Dennis Detwiller

The Formation the American Talent Program

In Gaming on July 21, 2011 at 7:03 am

Continuing the thank you’s I promised for the GODLIKE ransom, here’s a look at the birth of the American Talent program.

”The United States could use a few guys like this! People can buy trucks, People can build trucks, but people can’t lift trucks! Hot damn!”

—Howard Hughes, upon his first meeting with the British Talent Lloyd “Bulldog” Feit.

The Office of Scientific Research and Development

What would become the Office of Scientific Research and Development began as the National Defense Research Council at the direct request of the President in June 1940. This historic and far-reaching decision by President Roosevelt was an early attempt to mobilize the United States for a war Roosevelt privately felt would inevitably involve the nation. In his proposal, he envisioned a civilian research laboratory, formed, arranged and maintained by scientists, for scientists—but bent on producing military weaponry and equipment. Without military interference, Roosevelt argued, significant breakthroughs could be achieved in a rapid fashion, avoiding snafus and red tape.

For 18 months, Dr. Vannevar Bush, the new head of the fledgling organization, struggled to pull together a dozen different research laboratories under a single unified control. Nearly 10,000 draft deferments were eventually granted to the personnel who would serve what became in May 1941, the Office of Scientific Research and Development. Over the next four years, the OSRD would achieve breakthroughs in all aspects of science, from biology and chemistry all the way to the deadly physics that would create the world’s first Atomic weapon, proving Roosevelt’s contention—that pure science can be productive and useful for the war effort without oversight—correct.

More importantly, some believed, was the advent of Talents—the super-humans who had sprung up amidst the conflict in Europe. The OSRD had a second, even more secret mandate set by the President, to investigate and solve the mystery of the super-men.

Doctor Vannevar Bush

Born in 1890, Vannevar Bush pursued a career in science all the way to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, excelling in engineering and the physical sciences. He later returned there as vice president of the establishment and wrote a series of papers examining the applications of weapons technology and the advance in modern warfare. In 1940, Bush convinced President Roosevelt that the U.S. was woefully behind in weapons and technological development, and that, eventually, war would involve the country.

The President placed Bush in charge of the National Defense Research Council, which later became the Office of Scientific Research and Development in 1941. This organization was in charge of all military research conducted during the war, but answered only to the President and Congress, not the military establishment.

Bush was bent on a single thing—giving America the technology to win the war against the Axis, at any cost. He managed to instill this same belief in scientists and military officers who were often concerned with the impact some of their developments might have on warfare. His greatest achievement—the Atomic bomb—was created despite the hundreds of philosophical and humanitarian questions such a weapon conjured up in some of the brightest minds of their age.

This was, in no small part, because Bush was such a skilled, driven leader.

The First Years of the Super-Age

Before the formation of the OSRD, Germany held the world’s attention for years as the sole possessor of a super-human Talent—Konrad Rahn, better known as Der Flieger (“The Airman”). Germany seized upon the opportunity presented by the timing of his discovery, which coincided perfectly with the 1936 Berlin Summer Olympic games.

In an unmatched propaganda spectacle Der Flieger was revealed to the world as the torchbearer who lit the Olympic flame in Berlin—floating into the stadium like a giant bird. His appearance, widely accepted as the first Talent known in modern times, signaled the dawn of what Edward R. Murrow characterized as the beginning of the “Super-Age”.

By the time the OSRD had solidified in early 1941, things had changed dramatically. Britain had its own growing population of Talents, and many more were appearing every day in non-Axis nations, throwing their hat into the ring against Hitler. Shortly thereafter in the summer of 1941, huge amounts of Talents began to manifest after the German sneak-attack on Russia.

A brief overview of the state of Talent affairs, as well as German propaganda in the U.S. is presented below, to give an idea of the world situation that gave birth to American Section Two—the department tasked with investigating the Talent phenomenon.

Der Flieger’s State Visit, 1936

In August 1936, at the invitation of the President (due mostly to public demand), Der Flieger, Germany’s famous “Flying Man” arrived for a ten-day visit to New York, Boston and Chicago. Swarmed with public interest, he was followed by a bevy of fans, newspapermen, Hollywood stars, and a wave of FBI agents tasked with learning all they could of him. Conspicuously absent from his visit was an invitation from the President, though he did meet with the mayors of all three cities, as well as the Governor of New York. 

He was, quite simply, the most famous person in America, if not the world. At the time, as the world’s sole Talent, many believed the propaganda coming from Germany—that the Nazi was the fruit of a eugenics program designed to unlock the hidden potential of the Aryan people. It was not until 1938, when Talents began appearing in all ethnic groups around the world, that this theory was abandoned, at least in the west.

In the three cities, Der Flieger demonstrated his abilities to crowds of thousands, monitored by an army of FBI men all the while. Samples of his uneaten food, urine and feces, hair and saliva—as well as his fingerprints—were recovered by diligent agents, and grudgingly, turned over to the U.S. Army for analysis. Lacking a clear research division, the samples were quickly forgotten after no obvious anomalies could be detected in them. They were later turned over to the OSRD—in 1944, far too late to matter.


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