Operation Paperclip (also credited as Project Paperclip) was the code name
under which the U.S. intelligence and military services extracted German
scientists from Nazi Germany, during and after the final stages of World War
II. In 1945 the Joint Intelligence Objectives Agency was established and
given direct responsibility for Operation Paperclip.
Following the German failure of its invasion of the Soviet Union (codenamed
Operation Barbarossa) and the entry of the US into WWII, the strategic
position of Germany was at a disadvantage since German military industries
were unprepared for a long war.
As a result, Germany began efforts in spring
1943 to recall scientists and technical personnel from combat units where
their skills could be used in research and development:
‘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
The recall effort first required identifying
such personnel and then tracking them (particularly for loyalty), which
culminated in the Osenberg List by Werner Osenberg, a
University of Hannover engineering scientist who headed the
Wehrforschungsgemeinschaft (English: Military Research Association).
In March 1945, a Polish laboratory technician found the shredded pieces of
the Osenberg List in a toilet that hadn't flushed properly.
US Army Major Robert B Staver, Chief of
the Jet Propulsion Section of the Research and Intelligence Branch of the
US Army Ordnance in London, subsequently used the Osenberg list to
compile the Black List, the code name for the list of scientists targeted
for interrogation, with the rocket scientist Wernher von Braun's name at the
scientists pose together
The original unnamed plan to interview only the rocket scientists changed
after Major Staver sent a cable (signed by Colonel Joel Holmes) to
the Pentagon on May 22, 1945 of the urgency to evacuate the German
technicians and their families as "important for Pacific war." Likewise,
an equally strong desire was to deny German expertise to the Soviet Union.
In the Operation Alsos case of Werner
Heisenberg, the head of the German nuclear energy project:
"…he was worth more to us than ten divisions
In addition to scientists specializing in
rocketry and Nuclear physics, various Allied teams were also searching for
experts in chemistry, medicine, and naval weapons. An effort that predated
Overcast was the US Navy's acquisition in May 1945 of Dr. Herbert A. Wagner,
who worked at Naval Air Station Point Mugu in 1947.
The majority of the scientists were involved with the V-2 rocket, and the
rocket group was initially housed with their families at a housing project
in Landshut Bavaria. Operation Overcast was designated by the US Joint
Chiefs of Staff on July 19, 1945, but when the nickname "Camp Overcast"
was being openly used for the housing, the code name was changed to
By 1958, many aspects of Paperclip had become common knowledge. It was
openly mentioned in a Time magazine article about von Braun.
Groups of scientists
In early August 1945, Colonel Holger N. Toftoy, chief of the
Rocket Branch in the Research and Development Division of Army Ordnance,
offered initial one-year contracts to the rocket scientists. After Toftoy
agreed to take care of their families, 127 scientists accepted the offer.
In September 1945, the first group of seven
rocket scientists arrived from Germany at Fort Strong in the US:
Wernher von Braun
Erich W. Neubert
Theodor A. Poppel
Eberhard F. M. Rees
Eventually the rocket scientists arrived at Fort
Bliss, Texas for rocket testing at White Sands Proving Grounds as "War
Department Special Employees."
In early 1950, legal status for some "Paperclip Specialists" was obtained
when visas were issued at the US
consulate in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico; from which the scientists legally
entered the US. In later decades,
some scientists' WWII wartime activities were investigated — Arthur Rudolph
was linked to the Mittelbau-Dora slave labor, and Hubertus Strughold was
implicated in Nazi human experimentation.
Eighty-six aeronautical experts were transferred to Wright Field, which had
also acquired aircraft and other equipment under Operation Lusty.
The United States Army Signal Corps employed 24 specialists —
Dr. Georg Goubau
Dr. Gunter Guttwein
Dr. Georg Hass
Dr. Horst Kedesdy
Dr. Kurt Levovec
Professor Rudolf Brill
Dr. Ernst Baars
Dr. Eberhard Both
geophysicist Dr. Helmut Weickmann
technical optician Dr. Gerhard
Dr. Eduard Gerber
Dr. Richard Guenther
Dr. Hans Ziegler
The United States Bureau of Mines employed seven
German synthetic fuel scientists in a Fischer-Tropsch chemical plant in
Louisiana, Missouri in 1946.
In 1959, 94 Paperclip individuals went to the US, including:
Through 1990, Paperclip acquired a total of
1,600 personnel, with the
"intellectual reparations" taken by the U.S. and the UK (mainly German
patents and industrial processes) valued at close to $10 billion.
