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80 years ago, the Battle of Heavy Water destroyed the Nazi atomic bomb dream

  In August 1945, the U.S. dropped two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Japan then announced its unconditional surrender, and World War II came to an end. Looking at the mushroom cloud that rose with the atomic bomb, the top allied forces did not know whether they had ever felt afraid—fortunately, the Nazis did not develop this weapon that could end the war first.
  Historically, the Allies and the Nazis fought fiercely over the manufacture of the atomic bomb. From October 1942 to February 1944, the Allied forces launched three successive rounds of offensives, which ended with the Allied forces sinking the Nazi heavy water transport ship. This series of struggles surrounding the obstruction of the Nazi atomic bomb is also collectively known as the “Battle of Heavy Water”.
  Compared with classic battles and big scenes such as the blitzkrieg on Poland, the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, and the Dunkirk retreat, the “Battle of Heavy Water” may not be popular enough, but its significance is comparable to every historical battle in World War II.
  The “Battle of Heavy Water” on the secret front was formulated by the British Special Operations Executive (SOE), and the main executors were 11 ordinary Norwegians. While saving their own country, they quietly changed the direction of history.
Takeover talks behind the scenes of a nuclear conspiracy

  As early as December 1938, well-known German chemists Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassmann completed the first nuclear fission experiment in human history at the Institute of Chemistry of Wilhelm University in Berlin, and successfully separated uranium.
  The news quickly grabbed the headlines of media around the world. In 1939, German scientist Paul Hartak wrote to the military, proposing that nuclear fission technology might be applied to the military field.

  Storage tanks for heavy water were successfully transferred to England before the fall of France.

  A conspiracy capable of overturning the direction of the war is quietly brewing at this moment.
  In 1940, Germany’s atomic bomb research program was officially put on the agenda. A group of scientists such as Kurt Dibner and Werner Heisenberg also joined the atomic bomb research at the request of the military. At the same time, Germany began to limit the sale of natural uranium to foreign countries such as occupied Czechoslovakia, in case other countries developed the atomic bomb first.
  As one of the most important raw materials in nuclear reactors, “heavy water” with the scientific name deuterium monoxide is a key part of nuclear research. “Heavy water” can weaken the speed of neutrons, and it is the most ideal moderator in the process of preparing “uranium 235”.
  At first, German scientists tried to obtain heavy water by electrolysis, but with little success. The change took place in February 1940. At that time, the Nazis mobilized troops to go north, and the troops were directed at Norway. In Telemark County, Norway, there is a factory named Vemork, which was the only factory in the world that produced heavy water at that time. Before the two sides broke their faces and officially started the war, the Germans hoped to obtain ownership of the factory through acquisitions.
  The French intelligence personnel who had already heard the relevant news, disguised themselves as senior executives of the Bank of France, first came into contact with Waymork, and declared that they would buy the company with a lot of money. Perhaps out of dislike of the Germans, the Norwegian businessman comprehended the French request. French intelligence immediately set to work filling the plant’s heavy water into 26 storage tanks and secretly transporting it to Paris.
  After the negotiations broke down, in April 1940, the German army began to attack Norway, and soon after, it moved to France. It took just over a month to occupy Paris. Fortunately, the heavy water storage tanks were successfully transferred to England before the fall of France. However, because the German offensive was too fast, the intelligence personnel did not have time to destroy the Vemork factory, and did not completely cut off the source of “heavy water” in Germany, which also laid the groundwork for the subsequent “heavy water war”.

