Sunday, October 16, 2011

Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments (Post WW II Reccruitment of German Scientists)


The following is a staff memorandum or other working document
prepared for the members of the Advisory Committee on Human
Radiation Experiments. It should not be construed as representing
the final conclusions of fact or interpretation of the issues.
All staff memoranda are subject to revision based on further
information and analysis. For conclusions and recommendations of
the Advisory Committee, readers are advised to consult the Final
Report to be published in 1995.


TO: Members of the Advisory Committee on Human Radiation

FROM: Advisory Committee Staff

DATE: April 5, 1995

RE: Post-World War II Reccruitment of German
Scientists--Project Paperclip

The Air Force's School of Aviation Medicine (SAM) at Brooks Air
Force Base in Texas conducted dozens of human radiation experiments
during the Cold War, among them flashblindness studies in connection
with atomic weapons tests, and datagathering for total-body
irradiation studies conducted in Houston. (These have been the subject
of prior briefing books.) Because of the extensive postwar recruiting
of German scientists for the SAM and other U.S. defense installations,
and in light of the central importance of the Nuremberg prosecutions
to the Advisory Committee's work, members of the staff have collected
documentary evidence about Project Paperclip from the National
Archives and Department of Defense records. (The departments of
Justice and Defense, as well as the Archives staff, have provided
substantial assistance in this effort.)

The experiments for which Nazi investigators were tried included
many related to aviation research. These were mainly high-altitude
exposure studies, oxygen deprivation experiments, and cold studies
related to air-sea rescue operations. This information about air crew
hazards was important to both sides, and, of course, continued to be
important to military organizations in the Cold War.

Background of Project Paperclip

Project Paperclip was a postwar and Cold War operation carried
out by the Joint Intelligence Objectives Agency (JIOA).1 [Operation
Paperclip's code name was said to have originated because
scientific recruits' papers were paperclipped with regular immigration
forms. The JIOA was a special intelligence office reporting to the
Director of Intelligence in the War Department, comparable to the
intelligence chief of today's Joint Chiefs of Staff.] Paperclip had
two aims: to exploit German scientists for American research, and to
deny these intellectual resources to the Soviet Union. At least
1,600 scientists and their dependents were recruited and brought to
the United States by Paperclip and its successor projects through
the early 1970s. The most famous of these was Wernher von Braun.


In recent years, it has been alleged that many of these
individuals were brought to the United States in violation of American
government policy not to permit the entrance of "ardent Nazis" into
the country, that many were security risks, and that at least some
were implicated in Holocaust-related activities.

The secondary literature on Paperclip includes Linda Hunt, Secret
Agenda (1991) and Tom Bowers, The Paperclip Conspiracy (1989). The
following is drawn from these sources and material retrieved from the
National Archives and DOD files.

Nuremberg and Postwar Recruitment of Scientists

At the time of its inception, Paperclip was a matter of
controversy in the War Department, as demonstrated by a November
27,1946 memorandum from General Groves, director of the Manhattan
Project, relating to the bringing to the United States of the eminent
physicist Otto Hahn.

Groves wrote that the Manhattan Project

does not desire to utilize the services of foreign
scientists in the United States, either directly with the
Project or with any affiliated organization. This has
consistently been my views. (sic) I should like to make it
clear, however, that I see no objection to bringing to the
United States such carefully screened physicists as would
contribute materially to the welfare of the United States
and would remain permanently in the United States as
naturalized citizens. I strongly recommend against foreign
physicists coming in contact with our atomic energy program
in any way. If they are allowed to see or discuss the work
of the Project the security of our information would get out
of control. (Attachment 1)

Biomedical Scientists at American Facilities

A number of military research sites recruited Paperclip
scientists with backgrounds in aeromedicine, radiobiology and
ophthalmology. These institutions included the SAM, where radiation
experiments were conducted, and other military sites, particularly the
Edgewood Arsenal of the Army's Chemical Corps.


The portfolio of experiments at the SAM was one that would
particularly benefit from the Paperclip recruits. Experiments there
included total-body irradiation, space medicine and bedrest studies,
and flashblindness studies. Herbert Gerstner,2 [The Committee has no
documents at this time indicating that Dr. Gerstner engaged in human
experimentation in Germany.] a principal investigator in TBI
experiments at the SAM, was acting director of the Institute of
Physiology at the University of Leipzig; he became a radiobiologist
at the SAM. (Attachment 2)

The Air Force Surgeon General and SAM officials welcomed the
Paperclip scientists. In March 1951, the school's Commandant, O.O.
Benson Jr., wrote to the Surgeon General to seek more

first-class scientists and highly qualified technologists
from Germany. The first group of paperclip personnel
contained a number of scientists that have proved to be of
real value to the Air Force. The weaker and less gifted ones
have been culled to a considerable extent. The second group
reporting here in 1949 were, in general, less competent than
the original paperclip personnel, and culling process will
again be in order. (Attachment 3)

General Benson's adjutant solicited resumes from a Paperclip
prospect list, including a number of radiation biology and physics
specialists. The qualifications of a few scientists were said to be
known, so curricula vitae were waived. The adjutant wrote, also in
March 1951: "In order to systematically benefit from this program this
headquarters believes that the employment of competent personnel who
fit into our research program is a most important consideration."
(Attachment 4)

The Head-Hunting Competition with the Soviet Union

Official U.S. government policy was to avoid recruitment of
"ardent Nazis." Many of the Paperclip scientists were members of Nazi
organizations of one sort of another. The documentary record
indicates, however, that many claimed inactive status or membership
that was a formality, according to files in the National Archives.

