The U.S. sought to destroy communism since the Revolution in 1917. Before the Second World War was over, the State Department was employing the Nazi apparatus for its secret war against the Soviets

A "60 Minutes" television expose in May of 1982 disclosed how the U.S. aided Nazis to escape prosecution for their war crimes, but it didn't devulge the devious purpose, which was to employ these Nazis in U.S. anti-Communist activities after the war.

John Loftus, who was the federal prosecutor in the Office of Special Investigations of the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice wrote a book, The Balarus Secret (1982), wherein he states eloquently: "In a way, we Americans are the last victims of the Holocaust, imprisoned by the secrets of the Cold War, locked in the fortress of lies. In a democratic society, there is only one hard way to liberation" Wahrheit macht frei-- i.e., truth produces freedom."

The truth is that Washington used fascists again the Soviets as it has done clandestinely since the Bolshevik Revolution and since the unsuccessful U.S. invasion of Russia during the Civil War that followed.

The office of Policy Coordination was an agency headed by a lawyer, Frank Wisner, who was skilled in guerrilla activity in the OSS (the predecessor to the CIA). Wisner operated under National Security Directive 10/2 to recruit Nazis of the Third Reich. He busied himself preparing dossiers of "Nazi collaborators and members of the Iron Guard, a fascist organization noted for its hatred of Jews" and "recruited "leaders of four Nazi ministries who had directed the activities of collaborators in Eastern Europe during the War," including Gustav Hilger who functioned as the Fürhrer's personal "Russian expert." 

At the same time hundreds of illegal Nazi criminals were clandestinely transported to Latin America for other insurgency duties. Secretary of State Dulles in 1953 called this a "crusade for Freedom" and ordered Wisner to continue his "guerrilla warfare against the Soviet Union."

In 1954 a presidential committee (the Doolittle Committee) secretly applauded Wisner's work and encouraged the intensification of "espionage" together with every means "to subvert, sabotage and destroy" the Soviets. 

In 1955 National Security Directive 54/12/1 was issued authorizing Wisner to "develop underground resistance and facilitate covert and guerrilla operations", especially in areas dominated by communism.

Several uprisings followed in Poland in 1956 and a counter- revolutionary effort in Hungary that same year. Wisner became a manic-depressive and died in 1965. Many of his agents helped establish the elite U.S. Army Green Berets. Of those Nazis who were recruited to work for the U.S. Operation Paperclip brought 118 German scientists here to work on missile research, including Wernher von Braun and Arthur Rudolph, both of whom had directed research on V-2 rockets in Germany. In operation Crossbow and Overcast, another 494 Nazi scientists and engineers were brought into the U.S. to work in weapons development and research.

Of the estimated 10,000 Nazis that found a haven in the U.S. only a handful have left. The Pentagon prevented the Immigration Department from conducting investigations of THEIR Nazis. How is it that so many with blood on their hands from murdering Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, the handicapped, political dissidents and communists were welcome while so many of those they persecuted were virtually excluded. Because the Nazis were also fervent anticommunists and because communism was a threat to the capitalist social order. Meanwhile many of these mass murders continue to live in comfort using false indentities provided by the U.S. government and forever shielded from prosecution. Still others have continued their immoral activities in Latin American countries, and Europe under CIA direction.

The CIA, the State Department, and U.S. Army intelligence each created special programs for the specific purpose of bringing selected former Nazis and collaborators to the United States.... The government employed these men and women for their expertise in propaganda and psychological warfare, for work in American laboratories, and even as special guerrilla troops for deployment inside the USSR in the midst of a nuclear war.... Hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of such recruits were SS veterans; some had been officers of the bloody Sicherheitsdienst (SD), the Nazi party's security service.

~Mark Weitzman, before the Nazi War Criminals Interagency Working Group, National Archives and Records Administration

CIA's Worst-Kept Secret

"Honest and idealist ... enjoys good food and wine ... unprejudiced mind..."  

That's how a 1952 Central Intelligence Agency assessment described Nazi ideologue Emil Augsburg, an officer at the infamous Wannsee Institute, the SS think tank involved in planning the Final Solution. Augsburg's SS unit performed "special duties," a euphemism for exterminating Jews and other "undesirables" during the Second World War.

