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Operation ‘Surgeon’ and Britain’s Post-War
Exploitation of Nazi German Aeronautics
MATTHEW UTTLEY

After 1945, Allied acquisition of intelligence on Nazi Germany’s
wartime aeronautical innovations became one of the most important
immediate post-war aims. From July 1945 to July 1947, Operation
‘Surgeon’ became the focus of British efforts to exploit Nazi
aeronautical advances. The objectives of the operation were the
evacuation of state-of-the-art equipment from aeronautical research
institutes and the recruitment of high-grade aviation experts for postwar
work in Britain. This article analyzes the conduct and results of
Operation ‘Surgeon’. The limited literature on this topic has fuelled a
popular orthodoxy which holds that the UK intelligence effort and
policies to recruit German defence scientists were classic examples of
the ‘British disease’, or a more general inability to exploit a
technological opportunity that was harnessed so effectively by the
other victorious Allies. Drawing on the experience of Operation
‘Surgeon’, the article challenges this orthodoxy that has dominated
the historiography of Britain’s intellectual reparations from the Third
Reich.

After 1940, Nazi Germany ‘set to work to investigate every possible idea
for new aeronautical development’1 while the Allies, by contrast, pursued a
strategy of incremental improvement on proven equipment. By July 1945,
the British Chiefs of Staff had concluded that German science was ‘well in
advance’ of Britain in the fields of high-speed aerodynamics, ballistics and
rocketry.2 Though historians continue to debate relative technological
achievement by the end of the war,3 the Chiefs of Staff were convinced that
Germany had made ‘fantastic strides in … aero-research generally’,4
whereas the Allies had ‘few advanced projects’ under development.5
From July 1945 to July 1947, Operation ‘Surgeon’ became the focus of
British efforts to exploit Nazi advances through the evacuation of state-of-the-
art equipment from aeronautical research institutes and the recruitment
of high-grade aviation experts for post-war work in Britain. The operation
became one element of a wider plan to plunder ‘the enemy’s store of
technical and scientific knowledge’; a plan that the Chiefs of Staff identified
as one of their most important immediate post-war priorities.6
This article analyzes the conduct and results of Operation ‘Surgeon’.
The justifications for an in-depth study are twofold. First, given the
significance attached to science, technology and methods of war by the
Chiefs of Staff, there has been surprisingly little work on early post-war
scientific and technical intelligence.7 Consequently, this study helps to fill
an important gap in the history of British intelligence, particularly on the
relationship between intelligence and the content and direction of post-war
technology policy. Second, in contrast to the vast literature covering US
extraction of ‘intellectual reparations’ from Germany after 1945, there are
few detailed historical studies of the British experience.8

Instead, the historiography has been dominated by a small number of
texts that treat technology transfer from Germany as part of a broader
critique of British post-war aviation policy. These studies hold that the UK
effort to appropriate German aeronautical developments was a classic
example of the ‘British disease’, or a more general inability to exploit a
technological opportunity that was harnessed so effectively by the other
victorious Allies. In this context, a detailed analysis of Operation ‘Surgeon’
provides a means to evaluate the validity of this popular orthodoxy.
The first section outlines the antecedents of Operation ‘Surgeon’ and
key phases in its execution, while the second section analyzes the impact of
the physical hardware and elite experts who were extracted from Germany
on the post-war British aircraft programme. The concluding section
challenges the popular assumptions that have dominated the historiography
of Britain’s ‘intellectual reparations’ from the Third Reich.

OPERATION ‘SURGEON’: ANTECEDENTS AND EXECUTION
After 1939, Germany mobilized resources for high-speed aircraft
development in an attempt to offset its numerical inferiority in conventional
aircraft production. One consequence was that by mid-1944, German
aerodynamic research had access to more than 78 wind tunnels of which 19
could be used for high-velocity aerodynamics in the transonic and
supersonic range.9 By late 1944, applied research using these facilities was
manifested in the relative performance of the Messerschmitt (Me) 262 twinjet
fighter and the Me 163B tailless rocket-propelled interceptor when
compared with Allied alternatives.
By contrast, with the outbreak of war ‘all thoughts of supersonics’ in
Britain had been ‘pushed into the background and forgotten’10 as attention
focused on evolutionary refinement of established aircraft designs. Though
a ‘high speed’ variable density wind tunnel had been completed by the
Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE) at Farnborough in 1942, this was only
capable of operating at subsonic speeds up to Mach 0.8 and no wartime
efforts were made to provide workable wind tunnels capable of covering the
transonic range from Mach 0.85 to Mach 1.15 or the supersonic range from
Mach 1.15 onwards. As Wood points out, ‘while Germany was spending a
fortune on high-speed tunnels and trials and developing a variety of new
wing shapes and sections, Britain was largely content to soldier on with
600mph (966km) as an approximate objective’.11

In early April 1945, a crucial catalyst for Britain’s post-war exploitation
of German wartime innovations was the discovery by the advancing 1st US
Infantry Division of the Hermann Göring Aeronautical Research Institute
(Luftfarhtforschungsanstalt Hermann Göring) located in the British Zone of
Occupation at Völkenrode four miles west of Brunswick. Völkenrode was
one of Nazi Germany’s premier aeronautical research centres12 comprising
seven elite institutes concerned with aerodynamics, gas dynamics
(supersonic), strength of materials, engines, special engines (rockets and gas
turbines), weapons and theoretical ballistics. During early May 1945, with
Völkenrode under temporary US Army control, the British Ministry of
Aircraft Production (MAP) Director of Scientific Research, Ben
Lockspeiser, visited the establishment and assessed that the
aerodynamic, supersonic and high speed equipment is far ahead of
anything in this country, and as far as my knowledge goes, ahead of
American equipment also. It is probably true to say that in several
directions the technical equipment of this establishment is
unsurpassed anywhere.13

Lockspeiser made four recommendations to the Minister of Aircraft
Production.1

The first was to send to Völkenrode two British experts in
the activities of each institute to interrogate professors and section leaders
and produce short accounts of the main lines of activity. The second was
that when Völkenrode was handed over to the British Army a member of
the Directorate of Scientific Research staff should take over technical
responsibility on the grounds that the equipment was ‘of unique value’
which should remain ‘in the hands of scientists’. Third, he recommended
transfer of the more vital equipment Britain lacked, and would ‘inevitably
lack for some years’, to the new RAE site at Bedford. Finally, Lockspeiser
advocated that the German scientists at Völkenrode ‘who are really first
class’ should be brought to the UK ‘to wor
k under supervision’. He
stressed that time was of the essence because the inter-Allied Law No. 22
decreed that all warlike research in Germany was to cease by 22
June 1946.

Within four days a consensus emerged among senior MAP officials on
the proposals. On 14 May 1945, the Controller of Research and
Development advised the Minister of Aircraft Production that the MAP
should evacuate the equipment and interrogate well-qualified personnel at
Völkenrode.15 The Assistant Chief Executive, also Chairman of the
Committee to Co-ordinate MAP interests in Germany and Austria, endorsed
the urgent need to transfer the Völkenrode equipment to the Bedford site
and endeavoured to ‘arrange accordingly’.16 Subsequently, MAP proposals
for the exploitation of aeronautical scientific material at Völkenrode and
other establishments in the British Zone of Occupation were refined and
presented to the Assistant Chief of the Air Staff (Policy), Air Vice-Marshal
William Dickson, on 6 July 1945.17

Lockspeiser’s suggestion to bring German aeronautical experts to
Britain for long-term exploitation was more problematic. A scheme
administered by the British Intelligence Objectives Sub-Committee (BIOS)
already catered for the short-term interrogation of German scientists in
Britain.18 However, ongoing deliberations between the Whitehall ministries
with an interest in German scientists were precluding an overall British
decision on long-term employment policy, and difficult questions about
potential mechanisms to coordinate the allocation and recruitment of the
specialists awaited an edict from the Combined Chiefs of Staff in
Washington.

In April 1945, the British Chiefs of Staff Committee established the
Deputy Chiefs of Staff (DCOS) Committee to advise on research and
development questions affecting the armed services.19 By July 1945, the
DCOS Committee had recognized the potential benefits for the British
‘Defence Services by the removal of a limited number of high grade
individuals to the UK’.20 Correspondingly, the Joint Intelligence Committee
and the Home Office argued on security grounds that such a plan was
‘fraught with danger’ because it would be ‘impossible to prevent the
German scientists … obtaining all the information they want and passing
this information out of the country’.

