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Oscar Holderer, German moon rocket engineer, dies at 95

Oscar Carl Holderer, the last known survivor of a top German engineering team brought to the US in 1945, has died in Alabama. He helped design the Saturn V rocket that took astronauts to the moon.

Born in 1919 in Prüm, Germany, Holderer came to the United States after the end of World War II as part of "Operation Paperclip," which brought German rocket technology to America.

An obituary #link:http://www.al.com/news/huntsville/index.ssf/2015/05/oscar_holderer_last_of_wernher.html:published in his adopted home of Alabama# said Holderer designed the tri-sonic wind tunnel used by NASA to test the Saturn V rocket, which launched the crew of Apollo 11 to the first manned landing on the moon in July 1969.

"He brought our first rocket wind tunnel in this country from Germany and personally set it up," said former NASA publicist and space historian Ed Buckbee.

Buckbee said some of the 120 members of Werner von Braun's "Operation Paperclip" eventually returned to Germany, while others spread out across the US after retirement. He said Holderer was the group's last known survivor.

"He was a very talented man, not only an aeroballistics expert but very accomplished in design and fabrication," Buckbee told AP. His obituary said Holderer was #link:http://obits.al.com/obituaries/huntsville/obituary.aspx?n=oscar-carl-holderer&pid=174789336:"proud" to have become an American citizen in 1955#.

Holderer never faced questions about alleged Nazi ties, Buckbee said, while von Braun and other high-level members of the team did. "He was just never at that level of supervision," said Buckbee.

"Oscar Holderer supported the U.S. Space & Rocket Center with his stellar engineering talent from our very beginning," space center CEO Deborah Barnhart told al.com.

"Millions of our visitors 'walked in moon gravity' on his Space Walker simulator in our Rocket Park. As recently as three weeks ago, he was still consulting with me on our future plans. Our love, appreciation, and respect for this Space Camp Hall of Fame winner endures beyond his years."

jr/kms (AP, al.com)

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