In Poisoner in Chief: Sidney Gottlieb and the CIA Search for Mind Control, Stephen Kinzer documented how the United States came to incorporate Nazis into the government.
It started with a request from Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, during the war, for anthrax, just in case the Nazis “might launch a last-ditch bioattack on Britain.”
President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s (FDR’s) chief of staff was aghast, counseling the president that fulfilling the request “would violate every Christian ethic I have ever heard of, and all of the known laws of war.”
The president agreed to the request anyway, but the Nazis were defeated before the anthrax was ever delivered.
Immediately after the war, writes Kinzer, “the key German and Japanese experts were adrift,” and America’s wartime spy agency, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS)—the precursor to the Central Intelligence Agency—wanted access to their intelligence.
“Wild Bill” Donovan, director of the OSS, asked for permission to recruit them as spies, in exchange for immunity and money.
FDR asked U.S. Secretary of State Edward Stettinus, Jr. to write a memorandum denying the request.
The resulting December 15, 1944 missive read as follows (emphasis added):
“I do not believe that we should offer any guarantees of protection in the post-hostilities period to Germans who are working for your organization. I think that the carrying out of any such guarantees would be difficult and probably widely misunderstood both in this country and abroad. We may expect that the number of Germans who are anxious to save their skins and property by coming over to the side of the United Nations at the last moment will rapidly increase. Among them may be some who should properly be tried for war crimes or at least arrested for active participation in Nazi activities. Even with the necessary controls you mention I am not prepared to authorize the giving of guarantees.”“Foreign Relations of the United States: Diplomatic Papers, 1944, General, Volume I – Office of the Historian.” Foreign Relations of the United States: Diplomatic Papers, 1944, General, Volume I – Office of the Historian, history.state.gov, 15 Dec. 1944, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1944v01/d334
According to the U.S. Department of State, the refusal never made its way to Donovan.
FDR died on April 12, 1945.
The Nazis surrendered on May 7—just 25 days later.
FDR’s medical records disappeared—and Donovan proceeded with his plan.
The new “Americans” had their backgrounds sanitized so that they could start new lives here.
Some of them had committed particularly heinous acts.
To make sure they got special attention, their files were marked with paperclips.
“At the Kransberg Castle interrogation center, clerks began using paperclips to mark the files of prisoners whose backgrounds presented ‘the most troublesome cases.’ From that practice came the code name of the clandestine project by which Nazi scientists were given falsified biographies and brought to work in the United States: Operation Paperclip.”Kinzer
This is how the horrifying practice of rebranding murderous Nazi criminals as patriotic servants of the American military apparatus came to be known as “Operation Paperclip.”
Additionally, while the postwar Nazi recruitment effort was supposed to be limited to spies, the U.S. had already established a large biological weapons research program headquartered at Camp Detrick (now known as Fort Detrick), Maryland.
The scope of the spy recruitment effort quickly broadened to scientists.
“Once it was established that Nazi intelligence officers could be quietly forgiven and brought into America’s service, a precedent was set for Nazi scientists. The army established a new covert service, the Joint Intelligence Objectives Agency, for the sole purpose of finding and recruiting scientists who had served the Third Reich. Its officers sought to isolate scientists so they could not return to their wartime work fueling German military power; keep them out of Soviet hands; and, when desirable, arrange new jobs for them in the United States.”Kinzer
Donovan was known for ignoring orders, and FDR generally “felt the need to keep Donovan in check,” wrote Evan White in “Spymaster General,” a historical profile on “Wild Bill” published in Vanity Fair:
“He ‘loves power for its own sake,’ Roosevelt told an associate. ‘We must find a way to harness the guy, because if we don’t he’ll be doing a lot of things other than what we want him to do.’”White
His successor, President Harry Truman, shared these concerns, and asked for more information. What he received was called the “Park Report,” named for the army officer who put it together, and though it may have been “a vicious act of score-settling” by “bureaucratic rivals” as White claims, the content was nevertheless extremely accusatory and unsettling:
Roosevelt’s successor, Harry Truman, was even warier. He had read a report assembled by Colonel Richard Park, an army officer who ran the White House map room. According to the C.I.A. history of the O.S.S., the Park Report included “scores—over 120—items accusing O.S.S. or its personnel of incompetence, insecurity, corruption, ‘orgies,’ nepotism, black marketing, and almost anything else one could name.”