This impasse in Whitehall, coupled with ongoing negotiations with the
Americans on possible ways to coordinate policies on German scientists,
meant that the recruitment of aeronautical experts advocated by Lockspeiser
seemed far from resolution.

On 12 July 1945, the extraction of German aeronautical and
development facilities was endorsed at the Air Ministry under the codename
Operation ‘Surgeon’. The operation was to be ‘essentially a MAP
responsibility’ but run largely by the Royal Air Force (RAF) since the
former ‘lacked the administrative and command structure to undertake the
task’.22 In the absence of a firm decision to bring German experts to Britain,
Operation ‘Surgeon’ had three objectives for completion within six months:
to acquire information from German scientists on the spot, to evacuate23
important research equipment to MAP establishments and ‘to exploit
German development of aircraft by continuing work on unfinished
prototypes under construction in German aircraft firms’.24

On 31 August 1945, following a series of bureaucratic compromises the
Defence Committee finally accepted the principle that German defence
specialists could be recruited for ‘research in the national interest’, so
Operation ‘Surgeon’ objectives were extended to include the selection and
evacuation of ‘certain top-flight scientists and technologists for
employment in Government research establishments and, to a lesser extent,
in British aircraft firms’.25 With the issue of German scientists resolved, the
essential elements of Lockspeiser’s proposals were in place.
The focus of Operation ‘Surgeon’ initially lay with the
Luftfarhtforschungsanstalt (LFA) facility at Völkenrode. The remit was
quickly extended to include five other ‘Surgeon Stations’ in the British Zone,
namely the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute (KWI) and the Aerodynamische
Versuchs-Anstatt (AVA) at Göttingen which possessed small wind tunnels, the
LFA outstation to Völkenrode at Trauen devoted to rocket motor research, the
Reyershausen outstation of the AVA and the laboratories of Focke-Wulf at
Detmold which were well equipped with apparatus for structural research.
Collectively, these establishments covered all subjects concerned with the
study and development of aircraft with the exception of electronics.26

Interrogation of German personnel and the removal of research
equipment was the immediate responsibility of the MAP. On 25 July 1945,
Professor W. J. Duncan was appointed as the Chief Scientist at Völkenrode
with a British Scientific Staff of 35 aeronautical experts from the MAP and
munitions experts from the Ministry of Supply. With the merger of the
wartime Ministries of Aircraft Production and Supply in October 1945,
scientific staff from the former were redefined as Ministry of Supply (MoS)
(Air) and the latter as MoS (Munitions).

Though exploitation and the physical removal of the research equipment
was a MoS (Air) responsibility, Operation ‘Surgeon’ formed part of the
RAF’s remit to liquidate Germany’s air war potential, a task of the British
Air Forces of Occupation (BAFO). An RAF ‘Research and Development
Branch’ was established at Völkenrode, headed by an Air Commodore, to
supervise the operation on behalf of the BAFO, to act as the agent in the
British and Allied Zones for the MoS (Air) on all research matters and to
satisfy the needs of the equipment removal operation where necessary.
The operation was executed in two phases. The ‘scientific exploration’
phase commenced in late July 1945 when Professor Duncan’s team
assumed control of the ‘Surgeon Stations’. Working side-by-side with
German scientists, the British staff ran plant and equipment for calibration,
testing and the collection of essential data. This activity was largely
completed by late 1945, though a limited amount of running for special
projects continued until 15 June 1946. Subsequently, the British Scientific
Staff supervised monograph writing and catalogued the technical libraries.
When test data had been acquired, the centre of gravity of Operation
‘Surgeon’ shifted to the ‘removal’ phase. Responsibility for dismantling,
removing and re-erecting equipment in the UK lay with the MoS (Air)
Director of Construction of Research Facilities (DCRF). Using technical
experts from British aircraft firms, engineers and specialists from the
Ministries of Works and Supply and German specialist and non-specialist
labour, the DCRF organized the removal and transfer of aeronautical plant
and equipment.

A crucial task of the British Scientific Staff throughout the ‘scientific
exploration’ and the ‘removal’ phases was identifying suitable German
scientists for employment in the UK. On 31 August 1945, the Cabinet
Defence Committee had agreed that German scientists and technicians
should be ‘exploited [in the UK] as fully as political and security
considerations permit in the interests of defence research … in order to
develop our military potential at Germany’s expense’.27 Responsibility for
policy coordination lay with the DCOS Committee and the recruitment
programme became known as the ‘DCOS Scheme’.

Following the resolution of acrimonious disagreements with the
Americans over the ‘ownership’ of aeronautical experts at Völkenrode and
Cuxhaven in late August 1945,28 Anglo-US mechanisms for the allocation
and employment of German scientists were agreed.29 A ‘pool’ system was
established, whereby specialists in both Zones of Occupation became
available for recruitment by either country. Under the aegis of the
Combined Chiefs of Staff in Washington, the DCOS Committee and its
American counterpart exchanged lists of the scientists Britain and the USA
required from ‘Bizonia’ on a regular basis. Inter-governmental agreement
was extended to ensure ‘approximate equality of allocation’ of German
experts across scientific fields and exchange of the results of work done
‘without reservation or time limit’.

Professor Duncan’s team from the MoS (Air) were a vital element of this
process because it was responsible for compiling the lists that were
submitted to the DCOS Committee and then on to Washington. Operation
‘Surgeon’, therefore, became the focal point where German manpower
requirements for post-war British aeronautical research were defined. By
November 1946, the British Scientific Staff had produced records on 500
German aeronautical experts and selected 74 for inclusion in lists for longterm
employment in the UK. Scientists from the MoS (Munitions)
exploiting rocket technology at Trauen were also instrumental in selecting
German missile specialists who contributed to the overall total of 122
scientists in which that branch of the MAP had an interest.30

Between July 1945 and November 1946, the British Scientific Staff
interrogated an array of high-grade German aeronautical experts and made
their recommendations under the provisions of the DCOS Scheme. Over the
same period, acute barriers hindered the translations of these
recommendations into a large-scale recruitment programme. The original
Defence Committee endorsement for the DCOS Scheme had explicitly
restricted German recruitment ‘to that minimum who have a real
contribution to make’.31 This policy to limit recruitment reflected an
accumulation of security and political considerations.

In part, the strict recruitment limits reflected a perceived security
dilemma: how to extract the maximum amount of knowledge the German
experts could provide for the post-war military research and development
(R&D) programme while at the same time reducing ‘to the absolute
minimum the knowledge they [could] acquire of our own work and
intentions’.32 The aspiration of the DCOS Scheme was to ‘to bring German
scientists to the UK in order that their knowledge might be exploited and
after we had obtained what we wanted from them, … they would be sent
back to Germany’;33 correspondingly, the concern was that:

Germans who have been employed [in Britain] might, at some future
date, choose to return to Germany or go elsewhere, and there can
therefore be no real safeguard against leakage of defence secrets
which they may acquire while working here.34

Immediately after the war, officials feared that ‘leakage’ of defence secrets
could aid future German re-armament, or ‘the risk that [by employing
Germans for long-term research would] keep alive a most dangerous part of
the German war potential’. By 1946, this had been replaced by anxieties that
British defence secrets might be passed to the Soviet Union. ‘Security
considerations’ were not limited solely to fears about information leakage
to potential adversaries; they also included concerns that reliance on ‘enemy
aliens’ could generate critical dependencies in particular fields:

The long term risk is that they [German experts] may make
themselves so useful in the defence work on which they are engaged
that in an emergency we are faced with the dilemma either that a large
number of key positions are held by men of doubtful loyalty, or that
the war effort is adversely affected by dismissing them.35

British officials had been prepared to accept that individuals processed
through the BIOS Scheme for short interrogation visits to the UK were ‘not
screened first’ and may have been ‘black Nazis’.36 However, political
sensitivities about the involvement of potential DCOS recruits in the
wartime German regime led the Defence Committee to add the stipulation
that ‘nobody whose record indicates that he was a convinced Nazi should be
brought to the UK to work, however high his scientific qualifications’.37

This edict had two implications. First, it precluded any wholesale
recruitment of aeronautical experts residing in the British and American
Zones of Occupation. Second, as officials recognized at the time, ‘the
necessity of selection of ex-enemy scientists being based largely on political
considerations … [limited] … the possibility of selecting the best personnel
in the technical sense’.38

Between August 1945 and November 1946, a further factor militating
against a large-scale recruitment effort was Defence Committee concerns
about public criticism of ‘renumerated employment of ex-enemy aliens’.
This led to the decision that ‘in no cases would German experts brought to
this country be employed in positions which might otherwise have been
filled by British subjects’.39 Consequently, the Germans were to be entirely
‘supplementary’ to trained British scientists and there was no question of
DCOS recruits displacing ‘normal’ staff.

