Yes…you read it right. Hitler was also pursuing the huge strategic potential that emanates out of a simple physics formula- E=mc*c.
He had an active nuclear program run at the kaiser Wilhem Institut in Berlin to develop the Nazi Atom bomb…no prizes for guessing which city would have replaced Hiroshima in the annals of history. India would have got her independence (at least from the British) by default. But jokes apart, Hitler had come very close to getting this prized weapon of mass destruction…but never got a finished product, ready for use….else world history would have been so different.
So, how was the Nazi A-Bomb plan derailed. Well, its a legend fit for a classic Hollywood war movie…and they did make a few based on the incidents narrated below.
British knew about Hitler’s plan and felt that the best way was to disrupt the supply of indispensable raw materials which are required for producing weapon grade uranium. One such material in those times was Deuterium Oxide or Heavy Water. It was being produced at a ‘Norsk Hydro’ plant in Vermock, Norway, hidden in a fjord, well protected by geographical features and only seven stories of reinforced concrete. Early in the war, with the available bombers, it was not possible to knock it out by bombing from air. It needed boots on ground.
The British launched two major commando operations to scuttle the heavy water production. First one failed miserably when the glider carrying commando group, crashed, killing the whole team. In those days, transport aircraft or bomber would tug a glider which was basically an aeroplane without engines. These were mainly used as troop carriers.
Second attack carried out by specially trained Norwegian resistance fighters (similar to the likes of Azad and Bhagat Singh in India) was successful as the team got inside the facility and blew up the huge containers which stored the Heavy Water. The team was able to escape too.
But the Germans were able to scale up the production in quick time. By then, the Allied had bombers capable of hitting the Norsk Hydro facility and the US Air Force bombers attacked the plant in late 1943. Although it didn’t damage the plant but still scared the Nazis. They decided to cut the losses and take whatever Heavy water had been produced by then, back to Germany. The trip included a ferry ride through Lake Tinn. That’s where the saboteurs saw their opportunity and planted a plastic explosive device, to be triggered by an alarm clock…set to explode when the ferry would be over the deepest part of the lake. Fortunately for the Allies, the bomb worked and SF Hydro, the ferry sank in 450 meters of water…so did the dream of Hitler to obtain a nuclear bomb.