Although he was wanted in Poland for war crimes, Augsburg managed to ingratiate himself with the U.S. CIA, which employed him in the late 1940s as an expert on Soviet affairs.

Recently released CIA records indicate that Augsburg was among a rogue's gallery of Nazi war criminals recruited by U.S. intelligence shortly after Germany surrendered to the Allies.

Pried loose by Congress, which passed the Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act three years ago, a long-hidden trove of once-classified CIA documents confirms one of the worst-kept secrets of the Cold War – the CIA's use of an extensive Nazi spy network to wage a clandestine campaign against the Soviet Union.

The CIA reports show that U.S. officials knew they were subsidizing numerous Third Reich veterans who had committed horrible crimes against humanity, but these atrocities were overlooked as the anti-Communist crusade acquired its own momentum. For Nazis who would otherwise have been charged with war crimes, signing on with American intelligence enabled them to avoid a prison term.

"The real winners of the Cold War were Nazi war criminals, many of whom were able to escape justice because the East and West became so rapidly focused after the war on challenging each other," says Eli Rosenbaum, director of the Justice Department's Office of Special Investigations and America's chief Nazi hunter.

Rosenbaum serves on a Clinton-appointed Interagency Working Group committee of U.S. scholars, public officials, and former intelligence officers who helped prepare the CIA records for declassification.

Many Nazi criminals "received light punishment, no punishment at all, or received compensation because Western spy agencies considered them useful assets in the Cold War," the IWG team stated after releasing 18,000 pages of redacted CIA material. (More installments are pending.)

These are "not just dry historical documents," insists former congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman, a member of the panel that examined the CIA files. As far as Holtzman is concerned, the CIA papers raise critical questions about American foreign policy and the origins of the Cold War.

The decision to recruit Nazi operatives had a negative impact on U.S.-Soviet relations and set the stage for Washington's tolerance of human rights' abuses and other criminal acts in the name of anti-Communism. With that fateful sub-rosa embrace, the die was cast for a litany of antidemocratic CIA interventions around the world.

The Gehlen Org

The key figure on the German side of the CIA-Nazi tryst was General Reinhard Gehlen, who had served as Adolf Hitler's top anti-Soviet spy. During World War II, Gehlen oversaw all German military-intelligence operations in Eastern Europe and the USSR.

As the war drew to a close, Gehlen surmised that the U.S.-Soviet alliance would soon break down. Realizing that the United States did not have a viable cloak-and-dagger apparatus in Eastern Europe, Gehlen surrendered to the Americans and pitched himself as someone who could make a vital contribution to the forthcoming struggle against the Communists.

In addition to sharing his vast espionage archive on the USSR, Gehlen promised that he could resurrect an underground network of battle-hardened anti-Communist assets who were well placed to wreak havoc throughout the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.

Although the Yalta Treaty stipulated that the United States must give the Soviets all captured German officers who had been involved in "eastern area activities," Gehlen was quickly spirited off to Fort Hunt, Va.

The image he projected during 10 months of negotiations at Fort Hunt was, to use a bit of espionage parlance, a "legend" – one that hinged on Gehlen's false claim that he was never really a Nazi, but was dedicated, above all, to fighting Communism. Those who bit the bait included future CIA director Allen Dulles, who became Gehlen's biggest supporter among American policy wonks.

Gehlen returned to West Germany in the summer of 1946 with a mandate to rebuild his espionage organization and resume spying on the East at the behest of American intelligence. The date is significant as it preceded the onset of the Cold War, which, according to standard U.S. historical accounts, did not begin until a year later.

The early courtship of Gehlen by American intelligence suggests that Washington was in a Cold War mode sooner than most people realize. The Gehlen gambit also belies the prevalent Western notion that aggressive Soviet policies were primarily to blame for triggering the Cold War.


Based near Munich, Gehlen proceeded to enlist thousands of Gestapo, Wehrmacht, and SS veterans.

Even the vilest of the vile – the senior bureaucrats who ran the central administrative apparatus of the Holocaust – were welcome in the "Gehlen Org," as it was called, including Alois Brunner, Adolf Eichmann's chief deputy. SS major Emil Augsburg and Gestapo captain Klaus Barbie, otherwise known as the "Butcher of Lyon," were among those who did double duty for Gehlen and U.S. intelligence.

