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Wernher Von Braun

Von Braun's gravestone mentions Psalm 19:1: "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.
Apollo program director Sam Phillips was quoted as saying that he did not think that the United States would have reached the Moon as quickly as it did without von Braun's help. Later, after discussing it with colleagues, he amended this to say that he did not believe the United States would have reached the Moon at all.
Wernher von Braun was born on March 23, 1912 in the small town of Wirsitz, in the Posen Province, of the former German Empire. He was the second of three sons. He belonged to a noble family, inheriting the German title of Freiherr (equivalent to Baron).
His father, a civil servant Magnus Freiherr von Braun (1878–1972), served as a Minister of Agriculture during the Weimar Republic. His mother, Emmy von Quistorp (1886–1959), could trace her ancestry through both parents to medieval European royalty and was a descendant of Philip III of France, Valdemar I of Denmark, Robert III of Scotland, and Edward III of England.
In 1930, he attended the Technische Hochschule Berlin, where he joined the Spaceflight Society.
In 1933, von Braun was working on his creative doctorate when the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP, or Nazi Party) came to power in a coalition government in Germany; rocketry almost immediately moved onto the national agenda. During Hitler years he became a member of both Nazi party and SS but was briefly arrested in 1944.
The Soviet Army was about 160 km (99 mi) from Peenemünde in the spring of 1945. Unwilling to go to the Soviets, von Braun and his staff decided to try to surrender to the Americans. Von Braun fabricated documents and transported 500 of his affiliates to the area around Mittelwerk, where they resumed their work. For fear of their works being destroyed by the SS, von Braun ordered the blueprints to be hidden in an abandoned mine shaft in the Harz mountain range.
In April 1945, as the Allied forces advanced deeper into Germany, the engineering team was moved by train into the town of Oberammergau in the Bavarian Alps where they were closely guarded by the SS with orders to execute the team if they were about to fall into enemy hands. However, von Braun managed to convince his SS supervisor, Major Kummer, to order the dispersion of the group into nearby villages so that they would not be an easy target for U.S. bombers.
Von Braun and a large number of the engineering team subsequently made it to Austria. On May 2, 1945, upon finding an American private from the U.S. 44th Infantry Division, von Braun's brother and fellow rocket engineer, Magnus, approached the soldier on a bicycle, calling out in broken English: "My name is Magnus von Braun. My brother invented the V-2. We want to surrender.
Wernher von Braun
202 Media in collectionpage 1 of 3

Wernher von Braun. Herman Oberth's Kegelduese liquid rocket engine being certified.

Dr. von Braun was among a famous group of rocket experimenters in Germany in the 1930s. This photograph is believed to be made on the occasion of Herman Oberth's Kegelduese liquid rocket engine being certified ... more

Early Rockets - V-2 rocket emerges from its camouflaged shelter

In this undated file photo, probably from World War II, a V-2 rocket emerges from its camouflaged shelter. The team of German engineers and scientists who developed the V-2 came to the United States after World... more

Early Rockets - A-4 (Aggregate-4) rocket. Later renamed the V-2 (Vengeance Weapon-2).

The cutaway drawing of the A-4 (Aggregate-4) rocket. Later renamed the V-2 (Vengeance Weapon-2), The rocket was developed by Dr. Wernher von Braun and the German rocket team at Peenemuende, Germany on the Balti... more

Early Rockets - Aggregate-4 (A-4) illustrates the dimensions and internal workings of the rocket. Later renamed the V-2

This German cutaway drawing of the Aggregate-4 (A-4) illustrates the dimensions and internal workings of the rocket. Later renamed the V-2, the rocket was developed by Dr. Wernher von Braun and the German Rocke... more

Early Rockets A-4 (Aggregate-4). Later renamed the V-2 (Vengeance Weapon-2)

This drawing illustrates the vital dimensions of the A-4 (Aggregate-4). Later renamed the V-2 (Vengeance Weapon-2), the rocket was developed by Dr. Wernher von Braun and the German rocket team at Peenemuende, G... more