Waymork Factory (colored pictures later)

  Under the onslaught of the Nazis, the Norwegian regular army was defeated in just over two months. But the tenacious Norwegians never gave up their resistance. Until the recovery of Norway in 1945, the never-ending anti-fascist resistance movement in the country forced the Nazis to increase their troops frequently, disrupting their offensive deployment to a certain extent. The destruction of the Ke factory is undoubtedly the most commendable result.
Determined to Sacrifice Operations on the African Battlefield

  In 1941, a top-secret message was placed on the desk of Stewart Menzies, the head of the British Secret Service. Its content shows that the Germans have made rapid progress in their research on nuclear weapons recently, and they must find a way to stop them as soon as possible.
  After seeing it, Menzies did not dare to neglect at all, and immediately drove to the prime minister’s residence. Churchill believed that the factory must be blown up, and this task naturally fell to the newly formed SOE.
  A few months ago, Leif Tronstad, the intelligence chief of the Norwegian government-in-exile, managed to escape to London under the cover of SOE. Before the war, Tronstad was a well-known scientist in Norway and one of the designers and supervisors of the Vemork factory. He unreservedly told the British side about the situation of the Waymork factory and provided a picture of the internal structure.
  According to Tronstadt, the Weymork factory is located on the edge of a 300-meter-deep canyon, and all the passages in and out of the factory are guarded by German soldiers. In addition, since the factory is made of reinforced concrete, and there are air defense facilities on the periphery, it is not easy to bomb at low altitude.
  Frontal attack is not enough, only sneak attack outsmart. The United Kingdom immediately selected a group of personnel to set up a special commando team, and arranged them to a base that simulated the Norwegian plateau environment for special training.
  At this time, Tronstad recommended to England a young man who was capable of performing miracles—Aina Skinneran. This sturdy and tough guy is from Ryukan Town, where the Waymork factory is located. He is familiar with the local conditions. He is not only in excellent physical fitness, but also good at skiing. , is an excellent candidate for a commando operation. He was then appointed as the head of the Special Forces.
  In March 1942, Skinnerland, who was most familiar with the local conditions, parachuted into the town of Rjukan. In the pitch black night, no one noticed his figure. During his time lurking behind enemy lines, Skinneran gathered a great deal of first-hand information about the Waymork factory. The information it sent back to the UK stated that the annual production of heavy water at the Waymork factory may have exceeded 1 ton, and the bombing operation is urgent.

  In June, Churchill discussed atomic weapons in his meeting with Roosevelt. Although the United States had already launched the Manhattan Project at that time, it was significantly behind Germany in terms of progress. Therefore, the leaders of the two countries finally reached an agreement: Although there are not many troops available, the heavy water plant must be destroyed even at the cost of losing the African battlefield.
  From the perspective of follow-up development, the “Battle of Heavy Water” which lasted for more than a year and a half was divided into three stages: first, commandos were sent to sneak into the hydropower station to blow up heavy water production equipment, then the Air Force launched air strikes to consolidate the results, and finally transported heavy water to the Nazis. Set up an ambush on the only way to destroy its only remaining heavy water storage.

Stills of the TV series “Heavy Water War”, working scene of Weymork factory

  Although the United States had already launched the Manhattan Project at that time, it was significantly behind Germany in terms of progress.
Dual Paradigms of Special Operations

  On October 18, four SOE-trained Norwegian Resistance troops were parachuted into an uninhabited area of ​​the Telemark wilderness. Due to the complex terrain and the blizzard, these commandos code-named “grouse” were forced to survive in the wild, and could only hunt deer or collect moss for food. It wasn’t until November that the four managed to rendezvous with Skinnerland.
  On November 19, more than 30 commandos flew to the Waymork factory in a glider to launch a raid, the operation code-named “New Man”. It is a pity that due to the interference of bad weather, some commandos were killed during the forced landing, and the rest were also killed or captured during the battle with the German army, and were quickly killed.
  The sacrifice of these team members was not worthless. The fake map they carried successfully diverted the attention of the German army, making the latter think that the focus of the Allied attack was a dam 40 kilometers away. This also laid the foundation for the subsequent successful sneak attack.
  The failure of the “New Man” operation forced the British side to adopt an alternate plan. Six Norwegians volunteered to fight for justice. On February 16 of the following year, Churchill summoned the six commandos. He said emotionally: “Gentlemen, the fate of the Allied Forces will depend on your actions. The cabinet members and I are waiting for you to bring good news. ”
  Fight for the fallen motherland, fight for the cause of anti-fascism, although there are thousands of people, I will go! On February 17, the commandos code-named “Gunners” learned the lesson from last time and parachuted to a lake 30 kilometers away from the factory. For the sake of secrecy, the “Gunners” did not meet with the “Grauses” until a week later. At this time, the “Grauses” also had a new code name: Swallow.
  The encounter between the “gunner” and the “swallow” means that the Nazi conspiracy is about to be shattered. On February 28, the town of Rjukan turned to ice. Taking advantage of the cover of darkness, 11 heroic Norwegian fighters skied through a 5-kilometer unsheltered forest area, climbed a 300-meter-high cliff with heavy loads, and finally came near the factory.