"It seems that in the Gehlen headquarters one SS man paved the way for the next and Himmler's elite were having happy reunion ceremonies," the Frankfurter Rundschau reported in the early 1950s.

Bolted lock, stock, and barrel into the CIA, Gehlen's Nazi-infested spy apparatus functioned as America's secret eyes and ears in central Europe.

The Org would go on to play a major role within NATO, supplying two-thirds of raw intelligence on the Warsaw Pact countries. Under CIA auspices, and later as head of the West German secret service until he retired in 1968, Gehlen exerted considerable influence on U.S. policy toward the Soviet bloc.

When U.S. spy chiefs desired an off-the-shelf style of nation tampering, they turned to the readily available Org, which served as a subcontracting syndicate for a series of ill-fated guerrilla air drops behind the Iron Curtain and other harebrained CIA rollback schemes.

Sitting Ducks

It's long been known that top German scientists were eagerly scooped up by several countries, including the United States, which rushed to claim these high-profile experts as spoils of World War II. Yet all the while the CIA was mum about recruiting Nazi spies. The U.S. government never officially acknowledged its role in launching the Gehlen organization until more than half a century after the fact.

Handling Nazi spies, however, was not the same as employing rocket technicians. One could always tell whether Wernher von Braun and his bunch were accomplishing their assignments for NASA and other U.S. agencies. If the rockets didn't fire properly, then the scientists would be judged accordingly.

But how does one determine if a Nazi spy with a dubious past is doing a reliable job?

Third Reich veterans often proved adept at peddling data – much of it false – in return for cash and safety, the IWG panel concluded. Many Nazis played a double game, feeding scuttlebutt to both sides of the East-West conflict and preying upon the mutual suspicions that emerged from the rubble of Hitler's Germany.

General Gehlen frequently exaggerated the Soviet threat in order to exacerbate tensions between the superpowers.

At one point he succeeded in convincing General Lucius Clay, military governor of the U.S. zone of occupation in Germany, that a major Soviet war mobilization had begun in Eastern Europe. This prompted Clay to dash off a frantic, top-secret telegram to Washington in March 1948, warning that war "may come with dramatic suddenness."

Gehlen's disinformation strategy was based on a simple premise: the colder the Cold War got, the more political space for Hitler's heirs to maneuver. The Org could only flourish under Cold War conditions; as an institution it was therefore committed to perpetuating the Soviet-American conflict.

"The agency loved Gehlen because he fed us what we wanted to hear. We used his stuff constantly, and we fed it to everyone else – the Pentagon, the White House, the newspapers. They loved it, too. But it was hyped-up Russian bogeyman junk, and it did a lot of damage to this country," a retired CIA official told author Christopher Simpson, who also serves on the IGW review panel and was author of Blowback: America's Recruitment of Nazis and Its Effects on the Cold War.

Unexpected Consequences

Members of the Gehlen Org were instrumental in helping thousands of fascist fugitives escape via "ratlines" to safe havens abroad – often with a wink and a nod from U.S. intelligence officers.

Third Reich expatriates and fascist collaborators subsequently emerged as "security advisers" in several Middle Eastern and Latin American countries, where ultra-right-wing death squads persist as their enduring legacy.

Klaus Barbie, for example, assisted a succession of military regimes in Bolivia, where he taught soldiers torture techniques and helped protect the flourishing cocaine trade in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

CIA officials eventually learned that the Nazi old boy network nesting inside the Gehlen Org had an unexpected twist to it. By bankrolling Gehlen the CIA unknowingly laid itself open to manipulation by a foreign intelligence service that was riddled with Soviet spies.

Gehlen's habit of employing compromised ex-Nazis – and the CIA's willingness to sanction this practice – enabled the USSR to penetrate West Germany's secret service by blackmailing numerous agents.

Ironically, some of the men employed by Gehlen would go on to play leading roles in European neofascist organizations that despise the United States. One of the consequences of the CIA's ghoulish alliance with the Org is evident today in a resurgent fascist movement in Europe that can trace its ideological lineage back to Hitler's Reich through Gehlen operatives who collaborated with U.S. intelligence.

