The examples and perspective in this article may not include all significant viewpoints. (January 2017)
Operation Paperclip was a secret United States Joint Intelligence Objectives Agency (JIOA) program in which more than 1,600 German scientists, engineers, and technicians (many of whom were formerly registered members of the Nazi Party and some of whom had leadership roles in the Nazi Party), including Wernher von Braun's rocket team, were recruited and brought to the United States for government employment from post-Nazi Germany (after World War II). The primary purpose for Operation Paperclip was for the U.S. to gain a military advantage in the burgeoning Cold War, and later Space Race, between the U.S. and Soviet Union. By comparison, the Soviet Union were even more aggressive in recruiting Germans: during Operation Osoaviakhim, Soviet military units forcibly (at gunpoint) recruited 2,000+ German specialists to the Soviet Union during one night.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) established the first secret recruitment program, called Operation Overcast, on July 20, 1945, initially "to assist in shortening the Japanese war and to aid our postwar military research." The term “Overcast” was the name first given by the German scientists’ family members for the housing camp where they were held in Bavaria. In late summer 1945, the JCS established the Joint Intelligence Objectives Agency (JIOA), a subcommmittee of the Joint Intelligence Community, to directly oversee Operation Overcast and later Operation Paperclip. The JIOA had one representative of each member agency of the Joint Intelligence Committee: the army's director of intelligence, the chief of naval intelligence, the assistant chief of Air Staff-2 (air force intelligence), and a representative from the State Department. In November 1945, Operation Overcast was renamed Operation Paperclip by Ordnance Corps (United States Army) officers, who would attach a paperclip to the folders of those rocket experts whom they wished to employ in America. President Truman formally approved Operation Paperclip and expanded it to include one thousand German scientists in a secret directive, circulated on September 3, 1946.
Key recruits by Operation Paperclip (incomplete list)
- Aeronautics and Rocketry
- Hans Amtmann, Herbert Axster, Erich Ball, Oscar Bauschinger, Hermann Beduerftig, Rudi Beichel, Anton Beier, Herbert Bergeler, Magnus von Braun, Wernher von Braun, Theodor Buchhold, Walter Burose, G N Constan, Werner Dahm, Konrad Dannenberg, Kurt H. Debus, Gerd De Beek, Walter Dornberger, Gerhard Drawe, Friedrich Duerr, Ernst R. G. Eckert, Otto Eisenhardt, Krafft Arnold Ehricke, Alfred Finzel, Edward Fischel, Karl Fleischer, Herbert Fuhrmann, Ernst Geissler, Werner Gengelbach, Dieter Grau, Hans Gruene, Herbert Guendel, Fritz Haber, Heinz Haber, Karl Hager, Guenther Haukohl, Karl Heimburg, Emil Hellebrand, Gerhard Heller, Bruno Helm, Rudolf Hermann, Bruno Heusinger, Guenther Hintze, Heinz-Hermann Koelle, Sighard F. Hoerner, Oscar Holderer, Hans Hosenthien, Walter Jacobi, Erich Kaschig, Ernst Klaus, Theodore Knacke, Siegfried Knemeyer, Gustav Kroll, Werner Kuers, Hermann H. Kurzweg, Hermann Lange, Hans Lindenberg, Hans Lindenmayr, Alexander Martin Lippisch, Hans Maus, Helmut Merk, Joseph Michel, Hans Milde, Heinz Millinger, Rudolf Minning, Willy Mrazek, Hans Multhopp, Erich Neubert, Hermann Oberth (advisor), Hans von Ohain, Robert Paetz, Hans Palaoro, Kurt Patt, Hans Paul,Theodor Poppel, Werner Rosinski, Heinrich Rothe, Ludwig Roth, Arthur Rudolph, Fredrich von Saurma, Martin Schilling, Helmut Schlitt, Albert Schuler, August Schulze, Walter Schwidetzky, Ernst Steinhoff, Wolfgang Steurer, Ernst Stuhlinger, Kurt Tank, Bernhard Tessmann, Adolf Thiel, Georg von Tiesenhausen, Werner Tiller, J.G. Tschinkel, Arthur Urbanski, Fritz Vandersee, Werner Voss, Theodor Vowe, Herbert A. Wagner, Hermann Weidner, and Walter Fritz Wiesemann (see List of German rocket scientists in the US).
