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Operation Paperclip was the United States Office of Strategic Services (OSS) program in which more than 1,500 German scientists, engineers, and technicians (many of whom were formerly registered members of the Nazi Party and some of whom had leadership roles in the Nazi Party) were recruited and brought to the United States for government employment from post-Nazi Germany (after World War II).
It was conducted by the Joint Intelligence Objectives Agency (JIOA) and in the context of the burgeoning Cold War. One purpose of Operation Paperclip was to deny German scientific expertise and knowledge to the Soviet Union and the United Kingdom, as well as to inhibit post-war Germany from redeveloping its military research capabilities. By comparison, the Soviet Union were even more aggressive in recruiting Germans: during Operation Osoaviakhim, Soviet military units forcibly (at gunpoint) recruited 2,000+ German specialists to the Soviet Union during one night.
The JIOA's recruitment of German scientists began after the Allied victory in Europe on May 8, 1945, but U.S. President Harry Truman did not formally order the execution of Operation Paperclip until August 1945. Truman's order expressly excluded anyone found "to have been a member of the Nazi Party, and more than a nominal participant in its activities, or an active supporter of Nazi militarism." However, those restrictions would have rendered ineligible most of the leading scientists whom the JIOA had identified for recruitment, among them rocket scientists Wernher von Braun, Kurt H. Debus, and Arthur Rudolph, as well as physician Hubertus Strughold, each earlier classified as a "menace to the security of the Allied Forces."
The JIOA worked independently to circumvent President Truman's anti-Nazi order and the Allied Potsdam and Yalta agreements, creating false employment and political biographies for the scientists. The JIOA also expunged the scientists' Nazi Party memberships and regime affiliations from the public record. Once "bleached" of their Nazism, the scientists were granted security clearances by the U.S. government to work in the United States. The project's operational name of Paperclip was derived from the paperclips used to attach the scientists' new political personae to their "US Government Scientist" JIOA personnel files.