Bower, Tom. The Paperclip Conspiracy: The Hunt For Nazi Scientists. Boston: Little, Brown,

 

Bower, Tom. The Paperclip Conspiracy: The Hunt For Nazi Scientists. Boston: Little, Brown,
1987.

"Paperclip" was the code name given this operation by the Army agents who carried it out. The
conspiracy involved capturing German scientists and smuggling them into the U.S. The plan was
twofold: to deny these scientists to the Russians and to subvert the immigration laws of this
country which forbade the immigration of "known Nazis." Similar operations were carried on by
our Allies.

There is no doubt that von Braun and Rudolph contributed to our space program, itself a huge
bureaucratic effort. But there were others who contributed to aircraft design and tank
construction, "war industries." What we captured from Germany were war scientists, people who
would have been unemployable in Germany after the war. In this, we showed appreciation for the
remarkable technology which had allowed Germany to conduct, and almost win, a war against
most of the rest of the world. We thought that in capturing German scientists we would be
getting German technology, and in this we failed to recognize the significance of German social
organization. Science is not merely scientists. Science is made up of the organization which
supposedly supports the geniuses at the top. We displayed a woeful ignorance: we were so
committed to our assumptions about genius that we thought we had it all when we got the boys at
the top.

Bower tells his tale as dramatically as possible by suggesting that the Army's operation was
secret and that this whole conspiracy was a national disgrace which came to light only with the
deportation of Rudolph in 1984. On the contrary: everybody knew von Braun and his colleagues
were here and that the Cold War justified our acts. Tom Leher had jokes about von Braun in his
songs which were popular in the 1950s. The conscription of German scientists was common
knowledge. Our citizens approved.

This author writes of Paperclip as a success. My own judgment is otherwise. In Paperclip, we
were betrayed by our own assumptions: we believed that science was von Braun and his space
technicians. German science was so much more. It was the social organization of science in
Germany that performed for Hitler, not just a few geniuses. We got much more from the "brain
drain" of the 1930s than we ever got from Paperclip. Von Braun was an asset only for the space
program which, as has been suggested elsewhere in this bibliography, was a political rather than
a scientific enterprise. We sold our ethics rather cheaply.