Slow to recognize that their Nazi hired guns would feign an allegiance to the Western alliance as long as they deemed it tactically advantageous, CIA officials invested far too much in Gehlen's spooky Nazi outfit.

"It was a horrendous mistake, morally, politically, and also in very pragmatic intelligence terms," says American University professor Richard Breitman, chairman of the IWG review panel.

More than just a bungled spy caper, the Gehlen debacle should serve as a cautionary tale at a time when post-Cold War triumphalism and arrogant unilateralism are rampant among U.S. officials.

If nothing else, it underscores the need for the United States to confront some of its own demons now that unreconstructed Cold Warriors are again riding top saddle in Washington.

~Martin A. Lee is the author of The Beast Reawakens, a book on Neofascism

Some readers might recall a small story tucked away in the daily newspapers in late January of 1996, that reported on how the U.S. worked hand-in-hand with former Nazi SS personnel, at the end of World War II.

 The SS - Hitler's most dreaded fighting force - were confirmed anti-communists, and the Americans believed they would be ideal recruits in their efforts to create a bulwark against the emerging 'Soviet threat'. Arms dumps and a secret communication network, to be manned by the former SS officers, were established in Austria around 1947.

These revelations caused shock in many countries For many people with memories of the war, it was unimaginable the U.S. recruited and relied upon members of Hitler's Waffen SS, the same force that implemented the Holocaust.  

But the operation was only a part of much wider cooperation between the United States' military and 'former' Nazis.

Few people know of 'Operation Paperclip', an operation in which the United States sought out top Nazi specialists in the final days of World War II. (Though Operation Paperclip was mentioned in recent episodes of the TV show 'The X-Files', viewers can be forgiven for thinking the secret operation was fiction!)

A sanitized history of the Marshall Space Flight Centre, issued by that organisation on its Internet site, admits Nazi rocket scientists were recruited and transported to the United States.

Dr. Wernher Von Braun, who became the Centre's first director, and his team "recognized the war was ending," and "decided to evacuate the rocket development site." With clear intentions, the team "bluffed their way through German checkpoints," and eventually managed to "surrender to American forces."

The official history continues:

Project Paperclip. The United States was interested in the technical capability of the Germans, and a team of American scientists was dispatched to Europe on August 14, 1945, to collect information and equipment related to German rocket progress. As a result, the components for approximately 100 V-2 ballistic missiles were recovered and shipped from Germany to White Sands Proving Grounds in New Mexico... During October 1945, the Secretary of War approved a plan to bring the top German scientists to the United States to aid military research and development. Near the end of the year more than 100 Germans who had agreed to come to the United States under Project Paperclip arrived at Fort Bliss, Texas. Their assignment was to begin work at nearby White Sands on the V-2 rockets that had already arrived from Germany.


Operation Paperclip
was the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) program used to recruit the scientists of Nazi Germany for employment by the United States in the aftermath of World War II (1939–45). It was conducted by the Joint Intelligence Objectives Agency (JIOA), and in the context of the burgeoning Soviet–American Cold War (1945–91), one purpose of Operation Paperclip was to deny German scientific knowledge and expertise to the USSR, the UK, and (divided) Germany itself.

Although the JIOA's recruitment of German scientists began after the European Allied victory (8 May 1945), US President Harry Truman did not formally order the execution of Operation Paperclip until August 1945. Truman's order expressly excluded 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 Nazi militarism". However, those restrictions would have rendered ineligible most of the leading scientists the JIOA had identified for recruitment, among them rocket scientists Wernher von Braun and Arthur Rudolph, and the physician Hubertus Strughold, each earlier classified as a "menace to the security of the Allied Forces".

To circumvent President Truman's anti-Nazi order and the Allied Potsdam and Yalta agreements, the JIOA worked independently to create false employment and political biographies for the scientists. The JIOA also expunged from the public record the scientists' Nazi Party memberships and régime affiliations. Once "bleached" of their Nazism, the US government granted the scientists security clearance to work in the United States. Paperclip, the project's operational name, derived from the paperclips used to attach the scientists' new political personae to their "US Government Scientist" JIOA personnel files.