- Heinz Hilten and Hannes Luehrsen.
- Electronics - including guidance systems, radar and satellites
- Wilhelm Angele, Ernst Baars, Josef Boehm, Hans Fichtner, Hans Friedrich, Eduard Gerber,Georg Goubau, Walter Haeussermann, H. Otto Hirschler, Otto Hoberg, Rudolf Hoelker, Hans Hollmann, Helmut Hölzer, Horst Kedesdy, Kurt Lehovec, Kurt Lindner, J.W. Muehlner, Fritz Mueller, Johannes Plendl, Fritz Karl Preikschat, Eberhard Rees, Gerhard Reisig, Harry Ruppe, Heinz Schlicke, Werner Sieber, Albin Wittmann, Hugo Woerdemann, Albert Zeiler, and Hans K. Ziegler.
- Material Science (high temperature)
- Claus Scheufelen and Rudolf Schlidt.
- Medicine – including biological weapons, chemical weapons, and space medicine
- Theodor Benzinger, Rudolf Brill, Konrad Johannes Karl Büttner, Richard Lindenberg, Walter Schreiber, Hubertus Strughold and Erich Traub.
- Gunter Guttein, Gerhard Schwesinger, Helmut Weickmann, and Friedwardt Winterberg.
Nazi Germany found itself at a logistical disadvantage, having failed to conquer the USSR with Operation Barbarossa (June–December 1941), the Siege of Leningrad (September 1941 – January 1944), Operation Nordlicht ("Northern Light", August–October 1942), and the Battle of Stalingrad (July 1942 – February 1943). The failed conquest had depleted German resources, and its military-industrial complex was unprepared to defend the Großdeutsches Reich (Greater German Reich) against the Red Army's westward counterattack. By early 1943, the German government began recalling from combat, a number of scientists, engineers, and technicians; they returned to work in research and development to bolster German defense for a protracted war with the USSR. The recall from frontline combat included 4,000 rocketeers returned to Peenemünde, in northeast coastal Germany.
Overnight, Ph.D.s were liberated from KP duty, masters of science were recalled from orderly service, mathematicians were hauled out of bakeries, and precision mechanics ceased to be truck drivers.— Dieter K. Huzel, Peenemünde to Canaveral
The Nazi government's recall of their now-useful intellectuals for scientific work first required identifying and locating the scientists, engineers, and technicians, then ascertaining their political and ideological reliability. Werner Osenberg, the engineer-scientist heading the Wehrforschungsgemeinschaft (Military Research Association), recorded the names of the politically cleared men to the Osenberg List, thus reinstating them to scientific work.
In March 1945, at Bonn University, a Polish laboratory technician found pieces of the Osenberg List stuffed in a toilet; the list subsequently reached MI6, who transmitted it to U.S. Intelligence. Then U.S. Army Major Robert B. Staver, Chief of the Jet Propulsion Section of the Research and Intelligence Branch of the U.S. Army Ordnance Corps, used the Osenberg List to compile his list of German scientists to be captured and interrogated; Wernher von Braun, Germany's premier rocket scientist, headed Major Staver's list.
In Operation Overcast, Major Staver's original intent was only to interview the scientists, but what he learned changed the operation's purpose. On May 22, 1945, he transmitted to the U.S. Pentagon headquarters Colonel Joel Holmes's telegram urging the evacuation of German scientists and their families, as most "important for [the] Pacific war" effort. Most of the Osenberg List engineers worked at the Baltic coast German Army Research Center Peenemünde, developing the V-2 rocket. After capturing them, the Allies initially housed them and their families in Landshut, Bavaria, in southern Germany.
Beginning on July 19, 1945, the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) managed the captured ARC rocketeers under Operation Overcast. However, when the "Camp Overcast" name of the scientists' quarters became locally-known, the program was renamed Operation Paperclip in November 1945. Despite these attempts at secrecy, later that year the press interviewed several of the scientists.