Finally, the contracting of selected Germans through Operation
‘Surgeon’ had become the victim of bureaucratic inertia. An evident source
of frustration among the British Scientific Staff at the ‘Surgeon Stations’
was that negotiations with 12 separate authorities were necessary to gain
exit permits.40 By 4 October 1946, the net effect was that of the 80
specialists selected by the MoS (Air) team at the ‘Surgeon Stations’ and
included in lists exchanged with the Americans, just 16 were actually
employed in the UK. This reflected a more general pattern: taking the
DCOS Scheme as a whole, of the 184 German scientists required by the
Admiralty, MoS (Munitions) and the MoS (Air), only 35 had actually
arrived in Britain.41

In December 1946, the DCOS recruitment process gained impetus.
Responding to reports by the Chiefs of Staff that the Soviet Union was
actively enticing specialists from the British and American Zones of
Occupation, the Defence Committee agreed the need ‘to deny to the
Russians those German scientists and technicians within our influence who
would contribute substantially to the building up of Russian war potential’.42
This was coupled with concerns that delays in contracting the Germans
already allotted to Britain on defence lists was ‘likely to cause unfavourable
repercussions with [the] Americans, who under [Anglo-American]
agreement are supposed to receive [the] results of research work done by
British in UK and who have renounced their claims to Germans in several
cases on [the] understanding [the] British would be taking them’.43

The Defence Committee’s decision in December 1946 meant that British
objectives were now extended to include ‘denial’. The revised policy shared
key similarities with ‘Project Paperclip’, the American equivalent of the
DCOS Scheme. Whereas the original conception of the DCOS Scheme ‘had
required the selection of personnel on the basis of their positive merits’ for
Britain – ‘the revised plan called, in addition, for the choice of persons
primarily for a negative reason – to “deny” their talents to a foreign
power’.44 Measures were introduced to speed up the contracting process and
the transfer of experts from the ‘Surgeon Stations’ to the UK.

The ‘denial’ imperative also led to a relaxation of the strict rule pre
cluding
recruitment of ‘convinced Nazis’, and it now became ‘possible in one or two
cases’ for the Admiralty and the MoS ‘to overcome the letter of the ruling by
obtaining the approval of the Security Authorities to special arrangements and
by reporting each case to the Minister for his personal approval’.45
In the event, the MoS did employ individuals assessed as ‘active Nazis’
during security screening, notably the rocket experts Jurgen Diederichsen
and Johannes Schmidt. Both had initially been assessed as ‘unreliable’,
were ‘active members of the SA, and … the SS respectively’ from 1933 to
1945 and would, it was considered, become active Nazis ‘again given the
opportunity’.46 Similarly, of the 26 Germans at Völkenrode that were
hurriedly offered contracts to work in Britain, ‘most had been members of
the Nazi Party, but denazification was passed as a mere formality’.47

After December 1946, the contracting of German experts at the
‘Surgeon Stations’ accelerated. By mid-January 1947, of the 57 experts
allotted to the MoS (Air) and still required some 30 (43 per cent) were
contracted. For the DCOS Scheme as a whole, 159 scientists were allotted
and still required, of whom 68 (43 per cent) had arrived in Britain.48 By the
time the task of contracting DCOS recruits by the MoS (Air) was finally
completed in 1948, some 87 experts had been transferred to British
government defence research establishments.

In parallel, as the ‘removal phase’ was completed at the various ‘Surgeon
Stations’ the establishments were gradually handed over to the British
Control Commission. The Focke-Wulf laboratories at Detmold were cleared
and transferred in March 1946, followed by the KWA and AVA laboratories
at Göttingen and Reyerhausen in November 1946. The LFA at Trauen was
cleared for disposal in January 1947 and, with the release of the LFA at
Völkenrode in July 1947, Operation ‘Surgeon’ was brought to a close.

TECHNOLOGY TRANSFER AND ITS EFFECTS
It is important to note that various constraints preclude any precise
evaluation of the impact of Operation ‘Surgeon’ on post-war British
aeronautical development. One constraint arises in attempting to trace the
downstream effects of the documents and equipment acquired through the
operation on post-war British development and manufacture of final
weapons systems. There are also acute difficulties in producing meaningful
estimates of the financial value of the Operation ‘Surgeon’ contribution to
longer-term British military R&D and production. As Judt and Ciesla point
out:

The main problem is to determine the ‘value’ of technical
documentation … and above all, the German experts. It was possible
to credit material deliveries to reparation accounts at current value,
but the ‘value’ of German intellectual property acquired by means of
compulsory measures did not materialize before being applied in the
victorious countries in a future time.49

Consequently, ‘because one can only speculate on the value of this [knowhow]
transfer’50 it is impossible to determine the precise financial worth of
the technology transferred from Germany to Britain, or indeed, whether
Britain extracted the maximum ‘value’ of the potential contribution that the
DCOS Scheme theoretically offered.

Notwithstanding these constraints, there is evidence that Operation
‘Surgeon’ did have beneficial effects. From the ‘scientific exploration’
phase the MoS acquired what it assessed at the time to be probably ‘the
finest collection of aeronautical works in the world’.51 Approximately 180
German experts had been retained to write monographs covering the
detailed wartime work of the ‘Surgeon Stations’ and at Völkenrode alone
some 252 complete monographs were produced. Also evacuated to Britain
was the LFA library, comprising 4,900 volumes on air research and allied
subjects, and an almost complete technical library on German aeronautical
research from the Focke-Wulf library at Detmold totalling 3,300 separate
reports.

The ‘removal phase’ and the ‘Gold Dust’ scheme – a secondary effort to
gather up equipment from smaller aeronautical stations throughout the
British Zone – resulted in the extraction of 14,000 shipping tons of
equipment to the UK.52 As a result, Britain acquired an extensive range of
highly specialized wind tunnels and equipment for investigating highvelocity
flight at stratospheric altitudes. These included, from the LFA, a
wind tunnel with an electric motor driving fan with an output of 14,000hp,
a 400-metre firing range designed so that air density and temperature could
be adjusted to high altitude conditions, a wind tunnel constructed to subject
projectiles to cross winds up to 500mph and an engine test rig capable of
providing the conditions of density, humidity and temperature of altitudes
up to 50,000 feet. From the other ‘Surgeon Stations’, Trauen provided a
liquid oxygen plant capable of producing one-and-a-half tons per day and a
rocket test stand designed for a thrust of 100 tons. When the equipment was
reassembled, Britain had four state-of-the-art aircraft research centres at
Farnborough, Bedford, Pyestock and Fort Halstead.53

An equally significant contribution of Operation ‘Surgeon’ was the impact
on British aeronautics and rocketry made by the 87 experts recruited under the
DCOS Scheme. Of these, 17 experts were employed at the Rocket Propulsion
Establishment (RPE), Westcott, on rocket propulsion research and a further 16
undertook missile design in the Guided Weapons Department at the Royal
Aeronautical Establishment (RAE), Farnborough. Of the remainder, 54
worked at the RAE primarily in the Aero Department with smaller numbers
employed in the Chemistry, Electrical, Radio and Structures departments.
Included were individuals that had occupied senior positions in wartime
Germany. The RAE acquired first-rate specialists including Hans Multhopp,
formerly a senior aerodynamicist with Kurt Tank in the Focke-Wulf design
office. Significant rocket specialists were also recruited including Johannes
Schmidt, formerly in charge of the development of the Me 163B powerplant
at Walterwerke; Hans Ziebland, who was one of Germany’s leading experts
on heat transfer in rocket motors; and Botho Demant, who was the Chief
Chemist at the Luftwaffe Peenemünde West Establishment.

The contribution to post-war British aeronautical R&D that the DCOS
cohort of experts made can be divided into two discrete periods: the initial
‘exploitation’ phase between 1946 and 1950, and longer-term contributions
after 1950.

