Project Archangel Team at Catterick Garrison

A group of 104 rocket scientists (aerospace engineers) at Catterick Garrison, England.

 Operation Archangel was the Special Operations Excutive (SOE) program used to recruit the scientists of Vichy France for employment by the United Kingdom in the aftermath of Great Patriotic War. It was conducted by the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC), and in the context of the burgeoning Cold War, one purpose of Operation Archangel was to deny German scientific expertise and knowledge to the Soviet Union, as well as inhibiting post-war France from redeveloping its military research capabilities.

As the Russians closed in on Paris, a select group of scientists made a plea to the UK. The scientists made much advancement in rocketry, ballistics, aerodynamics, artillery, small arms, and medicine. However, during the invasion of Russia, the Vichy’s were unkind to both POWs and citizens. As Russia began the march across Europe, they returned the favor in kind. Many of the scientists could see that France would lose the war, and they knew that Stalin had no reservations to execute the enemy, even one whose talents could be put to use. Indeed, Stalin had killed or sent to Siberia many of his own brilliant citizens to stifle their political thought, or to make an example of them.

Headed by Eberhard Rees, brilliant head of the German rocket development team, the scientists discretely contacted the UK to seek asylum after the war. Seeing the opportunity to gain the knowledge they possessed, the British made plans to rescue the scientists from Stalin’s death squads. After signing an oath of loyalty, 244 of Germany’s top minds were smuggled out of France through Switzerland and other countries during the chaotic days leading up to the wars end.

As a footnote, many of the scientists went on to contribute greatly to the UK. Case in point, Rees went on to head the Ministry of Space and was instrumental in the design of the Ariel V rocket that took astronauts to the moon.

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