Described as a “low-level” engineer for German rocket architect Wernher von Braun, Holderer was one of the 120 rocket engineers brought back to the United States after World War II in “Operation Paperclip” — designed to use German expertise to get a jump start on its own rocket program. Holderer was “proud” to become an American citizen and quickly went to work. He was very familiar with wind tunnels, and brought one with him from Germany. He then designed and built a new wind tunnel to test the Apollo Program’s Saturn V rockets. It was built so well, it’s still in use today. After retiring from NASA in 1974, Holderer kept on working, at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center’s Space Camp. There, he designed and supervised the construction of their low-gravity trainer and other equipment — which is also still in use. “Millions of our visitors ‘walked in moon gravity’ on his Space Walker simulator in our Rocket Park,” said the Space & Rocket Center’s CEO, Deborah Barnhart. “As recently as three weeks ago, he was still consulting with me on our future plans.” Holderer was the last of the 120 “Paperclip” engineers. He died May 5 in Huntsville, Alabama, after suffering a stroke. He was 95.
From This is True for 10 May 2015