When Neil Armstrong walked on the moon it was one small step for a man and a giant leap for mankind. And all thanks to Nazis. Of course, the Americans and the Russians would have got there by themselves eventually. But in the late 1940s the metaphorical rocket fuel at the heart of their respective missile and space programmes were German scientists and engineers, coaxed, coerced or simply kidnapped at the end of World War Two. In 1945 they were worth their weight in plutonium. Germany’s culture of producing elite physicists, coupled with Adolf Hitler’s obsessions with ballistic super-weapons, had produced a crop of brains diabolically versed in launching large, explosive objects a very long way. As the Third Reich collapsed and it became clear that the next war would probably be a nuclear one between the West and the Soviet Union, American and Russian agents raced each other to scoop up as many of these pulsating German brains as they could. The Americans did well: between 1945 and ...

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