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Did Hitler know the US had nuclear weapons?

The Germans knew of the Manhattan Project and they made attempts to infiltrate it but they were not effective at it, unlike the Russians. Below is a very interesting story of a Nazi infiltration that was caught in New york.

Taken From Nazi Spies Come Ashore

Erich Gimpel

Erich Gimpel—the most accomplished German spy to make it into the United States, was a very unlikely agent. Born on March 25, 1910, Gimpel began his espionage career in the mid-1930s in Peru, where he was working as a radio engineer for mining companies. Like a character in a Graham Greene spy novel, he was told by the German government to track ship movements in the area and send his information to a contact in Chile. “In Lima I never missed a party,” he later wrote, describing the whole thing as somewhat of a lark. “We were fighting our war in dinner jackets and with cocktail glasses in our hands.”

When America entered World War II, Gimpel was deported from Peru with other Germans and sent to Texas where he spent seven weeks in an internment camp. On his arrival back in Germany, Gimpel was welcomed by a stranger who gave him money and identity and ration cards, and told him to report to an address in Berlin. “I knew this was the headquarters of the German Secret Service,” he wrote. “The amateur was about to become an expert.”

William Colepaugh

William Colepaugh was an even more unlikely Nazi spy. For starters, he was an American, born in Connecticut (exactly eight years after Gimpel) and educated at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. After the war began, his pro-German attitudes got him into trouble with his Selective Service Board and the FBI. Colepaugh eventually took a kitchen job on a Swedish ship in early 1944 just to get across the Atlantic. He abandoned ship in Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, and presented himself to the German consul. Unable to speak German, he announced in English that he wanted to help Germany win the war. The fact that his mother was German did not keep the Nazi diplomat from wondering whether this American was really an Allied agent trying to get inside the Third Reich.

SS Major Otto Skorzeny, Hitler’s favorite commando. In June 1944, Skorzeny sent Colepaugh to an SS training school in the German-occupied Netherlands.

From Lisbon, Colepaugh traveled through France to Berlin, where German authorities watched him closely for three months. Finally, he was interviewed by SS Major Otto Skorzeny, Hitler’s favorite commando. In June 1944, Skorzeny sent him to an SS training school where he himself taught, in the German-occupied Netherlands. There, Colepaugh met Erich Gimpel, who considered the “young, well-fed, and contented” American not a problem, but a potential solution.

Gimpel had been asked to infiltrate America to uncover details about the United States’ program to develop an atom bomb—the Manhattan Project. He had ~reed on one condition. To survive as a spy in the United States, Gimpel had concluded, he would need to take along “a proper American. He must know the latest dance steps and the latest popular songs. He must know everything about baseball and have all the Hollywood gossip at his fingertips.” That said, Gimpel had to wonder where he would find “an American who was prepared to work against his own country and who at the same time was courageous, sensible, and trustworthy.”

Colepaugh appeared to be just what Gimpel needed. Late in September 1944, the two men boarded the 252-foot, IXC/40-class U-1230 in Kiel, Germany, bound for Maine. Ordinarily, the vessel carried a full crew of 56, but two of the regulars were left behind to make room for the spies. Their agents’ mission and identities were kept secret even from the young crewmen and their commander, with Gimpel posing as a chief engineer and Colepaugh as a war correspondent. The crew soon figured out that something was amiss, though: how could a man who didn’t speak German be a German reporter?

The sub entered the open ocean on October 6. It was a dangerous time for a U-boat to cross the Atlantic; in fact, the U-1230’s sister ship U-1229 was headed for Maine about six weeks earlier when she was sunk in the North Atlantic by Navy planes from the aircraft carrier USS Bogue.

To help make their way in the United States, Gimpel and Colepaugh carried $60,000 in small bills (the equivalent of $656,000 today). Colepaugh had convinced his superiors that a person could hardly get by in America on less than $15,000 a year—at a time when the average family income was about $2,250. The money was supposed to keep the two spies in the United States through 1946. Along with the cash, the men had also been given 99 small diamonds to sell if the US currency had changed by the time they arrived or if they eventually needed additional funds. Checking on the holdings one day as the submarine neared Maine, Gimpel was shocked to find the American money bundled in wrappers printed “Deutsche Reichsbank.” He quickly disposed of that evidence.