Early Rockets: German technicians wire vehicles for mobile V-2 batteries

In this photograph from the fall of 1943, German technicians wire vehicles for mobile V-2 batteries in an abandoned railroad turnel in the Rhineland. The team of German engineers and scientists who developed th... more

Early Rockets: German technicians stack the various stages of the V-2 rocket

German technicians stack the various stages of the V-2 rocket in this undated photograph. The team of German engineers and scientists who developed the V-2 came to the United States at the end of World War II a... more

Origin of Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC)

The German Rocket Team, also known as the Von Braun Rocket Team, poses for a group photograph at Fort Bliss, Texas. After World War II ended in 1945, Dr. Wernher von Braun led some 120 of his Peenemuende Collea... more

Early Rockets: V-2 rocket takes flight at White Sands, New Mexico, in 1946.

A V-2 rocket takes flight at White Sands, New Mexico, in 1946. The German engineers and scientists who developed the V-2 came to the United States at the end of World War II and continued rocket testing under t... more

Early Rockets V2 static test

A V-2 rocket is hoisted into a static test facility at White Sands, New Mexico. The German engineers and scientists who developed the V-2 came to the United States at the end of World War II and continued rocke... more

Saturn Apollo Program

This historical photograph is of the Apollo Space Program Leaders. An inscription appears at the top of the image that states, “Our deep appreciation for your outstanding contribution to the success of Apollo ... more

Origin of Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC)

Five pioneers pose with scale models of their missiles they created in the 1950s. From left to right: Dr. Ernst Stuhlinger, a member of the original German rocket team who directed the Research Projects Office,... more

Wernher von Braun

Dr. von Braun stands beside a model of the upper stage (Earth-returnable stage) of the three-stage launch vehicle built for the series of the motion picture productions of space flight produced by Walt Disney i... more

The first Redstone was fired at Cape Canaveral, Florida on August 20, 1953. Redstone was the first major rocket development program for United States by the Peenemuende group led by Dr. Wernher von Braun. The Redstone launch photographed here, from November 17, 1954, was the fifth launch of a Redstone rocket. n/a

The first Redstone was fired at Cape Canaveral, Florida on August 20, 1953. Redstone was the first major rocket development program for United States by the Peenemuende group led by Dr. Wernher von Braun. The R... more

Wernher von Braun

Marshall Center Director Dr. Wernher Von Braun is pictured with Walt Disney during a visit to the Marshall Space Flight Center in 1954. In the 1950s, Dr. Von Braun while working in California on the Saturn proj... more

Wernher von Braun

Dr. Wernher von Braun (center), then Chief of the Guided Missile Development Division at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, discusses a "bottle suit" model with Dr. Heinz Haber (left), an expert on aviation medicine, a... more

Wernher von Braun

Dr. von Braun and Dr. Ernst Stuhlinger at the Observatory of the Rocket City Astronomical Association in 1956.

Wernher von Braun in Huntsville, AL

This snapshot, dated November 1957, shows Dr. von Braun in downtown Huntsville, Alabama.

Origin of Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) - Wernher von Braun

(From left to right) Karl L. Heimburg, Director of the Test Laboratory; Dr. Wernher von Braun, Director of the Development Operation Division; and Major General John B. Medaris with the model of S-1B Test Stand... more

Wernher von Braun

Jet Propulsion Laboratory Director Dr. James Pickering, Dr. James van Allen of the State University of Iowa, and Army Ballistic missionile Agency Technical Director Dr. Wernher von Braun triumphantly display a ... more

Wernher von Braun

Dr. von Braun inside the blockhouse during the launch of the Jupiter C/Explorer III in March 1958.

Wernher von Braun

Professor Hermann Oberth and Dr. von Braun are briefed on satellite orbits by Dr. Charles A. Lundquist at Army Ballistic Missile Agency, Redstone Arsenal, Huntsville, Alabama.