The Osenberg List

Having failed to conquer the USSR with Operation Barbarossa (June–December 1941), the Siege of Leningrad (September 1941–January 1944), Operation Nordlicht ("Northern Light", August–October 1942), and the Battle of Stalingrad (July 1942–February 1943), Nazi Germany found itself at a logistical disadvantage. The failed conquest had depleted German resources and its military-industrial complex was unprepared to defend the Großdeutsches Reich (Greater German Reich) against the Red Army's westward counterattack. By early 1943, the German government began recalling from combat a number of scientists, engineers, and technicians; they returned to work in research and development to bolster German defense for a protracted war with the USSR. The recall from frontline combat included 4,000 rocketeers returned to Peenemünde, in north-east coastal Germany.

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, Peenemünde to Canaveral

The Nazi government's recall of their now-useful intellectuals for scientific work first required identifying and locating the scientists, engineers, and technicians, then ascertaining their political and ideological reliability. Werner Osenberg, the engineer-scientist heading the Wehrforschungsgemeinschaft (Military Research Association), recorded the names of the politically-cleared men to the Osenberg List, thus reinstating them to scientific work.

In March 1945, at Bonn University, a Polish laboratory technician found pieces of the Osenberg List stuffed in a toilet; the list subsequently reached MI6, who transmitted it to US Intelligence. Then US Army Major Robert B. Staver, Chief of the Jet Propulsion Section of the Research and Intelligence Branch of the U.S. Army Ordnance Corps, used the Osenberg List to compile his list of German scientists to be captured and interrogated; Wernher von Braun, Nazi Germany's premier rocket scientist, headed Major Staver's list.


Operation Overcast — Major Staver's original intent was only to interview the scientists, but what he learned changed the operation's purpose. On 22 May 1945, he transmitted to US Pentagon headquarters Colonel Joel Holmes's telegram urging the evacuation of German scientists, and their families, as most "important for [the] Pacific war" effort. Most of the Osenberg List engineers worked at the Baltic coast German Army Research Center Peenemünde, developing the V-2 rocket; after capturing them, the Allies initially housed them and their families in Landshut, Bavaria, in southern Germany.

Beginning on 19 July 1945, the US Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) managed the captured ARC rocketeers under a program called Operation Overcast. However, when the "Camp Overcast" name of the scientists' quarters became locally-known, the program was renamed Operation Paperclip in March 1946. Despite these attempts at secrecy, later that year the press interviewed several of the scientists.

Regarding Operation Alsos, Allied Intelligence described nuclear physicist Werner Heisenberg, the German nuclear energy project principal, as " . . . worth more to us than ten divisions of Germans." In addition to rocketeers and nuclear physicists, the Allies also sought chemists, physicians, and naval weaponeers.

Meanwhile, the Technical Director of the German Army Rocket Center, Wernher von Braun, was jailed at P.O. Box 1142, a secret military-intelligence prison in Fort Hunt, Virginia in the United States. Since the prison was unknown to the international community, its operation by the US was in violation of the Geneva Convention of 1929, which the U.S. had ratified. Although Von Braun's interrogators pressured him, he was not tortured; however in 1944 another PoW, U-boat Captain Werner Henke was shot and killed while climbing the fence at Fort Hunt.

Capture and detention

Early on the U.S. created the Combined Intelligence Objectives Subcommittee (CIOS). This provided the information on targets for the T-Forces that went in and targeted scientific, military and industrial installations (and their employees) for their know-how. Initial priorities were advanced technology, such as infrared, that could be used in the war against Japan; finding out what technology had been passed on to Japan; and finally to halt the research. A project to halt the research was codenamed "Project Safehaven", and it was not initially targeted against the Soviet Union; rather the concern was that German scientists might emigrate and continue their research in countries such as Spain, Argentina or Egypt, all of which had sympathized with Nazi Germany.

Much U.S. effort was focused on Saxony and Thuringia, which by 1 July 1945 would become part of the Soviet Occupation zone. Many German research facilities and personnel had been evacuated to these states, particularly from the Berlin area. Fearing that the Soviet takeover would limit U.S. ability to exploit German scientific and technical expertise, and not wanting the Soviet Union to benefit from said expertise, the U.S. instigated an "evacuation operation" of scientific personnel from Saxony and Thuringia, issuing orders such as:

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.

