In This Review

Blowback: U.S. Recruitment of Nazis and Its Effects on the Cold War
Blowback: U.S. Recruitment of Nazis and Its Effects on the Cold War
By Christopher Simpson
Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1988, 398 pp
The Paperclip Conspiracy: The Hunt for the Nazi Scientists
The Paperclip Conspiracy: The Hunt for the Nazi Scientists
By Tom Bower
Little, Brown, 1988, 309 pp

Simpson's is a bloodhound of a book. An enterprising journalist, he has used the Freedom of Information Act to unearth massive documentation on how U.S. intelligence agencies at the end of World War II secretly protected, recruited and utilized many a Nazi or Nazi collaborator with a tainted past. In establishing facts he does an impressive job-and it is not a pretty story (although certainly a fascinating one). His broader judgments, however, raise a few questions. One would hardly know from his account that the Soviet Union had anything to do with the onset of the cold war, or that the West had any legitimate concern with the suppression of freedom in Eastern Europe. The severe critique of American officials applies to everyone-from Truman, Eisenhower, the Dulles brothers (especially Allen, of course) and George Kennan down to the many operatives in the CIC, CIA and other agencies who did the dirty work-the brand of deceptiveness, cynicism, amorality and manic obsession with the Soviet threat. The book's title refers to the supposedly corrupting effect of these unsavory Nazis and collaborators on political life in America; here the case made by the author is less than convincing, more blowup than blowback.

The Paperclip Conspiracy, a similar combination of investigative journalism and historical research, deals more intensively with one aspect of the story told by Simpson: the race among the major allied powers to corral and use for their own national purposes the scientists who had contributed so much to Hitler's war effort. In the context of their phenomenal achievements, which the author describes in ample detail, it is not surprising that many military men on the Allied side were more interested in their expertise (and in keeping it out of the hands of rivals) than in their pasts. There was a legitimate question of national interest, although in practice the end was held to justify the most questionable of means. Not so shrill or indiscriminately accusatory as Simpson, Bower comes to much the same conclusions on the U.S. handling of ex-Nazis. He also goes at length into the little-known story of how some officials, mainly in the State Department, fought hard against the deception and law-bending that accompanied the entire process.