U-1230 had been equipped for a six-month patrol, and ‘carried 14 torpedoes. Nevertheless, she was under orders not to attract attention until her primary mission of delivering Gimpel and Colepaugh to the United States had been accomplished. After five weeks of a largely uneventful voyage, the submarine reached the coast of Newfoundland and continued south from there down the Maine coast. Along the way, the sub’s transformer and depth-finding equipment was damaged by condensation caused by weeks of traveling underwater. The equipment had to be repaired on the surface, so the vessel was taken up under the cover of night. The repairs succeeded, and the surface activity went unnoticed.

Finally, on November 29, after almost two months at sea, the sub made its way a dozen miles up Frenchman Bay between the islands just off Bar Harbor. (About 31 feet high, the sub had a draft of just over 15 feet.) Shortly before 11 p.m., near Sunset Ledge on the western side of Hancock Point, it came to a stop a few hundred yards off shore, with only its conning tower showing above the water.

A rubber raft was brought up and inflated by a line connected to a silent air compressor. The original plan called for the two spies to row themselves ashore, at which point the raft would be pulled back to the sub on a light tether. The line broke, however, making it necessary for the two uniformed sailors to come along—and earn a moment of glory on the US mainland.

Even today, 60 years later, you’ll find this remote area of the Maine coast deserted at midnight. In 1944, “there probably were less than a dozen families” near where the spies landed, says Lois Johnson of the Hancock Historical Society. The Hancock Town Report for 1944 lists 13 births, 12 deaths, and two marriages. Census figures show that the population grew from 755 to only 770 between 1920 to 1950.

Hancock was a place with few people around to notice anything that might happen, but also a place where strangers stood out. Two people did happen to drive by as Gimpel and Colepaugh were walking along the road at that late hour. Both of them spotted the men, but neither stopped: Hancock was also a place where people minded their own business.

After the men reached US Route 1, a third car passed them, and it did stop. Miraculously, it was a taxicab from Ellsworth, the small town eight miles to the west. Colepaugh did all the talking, explaining that their car had slid into a ditch in the storm and they needed a ride to the train station in Bangor, 35 miles away. So followed a $6 cab ride and a 2 A.M. train to Portland. Stopping there for a bite to eat, Gimpel stammered when a short-order cook asked him what kind of bread he preferred with his ham and eggs. To him, bread was bread, and “the fact that in America people ate five different kinds” was surprising, he wrote.

The spies boarded a train to Boston at 7 a.m. That afternoon, Gimpel went into a store in town to buy a tie, and the salesman recognized the cloth and cut of his trench coat as not being American. “As a matter of fact,” Gimpel managed to reply, “I bought it in Spain.” He decided never to wear that coat again. Gimpel and Colepaugh spent the night in a hotel, sleeping in their American clothes to try and make them look less new. They left the next day, completing their journey with a train ride to Grand Central Station in New York City. In less than 40 hours the intruders had gone from the middle of nowhere in Maine to downtown Manhattan. It was a remarkably efficient journey.

The pair checked into a hotel on 33rd Street. They spent most of the next week looking for a place not constructed of steel, because steel hindered radio transmissions. They found an apartment on Beekman Place for $150 a month and paid two months’ rent in advance.

Things had gone well so far for the two Nazi spies on American soil, but over the next few weeks, their luck began to wear out. Two days after their arrival in New York, U-l230, still lingering about the coast, sank the 5,458-ton Canadian freighter Cornwallis, which was carrying sugar and molasses from Barbados to St. John, New Brunswick. Alarmed by the possibility that this U-boat could have dropped off enemy agents, the Boston FBI office sent men north to Maine. The agents soon located 29-year-old Mary Forni and her next-door neighbor, 17-year-old Harvard Hodgkins, the two Hancock residents who had driven past the spies walking in the snow. Forni, the wife of the Hancock tax collector, had been out late playing cards with friends; Hodgkins, son of the town’s deputy sheriff and a Boy Scout and assistant scout leader, had been at a dance. They both described to the agents what they had seen.

Much has been made of the Nazis getting away with walking through the Maine woods in a late November snowstorm dressed in light topcoats, advertising themselves as outsiders. But such hindsight misses the point, says Richard Gay. “The truth is,” he told an interviewer, “their cover was perfect, and it worked without a hitch.” As far as any witnesses knew, the spies “were visitors from the city whose car had broken down.”

What really broke down on the spy mission was William Colepaugh. Deciding that espionage was not for him, he took off on December 21 with both suitcases, including all the cash. Gimpel returned to the apartment to find everything gone and figured out that his partner must have headed back to Grand Central Station. There, Gimpel found the suitcases in the baggage room and, after some anxious moments, managed to recover them, even though he did not have the claim checks.

