1945: Operation Paperclip
America's First War for Tech Talent
Men who were classified as “ardent Nazis” were chosen—just weeks after Hitler's defeat—to become respectable citizens.
—THOMAS BOWER, THE PAPERCLIP CONSPIRACY1
Ask any information technology (IT) worker this question: When did the practice of outsourcing begin? Most will mention the massive remedial software code projects outsourced to India in the years leading up to 2000. The more astute will go back further and cite the 1989 landmark deal in which the Eastman Kodak Company outsourced its entire corporate IT infrastructure to the IBM Company and the Digital Equipment Corporation.
Both answers, however, are wrong.
The first outsourced tech project in American technology history was named after a simple office instrument, the paper clip. It began in September 1945 and involved hundreds of imported German scientists, many of whom were Nazi Party members and even SS officers.
Nazis Hailed as “Outstanding” Scientists
As captured German scientists began to arrive in America in 1945, the U.S. War Department's Bureau of Public Relations, sensitive to a brewing public relations disaster, issued a press release in October about “outstanding German scientists” that read, “The Secretary of War has approved a project whereby certain German scientists are being brought to this country to ensure we take full advantage of exploiting German progress in science and technology.”2
These “certain” and “outstanding” Germans were ...