Saving The German Scientists
Grady’s Space Chronicles
Saving The German Scientists
Headlines of The Marshall Star, a monthly tabloid at Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) on May 31, 1967, was “Marshall People Learn Life-Saving First Aid.”
There was more to this training than this headline story implies. Yes, we got a mandatory Red Cross training course in first aid Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) in lifesaving methods. A combination of rescue breathing and chest compressions delivered to victims thought to be in cardiac arrest. When cardiac arrest occurs, the heart stops pumping blood. CPR can support a small amount of blood flow to the heart and brain to “buy time” until normal heart function is restored.
Experts say cardiac arrest is often caused by an abnormal heart rhythm called ventricular fibrillation (VF). When VF develops, the heart quivers and doesn't pump blood. The victim in VF cardiac arrest needs CPR and delivery of a shock to the heart, called defibrillation. Defibrillation eliminates the abnormal VF heart rhythm and allows the normal rhythm to resume. Defibrillation is not effective for all forms of cardiac arrest but it is effective to treat VF, the most common cause of sudden cardiac arrest.
The four day training was a shock to us in the rank and file, requiring us to add this while we were in a crash program to beat the Russians to the moon. MSFC already had our health control with a new NASA Health Center, in Building 4249. This Center was set up and staffed by NASA itself, not by MSFC and personnel were required to take physicals and check ups. I was called to the Center for a physical and regular check ups. Lots of Nurses and Doctors were working in the Center, it had it‘s own Lab.
However, there was an added dangerous instructional course given to us that was not authorized by the Red Cross, that shocked us all!
We had to take the course working with a CPR Manikin. It was when we got to the “lifesaving” part that we couldn’t figure out. Our instruction orders were, “If you turn a corner and find someone on the ground and if their heart had stopped, take a penknife (holding up a small red handle knife), open their chest cavity and massage their heart back to life. But only on base, you can’t do that off-base, it’s not a Red Cross procedure for first aid,” our Instructor said.
Experts have said, a classical internal cardiac massage mostly can increase systolic blood pressure to maintain sufficient brain and systemic organ perfusion but diastolic blood pressure commonly remains below 10 mmHg. To be able to increase the diastolic blood pressure sufficiently, the surgeon grabs the distal part of the ascending aorta between the thumb and index finger of the left hand and squeezes it during the diastolic time period to increase the diastolic pressure. Ascending aorta is released during ventricular squeezing, and subsequently ascending aorta is squeezed during the ventricular relaxation.
“But why do this!,” we students were discussing the course, as most employees were young, except the 118 German Rocket Scientists, they were getting up into age now. So, we students were looking for the motive and decided that the Germans must be the target of this lifesaving procedure. It was common knowledge to us that the government was using the Germans for rocket science gains. Keeping the German Rocket Team healthy until a plan called, “The Final German Solution”, was implemented by Washington and the Congress.
We believed that the Plan was: Quietly, NASA was replacing deputies to our Management Staff, as the Germans put themselves in charge of everything. We had heard that a plan was slowly being implemented to learn everything from the Germans so they could be replaced. The Germans were hard to deal with and they were not giving up control to Congress in contracting out or picking favored contractors. One Congressmen said, “von Braun would launch those rockets from Huntsville if we let him.”
Current information however, says diastolic blood pressure cannot be effectively increased even with open -chest internal heart massage during resuscitation. I never did hear of anyone using this procedure, thank goodness! The Agency must have been in a panic to finish obtaining needed data from the Germans before it cut them loose.
Other signs at MSFC that seemed to indicate there was a plan to ease control or loosen the grip the Germans had. The slow replacement of Germans with Americans was well under way, I discovered this when given the assignment to give the new executives their training tour of the program, shops and offices. I did not want to see my German friends being reassigned to other duties, like consulting the new arrivals. The Germans were feeling the pressure of being used.
A few years earlier, after Boeing got the Saturn 5 booster contract, it seems something happened to help set up the “Final German Solution” plan. Boeing engineers sat beside us for six months to learn our jobs. Bowing’s thinking was this would help make their effort a success. But after the engineers returned to Boeing for a while, Boeing fell behind and knew their engineers missed something.
Boeing contacted our Program Office for help, “Find out how the Germans do it? No one in the Program Office could come up with that information.” One of the Programs Office engineers had worked with me in the past and proposed that they order me to talk to my German friends and get the information “in a causal way.”
After the Boeing shortfall finding, it fell upon Washington and the Congress to act. A plan was developed to protect the Government and it’s space program from the aging German Team’s demise. “The Final German Solution” plan was developed to loosen their control over the space rocket program.