Operation Paperclip

This was a US operation by the intelligence and military services to gather and extricate from Germany, during the closing stages of World War II and immediately after the war’s end, as many as possible of the German scientists working on advanced-technology programmes (especially rocketry) (spring/summer 1945).

The project was originally called ‘Overcast’, and of especial interest to the US authorities were scientists specialising in aerodynamics and rocketry (such as those involved in the V-1 cruise missile and V-2 ballistic missile programmes), biological and chemical weapons, radar and related/allied technologies, chemical reaction technology, and medicine.

The scientists, together with their families, were relocated secretly to the USA, without Department of State review and approval as their service for the Third Reich, membership of the Nazi party and related organisations, complicity in war crimes and possible future consideration as security threats would normally have disqualified them in any visa application.

The twin objects of the operation were to seize for the USA any and all of several capabilities which might open the way for major advances in many military technologies, and to deny such an opportunity to the Soviets, and the US Army in fact destroyed some of the German equipment to prevent it from being captured by the advancing Soviet forces.

The majority of the scientists, numbering almost 500, were deployed at the White Sands Proving Ground in New Mexico, Fort Bliss in Texas and Huntsville in Alabama to work on missile technology, paving the way for many of the USA’s guided missile programmes of the 1950s and 1960s.