Kuiper poses with a document. It reads "OPERATION PAPERCLIP" and has a very large paperclip.

Operation Paperclip

Kuiper uncovers a classified document.

In March 1945, the Western Allies were invading Western Germany, while the Soviets were closing in from the East. Soldiers weren’t the only ones crossing the Rhine; a team of Allied scientists was hot on their heels. The “Alsos” mission was working to determine how much progress the Germans had made with making an atomic weapon. Since the existence of the US atom bomb would remain top secret for another 4 months (& you had to be an atomic scientist to determine what data was relevant), they couldn’t just ask soldiers to collect information.

In addition to the atom bomb, securing info concerning weapons tech was high priority. After the capture of Bonn University, a lab technician notified an Allied soldier that he’d found something peculiar: a toilet stuffed full of papers. Someone had flushed them but not all the way, and the lab tech thought they looked important. He was right; he’d just found part of a list of top Nazi scientists.

The Allies captured Osenberg (senior Gestapo man who compiled the list) and promptly packed up his office (which had an even more comprehensive list.) Along with other leads, this list would become part of “Operation Paperclip”; a secret program which would end up bringing hundreds of Nazi scientists to the United States.

Yeah, that was a thing. Among other justifications, the Joint Chiefs of Staff declared that it was vital for the scientists to not end up in the hands of the Soviets. The name “Paperclip” came from the paperclip that Army Intelligence discreetly attached to the files of some of the more …problematic… individuals. In some cases, gory details of the scientists’ pasts were kept secret for decades. ?

Due to tensions between the US and USSR, in Sept 1946 President Truman secretly gave the go-ahead for a thousand German scientists and technicians to immigrate permanently to the US. It didn’t take long for the public to find out at least some of what was going on; the New York Times had published an article about it by November. Among those vocally opposed to the program were Eleanor Roosevelt and Albert Einstein.

Next up: Werner von Braun & his V2.

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