Weird History

Operation Paperclip: The Covert Project That Welcomed Nazis Into America With Open Arms 

Hugh Landman
Updated March 4, 2019 123.1k views 12 items

When WWII ended, the United States government decided that it hated communism more than it hated Nazis — the US' enemy during the war. Many leaders abhorred the thought of communist countries recruiting Third Reich scientists for their own designs. Thus, Operation Paperclip was started to bring in any former Third Reich scientist it could find. America wanted to ensure the advanced military technology the WWII Germany scientists had developed would not fall into Soviet hands. 

The secret intelligence program was run by the Joint Intelligence Objectives Agency and brought more than 1,600 Nazi scientists (and their families) to America. With them came rocket systems like the V-2, which was developed to terror bomb London during the war. They also brought research and knowledge about jet aircraft technology, chemical weapons, and biological weapons.

Often, these former followers of Hitler had worked on projects involving human experiments during WWII, using Jewish people and prison laborers as lab rats from various concentration camps. Yet the United States chose to overlook these crimes and even obfuscated the records of these people that were brought into America. To learn more about Operation Paperclip and its impact on US history, read on. 

Operation Paperclip Was A Mission To Recruit Former Followers Of Hitler
Operation Paperclip Was ... is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list Operation Paperclip: The Covert Project That Welcomed Nazis Into America With Open Arms
Photo:  AElfwine/Wikimedia/CC by SA 3.0

As WWII came to an end, a new international rivalry brewed between the United States and the Soviet Union. These two superpowers were formerly allies, but tensions began to rise between them. One of the main motivations for the conflict was the threat posed by nuclear weapons systems.

During WWII, Third Reich military technology outpaced that of the Allies in areas including jet propulsion and rocket science. These Third Reich scientists were also developing chemical and nuclear weapons of their own, making them attractive recruits for the two main post-war powers. As a result, the United States initiated Operation Paperclip to bring these minds of WWII Germany to America, even those who were high ranking party members of the racist, fascist regime. 

A Possible War With The Soviets Motivated The Program
A Possible War With The ... is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list Operation Paperclip: The Covert Project That Welcomed Nazis Into America With Open Arms
Photo: WikedKentaur/Wikimedia/Public Domain

A war with the Soviet Union was an increasing concern for American generals when WWII ended. While the US was discussing control of territory occupied by Germany, it appeared the Soviets would install communist governments in areas they liberated from German control. As a result, relations between the US and Russia deteriorated and American leaders predicted that the two countries would soon be at war.

American generals believed that to be fully prepared, the US would need to advance their chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons programs. The US reportedly sought all the help it could get, despite the fact that those brought in were violent toward Jewish people in the concentration camps

Dr. Heinz Schlicke Started As A POW And Turned Into An American Collaborator
Dr. Heinz Schlicke Start... is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list Operation Paperclip: The Covert Project That Welcomed Nazis Into America With Open Arms
Photo:  Gasperi/Wikimedia/CC by 3.0

Among these scientists who were recruited by America was Dr. Heinz Schlicke. He was taken as a POW when the U-boat he was on was captured by the US Navy in May of 1945 while it was traveling to Japan as the war was ending in Europe. Schlicke had much of his research with him, including nuclear weapons materials and plans for several pieces of German military hardware, including the V-2 rocket and Me262 jet fighter plane. Eventually, Schlicke aided the Americans by designing the fuses to trigger an atomic bomb. In exchange, the US found his wife and children in the Soviet Zone and brought them back to be with Schlicke. He worked for the US government until his death. 

They Went On To Develop Some Of America's Favorite Products
They Went On To Develop ... is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list Operation Paperclip: The Covert Project That Welcomed Nazis Into America With Open Arms
Photo: Unknown/pxhere/Public Domain

In addition to creating dangerous military weapons, the WWII German scientists developed everyday consumer products. For example, they invented "synthetic rubber (used in automobile tires), non-running hosiery, the ear thermometer, electromagnetic tape, and miniaturized electrical components." Thus, Operation Paperclip resulted in not only military benefits but consumer and economic benefits as well.