Gimpel had proven resourceful in responding to every mishap so far, but he had no answer for what happened two days later: Colepaugh, meeting with an old school friend, confessed that he was a spy. The friend at first thought Colepaugh was joking, but after he realized the story was true, he called the FBI. A manhunt immediately centered on Manhattan, and Gimpel was captured on December 30.

In early February 1945, Gimpel and Colepaugh were tried by a military court at Fort Jay on Governors Island, New York. They were convicted and, on Valentine’s Day, sentenced to death by hanging. Before their sentence was carried out, however, President Franklin D. Roosevelt died, and all federal executions were suspended for four weeks. By the time that month was up, the war had ended in Europe, and on June 23, new president Harry S. Truman announced that he was commuting the two sentences to life in prison—Gimpel’s because the United States and Germany were no longer at war, and Colepaugh’s because he had given himself up and provided the FBI with the information needed to arrest Gimpel. A statement from the War Department, reported in The New York Times, ended with the confident conclusion “The mission of the spies in this country was a complete failure.”

Colepaugh served 17 years in prison, then moved to the Philadelphia area. He reportedly lives in a rest home in Florida today. Gimpel served 10 years at Leavenworth, Alcatraz, and Atlanta before he was released and deported to Germany in 1955. He later moved to Brazil, where he celebrated his 94th birthday in 2004. In 1991 and again in 1993 he visited Chicago as the honored guest of the Sharkhunters, a group of some 7,000 U-boat enthusiasts from 70 countries.

Gimpel was not the only Nazi from this spy mission to return to America. Horst Haslau, the radioman aboard the U-1230 and one of the vessel’s youngest crewmen, got a job in the United States. In 1984, he was working for RCA in Indianapolis, Indiana, and visited the Hancock area. The local newspaper published photos of America’s one-time enemy wearing a John Deere cap and sitting in the Ellsworth Holiday Inn, holding a bottle of beer. The brand was Beck’s, the same German beer that was stocked on U-1230, Haslau said. Three weeks after the sub dropped off Gimpel and Colepaugh in Maine, he recalled, each crewmember received one bottle for Christmas.

Forni continued to live in the Hancock area and was one of the guests of honor at a June 2005 party to celebrate the 90th birthday of some local residents. Sixty years earlier, she had been honored at another local party; shortly after the spy incident, her friends organized an event to honor her for her role in providing information that helped capture Gimpel and Colepaugh and presented her with a $100 war bond.

Americans ate up the story of Hodgkins, the Hancock Boy Scout. The New York Journal-American sponsored the high school senior’s first ride in an airplane, bringing him and his family to New York for a week in January 1945, where he was given a key to the city. He saw the Statue of Liberty, Radio City Music Hall, and some Broadway shows, and met Governor Thomas Dewey, boxing champion Joe Louis, and Babe Ruth. After he graduated from Ellsworth High School, Hodgkins received a full scholarship to the Maine Maritime Academy for his anti-spy efforts. He died in May 1984.

Given what we know about Operation Magpie, Gimpel and Colepaugh were probably no great threat to America’s security. They had little skill and experience to aid them in circumventing the huge obstacles that remained in their path. In the end, the chief result of their mission was to turn a couple of ordinary Americans in Hancock, Maine, into heroes. Gimpel and Colepaugh were left with the claim to the fairly weightless title Last Nazi Spies in America.

Richard Sassaman, a resident of Bar Harbor, Maine, two miles from where the U-1230 passed, recommends the book Agent 146 by Erich Gimpel (St. Martin’s Press, 2003) for further reading.

Notes on the Nazi Atomic bomb program

Norsk Hydro Heavy Water Production Heavy Water and the Norwegians

The plant was built by Norsk Hydro and opened in 1911, its main purpose being to fix nitrogen for the production of fertilizer. Vemork was later the site of the first plant in the world to mass-produce heavy water developing from the hydrogen production then used for the Haber process. During World War II, Vemork was the target of Norwegian heavy water sabotage operations. The heavy water plant was closed in 1971, and in 1988 the power station became the Norwegian Industrial Workers Museum.

