What People Don't Know About the World War II Race for Nuclear Weapons
What People Don’t Know About the World War II Race for Nuclear Weapons

What People Don’t Know About the World War II Race for Nuclear Weapons

Larry Holzwarth - May 31, 2021

What People Don’t Know About the World War II Race for Nuclear Weapons
General Leslie Groves addressing a group of service personell at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, during the Manhattan Project. US Army

20. The Alsos missions did little to alter the course of the Second World War

If the Alsos missions revealed anything, it was the fact the Germans were years away from developing a working atomic bomb. Werner Karl Heisenberg later stated that he and many of his colleagues deliberately impeded the effort to build such a weapon out of moral considerations. Heisenberg’s recorded conversations at Farm Hall did not reveal such reticence. Instead, they blamed Germany’s failure to produce a weapon to the low priority granted the program. Though some have claimed the German atomic weapons program became Hitler’s highest priority, in fact it received little attention following 1940, since it evidently could not produce a weapon for many years to come. It received limited resources and financial support. It lacked a unified command structure. Political and personal rivalries dominated among its contributors. Alsos revealed these failings. For years those findings remained classified.

General Groves, who led the Manhattan Project for the United States, argued the Germans failed to build an atomic bomb because they never developed the industrial base needed to produce one. Lack of raw materials also contributed to the failure, as more and more dwindling supplies went to the conventional warfare needs. America’s Manhattan Project consumed about $2 billion to produce the bombs which fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, about $29 billion today. Germany’s atomic weapons program consumed roughly $2 million measured in 1945 dollars, less than the cost of a single U-boat. The Alsos missions did little to alter the course of the war because the Germans were never close to possessing the bomb. Alsos missions proved it beyond doubt.

 

Where do we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

“The Manhattan Project Interactive History”. Article, United States Department of Energy. Online

“Boris Pash”. Biography and Timeline, Atomic Heritage Commission. Online

“Hitler’s true nuclear capacity exposed in secret sabotage mission that ‘saved world'”. Callum Hoare, The Express. October 21, 2020

“Now it can be told: The True Story of the Manhattan Project”. Leslie Groves. 1962

“Hunting the Nazi Nuclear Hoard”. Sarah Reisert, Science History Institute. September 24, 2019

“Alsos Mission”. Article, Atomic Heritage Foundation. June 6, 2014. Online

“Atomic rivals and the Alsos mission”. Article, United States Department of Energy. Online

“German Atomic Bomb Project”. Article, Atomic Heritage Commission. Online

“Nazis and the Bomb”. Mark Walker, Nova. November 8, 2005

“Attacking Antwerp”. Gilbert Martin, Forbes. June 5, 2008

“German town lives with lethal legacy of World War II”. Uwe Hessler, DW Online. November 7, 2011

“Alsos mission seizes French government arsenal, September 1944”. Ruth Quinn, US Army Center of Military History. 2005

“Operation Big: The Race to Stop Hitler’s A-Bomb”. Colin Brown. 2016

“Operation Epsilon: The Farm Hall Transcripts”. Sir Charles Frank (Introduction). 1993

“Robert Furman and the Alsos Mission”. Article, Atomic Heritage Commission. Online

“Stalin and the Bomb: The Soviet Union and Atomic Energy 1939 – 1956”. David Holloway. 1994

“The Alsos Mission”. Boris Pash. 1969

“Manhattan: The Army and the Atomic Bomb”. Vincent Jones, US Army Center of Military History. 1985

Advertisement