Back in the 1960’s I read ominous items in the Jewish press about Nazi scientists developing guided missiles–and worse yet, nuclear weapons—in Egypt. Never seeing the same stories in the Philadelphia Bulletin or Inquirer, and the United States government, supporting both the Arabs and the Israelis, saying nothing, I dismissed these accounts as rumors at best and propaganda at worst.
It turns out the stories were true, as revealed in Operation Damocles by Roger Howard and recently released by Open Road Integrated Media. Egypt did hire German scientists–some of whom were real Nazis–to develop guided missiles and jet aircraft to be used against Israel. Operation Damocles was the cloak and dagger campaign to encourage the scientists to quit and discourage others from coming to Egypt.
Howard tells a good spy tale, The narrative moves quickly and is easy to read.
I always admired the Mossad (Israel’s foreign intelligence agency) as the CIA done right. It seems that the Mossad had its problems too. Regretfully, the Mossad engaged in terror (letter bombs, an exploding airplane) to keep German scientists from working on Egyptian military projects.
Israel’s secret war against the Egyptian military program ended in disaster as spies were caught and placed on public trial in Egypt and Switzerland. Operation Damocles was a hot button in Israeli politics. It strained relations between Israel and West Germany, when both nations were seeking full diplomatic relations and military cooperation.
Ultimately, the Egyptian missile program failed. The German scientists went home–possibly because of the Mossad but also because better opportunities awaited them in booming Europe–and Egypt’s technology was backward. The threat of the Egyptian missile program was overstated. Like many covert operations by many powers, Operation Damocles brought little benefit but disastrous results.