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Operation Paperclip: The Secret Intelligence Program that Brought Nazi Scientists to America Hardcover – February 11, 2014

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; First Edition edition (February 11, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 031622104X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316221047
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.5 x 2.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (159 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #65,175 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* By the end of 1945, the alliance of the Western powers with the Soviet Union had frayed, and the basic outlines of what would become the Cold War had taken shape. At the same time, military, scientific, and political leaders in the U.S. had become acutely aware of the value of German scientists responsible for great advances in rocketry and biological research under the Nazis. So, in August 1945, President Truman authorized the Joint Intelligence Objectives Agency (JIOA), a division of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), to aggressively “recruit” German scientists to come to the U.S. and to work for various government-affiliated programs. Truman had stipulated that members of the Nazi Party were not to be included. As Jacobsen, an investigative journalist, illustrates, the JIOA adroitly sidestepped Truman’s directive through an intense program of fraud and deception. Documents were forged or altered, wartime activities were covered up, and, in some cases, entirely new identities were created, all in the service of our national interest. Some of these men were only marginal Nazis, but some were fervent “true believers” directly responsible for war crimes. This is an engrossing and deeply disturbing exposé that poses ultimate questions of means versus ends. --Jay Freeman


"Important, superbly written.... Jacobsen's book allows us to explore these questions with the ultimate tool: hard evidence. She confronts us with the full extent of Paperclip's deal with the devil, and it's difficult to look away."—Matt Damsker, USA Today (4 stars)

"With Annie Jacobsen's OPERATION PAPERCLIP for the first time the enormity of the effort has been laid bare. The result is a book that is at once chilling and riveting, and one that raises substantial and difficult questions about national honor and security...This book is a remarkable achievement of investigative reporting and historical writing."—Boston Globe

"As comprehensive as it is critical, this latest expose from Jacobsen is perhaps her most important work to date.... Jacobsen persuasively shows that it in fact happened and aptly frames the dilemma.... Rife with hypocrisy, lies, and deceit, Jacobsen's story explores a conveniently overlooked bit of history." -- Publishers Weekly (starred)

"The most in depth account yet of the lives of Paperclip recruits and their American counterparts.... Jacobsen deftly untangles the myriad German and American agencies and personnel involved...more gripping and skillfully rendered are the stories of American and British officials who scoured defeated Germany for Nazi scientists and their research."—New York Times Book Review

"Chilling, compelling, and comprehensive accounting.... Jacobsen's impressive book plumbs the dark depths of this postwar recruiting and shows the historical truths behind the space race and postwar US dominance. Highly recommended for readers in World War II history, espionage, government cover-ups, or the Cold War." -- Library Journal (starred)

"Darkly picaresque.... Jacobsen persuasively argues that the mindset of the former Nazi scientists who ended up working for the American government may have exacerbated Cold War paranoia."—New Yorker

"An engrossing and deeply disturbing exposé that poses ultimate questions of means versus ends." -- Booklist (starred)

"Annie Jacobsen's Operation Paperclip is a superb investigation, showing how the U.S. government recruited the Nazis' best scientists to work for Uncle Sam on a stunning scale. Sobering and brilliantly researched." -- Alex Kershaw, author of The Liberator

"Throughout, the author delivers harrowing passages of immorality, duplicity and deception, as well as some decency and lots of high drama. How Dr. Strangelove came to America and thrived, told in graphic detail." -- Kirkus Reviews

"[A] gripping, always disquieting story of a nation forced to trade principle for power.... Jacobsen gives us many vivid moments.... OPERATION PAPERCLIP takes its place in the annals of Cold War literature, one more proof that moral purity and great power can seldom coexist."—Chris Tucker, The Dallas Morning News

"Jacobsen uses newly released documents, court transcripts, and family-held archives to give the fullest accounting yet of this endeavor." -- The New York Post

"Doggedly researched." -- Parade

More About the Author

Annie Jacobsen is a journalist and author who writes about war, weapons, U.S. national security and government secrecy. She was a contributing editor for the Los Angeles Times Magazine from 2009 until it closed in 2013. Her 2011 non-fiction bestseller, ''Area 51: An Uncensored History of America's Top Secret Military Base,'' has been published in five languages and is being made into an AMC scripted television series with Gale Anne Hurd (Walking Dead, Terminator) and Chris Carter, legendary creator of the X-Files.

Annie Jacobsen graduated from St. Paul's School and Princeton University where she wrote with Joyce Carol Oates and Paul Auster, studied Greek, and served as Captain of the Princeton Women's Ice Hockey Team. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband Kevin and their two sons.

Customer Reviews

The book is very well written.
Readers learn a great deal about the involvement of America's armed forces, State Department, CIA, and even the President of the United States in Operation Paperclip.
E. Bukowsky
A great book on a seldom written subject made possible by good research and documents only recently unclassified.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

66 of 70 people found the following review helpful By americangadfly on February 14, 2014
Format: Hardcover
After Nazi Germany's surrender to the Allies, sixty of the world's most evil human beings gathered as prisoners at Kransberg Castle twenty miles north of Frankfurt. This building was the former headquarters of Hermann Göring's Luftwaffe. It was here that American military intelligence officers began the process of deciding their fates. Send them to trial at risk of the gallows. Or spirit them away to war department laboratories in America. (Or do both, and then commute their sentences as if justice did not matter.)

