Welcome to another edition of Gaming: FOUO. Up to this point I’ve kept the conspiracy pairs for each post together in regards to their aims. I always have bad game conspiracy matched with bad real conspiracy theory and vice versa, but I noticed that all of the articles featured conspiracies that had very defined morality. Black and White Morality can be interesting – and is a trope that has been terribly underused lately – it’s not the only morality. It’s time to see some shades of grey.
I am a gigantic fan of the Fallout universe as it runs mostly on the tropes of classic sci-fi from the pulp days with a lot owed to the god of sci-fi himself, Robert Heinlein. The Fallout universe’s lore is quite deep so I’m only going to describe the background briefly. It’s unique in that the world gets this odd cultural stasis where the technological advances that make the modern era don’t happen, or happen much later than in our timeline, yet other technology shows up far earlier. This is a world where the transistor shows up only in the mid 21st century, but power armor and energy weapons were commonplace. You’ll see the Vaults feature black and white televisions that are powered by fusion reactors while the very batteries that power most portable tech are explicitly fission powered. Imagine the future that science fiction promised us in the 1950’s, with the small caveat that in 2077, the Cold War gets hot, very hot. Like “multiple instances of thermofusion reactions in all the major cities across the globe” hot. The main Fallout games usually take place centuries after the Great War so we get that wonderful post-apocalyptic feel that fans adore so much. The wasteland that used to be the United States features many different factions with goals that range from reestablishing civilization, to just reestablishing the US, to just plain survival. One of these factions, and the one I’m focusing on today, was created by survivors of the US Army who try and recover the advanced items of prewar technology that are still far more advanced than what most of the Wasteland’s inhabitants will ever possess. This faction is called the Brotherhood of Steel.
In terms of classic science fiction, the Brotherhood is what happens when the Church from A Canticle for Liebowitz gets ran by the Mobile Infantry from Starship Troopers, which is a different beast and far far better than its movie counterpart. The Brotherhood is a quasi religious, knightly order founded shortly before the Great War by members of the United States Army. In 2076 a group of US Army soldiers under the command of Col. Robert Spindel were sent to guard a West-Tek – a major military tech provider – base in California that was doing military research at the behest of the US Gov’t. Upon arriving the soldiers found government scientists forcibly infecting people with the Forced Evolutionary Virus which of course creates the Fallout staples Super Mutants. Morale at the base collapsed and Col Spindel wound up suck starting his gun. Luckily there was a true leader amongst the soldiers, and he was Captain Roger Maxson. Maxson quickly marshalled the troops, and declared the unit to be in mutiny against the United States government. He announced this on military radio on October 20, 2077… to silence. The government was ramping up its war on China, and only three days later both countries launched their entire nuclear arsenals. Needless to say, this sucked for nearly everyone.
I say nearly everyone for most of the people in Vaults, a few places like New Vegas and military bases like Maxon’s, were safe from the bombs. As they were former members of the US military they had access to the highest technology of the day including energy weapons and power armor. In the days that followed, Maxson scouted out the areas around the base, recovering military schematics and supplies. They even found survivors of their former base, including Maxson’s own wife and teenage son. The group was worn down by the harsh environment of the wasteland as well as armed raiders during this exploration period so Maxson led his group to Lost Hills, which was a government base designed just for this situation. In later Brotherhood lore they refer to this event as “The Exodus,” and Lost Hills would go on to be the birthplace of the Brotherhood of Steel.
Maxson knew that technology would be hard to keep in the wastes of the former United States, so he designed his new order to seek out and collect all high technology left from before the Great War. He knew that to rebuild society we would need the technologies of the old world, and gave his men the command to find it. As the Brotherhood grew in power they came into conflict with various groups, starting with the aforementioned Super Mutants to the infamous Viper mercenary gang and eventually the Enclave. The Enclave was a group of remnants of the US government who were kept safe from the bombs with the intention of rebuilding the US, but were utterly vicious in their approach. They often killed any wastelanders just because they could, yet with their prewar connections, had technology and armaments far beyond what anyone else had. The Brotherhood’s own power armor even fell short when compared to what Enclave scientists had engineered since the Great War. Luckily, the Enclave’s main base in California was destroyed in the final events of Fallout 2 and their survivors eventually hunted down by the emerging New California Republic.
However, this short alliance would not last and soon the NCR warred with the Brotherhood. Despite higher tech and training, the Brotherhood simply could not stand up against the NCR’s sheer numbers. This culminated with the NCR and the Mojave Wasteland Brotherhood going to battle over the solar power station HELIOS, which the NCR won decisively causing the Brotherhood in that area to retreat to their underground bunker. The Brotherhood had spread across the continent, even as far as the wastelands of DC, where the Capital Wasteland Brotherhood emerged as a truly heroic faction, dedicated to protecting the civilians from the Super Mutant menace. However, that’s a rarity as most Brotherhood factions only worry about technology, only fighting in self defense or when Super Mutants become too numerous.