By 1947 this evacuation operation had netted an estimated 1,800 technicians and scientists, along with 3,700 family-members. Those with special skills or knowledge were taken to detention and interrogation centers, such as one code-named DUSTBIN,] to be held and interrogated, in some cases for months.

A few of the scientists were gathered up in Operation Overcast, but most were transported to villages in the countryside where there were neither research facilities nor work; they were provided stipends and forced to report twice weekly to police headquarters to prevent them from leaving. The Joint Chiefs of Staff directive on research and teaching stated that technicians and scientists should be released "only after all interested agencies were satisfied that all desired intelligence information had been obtained from them".

On 5 November 1947, the Office of Military Government of the United States (OMGUS), which had jurisdiction over the western part of occupied Germany, held a conference to consider the status of the evacuees, the monetary claims that the evacuees had filed against the U.S., and the "possible violation by the U.S. of laws of war or Rules of Land Warfare". The OMGUS director of Intelligence R. L. Walsh initiated a program to resettle the evacuees in the Third world, which the Germans referred to as General Walsh's "Urwald-Programm" (jungle program), however this program never matured. In 1948, the evacuees received settlements of 69.5 million Reichsmarks from the U.S., a settlement that soon became severely devalued during the currency reform that introduced the Deutsche Mark as the official currency of western Germany.

John Gimbel concludes that the U.S. put some of Germany's best minds on ice for three years, therefore depriving the German recovery of their expertise;

The scientists

In May 1945, the US Navy "received in custody" Dr. Herbert A. Wagner, the inventor of the Hs 293 missile; for two years, he first worked at the Special Devices Center, at Castle Gould and at Hempstead House, Long Island, New York; in 1947, he moved to the Naval Air Station Point Mugu.

In August 1945, Colonel Holger Toftoy, head of the Rocket Branch of the Research and Development Division of the US Army's Ordnance Corps, offered initial one-year contracts to the rocket scientists; 127 of them accepted. In September 1945, the first group of seven rocket scientists arrived at Fort Strong, Massachusetts: Wernher von Braun, Erich W. Neubert, Theodor A. Poppel, August Schulze, Eberhard Rees, Wilhelm Jungert, and Walter Schwidetzky.

Beginning in late 1945, three rocket-scientist groups arrived in the US for duty at Fort Bliss, Texas, and at White Sands Proving Grounds, New Mexico, as "War Department Special Employees".

In 1946, the United States Bureau of Mines employed seven German synthetic fuel scientists at a Fischer-Tropsch chemical plant in Louisiana, Missouri.

In early 1950, legal US residency for some of the Project Paperclip specialists was effected through the US consulate in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico; thus, Nazi scientists legally entered the US from Latin America.

Eighty-six aeronautical engineers were transferred to Wright Field, where the US had Luftwaffe aircraft and equipment captured under Operation Lusty (Luftwaffe Secret Technology).

The United States Army Signal Corps employed 24 specialists — including the physicists Georg Goubau, Gunter Guttwein, Georg Hass, Horst Kedesdy, and Kurt Lehovec; the physical chemists Rudolf Brill, Ernst Baars, and Eberhard Both; the geophysicist Dr. Helmut Weickmann; the optician Gerhard Schwesinger; and the engineers Eduard Gerber, Richard Guenther, and Hans Ziegler.

In 1959, ninety-four Operation Paperclip men went to the US, including Friedwardt Winterberg and Friedrich Wigand. Throughout its operations to 1990, Operation Paperclip imported 1,600 men, as part of the intellectual reparations owed to the US and the UK, some $10 billion in patents and industrial processes.

During the decades after they were included in Operation Paperclip, some scientists were investigated because of their activities during World War II. Arthur Rudolph was deported in 1984, but not prosecuted, and West Germany granted him citizenship. Similarly, Georg Rickhey, who came to the United States under Operation Paperclip in 1946, was returned to Germany to stand trial at the Dora Trial in 1947; he was acquitted, and returned to the United States in 1948, eventually becoming a U.S. citizen. The aeromedical library at Brooks Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas had been named after Hubertus Strughold in 1977. However, it was later renamed because documents from the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal linked Strughold to medical experiments in which inmates from Dachau were tortured and killed.]