Scientists at Vemork first observed the curious heavy-water in 1934 when it appeared as a by-product of their revised ammonia production process. Physically and chemically the substance is similar to ordinary water, but while the hydrogen atoms in normal H2O consist of one proton and one electron, many of the hydrogen atoms in heavy-water have the added weight of a neutron— an isotope known as deuterium. This deuterium oxide (D2O) does exist in water naturally, though its ratio is normally only about one part in 41 million, so it had not been previously observed in significant quantities. For eight years Vemork’s scientist had been collecting the exotic liquid for scientific scrutiny, supplying samples to the world’s researchers for basic experiments. The Nazis’ interest, however, was more considerably more sinister.

In the late 1930s a group of German physicists discovered that certain rare isotopes of uranium are fissile, meaning that their nuclei become unstable and split when they absorb an extra neutron. The nucleus shatters into two smaller nuclei— which repel one another with great energy due to their mutually repulsive electric charges— and shrapnel consisting of fast-moving free neutrons. Soon scientists realized that a chain-reaction would be possible inside a clump of fissionable material since the neutrons spawned during one fission could trigger subsequent fissions, and those would trigger more fissions, and so on. Depending on the conditions, this could produce a long-lived source of heat and neutrons, or a short-lived source of exploding and death. They also speculated that a self-sustaining chain reaction would be easier to maintain if they could identify a substance able slow down the loose neutrons to increase their chances of being absorbed.

The nuclear Nazis identified Norway’s heavy-water as one of the best candidates to act as this neutron moderator, so when German forces invaded in 1940 the Vemork plant was an asset they were quick to snatch. Under tightened security, the German scientists doubled the heavy-water production capacity and began shipping barrels of the material back to the weapons laboratories in Berlin. The Norwegian civilian workers knew nothing of nuclear bombs or neutron moderators, but the Nazis’ conspicuous interest in the substance prompted members of the resistance to report the activity to British intelligence.

By 1942 the Allied leaders were certain that the heavy water was a critical component in Hitler’s effort to produce an atomic weapon. Such neutron moderators were not necessary in atomic bombs, but the German physicists hoped to use heavy-water to moderate a sustained reaction within their stash of rare uranium-235. They could then expose nuggets of the most common uranium isotope (uranium-238) to the slow neutrons spewing out of the reactor, allowing some of the uranium nuclei to slurp up an extra neutron to become uranium-239. U-239 atoms tend to undergo beta decay a couple times over the course of a few days, finally resulting in weapons-grade plutonium-239.

The Allies could not sit idly by as Hitler’s henchmen made progress in nuclear weaponry, otherwise the war was sure to come to an abrupt and disagreeable end. The British Royal Air Force considered a nighttime bombing raid on the Vemork to be “unrealistic,” so a covert ground assault was mounted. On 19 November 1942, thirty Royal Engineers crowded into a pair of troop gliders and rode to the frozen landscape of Norway towed behind Halifax bombers. In the mountains near the power plant, an advance team of Norwegian commandos waited near the landing zone while the planes struggled through the soupy skies.

As the drone of aircraft engines crept over the horizon towards Jens Anton Paulsson and his three men, there was a dull explosion in the distance. Once its echoes faded only one aircraft could be heard. One of the Halifax bombers had struck a cloud-obscured mountain. The glider pilot— who had managed to cast off from his ill-fated tug at the last moment— executed the most graceful crash he could given the mountainous terrain. The remaining airplane circled the area with its own glider in tow as the crew struggled fruitlessly to contact the landing beacon. Eventually they were forced to give up due to low fuel, but as the bomber set off towards home its tow line broke and sent the second glider diving into the snowy hills.

The Germans wasted no time dispatching Gestapo troops to investigate the commotion. Paulsson and his Norwegian resistance fighters knew they could not reach the distant crash sites ahead of the Germans, so they retreated to their mountain hideaway to await instructions. For three long months the men subsisted on whatever moss and lichen they were able to scrounge in the sub-zero temperatures, their diets punctuated by the occasional bit of edible wildlife. Meanwhile the survivors from the crashed gliders were captured, questioned, tortured, and executed under Hitler’s top-secret Commando Order which stipulated that all enemy commandos were to be put to death without exception.

On 19 February 1943, six of the Norwegians’ countrymen finally arrived by parachute with a fresh supply of food, weapons, and explosives from their British supporters. Following an exchange of greetings, Joachim Ronneberg took command of the group and laid out their attack plan. Once everyone had recuperated, the ten Norwegian men strapped on their skis and set out armed with rifles, submachine guns, chloroform rags, and cyanide suicide pills. Though they had been given no specific details regarding the power plant’s purpose, the men had been assured that its destruction would prevent Hitler from gaining the ability to smash entire cities with a single strike.

