Published by Little Brown on February 11th, 2014
Genres: adult, historical, nonfiction
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The explosive story of America's secret post-WWII science programs, from the author of the New York Times bestseller Area 51
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.
I rarely read nonfiction. It’s as if I know myself and what kind of reading I can handle. When it comes to Operation Paperclip, I should have listened to my gut and not requested it. Thing is, I do have a fascination and burgeoning interest in World War 2, so I really thought I could manage this monster of a book. But I do have attention span issues (this has nothing negative to say about the book at ALL) and I could only read a chapter or two in a sitting before I started to get antsy. As a result, I couldn’t finish the book at this time. But what I did manage to finish (about 150 pages) was fascinating.
I don’t normally rate a book if I have DNFed it, but I truly do intend to go back to this book and finish it at some point. Unfortunately, since it’s a review book, I don’t have the luxury of holding off my review until that time. So I’ve decided to rate and review the portion that I read, and since it’s nonfiction and not fiction, I feel like I got the gist of the book and the viewpoint and ideas it was trying to present.
I’m not sure what side I fall on. On one hand, I think it’s absolutely horrid that our military gave jobs (and basically safe havens) to some pretty awful war criminals based on the intelligence and ability they had in their careers. But on the other hand, I do understand why they did it. Fear. Fear that if we didn’t give them jobs, the Russians would and then they would take over the world, and in particular, the United States. Taking the Nazi scientists and doctors for our own gave us a leg up and an advantage that the Russians would not have had. I mean, who wants to give a scientist that can develop a crippling nerve gas to a rival country? It’s totally a morality issue. Our government has done some pretty awful things, but this takes the cake, and oddly enough, I understand why and almost approve that they did it. Who knows what would have happened to the US if it had not gone down this way?
I’ve read a whole lot about the events during and leading up to World War 2, but not very much about how it ended and what went on afterward. This was almost entirely new territory for me, and I was fascinated over the cleanup of the most horrific war in our world history. This book has everything you ever wanted to know about that. There are also photos and a ton of information about what happened to the worst of the Nazis and whether they were adopted into Operation Paperclip or prosecuted during the Nuremberg trials. It is a VERY comprehensive account, which is perhaps why I could only handle the text in small chunks. It got to the point where I had been working my way through the book for two weeks and I just needed a break, which is why I decided to put it down and write my review.
I understand if this makes you not want to read it, but please understand that we all read differently and I consume nonfiction in a completely different way than I do a book with a single story. This reads like a history book, and it does not quite have the narrative style that I was looking for. However, that does NOT mean it wasn’t a fantastic book. It was just not the type that I could read in one sitting. I actually love reading textbooks. I have kept most of the textbooks from school that I enjoyed, and I still look at them from time to time. Especially the history books. This is probably what I will end up doing with Operation Paperclip, because it has a large glossary and index with a ton of information that will make accessing the answers that I need easy to find.