Between 1946 and 1950, one crucial field where the recruits had a
tangible impact was high-velocity aerodynamics work at the RAE,
Farnborough. In the later stages of the war attention had been given in
Britain to developing a straight-wing experimental supersonic aircraft – the
Miles M52. A significant discovery that came to light in 1945 was that the
Germans had appreciated the value of sweepback as a means of delaying the
impact of compressibility at high subsonic speeds – a factor that had not
been fully appreciated in Britain either by the aircraft industry or by the
government defence research establishments. The Allied missions that
entered Germany concluded that the extensive work had been conducted on
the swept wing in the transonic regime appeared to suggest that the straightwing
approach adopted for the M52 was a mistake, and:

When the German data became available, there was concern in the
Ministry [of Supply], not least in the Department of Scientific
Research and the Directorate of Technical Development. O
rders were
given to cancel immediately any high-speed projects which did not
incorporate sweepback.54

Wartime German aerodynamics innovations therefore had a direct impact
on the direction of post-war British R&D.

The German aerodynamicists recruited through Operation ‘Surgeon’
were instrumental in advancing these innovations, notably those
employed at the RAE Aero Department. An important contribution was
made by the aerodynamicists Martin Winter and Hans Multhopp who, in
1948, designed an experimental 55 degree swept-wing transonic research
aircraft to be powered by the Rolls-Royce AJ.65 axial flow turbojet.55
This design acted as an important precursor to RAE thinking on
supersonic fighter development that ultimately led to the P.1 Lightning
jet fighter aircraft. Similarly, Dr Heinz Eggink, previously at the
Aerodynamics Institut Aachen and the ‘Surgeon Stations’ at Völkenrode
and Göttingen, brought ‘special experience’ to RAE development of
supersonic wind tunnels and was assessed by the Aero Department in 1947
as ‘carrying quite a lot of the burden of educating us in supersonic windtunnel
techniques’.56

Between 1946 and 1950, the RAE concluded that the theoretical and
experimental contributions made by other Aero Department recruits
including Professor Adolf Busemann, Dr Karl Doetsch, Werner Pinsker, Dr
Gerhard Sissingh, Dr Hans Schuh, Dr Heinz Gorges, Dr Dietrich
Küchemann, Dr Johannes Weber, Professor Schlichting and Heinz Kahlert
warranted their long-term retention and naturalization in the UK.
Rocketry was also a field where the German scientists channelled
through the ‘Surgeon Station’ at Trauen influenced the content and direction
of early post-war British research. German wartime developments in
themselves were the major post-war stimulus to Britain, America and the
Soviet Union to adopt rockets as major propulsive devices. The DCOS
Scheme led to the recruitment, inter alia, of key German wartime specialists
with state-of-the-art knowledge and previous experience that was useful in
itself, and many of them had wide expertise on the use of hydrogen peroxide
as an oxidizer. German influence was evident in Britain’s decision to
develop liquid bi-propellent rockets, using liquid oxygen, hydrogen
peroxide and nitric acid as oxidizers in the development of surface-to-air
missiles including Red Duster – the forerunner of the Bloodhound, Red
Shoes and Seaslug missile systems.57

A noteworthy individual contribution to British rocket propulsion was
made by Heinz Walder at the RAE Rocket Propulsion Department (RPD),
Westcott. Walder developed the Gamma rocket engine which was assessed
by the Director of the RPD in 1952 as ‘perhaps one of the most important
liquid rocket advances in the last few years’ which was ‘being adopted by
both firms in industry using hydrogen peroxide as oxidant’.58Walder’s work
on the Gamma ‘incorporated many pioneering features’ which were a
‘major contributor to the success’ of the Black Knight missile developed by
Saunders Roe.59

Between 1946 and 1950, a measure of the importance assigned to the
work of the MoS DCOS recruits as a whole was the Defence Research
Policy Committee’s (DRPC) assessment that ‘many of our German
scientists are settling down and becoming of real value to our long term
research programmes’.60

However, over the same period there were also major barriers that
militated against the integration of the DCOS Germans into Britain’s
military aeronautical R&D programme and exploitation of the specialist
knowledge they had to offer. At the inception of the DCOS Scheme,
security concerns raised by the Home Office and the Security Services led
to the decision that German specialists would be employed in government
defence research establishments and have only limited contact with
industry. The rationale here was that:

There would be considerable risk in permitting these scientists to have
access to firms engaged on highly secret defence contracts …
Leakage of information on the long-term trend of secret weapons
would indeed be serious.61

The government defence research establishments themselves were
directed to ensure ‘that all possible steps are taken to prevent access [by
German specialists] to secret material not essential for the individual’s
work’. In practical terms, because the Germans were employed on
research work rather than applied development linked to projects in
industry, aircraft firms were denied first-hand information on practical
aspects of design and manufacture. For example, after 1948, Winter and
Multhopp were permitted to work on research aircraft but security
concerns precluded their extensive experience being applied on the fighter
derivative.62

There were also other barriers to integration. In some instances they
stemmed from the political records of individual German scientists. In those
‘one or two cases’ where ‘convinced Nazis’ were employed, ‘special
security arrangements’ were imposed that took ‘the form of more complete
segregation … from the British staff’ at the defence research
establishments, ‘both as regards working and living conditions’.63 To diffuse
potential Civil Service criticisms about the employment of ‘enemy aliens’,
the DCOS recruits were initially placed on six-month contracts and a
specially created pay and grading system quite distinct from British staff.64
Moreover, MoS officials took the view that integration should not be
encouraged because British staff ‘would probably not willingly work as
assistants to Germans’.65 Finally, MoS fears about dependencies on ‘enemy
aliens’ were manifested in the decision to spread the Germans over the
various activities of the research establishments rather than keep them
together in what were previously successful wartime teams.66 Between 1946
and 1950, these factors had two adverse implications. First, complaints by
some of the Germans about their terms and conditions of employment led
to various acrimonious disputes with the research establishments.67 Second,
many aviation designers such as Adolf Busemann chose to leave Britain
‘complaining about the enforced isolation’.68 A measure of the impact of
this perceived alienation was that by the early 1950s, 60 of the original MoS
recruits had left Britain. Under the aegis of the ongoing Anglo-US ‘denial’
policy many who went secured employment in the USA: for example,
concerns that Winter and Multhopp were ‘getting to know too much about
the wider policy aspects of Supersonic Research at RAE’ led to American
government intervention and offers of employment at the Glen Martin
Aircraft Company in the USA during 1950.69

By the early 1950s, however, the barriers that had precluded integration
were removed and many of those originally recruited through Operation
‘Surgeon’ remained in Britain to make a long-term contribution to
aeronautical development. This shift in attitudes reflected the high value
placed by senior MoS officials on the work of the German experts and their
evident desire to secure long-term employment contracts for them.
Deliberations about the tenure of the DCOS experts stemmed from the
Director of the Royal Aircraft Establishment’s (DRAE) suggestion in
October 1947 that the MoS should dispense with Germans not essential to
the work at RAE and offer ‘the remainder contracts for as long a term as
possible’.70

After October 1947, progress towards the aim of long-term contracts for
the DCOS Germans appeared straightforward and support emerged within
the MoS on the desirability of the DRAE’s proposals. By January 1948, the
consensus across the MoS research establishments was firmly that the
Germans were doing ‘an excellent job of work and would not be replaceable
for a long time by British staff’.71 The Joint Intelligence Committee ‘saw no
objection’ to extension of the contract periods for selected German
scientists and the DRPC advocated that the term and conditions of DCOS
experts should be brought ‘into line with those obtaining for British Staff’.72
Despite this consensus, MoS aspirations faced two formidable barriers.
On the one hand, in September 1948, the Treasury pointed out that the 1919
Aliens Acts that forbade government employment of aliens, and which had
been temporarily overruled when the DCOS scientists had been recruited,
would return into force in December 1950.73 On the other, the MoS were
also informed that any German specialists they chose to retain, and who
were at that time classed as ‘supplementary’, would forthwith be counted
against the establishments’ scientific staff complements.74 Confronted with
these barriers, the MoS reiterated the imperative of retaining DCOS
Germans on a long-term basis75 on the grounds that most were ‘doing very
valuable work for us and … are irreplaceable at the moment’. Again, during
March 1949, the RAE’s position remained unequivocal:

The German scientists at RAE because of their specialised knowledge
and experience and the time they had been employed, had now
become an essential part of the scientific complement, and their loss
would be detrimental to the work being carried out. …. The original
conception of the DCOS scheme, which had in mind the eventual
return of aliens to their own country after having given the
information which was required of them, had now changed. The
aliens had become an essential part of the scientific structure of the
establishments and [‘denial’ considerations meant] it was now too late
to send them back.76

A measure of the momentum behind the MoS aspirations was Chancellor of
the Exchequer Sir Stafford Cripps’ request to the opposition leader,
Churchill,77 for cross-party agreement on a policy change to enable the
naturalization of DCOS scientists. By January 1950,78 this high-level
pressure led to the removal of legal impediments, and those German
specialists required by the government defence research establishments
were finally offered unestablished Civil Service appointments on similar
terms and conditions to British staff.

