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Publisher's Summary

The “remarkable” story of America's secret post-WWII science programs (The Boston Globe), from the New York Times best-selling author of Area 51.

In the chaos following World War II, the US 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 US 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 20th 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.

©2014 Annie Jacobsen (P)2014 Hachette Audio
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

Critic Reviews

"Harrowing...How Dr. Strangelove came to America and thrived, told in graphic detail." (Kirkus ReviewsI)

What listeners say about Operation Paperclip

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The Osenberg list

In 1945, Operation Overcast (renamed Operation Paperclip for the paperclips attached to the dossiers of the scientist) began. More than 1600 German scientist were secretly recruited to work for the United States. There was a race between the United States and the U.S.S. R. to obtain these scientists. At the time Albert Einstein, Eleanor Roosevelt and Rabbi Steven Wise publically opposed the program.

In 1998 President Clinton signed the Nazi War Crimes disclosure Act, which pushed through the declassification of American’s intelligence records, including F.B. I., Army Intelligence and C.I.A. files of German agents, scientists and war criminals. Jacobsen accessed these documents, along with her research in various special collections, interviews with former intelligence personnel and relatives of the scientists. This makes Jacobsen’s account the most in-depth to date. The author tracked 21 of these Nazi scientists. Eight of her subjects worked directly with the upper echelon of the Nazi government. Some of these are Werner Von Braun, Hubertus Strughold, Walter Dornberger, and Arthur Rudolph, Fritz Hoffman. The author described in detail the hunt for the Nazi secret chemical and biological warfare sites and the hunt for the scientist.
Jacobsen focuses mostly on biologists, chemists and physicians. She said the rocket scientist had already been widely written about.

The author painstakingly covers the various scientist works for the Nazis; I wish she would have equally covered their work in American. We know the benefit of the work by the rocket scientist in developing the Saturn rocket. German Chemist Fritz Hoffman was assigned by the U.S. to research toxic agents for military use. He is credited with the development of Agent Orange. It was used to defoliate trees in Vietnam. Hoffman died in 1967. Other German scientist worked in the area of aeronautical medicine, research into diabetes, neurological disease and also developing equipment. I believe one of them developed the ear thermometer. The book is an achievement of investigative reporting and historical writing. I would have preferred Jacobsen provide us with enough information about the works preformed in America to help us answer the question ----was our deal with the devil worth it? The author narrated the book.

86 people found this helpful

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This book will be read in all history classes soon

Would you consider the audio edition of Operation Paperclip to be better than the print version?

This book will be read in all history classes soon

I want to keep this short... This book is an amazing compendium of a subject that has never before been truly explored. Annie's research is amazing: aka you will be shocked and amazed and what you learn!

What did you like best about this story?

The frankness of the narrative.

What does Annie Jacobsen bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Her narration really emphasizes the book's main points!

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

The last part, when she lists all the crimes/criminals... one by one... methodically

Any additional comments?

just amazing!

26 people found this helpful

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I'm in awe of the research

This is my second Annie Jacobsen audiobook. Operation Paperclip went by so fast. I am blown away by how very thorough she was in her research. It must have taken her many years to collect and discover everything. There is no doubt it's a monumental work. And after having compiled all of that data, the way she lays it out and tells the story was mesmerizing for me. I am equally impressed with the level of detail she invested in the correct German and Russian pronunciations of the names of people and places. I love that she is the narrator. No one could tell this story as well. I highly recommend this book.

11 people found this helpful

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  • VC
  • 06-21-18

The Devil You Know

Very interesting book and as always, extremely well researched by the Autor. Many parts will sadden you and many will also anger you, but in the end you have to ask yourself if this was a better option than letting these Nazis work for other countries and what would those results have been.

10 people found this helpful

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Eye Opening Narrative of Where the Nazis Went

this was a great book following where some of the top scientist and engineers of the Nazi scientist and engineers went after the war; being absorbed into the USA and the USSR sometimes to continue their work.

10 people found this helpful

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A must listen for all Americans

One of the best I have ever listened. Great historical information. I recommend everyone listen

7 people found this helpful

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A factual story told with an agenda

Would you try another book from Annie Jacobsen and/or Annie Jacobsen?