Capture and detention
Early on, the United States created the Combined Intelligence Objectives Subcommittee (CIOS). This provided the information on targets for the T-Forces that went in and targeted scientific, military and industrial installations (and their employees) for their know-how. Initial priorities were advanced technology, such as infrared, that could be used in the war against Japan; finding out what technology had been passed on to Japan; and finally to halt the research. A project to halt the research was codenamed "Project Safehaven", and it was not initially targeted against the Soviet Union; rather the concern was that German scientists might emigrate and continue their research in countries such as Spain, Argentina or Egypt, all of which had sympathized with Nazi Germany. In order to avoid the complications involved with the emigration of German scientists, the CIOS was responsible for scouting and kidnapping high profile individuals for the deprivation of technological advancements in nations outside of the US.
Much U.S. effort was focused on Saxony and Thuringia, which by July 1, 1945, would become part of the Soviet Occupation zone. Many German research facilities and personnel had been evacuated to these states, particularly from the Berlin area. Fearing that the Soviet takeover would limit U.S. ability to exploit German scientific and technical expertise, and not wanting the Soviet Union to benefit from said expertise, the United States instigated an "evacuation operation" of scientific personnel from Saxony and Thuringia, issuing orders such as:
On orders of Military Government you are to report with your family and baggage as much as you can carry tomorrow noon at 1300 hours (Friday, 22 June 1945) at the town square in Bitterfeld. There is no need to bring winter clothing. Easily carried possessions, such as family documents, jewelry, and the like should be taken along. You will be transported by motor vehicle to the nearest railway station. From there you will travel on to the West. Please tell the bearer of this letter how large your family is.
By 1947 this evacuation operation had netted an estimated 1,800 technicians and scientists, along with 3,700 family members. Those with special skills or knowledge were taken to detention and interrogation centers, such as one code-named DUSTBIN, to be held and interrogated, in some cases for months.
A few of the scientists were gathered up in Operation Overcast, but most were transported to villages in the countryside where there were neither research facilities nor work; they were provided stipends and forced to report twice weekly to police headquarters to prevent them from leaving. The Joint Chiefs of Staff directive on research and teaching stated that technicians and scientists should be released "only after all interested agencies were satisfied that all desired intelligence information had been obtained from them".
On November 5, 1947, the Office of Military Government of the United States (OMGUS), which had jurisdiction over the western part of occupied Germany, held a conference to consider the status of the evacuees, the monetary claims that the evacuees had filed against the United States, and the "possible violation by the US of laws of war or Rules of Land Warfare". The OMGUS director of Intelligence R. L. Walsh initiated a program to resettle the evacuees in the Third World, which the Germans referred to as General Walsh's "Urwald-Programm" (jungle program), however this program never matured. In 1948, the evacuees received settlements of 69.5 million Reichsmarks from the U.S., a settlement that soon became severely devalued during the currency reform that introduced the Deutsche Mark as the official currency of western Germany.
John Gimbel concludes that the United States put some of Germany's best minds on ice for three years, therefore depriving the German recovery of their expertise.
In May 1945, the U.S. Navy "received in custody" Dr. Herbert A. Wagner, the inventor of the Hs 293 missile; for two years, he first worked at the Special Devices Center, at Castle Gould and at Hempstead House, Long Island, New York; in 1947, he moved to the Naval Air Station Point Mugu.
In August 1945, Colonel Holger Toftoy, head of the Rocket Branch of the Research and Development Division of the U.S. Army's Ordnance Corps, offered initial one-year contracts to the rocket scientists; 127 of them accepted. In September 1945, the first group of seven rocket scientists (aerospace engineers) arrived at Fort Strong, located on Long Island in Boston harbor: Wernher von Braun, Erich W. Neubert, Theodor A. Poppel, August Schulze, Eberhard Rees, Wilhelm Jungert, and Walter Schwidetzky.
Beginning in late 1945, three rocket-scientist groups arrived in the United States for duty at Fort Bliss, Texas, and at White Sands Proving Grounds, New Mexico, as "War Department Special Employees".:27
In early 1950, legal U.S. residency for some of the Project Paperclip specialists was effected through the U.S. consulate in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico; thus, German scientists legally entered the United States from Latin America.:226
Between 1945 and 1952, the United States Air Force sponsored the largest number of Paperclip scientists, importing 260 men, of whom 36 returned to Germany and 1 (Walter Schreiber) reemigrated to Argentina.
