The primary purpose for Operation Paperclip was U.S. military advantage in the Soviet–American Cold War, and the Space Race. The Soviet Union forcibly relocated more than 2,200 German specialists—a total of more than 6,000 people including family members—with Operation Osoaviakhim during one night on October 22, 1946.
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 JIOA, a subcommittee of the Joint Intelligence Community, to directly oversee Operation Overcast and later Operation Paperclip. The JIOA representatives included 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.
In a secret directive circulated on September 3, 1946, President Truman officially approved Operation Paperclip and expanded it to include 1,000 German scientists under "temporary, limited military custody".
In the later part of World War II, Germany was at a logistical disadvantage, having failed to conquer the USSR with Operation Barbarossa (June–December 1941), and its drive for the Caucasus (June 1942–February 1943). The failed conquest had depleted German resources, and its military-industrial complex was unprepared to defend the Greater Germanic 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 (Defense 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' 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. 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
The Allied zones of occupation in post-war Germany, highlighting the Soviet zone (red), the inner German border (heavy black line), and the zone from which British and American troops withdrew in July 1945 (purple). The provincial boundaries are those of Nazi Germany, before the present Länder (federal states) were established.
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 at Adlerhorst, Germany or one code-named DUSTBIN (located first in Paris and then moved to Kransberg Castle outside Frankfurt) 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 held some of Germany's best minds for three years, therefore depriving the German recovery of their expertise.
In May 1945, the U.S. Navy "received in custody" 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 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
Eighty-six aeronautical engineers were transferred to Wright Field, Ohio, where the United States had Luftwaffe aircraft and equipment captured under Operation Lusty (Luftwaffe Secret Technology).
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 US and the UK, valued at $10 billion in patents and industrial processes.
Before his official approval of the program, President Truman, for sixteen months, was indecisive on the program. Years later in 1963, Truman recalled that he was not in the least reluctant to approve Paperclip; that because of relations with Russia "this had to be done and was done".
Several of the Paperclip scientists were later investigated because of their links with the Nazi Party during the war. Only one Paperclip scientist, Georg Rickhey, was formally tried for any crime, and no Paperclip scientist was found guilty of any crime, in America or Germany. Rickhey was returned to Germany in 1947 to stand trial at the Dora Trial, where he was acquitted.
In 1984, Arthur Rudolph, under perceived threat of prosecution relating to his connection—as operations director for V-2 missile production—to the use of forced labor from Mittelbau-Dora at the Mittelwerk, renounced his U.S. citizenship and moved to West Germany, which granted him citizenship.
For 50 years, from 1963 to 2013, the Strughold Award—named after Hubertus Strughold, The Father of Space Medicine, for his central role in developing innovations like the space suit and space life support systems—was the most prestigious award from the Space Medicine Association, a member organization of the Aerospace Medical Association. On October 1, 2013, in the aftermath of a Wall Street Journal article published on December 1, 2012, which highlighted his connection to human experiments during WW2, the Space Medicine Association's Executive Committee announced that the Space Medicine Association Strughold Award had been retired.
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
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 Backfire: A British effort at recovering rocket and aerospace technology, followed by assembling and testing rockets at 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 to 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. Major 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)
^Gilbrook, Andrew (7 September 2020). An Ordinary Guy, Operation Saponify (1. Auflage ed.). Hamburg. ISBN9783347096462.
^ abLaney, Monique (2015). German Rocketeers in the Heart of Dixie: Making Sense of the Nazi Past During the Civil Rights Era. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. p. 26. ISBN978-0-300-19803-4.
^Slany, William Z. (1997). U. s. and allied efforts to recover and restore gold and other assets stolen or hidden by ... [Place of publication not identified]: U S Govt. Printing Office. p. 37. ISBN9997739213.
^O'REAGAN, DOUGLAS M. (2021). TAKING NAZI TECHNOLOGY : allied exploitation of german science after the second world war. [S.l.]: JOHNS HOPKINS UNIV PRESS. p. 82. ISBN9781421439846.
^Denny, Mark (8 October 2019). Rocket science : from fireworks to the photon drive. Cham, Switzerland. p. 37. ISBN9783030280802.
^Ten years of German unification : transfer, transformation, incorporation?. Birmingham, UK: University of Birmingham, University Press. 2002. ISBN9781902459127.
^"U.S. Policy and German Scientists: The Early Cold War", Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 101, No. 3, (1986), pp. 433–451
^Naimark. 206 (Naimark cites Gimbel, John Science Technology and Reparations: Exploitation and Plunder in Postwar Germany) The $10 billion compare to the 1948 US GDP $258 billion, and to the total Marshall plan (1948–52) expenditure of $13 billion, of which Germany received $1.4 billion (partly as loans).
^"Goddard Astronautics Award". AAIA: Shaping the Future of Aerospace. American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. Retrieved August 22, 2017.
^Cooksley, Peter G (1979). Flying Bomb. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. p. 44.
^Beyerchen, Alan (1982). "German Scientists and Research Institutions in Allied Occupation Policy". History of Education Quarterly. 22 (3): 289–299. doi:10.2307/367770. JSTOR367770. Much of the FIAT information was adapted commercially, to the degree that the office of the Assistant Secretary of State for Occupied Areas requested that the peace treaty with Germany be redacted to protect US industry from lawsuits.
^Pennacchio, Charles F. (Fall 1995). "The East German Communists and the Origins of the Berlin Blockade Crisis"(DOC). East European Quarterly. 29 (3). Retrieved June 29, 2010. October 21, 1946, marked the initiation of "Operation Ossavakim", which forcibly transferred to Soviet soil thousands of German technicians, managers and skilled personnel, along with their family members and the industrial tools they would operate.