Operation paperclip was the codename of a classified program which recruited German scientists to the USA after the end of World War 2. From 1945 – 1959 more than 1600 Nazi scientists were brought to America under this project.
Operation paperclip was formally authorized by President Truman in August 1945. He was assured that no one with “Nazi or militaristic records” would be involved. By mid-November, more Nazi scientists, engineers, and technicians arrived in America, including Wernher von Braun.
Many of these scientists had been members of the Nazi Party and the Gestapo, had conducted human experiments at concentration camps, used slave labour, and committed other war crimes.
Von Braun, who in later years became the head of NASA, is one of the more recognizable names of the scientists. Nazi infiltration was aided by the U.S federal government and military.
“By the end of January 1946, 160 Nazi scientists had been secreted into America. The single largest group was comprised of the 115 rocket specialists at Fort Bliss, Texas, led by Wernher von Braun.” (1)
As World War 2 was coming to an end, the USA and the Soviet Union went head to head to seize as many German scientists as possible in anticipation of the Cold War. The Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) established the first secret recruitment program called Operation Overcast in July 1945 initially to shorten the ongoing war with japan and aid in America’s post-war military research. The JCS then established a subcommittee of the joint intelligence community called the Joint Intelligence Objectives Agency (JIOA).
The JIOA would directly oversee Operation Overcast which later became known as Operation Paperclip. In November 1945 Operation Overcast was renamed Operation paperclip by the United States Army officers, who attached a paperclip to the folders of the rocket experts that they wished to employ in America.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff described the men they chose as “rare minds whose continuing intellectual productivity we wish to use” (2). Among the men chosen were some of the cruellest criminals during the war including Kurt Blome who experimented with bubonic plague on prisoners of war. He was hired by the US Army Chemical Core two months after being acquitted at Nuremberg. This acquittal came even though he had admitted publically to taking part in human experimentation. Also Arthur Rudolph was the director of a factory that used forced labour and saw 20,000 people die from beatings and starvation. He designed the rockets used for the Apollo programme. Rudolph has been honoured by NASA and regarded as the father of the Saturn V rocket. He returned to Germany in 1984 when his war record was exposed.
The War Department’s Joint Intelligence Objectives Agency (JIOA) conducted background investigations of the scientists. In 1947, JIOA Director Bosquet Wev submitted the first set of scientists’ records to the State and Justice Departments for review. Samauel Klaus, the State Departments representative on the JIOA board, claimed that all the scientists in this first batch were “ardent Nazis.” Their visa requests were denied. After the visas were denied, Wev was furious. In order to side step the problem, all of the Nazi scientist’s records were re-written and any incriminating evidence was eliminated from the records. All of their files were whitewashed and they were granted US citizenship.