Wernher von Braun

In this photo, Dr. Wernher von Braun, Director of the U.S. Army Ballistic Missile Agency's (ABMA) Development Operations Division, is shown briefing the seven original Mercury astronauts in ABMA's Fabrication L... more

Wernher von Braun

Marshall Space Flight Center Director Wernher von Braun presents General J.B. Medaris with a new golf bag. General Medaris, (left) was a Commander of the Army Ballistic Missile Agency (ABMA) in Redstone Arsenal... more

Wernher von Braun

In this 1959 photo, taken at Cape Canaveral, Florida, Dr. von Braun (2nd from left) Director of the U.S. Army Ballistic Missile Agency's (ABMA) Development Operations Division, is shown conferring with Air Forc... more

Wernher von Braun

Marshall Space Flight Center Director Wernher von Braun presents General J.B. Medaris with a new golf bag. General Medaris, (left) was a Commander of the Army Ballistic Missile Agency (ABMA) in Redstone Arsenal... more

Wernher von Braun

Five of the seven original astronauts are seen with Dr. von Braun inspecting the Mercury-Redstone hardware in the Fabrication Laboratory of Army Ballistic Missile Agency (ABMA) in 1959. Left to right: Astronaut... more

Mercury Project

Dr. Wernher von Braun, Director of the Army Ballistic Missile Agency's (ABMA) Development Operations Division, poses with the original Mercury astronauts in ABMA's Fabrication Laboratory during a 1959 visit. In... more

Wernher von Braun

This photograph of Dr. von Braun, shown here to the left of General Bruce Medaris, was taken in the fall of 1959, immediately prior to Medaris' retirement from the Army. At the time, von Braun and his associate... more

Wernher von Braun

In this picture, Dr. Wernher von Braun, who was serving as Director of the Army Ballistic Missile Agency's (ABMA) Development Operations Division, is shown posed with his Mercedes 220SE automobile in front of R... more

Wernher von Braun

Dr. von Braun received a federal civilian service award from President Dwight Eisenhower on January 21, 1959.

Wernher von Braun

In this photo, (left to right) Army Ballistic Missile Agency (ABMA) Missile Firing Laboratory Chief Dr. Kurt Debus, Director of the ABMA Development Operations Division, Dr. von Braun and an unidentified indivi... more

Wernher von Braun

In this photo, Director of the U.S. Army Ballistic Missile Agency's (ABMA) Development Operations Division, Dr. Wernher von Braun, and Director of Missile Firing Division, Dr. Kurt Debus, are shown with unident... more

Wernher von Braun

Dr. von Braun on the telephone prior to the launch of the Pioneer IV, March 1, 1959.

Wernher von Braun

Dr. von Braun, Director of the Development Operations Divisons, and Dr. Debus, Director of the Missile Firing Laboratory; Army Ballistic Missile Agency (ABMA), in the blockhouse during the launch of the Pioneer... more

Wernher von Braun

This photograph shows Dr. von Braun, second from the left, in the blockhouse at the Florida launch facilities on March 3, 1959. He and others gathered for the launch of the Pioneer IV satellite. On the left of ... more

Wernher von Braun

Dr. von Braun at the launch control room during the Pioneer IV launch, March 3, 1959.

Wernher von Braun

Dr. Wernher von Braun, Director of the U.S. Army Ballistic Missile Agency's (ABMA) Development Operations Division, rides with his two daughters, Margrit and Iris, in a parade in downtown Huntsville, Alabama, M... more

Wernher von Braun

Dr. Wernher von Braun, Director of the U.S. Army Ballistic Missile Agency's (ABMA) Development Operations Division, talks to Huntsville Mayor R. B. "Speck" Searcy, center, and Army Ordnance Missile Command (ARM... more

Origin of Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC)

In this picture, negotiations are under way between officials of the Army Ballistic Missile Agency (ABMA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) on August 11, 1959. Seated at the table wit... more

Wernher von Braun with a correspondent for CBS News

This is a photograph, probably from the early 1960s, that shows Dr. von Braun, right, with a correspondent for CBS News. The correspondent is believed to be Nelson Benton. The two men are standing in front of a... more

Wernher von Braun in the Army Ballistic Missile Agency (ABMA)

This photograph was taken in 1960 and shows Dr. von Braun, left, and Secretary of the Army, Wilbur Brucker in the Army Ballistic Missile Agency (ABMA) Fabrication Laboratory.

