I have a story to tell you.
It is so incredible that the first time I heard it, I did not believe it. I have always known my grandfather–and namesake–was born in Vienna, Austria, in 1924. I know Henry Kolm’s family was one of scientists and doctors: Jewish atheists. I know he fled Europe, arriving in the United States in 1940. I know he spoke English, French, and German and was a scientific prodigy, and I know then he joined the military.
He told me stories about his time in the service: Fantastical stories about submarines full of secret German super-weapons. Unbelievable stories about smuggling hundreds of German scientists into this country. Stories about those scientists going on to found NASA and other space-age institutions.
I did not believe all of his stories. But some people did: Henry Kolm was interviewed at length by Massachusetts Public Rado, the history branch of the National Park Service, and my mother–Cornelia Cesari. She organized his first memories into the story of his childhood–then he died. His timing was not ideal: she had yet to complete the story of his World War Two service. She asked me to join the project.
I began by attempting to corroborate his more incredible stories. We traveled to the National Archives in Washington, D.C. The archives steward countless service records and orders from the military, even classified documents. We requested the government declassify hundreds of documents on military intelligence during World War Two. Because most of the information is no longer tied to national security, we were given access.
The facts are stranger than fiction.
After fleeing Vienna during the holocaust, Henry Kolm used his German language skills in U.S. Army Intelligence to interrogate Nazis and initiate Operation Paperclip, smuggling German scientists into the United States. Gathering Intelligence is his story.
Gathering Intelligence is currently a book-length project–a collaboration between Henry and Cornelia Cesari–and we are seeking representation and a publisher for this incredible story.
Reach out if you’d like to learn more: