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Our Germans

, 264 pages

12 b&w photos

December 2017



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Our Germans

Project Paperclip and the National Security State

Project Paperclip brought hundreds of German scientists and engineers, including aerospace engineer Wernher von Braun, to the United States in the first decade after World War II. More than the freighters full of equipment or the documents recovered from caves and hastily abandoned warehouses, the German brains who designed and built the V-2 rocket and other "wonder weapons" for the Third Reich proved invaluable to America’s emerging military-industrial complex. Whether they remained under military employment, transitioned to civilian agencies like NASA, or sought more lucrative careers with corporations flush with government contracts, German specialists recruited into the Paperclip program assumed enormously influential positions within the labyrinthine national security state.

Drawing on recently declassified documents from intelligence agencies, the Department of Defense, the FBI, and the State Department, Brian Crim’s Our Germans examines the process of integrating German scientists into a national security state dominated by the armed services and defense industries. Crim explains how the Joint Intelligence Objectives Agency enticed targeted scientists, whitewashed the records of Nazis and war criminals, and deceived government agencies about the content of security investigations. Exploring the vicious bureaucratic rivalries that erupted over the wisdom, efficacy, and morality of pursuing Paperclip, Our Germans reveals how some Paperclip proponents and scientists influenced the perception of the rival Soviet threat by volunteering inflated estimates of Russian intentions and technical capabilities.

As it describes the project’s embattled legacy, Our Germans reflects on the myriad ways that Paperclip has been remembered in culture and national memory. As this engaging book demonstrates, whether characterized as an expedient Cold War program born from military necessity or a dishonorable episode, the project ultimately reflects American ambivalence about the military-industrial complex and the viability of an "ends justifies the means" solution to external threats.

Brian E. Crim is the John M. Turner Distinguished Chair in the Humanities and an associate professor of history at Lynchburg College. He is the author of Antisemitism in the German Military Community and the Jewish Response, 1914–1938 and the editor of Class of ’31: A German-Jewish Émigré’s Journey across Defeated Germany.

"... it is a very fine account concerning the internal dynamics of the Paperclip program, providing a more nuanced evaluation than has hitherto been available."

"A fascinating and eminently readable addition to the literature on this subject that provides enhanced coverage of the perceptions and politics within the US government from 1945 through the 1950s."

"Crim’s eloquent history of the rocket team contracted to work under Project Paperclip brings insightful and nuanced analysis to a controversial subject. While not neglecting the ethical questions it raised, he shows that the project’s career also provides a revealing glimpse into the development of the postwar national security establishment."

"Crim has written an engaging and absorbing account of one of the most sensitive post-war intelligence operations: absorbing Nazi scientists into America’s national security apparatus. Amidst all this secrecy is a story of personalities and bureaucratic rivalries, and evolving perceptions of the Soviet Union in this crucial period of Cold War history."

"Through participant vignettes, historian Crim (Lynchburg College) provides insight into early Cold War decision-making in this well-documented, microhistorical, dissertation-like expose of Project Paperclip... Highly recommended."

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