Stills of the movie “The Nine Heroes of Iron Lema”

  The confused German defense line was obviously relaxed, and the commandos successfully entered the factory along the pipeline. They installed a full 18 packs of explosives in the heavy water warehouse. After repeated checks and confirmations, everyone lit the fuse.
  There was a bang, “the explosion itself was not very loud…it sounded like the sound of two or three cars colliding together”, Paulsson, a member of the assault team, recalled afterwards. But to them at that time, the sound was as sweet as the sounds of nature. In the warehouse that was blown up by them, the heavy water of about four or five months’ production flowed down the sewer.
  In order to avoid the Nazis’ revenge on the local civilians, the team also deliberately left the British Thompson submachine gun to show that it has nothing to do with the Norwegian resistance organization. Afterwards, the team members drifted away before the German army could react.
  The first battle was won, but for the Nazis, it was not yet broken. In order to completely destroy the confidence of the Nazis in developing the atomic bomb, on November 16, 1943, at the request of the U.S. Army Chief of Staff Marshall, about 200 bombers from the U.S. Air Force flew over the town of Rjukan and dropped a total of super bombs on the Waymork factory. 700 bombs successfully destroyed the hydropower station.
  Although the heavy water equipment was hidden deep in the basement and the damage was limited, the successive attacks made the Nazis feel exhausted and felt that Norway was no longer safe. Therefore, they chose to dismantle the heavy water production machine and transport it back to the country together with the remaining heavy water, which was in the hands of the Allied forces.
  At this time, the long-dormant “Gunner” and “Swallow” went into battle again. After the last operation, they regretted that they did not complete their efforts. When the opportunity to end the Nazi ambitions came before them again, how could they miss it?
  On the evening of February 19, 1944, on Lake Tinsjo in Norway, several special figures appeared on a large ship named “Haidoro”. Members of the assault team installed multiple time bombs. When the boat sailed to the center of the lake, a loud noise broke the tranquility of the night, and the boat full of heavy water sank to the bottom of the lake together with Hitler’s dream of trying to turn the tide with the atomic bomb. It was not until 2018 that the heavy bucket that was sunk was salvaged by historians.
  In these two exemplary special operations battles, 11 Norwegian fighters not only performed their missions flawlessly, but there were no casualties. Colonel Wilson, head of SOE Scandinavia, said: “This is one of the most perfect operations implemented in Norway.”
  It is a pity that Norway still paid a very heavy price during the entire “heavy water war”. In the second phase of the bombing, the Allied forces did not notify the Norwegian government-in-exile in advance, resulting in the deaths of a large number of Norwegian civilians in the air strikes.
  The achievements of heroes will not be concealed by the years. Nowadays, every few years, there will be an incident of literary film and television works or game adaptations: “Battlefield 5”, “Winter Fortress”, “Heavy Water War”, “Nine Heroes of the Iron Horse”, “Special Spy Mission: Stopping Hitler’s Atomic Bomb Development Plan in 1942 Documentary” “…The descendants who can’t get there but yearn for it can worship the hero’s great achievements in the past in these works.

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