At its core, the Brotherhood is a quasi-religious order that seeks to preserve prewar technology and the eradication of mutants. They feature three main groups: Scribes, who manage the technical preservation; Knights, the technicians, repairmen and basic soldiers of the group and the Paladins, the main force of the Brotherhood. When joining the Brotherhood a new recruit is known as an Apprentice, and may choose if they would rather follow the path of the Knight or the Scribe. As a member gains experience they may eventually be promoted to leadership, which is called Elder. The Paladins get their strength from promoted knights and even some outsiders. The Brotherhood typically frowns on outsiders, only recruiting them as youths to instill the proper view of technology. However, on occasion very skilled or useful outsiders have been recruited into their ranks. See also “The Courier” and “Wanderer Lone.”
The Paladins are some of the most feared combatants in any wasteland as they possess the finest weapons and armor the Brotherhood can muster, and that’s saying something. This is a setting where most bandits (who kill a lot of normal citizens) carry at best, an assault rifle and light armor. Look out though because the Brotherhood will come charging in brandishing high end power armor with plasma rifles. Can you guess who wins this battle? Even in the games for the most part the only way you can learn to use the power armors left behind is to befriend the Brotherhood. Knowledge is power… armor. Yeah, that was horrible. I’m sorry.
The Scribes themselves fall into three orders, based upon what technology they research. The Order of the Sword researches offensive tech, The Order of Shield researches defensive tech, and finally The Order of the Quill researches non-military technologies. What’s very interesting about the scribes is that by the time period of the games, the Scribes have entered a sort of stasis. They still recover and repair old technology but are rarely seen trying to create new items or innovate in any way. Hmmm… They use the items of past in the same way, while never innovating – that’s usually something you only see in government.
Speaking of which, imagine what a government run directive to capture technology that might be lost would look like, but instead of just the research itself, they go for the minds behind it. Why just have the shiny new weapons when you can have the same scientists come up with even newer and shinier toys? That sounds all well and good, but what if that means dealing with the devil? What if that means you have to hire Nazis? This is how Operation Paperclip got started.
This is the situation the US found itself in immediately after World War II. The Germans had for many years produced outstanding engineers and scientists. After all, the greatest scientific mind of the 20th century was a German and to this day we use his name as a slang term for a very smart person. However, Einstein had immigrated shortly before the Nazis took over as he was Jewish so he was never a part of this operation. That’s not to say some big names weren’t brought to the US because of this. Wernher Von Braun, the creator of the infamous V2 rockets was the most well known example, but scores of former Nazis were recruited by this program. The header image is an actual photo taken of many of the scientists found by Paperclip. Do I have to say the guys in power armor were added later?
At the end of World War II the former Allies grew into bitter enemies and began a decades long Cold War with the threat of nuclear annhilation hanging over the planet. Both sides of this Cold War did battle more with intelligence, spies and technology than bullets and bombs. The Arms Race led to the development of bigger, more dangerous bombs culminating with the thermonuclear devices still in use today, while things like the Internet itself were created just to facilitate this war. Of course, now it’s only use is for porn (and cat videos!). The idea behind Operation Paperclip, or Operation Overcast as it was originally known, was to recover German scientists and engineers from Nazi Germany for use in American projects while simultaneously denying these assets to both Soviet and even British sources. Of course, both countries had similar projects of their own.
Germany had long produced top tier scientists and engineers. Names that are the very backbone of modern science such as Max Planck, Wernher Heisenberg, Bernhard Riemann and the aforementioned Albert Einstein were all born in Germany, and to this day Germany is still producing high quality scientific minds. Even when the entire rest of the world was kicking their doors in the scientists working for Germany in WWII were producing amazing technology such as the V2 rocket, which rained destruction upon all of Britain, and the world’s first jet fighter. The US military knew that in the wrong hands – namely those attached to those dirty commies – it could be devastating. The various military intelligence agencies came together to form Operation Paperclip to capture these scientists and get them safely to the States to work on our military projects. It was a resounding success.
