DID GERMANY HAVE THE ATOMIC BOMB?
THE NUCLEAR ENERGY PROJECT IN GERMANY
The Nazi Germany Nuclear Energy project began in April 1939, just after
the discovery of Nuclear Fission in Jan. 1939. The first effort ended
after several months, but the second effort was controlled by the German
Army Ordnance office on the day after WWII began. The program expanded
into three departments: the nuclear reactor, uranium and heavy water production,
and uranium isotope separation. In January 1942, the program was split
up between nine major institutes. At that time the number of scientists
working on nuclear fission began to diminish. The National Socialist regime
was actually driving away many physicists and mathematicians out of Germany
by 1933. The demand for immediate armed manpower nearly eliminated a generation
GERMAN DISCOVERY OF NUCLEAR FISSION
In December 1938, two chemists reported they had detected the element
Barium after bombarding uranium with neutrons. This effort was confirmed
as being nuclear fission. In April 1939, the Reich Ministry of War was
informed of the potential military application of nuclear energy. By June
1939, they had produced a substantial amount of "waste uranium"
from which it had extracted radium. From this they produced uranium oxide.
FIRST MISTAKES BEGIN
It seems clear that Germany had the scientists, the knowledge, and the
forward progress to produce a working weapon. Adolph Hitler was a man
obsessed with immediate results of military production, which led to a
slackening of the importance of continued nuclear effort. Germany was
off to a fast, efficient, and productive effort to eventually perfect
an atomic bomb. They had 80 scientists working on the project, and much
progress was being made. However it seems that many contradictory rules
were repeatedly being put into place, which slowly diminished the progress
of the project. At that time everything was there just waiting for completion
INNEFECTIVE LEADERSHIP LED TO LOSS OF SCIENTISTS
Hitler's numerous decrees for the reorganization of the nuclear project, and the appointment of many military individuals who were incompetent and ineffective, again hindered progress.
Hitler took power on 30 Jan. 1933. In April, he passed a new law which politicized the education system in Germany. This law had an immediate effect on the physics capability in Germany. An immediate consequence upon passage of this law produced great losses to the physics community. Numerically 1145 university teachers in all fields were driven from their posts, many moving to Britain and to the U.S. to eventually find work on the Manhattan Project. This helped the U.S. develop the Atomic Bomb. They were responsible for calculating the critical mass of U-235 which was needed for an explosion.
Hitler was warned that the continuation of National Socialist policies
was forcing Jewish scientists to emigrate, and would greatly hurt Germany
as the benefits of their work would go to foreign countries. Hitler was
not one to be warned, or criticized, and paid no attention to the destruction
of his nation's scientific decline, which now was at an alarming rate.
Continued political battles were seriously causing most scientists to
leave, particularly the Jews, who were subject to physical violence and
incarceration. Hitler's Germany was slowly deteriorating.
PLANS TO DIVIDE GERMANY
Near the end of WWII the principal Allied war powers made plans for exploitation of German Science. In light of the implications of nuclear weapons, German nuclear fission and related technologies were singled out for special attention. In addition, denial was an element of their efforts. The Americans and Russians conducted their respective operations to deny Germany with material and anything else related to the production. It became extremely important for either country to arrive first and seize all the technical knowledge , provisions, and personnel. This put the Russians at a disadvantage in some geographic locations.
Berlin had been a location of many German scientific research facilities.
Many of these were dispersed to other locations in the latter years of
the war. The U.S. took into custody a large number of German scientists
associated with nuclear research.
THE FINAL DAY OF RECKONING
The German Army Ordnance Office progressed to the point of production of high-purity uranium oxide, as were necessary in metals production. Further testing produced 25 tons of uranium oxide cubes. The U.S. determined that one of the plants producing uranium and thorium metals was in the future Soviet zone of occupation and that Russian troops would get there before the Allies. General Leslie Groves, commander of the Manhattan Project, recommended to General George Marshall that the plant be destroyed by aerial bombing before the Russians could get there. On 15 March 1945, 612 American B-17 bombers dropped 1,506 tons of high explosive bombs, and 178 tons of incendiary bombs on the plant. The Russians knew the reason behind the bombing was really directed at them rather than the Germans.
At the close of WWII the Soviet Union had special search teams to identify equipment, property, and personnel useful to their Atomic Bomb project. Many German physicists who worked on the project in Germany were sent to the Soviet Union to work on their Atomic Bomb project.
The joint American, British, and Canadian Manhattan Project developed
the Uranium and plutonium Atomic Bombs which helped bring an end to hostilities
WHAT HAPPENED TO THE GERMAN EFFORT?
The mutual distrust between the German Government and the scientists
existed due to the Socialist Laws. Germany needed materials and manpower
for a large-scale project necessary for the separation of isotopes for
a uranium-based bomb, and heavy water production of reactors for a plutonium-based
bomb. This may have been possible in the early years of the war, but
in the latter years it would have been impossible to mount such an effort.
Allied bombing missions increased as the war continued. Germany fell
short of producing the bomb as they had everything needed to produce
it, plus the necessary scientists. Then why did Germany not succeed
with their project? Hitler made numerous mistakes, one of which was
causing the loss of most of their scientists, another was the untimely
and unnecessary and ill conceived attack on Russia. This is a frightening
story of what might have been had it not been for the incompetent performance
of the German leaders.
Researched by website historian Wayland Mayo