After 1950, of the original 87 DCOS recruits some 27 acquired British
nationality and many went on to make longer-term contributions to British
aeronautics and rocket development. Understanding of the supersonic
‘narrow delta’ configuration for the Anglo-French Concorde airliner owed
much to the work of the aerodynamicist Dietrich Küchemann and his
associate the mathematician and aerodynamicist Johanna Weber, who were
recruited by the RAE from Göttingen in 1946 and 1947 respectively. As
Nahum points out, ‘Weber initiated the first interest in the aerodynamics of
the narrow delta at the RAE, with a survey paper in 1955 on all the available
information on this type of wing, and the configuration was first considered
for its “low drag” in supersonic flight.’79 A measure of Küchemann’s overall
importance was that he became the highly respected head of the RAE Aero
Department from 1966 to 1971.

Another was Werner Pinsker, an expert on aircraft flight dynamics and
their implications for aircraft handling and control, who joined the Aero
Department in August 1947, again from Göttingen. By the early 1950s,
Pinsker had ‘shown exceptional originality’ in proposing methods for
dealing with undamped oscillations on high speed jet aircraft which were
subsequently adopted in RAF fighter designs.80 Promoted to Senior
Principal Scientific Officer in July 1967, Pinsker was ‘closely involved’ in
the development of successive generations of British aircraft including the
Vampire Mark 5 jet fighter, Concorde and the four-nation Tornado Multi-
Role Combat Aircraft (MRCA). Before retiring in 1980, Pinsker had risen
to become the UK Adviser to the MRCA Project Office on all matters
relating to stability and control on the Tornado aircraft.

Of the rocket experts recruited by the RAE Guided Weapons Department,
Siegfried Entres, a wartime Section Leader at the Peenemünde Research
Station recruited in 1947, made a long-term contribution to British missile
development and space policy. Between 1947 and 1962, his work included the
design of a missile targeting computer and missile vibration research.
Subsequently, he joined the RAE Space Department and spent five years with
the European Space Organization. Between 1973 and his retirement in 1977,
Entres was responsible for the development of UK space policy and overall
planning of the British space technology programme – a task that included the
coordination of the efforts of industry and government establishments.
Similarly, MoS personnel records indicate that experts recruited by the
RAE Rocket Propulsion Department, Westcott, including Friederich Jessen
and Jurgen Diederichsen, made valuable theoretical and practical
contributions to the development of liquid and solid rocket fuels and motors
from the late-1940s until their retirement in the mid-1970s.

OPERATION ‘SURGEON’, DCOS RECRUITMENT AND THE
HISTORIOGRAPHY OF BRITAIN’S ‘INTELLECTUAL REPARATIONS’
A mass of popular and academic literature holds that US programmes to
recruit elite German scientists after World War II paved the way for the
advances in aerodynamics and the rocketry that underpinned American
Cold War technological dominance.81 In stark contrast, few detailed
historical studies of post-war British defence science and technology
acknowledge any significant input from the German experts Britain
recruited. Instead, a limited and largely polemical literature on the British
experience has generated a popular orthodoxy that Britain failed to exploit
a technological opportunity that was harnessed so effectively by the
Americans. Illustrative is Sir Roy Fedden’s assertion that:
Only Britain of the wartime ‘Big Three’ victors could not be bothered
to appreciate the implications of the new aeronautical techniques
which Germany had assimilated in such a remarkable way. Reports of
their work into inter-continental guided missiles, today greatly
developed and realised in a practical form in the USSR and the US,
were dismissed as a Wellsian fantasy or a Jules Verne dream by our
people at home.82

The Americans, so the argument goes, could be satisfied that they had
‘captured the best’ German experts,83 whereas the scientists Britain
employed were ‘too few in number’ to have any real post-war impact. This
assertion is based on comparative recruitment figures: between late 1945
and 1952, the USA employed 642 German defence experts under ‘Project
Overcast/Paperclip’, compared with the 172 specialists recruited through
the DCOS Scheme.

Moreover, in contrast to the USA, Britain is presented as having frittered
opportunity away84 because ‘few German brains were properly utilised’85 as
a result of the decisions, inter alia, to limit contact the DCOS experts had
with projects, and to fragment former German wartime teams. Overall, the
UK’s purported failure to capitalize on Nazi German innovations is
presented as a classic case of the ‘British disease’, or a more general
inability to exploit technological opportunity.

Correspondingly, this critique implies a particular counter-factual
history: had Britain exploited German brains more effectively then it might
have developed successful gener
ations of aircraft and missiles on a par with
post-war American achievements.

This popular account raises two issues. The first is why German science
more generally, and the DCOS Scheme in particular, figure so little in the
historiography of post-war British defence science and technology. The
explanation stems in part from the fact that the US recruits received
considerable public attention, particularly after the successful Soviet launch
of Sputnik in 1957, which ‘gave rise to widespread currency of the quip that
their Germans were better than our Germans’.86 It has also resulted from the
much greater criticism, during the 1960s in particular, of the USA military
industrial complex when compared to its British counterpart.87
A more significant factor, however, was relative British and American
achievements in the 1940s and 1950s. On the one hand, with Cold War
rearmament imperatives and access to large-scale government R&D
funding, American industry succeeded in the development and manufacture
of successive generations of state-of-the-art aircraft and rockets. On the
other hand, a relatively small proportion of British development projects
finally proceeded to production. Between 1945 and 1965, the British
aircraft industry undertook 165 manned projects that were overtly intended
for manufacture, of which just 10 aircraft types were eventually produced in
quantities of 500 or more.88

Britain’s questionable performance reflected, inter alia, the policy of
‘parallel development’, or government sponsorship of two or three designs
of aircraft in each class in order to safeguard against the failure of any one
type, and budgetary constraints which were reflected in Britain’s overall
adjustment from a ‘first division’ weapon producer to a leader of the
‘second division’. Consequently, as Edgerton points out, these factors
conspired to create a situation where:

… much of the history of the post-war aircraft industry is the history
of R&D programmes rather than the history of production aircraft.
The Brabazon, the Princess, the V1000, the TSR-2, the Blue Streak,
never went into production. Indeed, much of the history of post-war
aviation is the history not even of R&D programmes, but of R&D
policy decisions.89

Much of the acclaim surrounding the German experts recruited by the
Americans reflected their involvement in ‘successful’ programmes that
entered service with US armed forces. Correspondingly, the marginalization
of German scientists in the historiography of British post-war aeronautics
has occurred because many of the DCOS recruits were employed on
development lines that ultimately failed to proceed to production for
reasons that had little to do with the quality or activities of the German
specialists themselves.

This study of Operation ‘Surgeon’ suggests that the DCOS
aerodynamicists and rocket scientists did have an impact on the content and
direction of post-war British military R&D. This implies the need for more
research into the role German scientists played across the range of post-war
weapon-related development, if only to augment the history of why Britain
undertook the projects it did and further our understanding of how and why
those projects ultimately performed the way they did.

The second issue generated by the popular orthodoxy stems from its
assumptions about the ‘failure’ of British policies towards German defence
scientists and technicians. There is certainly evidence that Britain might
have achieved more by recruiting a larger cohort of German scientists and
by integrating them more closely into the military R&D programme. For
example, throughout the late-1940s, Britain encountered chronic shortages
in qualified scientists and engineers (QSEs) in precisely those fields where
German expertise seemed to have the most to offer.

