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Operation Paperclip

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Operation Paperclip was the codename of a secret recruitment of German scientists to the United States after the end of World War II in Europe. Scientists specialized in rocket technology were the main interest for the United States. After the end of World War II it became clear that the major powers that allied to fight a common enemy weren’t going to remain close allies after the end of conflict. One of the main reasons for this was the big difference in political ideology. It was clear that the USSR wanted to expand the reach of communism and it was also clear that the United States wanted to prevent that. Technology was going to be important for both the U.S. and the USSR and the U.S. suspected that the USSR was going to try to get scientists from Nazi Germany to work of them so they started Operation Paperclip to recruit the scientists for themselves instead.

Operation Paperclip Background

The operation was created by the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and it was executed by the Joint Intelligence Objectives Agency.

Group of 104 German rocket scientists in 1946, including Wernher von Braun, Ludwig Roth and Arthur Rudolph, at Fort Bliss, Texas. The group had been subdivided into two sections: a smaller one at White Sands Proving Grounds for test launches and the larger at Fort Bliss for research. Many had worked to develop the V-2 Rocket at Peenemünde Germany and came to the U.S. after World War II, subsequently working on various rockets including the Explorer 1 Space rocket and the Saturn (rocket) at NASA.

Group of 104 German rocket scientists in 1946, including Wernher von Braun, Ludwig Roth and Arthur Rudolph, at Fort Bliss, Texas. The group had been subdivided into two sections: a smaller one at White Sands Proving Grounds for test launches and the larger at Fort Bliss for research. Many had worked to develop the V-2 Rocket at Peenemünde Germany and came to the U.S. after World War II, subsequently working on various rockets including the Explorer 1 Space rocket and the Saturn (rocket) at NASA.

The biggest advantage that the U.S. had was that probably none of the German scientists wanted to end up in the USSR. So when the German rocket scientists like Werner von Braun fled from Peenemünde, which was Nazi Germany’s rocket technology capital, they approached the advancing U.S. troops.

Restrictions on Operation Paperclip

Operation Paperclip officially wasn’t allowed to recruit scientists that were members of the Nazi Party or that participated in it’s activities but that would have made it very difficult to recruit the senior scientists that the United States needed to advance it’s rocket technology. For example Werner von Braun, who was one of the most important scientists in Operation Paperclip, was also a Colonel in the SS. This was a major problem but the JOIA got around the problem by making the scientists they wanted more presentable. For example in the case of von Braun for example, the JOIA presented him to the U.S. government as only a “honorary” Colonel and that he was forced to accept the title. Even though this was against president Truman’s orders, thanks to the JOIA’s efforts in securing von Braun’s requirement the U.S. got valuable info about rocket development that put them years ahead of the USSR and probably played a big part in helping the U.S. land on the moon.
During the final days of World War II U.S. intelligence knew exactly who they wanted for Operation Paperclip thanks to a list they found at Bonn University, the list contained the names of the top rocket scientists in Germany. After they obtained the names from the list the U.S. intelligence tasked the army forces present in Germany to find the scientists from the list. Thanks to the fact that the scientists wanted to be found by U.S. forces this wasn’t a very difficult task.

Operation Paperclip Video

Moving German Scientists to the United States

After all of the scientists had been found they were moved to the U.S. as a top secret operation. Once in the U.S. they lived in Fort Hunt, Virginia. During their stay there von Braun was extensively questioned about what they knew about the technology and what was shared with the Japanese – the questions about the Japanese were relevant because while the war in Europe was over the war in the Pacific was still ongoing.

Each of the scientists was offered a contract under which they would work one year for the U.S. government. In August of 1945, 127 of the scientists accepted the offer and were moved to the United States. While the USSR managed to recruit some of the scientists the majority still went to the United States. The scientists that worked on the V2 rocket were moved to Fort Bliss, Texas. These scientists and their families received legal U.S. residency in 1950.

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