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Project Paperclip
This is absolutely intolerable, Josef Stalin complained to one of his rocket
experts, Lieutenant G. A. Tokaty. We defeated the Nazi armies; we occupied Berlin and
Peenemnde; but the Americans got the rocket engineers. (Swenson, Grimwood, and
Alexander).
Stalin had every right to be angry. In its haste to gather all of the scientific
advancements and secrets developed by Nazi Germany, the United States cut corners and
formed secret organizations, often partaking in some rather dubious acts. One of these
plans was entitled Project Paperclip, a plot by the American government to bring many of
the leading and renowned scientists and engineers from Nazi Germany to America. This
project has been shrouded in secrecy for many years; it has only recently come to light.
Therefore, the history of this project is not widely known to the American public. It is
important that we look at this history and the effects that Project Paperclip has made on
our future. By examining how this project came to be, it can seen why the American
government thought that stealing German scientists and information was important to the
war effort and see a few of the technological advances that came about because of their
decisions.
The United States began to make plans to steal Nazi Germanys technological
secrets even before the war had ended. In fact, this drastic push to gain theses secrets
was a reaction to Americas intense involvement in the Pacific Theatre. Seeing that
European Theatre was quickly drawing to a close, the United States also wanted to
conclude the war with Japan, assuming taking Germanys secrets would assist them in
this goal. They also hoped to take away the might of Germany. By stealing many of the

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Nazis scientists and other intellectuals, Germany would not be able to rearm itself and a
possible World War III could be prevented (Hunt, Secret 9).
Realizing that living on a different continent than Germany might pose a slight
problem, the Americans decided to join forces with the British, sharing secrets,
manpower, and money (Beyerchen). John Gimbel, a noted researcher on Project
Paperclip says:
In their campaign to defeat Germany, the British and
Americans created a number of special intelligence
organizations and units whose function was to identify,
secure, guard, and exploit valuable and special
information, including documents, equipment and persons.
(Gimbel).
One of these organizations was FIAT, or the Field Information Agency, Technical,
created by American Major General Kenneth W. D. Strong (Beyerchen). Strong saw the
need to organize and create different types of information-acquisition teams. Therefore,
he created two different teams, the T-Forces and the CIOS (Gimbel). The T-Forces were
special military units whose objectives were to secure and guard intelligence and
counterintelligence targets for exploitation by other teams (Gimbel). The CIOS, or the
Combined Intelligence Objectives Subcommittee, was in charge of finding the
aforementioned targets and arranging for them to be exploited by FIAT (Gimbel).
In order to find excellent targets who might know important information, CIOS
consisted of engineers, physicists, mathematicians, and chemists borrowed from
various positions in Washington, universities, and industrial organizations (Gimbel).
They had three objectives: first, to find out what the Germans knew about weapons, fuel,
rockets, engines, communications, etc. that might help the Allies, second, to gather
information which might shorten the war with Japan, and third, to locate, detain, and

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possibly intern German personnel to obtain information and to stop it from going
somewhere dangerous, such as Egypt, Spain, or many Latin American countries
(Gimbel). Scientists, technicians, and engineers who were of particular interest were put
onto a list, named The Black List (Gimbel).
One of the most important teams sent in to do this task was code-named Alsos.
Led by American Lieutenant Colonel Boris Pash, and assisted by chief scientist Samuel
Goudsmit, the Alsos team went into Nazi territory to find out about Hitlers atomic bomb
project. It was believed at the time that Hitler was very close to creating the worlds first
atomic bomb. The Americans wanted this information not only to stop Hitler from using
the bomb, but also to create the technology for themselves. However, upon finding the
men with the proper expertise in the subject, the Americans found that the Germans were
in fact about two years behind the American atomic bomb project. What they did
discover, though, was the German expertise in biological and chemical warfare. A few of
the men found by the Alsos team were the first scientists and researchers drafted into
what would eventually become Project Paperclip (Hunt, Secret 11).
Due to increased interest, civilian teams also joined forces with the military to
create the Joint Intelligence Objectives Committee (JIOC) (Walker, Lester). The main
function of the JIOC was to collect physical information before it was destroyed. They
had their work cut out for them. Many German scientists were unwilling to merely give
their secrets away, either due to orders from and love of the Reich, or because of their
dislike of the actions of the Allied troops. These scientists destroyed damning equipment
and data, or hid it in various secret locations, such as caves, hidden safes, or mineshafts.
Often, the information was covered by containers full of liquid oxygen that would

