In 1937, Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassman split the atom, giving Nazi Germany an early edge in the race to build the world’s first atomic bomb. Just how close did Hitler get to developing the most powerful weapon mankind has ever known?
The Chaos Book Club
Today is Day 15 of the Chaos book club. Chaos is an adventure thriller along the lines of Indiana Jones or books written by Clive Cussler, James Rollins, Douglas Preston, or Steve Berry. Thanks to those of you who’ve bought the novel already. If you haven’t already done so, please consider picking up a copy at one of the following locations:
The Nazi Atomic Bomb?
At first, the Nazis weren’t fully aware of the military potential of Hahn’s and Strassman’s work. But that changed after they conquered Poland in 1939. Almost immediately, German military leaders banned the export of uranium and attempted to increase the importation of it via the Belgian Congo.
After conquering Norway in June 1940, the Nazis got their hands on the Hydro-Electric Company’s Vemork-based electrolysis plant. Suddenly, Europe’s only source of heavy water, a key ingredient for an atomic bomb, was in their hands.
By early 1942, Nazi scientists had built their first atomic reactor. However, when Hitler realized that the atomic bomb would not be ready in the near-term, he switched resources away from the Uranverein, or Uranium Club. The project lost numerous scientists to more pressing military concerns.
In June 1942, Germany’s atomic reactor exploded. His interest renewed, Hitler told Field Marshal Erwin Rommel that Nazi scientists were close to developing a “new secret weapon” which could “throw a man off his horse at a distance of two miles.”
Although research had slowed, it hadn’t stopped. But a series of sabotage attacks on the Vermok plant by the Norwegian resistance movement hampered heavy water production. The plant was finally bombed into submission in February 1944. Nazi leaders ordered the remaining supplies to be delivered to Germany. 613 kilograms of heavy water and 14 tons of fluid were subsequently loaded onto the ferry Hydro and the vessel sat out across Lake Tinnsjo.
But unbeknownst to the Nazis, a Norwegian commando named Knut Haukelid had planted explosives on the boat. 45 minutes after leaving shore, the Hydro exploded, causing a tremendous echo that was heard for miles and killing a number of innocent Norwegians in the process. The boat sank into the 1,300 foot deep lake, putting a dramatic end to the Nazi effort to build an atomic bomb.
The Nazi Atomic Bomb in Chaos
Nearly all scholars agree that the Nazis never got close to building an atomic bomb. Even the cache of heavy water aboard the Hydro was far short of the amount needed to fuel an atomic reactor. Thus, it’s no surprise that author Rainer Karlsch turned some heads when he published Hitlers Bombe, in which he claimed that Hitler built and tested a non-standard nuclear weapon, possibly a “dirty bomb,” near the German town of Ohrdruf. However, the soil revealed relatively normal radiation levels and historians have generally dismissed the claim.
The Uranverein and the Nazi atomic bomb isn’t a major plot point in Chaos. However, it plays an important off-screen role in the sense that it serves as the backdrop for the creation of die Glocke, or the Bell. And the Bell’s mysterious existence, described in the pages of an old, weathered journal, haunts my hero Cy Reed to the edge of insanity…
I looked at Beverly. Her solemn expression told me that something was on her mind. “Last chance,” I said. “Any reason we should keep it around?”
She furrowed her brow. “Maybe.”
“Remember what Jenson told us? He said the Sand Demons couldn’t or wouldn’t destroy the Bell.”
I shrugged. “So?”
“So, if it’s the former, maybe we should keep the journal around. If we find the Bell, the journal might help us figure out a way to destroy it.”
I exhaled loudly. A single brush against the flint would send tiny sparks hurtling toward the journal, igniting it instantly. Tiny, golden flames would lick the air, adding light to the dim station. It would take just a moment. And then, I could forget all about Hartek’s journal.
Do it. Do it already. ~ David Meyer, Chaos
That’s it for today. Tomorrow, we’re going to take another curious trip through history, one that will bring us to a strange, top-secret 1964 operation called the Nth Country Project. The results of that project were…to say the least…startling. Stop by tomorrow to find out what I mean…I hope to see you then!
Chaos Book Club
- October 17: Chaos has Arrived!
- October 24: The Story of Chaos
- October 25: The Great Train Robbery?
- October 26: Is Treasure Hunting Immoral?
- October 27: What was Operation Paperclip?
- October 28: Nazi Treasure & ODESSA?
- October 29: Do the Mole People Exist?
- October 31: FDR’s Lost Subway Car?
- November 1: Do Alligators Live in New York City Sewers?
- November 2: The Mysterious Minamata Disease?
- November 3: Die Glocke & Nazi Wonder Weapons?
- November 4: Buildering: The Art of Climbing…Skyscrapers?
- November 5: The Strange Case of Red Mercury?
- November 6: The Island of Stability?
- November 7: The Nazi Atomic Bomb?
- November 8: The Nth Country Experiment?
- November 9: Why did America really bomb Hiroshima?
- November 10: New York’s Forgotten Subway Tunnel?
- November 11: Alfred Ely Beach’s Last Secret?
- November 12: The Strange Science of Superconductors?
- November 13: What’s Next for Cyclone Reed?