At three o’clock in the morning on 28 February, the gang of intrepid Norwegians approached their target. The Vemork hydroelectric plant was perched on the edge of a six hundred foot cliff like a fairytale fortress, and accessible via a 240-foot-long bridge which spanned a deep ravine. The area was peppered with mines, and the bridge itself was well-guarded and brightly lit. Rather than tangle with sentries and landmines, the force elected to descend into the gorge and clamber up the cliff on the other side. The resistance fighters soberly exchanged wishes of good luck then skied down to the ravine floor.

After completing the long and treacherous climb up the icy cliff, Knut Haukelid took command of five of the men and broke off to assume covering positions outside the German barracks. The other four split into two demolition teams, each with a full set of explosives in case one of the teams was unable to reach the target. The four men headed to a basement door which they had been told would be left unlocked, but the undercover operative in charge of the task had fallen ill and missed work that day. The two teams separated to seek alternate points of ingress.

Joachim Ronneberg and his partner Fredrik Kayser soon located a hatch which allowed access to a narrow shaft full of wires and pipes, but the men discovered that there was sufficient room to squeeze through. As the factory’s machinery softly grumbled, the pair slowly crawled through the long duct while pushing their explosives ahead of them. At the end of the tunnel the men climbed down a ladder and surveyed their target: a long row of metallic cylinders lining the wall of the heavy-water concentration room. The two raiders sprang into the compartment and caught the lone night watchman completely by surprise. He eagerly complied with their orders to raise his hands, then stood trembling as the armed intruders locked all doors leading into the room. Ronneberg dashed over to the heavy-water tanks and immediately began to place his eighteen explosive charges.

As Ronneberg worked, the factory’s low, steady hum was punctured by the sound of shattering glass from the far side of the room. He and Kayser spun around with weapons at the ready. Through the window emerged the two men of the other demolition team, having been unable to find a more suitable entrance. Together the men set and checked the series of charges, and laid fuses which had been cut to provide a delay of only thirty seconds. A Norwegian civilian wandered into the room and was astonished to see a clutch of commandos putting the finishing touches on their demolition charges. He obediently thrust his arms into the air and joined his captive colleague.

Ronneberg lit the bombs’ fuses and quietly counted to ten. He then ordered the anxiety-stricken prisoners to run upstairs as fast as they could. Hoping to prevent reprisals against the local populace, the raiders dropped a British machine gun on the floor to disguise the attack as the work of British agents. The demolition teams rejoined their comrades outside and the together they dashed away at full speed. After several long moments, a muffled thud was heard from the Vemork building behind them. Three thousands pounds of D2O sloshed out of the damaged tanks and into the factory’s drains, destroying four months’ worth of production and severely crippling the heavy-water-gathering apparatus. By the time the Germans realized they were under attack, the ten Norwegian men had donned their skis and slipped away to the safety of the mountains.

The saboteurs had successfully silenced the water plant, but German engineers began repairs immediately and within five months their heavy-water collectors were back in action. By the following winter the Allies had the means to attack the target by air, and during one long day in November 1943, one hundred and forty three American B-17s ambled over the horizon and pounded the Vemork complex area with over seven hundred bombs. Due to the terrain many of the bombs missed and most of the structure managed to remain intact, but the forceful series of attacks persuaded the Germans to abandon the plant.

In a last ditch effort to salvage the remains of the operation, the Nazi scientists loaded their massive bounty of heavy-water into a railcar. Under the care of a large guard detail the precious deuterium oxide began its journey to Berlin. The armed procession boarded a railcar ferry to carry it across lake Tinnsjø, and as the boat crossed the deepest portion of the lake there was a sharp bang below decks. The ferry foundered and sank, dragging the bulk of Germany’s atomic bomb program into a deep and watery grave. The Norwegian saboteur Knut Haukelid— the man who led the covering team on the raid against Vemork— had learned of the plans to move the cargo, and smuggled a makeshift time bomb aboard the ferry before the Germans arrived. Unfortunately fourteen civilians were killed when the boat sank, but resistance leaders reasoned that these losses were acceptable considering the thousands of lives that would have been forfeit if Hitler’s nuclear program had come to fruition.

Though the Norwegians’ handiwork did not manage to completely halt the progress of the Nazi’s atomic bomb project, it created significant stumbling blocks. According to some controversial reports, the Nazis did manage to build and test a small nuclear device just before the war ended, but it was reportedly a crude design far inferior to the bombs dropped on Japan some months later by the US. In any case, Nazi Germany certainly possessed the knowledge and skills necessary to construct a bomb; they merely lacked the resources.