The director of the Joint Intelligence Objectives Agency, Navy
Captain Bosquet N. Wev, bluntly put the case for recruitment in a
April 27,1948 memo to the Pentagon's Director of Intelligence:
"Security investigations conducted by the military have disclosed the
fact that the majority of German scientists were members of either the
Nazi Party or one or more of its affiliates. These investigations
disclose further that with a very few exceptions, such membership was
due to exigencies which influenced the lives of every citizen of
Germany at that time." Wev was critical of over-scrupulous


investigations by the Department of Justice and other agencies as
reflecting security concerns no longer relevant with the defeat of
Germany, and "biased considerations" about the nature of his recruits'
fascist allegiances. (Attachment 5)

The possibility of scientists being won to the Soviet side in the
Cold War was, according to Captain Wev, the highest consideration. In
a March 1948 letter to the State Department, Wev assessed the
prevailing view in the government: "[R]esponsible officials ... have
expressed opinions to the effect that, in so far as German scientists
are concerned, Nazism no longer should be a serious consideration from
a viewpoint of national security when the far greater threat of
Communism is now jeopardizing the entire world. I strongly concur in
this opinion and consider it a most sound and practical view, which
must certainly be taken if we are to face the situation confronting us
with even an iota of realism. To continue to treat Nazi affiliations
as significant considerations has been aptly phrased as `beating a
dead Nazi horse.'" (Attachment 6)

In his April 27,1948 report to his superiors, he again cited the
Soviet threat:

In light of the situation existing in Europe today, it is
conceivable that continued delay and opposition to the
immigration of these scientists could result in their
eventually falling into the hands of the Russians who would
then gain the valuable information and ability possessed by
these men. Such an eventuality could have a most serious and
adverse affect on the national security of the United
States. (Attachment 5)

Hubertus Strughold and the SAM

Perhaps the most prominent of the Paperclip physicians was
Hubertus Strughold, called "the father of space medicine" and for whom
the Aeromedical Library at the USAF School of Aerospace Medicine was
named in 1977. During the war, he was director of the Luftwaffe's
aeromedical institute; a Strughold staff member was acquitted at
Nuremberg on the grounds that the physician's Dachau laboratory was
not the site of nefarious experiments.

Strughold had a long career at the SAM, including the recruitment
of other Paperclip scientists in Germany. His background was the
subject of public controversy in the United States. He denied
involvement with Nazi experiments and told reporters in this country
that his life had been in danger from the Nazis. A citizen for 30
years before his death in 1986, his many honors included an
Americanism Award from the Daughters of the American Revolution.


An April 1947 intelligence report on Strughold stated: "[H]is
successful career under Hitler would seem to indicate that he must be
in full accord with Nazism." (Attachment 7) However, Strughold's
colleagues in Germany and those with whom he had worked briefly in the
United States on fellowships described him as politically indifferent
or anti-Nazi.

In his application to reside in this country, he declared:

Further, the United States is the only country of liberty
which is able to maintain this liberty and the
thousand-year-old culture and western civilization, and it
is my intention to support the United States in this task,
which is in danger now, with all my scientific abilities and
experience. (Attachment 8)

In a 1952 civil service form, Strughold was asked if he had ever
been a member of a fascist organization. His answer: "Not in my
opinion." His references therein included the Surgeon General of the
Air Force, the director of research at the Lovelace Foundation in New
Mexico, and a colleague from the Mayo Clinic. (Attachment 9)

In September 1948, Strughold was granted a security certificate
from the Joint Intelligence Objectives Agency director, Captain Wev,
who in the previous March had written to the Department of State
protesting the difficulty of completing immigration procedures for
Paperclip recruits.

Follow-up Research

The staff believes this trail should be followed with more
research before conclusions can be drawn about the Paperclip
scientists and human radiation experiments. That the standard for
immigration was "not an ardent Nazi" is troubling; in Strughold's
case, investigators had specifically questioned his credentials for

It is possible that still-classified intelligence documents could
shed further light on these connections. Staff is attempting to
identify sites that may continue to hold this material. The Department
of Defense has supplied a number of documents and the Central
Intelligence Agency has been asked to search its files. Staff has been
sifting declassified files at the National Archives and plans to
inspect further classified files on this subject.


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