Absolutely.

How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?

I think that most readers are able to see for themselves that the Paperclip scientists were Nazis, and that the United States Government was hypocritical to have used them as we did (anybody wish that the Russians got them all)? We don't need your conscience, Annie: Just your typical good research and writing.

Would you listen to another book narrated by Annie Jacobsen?

Absolutely. More please!

Could you see Operation Paperclip being made into a movie or a TV series? Who should the stars be?

Maybe.

Any additional comments?

None

5 people found this helpful

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Interesting study, dry delivery

Some information presented in this book have more disturbing implications than others, and some actually outline the arguably positive outcomes of this arrangement. It, however, bridges the gap after the fall of the Nazis and the transformation of technological and military advancements in the West.

8 people found this helpful

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Exposure of the Systematic stonewalling of facts

A very interesting documentation of Operation Paperclip and what lies hidden behind the American Scientist Programs in post war America. The systematic cover-up of facts that dozens if not hundreds of Americans took part in , to bring NAZI WAR CRIMINALS to America to further our Space and Chemical Weapons Programs .
How some in the Military whitewashed the Nazi pasts of dozens of Doctors and Scientists allowing them to live the "American Dream", become respected members of the space pioneer elite and escape punishment for their atrocities during WW2.
The narration (by the author)was not as good as a professional but a fascinating story.

12 people found this helpful

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Good info but biased, moralistc, and oversimplifie

Does not take into consideration that war and politics are amoral and ultra nuanced. This type of situationsare not simple.

3 people found this helpful

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  • C. Hutchinson
  • 12-04-16

A very interesting topic

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

I would, but with a few caveats.

The major reason to recommend this audiobook is that it details the involvement of major German corporations in human rights abuses prior to and throughout WW2. This is important as far too few people are aware of this dark history. I particularly enjoyed learning more about the history of the drug Thalidomide. It also gives a biography of prominent Nazi scientists who were given clemency to accelerate technological progress in the USA.

The caveats are that whilst the narrator has a very clear voice, it lacks emotion and comes across as rather robotic. An excellent narrator can bring even turgid text to life, this narrator made listening more of a chore. My second caveat is that the evaluation of Operation Paperclip is rather facile as the author simply retreated to the moral high ground.

What other book might you compare Operation Paperclip to, and why?

Her book on Area 51.

What three words best describe Annie Jacobsen’s voice?

Clear
Robotic
Unengaging

8 people found this helpful

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  • A. Harris
  • 04-07-19

Every chapter seems to justify the operation

Have to wonder how the writer was able to get her hands on all that embarrassing information on the world's prominent democracy's actions. One answer could be because the whole book is a justification for Operation Paperclip - "if we didn't do it, those menacing Soviets would have" - seems to be the conclusion to every chapter. Even if superficial evidence for this is presented in the book (such as quoting an official report), it is never corroborated with facts.

Books like "Wall Street and the Rise of Hitler" give a better understanding of why the USA wanted all these specialists; because it had paid for them with investments in the Third Reich's businesses.

Apart from this, the story is reasonably well written though is pretty unimaginative - the narration makes this worse. Amateurish meanders into side stories are told in a different style, which becomes jarring to the overall story.

In terms of the narration, the writer herself was unable to pronounce some of the German names. Which is poor for someone who was meant to be researching so much into this. Apart from that, her voice is dull and monotone.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Neil Ferguson-Lee
  • 01-10-19

Excellent Book but Try to Find Another Narrator

A very well-researched book with fascinating insights that demolish the edifice of such Cold War heroes as Werner von Braun. My only criticism is that the narration has not been great - quite sopific at times and it spoiled what would otherwise have been a five-star review.

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  • DN Cumbria
  • 09-06-17

Great book, well read.

An incredibly interesting story. So well researched and presented by the author. It's a long narrative but I was glued to the story from start to finish. One of the best narratives I've heard in a long time

1 person found this helpful

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  • Conor
  • 05-06-17

Very long but excellent.

It's a long tough listen but it was excellently written and I can't imagine they left anything out with how much they covered. Excellent book.