During February 1948, the Ministry of Defence’s Defence Research
Policy Committee evaluated the impact of QSE levels at the defence
research establishments on development times for high-priority defence
items.90 The assessment, compiled so that ‘figures for staff excluded
German scientists’,91 found that 4,989 personnel in the Scientific,
Engineering and Experimental grades were needed to meet stated
commitments, whereas actual manpower was over 1,400 staff short. The
QSE shortfalls were most acute in the aeronautical and guided weapons
sectors with the implication that:

… so far as completion dates are concerned … there will be delays
extending up to at least four years on various items. Certain vital
Radar equipment, Guided Weapons and AA [anti-aircraft] equipments
are among the most seriously affected. Lack of suitable staff in the
aeronautical field will affect the efficiency of new aircraft and will
lead to delays in reaching higher speeds.92

More might also have been achieved had Britain followed the US armed
services in preserving wartime teams or encouraging greater contact
between German experts and aircraft manufacturers. In the British case, the
majority of the DCOS recruits had left by 1950, many complaining of
enforced isolation. By contrast, retention rates were much higher in the US
where German wartime teams were fostered and maintained, to the extent
that some 90 per cent of ‘Project Paperclip’ recruits elected to remain in
America after 1950.93 Similarly, evidence suggests that US Air Force
policies which actively encouraged collaboration between German recruits
and aircraft contractors provided significant benefits for the American
military aircraft programme; potential gains that the British armed services
may have sacrificed by keeping the DCOS Germans isolated from applied
development connected with projects in industry.

Correspondingly, however, there is evidence that the popular orthodoxy
underrates the performance of British policies in three respects.
First, the application of hindsight has tended to downplay the constraints
on German recruitment that arose from the social and political milieu in
which British policy was formulated. Anxieties expressed by the Defence
Committee in 1945 about the security implications of employing ‘enemy
aliens’ in the defence field, fears of ‘German dominance’, the political
ramifications of employing ‘convinced Nazis’ and potential labour relations
problems at the defence research establishments all acted as understandable
barriers to recruitment and integration in the late 1940s. In this light, British
policy can be interpreted as a logical response to the prevailing social and
political conditions of the time.

Second, it is a gross oversimplification to say, as the orthodoxy implies,
that Britain was somehow denied access by the Americans to the elite
scientists it required. Between December 1945 and July 1949, under the
inter-governmental agreements implemented by the Combined Chiefs of
Staff in Washington, the UK and the US exchanged 35 lists of German
scientists required for defence work.94 The UK lists comprised 381
individuals of whom 172 were recruited for the MoS and Admiralty
research establishments. Of the 209 German scientists included in British
lists but not ultimately employed, some 188 were categorized as ‘no longer
required’ after subsequent enquiries revealed that long-term employment
was not necessary.

Consequently, when manpower requirements are subjected to closer
scrutiny they reveal that Britain either employed or screened all but 21 of
the German scientists and technicians listed as required by the defence
research establishments. In cases where Britain and the USA required the
same individual, the records show that allocations were made i
n accordance
with the equity principle agreed by the Combined Chiefs of Staff, so Britain
does not appear to have been disadvantaged where competing claims for
particular German experts emerged.

Third, the emphasis in the orthodoxy on Britain’s purported failure to
exploit German know-how tends to oversimplify the objectives

of UK
policy. In addition to long-term exploitation of German experts through the
DCOS Scheme, British policy included two other equally important
objectives: the coordination of efforts with the Americans to ‘deny’ German
experts to the Soviet Union and the fostering of Anglo-US exchange of the
results derived from German scientists employed by both countries.
The US military’s solution to ‘denial’ was large-scale recruitment of
German experts for work in America under ‘Project Paperclip’; an approach
made possible because the large-scale post-war American defence
programme could absorb German manpower, and because the US military
successfully conspired to hide from policy-makers the unpalatable Nazi
pasts of many Germans they recruited.95

Britain’s contribution to ‘denial’ focused on the containment of defence
scientists in Germany under a scheme codenamed Operation ‘Match Box’:
an approach intended in part to keep ‘convinced Nazis’ at arm’s length.96
The existence of Operation ‘Match Box’ suggests, therefore, that any
assessment of the impact on post-war security of British policies needs to be
extended beyond that subset of scientists employed in the UK under the
DCOS Scheme to encompass the performance of its ‘denial’ aspects.
British policies also need to be evaluated in terms of the security benefits
provided through post-war Anglo-US cooperation on information from
German scientists. Evidence suggests that the ‘special relationship’ was
enhanced by collaborative policies towards German specialists and that the
pooling of information provided benefits for both countries. By late 1945,
the British Chiefs of Staff had recognized that British long-term security
interests were best served by preserving close technical cooperation with the
USA and the ‘interchange’ of results was identified as an essential ‘part of
general Anglo-American co-operation in the technical field’.97

After 1945, as the wartime alliance fragmented, substantial
‘underground’ Anglo-American defence cooperation continued, driven
partly by the mutual imperative to coordinate policies on exploitation of
German know-how, under the aegis of the Combined Chiefs in Washington.
A specific aspiration of the British Chiefs of Staff after September 1945 was
that ‘all results of work done by German scientists and technicians
[employed in Britain and the United States] should be exchanged without
reservation or time limit’.98 By early 1946, what was to become a longstanding
transatlantic flow of reports on the exploitation of German scientists
in Britain and America had commenced.99 The information exchange
arrangements codified in the immediate post-war period also appear to have
had downstream effects. For example, Britain gave information derived in
the early 1950s on German wartime advances on radar absorbent material to
the USA that proved to be an important precursor to the development of
Stealth technology. Britain’s reward came in the early 1980s in the form of
valuable American data derived from this know-how.100

Consequently, collaboration on the German science question, coupled
with broader scientific, technical and intelligence information exchange,
seems to have assisted British Cold War security interests by enhancing
transatlantic defence and intelligence links.101

In conclusion, there is an orthodoxy arising from a small number of
polemical studies which has reflected Fedden’s assertion that:
The lesson of the research facilities discovered in Germany at the end
of the war and their indications of the patterns of future technical
development, far in advance of our own conception at the time, went
largely unheeded by government and industry alike.102

This analysis of Operation ‘Surgeon’ and associated policies to exploit
German aeronautical equipment and expertise suggests that Britain gained
considerably more than this orthodoxy is prepared to acknowledge.
Moreover, it points to the need for more research into the impact of British
policies towards German scientists, above and beyond the cohort recruited
for work in the UK, on wider Cold War national security interests. In this
regard, the evidence indicates that Operation ‘Surgeon’ and similar
initiatives should remain anything but a marginal sideline in the history of
British post-war defence science and technology policy.