Key figures


Rudi Beichel, Magnus von Braun, Wernher von Braun, Walter Dornberger, Werner Dahm, Konrad Dannenberg, Kurt H. Debus, Ernst R. G. Eckert, Krafft Arnold Ehricke, Otto Hirschler, Hermann H. Kurzweg, Fritz Mueller, Gerhard Reisig, Georg Rickhey, Arthur Rudolph, Ernst Stuhlinger, Werner Rosinski, Eberhard Rees, Ludwig Roth, Georg von Tiesenhausen, and Bernhard Tessmann


Siegfried Knemeyer, Alexander Martin Lippisch, Hans von Ohain, Hans Multhopp, Kurt Tank


Walter Schreiber, Kurt Blome, Hubertus Strughold, Hans Antmann (Human factors)


Hans K. Ziegler, Kurt Lehovec, Hans Hollmann, Johannes Plendl, Heinz Schlicke


Reinhard Gehlen, Otto von Bolschwing

Similar operations

APPLEPIE: Project to capture and interrogate key Wehrmacht, RSHA AMT VI, and General Staff officers knowledgeable of the industry and economy of the USSR.

DUSTBIN (counterpart of ASHCAN): An Anglo–American military intelligence operation established first in Paris, then in Kransberg Castle, at Frankfurt.

ECLIPSE (1944): An unimplemented Air Disarmament Wing plan for post-war operations in Europe for destroying V-1 and V-2 missiles. Safehaven: US project within ECLIPSE meant to prevent the escape of Nazi scientists from Allied-occupied Germany.

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"; FIAT ended in 1947, when Operation Paperclip began functioning.

On 26 April 1946, the Joint Chiefs of Staff issued JCS Directive 1067/14 to General Eisenhower instructing that he "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" and that, excepting war-criminals, German scientists be detained for intelligence purposes as required.

National Interest/Project 63: Job placement assistance for Nazi engineers at Lockheed, Martin Marietta, North American Aviation, and other aeroplane companies, whilst American aerospace engineers were being laid off work.

Operation Alsos, Operation Big, Operation Epsilon, Russian Alsos: Soviet and American efforts to capture German nuclear secrets, equipment, and personnel.

Operation Backfire: A British effort at capturing rocket and aerospace technology from Cuxhaven.

Operation Lusty: US efforts to capture German aeronautical equipment, technology, and personnel.

Operation Osoaviakhim (sometimes transliterated as "Operation Ossavakim"), a Soviet counterpart of

Operation Paperclip, involving German technicians, managers, skilled workers and their respective families.

Operation Surgeon: British operation for denying German aeronautical expertise from the USSR, and for exploiting German scientists in furthering British research.

Special Mission V-2: April–May 1945 US operation, by Maj. William Bromley, that recovered parts and equipment for 100 V-2 missiles from a Mittelwerk underground factory in Kohnstein within the Soviet zone. Maj. James P. Hamill co-ordinated the transport of the equipment on 341 railroad cars with the 144th Motor Vehicle Assembly Company, from Nordhausen to Erfurt, just before the Soviets arrived.

Target Intelligence Committee: US project to exploit German cryptographers.

Von Braun and his fellow Germans had received American citizenship in the 1950's and had made Huntsville their home. As the German-born and American-born members of the new NASA team in Huntsville now entered the 1960's, they prepared to face the challenges ahead. By far the largest would be called, 'Saturn,' a vehicle that would eventually launch American astronauts on their way to a manned lunar landing and return to earth.

If it wasn't for these German scientists, the U.S. space program might not have accomplished what it did. 

From Nazis to NASA
Jennifer Wilding

Operation Paperclip (originally named Operation Overcast) began shortly after Wernher von Braun's surrender to the American. One of the largest operations of the late days of World War II, it was mounted with intent of securing the world's most advanced rocket, and its designer, for the US. The area in which von Braun and his associates had worked was to be Russian occupied territory, the Americans had to move fast in order to secure the prize for themselves. This Operation was not originally meant to bring von Braun to the US, its purpose was to bring one hundred operational V-2's to American researchers at White Sands, in order to bolster the rather lame army rocket project. However, the fragility of the V-2's meant that none were actually intact when Mittelwerk was captured, the Americans found only piles of parts, and no instruction manuals for assembly. Bringing their designer along seemed like the only viable option. Von Braun, of course, was quite willing.

