CHICAGO -- American intelligence officials in post-World War II Germany doctored the dossiers of hundreds of prominent Nazi scientists to circumvent President Truman's ban on the recruitment of Nazi supporters.
The April issue of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, released Monday, reported that projects codenamed Overcast and Project Paperclip enabled Dr. Wernher von Braun, who later headed the U.S. space program, and about 800 other rocket experts and scientists to enter the country between 1945 and 1955.
Based on recently declassified government documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, reporter Linda Hunt said Americanauthorities knew some of the scientists were involved in Nazi atrocities. Some scientists were later charged at Nuremberg with war crimes, and at least one of them still made it into the United States, said Hunt.
President Truman had ordered that Nazi supporters or party members be barred from scientific recruitment programs. But, according to the article, officials of the Joint Intelligence Objectives Agency of the Joint Chiefs of Staff altered the dossiers of people they wanted to recruit to forestall possible objections.
Some of the declassified documents showed that when the military governor's office in Germany rated a desired scientist unfavorably, military officials were instructed not to pass on those reports. Instead, the European Command was asked to revise the status of these scientists to make immigration possible.
Von Braun, developer of the V-2 rocket and a major in the Nazi SS, was considered a potential security threat but American military officials had that status revised. He died in 1977.
Among those who entered the United States because of changed dossiers was Arthur Rudolph, a top NASA manager who returned to West Germany last year and surrendered his citizenship rather than contest charges of working factory laborers to death.
Also recruited into the program was Dr. Herman Becker-Freysing, former director of aeromedical research for the German Air Force, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for conducting experiments with Dachau prisoners.
The Bulletin is published by the Educational Foundation of Nuclear Science in Chicago.