The enemy was Nazi Germany and defeating it was the goal of the United States, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union. The first cracks in the marriage of convenience that had made them allies appeared in February 1945, at the Yalta Conference, where President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and Premier Josef Stalin met in the Crimean resort city to plan not only the end of the war but also the foundation for the postwar world. But did you know what Operation Paperclip was?
Following the Second World War, the CIA sought out top Nazi scientists to persuade them to assist in the development of weapons and the space program that took the United States to the moon. These Nazis and their families were granted full American citizenship, and the officers who apprehended them were well aware of their war crimes.
What is Operation Paperclip?
The Joint Intelligence Objectives Agency, a subcommittee of the Joint Intelligence Committee of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was tasked in 1945 with locating German scientists, doctors, and engineers deemed intellectually vital to the Third Reich.
In a 2014 interview, journalist Annie Jacobsen stated that this was prompted by the Allies’ concerns about Hitler’s potential weapon arsenal.
Fall of 1944, right after the Normandy landings, scattered among the Allies’ troops are these little units of scientific intelligence officers and they’re working to find out Hitler’s biological weapons, his chemical weapons and his atomic weapons, Operation Paperclip: The Secret Intelligence Program to Bring Nazi Scientists to America. These intelligence officers eventually discovered while the atomic weapons program was not as advanced as initially feared, Hitler’s biochemical weapons were. The hunt for this scientific treasure and ultimately for the scientists themselves thus ignited Operation Overcast, renamed Paperclip for the paperclips attached to the files of the most “troublesome cases,Annie Jacobsen, Journalist
The United States was not alone in this endeavor. Britain, France, and, in particular, the Soviet Union attempted to recruit these German scientific experts. The existence of Operation Paperclip would be motivated and justified by a U.S.-Soviet technological rivalry characterized by the Space Race and Cold War. (Source: USA Today)
The Nazi’s Contribution
German scientists began arriving on American soil in the fall of 1945. Not all of the men recruited were Nazis or SS officers, but the most prominent and respected among them were, having worked directly with Hitler or with leading members of the Nazi Party, such as Heinrich Himmler and Herman Göring.
While serving as director of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, Wernher von Braun, a rocket engineer, was instrumental in developing the first US ballistic missile, the Redstone, and later the Saturn V rocket. As a Nazi ideologue and SS member, he visited the Buchenwald concentration camp and “handpicked slaves to work for him as laborers,” Jacobsen told NPR in 2014.
Hubertus Strughold, a physiologist and medical researcher, led the German Air Force Institute of Aviation Medicine, which was notorious for torturous medical experiments on Dachau concentration camp inmates. Despite claiming ignorance of any such activity until after the war, Strughold was listed as one of 95 doctors at an October 1942 conference discussing their findings. He was the chief scientist of the aerospace medical division at Brooks Air Force in the United States and is widely regarded as the father of space medicine.
Former Nazi general Walter Schreiber oversaw inhumane medical experiments involving bioweapons, resulting in countless deaths. He was captured by the Soviets after the war but defected to the United States. Jacobsen writes that he worked for various government agencies before settling in Texas at the Air Force School of Aviation Medicine.
While Schreiber would later testify at the Nuremberg trials, he, von Braun, Strughold, and the other Nazis brought to the United States would never be held accountable for their crimes. Throughout the Cold War, Operation Paperclip remained a closely guarded secret. (Source: USA Today)
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