How Operation Paperclip Brought Nazi Scientists to America

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Operation Paperclip more or less hinges on a moral question. The question is this: if you and an enemy are fighting on opposite sides of an argument over a powerful weapon and the weapon can go to you or them, who should take it? Should you to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands? Let the enemy have it?  In real life, with the players being the Germans, the Soviet Union, and the United States, the situation looked like this.

The Osenberg List

As World War II drew to a close, it was clear that Germany was headed for a major restructuring. As the Nazi’s scrambled to hide and escape, they were equally as sought after, but not for reasons you’d think. While the Germans Nazi party members were conducting horrible experiments and mistreating people, they had high intelligence and had some extremely bright engineers and rocket scientists. The discovery of the Osenberg List contained a list of Nazi scientists and engineers that had worked for the Third Reich.

President Harry Truman claimed that he did not sanction this mission. However, everyone wanted the United States to be the first in space. Also, if America hadn’t extracted the German scientists, Russia would have.

Operation Paperclip

Thus, the CIA undertook a discreet mission initially called Operation Overcast and later renamed to Operation Paperclip. Operation Paperclip was the transportation of over 1600 German scientists from Nazi Germany to the United States. The deal was simple, the scientists agreed to work for the U.S. government and used their intellectual properties to help Americans win the Cold War against the Soviet Union and the US offered them and their families new identity, opportunities, and a new life in America. The Joint Intelligence Objectives Agency would scrub their records to ensure that they wouldn’t be considered war criminals.

President Harry Truman claimed that he did not sanction this mission. However, everyone wanted the United States to be the first in space. Also, if America hadn’t extracted the German scientists, Russia would have.

Wernher von Braun was a technical director ar the Peenemunde Army Research Center in Germany. He and several rocket scientists were brought to Fort Bliss, Texas, and White Sands, New Mexico to help build rockets. Von Braun would go on to become NASA’S Mashall Space Flight Center director and chief of the Saturn V launch, which ultimately powered the moon landing.

Many people are upset that Nazi scientists got to live a new life without any repercussions for their crimes. But, if the safety of the United States was at risk because the Soviet Union also planned to obtain German scientists for their benefit, was the CIA right to proceed with Operation Paperclip? Nothing can be done about it now, however, this remains a moral dilemma to some, just the same.

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