The Norsk Hydro and Vemork Raids

Allied efforts to interrupt heavy water production at the Norsk Hydro plant near Rjukan in German-occupied Norway included a failed glider assault by British commandos in November 1942, the destruction of a portion of the plant by an SOE team of Norwegians in February 1943, an Eighth Air Force bombing raid in November 1943 that left the plant largely intact, and a subsequent Norwegian Resistance operation in February 1944 that destroyed a final shipment of heavy water on its way to Germany.

The efforts against Norsk Hydro were loosely the basis for the 1965 movie "The Heroes of Telemark," starring Kirk Douglas and Richard Harris.

Berglyd, Jostein. Operation Freshman: The Hunt for Hitler's Heavy Water. Stockholm: Leander & Ekholm, 2006.

Peake, Studies 52.3 (Sep 2008) and Intelligencer 16.2 (Fall 2008), says that the author "sets the record straight" on the destruction of the heavy water plant at Vemork, Norway. This is a "thoroughly documented and illustrated book" that "fills a gap in our history."

Dahl, Per F. Heavy Water and the Wartime Race for Nuclear Energy. Bristol, UK: Institute of Physics Publishers, 1999.

Beard, I&NS 16.3, notes that this work tells two stories: one, the scientific race for the bomb; and the other, the commando and air attacks on the Norwegian plants making heavy water. The reviewer gives Dahl "high marks," since "[b]oth scientific and military events are expertly described."

Drummond, John D. But for These Men: How Eleven Commandos Saved Western Civilisation. London: W.H. Allen, 1962. New York: Award Books, 1965. Morley: Elmfield Press, 1974.

Gallagher, Thomas M. Assault in Norway: Sabotaging the Nazi Nuclear Bomb. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1975. London: Macdonald & Jane's, 1975. Guilford, CT: Lyons, 2002.

Haukelid, Knut. Skis Against the Atom. London: Kimber, 1954. Attack on Telemark. New York: Ballantine, 1974.

Clark comment: As a member of the Norwegian Resistance in World War II, Haukelid participated in the Norsk Hydro raid and the later operation that destroyed a large shipment of heavy water on the way to Germany. Constantinides says that Haukelid's account of this daring operation "is good but too modest and too terse."

Helberg, Claus. "The Vemork Action." Studies in Intelligence 36, no. 5 (1992): 80-90.

The author participated in the sabotage attack in February 1943 against the heavy-water production plant at Vemork, Norway. Here, he passes on first-hand observations about the operation.

Herrington, Ian. "The SIS and SOE in Norway 1940-1945: Conflict or Co-operation?" War in History 9, no. 1 (2002): 82-101.

Howarth, David Armine. The Shetland Bus: A WWII Epic of Escape, Survival, and Adventure. London: Nelson, 1951. Across to Norway. [?]: Sloane, 1952. Guilford, CT: Lyons, 2008.

Pforzheimer, Studies 5.2 (Spring 1961), says that this is the story of Norwegian escapees from the Nazis "assembled at a British base in the Shetland Islands (where the author was deputy commander)." They used their boats to transport "saboteurs, agents, and refugees" between Norway and the islands.

Kurzman, Dan.

1. Blood and Water: Sabotaging Hitler's Bomb. New York: Holt, 1997.

Clark comment: This book recounts the destruction, by an SOE team of Norwegians, of a heavy water plant in Norway in February 1943 and a subsequent Norwegian operation in February 1944 that destroyed a large shipment of heavy water on the way to Germany.

Bernstein, NYT, 12 Feb. 1997, calls the author's scientific and strategic background to the story "frustratingly sketchy." However, the military side of the story is "an engrossing, even exciting" account of the efforts to destroy the Norsk Hydro heavy water plant and its product. Kurzman's narrative "blends operational details with portraits of individuals caught up in the war."

For Torgerson, Air Chronicles [], the author "has done an exceptional job of tying together the disparate elements of what some World War II historians consider the most successful commando raid by the Allies against Nazi Germany."

2. "Sabotaging Hitler's Bomb." MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History 9, no. 2 (Winter 1997): 38-47.

For someone interested in the raid on Norsk Hydro but not to the level of wanting to read an entire book on the subject, Kurzman has done an excellent job of tracing the operation's main lines in this article.

Saxon, Wolfgang. "Claus Helberg, 84, War Hero in the Norwegian Resistance, Is Dead." New York Times, 13 Mar. 2003. []

Claus Helberg "took part in the Telemark commando strike of February 1943, which denied the occupying Germans a source of material they might have used to build an atomic bomb.... Helberg went on the mission to reconnoiter the ground approach and joined the band of saboteurs who managed to dynamite the plant in February 1943, hobbling it for the rest of the war. He was captured by the Germans, escaped, and shuttled precariously to Sweden and Britain and back to Norway on reconnaissance missions. He joined the Company Linge, a unit of Norwegian exiles who distinguished themselves gathering intelligence, organizing the resistance and sabotage."

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