Immigrant Dad’s tutorial on the “real hidden figures” in Hidden Figures

The local 9th graders were sentenced to watch Hidden Figures by their English teacher. Immigrant Dad’s running text message commentary:

Watching the movie “Hidden Figures” about Black women at NASA. About how they created the space program for us.

I stopped the movie to say that the real hidden figures were 1600 Nazi scientists, led by Werner von Braun, the SS Sturmbannführer [major] who basically did everything.

All white males.


In this movie, von Braun is nowhere to be seen despite scenes with Alan Shepard and NASA top brass

Can’t afford to have an SS guy in this poetic script.

Black women all coding now. And teaching white men how to do it.

This whole film was a giant waste of time.

I need to help my kid write a paper referencing this work of woke art. I am teaching them how to feed idiots what they want to hear. Useful in life.

Another friend chimed in:

The scene where Harrison smashes the Colored Ladies Room sign never happened, as in real life Katherine refused to walk the extra distance to use the colored bathroom and, in her words, “just went to the White one”

A Silicon Valley coder in the chat group:

These ladies make money in a more civilized manner: (featuring Joe Biden’s friend Cardi B). Those fingernails are like Chinese foot binding, they say, “I am too important to do a ghetto job like programming.” Remember that the black struggle was all about getting off the plantation; why go back to it with all the Indians and people on the autism spectrum? [black power fist emoji]

I’m not sure that the youngsters learned what the teacher was hoping they would…

They are watching and making fun of it. Especially black women programmers. In [one kid’s] view Blacks are as rare in computer science as whites in basketball.

How does Immigrant Dad’s history lesson hold up? Wikipedia:

Operation Paperclip was a secret program of the Joint Intelligence Objectives Agency (JIOA) largely carried out by special agents of Army CIC, in which more than 1,600 German scientists, engineers, and technicians, such as Wernher von Braun and his V-2 rocket team, were taken from Germany to the United States, for U.S. government employment, primarily between 1945 and 1959. Many were former members, and some were former leaders, of the Nazi Party.

Some January photos from the Kennedy Space Center. Note that programmer Margaret Hamilton is depicted larger than life size, while Werner von Braun is at 1/10th the scale. (The photo on the bottom is captioned “The Original Mercury Seven Astronauts with a USAF F-106.” Alan Shepard is among them. They are but midgets next to Margaret Hamilton.)

And this is a good time to reprise my heroic Cirrus SR20 landing on a 15,000′ runway (same trip):

Also a good time to remember our hosts down there, Al Worden, who sadly died just 6 weeks later despite seeming to be in perfect health, and Bruce Melnick, helicopter pilot-turned-astronaut.


14 thoughts on “Immigrant Dad’s tutorial on the “real hidden figures” in Hidden Figures

  1. >I am teaching them how to feed idiots what they want to hear. Useful in life.

    A true liberal education gives one the intellectual tools to think for oneself. The true progressive education teaches one how to let others think for you.

    • @Mememe: Just as a tiny symptom of the larger disease, I’m sure everyone has noticed that so many news organizations now tell you: “What you need to know…” ; “How to understand…” ; “The bigger picture…” ; “The bottom line…”.

      Axios’ editorial style was created specifically to do this but all of the major news orgs. now do it, particularly the Washington Post and the NYT.

      They exist not to inform but to coerce the reader to internalize the preconceived analyses and conclusions. Pure propaganda, in other words.

    • This is certainly a more useful skill than what school purport to teach. I laugh at any public school teacher who encourages their students to think for themselves because I know how those teachers act around their superiors.

  2. Thought the movie was extremely overdone. The discrimination depicted didn’t exist at NASA because they were focused on winning the cold war. Nowadays, they do have bandwidth to worry about who’s stale, pale & male.

  3. I don’t understand the objection. This movie isn’t telling the story of the space program. It’s telling the story of this one person within it. Why not? What harm does that do? It’s just one piece of a larger picture.

    Also, implying that SS stormtroopers were the totality of the space program is equally as false and pernicious as implying that this one black person did everything (which is not what the movie says at all!).

    I would love to see a good movie about Operation Paperclip. Do you really think it’s a good idea to make one, though? Von Braun was culpable for, and unrepentant about, an awful lot of deaths in WWII.

  4. The typical joke on why we won the Space Race with the Soviets is we got “the better Nazis”. And it’s actually true, part of von Braun’s team chose to stay behind in Bleicherode under Helmut Grottrup. You can read up on Operation Osoaviakhim

    There is a famous photo with him and JFK walking around the Redstone Arsenal in 1963.

    On a separate note, von Braun was extremely driven and had he not gotten sick while relatively young he may have been able to persuade TPTB to continue with his plans to go farther. You can find videos on YouTube of him explaining his ideas about how to get to Mars.

    • The F-106 could be armed with the Douglas AIR-2 Genie, the unguided air/air nuke with yield ~1.5 kilotons. We made ~3,000 of those.

      “Targeting, arming, and firing of the weapon were coordinated by the launch aircraft’s fire-control system. Detonation was by time-delay fuze, although the fuzing mechanism would not arm the warhead until engine burn-out, to give the launch aircraft sufficient time to turn and escape. However, there was no mechanism for disarming the warhead after launch. Lethal radius of the blast was estimated to be about 300 metres (980 ft).”

      That’ll show ’em!

  5. Part of any trip to Kennedy Space center in Florida should include a side trip to Huntsville Alabama and Redstone Arsenal. Huntsville is the city the gov’t took over and moved all the Nazis to after WWII. The place is know as rocket city and where most of our moon stuff was designed by repatriated Germans.

    A big part of the city is ethnic German. Even today stores and restaurants feature German menus and signs…

    • I followed the Alabama Germany link and read about the pow camps. When I was in Germany in the 80s I was talking to an older guy who had been a POW in Alabama and he was all positive about it and the US. I thought that was strange if I had been a prisoner some where I don’t think I would feel very good about them. But then I thought about it. If I was in the Wehrmacht choosing an assignment what would I want? The eastern front. I don’t think so. Prisoner in Siberia. Not much better. The Western front? Um what else you got. A prison farm in Alabama?Yeah yeah I think I will take that.

  6. It’s the Swastika.

    Anyone who uses it gains great skill in applied natural philosophy.

    Witness the success of brown-skinned Aryans in today’s Silicon Valley.

  7. The unsung heroes are always the “people on the ground” making things happen. Doesn’t matter whether black, white, brown, male, female, other, etc. Most of these people like doing what they do and taking on challenges (some technical, many people-related). Of course, the credit usually goes to the managers/spokespeople (think Elon Musk, etc.) and while they may be good leaders, it’s the fact that they mostly surround themselves with can-do people (who actually do). A friend of mine’s son manages the software for Space X’s Falcon 9 (reusable rocket), and after a lot of development, seems to have done a good job of making it work fairly consistently. Of course, he still gets nervous before launch time… (and much more so for the first 11 minutes or so into the flight, as I am told!). P.S. Love the SR20 photos!

    • PaulG: Based on the size of the photos at the Kennedy Space Center, the real heroes are not those who go up into space (e.g., the Mercury astronauts), but those who identify as “female” and sit at a desk on the ground. Some of the (apparently white male) mission control guys are also celebrated as heroes for flying a desk.

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