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immediately destroy the evidence if handled poorly (Walker). Many secret caches were
accidentally destroyed by the Allied forces attempting to recover information and some
may still remain hidden even today.
After Germany surrendered and the country began to be carved up between
Russia, America, France, and Britain, the United States began to show a concentrated
focus on obtaining important German scientists instead of their information and research,
as did Stalin and Russia. In June 1945, the precursor to Project Paperclip, named Project
Overcast, was instituted by the Americans (Beyerchen). Project Overcast basically stated
that the CIOS should use The Black List to take all possible prospects and to transport
them out of the other three sectors, especially the Russian sector, and to settle them into
the American sector for possible relocation to America in the future. They were
particularly interested in getting these scientists away from the Russians due to
threatening comments made by Stalin. Stalin had said that he wanted to create a transAtlantic rocket and to use them as an effective straight jacket for that noisy shopkeeper
Harry Truman (Swenson, Grimwood, and Alexander).
Another early phase of the project was code-named Safehaven. This was set up
to insure that interesting scientists did not flee to other countries, particularly Latin
America, where they could not be exploited by Americans (Hunt, Secret 9). America
even made deals with certain Latin American nations and pressured others to deport these
Germans back to Germany where the Americans would have access to them (Hunt,
Secret 145).
At first, America was not very successful. Many scientists instead went to work
for Britain or Russia, who offered them a better salary, work, and living conditions

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(Swenson, Grimwood, and Alexander). However, America managed to convince many to
move to the American sector of Germany with the promise of good salaries and
protection for them and their families (Gimbel). They were told they could take whatever
fit into two suitcases and a backpack and to make sure that they brought their science
materials (Gimbel). Some of these scientists were relocated to an internment camp near
Frankfurt, called Dustbin (Beyerchen). By doing this, America alienated their British
ally. Instead of sharing information and people as they had previously done, they began
to steal important people from the British sector (Beyerchen).
Life for these scientists was not all as they have been expecting. Many of these
people never received the compensation they had been promised by the Americans.
Instead of the large homes they had left behind, the researchers and the people they
brought with them were forced to live in small apartments or in abandoned schools that
had been taken over by the Americans. Here, they were interrogated and forgotten about
(Gimbel). Few of these scientists, technicians, and engineers were recruited into Project
Paperclip and taken to America, as had been promised to them earlier. Many of these
people simply had to go back to what remained of their homes once the Americans
decided that they were no longer of worth.
The original idea behind Project Paperclip never actually included relocation of
scientists to the United States. Instead, American personnel were charged with earning
the trust of important German scientists, and failing that, to steal their information. The
War Department was afraid that Hitler was close to being able to create an atomic bomb,
which they knew he would not hesitate to use against the Allied forces (Hunt, Secret 9).
The politicians in Washington were regretting their decision to allow Germany to rearm

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themselves at all and were hoping that by stealing German research, they could take away
Hitlers military power and end the war, thus correcting their mistake (Hunt, Secret 9).
However, when this plan was lain out to then president Franklin Roosevelt, the
project looked to be in serious trouble. OSS chief William Donovan suggested to
Roosevelt that some of the double agents they had hired, including many SS officers and
German intelligence agents be offered special privileges once the war was over. One of
these privileges was, in Donovans words, permission for entry into the United States
after the war, the placing of their earnings on deposit in an American bank and the like.
(Hunt, Secret 9-10). Donovan needed presidential approval for the plan. Roosevelt
was not a fan of the idea. He quickly sent Donovan an angry answer, clearly stating his
opinions on the project:
I do not believe that we should offer any guarantees of
protection in the post-hostilities period to Germans who are
working for your organization. I think that the carrying out
of any such guarantees would be difficult and probably be
widely misunderstood both in this country and abroad. We
may expect that the number of Germans who are anxious to
save their skins and property will rapidly increase. Among
them may be some who should properly be tried for war
crimes or at least arrested for active participation in Nazi
activities. Even with the necessary controls you mention I
am not prepared to authorize the giving of guarantees
(Hunt, Secret 10).
Roosevelts reply did not stop the Americans in Germany from making
unsanctioned deals and promises to the personnel they wished to recruit. As early as
1944, some important scientists were anticipating eventual relocation to the United States
(Hunt, Secret 11). Roosevelts death, Harry Trumans acquisition to the presidency,
and the increasing acknowledgment of German scientists that the war was lost breathed
new life and interest in Project Paperclip.