Despite his reservations about Donovan, President Truman approved Operation Paperclip in a “secret order” of September 3, 1946.
The “top secret” August 30, 1946 memorandum upon which the order was based, submitted by Acting U.S. Secretary of State Dean Acheson to President Truman, read:
“I am presenting for your approval a statement of United States policy on the interim exploitation of selected German and Austrian specialists in the United States.
“Since shortly after V–E Day the War Department has operated a project known as ‘Paperclip,’ under which selected German scientists have been brought to this country under military custody for short-term exploitation. There remains in our zones of Germany and Austria a number of specialists whose knowledge and ability could be used to further our technology. General McNarney has reported that the services of many of these specialists may be lost to us unless steps are taken quickly to assure exploitation under favorable circumstances.
“The statement provides for expanding ‘Paperclip’ to include a total of between 800 and 1000 specialists. Since cooperation of the specialists is necessary to successful exploitation, provision is made for bringing members of specialists’ families to this country, and for relaxing the formerly strict custody arrangements. The War Department would be responsible for custody and for excluding from the program persons with Nazi or militaristic records.
“It is contemplated that at a later date selected persons would be granted regular status under the immigration laws.
“This statement is based on recommendations of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and has been approved by the State, War and Navy Departments. I recommend your approval.”6
Of course, the memorandum was a lie, because the name of the program itself was a reference to the participants’ heinous crimes.
Accordingly—as Kinzer notes—although the order “specifically forbade cooperation with anyone who had been ‘a member of the Nazi Party and more than a nominal participant in its activities, or an active supporter of Nazi militarism,’” he may as well have left that part out:
“Operation Paperclip proceeded as if Truman’s stipulation did not exist.”
A decade after leaving office, on December 22, 1963, Truman wrote an op-ed for The Washington Post urging that the government rein in this increasingly out-of-control behemoth operating under a new name:
“For some time I have been disturbed by the way CIA has been diverted from its original assignment. It has become an operational and at times a policy-making arm of the Government….I never had any thought that when I set up the CIA that it would be injected into peacetime cloak and dagger operations. Some of the complications and embarrassment I think we have experienced are in part attributable to the fact that this quiet intelligence arm of the President has been so removed from its intended role that it is being interpreted as a symbol of sinister and mysterious foreign intrigue—and a subject for cold war enemy propaganda.”
As Peter Fenn notes, the context for Truman’s extraordinary article was the tragic assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy (JFK) almost exactly a month prior, on November 22, 1963.
But Truman’s call came decades too late. As Kinzer writes, the corruption had taken root well before, with the lust for power that fueled Operation Paperclip:
“During World War II, Nazi doctors carried out experiments that led to many deaths….experience that some in Washington believed might prove decisive in a future war. For the officers of Operation Paperclip, it was an easy call. Whenever a scientist they coveted turned out to have a blemish on his record, they rewrote his biography.”Kinzer
No act of evil was too evil to be exploited:
“They systematically expunged references to membership in the SS, collaboration with the Gestapo, abuse of slave laborers, and experiments on human subjects. Applicants who had been rated by interrogators as ‘ardent Nazi’ were re-categorized as ‘not an ardent Nazi.’”Kinzer
In short, because of the unchecked lawlessness and corruption of a few at the top, the entire U.S. government was poisoned.
Nobody could stop it, not even the President of the United States, not even by explicitly declaring the intention, as JFK did, to “splinter the CIA into a thousand pieces and scatter it into the winds.”
Whether the words were actually said or not is not 100% clear—but the fact of the matter is that multiple U.S. heads of state stood helpless before the Nazis and their enablers, even after the war was supposedly won.
This is an edited version of a blog originally posted by the author on March 12, 2022. By Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal (Dossy). All opinions are the author’s own. Public domain.