“I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.” -J. Robert Oppenheimer
The nucleus of the atom holds many secrets, not the least of which is the key to the release of energy hundreds of thousands-to-millions of times more efficient than any chemical means known. In order to build and develop the first atomic bomb, a myriad of challenges needed to be overcome, including the ability to sustain a chain reaction among fissile materials.
The key to that was double-heavy water. And while we laud the Manhattan project scientists for figuring everything out, the truth is that Nazi scientists, led by Werner Heisenberg, had figured it all out, too, back in 1940. The invasion of Norway was led, in no small part, by the drive to acquire that deuterium oxide and the means of its production at the plant in Vemork. The plot to sabotage it — and with it, Hitler’s atomic bomb ambitions — is one of the most enduring stories of science, history and war in all of humanity.