The American government was not enthusiastic about von Braun and 300 other Germans coming to the States. This was a period of deep suspicion and hostility towards Germany, a natural aftermath of six years of war. A period of rather bitter negotiation ensued. The Germans wanted a three year contract of employment, the US government offered six months, the Germans wanted their families with them, the US offered to hold them in special internment camps. Von Braun wanted 300 hundred scientists to accompany him, the US government did not want any. In September 1945 115 Germans went to America on what proved to be (for most of them) a permanent basis. The majority of their families joined them about two years later.

The US army wanted von Braun very badly, to the point of falsifying security reports that would permit him to enter the United States. He was considered absolutely necessary to their plans to assemble the components of the hundred V-2 rockets which had also been brought to the States and to continue their development. While von Braun had not been deemed a war criminal, his single-minded mania to build rockets had led him to ignore a number of very questionable practices involving the prisoners who constructed and assembled the V-2's. They died by the hundreds.

It is, however, somewhat amusing to note that, while the Army Intelligence Service was perfectly aware of von Braun's activities, the altered version of their report says that certain information was not available because the requisite documents were held in the Russian area of occupation.

Rocket research in America did not proceed as von Braun had hoped. His first task was to sort though the 14 tons of paper and documents that had been shipped from Germany to the Aberdeen Proving Grounds. He then spent the remainder of the 1940's testing his old V-2's, with varying degrees of success. It was not until 1949 that he launched the first step rocket. This was primarily due to a conflict in goals. Von Braun wanted to go into space, the army, which employed him, wanted guided missiles. It was not until 1956 that the Jupiter-C, a four stage rocket (the largest ever) was built.

Prior to the successes of the V-2 (von Braun's A-4) as a weapon rocket research had not been a priority of the American military. They had achieved mediocre results with the Private and WAC Corporal rockets, but these were small and inefficient. Significant success was not achieved until the "Bumper" WAC was launched. It was a two stage rocket, with the small WAC atop a V-2, which "bumped" it into space. This was the last series of test carried on at White Sands. IN 1950 the test site was moved to Cape Canaveral.

In October 1957 those who had blocked von Braun's proposals (primarily President Eisenhower, who hated Germans) got a shock, Sputnik 1 was launched. Because of Eisenhower's distrust of von Braun the navy had been awarded the task of launching the first space shot. This was despite the fact that von Braun had almost completed such a vehicle and the Navy had not even got plans on a drawing board. The Navy's project, Vanguard, was speeded up and a launch was attempted in December. The "Flopnik" blew up on the launch pad.

In January, 1958 von Braun's team launched Explorer 1 at Cape Canaveral.

NACA (National Advisory Commission for Aeronautics) was dissolved and NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) was formed in the same year.

Russian Yuri Gagarin become the first man in space on April 12, 1961. On May 25 President Kennedy vowed to put a man on the moon, von Braun and associates began work on the Apollo series. Apollo 11 achieved circum-Lunar orbit on July 19, 1967.

Even during the war years von Braun had dreamed of larger and larger rockets. The A-10, which was never built, bore a strong resemblance to the Saturn rockets. The A-9 was designed to be a reusable rocket, it was built and flown twice at Peenemünde before the end of the War. It was further developed by von Braun and eventually became the Space Shuttle.

As well as designing rockets, satellites and space stations von Braun published extensively and traveled widely, always sharing his enthusiasm for rocketry and space. He collaborated with Walt Disney on Tommorrowland at Disneyland, and on some Disney documentaries on space. There is even a Disney character, Dr. Ludwig van Drake, based upon von Braun.

In 1970 von Braun was "kicked upstairs". He continued to plan for a Mars mission but gave up and resigned in 1972. None of his proposal received any sort of consideration, it seems his Nazi past had returned to haunt him. He took a private sector job, developing and deploying satellites for the Fairchild Corporation.

Wernher von Braun became seriously in 1975. On June 16, 1977, one of the most influential men of the twentieth century succumbed to cancer at sixty-five years of age.