The United States Army Signal Corps employed 24 specialists – including the physicists Georg Goubau, Gunter Guttwein, Georg Hass, Horst Kedesdy, and Kurt Lehovec; the physical chemists Rudolf Brill, Ernst Baars, and Eberhard Both; the geophysicist Helmut Weickmann; the optician Gerhard Schwesinger; and the engineers Eduard Gerber, Richard Guenther, and Hans Ziegler.
Overall, through its operations to 1990, Operation Paperclip imported 1,600 men, as part of the intellectual reparations owed to the United States and the UK, valued at $10 billion in patents and industrial processes.
Controversy and investigations
Several of the scientists were later investigated because of their prior (WW2) history with the Nazi Party.
Arthur Rudolph, under perceived threat of prosecution relating to his connection to the use of forced labor at Mittelwerk, renounced his U.S. citizenship in 1984 and moved to West Germany, which granted him citizenship.
For fifty years, from 1963–2013, the Strughold Award, named after Hubertus Strughold, was the most prestigious award from the Aerospace Medical Association. On October 1, 2013, in the aftermath of a Wall Street Journal article published on December 1, 2012, the Space Medicine Association’s Executive Committee announced that the Space Medicine Association Strughold Award had been retired.
- APPLEPIE: Project to capture and interrogate key Wehrmacht, RSHA AMT VI, and General Staff officers knowledgeable of the industry and economy of the USSR.
- DUSTBIN (counterpart of ASHCAN): An Anglo-American military intelligence operation established first in Paris, then in Kransberg Castle, at Frankfurt.:314
- ECLIPSE (1944): An unimplemented Air Disarmament Wing plan for post-war operations in Europe for destroying V-1 and V-2 missiles.:44
- Safehaven: US project within ECLIPSE meant to prevent the escape of Nazi scientists from Allied-occupied Germany.
- Field Information Agency; Technical (FIAT): US Army agency for securing the "major, and perhaps only, material reward of victory, namely, the advancement of science and the improvement of production and standards of living in the United Nations, by proper exploitation of German methods in these fields"; FIAT ended in 1947, when Operation Paperclip began functioning.:316
- On April 26, 1946, the Joint Chiefs of Staff issued JCS Directive 1067/14 to General Eisenhower instructing that he "preserve from destruction and take under your control records, plans, books, documents, papers, files and scientific, industrial and other information and data belonging to . . . German organizations engaged in military research";:185 and that, excepting war-criminals, German scientists be detained for intelligence purposes as required.
- National Interest/Project 63: Job placement assistance for Nazi engineers at Lockheed, Martin Marietta, North American Aviation, and other aeroplane companies, whilst American aerospace engineers were being laid off work.
- Operation Alsos, Operation Big, Operation Epsilon, Russian Alsos: Soviet, American and British efforts to capture German nuclear secrets, equipment, and personnel.
- Operation Backfire: A British effort at capturing rocket and aerospace technology from Cuxhaven.
- Fedden Mission: British mission to gain technical intelligence concerning advanced German aircraft and their propulsion systems.
- Operation Lusty: US efforts to capture German aeronautical equipment, technology, and personnel.
- Operation Osoaviakhim (sometimes transliterated as "Operation Ossavakim"), a Soviet counterpart of Operation Paperclip, involving German technicians, managers, skilled workers and their respective families who were relocated to the USSR in October 1946.
- Operation Surgeon: British operation for denying German aeronautical expertise from the USSR, and for exploiting German scientists in furthering British research.
- Special Mission V-2: April–May 1945 US operation, by Maj. William Bromley, that recovered parts and equipment for 100 V-2 missiles from a Mittelwerk underground factory in Kohnstein within the Soviet zone. Maj. James P. Hamill co-ordinated the transport of the equipment on 341 railroad cars with the 144th Motor Vehicle Assembly Company, from Nordhausen to Erfurt, just before the Soviets arrived. (see also Operation Blossom, Broomstick Scientists, Hermes project, Operations Sandy and Pushover)
- Target Intelligence Committee: US project to exploit German cryptographers.
- Brain drain
- Operation Osoaviakhim
- List of former Nazi Party members
- Carmel Offie
- Fort Bliss
- Operation Bloodstone
- Operation Lusty — targeting advanced aircraft of the defeated Luftwaffe
- Ratlines (World War II)
- Unit 731 — Japanese human experimenters recruited for their biological weapons technology.
- Upper Atmosphere Research Panel
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