Jacobsen's book tell this story. It's a big one, and she has conducted a massive amount of research and made it readable with a lively narrative style. Some of those scientists did go to face trial at Nuremberg. But others were brought into the U.S. and put quietly back to work.

The newly formed Joint Intelligence Objective Agency, or JOIA, had decided that these scientists were too valuable to the U.S. to allow to fall into Soviet hands. The initiative started by JOIA, Operation Paperclip, was a covert American operation that was one of the most guarded U.S. government secrets of the 20th century. Some of the scientists who were part of it were well known -- Albert Einstein for one. But others had much darker pasts:

* Otto Ambros was a Third Reich chemist who served as director of the German corporation that produced the gas used in the death camps. He was tried at Nuremberg, found guilty of mass murder, and sentenced to eight years. While he was serving time in prison, Operation Paperclip officials arranged for his sentence to be commuted. In 1951, Ambros was hired to work at a clandestine facility north of Frankfurt called Camp King.
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Format: Hardcover
Annie Jacobsen plunges us head first into the grim dossiers of some of the most celebrated names in America’s space program in her well researched book on the infamous World War II project called Operation Paperclip. Designed to prevent Nazi Germany’s scientific minds from taking their weapons-making skills to Russia, Paperclip instead devolved into a US government-sanctioned safe harbor for more than a hundred SS thugs and cold killers. “Humans and machine parts went into the tunnels,” writes Jacobsen of the underground assembly areas for Hitler’s V-2 rockets. “Rockets and corpses came out.” Most famously, Jacobsen tells the story of the well known SS officer Werner Von Braun who today has a performing arts center named after him near the rocket center in Huntsville, Alabama but who during the war showed little concern for the thousands of concentration camp workers who built his rockets in the death mills of the underground mines called the Mittelwerks. Rather than stand trial for his inhumanity, von Braun was brought to American and treated like a celebrity, his horrific past notwithstanding.
In alike matter, one name after the other pours forth from the pages of Jacobsen’s book at a pace that at times seems overwhelming but that in the end paints a portrait of a large-scale moral rationalizations set against the looming crisis of the Cold War. Jacobsen presents her material with detail never before seen in print masterfully laying out the facts without undue sensationalism.

Troubling, often difficult to stomach, but in the end comprehensive, this well written account is a warning to those of us today who are tempted to believe that “national security” forgives past sins or that “national interest” trumps morality. Thankfully, Ms. Jacobsen’s excellent books tells us that quite the opposite is true.
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37 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Rolf Degen on February 20, 2014
Format: Hardcover
This book is absolutely, breathtakingly fantastic. I am a German, I always thought that I knew everything about our "dark past", and then comes Annie Jacobsen with this treasure trove of unbelievable, mind boggling new revelations. The period is the same where the narrative of the Monuments Men is taking place, in the rubble of the Third Reich, and there is this American task force searching desperately for the whereabouts of the legendary "wunderwaffen" - and the dark geniuses who built them. The greed for these history changing inventions is so enormous, that rules are bent, laws are broken, monsters brought to the USA. The stories of the individual actors are harrowing and, at times, perversely sickening. A great deal of this information had never before been made public. Endless suspicions are raised (Why did Albert Speer get that light sentence at Nuremberg?). I am an author myself and I wish I had written this jewel. The Monuments Men has been filmed by Hollywood, but this is far more explosive dope. Annie, I wish you get your movie!
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49 of 58 people found the following review helpful By Paul Gelman on February 14, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Operation Paperclip is about the connection between Nazi scientists and American government secrets. Under this program, more than a thousand of Nazi scientists were brought to America immediately after the end of World War Two. Those scientists helped develop rockets, the NASA program, chemical and biological weapons, aviation and space medicine and many other weapons of mass destruction.They came to America at the behest of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Some officials believed that by endorsing the Paperclip program they were accepting the lesser of two evils-that if America didn't recruit theses men, the Soviet Communists would.
The book comes in five parts and each part is about another chronoligical era . Most men that were brought to America were accused of war crimes. Most of them were found guilty of war crimes by the various post-war trials at Nuremberg. Yet the USA wanted them on American soil to work for the American people despite their horrible past.
Opposition to Operation Paperclip gained momentum with America's scientific elite and many scientists were outraged when the details of the secret project came out. Albert Einstein was the most esteemed figure to publicly denouce this operation and wrote directly to President Truman on behalf of his FAS colleagues:"We hold these individuals to be potentially dangerous...Their former eminence as Nazi Party members and supporters raises the issue of their fitness to become American citizens and hold key positions in American industrial, scientific and educational institutions".
Another famous scientists, Hans Bethe, who fled the Nazis, asked: "Do we want science at any price?"
Among the various and many scientists and their respective projects they were working on, Ms. Jacobsen mentions Dr.
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