Sunday, 6 December 2009

The Head-Hunting Competition With The Soviet Union

Official U.S. government policy was to avoid recruitment of "ardent Nazis." Many of the Paperclip scientists were members of Nazi organizations of one sort of another. The documentary record indicates, however, that many claimed inactive status or membership that was a formality, according to files in the National Archives.

The director of the Joint Intelligence Objectives Agency, Navy Captain Bosquet N. Wev, bluntly put the case for recruitment in a April 27,1948 memo to the Pentagon’s Director of Intelligence:

"Security investigations conducted by the military have disclosed the fact that the majority of German scientists were members of either the Nazi Party or one or more of its affiliates. These investigations disclose further that with a very few exceptions, such membership was due to exigencies which influenced the lives of every citizen of Germany at that time."

Wev was critical of over-scrupulous investigations by the Department of Justice and other agencies as reflecting security concerns no longer relevant with the defeat of Germany, and "biased considerations" about the nature of his recruits’ fascist allegiances.

The possibility of scientists being won to the Soviet side in the Cold War was, according to Captain Wev, the highest consideration. In a March 1948 letter to the State Department, Wev assessed the prevailing view in the government:

"Responsible officials ... have expressed opinions to the effect that, in so far as German scientists are concerned, Nazism no longer should be a serious consideration from a viewpoint of national security when the far greater threat of Communism is now jeopardizing the entire world. I strongly concur in this opinion and consider it a most sound and practical view, which must certainly be taken if we are to face the situation confronting us with even an iota of realism. To continue to treat Nazi affiliations as significant considerations has been aptly phrased as 'beating a dead Nazi horse.’"

In his April 27, 1948 report to his superiors, he again cited the Soviet threat:

In light of the situation existing in Europe today, it is conceivable that continued delay and opposition to the immigration of these scientists could result in their eventually falling into the hands of the Russians who would then gain the valuable information and ability possessed by these men. Such an eventuality could have a most serious and adverse affect on the national security of the United State.