Friday, June 28, 2013

BOMB Part 2: Chain Reactions

Part 2 was quite a bit to read, but the intrigue and fast-paced chapters kept my eyes glued to the page. 

Would Jens Poulsson and the Gunnerside Team be successful at Vemork? Would Enrico Fermi and The Chicago Pile Team create the first nuclear chain reaction? Can Robert Oppenheimer be trusted? And, who is Klaus Fuchs (that's one unfortunate last name) and is he a traitor? 

Each chapter ended in suspense, propelling me on with the thought, "I have to know what happens next!"

Some of my favorite cliffhanger quotes:
"Oppenheimer wasn't fit to be a soldier, Groves acknowledged that. But he just might be able to win the war."
"The dispatcher shouted, 'Number one, go!'"
"He told them: 'Stand by for a particularly dangerous enterprise.'"  
And my absolute favorite cliffhanger:
"It was a decision that would haunt him for the rest of his life." 
I love reading the extensive dialogue drawn from primary sources (check the back of the book for quotation notes and primary source notes). The men and women from the 1930's and 1940's seem to 'come alive' and I feel like I'm sharing this extraordinary moment in history with them.

In the chapter entitled Operation Gunnerside, the team was told that they had a fifty-fifty chance of doing the job and only a fair chance of escaping. Why did Colonel John Wilson think that the Germans would not take any prisoners? What must it be like to go on a mission where you are issued a 'death pill'?

Map of Norway

Hardanger Plateau and Vemork

If you want to read more about the Vemork Action, you can read about it on the CIA's website. The reports are now unclassified.
Hardanger Plateau in winter.

What did you think about the U.S. government acquiring the Los Alamos Ranch School? What would your school director do if he/she opened a letter from the Secretary of War (note that back then it wasn't called the Secretary of Defense) and read: "You are advised that it has been determined necessary to the interests of the United States in the prosecution of the war that the property of your school be acquired for military purposes."?

Part 2 ends with the sentence:
"Not a single one of the Norwegians was ever caught."

I think that's a good place to leave it for now. 

Interactive Website -
Check out PBS's NOVA articles on Military & Espionage:

Read World War II Spy Messages

Nazis and the Bomb: How close were the Nazis to developing an atomic bomb?

Have Part 3: How To Build An Atomic Bomb read by July 12th. The plot thickens as the race to build - and steal - the world's most dangerous weapon continues.

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