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Bernhard Tessmann Collection

Identifier: MC-118

Scope and Contents

This collection contains photographs, slides, correspondence, and files that document the life and career of German-American guided missle expert Berhard Tessmann. Materials trace Tessmann's work from Peenemunde to Ft. Bliss and eventually Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.


  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1948 - 1999


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research in the Archives & Special Collections reading room. Handling guidelines and use restrictions will be communicated and enforced by archives staff members.

Conditions Governing Use

This material may be protected under U. S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S. Code) which governs the making of photocopies or reproductions of copyrighted materials. You may use the digitized material for private study, scholarship, or research. Though the University of Alabama in Huntsville Archives and Special Collections has physical ownership of the material in its collections, in some cases we may not own the copyright to the material. It is the patron's obligation to determine and satisfy copyright restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in our collections.

Biographical / Historical

Bernhard Robert Tessmann was born August 15, 1912 at Zingst, Germany, on the Baltic Sea, but moved at an early age to Berlin, Germany, where he grew to adulthood. He attended evening courses at the Stadt-Abend-Maschinenbau-Schule of Berlin and graduated with a BS in mechanical engineering in 1935. In August of 1935, Tessman met Dr. Wernher von Braun, who invited him to come to work for him. In November of the same year, he began work at the German Army Rocket Research and Development Center in Kummersdorf. Needing a new rocket test stand facility at Peenemuende, von Braun selected the Tessmann design for the project.

Tessmann designed and oversaw the construction of the first test stands at Peenemuende, on the Baltic Sea. He was living in the village of Karlshagen when the British bombed Peenemuende as part of Project Hydra on August 17/18, 1943. He was evacuated after the bombing in August 1943 to Koelpinsee, where he designed ground equipment for V-2 mobile units and was involved in the planning for the Projekt Zement underground V-2 facilities at Ebensee, Austria. Tessmann, along with Dieter Huzel, played an important role in retrieving some 14 tons of V-2 documents from Bleicherode, in the Harz Mountains, to a mine in Doernten. These documents would later be recovered by the United States, as well as many parts from V-2 rockets.

Tessmann was evacuated to Thuringia at the end of the war, and he arrived in America under Project Paperclip on November 16, 1945 aboard the Argentina from Le Havre, France. By January 1947, he was working at Fort Bliss, Texas along with 118 other members of the German rocket team to test the captured V-2 missiles to advance the knowledge of the United States in this area. When the decision was made to move the rocket team to Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama to place the team under the direction of the United States Army, Tessmann moved with them.

Tessmann designed the test stands at Redstone Arsenal, later Marshall Space Flight Center, which were used to test the Jupiter and Saturn rockets. He also designed a portion of the test stand facility at Stennis Space Flight Center in Mississippi. In 1960, he was the Deputy Director, Test Division, of the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center. He played a major role in rocket test stand design from 1936 to 1973 until his retirement. Bernhard Tessmann died on December 19, 1998 in Huntsville, Alabama.

Bernhard Tessmann married his wife, Ilse, on May 7, 1938 in Berlin, Germany. Ilse Tessmann, born December 18, 1913, passed away on July 3, 1998. The Ilse and Bernhard Tessmann Music and Foreign Language Scholarship is awarded at the University of Alabama, Huntsville.


1 Linear foot

Language of Materials


Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Christel McCanless, 2017. Transfer from U.S. Space and Rocket Center, 2018.

Existence and Location of Copies

Processing Information

Collections are processed to a variety of levels, depending on the work necessary to make them usable, their perceived research value, the availability of staff, and competing priorities. The library attempts to provide a basic level of preservation and access for all collections as they are acquired, and does more extensive processing of higher priority collections as time and resources permit.

Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the The University of Alabama in Huntsville Archives & Special Collections Repository

M. Louis Salmon Library
301 Sparkman Drive
Huntsville, AL 35899 Alabama 35899 United States of America