Fleming’s Moonraker novel based on real-life events

Most James Bond fans know that 007 creator Ian Fleming served, during World War II, as special assistant to the Director of Naval Intelligence for Britain. Fewer know that Fleming participated in concocting some real-life missions for the British during the war — missions which clearly reflected the capacity of his Bondian imagination.

One of these operations was Target-Force. Launched in 1944 by the Allied High Command, and not dissimilar to the American’s later Operation Paperclip, the mission was to round up as many Nazi rocket scientists as possible before they were captured by the advancing Soviet Red Army.
In his new book T-Force: The Race for Nazi War Secrets, 1945 (Constable and Robinson), military historian Sean Longden tells the amazing story of this hitherto little-known wartime op. Of special significance for James Bond fans are the startling parallels he traces to Ian Fleming’s third 007 novel Moonraker! While reading the thriller, he noticed that one of the German research team was named “Dr. Walter,” which immediately put him in mind of T-Force’s juicier targets — of the same name. This discovery led him to work out other similarities:

  • One of Drax’s key henchmen is a Dr Walter. In real life, Dr Hellmuth Walter ran the Walterwerke factory in Kiel, Northern Germany, which was secured by T-Force in 1945. It was responsible for the design of the engines used in V1 and V2 rockets.
  • Sir Hugo Drax works on the “Moonraker” rocket project for the British. This was similar to Operation Backfire, a British project to test German V2 rockets, which T- Force was involved with by recovering missiles.
  • In the book, 50 German scientists – described as ‘more or less all the guided-missile experts the Russians didn’t get’ – are working on the Moonraker project. T-Force had extracted Nazi rocket scientists from the Soviet zone and Dr Walter assisted in this.
  • The fictional Drax had worked for steel company Rheinmetall-Borsig. This was a real German company and had been one of T- Force’s primary targets.
  • The Moonraker rocket is compared to a V2 and is to be test-fired into the North Sea. In Operation Backfire, the British had test-fired V2s into the North Sea.
  • The Moonraker is powered by hydrogen peroxide. The real Dr Walter was a specialist in hydrogen-peroxide engines and worked on engine design for the V2 missile.

Longden knew that Fleming would have seen reports on T-Force’s activities coming out of Germany, so it was a very small jump indeed for him to conclude that Fleming based his novel on these real-life events.

The UK Daily Mail website has the complete story, Hitler’s rocket scientists… the incredible real-life events that inspired… Moonraker posted as of today. Longden’s book is also reviewed at the Financial Times “View from the Top” website; you can read it HERE.

Pretty cool stuff, huh?