In modern history there are few examples of such small works of sabotage leading to such dramatic effect. By some estimations, the raids at Vemork were all that prevented Hitler from gaining control over Europe and ruling with a plutonium fist. Indeed, had the Nazis worked unhindered, the world’s first atomic mushroom cloud may have loomed over London by the mid-1940s. In that respect, these stalwart saboteurs and their daring mission in the mountains of Norway may have spared the world from a far worse fate.

Taken from German Nuclear Program Before and During World War II

In September 1939, Heisenberg along with other German scientists joined together under military order to create Uranverein or “Uranium Club” to investigate nuclear energy for the war effort. This team’s goal was to determine whether nuclear weapons would be relevant in the near future to warrant the considerable expenditure required to develop the technology. In 1940, C. F. von Weizsacker proposed using neptunium, element 93, as a nuclear explosive, but once it was realized that the element was unstable, plutonium, element 94 and neptunium decay product, was proposed as an alternative. At the same time, Heisenberg calculated, incorrectly, that the critical mass required for a U-235 nuclear weapon was on the order of a few tons instead of the actual value of 15-60 kilograms. Even with this error in calculations, there was belief in 1941 that if the war lasted a few more years, a nuclear weapon could be developed.

In 1941, however, Germany had just invaded the Soviet Union after conquering France, Norway, and Poland in the previous few years. The German nuclear program, at its height, consisted of twenty-two institutes over twelve cities throughout Germany and Austria. This was a significant manpower and intellectual drain on resources. Thus in December 1941, the German army decided to abandon its nuclear fission project deciding to focus on the development of other new technologies, mainly rockets and jet aircraft, that could make a more immediate impact. It is possible that Heisenberg’s error in calculating the critical mass of uranium needed for a reaction played a part in the decision to withdraw funding. A summary report from February 1942 named “Energiegewinnung aus Uran” covers all aspects of the nuclear work since 1939 including an approximately correct estimate of the critical mass needed for a bomb. Either way the German nuclear problem had significant obstacles that would have had to been overcome if a nuclear weapon would have been developed.

Potential Why Germany did not Develop the Atomic Bomb

When considering reasons Germany did not develop the atomic bomb given their leads in both 1939 and 1941, three main issues stand out. These include lack of nuclear physicists, industrial requirement to succeed, and the desire for immediate results. In the 1920s and early 1930s, Germany was a leading nation of theoretical physics, but with the rise of Nazism, a significant number of scientists, Jewish ones in particular, left the German team at a significant disadvantage to the Allied team. For the scientists that stayed in Germany, the lack of interest in pure science by the regime resulted in almost an entire generation of physicists being lost. On a per man basis, the Allied team was more capable with certain individuals, such as von Neumann, the German team could just not match. After the war, Heisenberg told Hans Bethe that nuclear energy was a way to save German physicists for when the war ended.

Beyond lacking a significant number of physicists, Germany was a nation of limited industrial output within a war zone. Two moderators, needed to slow the neutrons from fission in order to create a chain reaction, were believed to be possible for nuclear fission, carbon and heavy water. Walter Bothe, a German experimental physicist, and Enrico Fermi, working in America, conducted experiments to see if carbon could be a moderator. Bothe concluded that carbon would not work, but while Fermi though that carbon was marginal at best, Leo Szilard, working with Fermi, remember that boron carbide was commonly used to manufacture graphite. Boron atoms absorb about 100,000 times the number of carbon atoms and this impurity resulted in leading Bothe to believe carbon was not a satisfactory moderator. Thus, Germany believed heavy water was the only capable moderator. Since the only heavy water production facility was located in Norway and was easily targeted and destroyed by the Allies, the German team did not have the industrial support required to be successful.

With the war turning for the worse after the invasion of the Soviet Union, technologies believed to be implemented in the near future were advocated over long term technologies. Bagge and Diebner stated the critical error was the army requirement in December 1941 that a military product should be generated within 9 months. The only way funding would have continued would have been by scientists making claims they knew they could not meet. In this situation, the experts decided not to push for increased industrial effort of the nation in support of nuclear weapons. Considering the Allies nuclear program had better and larger number of physicists, support of the military, and the industrial capacity of the United States, it is not surprising that they developed the atomic bomb before Germany. It has to be mentioned, however, that even with all these advantages, the United States only first successfully denoted a nuclear weapon in July 1945, two months after the war in Europe.