Wernher von Braun during a visit to McDonnell Aircraft to inspect Mercury spacecraft manufacturing

In this undated photograph, Dr. von Braun is shown during a visit to McDonnell Aircraft to inspect Mercury spacecraft manufacturing.

Wernher von Braun

Dr. Wernher von Braun served as Marshall Space Flight Center's first director from July 1, 1960 until January 27, 1970, when he was appointed NASA Deputy Associate Administrator for Plarning. Following World Wa... more

Wernher von Braun standing before a display of Army missiles celebrating ABMA's Fourth Open House

In this photo, Director of the US Army Ballistic Missile Agency (ABMA) Development Operations Division, Dr. Wernher von Braun, is standing before a display of Army missiles celebrating ABMA's Fourth Open House.... more

Wernher von Braun in the launch control facilities at the Kennedy Space Center

This photograph is not dated. It was probably taken in the late 1960s. Dr. von Braun appears to be in the launch control facilities at the Kennedy Space Center.

Wernher von Braun conducting a tour briefing for a group of visitors

This updated photograph shows Dr. von Braun conducting a tour briefing for a group of visitors to the Marshall Space Flight Center. The photograph was probably taken in the early 1960s.

Wernher von Braun at the Douglas Aircraft Company's Missile Space Systems Division

This photograph is believed to have been taken in the early 1960s and shows Dr. von Braun at the Douglas Aircraft Company's Missile Space Systems Division in Sacramento, California.

Wernher von Braun in front of a Saturn rocket hardware transporter

This is a photograph of Dr. von Braun in front of a Saturn rocket hardware transporter. He appears to be addressing a group. Behind him are workers and other NASA officials. There is no date on the photograph. ... more

Wernher von Braun at his desk with moon lander in background

Photo of Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) Director Dr. Wernher von Braun at his desk with moon lander in background and rocket models on his desk. Dr. von Braun served as Marshall's first director from 1960 ... more

Wernher von Braun views a demonstration of a simulated spacecraft

Edward O. Buckbee, the first Director of the Alabama Space Science Center (left), and Dr. Wernher von Braun (right) view a demonstration of a simulated spacecraft which uses an actual hybrid rocket engine for l... more

Wernher von Braun looks at a model of the Saturn I launch complex

Dr. von Braun and Don Ostrander, head of the Launch Vehicle Program of the NASA Headquarters look at a model of the Saturn I launch complex 34.

Wernher von Braun with a young boy looking at a space-related exhibit

Dr. von Braun always promoted an increased emphasis on education in American culture. He is shown in this photograph with a young boy looking at a space-related exhibit.

Wernher von Braun viewing a parade with Major General John Barclay

This photograph was taken about 1960 and shows Dr. von Braun viewing a parade with Major General John Barclay.

Origin of Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC)

Dr. Wernher von Braun and Maj. Gen. August Schomburg officiate the official transfer of the Army Ballistic Missile Agency (ABMA) to the NASA George C. Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) on July 1, 1960. The Of... more

Wernher von Braun with President Dwight D. Eisenhower

President Dwight D. Eisenhower and MSFC Director Dr. Wernher von Braun share a joke as other dignitaries look on. Eisenhower was visiting Marshall to participate in the September 8, 1960 dedication ceremony.

Wernher von Braun briefs President Dwight D. Eisenhower

Dr. von Braun briefs President Eisenhower at the front of the S1 Stage (first Stage) of the Saturn 1 vehicle at the Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) on September 8, 1960. The President's visit was to dedicat... more

Wernher von Braun in his office

Dr. Wernher von Braun, Marshall's first Center Director (1960-1970), in his office with illustrations of rocket models behind him.

Organization chart - Origin of Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC)

The first organizational chart of the George C. Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) which was approved and signed by Dr. Wernher von Braun, Director, MSFC, on 26 October 1960.

Wernher von Braun with general

Marshall Space Flight Center’s (MSFC) Director, Dr. Wernher von Braun, is pictured here with Army Ballistic Missile Agency’s (ABMA) Commanding General, J.B. Medaris, before a display of Army missles at the ABMA test lab.