Part of what made the Paperclip recruitment work is that scientists rounded up by the US were treated humanely and many even became naturalized citizens years later. Those captured by the Soviets did not receive such treatment, often being treated as slaves. During the immediate aftermath of World War II, joint US-British teams known as T-Forces were dispatched across Germany to recover or destroy, if need be, any advanced Nazi technology or military applicable items. In effect, they were doing for science and engineering what the Monument Men did for art. It also helped that by doing so they were effectively removing Germany’s chances of becoming a post-war power. After all, those bastards had started two World Wars. I’d say a little preemptive hobbling was totally acceptable.
Interestingly enough, much of Paperclip’s efforts were focused upon the areas that would be under Soviet
domination occupation. On the one hand, this was because many of the very scientists that Paperclip was designed to locate were moved there during the final days of the war. On the hand, suck it, commies! The US announced it was “evacuating” former members of the Nazi regime by sending out letters demanding them to pack only easily carriable items, and alert authorities on the size of their families. By 1947 almost 2,000 scientists along with over 3,500 family members had been picked up on behalf of Paperclip. Many of the scientists were taken to interment facilities such as the famous DUSTBIN to be interrogated. All this time members of the US intelligence community were sorting the scientists based upon their expertise and the needs of various government projects.
Now, you may be wondering if anything important, let alone good, came out of this. After all, if these guys were so smart why did Nazi Germany get curbstomped? Well, the most highly recognized name in German rocketry was Werhner Von Braun. His V2 rocket was far ahead of anything the Allies possessed so he had to be kept from the Soviets. His rocketry skills were so brilliant he was handed off to NASA to help design rockets for the Space Race. His crowning achievement was the Saturn V rocket, which eventually carried the Apollo 11 capsule to the moon itself, which is the single greatest achievement in human history. Von Braun had always dreamed of it, and his work helped make humans landing on the moon a reality. Yes, there were important and amazing things that came about due to Paperclip. This, however, ignores the obvious complaint.
These men were not all poor scientists forced to work for a tyrannical regime. Many of them were Nazis, and more than a few were hardcore Nazi
bastards supporters. Wernher Von Braun’s own brother, Magnus, was thought by Army officials to be “a dangerous German Nazi” and “a worse threat to security than a half a dozen discredited SS Generals.” Yes, those are quotes. The media often had a field day with the fact that we were actively recruiting our own former enemies to work on top secret projects that had a major effect on national security. They certainly had a point with a few of them, such as Hubertus Strughold. He was a physiologist who at one point had a college library in Texas named after him, until it surfaced that he was part of the disgusting, illegal and inhuman medical experiments that were done at the Dachau concentration camp. While there were most certainly scientists who only helped the Nazis under duress, and often even attempted to sabotage them, many of these scientists were questionable at best, and at worst were honest to Cthulhu Nazis.
Due to the nature of their work it’s quite hard to state how much of an effect Paperclip had on the postwar world. You have to take into account that the pool of German scientists was a finite number so every one that your side got a hold of not only increased the talent you possessed, but denied your enemy a proven asset. To put it in simpler terms, imagine that if in baseball everytime you scored a run your opponent also lost a run. This is how it worked during Operation Paperclip. The media of course had a field day when they discovered that captured Nazis were working on some of the highest classified military projects. There is certainly a strong argument to made about using former enemies for your most secret projects, and honestly I can’t say for certain whether or not the results refute that question. There simply isn’t enough information for me to make that decision, though I do not fault others for concluding one way or another.
I wanted to talk about this conspiracy because it’s the very first one mentioned in any FOUO, which is that the reality is essential the same as what we are told. Now, I certainly come down hard on actual conspiracy theorists for ignoring facts, reason and other very important things, so I’ve never once believed in the “that’s what they want you to think” bullshit. I just find it incredibly interesting that with this highly secretive military operation the facts seem to perfectly align with what the “narrative” of the conspiracy states. Needless to say this is a highly unusual occurrence for the world of conspiracy theories, and one that I may never get to replicate in another FOUO. By their nature conspiracy theories exist in a nebulous state where “established” facts can come and go at a moment’s notice, but here we have hard history to back up the claims. Hmmm, actually using reality when coming up with a theory. What a novel idea! Looking right at you, creationism.
As always, I simply want this article to make you think. It’s certainly not hard to imagine that the Brotherhood of Steel’s emphasis on capturing and recovering prewar tech was based upon Operation Paperclip, though I have no evidence that it was. The idea that higher tech must be recovered for your side and thus denied to your enemies is by no means a new invention. To be honest it’s just good tactical sense, and you don’t need to be Sun Tzu to understand why it would be a good idea. From the first caveman who used fire to thermonuclear missiles you always want your technology to be ahead of what your enemy possesses. If you can do that while denying them the ability to gain such tech for a longer time, why wouldn’t you do it? It’s always reassuring knowing that even in the wasteland, war never changes. Until next time.