HONOLULU, January 24, 2015 — History-of-aviation scholar and writer Robert F. Dorr is legendary in military and civilian aviation circles for his highly detailed, technical books and articles on the most advanced aircraft ever to take flight in the wild blue yonder. Writing and featured in prestigious publications like The Air Force Magazine since he was as young as 15, Dorr has captivated imaginations the world over with his incredible talent for retelling the stories of aviators in combat and putting readers directly in the cockpit beside them.
Fans who have followed and admired Dorr’s nonfiction work over the years will be delighted to discover that he has now branched out into writing novels with the release of his new book, Hitler’s Time Machine. It’s an action packed, historical science fiction thriller that touches on long held rumors concerning the secret projects of both Nazi and Allied sides of WWII.
In Hitler’s Time Machine, Dorr takes readers back in time before the Pearl Harbor attack and the American entry into WWII. He explores the idea of using time travel as a weapon, an idea developed under research in parallel in both the U.S. and Nazi Germany. As both sides attempt to outwit each other in a battle for control of history and time, Dorr presents one of the most incredibly authoritative novels you’ll ever get your hands on.
As both a political scientist and a long-time military aviation aficionado, I consider Hitler’s Time Machine the must-have, must-read historical science fiction novel of 2015. Since Dorr is known for his decades of uncompromising attention to historical accuracy, mastery of military technology, and virtual obsession with minute detail, readers can’t help but wonder whether the fictional events described by Dorr might have a real world kernel of truth to them.
In a CDN exclusive, I recently had the honor of interviewing Dorr on his latest project, exploring with him as well his take on the direction both technology and the world have been taking since the Second World War.
DDG: Robert, you’re one of the most well-recognized aviation and military authors in the world today and multiple generations have grown up reading and learning from your work. When I was in ROTC during the 1990s, we used your books as research material. What got you started in writing historical military aviation and what inspired you more recently to branch out into writing science fiction novels?
Dorr: When I was five years old in 1945, my father pointed up at two Northrop P-61 Black Widow fighters flying over our house in Washington, D.C. I was hooked. There is no easy explanation, since my family had neither a military nor an aviation background. Still, I had my first aviation article published in the November 1955 issue of Air Force magazine when I was fifteen, so I’ve been writing about the Air Force and aviation for 60 years.
It has been a rich and rewarding experience that has made me many friends and given me many wonderful experiences, including the opportunity to fly in 124 types of aircraft. I’ve always wanted to try alternate history. In 1985, I wrote down a few notes for a novel about a commando raid, something like The Dirty Dozen or The Guns of Navarone.
I needed a target, and my first thought was that it might be a German radar station. But then I thought, “What if the Germans were developing a time machine?” I set those notes aside and worked on other stuff. In 2014, thanks to a writer’s group in Manassas, Virginia, known as Write By The Rails, I learned about National Novel Writing Month — essentially, a national challenge to finish a work of fiction in 30 days during November. I dusted off those old notes. My most recent non-fiction book was about the race to develop jet aircraft by both sides in World War II. So I decided to write a novel about the race to develop time machines on both sides. I wrote “Hitler’s Time Machine” in 22 days in November 2014 and published it in December.
DDG: Hitler’s Time Machine is a fascinating read that touches a number of ongoing legends, including the Philadelphia Experiment, Die Glocke − a purported top secret Nazi scientific technological device or secret “wonder weapon” (Wunderwaffe) − and several others. Even though WWII ended almost seven decades ago, there still is a lot of secrecy surrounding the military technology and experimental projects of that era. In fact, nearly everything we have in today’s modern military – stealth technology, nuclear weapons, aerospace craft, computers, etc. – can be traced to either the “wonder weapons” of Nazi Germany or the special projects of the Allies during the war. Do you think that your book may fuel the fire of questions regarding the real-life secret experiments of WWII?
Dorr: I hope readers will put down Hitler’s Time Machine and ask themselves whether we have more to learn about secret experiments during World War II. We’ve learned only recently about a German company named Elemag that sought to produce a giant device that would use the atmosphere as a giant conductor. It would use the very air we breathe as a method to turn off all electrically operated devices.
