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Taking Nazi Technology

Messerschmitt Me 262 Schwable, the world’s first jet fighter. (U.S. Air Force photo). This airframe, Wrknr. 111711, was the first Me 262 to come into Allied hands when its German test pilot defected on March 31, 1945. The aircraft was then shipped to the United States for testing.

Douglas O’Reagan has a very interesting new book out about the Allied effort to appropriate Nazi technology after the war. This effort had immense ripple effects across the scientific and engineering communities of Britain, France, the USSR, and the US, as well as a deep impact on intellectual property law. The actual haul, however, was fairly limited:

O’Reagan argues that one of the enduring legacies of the effort to seize Nazi technology was a growing confidence in the supremacy of American technology. This led, in the postwar years, to a vast system of export controls designed to prevent the most advanced U.S. innovations from falling into the hands of the Soviet Union. This perception of U.S. technological supremacy still characterizes U.S. technology policy today, in light of growing concerns about China’s IP theft.

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