Author Topic: Joachim Ronneberg, Leader of Raid That Thwarted a Nazi Atomic Bomb, Dies at 99  (Read 253 times)

Liberty

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Here's a movie idea for Hollywood, rather than more super-hero sequel, how about a real-life hero:

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/22/obituaries/joachim-ronneberg-dead.html

Joachim Ronneberg, Leader of Raid That Thwarted a Nazi Atomic Bomb, Dies at 99

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Hours later, in one of the most celebrated commando raids of World War II, Lieutenant Ronneberg and his demolition team sneaked past guards and a barracks full of German troops, stole into the plant, set explosive charges and blew up Hitler’s hopes for a critical ingredient to create the first atomic bomb. [...]

A more widely accepted view is that Hitler’s program, which predated the Manhattan Project, faltered in midwar because of scientific errors and Norway’s successful saboteurs.

By 1942, the British knew that Germany had chosen heavy water, or deuterium oxide, to moderate atom-splitting chain reactions to produce bomb-grade plutonium. They knew further that the Norsk Hydro plant in Norway, which had been extracting heavy water since 1934 for making fertilizer, had been taken over by Nazi invaders as the world’s best source of the isotope for Berlin’s atomic weapons program.

A 35-man British commando team had been lost on a 1942 mission to sabotage the plant. Britain then enlisted the Norwegian volunteers under Mr. Ronneberg for Operation Gunnerside, endorsed by Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Air attacks were not ordered for fear of heavy casualties to Norwegian workers and a low probability of success because the heavy water had been distilled in a basement fortified against bombs. [...]

They split into two teams. All doors were locked, but Mr. Ronneberg and Fredrik Kayser found a small duct for cables and pipes. Mr. Ronneberg and Mr. Kayser squeezed in, dragging rucksacks of explosives behind them. The duct led to a cavernous hall.

They recognized it as the heavy-water production center: a latticework of iron pipes, rubber tubes, electrical wires and 18 stainless steel cylinders, each 50 inches tall and 10 inches in diameter — the heavy-water containers. There was no guard, only a workman at a desk. They dropped down, and Mr. Kayser put a gun to the man’s chest, urging him to be silent.

Mr. Ronneberg unpacked the rucksacks and began attaching explosives to the storage cylinders and water-distillation apparatus. They were joined by the other two demolition men, who had broken a window to get in. They set fuses on 30-second timers, ignited them with matches and fled.

As they raced past the barracks, they heard the muffled crump of the explosion. Soon sirens began to wail at the plant. But the saboteurs were out of sight by the time Germans scrambled from the barracks and workers scattered in chaos. A hunt by 2,800 soldiers spread over the countryside. But by sunrise, the saboteurs were well away, beginning a 280-mile trek across forests and mountains to neutral Sweden. [...]

The raid — with no shots fired and no saboteurs wounded — had destroyed the cylinders, sending 1,100 pounds of heavy water down a drain, along with the plant’s capacity to make more. It took the Germans four months to rebuild, and more time to restore full production. But in November, the Vemork operation was crippled again by Allied bombers.

Hitler ordered the project moved to Germany, but a Norwegian ferry carrying the equipment and the remaining stocks of heavy water was sunk on route by resistance saboteurs in early 1944. That ended Nazi Germany’s struggle for Norwegian heavy water and all of the regime’s realistic hopes for an atomic bomb.
« Last Edit: October 22, 2018, 11:29:16 AM by Liberty »
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TorontoRaptorsFan

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I just started reading the book. The author also wrote Hunting Eichmann which was excellent. The Hunting Eichmann movie will be out shortly starring Ben Kingsley.

https://www.amazon.com/Winter-Fortress-Mission-Sabotage-Hitlers/dp/0544947290

AAPL, BAC, BAM

Liberty

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I just started reading the book. The author also wrote Hunting Eichmann which was excellent. The Hunting Eichmann movie will be out shortly starring Ben Kingsley.

https://www.amazon.com/Winter-Fortress-Mission-Sabotage-Hitlers/dp/0544947290

Oh, thanks for that, I somehow missed that there was a book about it. Do you like it so far?
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Jurgis

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Great operation, great heroes.

I was in Norway this summer, puts some visual context to the story.

Peace.
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