Papers of Rudi Berndt, WPAFB Engineer via Operation Paperclip, Now Open for Research

We are pleased to announce that MS-632: Rudi Berndt Papers is now open for research.

Rudi Julius Berndt (1921-2004) was a German engineer who came to the United States as part of Operation Paperclip (or Project Paperclip), a secret program of the Joint Intelligence Objectives Agency to recruit leading German scientists, engineers, and technicians at the close of World War II (before the Russians did).

Berndt’s particular area of expertise was parachute development. From 1941 to 1946, he was a member of the parachute research and development team at the Graf Zeppelin Research Institute Stuttgart-Ruit, working alongside such leaders in the field as Helmut Heinrich and Theodor Knacke.

At age 25, Berndt was one of the youngest recruits for Operation Paperclip. He began his employment with the U.S. Army Air Services in the autumn of 1946, coming to Dayton to start his work at Wright Field in November. Berndt dedicated over 40 years of his life to civilian service at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, retiring in 1990.

The manuscript collection primarily documents Berndt’s work in parachute development, in both Germany and the United States, from the WWII era through the Cold War. Educational records, as well as a significant amount of material pertaining to Berndt’s arrival in the United States as part of Operation Paperclip, are also included. Of particular note are Berndt’s memoirs, which describe his early life in Germany through his retirement.

For more information about the collection, please view the complete MS-632 finding aidcontact Special Collections and Archives, or leave a comment on this post.

A selection of documents and photographs from the collection are included below. Click on an image to enlarge it.

Berndt's German identification card, 1941 (Box1, File 11)

Berndt’s German identification card, 1941 (Box1, File 11)

Berndt's Arbeitsbuch (Labor Book), listing places of employment (Box 1, File 8)

Berndt’s Arbeitsbuch (Labor Book), listing places of employment (Box 1, File 8)

Berndt's Wehrpass (Military Passport), open to the identification page (Box 1, File 8)

Berndt’s Wehrpass (Military Passport), open to the identification page (Box 1, File 8)

Landing brake parachute testing on Junker 88, circa 1941-1942 (Box 2, File 5, sheet D-18)

Landing brake parachute testing on Junker 88, circa 1941-1942 (Box 2, File 5, sheet D-18)

Parachute delivery system testing on a Monika bomb, 1943 (Box 2, File 8, sheet M-5)

Parachute delivery system testing on a Monika bomb, 1943 (Box 2, File 8, sheet M-5)

A group of Operation Paperclip recruits just before departure for the USA, 6 Sept 1946. (Box 4, File 1, photo S-86)

A group of Operation Paperclip recruits just before departure for the USA, 6 Sept 1946. (Box 4, File 1, photo S-86)

One of several memoranda to German and Austrian scientists at Wright Field, 1947 (Box 1, File 34)

One of several memoranda to German and Austrian scientists at Wright Field, 1947 (Box 1, File 34)

Berndt (right) and water tunnel used in parachute development, WPAFB, 1962 (Box 4, File 7)

Berndt (right) and water tunnel used in parachute development, WPAFB, 1962 (Box 4, File 7)

A note from Hans von Ohain to Berndt, congratulating him on retirement (Box 5, retirement album)

A note from Hans von Ohain to Berndt, congratulating him on retirement (Box 5, retirement album)

Just one of the more than 100 pages of the detailed autobiography Berndt completed in 2003 (Box 3, File 11)

Just one of the more than 100 pages of the detailed autobiography Berndt completed in 2003 (Box 3, File 11)

We hope you’ve enjoyed this window into the Rudi Berndt Papers, and please feel free to contact us with any questions!

 

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