“The news is excellent. . . . There has been sabotage in Vemork. The heavy-water works are destroyed. Four Norwegian-speaking men in English uniforms got away.”
So writes Odd Nansen in his diary entry of March 6, 1943, describing an event that occurred a week earlier: the daring raid on the Vemork hydroelectric plant and its heavy-water production facility. It is doubtful whether Nansen realized at the time the full significance of the raid, or indeed, why heavy water was considered a target worthy of a special sabotage operation. After all, the nascent race to build the atom bomb [in which heavy water can play an important part] was still very much a tightly guarded secret in the U.S. and Germany.
After the war of course the full story could be told, and the Vemork raid, considered the most successful act of sabotage in all of the war, has since spawned numerous books and films. Neal Bascomb, author of Hunting Eichmann, has produced the latest engaging account in The Winter Fortress: The Epic Mission to Sabotage Hitler’s Atom Bomb.
I have written a review of The Winter Fortress for the Norwegian American, billed as America’s only Norwegian newspaper.
You can read the full review here