Wernher von Braun tried out a floating platform in the Marshall Space Flight Center

Dr. von Braun tried out a floating platform in the Marshall Space Flight Center Manufacturing Engineering Laboratory. This was a test rig to help determine how future astronauts will be able to perform maintena... more

Wernher von Braun with members of his management team

Dr. von Braun is shown in this photograph, which was probably taken in the early 1960s, with members of his management team. Pictured from left to right are, Werner Kuers, Director of the Manufacturing Engineer... more

Wernher von Braun in Marshall Space Flight Center

During his tenure as Director of the Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC), Dr. von Braun enjoyed personally touring the Center's many space-related laboratories and facilities. This photo taken about 1961 shows ... more

Wernher von Braun and Alabama Congressman Robert Jones

This 1961 photograph shows Dr. von Braun and Alabama Congressman Robert Jones before a huge map illustrating the layout for a Research Institute at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

Wernher von Braun skin diving in Puerto Rico

Dr. Wernher von Braun, Marshall's first Center Director (1960-1970), skin diving in Puerto Rico.

Saturn C1 - Apollo Program

Progress in the Saturn program, depicted below, was described by Dr. Wernher von Braun, Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) Director, in an appearance before the Senate Committee of Aeronautical and Space Scien... more

Wernher von Braun visiting North American Aviation's Space and Information Systems Division

This is a photograph of Dr. von Braun, taken in 1961, visiting North American Aviation's Space and Information Systems Division in Downey, California.

Saturn 1 launch vehicle - Apollo Program

Pictured in front of the Saturn 1 launch vehicle are (L to R): Dr. Rocco Petrone, Director of Launch Operations at Kennedy Space Center; Dr. Werher von Braun, Director of Marshall Space Flight Center; Dr. Oswal... more

Wernher von Braun during his appearance before the Senate Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences

Dr. von Braun, Director of the Marshall Space Flight Center, spoke of the progress in the Saturn Program during his appearance before the Senate Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences. He was accompanied ... more

Wernher von Braun and Astronaut L. Gordon Cooper

Photographed are Dr. von Braun and Astronaut L. Gordon Cooper in the blockhouse during the recovery operation of the MR-3 (Freedom 7) mission on May 5, 1961. The MR-3 mission, a 15-1/2-minute suborbital test fl... more

Wernher von Braun

This is a photograph of a group of government officials touring the Marshall Space Flight Center in July 1961 with Dr. von Braun. Second from left is Alabama Congressman Robert Jones.

Wernher von Braun during his visit to the Huntsville Boy's Club

Dr. Wernher von Braun during his visit to the Huntsville Boy's Club on August 14, 1961.

Wernher von Braun

Dr. Wernher von Braun, Director of Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC), teams up with Senator Robert S. Kerr, a chairman of the Senate Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences to break ground for MSFC's new... more

Wernher von Braun

Dr. Wernher von Braun holds the coveted Hermarn Oberth award presented to him by Professor Oberth during the banquet hosted by the Alabama Section of the American Rocket Society (ARS), on October 19, 1961. The ... more

Wernher von Braun

Dr. von Braun watches the Saturn 1 (SA-1) launch through a scope from the blockhouse 34 on October 27, 1961. The SA-1 was the first launch of Saturn launch vehicles developed at the Marshall Space Flight Center... more

Wernher von Braun

Dr. Wernher von Braun, Director of the Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC), during his tour of the Space information Division of North American Aviation (NAA) in Downey, California, where the Saturn SII stage w... more

Around Marshall

The members of the House Committee on Science and Astronautics visited the Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) on March 9, 1962 to gather firsthand information of the nation’s space exploration program. The con... more

The members of the House Committee on Science and Astronautics visited the Marshall Space Flight Center

The members of the House Committee on Science and Astronautics visited the Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) on March 9, 1962 to gather firsthand information of the nation’s space exploration program. The con... more

Around Marshall - The members of the House Committee on Science and Astronautics visited the Marshall Space Flight Center

The members of the House Committee on Science and Astronautics visited the Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) on March 9, 1962 to gather firsthand information of the nation’s space exploration program. The con... more

