Book Review Thursday: Operation Paperclip

OperationPaperclipThis was a fascinating book and well researched by author Annie Jacobsen.  She had been researching material for another book and came across the name Siegfried Knemeyer numerous times.  Knemeyer worked with a Nazi aircraft design company, but more notably he was a technical adviser to Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring, the second most powerful man in Nazi Germany and founder of the Gestapo.  She discovered that Knemeyer was brought to America shortly after the war and worked for the United States Air Force, earning a Distinguished Civilian Service Award by the Department of Defense.

Knemeyer was part of a United States intelligence program that was instituted following Germany’s surrender in 1945.   The contracts were top secret since they involved recruiting German scientists who were former Nazis – the program was code-named Operation Paperclip.  It had first been named Operation Overcast, but after the name was compromised and Army Intelligence ran into some problems with Nazi scientists who were “troublesome”, i.e., they were found to be participants in some of the more heinous crimes committed against humanity, the name was changed.  For those troublesome cases, a paperclip would be discreetly attached to those folders, thus the new code name.

Concurrently with the institution of the intelligence operation, teams of investigators were being sent to Germany to uncover the horrors the Nazis had perpetrated.  Dr. Leopold Alexander, one of the many team members sent to Germany to investigate after Germany’s surrender concluded that German science under Hitler and the Nazis had become quite grim.  He remarked that doctors were not practicing science, but rather “depraved pseudoscientific criminality.”  Dr. Alexander was a former German (and Jewish) doctor who had fled to the United States after Hitler came into power.

One of the interesting concepts adopted by the Nazis was that while they were working on biological warfare they simultaneously worked on epidemic control – a “sword and shield” concept.  The book relates some of the intricate, minute details that were undertaken to ensure both secrecy and Third Reich domination.

The book is very detailed, so it might be somewhat overwhelming to follow every single detail.  However, I learned some stunning details about the history of post World War II.  It is a bit of a conflict to think that the American government would risk national security, in the name of national security, to hire Nazis.  But, then again, they probably felt that if they didn’t snatch them then the Russians would (and the Russians did).  The Cold War started not long after the end of the war.

In her prologue, Jacobsen writes:

This is a book about Nazi scientists and American government secrets.  It is about how dark truths can be hidden from the public by U.S. officials in the name of national security, and it is about the unpredictable, often fortuitous, circumstances through which truth gets revealed.

If you’re interested in post-World War II and Cold War history, I’m sure you would find this a fascinating read.

Rating:  ★★★★★

Have a GREAT day . . . someday it will be HISTORY!

© Sharon Hall (Digging History), 2014.



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