Walter Dornberger was born in Giessen, Germany on 6th September, 1895. He joined the German Army in 1914 and during the First World War was captured by the French Army and was held as a prisoner-of-war until 1919.
Dornberger remained in the army and in 1925 was sent to the Charlottenberg Institute of Technology to study ballistics. While at Charlottenberg he met a young student, Wernher von Braun, and fellow member of the German Society for Space Travel.
In 1932 Dornberger was placed in charge of the solid-fuel rocket research and development in the Ordnance Department of the German Army. Dornberger recruited Wernher von Braun and in 1934 they successfully built two rockets that rose vertically for more the than 2.4 kilometres (1.5 miles).
In 1937 Dornberger was appointed military commander of rocket research station at Peenemunde. Braun became technical director of the establishment and he began to develop the long-range ballistic missile, the A4 (V2 Rocket) and the supersonic anti-aircraft missile Wasserfall.
During the Second World War Dornberger and Braun began working on a new secret weapon, the V2 Rocket. This 45 feet long, liquid-fuelled rocket carried a one ton warhead, and was capable of supersonic speed and could fly at an altitude of over 50 miles. As a result it could not be effectively stopped once launched.
The V2 Rocket was first used in September, 1944. Over 5,000 V-2s were fired on Britain. However, only 1,100 reached their target. These rockets killed 2,724 people and badly injured 6,000. After the D-Day landings, Allied troops were on mainland Europe and they were able to capture the launch sites and by March, 1945, the attacks came to an end.
With the Red Army advancing on the Peenemunde Research Station, Wernher von Braun surrendered to the US Army. Braun and 40 other scientists working on rocket technology were taken to the United States where they worked on the development of nuclear missiles.
Dornberger was arrested by Allied forces and spent two years in England as a prisoner. He emigrated to the United States in 1947 where he worked as an adviser on the development of guided missiles. He later worked for the Bell Aircraft Corporation and on the Air Force-NASA Dyna-Soar project. Walter Dornberger died in Baden-Wurttemburg, West Germany, on 27th June, 1980.