Special Mission V-2 - US operation
commanded by Major William Bromley to recover V-2 rocket parts and
equipment. Major James P. Hamill, with the aid of the 144th Motor
Vehicle Assembly Company, coordinated the shipment of the first
trainload of V-2 equipment from Nordhausen to Erfurt.
(see also Operation Blossom, Broomstick Scientists, Hermes project,
Operations Sandy and Pushover)
Operation Backfire - Rocket experiments
in the area of Cuxhaven
ECLIPSE - unimplemented 1944 plan for
post-war operations in Europe
that would destroy V-1 and V-2 missiles found by the Air Disarmament
Safehaven - US project under ECLIPSE to
prevent German researchers from escaping to other countries (e.g.,
JCS Directive 1067/14 - On April 26,
1946, Joint Chiefs of Staff Order 1067 had been issued to General
Eisenhower to "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."
The U.S. occupation directive stated that German scientists should
be detained as needed for intelligence purposes, except for
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 was dissolved in
1947 when operation PAPERCLIP began large scale operations.
DUSTBIN (counterpart of ASHCAN) - US
Army detention center established first in Paris and later in
Kransberg Castle outside Frankfurt.
National Interest/Project 63 - "Project
to help former Nazis obtain jobs with Lockheed, Martin Marietta,
North American Aviation or other defense contractors during a time
when many American engineers in the aircraft industry were being
Operation Alsos, Operation Big - US
efforts to capture German nuclear secrets, equipment and personnel
Operation Lusty - US efforts to capture
German aeronautical secrets, equipment and personnel
Target Intelligence Committee (TICOM) -
US project to gather German experts in cryptography.
Operation Surgeon - UK operation to deny
German aeronautical expertise to the USSR and instead exploit the
scientists in order to further British research.
References and footnotes
Joint Intelligence Objectives Agency. U.S.
National Archives and Records Administration.
Huzel, Dieter K (1960).
Peenemünde to Canaveral.
Englewood Cliffs NJ: Prentice Hall, p27,226.
Forman, Paul; Sánchez-Ron, José Manuel (1996).
National Military Establishments and the
Advancement of Science and Technology,
Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science.
Kluwer Academic Publishers, 308.
McGovern, James (1964).
Crossbow and Overcast.
New York: W. Morrow, p100,104,173,207,210,242.
Ordway, Frederick I., III; Sharpe, Mitchell R
The Rocket Team,
Apogee Books Space Series 36,
Naimark, Norman M (1979).
The Russians in Germany; A History of the Soviet
Zone of occupation, 1945-1949.
Harvard University Press, p207.
Hunt, Linda (1991).
Secret Agenda: The United States Government,
Nazi Scientists, and Project Paperclip, 1945 to
New York: St.Martin's Press,
for the Stars",
1958. Retrieved on
tousled, and bright-eyed with the dream that
gave Germany its
V-2 and the U.S. its first orbiting
Wernher von Braun paced the yellow-walled
office in Building 4488, nerve center of the
Army Ballistic Missile Agency at
Huntsville, Alabama. Already on his
cluttered mahogany desk last week was a new
satellite assignment: preparing…"
The End of World War II. (television show,
Original Air Date: 2-17-05). A&E. Retrieved on
Naimark. 206 (Naimark
cites Gimbel, John Science Technology and
Reparations: Exploitation and Plunder in Postwar
Germany) NOTE: The $10 billion compares to the
U.S. annual GDP of $258 billion in 1948 and to
the total Marshall plan expenditure (1948-1952)
of $13 billion, of which Germany received $1.4
billion (partly as loans).
Ziemke, Earl F (1990).
The U.S. Army in the Occupation of Germany
Washington DC: US Army, p163.
Cooksley, Peter G (1979).
New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, p 44.
German Scientists and Research Institutions in
Allied Occupation Policy. History of
Education Quarterly, Vol. 22, No. 3, Special
Issue: Educational Policy and Reform in Modern
Germany. (Autumn, 1982), pp. 289-299.
pg 316 NOTE: So much of the FIAT information
was used for commercial purposes that the office
of the Assistant Secretary of State for Occupied
Areas let it be known that they wanted the
future peace treaty with Germany be phrased so
that U.S. industry that made use of the
information would be protected from
The New Form of Government: Bombocracy
(html). Current Concerns. Dr. Annemarie
Buchholz, historian, Switzerland. Retrieved on
"UK 'fears' over German scientists"
BBC NewsUK 31 March 2006