The members of the House Committee on Science and Astronautics visited the Marshall Space Flight Center

The members of the House Committee on Science and Astronautics visited the Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) on March 9, 1962 to gather firsthand information of the nation’s space exploration program. The con... more

Around Marshall

The members of the House Committee on Science and Astronautics visited the Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) on March 9, 1962 to gather firsthand information of the nation’s space exploration program. The con... more

Around Marshall

The members of the House Committee on Science and Astronautics visited the Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) on March 9, 1962 to gather firsthand information of the nation’s space exploration program. The con... more

Wernher von Braun with Mr. Mrs. Arthur Fiedler of the Boston Pops Orchestra

Mr. Mrs. Arthur Fiedler of the Boston Pops Orchestra and Dr. von Braun in his office during the Fiedlers' visit to the Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) on March, 23, 1962.

Wernher von Braun

Dr. von Braun's 50th Birthday Party was celebrated at the Officers Club at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama on March 23, 1962. Dr. von Braun cuts his birthday cake, while congressman Bob Jones looks on.

Wernher von Braun - during prelaunch activities of the Ranger IV

Dr. Kurt Debus and Dr. von Braun during prelaunch activities of the Ranger IV at Launch Pad 12 on April 12. 1962.

Wernher von Braun and Astronaut John Glenn

Dr. von Braun (right) and Astronaut John Glenn examine a model of a lunar landing stage during a talk on the manned lunar exploration program by about sixty key officials of the nation's space program at the Ma... more

Wernher von Braun

Dr. von Braun in his office with models of rockets, April 20, 1962. Dr. von Braun was the director of the Marshall Space Flight Center from July 1960 through February 1970.

Wernher von Braun

NASA officials from Headquarters and the astronauts often met with Dr. von Braun in Huntsville, Alabama. This photograph was taken in September 1962 during one such visit. From left to right are Elliot See, Tom... more

Wernher von Braun explains a detail from a Saturn IB mockup

Marshall Space Flight Center Director Dr. Wernher von Braun explains a detail from a Saturn IB mockup and engine to President John F. Kennedy, Vice President Lyndon Johnson and other guests, September 11, 1962.

Wernher von Braun

This is a photograph of Dr. von Braun greeting President Kennedy upon his arrival at the Marshall Space Flight Center on September 12, 1962.

Wernher von Braun

President John F. Kennedy, Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson and Marshall Space Flight Center Director Dr. Wernher von Braun at the Redstone Arsenal Airfield, September 11, 1962. Kennedy and Johnson visited the ... more

Wernher von Braun briefs Astronaut John Glenn

Dr. von Braun briefs Astronaut John Glenn in the control room of the Vehicle Test Section, Quality Assurance Division, Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC), November 28, 1962.

Wernher von Braun and Alabama Governor, John Patterson

Dr. von Braun, Major General Francis McMorrow, and Alabama Governor, John Patterson (far left) participated in the ground breaking ceremony for the University of Alabama Research Institute in Huntsville, Decemb... more

Wernher von Braun with the front page of the Huntsville Times arnouncing the launch of Explorer I

Dr. von Braun is presented with the front page of the Huntsville Times arnouncing the launch of Explorer I, the first U.S. Earth satellite, which was boosted by the Jupiter-C launch vehicle developed by Army Ba... more

Wernher von Braun with Associate Administrator Robert Seamans

A group of NASA officials, headed by Associate Administrator Robert Seamans, toured the Marshall Space Flight Center with Dr. von Braun in 1963.

Wernher von Braun and Professor Hermann Oberth

Dr. von Braun and Professor Hermann Oberth are honored by the Berlin Technical University. Both received honorary doctorates on January 8, 1963.

Wernher von Braun took a supersonic flight in the T-38

Dr. von Braun took a supersonic flight in the T-38 at Edwards Air Force Base, California.

Maria von Braun, wife of Wernher von Braun

This is a portrait of Maria von Braun, wife of the famous Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) director Wernher von Braun. Her husband, Wernher, who led America to the Moon, served as MSFC’s first director fro... more