Skip to comments.The Secrets of Sabotage
Posted on 05/12/2019 3:30:33 AM PDT by vannrox
One of historys greatest what ifs is the question of what would have happened had the Germans been able to develop nuclear weapons during the Second World War. The Wehrmachts effort to do just that, called the Uranverein, or Uranium Club, began in 1939 when German Army physicist Kurt Diebner began to research the potential military applications of nuclear fission. By years end, the renowned German physicist Werner Heisenberg had expressed his belief that nuclear fission chain reactions, and thus, eventually, nuclear bombs, might be possible, but only if he had access to enough of a singular substance known as heavy water.
No facilities for manufacturing heavy water existed in Germany. But on April 9, 1940, the Germans invaded Norway, and in so doing acquired the Vemork Norsk Hydro Plant outside Rjukan, which, in 1934, had become the worlds first commercial heavy water plant. Heavy water, or deuterium oxide, exists when the normal hydrogen atoms are replaced with the hydrogen isotope deuterium, which has both a neutron and proton in its nucleus, thus making it heavier than proton-only hydrogen. In nuclear fission reactions, whether in an atomic bomb or a nuclear power plant, heavy water is used to slow down and regulate the reaction. Once Germany controlled Norway, it controlled not only most of the worlds existing supply of heavy water, but also Europes only means of producing it. Soon, the Allies believed, Heisenberg would have all he needed to fuel his uranium machine, and the Uranverein would be well on the way to developing a nuclear bomb.
Fear of an atomic Germany was the driving force behind not only the race for the Allies to develop their own nuclear bomb capabilityand thus the Manhattan Projectbut also for their determination to destroy Vemork. Hence, the British Special Operations Executive (SOE), which was responsible for sabotage operations, initiated plans to cripple or obliterate the plants heavy water production facility in November 1942.
After that attempt failed, the SOE conceived of Operation Gunnerside. For Gunnerside, Norwegian fighters trained in Scotland joined members of the earlier team who had remained in Norway. The operatives approach to Vemork on the night of February 27, 1943, entailed climbing downand then scalingan icy 656-foot-ravine. Upon entering the plant, the team went immediately to the heavy water room, placed their explosives, and exited the facility before the explosives detonated, destroying the heavy water production capability, and also more than 100 gallons of the priceless liquid.
In September 2017, in anticipation of the seventy-fifth anniversary of Gunnerside, archaeologists Sindre Arnkværn and Line Grindkåsa of the Telemark County Council began a project to explore what might be left among the rubble. Several weeks after beginning their work, the team reached the basement, where, surprisingly, they found the heavy water room intact and in very good condition.
Joachim Rønneberg, Gunnersides leader, is now 98 years old and is the only saboteur still alive. For many years, Arnkværn says, Rønneberg has wished for the plant to be excavated. If we are fortunate enough to interview Mr. Rønneberg and to learn specifically where the events unfolded, that will be tremendous, he says. Nothing can compare to the excitement of excavating something people will actually be able to walk into and of conveying the story of one of the most remarkable events of the Second World War.
If that facility is Vemork Norsk Hydro Plant, one would think that all they had to do was bomb the facility or just the roads leading to it........
Unmentioned in the article is the sabotage sinking of the SF HYDRO ferry on Lake Tinn to prevent transport of remaining stocks of heavy water and equipment to Germany.
Looking at the photo, and knowing the steep terrain in Norway, I’m guessing that the bombing technology of the early 1940’s wouldn’t lend itself too well to that type of target. Flying along at xxx mph, but only see the target when you are within a mile of it, etc.
My dad’s cousin was in the Norwegian underground. He became a very successful businessman in Norway. My dad asked him what he did in the underground.
“Even my wife doesn’t know. I will go to my maker with my secrets.”
However - his story of how he evaded capture in the first place sounds a lot like the beginning of a favorite childhood book of mine. Snow Treasure.
The kids help to smuggle tons of gold out of Norway on their sleds. Great story - a true story. Sledding right by the German soldiers. Some of the soldiers even wanting to be friendly. “Seeing us having fun must have brought up thoughts of their own children.”
One of the older boys in the story hides under the pile of potatoes in the cellar. IIRC my dad’s cousin hid under the pile of coal in the cellar when the Germans entered his town. Or maybe it was potatoes as well. I’ve always wondered.....
BTW - Norway at the time had gun registration. The first thing the Nazis did when entering a town was to get the gun registration documents, and then go to those homes to get the men and guns.
https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0059263/ The Heroes of Telemark
Bombing into a narrow valley is very difficult.
633 Squadron outlines that pretty well. Good flick.
I don't know what country the guy was from, but some American veteran mentioned that's what they did when they took over any city/town.
The foreigner laughed, saying while the Americans went door-to-door, the ever-efficient Germans just stayed at the headquarters and let it be known that anyone who did not turn in their gun would be executed. 100% compliance, or the owner vanished and went to the Resistance.
If it ever came to confiscation here in America, they wouldn't go door-to-door, just issue an "armed and dangerous" warrant and let the Highway Patrol pick 'em off one at a time. No muss, no fuss.
Our biggest asset in WWII was that Hitler was the leader of the Third Reich. If he'd not thought that another world war was a good idea, and concentrated on economic and technological development was much more important, he might have achieved his overall goal without firing a shot.
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