"What if the enemy should get the atomic bomb before we did! We could not run the mortal risk of being outstripped in this awful sphere." (Winston Churchill)
Both the Western Allies and the Soviets knew of Adolf Hitler's V-2 rocket program, the forerunner of ballistic missiles and the space race. Each recognized the immense strategic value of these technologies and wished to secure their benefits for themselves. As the Soviets contemplated additional expansion following the "Great Patriotic War" and the US military came to understand the putative allies of today would emerge as the enemies of tomorrow, the men possessing knowledge of the V-2 rockets and other Third Reich military technology programs became seen as crucial pieces in the incipient NATO versus Warsaw Pact standoff.
The result was the American-led "Operation Paperclip" on the Western side, which resulted in German scientists putting their expertise at the disposal of the US and other NATO members. Operation Paperclip aimed not only to obtain the benefits of German scientific advances for the United States but also to deny them to the potentially hostile Soviets, as General Leslie Groves enunciated: "Heisenberg was one of the world's leading physicists, and, at the time of the German break-up, he was worth more to us than ten divisions of Germans. Had he fallen into the Russian hands, he would have proven invaluable to them" (Naimark, 1995, 207).
But Heisenberg was important not simply for being a physicist - he was one of the principal men in charge of Nazi Germany's nuclear weapons research.
Tens of millions died during World War II as the warring powers raced to create the best fighter planes, tanks, and guns, and eventually that race extended to bombs which carried enough power to destroy civilization itself. While the war raged in Europe and the Pacific, a dream team of Nobel Laureates was working on the Manhattan Project, a program kept so secret that Vice President Harry Truman didn’t know about it until he took the presidency after FDR’s death in April 1945. The Manhattan Project would ultimately yield the "Little Boy" and "Fat Man" bombs that released more than 100 Terajoules of energy at Hiroshima and Nagaski, but not surprisingly, Nazi Germany was not far behind with their own nuclear weapons program.
Uranprojekt: The History and Legacy of Nazi Germany’s Nuclear Weapons Program During World War II examines the Nazis’ race to reach the ultimate goal from 1939-45, how they went about their objectives, and why they failed. You will learn about Nazi Germany’s nuclear weapons program like never before.