Part 6: Operation Overcast/Paperclip

The question, "What did we learn from WWII?" is something that is a part of the conversation around WWII. However, the conversation is almost always to do with how to prevent another atrocity like that from ever happening again. But there is another way that we could answer that question. In fact, the US government made it a point to look at that question from different angles and in fact learn much more.

Does this mean that they wanted to become like the Nazis? No. Absolutely not.

The US recognized that the Nazis had different various advanced technology and methods that they had used through the war. They recognized that they had things they could learn from their enemy. But it wasn't until the discovery of a hidden away list that the US knew just how to go about learning from their enemy.

In the later years of the war, Nazi Germany recognized some of their disadvantages and that they needed to reevaluate some of their methods. Rather than push forward in numbers, they decided to instead pluck out the highly intelligent members and send them back to work. Scientists, doctors, engineers, etc. were pulled back from the front lines. But before they could get back to work, they had to go through and evaluation. A man named Werner Osenberg would write down the names of the men as they were cleared on a list and sent them on their way.

Fast forward to March of 1945. The story goes that a Polish laboratory technician found pieces of Osenberg's list stuffed and hidden away in a toilet at Bonn University. If you're like me, you're wondering how the list got there, why the Polish laboratory technician was looking in the toilet, who hid it away, and what happened to the rest of the list. Among many other questions that could come from this. And while I unfortunately have those answers, I can tell you that after the list was discovered, that list made its way to the US Intelligence. Suddenly they had before them the list of men who could teach them so much. They wanted to recruit these men.

However, there was a bit of a snag. When the proposal was brought to President Truman, he reportedly sat on making a decision for about sixteen months. After all, Truman himself had an anti-Nazi order. The Joint Intelligence Objectives Agency (JIOA) had an idea around that. They would essentially create false identities for these individuals. With their new identities, they would have no documented records of being involved with the Nazi Party, working for them, or have any ties to any sort of Nazi related activity. Truman agreed, and with these newly fabricated identities, these men could be cleared by the US government to come and work in the US.

This mission was called Operation Overcast.

The US wasn't the only group that was eyeing the Nazi scientists. In fact, a number of other countries were. However, the US knew that depending on where these scientists landed, they could wind up working for Nazi sympathizing countries and build up their forces again to come back twice as hard. The US found it very important to be in control of where these men wound up.

The general public caught wind of this plan. They were horrified to learn that the US officials were working to bring Nazis to the US. They strongly opposed this and the US claimed that they dropped this altogether. However, in actuality, they just changed the name. It would now be called Operation Paperclip. They chose this as their code name because they would put a paperclip on the files of individuals that they wanted to bring to the US. The paperclip was an unspoken sign to the others going through the files.

By May of 1945, the first of the scientists arrived in the US. They were put to work very quickly. One of the most well known men to have been brought over in this project was none other than Wernher von Braun. In fact, when you research Operation Paperclip, a great deal of the attention is on von Braun. Von Braun could be considered the great success from this project. He had been fundamental in starting NASA. Had it not been for him, the US may have lost the space race. In fact, had the Soviet Union wound up with the scientists that were brought to the US, not just the space race but the Cold War itself could have ended very differently.

However, these were not the only things that the US government were interested in. In fact, the CIA was very interested in the medical experiments that had been done in Nazi Germany. As explained with the outreach to Canada, the CIA was not afraid to look outside the box for their project MK Ultra. And if the doctors and scientists had made advancements in the name of mind control and had things to share, the CIA wanted nothing more than to be privy to that information.


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