This was many years before we knew about electomagnetic pulse, or EMP, emitted by a nuclear detonation, that can disable the electrical grid. We also know today that the German side did discuss the possibility of time travel.
In the 1980s, the U.S. government invested in a secret program to use psychics and clairvoyants to observe the adversary — at the time, the Sandinistas in Nicaragua — from thousands of miles away. This program required a compartmentalized security clearance and was never explained in detail to Congress. It was kept secret not for any genuine reason of security but because the average American would have thought it to be a waste of money.
To paraphrase former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, we don’t know what we don’t know. Are there secret programs out there today? If so, aren’t we entitled to know about them? Hitler’s Time Machine is written in such a way that, if the events in the book really happened, no one today would know it.
DDG: The ending of Hitler’s Time Machine raises even more questions both about the past and the future of the world. Do you see yourself writing a possible sequel?
Dorr: I’m excited about Barbara Stafford, the American scientist in Hitler’s Time Machine. The book ends with the Sicily invasion of July 10, 1943 — most of the events in the book really happened on the dates I used — and while it appears to seal the fate of Adolf Hitler and Heinrich Himmler, the reader doesn’t explicitly see those bad guys taken down. Yes, if there is enough interest, Barbara and some of the other characters in Hitler’s Time Machine will certainly appear in a sequel. And, by the way, Hitler’s Time Machine would make a great graphic novel and I hope to convince a publisher of that.
DDG: Speaking of secret Nazi experiments, during WWII Allied pilots coined the term “foo fighters” to describe unusual aircraft that they saw in the skies over Europe and the Pacific. As an aviation expert and now a historical science fiction author, would you ever consider writing a book about that topic?
Dorr: I’m also a former editor of a UFO magazine. I know of hundreds of sightings of odd lights and/or flying objects for which there does not appear to be a rational explanation. That said, I don’t believe the “foo fighters” were real.
There was a sighting by the crew of a Royal Air Force Bristol Beaufighter that is often linked to the “foo fighter” mystique and it remains unexplained. But the term “foo fighters” made its debit in a book about B-17 Flying Fortress crews by Martin Caidin, who was a friend and a mentor. Marty was a great writer who anticipated the narrative style into which history has since evolved but he often added imaginary touches to his work. Marty made up the “foo fighters.”
DDG: In recent years there’s been a kind of technological arms race in the area of unmanned, remotely piloted aircraft. How do you feel about the rise of the “drone wars” and what do you think this will mean for manned aviation?
Dorr: The high priority given to remotely piloted aircraft (the Air Force’s term) or drones (as everybody else calls them) was very much the work of Robert Gates who was Defense Secretary from 2006 to 2011. Drones were never as important as Gates made them, but they do have a role to play and they are being widely used.
I believe it is a mistake to allow the Central Intelligence Agency to conduct targeted killings with drones. An intelligence agency should not be doing the work of the armed forces. To some extent, I think drones are a fad that will peak soon. Drones will not replace manned aircraft. However, I sure would like to know what the unmanned X-37B spacecraft is doing. It remains in orbit for a year or more at a time and the Pentagon will just barely admit that it exists without describing its mission. Our first priority today should be a manned bomber, not a drone.
DDG: Do you think that interdimensional travel or even time travel as discussed in your novel may, in fact, be something that today’s governments may be researching in secret?
Dorr: Yes. I also believe there is too much secrecy in government today and studies like this should be made known to lawmakers and to the public.
DDG: You’ve written about numerous military aircraft over the years. I’m sure many of our readers are curious to know, do you have an all time favorite airplane?
Dorr: I spent more time studying the McDonnell F-4 Phantom II than any other airplane and it’s one of many fast jets I’ve gotten to fly in. Another favorite aircraft that has a cameo role in “Hitler’s Time Machine” is the British Spitfire fighter.
We greatly appreciate the opportunity to interview Mr. Dorr. His latest novel, Hitler’s Time Machine is available now on Amazon.com and in e-reader format on Kindle.