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After months of deliberation by the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Gimbel), Project
Paperclip was authorized by President Harry Truman in August of 1945 (Walker,
Andrew). This operation was a refinement of the previous Project Overcast, but this time
relocated those members of the research teams who were of particular interest to the
United States to America for short term consulting jobs. However, Truman said that
anyone found to have been a member of the Nazi Party and more than a nominal
participant in its activities, or an active supporter of Nazism militarism (Walker,
Andrew) should be excluded. Personal files on all of the scientists were collected;
intelligence officers working hard to determine each persons involvement in the Nazi
party. If these scientists passed the test, they could be admitted to the United States and
even possibly offered citizenship. It is believed that the name Paperclip was created
due to the fact that the files of the scientists who were to be drafted into Project Paperclip
were paper-clipped to immigration forms.
However, many Americans opposed this idea. Still reeling from the war, America
was full of anti-Nazi sentiment and rumors that the government was going to offer well
paying jobs and citizenship to these ex-Nazis did not sit well with them. Many important
military and technological leaders argued that, Great Britain, France, and the USSR will
proceed unilaterally to exploit Germans for civil purposes whether or not the US did so
(Gimbel). There was particular unrest within Washington. A Pentagon general
recognized the need for selling Project Paperclip to the American public, saying, Weve
got to discourage people from thinking that this is a grand opportunity to sign some of the
Germans permanently and take them into the Army Air Forces and make them American

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citizens (Lasby, 72-3). Major General Hugh Knerr, the commander of the U.S. Air
Force in Europe also argued for Project Paperclip, saying:
Occupation of German scientific and industrial
establishments has revealed the fact that we have been
alarmingly backward in many fields of research. If we do
not take the opportunity to seize the apparatus and the
brains that developed it and put the combination back to
work promptly, we will remain several years behind while
we attempt to cover a field already exploited. (Walker,
Andrew).
The Joint Chiefs of Staff deliberated some more, deciding to bring a total of three
hundred and fifty German rocket scientists and engineers over to America (Gimbel).
However, as members of the CIOS began to trickle back to Washington after their time in
Germany, they brought back with them even more names, concerned that many of the
forgotten scientists, engineers, and technicians would be picked up by the British, French,
and especially, the Russians (Gimbel). The Joint Chiefs of Staff convened together once
again, this time meeting with the State War-Navy Coordinating Committee (SWNCC) to
approve more names for Project Paperclip (Gimbel). On the eighteenth of November,
1945, a few of the first selected group arrived in the United States. (Walker, Andrew).
The small group of seven men landed in Boston, headed by their leader, Wernher von
Braun, all having signed a six-month contract with the Army (Lasby, 88). Meanwhile, on
the nineteenth of February, 1946, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and SWNCC agreed to bring
about one thousand more German and Austrian scientists and technicians over to
America, giving them the chance to gain U.S. citizenship upon completion of a good job
(Gimbel).
Because this relocation was supposedly top secret, it is not really known exactly
how many people officially came over due to Project Paperclip, even though most of the

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records have been declassified due to the Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act (Records).
Some speculate it was only five hundred, others say sixteen hundred, while others said it
was over three thousand. The actual number is difficult to determine. When the United
States decided to bring over three hundred and fifty scientists, they were not taking into
account the number of dependants who also came over. The most important of the
scientists were allowed to bring over their families, and sometimes even their secretaries
and their secretaries families (Gimbel).
However, it is relatively simple to track the most famous of these scientists,
engineers, and technicians and see what they have accomplished. The most well-known
of these names include Wernher von Braun, Arthur Rudolph, and Walter Paul Emil
Schreiber, although many others were also quite famous. The importance of these
individuals to American technology can be seen by examining what they accomplished in
their lifetimes.
Wernher von Braun was a leading rocket scientist by the time the war ended. Von
Braun had created the Aggregate 4 (A-4) missile in 1942. This missile was admired by
Hitler himself, who renamed the missile the V-2 (Reach for the Stars), or the
Vergeltungswaffe zwei (Swenson, Grimwood, and Alexander). Hitler was so impressed
with the weapon that he set up an impossible production schedule for them, trying to have
as many made as possible before the end of the war. Hitler was planning on using the
missile to decimate Britains major cities (Reach for the Stars). Von Braun and the
company he worked for, Peenemnde, fell hopelessly behind due to the unreasonably
high demand. As the technical director of Peenemnde, von Braun was afraid that he
would be held personally responsible for the failure to produce enough missiles (Reach

