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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.[1]



Osenberg List

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:[2]

‘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).[3]


In March 1945, a Polish laboratory technician found the shredded pieces of the Osenberg List in a toilet that hadn't flushed properly.[4]


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 top.[5]



Operation Paperclip scientists pose together



Operation Overcast

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."[4]


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 of Germans."[6]

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 [7] 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,[5] but when the nickname "Camp Overcast" was being openly used for the housing, the code name was changed to Paperclip.[5][4]

By 1958, many aspects of Paperclip had become common knowledge. It was openly mentioned in a Time magazine article about von Braun.[8]



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:

  1. Wernher von Braun

  2. Erich W. Neubert

  3. Theodor A. Poppel

  4. August Schultze

  5. Eberhard F. M. Rees

  6. Wilhelm Jungert

  7. Walter Schwidetzky [4]

Eventually the rocket scientists arrived at Fort Bliss, Texas for rocket testing at White Sands Proving Grounds as "War Department Special Employees."[2]

In early 1950, legal status for some "Paperclip Specialists" was obtained when visas were issued[5] at the US consulate in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico; from which the scientists legally entered the US.[2] 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.[9]

The United States Army Signal Corps employed 24 specialists — including:

  1. physicists:

    1. Dr. Georg Goubau

    2. Dr. Gunter Guttwein

    3. Dr. Georg Hass

    4. Dr. Horst Kedesdy

    5. Dr. Kurt Levovec

  2. physical chemists:

    1. Professor Rudolf Brill

    2. Dr. Ernst Baars

    3. Dr. Eberhard Both

  3. geophysicist Dr. Helmut Weickmann

  4. technical optician Dr. Gerhard Schwesinger

  5. electronics engineers:

    1. Dr. Eduard Gerber

    2. Dr. Richard Guenther

    3. Dr. Hans Ziegler [1]

The United States Bureau of Mines employed seven German synthetic fuel scientists in a Fischer-Tropsch chemical plant in Louisiana, Missouri in 1946.[2]

In 1959, 94 Paperclip individuals went to the US, including:

  1. Friedwardt Winterberg

  2. Hans Dolezalek

  3. Friedrich Wigand [7]

Through 1990, Paperclip acquired a total of 1,600 personnel,[7] with the "intellectual reparations" taken by the U.S. and the UK (mainly German patents and industrial processes) valued at close to $10 billion.[10]



Related operations

  • 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.[5] (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[11] that would destroy V-1 and V-2 missiles found by the Air Disarmament Wing.[12]

  • Safehaven - US project under ECLIPSE to prevent German researchers from escaping to other countries (e.g., Latin America).[5]

  • 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."[13] The U.S. occupation directive stated that German scientists should be detained as needed for intelligence purposes, except for war-criminals.[14]

  • 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." [15] 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.[16][17]

  • 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 laid off."[7]

  • 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. [18]




References and footnotes

  1. Joint Intelligence Objectives Agency. U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.

  2. Huzel, Dieter K (1960). Peenemünde to Canaveral. Englewood Cliffs NJ: Prentice Hall, p27,226. 

  3. 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. 

  4. McGovern, James (1964). Crossbow and Overcast. New York: W. Morrow, p100,104,173,207,210,242. 

  5. Ordway, Frederick I., III; Sharpe, Mitchell R (1979). The Rocket Team, Apogee Books Space Series 36, p310,313,314,316,325,330,406. 

  6. Naimark, Norman M (1979). The Russians in Germany; A History of the Soviet Zone of occupation, 1945-1949. Harvard University Press, p207.  

  7. Hunt, Linda (1991). Secret Agenda: The United States Government, Nazi Scientists, and Project Paperclip, 1945 to 1990. New York: St.Martin's Press, p6,21,31,176,204,259.  

  8. "Reach for the Stars", Time (magazine), February 17, 1958. Retrieved on 2007-07-21. "Shirtsleeved, tousled, and bright-eyed with the dream that gave Germany its V-2 and the U.S. its first orbiting satellite, bull-shouldered 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…" 

  9. The End of World War II. (television show, Original Air Date: 2-17-05). A&E. Retrieved on 2007-06-04.

  10. 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).

  11. Ziemke, Earl F (1990). The U.S. Army in the Occupation of Germany 1944-1946. Washington DC: US Army, p163. 

  12. Cooksley, Peter G (1979). Flying Bomb. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, p 44. 

  13. McGovern. 185

  14. Beyerchen, Alan. 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.

  15. Ziemke. 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 lawsuits.(Beyerchen. 289-299)

  16. Ziemke pg 314

  17. The New Form of Government: Bombocracy (html). Current Concerns. Dr. Annemarie Buchholz, historian, Switzerland. Retrieved on 2007-05-03.

  18. "UK 'fears' over German scientists" BBC NewsUK 31 March 2006


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