In light of the recent release of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, I thought it might be fun to recommend a great book that is somewhat tangentially related to the plot of the latest blockbuster from Marvel. Although the historical events of “Operation Paperclip” are only briefly mentioned, the results of this governmental endeavor play a significant role in the plot development of the film.
Earlier this year, Operation Paperclip: The Secret Intelligence Program that Brought Nazi Scientists to America by Annie Jacobsen was released in hardcover. This work of historical non-fiction documents the lives of several German scientists who were relocated to America, and examines how their work affected political events during the Cold War.
In the chaos following World War II, the U.S. government faced many difficult decisions, including what to do with the Third Reich's scientific minds. These were the brains behind the Nazis' once-indomitable war machine. So began Operation Paperclip, a decades-long, covert project to bring Hitler's scientists and their families to the United States.
Many of these men were accused of war crimes, and others had stood trial at Nuremberg; one was convicted of mass murder and slavery. They were also directly responsible for major advances in rocketry, medical treatments, and the U.S. space program. Was Operation Paperclip a moral outrage, or did it help America win the Cold War?
Drawing on exclusive interviews with dozens of Paperclip family members, colleagues, and interrogators, and with access to German archival documents (including previously unseen papers made available by direct descendants of the Third Reich's ranking members), files obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, and dossiers discovered in government archives and at Harvard University, Annie Jacobsen follows more than a dozen German scientists through their postwar lives and into a startling, complex, nefarious, and jealously guarded government secret of the twentieth century.
In this definitive, controversial look at one of America's most strategic, and disturbing, government programs, Jacobsen shows just how dark government can get in the name of national security.
This books carries a lot of heft (it comes in at just under 600 pages), but provides a fascinating look at a critical time in American and world history. Like Captain America: The Winter Soldier, it provides an interesting analysis of the decisions of governmental agencies, while also providing a glimpse at the lives and actions of the people who make those decisions into realities. Highly recommended for fans of the film who want to delve deeper into the historical realities of the movie’s backstory.
Until next time, this is Dr. T reminding you to get your hands nerdy.