Little Bits of History

Operation Paperclip

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 22, 2015
Operation Paperclip team at Fort Bliss

Operation Paperclip team at Fort Bliss

May 22, 1945: Major Robert Staver sends a telegram. He was the Chief of the Jet Propulsion Section of the Research and Development Branch of the US Army Ordnance Corps at the time. Operation Barbarossa was the code name for Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union during World War II. When they failed miserably, their resources and military-industrial complex was unprepared to defend itself from a counterstrike and invasion by the Red Army. By early 1943, Germany recalled from combat many of its scientists, engineers, and technicians to help with R&D and bolster flagging war initiatives. The intellectuals who had been a scourge to the Third Reich, were now sought out and put to work using their brains. But only if they were cleared by the Nazi party were their names put on the Osenberg List.

In March 1945, a Polish lab tech found pieces of the Osenberg List stuffed in a toilet. The names reached MI6 and then made its way to US Intelligence. Staver came into possession of the list and was sent to interrogate captured scientists from the list. The first on his list was Wernher von Braun. They met but after a few interviews, Staver telegrammed the US Pentagon with a new plan. He wanted to evacuate the German scientists and their families in order to help the US with the Pacific war effort. Many of the men on the list had been working on developing the German V-2 rockets and their capture placed them and their families under Allied protection.

Beginning on July 19, 1945, captured ARC rocketeers were under US Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) jurisdiction under Operation Overcast. When the name of their area, Camp Overcast, became locally known, the codename changed to Operation Paperclip. Regardless of the need for secrecy and the attempts to maintain it, several of the scientists were interviewed. Nuclear physicist Werner Heisenberg was named as being particularly useful in helping the projects in the US move forward. The brain drain was not met with open arms by the German scientists. By 1947 about 1,800 technicians and scientists and 3,700 of their family members had come under scrutiny.

Many of the Germans, still held in Germany and under confined conditions did not work with the Americans but were held regardless. They reported twice a week to local authorities. They were not able to work with anyone else and were kept under surveillance. Between 1949 and 1990 over 1,500 German scientists, technicians, and engineers from Nazi Germany and other foreign countries were brought to the US for employment. The joint purpose was both to enhance US scientific output and to keep the Germans from rebuilding using the German expertise of the men who had made the Nazi fighting machine. The USSR had a competing program taking scientists from the region to help with their programs as well.

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

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. – orders of evacuation

Also on this day: Now We Can Play Solitaire – In 1990, Windows 3.0 was released.
Howe’s That? – In 1842, Howe Caverns were discovered.
SS Savannah – In 1819, the SS Savannah set sail for the first transatlantic steamship crossing.
Air Fleet – In 1936, Aer Lingus Teoranta registered as an airline.
Pac-Man – In 1980, the video arcade game was released.

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