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for the Stars). Fortunately for von Braun, the war was beginning to end and many
Germans were becoming aware of the fact that they were soon going to be defeated.
After being given orders from Heinrich Himmler to desert the Peenemnde facility, von
Braun met with his team and together they decided to surrender themselves to either the
Americans or the British. They had heard various tales from refugees about the brutality
of the Russians and decided that they would fare better with the other two countries
(Lasby, 34). The team hid various plans and weapon samples in a cave and headed
toward an Allied encampment. Somewhere along the way, the team decided to surrender
themselves only to the Americans instead of to the British. Von Braun later described
what made them come to that decision: We despised the French, we were mortally afraid
of the Soviets, we did not believe the British could afford us, so that left the Americans
(Lasby, 125).
When the Americans found that the nearly complete Peenemnde team was
willing to defect to their side, they immediately started to milk all of the possible
information that they could out of them. The Americans entered the Peenemnde facility
shortly before the Russians did, quickly shipping much of the information and about one
hundred complete V-2 rockets back to America (Aftermath). Von Braun and a few
select members of his team were the first German scientists to be inducted into Project
Paperclip. The Americans wanted to split up his Peenemnde team, but von Braun
fought hard to keep them together, saying that they would be more productive in the end
because they were used to working as a collective (Lasby, 124).
As with many of the German scientists involved in Project Paperclip, there were
some who opposed bringing von Braun to America. He had been a member of numerous

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Nazi organizations and was even a ranking member of the SS. Von Braun had also
designed the missiles which had destroyed Britain, leading to a lot of prejudice against
him. His personal intelligence file said that he was a security risk (Walker, Andrew).
However, his file was cleaned and rewritten, with less emphasis on his Nazi activities
and more emphasis on what he could do for America. With this new file, he was
welcomed to America with open arms.
Von Brauns team, now called the von Braun Rocket Team, consisted of Drs.
William Mrazek, Walter Haeussermann, Ernst Stuhlinger, Eberhard Rees, Hans E.
Hollmann, Herbert Wagner, and Robert Lusser. Together these men made a lasting
impression on American technology, working closely with the Air Force and with NASA
(German Rocket Scientists). They were influential in creating such things as the first
U.S. orbiting satellite, the Juno; the Pioneer 4, the first U.S. lunar probe; the Apollo 8,
which put the first U.S. astronaut into space; the Apollo 11, which put the first man on the
moon; the Lunar Roving Vehicle, the first vehicle to travel on the moon; and the Skylab,
the first U.S. space station (German Rocket Scientists). Together with his fellow
scientist and friend, Dr. Krafft Ehricke, von Braun wrote a book entitled The Mars
Project in which they described how man could travel to Mars. They argued that it could
be done by a type of ferry system, which later led to the creation of the modern space
station (German Rocket Scientists).
Dr. Arthur Rudolph was another famous scientist and a member of the von Braun
Rocket Team (German Rocket Scientists). He had been another V-2 project engineer
(Records), but had worked as the chief director of Nordhausen, where the V-2s were

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produced (Walker, Andrew). He became the NASA project director for Saturn V, the
moon rocket used to send the Apollo projects to the moon (Hunt, Arthur).
However, Rudolph is probably more well known for the scandal that erupted
years later, when his activities at Nordhausen and the neighboring prison camp Dora were
finally discovered. It was revealed by the Department of Justice (Records) that some
twenty thousand workers from Dora had died while working at Nordhausen (Walker,
Andrew). The prisoners had been starved, beaten, hung, and shot, essentially used as
cheap slave labor to build the missiles (Hunt, Arthur). As described by Colonel James
L. Collins, the leader of the infantry unit that entered Dora, They [the prisoners] had
been starved to death. Their arms were just little sticks, their legs had practically no flesh
on them at all. (Hunt, Secret 17-8). By this time this connection was made, Rudolph
had become a U.S. citizen with a good life in America. Rather than fight various legal
battles to clear his spotted past, he renounced his citizenship, going back to live in
Germany in 1984 (Records).
Another controversial scientist was Dr. Walter Paul Emil Schreiber (Echoes from
Nrnberg). He was a Wehrmacht major general in charge of Sanitary Division of the
Military Medical Academy and a prominent member of the Reich Research Council
(Hunt, Secret 151-2). The Russians, recognizing his worth, quickly snagged him
before the Americans could. The Russians, in addition to gaining his knowledge, had
used him as a witness against Herman Gring (Echoes from Nrnberg), a move which
surprised the Americans. When the Americans tried to take the supposedly under arrest
Schreiber at Nrnberg for interrogation and trial proceedings, the Russians quickly took
the scientist back to the Russian sector. U. S. Prosecutor Alexander Handy was told that

