Heisenberg and the Nazi atomic bomb Program

With the discovery of Nuclear Fusion in Germany, the country’s future was looking bright. However many of the top physicists were Jewish, and with the increasing anti-Semitic views due to Nazi propaganda many of these physicists left the country. For those who took refuge in the USA they took with them disturbing news that the Nazis were working on an atom bomb. When the news reached the Pentagon, they began their own top secret operation to produce an atom bomb, they named it the Manhattan Project.

Allied secret agents were sent onto Germany to sabotage the Nazi atom program, codenamed The Alsos Mission the agents key targets included the location of the program headquarters, the Nazis hoard of uranium and Werner Heisenberg who was believed to be in charge of the program. The agents received information that Heisenberg was seen in a small town called Haigerloch, they rushed there to investigate.

Upon arriving Heisenberg was nowhere to be seen, but the agents did discover a suspicious looking cave below the town’s castle, and after breaching the heavy steel door they found a nuclear reactor, but no uranium. After three days of questioning, the physicists finally revealed that they had buried the uranium. The agents were suspicious of booby traps so called upon a local resident to dig until he found it, when he finally did it was sent to Britain.

Heisenberg was finally located on the 3 May 1945 and was sent to Britain for interrogation, four days later Germany surrendered. During this time it’s estimated over one thousand tons of Nazi uranium was shipped from Germany to America for the Manhattan project. Heisenberg and nine other German physicists were being held in a country house in England but were not cooperating, so the English hid microphones around the house. Nothing of use was recorded until on 6 August 1945 when the physicists heard the news on the radio that the USA had dropped an atom bomb on Japan, allied agents listened in as the physicists tried to work out how the Americans had done it.

It seemed Heisenberg miscalculated nuclear physics – his design for an atom bomb called for thousands of kilograms of uranium, while the Hiroshima bomb used just fifty six kilograms. The British and American agents who were listening in realised that this is why the Nazi atom bomb projects never succeeded. Heisenberg was released as he was no longer thought a threat and went home to Germany.

Source, National Geographic – The Hunt For Hitler’s Scientists