Seizing Science and Technology: American, British, and French Efforts to Take German Technology During and Following the Second World War

Douglas O'Reagan University of California, Berkeley 2012-2013 Dissertation Research Fellow

My time funded by the PACHS Dissertation Research Fellowship was primarily focused on developing the research for my dissertation. As such, access to the research facilities in the Pennsylvania area offered a variety of valuable opportunities. My project examines the efforts of the governments of the United States, the United Kingdom, and France following the Second World War to extract technologies, industrial machinery, and scientific personnel from Germany, as well as the implications of the international dispersal of this knowledge. The United States and United Kingdom began these efforts in a joint study of German military technology for use against Japan, yet they quickly expanded to cover all aspects of civilian industrial technology. The newly-established Gaullist French government eagerly joined in, and each nation anticipated great value from these "intellectual reparations." Some aspects of these programs have become something like common knowledge - the most famous case being the German aeronautical engineers led by Wernher von Braun drafted into American space research through "Operation Paperclip" – but they have rarely been considered in a wider context, as a phenomenon international in character but with key differences in the programs' implementation and goals in each national context. A comparative perspective allows entry into debate on the possibilities and difficulties of international technology transfer, including the role of access to shared technology in postwar international economic integration; how each nation's postwar challenges, and a growing perception of the importance of science and technology in overcoming them, impacted early Cold War diplomacy; and how these local circumstances shaped each country's experience of the broader phenomenon of the drawing together of industry, academic institutions, and governments experienced by each nation during and quickly following the war. I began my research as a PACHS fellow at the Chemical Heritage Foundation, where PACHS having put me in direct contact with reference librarian and fellowship coordinator Ashley Augustyniak saved me from quite a lot of wasted time in overcoming some minor bureaucratic hang-ups. CHF's collections proved extremely useful. Their series of oral interviews with important chemists contained about a dozen transcripts directly relevant to my work, providing an invaluable human side to research otherwise mostly derived from official government and institutional archives. The archivist on site was extremely helpful, bringing out not only the materials I initially requested (having consulted via email ahead of time), but also additional items that he felt might be of interest. As an example, one such item was a reproduction of a small book of German cartoons satirizing the Morgenthau plan to force Germany to become an agricultural, rather than industrial, economy – not something I would have thought to search for in the archival guides, but which will be a useful illustration of German reactions to industrial exploitation. Additional record collections offered deeper insights into particular individuals related to my project, including the papers of an academic who was part of the investigative teams touring through occupied Germany in search of industrial 'secrets.' The second major archive I was able to visit was that at the Hagley Museum and Library in Wilmington, Delaware, a relatively short drive from Philadelphia. Hagley is well-equipped for researchers, with highly detailed finding aids for their collections and staff who brought out my requested materials within minutes and remembered which I had on reserve each morning that I arrived. The collections at Hagley of direct interest to me included the DuPont archives - as chemistry was a major field in which the Allied powers hoped to gain German expertise after the war – and those of several business organizations associated with postwar international negotiations, such as the International Chamber of Commerce. The materials at the Chemical Heritage Foundation proved more valuable to my immediate research goals than did those at Hagley, but that was knowledge that could only have been gained on-site and hands-on, and with both facilities I was able to come away with personal connections to extremely helpful staff and a broader understanding of the materials they have on offer. As a result, future research trips to either facility will certainly be more efficient, possible to focus more tightly, and overall even more productive than was this trip. Had I not lost some days to illness, I would have been able to explore several additional archives in the area, if only to familiarize myself with them for additional research trips in the future. The necessity of timing my trip during the summer to fit my schedule meant that fewer PACHS community events were scheduled than if I'd made it during the academic year as originally planned, but despite this, the PACHS personnel made greatly appreciated efforts to build community among the small number of fellows in the area.