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  • Mr. Alan R. Jenkins
  • 10-22-16

Secrets of post-war German collaboration exposed

Great book, well written, though long-winded at times.

Biggest down side of book is the pronunciation of personal names - they are blatantly incorrect. Annie would probably be better to use another narrator (suggestion).

Detail is very much evident in this book, and exposes much of the "vile and evil activities" of many of the engineers and scientists committed prior to return to USA, and their crimes overlooked for the sake of technological gain. It questions the morality of the leaders of the time, and what could have been gained by way of illegal blood letting".

Annie; I admire your writing in this book, and the "no secret left untold" approach must be commended.

As a story - 100%. A highly recommended listen.

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  • Ryan SMee
  • 03-31-22

Very interesting & thorough

There’s lots of information is this that I’ve never heard before which is really cool.
I don’t mind the narration as much as others seem to. Although it is very strange that she takes so much time and effort to thoroughly research the subject matter, but then gives absolutely no effort to pronounce European names/places even slightly correctly..

On the whole, it’s very interesting and never shys away from the dark facts

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  • Joanne Sproule
  • 01-01-22

Comprehensive account

Comprehensive account but I would have liked the author's opinion of how she feels this shaped America and its institutions and how it still does to this day.

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  • Flett
  • 09-29-21

Must read/ Listen

One of the best books I have ever read! Its scary how these monsters got away with it all, for the love of power, money and greed!

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  • Nathan Morgan
  • 09-23-21

Wowsers!

A shocking yet interesting true story. A gripping read or listen, rather. To Annie!

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Mr Peter Brennan
  • 06-19-19

Great book overall

Really liked the book, only real issue was the pronunciation of a few of the German names, placenames and words.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 06-19-22

Fascinating and horrifying

A fascinating listen. The book focused a lot more on the Nazis work during the war and leading up to the surrender of the Nazis to the Allies than I expected. Operation paperclip isn't really mentioned until past halfway through the book. Given the title I was surprised but the author really sets the scene of who the Nazi doctors and scientists were and the crimes they committed during the war. I really felt the full weight of what it meant for these dedicated Nazis to be not only given their freedom but a comfortable life making very good money working for the US military. I knew the rough story of operation paperclip and yet with all the details and a more full picture of the program, it was still shocking to me. I really recommend this book if you are interested in WWII history, Nazi history or government secret operations.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 03-20-22

Sad story, excellent book.

Justice for the people whose lives these people ruined, came too late and only when extremely convenient for the US. Northing changes. Brilliant book, fabulous author, depressing story.

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  • Troy
  • 08-10-21

Timely and poignant reminder...

Especially given the current world events. Looks like we are doomed to repeat our not so distant history.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 02-17-21

Long and confusing, but interesting for the most part.

Generally focuses on a handful of german scientist and doctors - explores what their atrocities committed in WW2 and after in project paperclip.

The story flips between many characters which makes it hard to follow, so periodically there a reminders interjected throughout to remind the reader who someone is. There’s a character summary chapter at the end of the book but that doesn’t really work in the audible format.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 01-19-21

love when the author reads

love whe the author reads for audible and great story, sad but very informative

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  • Anonymous User
  • 12-11-20

history that should be taught

what a great book,Annie does a great job bring history to life , it makes you think what the world would have been like if Germany had won

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  • Anonymous User
  • 06-13-20

Truly an eye opener in a corrupt world

I found the content highly interesting, albeit repetitive, but the narration especially when trying to pronounce German names (often incorrectly) very irritating.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 10-03-19

dirty science

narration was a little wooden ,but the facts leave a dirty stain on modern history and science.

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  • Luke
  • 08-12-19

Hard to follow

Absolutely nothing against Annie Jacobsen and her amazing investigatory writings, however, this was a difficult one to follow.

The abundance of people involved in this horrible point in history makes for an incredibly hard book to follow. If you're fine with following multiple people (oh and by the way, they aren't your normal John Smith, Jane Clarke, but instead turn of the century Germanic names).

The historical facts are breathtaking however, I couldn't complete this 100%, purely as I was becoming increasingly lost...