Sputnik Escalates the Cold War
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PAPERCLIP, Operation (1946–1954)

Secret U.S. plan to spirit German scientists out of Nazi Germany after World War II. Based on an earlier operation code-named overcast, Operation paperclip was signed into policy by President Harry S. Truman on 6 September 1946. paperclip was so-named for the individual dossiers and immigration papers joined together by paperclips. overcast was originally designed to exploit the knowledge of German scientists, technicians, and engineers in the war against Japan and to prevent the use of their expertise in any future attempt to remilitarize Germany. paperclip kept the German scientists out of Soviet hands. The United States was thus able to use them to advance American military and scientific capabilities.

Truman's directive specifically forbade the entry of prominent Nazi Party members or active supporters of the party into the United States, as the State Department was particularly sensitive to the immigration of high-level Nazis into the country. The War Department, however, was unhappy that the State Department had rejected entry visas for certain leading scientists with active ties to the Nazi Party. The Joint Intelligence Objectives Agency (JIOA), in charge of paperclip for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had used the Office of Military Government, United States (OMGUS), to summarize the war crimes investigations of the desired scientists. Discovering that the State Department would not approve immigration of those with negative OMGUS reports, JIOA began to cleanse certain dossiers. The War Department considered this necessary because the growing threat of communism had become a greater perceived danger than the morality of individual scientists. Expunging Nazi Party connections seemed a fair price to pay for keeping critical scientific information from the Soviets, as scientists involved in paperclip had participated in the wartime development of the deadly V-1 and V-2 rockets.

The top secret operation remained classified until 1973. Declassified information has proven that the scope of the project far exceeded what was previously known. Once thought to have involved as many as 750 scientists, paperclip actually brought more than 1,600 former Nazis with valuable scientific skills to the United States. Many had extensive Nazi Party backgrounds, and others had direct connections to Nazi war crimes, including bizarre pseudoscientific testing on humans. paperclip officially ended in 1957 at the request of the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG, West Germany), which protested the loss of so many valuable scientists and engineers.

paperclip was an essential Cold War program in that it greatly enhanced American knowledge of rocketry and missile technology. Perhaps the best known of all paperclip scientists who transferred their allegiance to the United States was famed rocket scientist Werner von Braun, credited with developing the Saturn 5 moon rocket that landed Americans on the surface of the moon.

Thomas D. Veve


Further Reading
Hunt, Linda. Secret Agenda: The United States Government, Nazi Scientists and Project Paperclip, 1945 to 1990. New York: St. Martin's, 1991.; Lasby, Clarence G. Project Paperclip: German Scientists and the Cold War. New York: Atheneum, 1971.
 

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