NOTES
The analysis, opinions and conclusions expressed or implied in this article are those of the author
and do not necessarily represent the views of the Joint Services Command and Staff College, the
UK MoD or any other British government agency. The author thanks Mr Ian Todd and the staff
at the DSDC, Llangennech, and the three anonymous referees for their helpful comments.
OPERATION ‘SURGEON’ 21
172int01.qxd 12/08/02 11:48 Page 21
1. Roy Fedden, Britain’s Air Survival: An Appraisement and Strategy for Success (London:
Cassell 1957) pp.28–9.
2. PRO CAB 122/343, Deputy Chiefs of Staff Committee, ‘British Requirements from
Germany’, Report by Directors of Scientific Research Ministry of Aircraft Production and
Admiralty, and the Director-General of Research and Development, Ministry of Supply,
DCOS (45) 43, 16 July 1945.
3. See, for example, Leslie E. Simon, German Research in World War II: An Analysis of the
Conduct of Research (NY: John Wiley 1947) p.107, and R.J. Overy, The Air War
1939–1945 (USA: Scarborough House 1991) pp.186–91.
4. Derek Wood, Project Cancelled: The Disaster of Britain’s Abandoned Aircraft Projects
(London: Tri-Service Press 1990), p.7.
5. The Supply of Military Aircraft, Cmd. 9388 (London: HMSO 1955) p.3.
6. Tom Bower, The Paperclip Conspiracy: The Battle for the Spoils and Secrets of Nazi
Germany (London: Michael Joseph 1987) p.45.
7. Notable exceptions are the excellent coverage of scientific intelligence in Julian Lewis,
Changing Direction (London: Sherwood Press 1988), and also in R.V. Jones, Reflection on
Intelligence (London: Heinemann 1989). Despite the significance of science and
technology in the history of British intelligence, many other historians have defined
‘intelligence’ more narrowly to exclude these aspects, as well as their importance for postwar
national science and technology policy.
8. One exception is Carl Glatt, ‘Reparations and the Transfer of Science and Industrial
Technology from Germany’, unpublished PhD thesis, 3 vols. (Florence: European
University Institute 1994). Carl Glatt’s detailed work analyzes Operation ‘Surgeon’ as
part of a more general treatment of technology transfer from Germany to Britain.
9. Burghard Ciesla, ‘German High Velocity Aerodynamics and their Significance for the US
Air Force 1945–1952’, in Matthias Judt and Burghard Ciesla (eds.), Technology Transfer
out of Germany After 1945 (Reading: Harwood 1996), p.95.
10. Wood, Project Cancelled (note 4) p.18.
11. Ibid.
12. Ciesla, ‘German High Velocity Aerodynamics’ (note 9) p.95. A measure of the
establishment’s prestige was that each institute was under a professor who had enjoyed
technical independence reporting directly to Berlin, with the head of the aerodynamic
institute acting as the administrative head for the whole. The total establishment strength
was about 1,000 personnel who included a scientific staff comprising approximately 150
of Germany’s leading aeronautical experts. This information is derived from AVIA
15/2216, Minute by DSR, 11 May 1945.
13. AVIA 15/2216, Minute by DSR, 11 May 1945.
14. Ibid.
15. PRO AVIA 15/2216, Minute by CRD, 14 May 1945.
16. PRO AVIA 15/2216, Minute by ACE, 14 May 1945.
17. PRO AVIA 15/2216, Memorandum to the Assistant Chief o
f the Air Staff (Policy) from
the Ministry of Aircraft Production Deputy Controller of Research and Development,
‘German Research and Development Facilities’, 6 July 1945.
18. The BIOS scheme allowed for the interrogation of Germans by sponsoring UK
government departments for a period of up to two months. See, for example, PRO HO
213/1790, 13 May 1946.
19. PRO CAB 122/346, Deputy Chiefs of Staff Committee: Composition and Terms of
Reference of the Committee, CCS 870/9, 17 April 1945. The Committee was composed of
the Deputy First Sea Lord, Deputy Chief of the Imperial General Staff, Deputy Chief of
the Air Staff, MAP Controller of Research and Development and Assistant Controller
(R&D) of the Navy, and the DGSRD representing the Controller General of Munitions
Production, Ministry of Supply.
20. PRO CAB 122/343, Deputy Chiefs of Staff Committee, ‘Policy for the Exploitation of
22 INTELLIGENCE AND NATIONAL SECURITY
172int01.qxd 12/08/02 11:48 Page 22
German Science and Technology’, DCOS (45) 52,11 Aug. 1945.
21. Ibid.
22. PRO AVIA 15/2216, Minutes of a Meeting Held at Air Ministry, Whitehall, on 12 July
1945 to Discuss the Exploitation of German Research and Development Facilities.
23. The equipment to be evacuated was subsequently treated as ‘booty’ rather than
‘reparations’. On this distinction and its implications, see John Farquharson, ‘Governed or
Exploited? The British Acquisition of German Technology, 1945–48’, Journal of
Contemporary History 32/1 (1997) pp.23–42.
24. Ibid.
25. PRO AVIA 12/83, ‘Operation Surgeon’, Memorandum by Headquarters, Air Division,
Demold, 23 Nov. 1946.
26. Ibid.
27. PRO CAB 122/343, Cabinet Defence Committee, DO (45) 4th Meeting, 31 Aug. 1945.
28. PRO CAB 122/343, Deputy Chiefs of Staff Committee, ‘American Requests for German
Scientists’, Note by Joint Secretaries, DCOS (45) 62, 30 Aug. 1945.
29. PRO CAB 122/346, ‘Exploitation of German Scientists’, Memorandum for Group Captain
Wilson, 29 Oct. 1945.
30. PRO AVIA 12/83, ‘Operation Surgeon’, Memorandum by Headquarters, Air Division,
Demold, 23 Nov. 1946.
31. PRO CAB 122/343, Deputy Chiefs of Staff Committee, ‘Policy for the Exploitation of
German Science and Technology’, Report, DCOS (45) 61, 27 Aug. 1945.
32. PRO AVIA 67/40, ‘Employment of German Scientists in UK’, by MoS SR2, 1 Dec.
1946.
33. PRO AVIA 54/1826, Minute by US (R), ‘Employment of German Scientists under the
DCOS Scheme’, 24 Feb. 1948.
34. PRO AVIA 67/40, ‘Employment of German Scientists in UK’, by MoS SR2, 1 Dec.

 
 