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the Americans could not have Schreiber: I was unofficially informed that he was
working on some hot assignment for the Russians and that they required his services
without interruption. (Hunt, Secret 152). Schreiber stayed in the Russian sector of
Germany for another two years before finally escaping into the American sector of Berlin
(Echoes from Nrnberg) The United States contracted him for six months to be a
consultant to the U.S. Air Force in the vaguely named Global Preventive Medicine
Division (Echoes from Nrnberg).
In 1952, a newspaper column appeared which ruined the publics opinion already
low opinion of Schreiber (Records). Even before this column, there had been many
rumors floating around that Schreibers past was not as clean as the government claimed.
Various investigators and media members complained that such a controversial figure
was should not even be allowed in the United States, let alone employed by its
government. Victims of his torture came forward, testifying of the gruesome tests they
had been forced to endure (Hunt, Secret 153-4).
Schreiber had worked closely with many high ranking officials who were
performing medical experiments on prisoners in concentration camps in Auschwitz
(Records). They had been testing the effects of cold water on the body and if they were
able to freeze people and bring them back to life (Records). This research was being
done by the Germans to see if they could rescue their pilots. They hoped to stop losing
their pilots by being able to resuscitate those who were shot down or forced to bail in the
freezing Atlantic Ocean. Other tests endured by victims, such as those at Ravensbrueck
concentration camp, dealt with chemical and bone experimentation. Women had their
legs cut open and deliberately infected with gangrene so that a bone transplant had to be

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performed. If these women survived the experiment and subsequent transplant, in
addition to having extreme mental scarring from the experience, they then became
crippled for life (Hunt, Secret 153).
While the United States seemed not to tie Schreiber to the experiments
themselves, they seemed to be fully aware of the accusations. Schreiber himself
definitely knew about them and never denied what was said about him. The Air Force
immediately refused to renew his contract when the heat was put on them by the media
and the American people (Echoes from Nrnberg). When asked what he was doing for
the Air Force, two official conflicting statements were released: that he was working on
unclassified matters, and also that it was confidential and could not be discussed
(Echoes from Nrnberg). It was also stated that the Air Force had no idea of
Schreibers possible past. When it looked that prosecution was inevitable for Schreiber
for abetting and possibly performing inhuman experiments on human subjects (Echoes
from Nrnberg), he quickly escaped to Argentina, never returning to the United States
(Records).
Besides these three men, von Braun, Rudolph, and Schreiber, numerous other
scientists, technicians, and engineers came over to America from 1945 to 1950 (German
Rocket Scientists). The ten most famous atomic scientists of the time, including Nobel
Prize winners Otto Hahn, Werner Heisenberg, and Max von Laue came to America in
1945 (German Rocket Scientists). Drs. Woldemar Voigt, Alexander Lippisch, Hans
Multhopp, and Richard Vogt all designed aircraft and bombers, working for such
companies as Boeing, Bell, and Martin (German Rocket Scientists). Anton Flettner
produced mass production helicopters, with a special easy to fly twin intermeshing rotor

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system. Dr. Adolph Busemann built supersonic wind tunnels (German Rocket
Scientists). Kurt Debus and Herbert Wagner designed guided missiles (Hunt, Secret
6) and rocket launchers along with Willy Fielder. In addition, Fielder also developed the
idea for submarine launched ballistic missiles, named Polaris and Poseidon, while
attending a conference with a friend from the Navy (German Rocket Scientists).
Gerhard Neumann developed gas turbine engines after being hired by GE, working his
way up to become a CEO. His catchphrase was full speed or bust (German Rocket
Scientists). Hubertus Strughold, the father or space medicine, designed NASAs onboard life-support systems (German Rocket Scientists).
Other scientists worked on developing, improving, and discovering nerve gas,
hardened armor, guided missiles, stealth technology, etc.; the list goes on (Walker,
Andrew). They elaborated on most of the American technology of the time, perfecting
such things as gyroscopic controls, parachutes for rocket recovery, and moveable
deflector vanes in the exhaust of rockets (Swenson, Grimwood, and Alexander). Modern
day cruise missiles are still based on the V-1 created by Wernher von Braun (Walker,
Andrew). Scramjets on NASAs X-43 hypersonic aircraft are still based on a design
invented by early German jet pioneers (Walker, Andrew). It is probable that due to these
scientists, Americans increased what they were capable of tenfold.
Despite its rather shady beginnings, Project Paperclip was overall rather
successful for the Americans. It brought to America many leading and important
scientists who helped to further advance the American technological scene. By learning
about the early history of this secret operation and the circumstances surrounding it, we
can better realize the impacts that Project Paperclip had on the war effort. Not only did

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the project bring important German scientists to America so as not to allow other
countries to have their intelligence, but they also helped further American technology, an
impact felt even today.

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