them all.