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35. PRO CAB 121/429, Ministry of Defence Inter-Departmental Committee on German
Scientists, ‘Employment of German Scientists in Defence Establishments’, Memorandum
by the Admiralty, IGS (47) 5, 5 Feb. 1947.
36. PRO HO 213/1790, Letter from the Home Office to the Cabinet Office, 15 May 1946.
37. PRO AVIA 67/40, ‘Employment of German Scientists in UK’, by MoS SR2, 1 Dec. 1946.
38. PRO AVIA 67/40, Minute by the Explosives and Intermediates Branch, Woolwich, 20
Sept. 1946.
39. PRO CAB 122/343, Deputy Chiefs of Staff Committee, ‘Policy for the Exploitation of
German Science and Technology’, Report, DCOS (45) 61, 27 Aug. 1945.
40. PRO AVIA 12/83, ‘Operation Surgeon’, Memorandum by Headquarters, Air Division,
Demold, 23 Nov. 1946.
41. PRO CAB 122/349, DCOS Committee, ‘Employment of German Scientists (Defence)’,
Note by the Joint Secretaries, DCOS (46) 202, 4 Oct. 1946.
42. PRO CAB 121/429, Cabinet Defence Committee, ‘Russian Enticement of German
Scientists and Technicians’, Report by the Chiefs of Staff Committee, DO (46) 142, 7 Dec.
1946.
43. PRO CAB 121/428, ‘The Recruitment of German Scientists and Technicians for
Employment in the United Kingdom’, Memorandum by the Control Office for Germany
and Austria, DCOS (46) 217, 21 Oct. 1946.
44. Clarence G. Laseby, Project Paperclip: German Scientists and the Cold War (NY:
Atheneum 1971) p.154.
45. PRO AVIA 67/40, ‘Employment of German Scientists in UK’, by MoS SR2, 1 Dec. 1946.
46. PRO ADM 178/392, Walterwerke, ‘Report with Reference to Admiralty TOPSEC Signal
of 042128A and Conversation of 21 October’, 24 Oct. 1945.
47. Bower, The Paperclip Conspiracy (note 6) p.168.
48. PRO CAB 121/429, Ministry of Defence Inter-Departmental Committee on German
Scientists, ‘Summary of the Existing Position as Regards the Employment of German
OPERATION ‘SURGEON’ 23
172int01.qxd 12/08/02 11:48 Page 23
Scientists and Technicians in the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth’, Note by the
Secretary, IGS (47) 2, 13 Jan. 1947.
49. Preface to Matthias Judt and Burghard Ciesla (eds.) Technology Transfer Out of Germany
After 1945 (Reading: Harwood 1996) p.xviii.
50. Johannes Bahr, Paul Erker and Geoffrey Giles, ‘The Politics of Ambiguity: Reparations,
Business Relations, Denazification, and the Allied Transfer of Technology’, in Matthias
Judt and Burghard Ciesla (eds.) (note 49) p.135.
51. PRO AVIA 12/83, ‘Operation Surgeon’, Memorandum by Headquarters, Air Division,
Demold, 23 Nov. 1946.
52. Ibid.
53. Bower (note 6) p.167.
54. Don L. Brown, Miles Aircraft since 1925 (London: Putnam 1970) p.275. According to
Andrew Nahum, the decision to cancel the M52 also reflected advice from RAE
aerodynamicists who calculated that the thrust from the powerplant selected, the Special
Whittle W2/700, was inadequate. See A. Nahum, ‘The Royal Aircraft Establishment from
1945 to Concorde’, in R. Bud and P. Gummett (eds.) Cold War Hot Science: Applied
Research in Britain’s Defence Research Laboratories 1945–1990 (Reading: Harwood
1999), p.56.
55. Nahum (note 54) p.36.
56. Ministry of Aircraft Production Personal File, Heinz Eggink, Letter from RAE Aero
Department, March 1951.
57. J.E.P. Dunning, ‘The Rocket Propulsion Establishment, Westcott’, Journal of the Royal
Aeronautical Society 70 (Jan. 1956) p.286.
58. Ministry of Aircraft Production Personal File, Heinz Walder.
59. Dunning (note 57).
60. PRO AVIA 54/1826, Minute from W.F. Barnett, MoS Est 5c, to W.S. Polley, HM Treasury,
24 Aug. 1948.
61. PRO CAB 122/343, Deputy Chiefs of Staff Committee, Policy for the Exploitation of
German Science and Technology, Report, DCOS (45) 61, 27 Aug. 1945.
62. Nahum (note 54) p.56.
63. PRO AVIA 67/40, ‘Employment of German Scientists in UK’, by MoS SR2, 1 Dec. 1946.
64. Ibid.
65. Ibid.
66. J. Becklake, ‘German Engineers: Their Contribution to British Rocket Technology after
World War II’, in P. Jong (ed.) History of Rocketry and Astronautics, AAS History Series
Vol.22, 1998, pp.157–72.
67. See, for example, PRO AVIA 67/40, Letter from the Ministry of Supply to the Explosives
Research and Development Establishment, 10 Aug. 1948.
68. Bower (note 6) p.167.
69. Ministry of Supply Personal File, Martin Winter.
70. PRO AVIA 54/1826, ‘Employment of German Scientists under DCOS Scheme’, Notes of
Meeting held at RAE Farnborough on 8 Oct. 1947 to Discuss Future Policy with Regard
to German Scientists Employed at RAE, 13 Oct. 1947.
71. PRO AVIA 54/1826, ‘Note on Long-Term Employment of German Scientists under the
DCOS Scheme’, 7 Feb. 1948.
72. PRO AVIA 54/1826, Minute from W.F. Barnett, MoS Est 5c, to W.S. Polley, HM Treasury,
24 Aug. 1948.
73. PRO AVIA 54/1826, Minute by TPA.3, 28 Sept. 1948.
74. PRO AVIA 54/1826, ‘Long-Term Employment of German Scientists’, by TPA3, 22 Oct.
1948.
75. PRO AVIA 54/1826, Minute by AD/TPA1, 14 Jan. 1949.
76. PRO AVIA 54/1826, Minutes of Meeting Held on Friday 4 March 1949 to Consider
Proposals Made for the Long-Term Employment of Selected German Scientists.
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77. PRO AVIA 54/1826, Letter from R. Stafford Cripps to Winston Churchill, 13 June 1949.
78. PRO AVIA 54/1826, Employment of German and Austrian Scientists, 6 Jan. 1950.
79. Nahum (note 54) p.50.
80. Ministry of Aircraft Production [Personal File], Werner Pinsker.
81. Influential texts including Michel Bar-Zohar’s The Hunt for German Scientists (London:
Arthur Barker 1967), Clarence Laseby’s Project Paperclip (note 44), John Gimbel’s
Science, Technology and Reparations (Stanford UP 1990) and autobiographical accounts
by leading German scientists themselves meticulously detail American initiatives to
apply Nazi Germany’s technological achievements to post-war military programmes.
82. Fedden (note 1) p.32.
83. Bar-Zohar, The Hunt for German Scientists (note 81) p.132.
84. Bower (note 6) pp.168–70.
85. Wood (note 4) p.13.
86. John Gimbel, ‘The Exploitation of German Technical Know-How after World War II’,
Political Science Quarterly 105/2 (1990) p.295.
87. On the issue of German scientists and the USA military industrial complex, see Linda
Hunt, Secret Agenda, The US Government and Nazi Scientists (London: St Martin’s
1991). By contrast, in the academic literature a British military industrial scientific
complex does not exist as a powerful innovative force, except in David Edgerton’s
England and the Aeroplane: An Essay on a Militant and Technological Nation (London:
Macmillan 1991). It is noteworthy that David Edgerton makes no reference to the DCOS
Germans in his study.
88. R. Worcester, Roots of British Air Policy (London: Hodder & Stoughton 1966), p.9.
89. Edgerton (note 87) p.92.
90. PRO DEFE 9/6, DRP Committee, ‘Deployment of Scientific Staff in Relation to DRP
Priority Items’, DRP 16/49, 26 May 1949.
91. Ibid.
92. Ibid.
93. Ciesla (note 9) p.98.
94. The data on the lists is compiled from the series PRO CAB 122/346 to PRO CAB
122/356.
95. The most extensive development of this thesis is contained in Bower (note 6).
96. The overall parameters of Operation ‘Match Box’ are laid out in CAB 121/429, Top
Secret Directive: Operation ‘Match Box’, STIB/7113, 16 Dec. 1946. Operation ‘Match
Box’ eventually encompassed over 3,000 scientists and technicians and, over 18,000
Germans were tracked under the programme. For a discussion of the operation, see
Richard J. Aldrich, The Hidden Hand: Britain, America and Cold War Secret Intelligence
(London: John Murray 2001) Ch.8. On Britain’s attempts to keep ‘convinced Nazi’
scientists at arm’s lengths in Germany rather than recruiting them for work in t
he UK,
see FO 1032/1018, Memorandum from HQ Intelligence Division, BAOR, ‘Subject:
Prohibition of Amenities to German Scientists of Proven Nazi Principles’, 27 March
1947.
97. PRO CAB 122/346, Chiefs of Staff to the Joint Staff Mission, COS (W) 114, 19 Sept.
1945.
98. PRO CAB 122/346, Combined Chiefs of Staff, ‘Co-Ordinated Exploitation of German
Scientists and Technicians in the United States and the United Kingdom’, Memorandum
by the Representatives of the British Chiefs of Staff, CCS 870/9, 24 Sept. 1945.
99. See PRO CAB 122/346, Exploitation of German Science and Technology, DCOS (46)
7th Meeting, 27 Feb. 1946 and PRO CAB 122/347, DCOS, Interrogation of German
Scientists, DCOS (46) 68, 12 April 1946.
100. See Nick Cook, ‘Revealed: The Stealth Connection’, Jane’s Defence Weekly, 3 Sept.
1994, pp.43–4.
OPERATION ‘SURGEON’ 25
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101. See Alex Danchev, On Specialness: Essays in Anglo-American Relations (Basingstoke:
Macmillan 1998) p.95. Recent research suggests that Anglo-American scientific
intelligence collaboration was extensive during the occupation of Germany in areas other
than the exchange of the results of work done by Germans in the UK and the US. Paul
Maddrell demonstrates the significant British-American information exchange on atomic
intelligence, scientific intelligence and the exchange of intelligence reports on the
interrogation of German scientific workers who defected from the USSR that were dealt
with under Operation ‘Dragon Return’. See Paul Maddrell, ‘British-American Scientific
Intelligence Collaboration during the Occupation of Germany’, Intelligence and
National Security 15/2 (Summer 2000) pp.74–94.
102. Fedden (note 1) p.16.
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journal info:

Intelligence & National Security
Publisher: Routledge, part of the Taylor & Francis Group
Issue: Volume 17, Number 2 / June 2002
Pages: 1 – 26
URL: Linking Options
DOI: 10.1080/02684520412331306470

Operation 'Surgeon' and Britain's post-war exploitation of Nazi German aeronautics

Matthew Uttley

Defence Studies Department, King's College, London

Abstract:

After 1945, Allied acquisition of intelligence on Nazi Germany's wartime aeronautical innovations became one of the most important immediate post-war aims. From July 1945 to July 1947, Operation 'Surgeon' became the focus of British efforts to exploit Nazi aeronautical advances. The objectives of the operation were the evacuation of state-of-the-art equipment from aeronautical research institutes and the recruitment of high-grade aviation experts for postwar work in Britain. This article analyzes the conduct and results of Operation 'Surgeon'. The limited literature on this topic has fuelled a popular orthodoxy which holds that the UK intelligence effort and policies to recruit German defence scientists were classic examples of the 'British disease', or a more general inability to exploit a technological opportunity that was harnessed so effectively by the other victorious Allies. Drawing on the experience of Operation 'Surgeon', the article challenges this orthodoxy that has dominated the historiography of Britain's intellectual reparations from the Third Reich.

 
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