Operation Gunnerside: Hitler, Heavy Water, and Hand Grenades

Image “Vemork”; Creator: Lars_Pistasj, copyright holder; License: CC BY-NC-SA 2.0; Link:https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc sa/2.0/legalcode?fbclid=lwA R0Ekf8HrbWTwtF_ngLDJdH7ndsKpek8wT1MfsNO8PBE0lq1Fsl1oqTdo; Material available under public license: https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/4894e429-eb7c-453d-b3ba-d310049f8b95


On April 9, 1940, Nazi Germany invaded Norway for the first time. One of the first locations they set out for was not one you would expect. Not intelligence or ordinance, instead the Axis powers headed to a deep ravine within the center of Norway. The Germans needed a very specific material for use in their nuclear program: heavy water. Heavy water at this point in history had only been successfully mass produced in one place, the Norsk hydro-electric plant located in Vemork, Norway. This video details the brilliant and daring efforts by the Allies to neutralize this critical war time asset and the creative ways in which they sought to accomplish this task . The Vemork plant is situated in a highly secluded area, surrounded by steep mountains and harsh terrain. This terrain offered incredible challenges in terms of an attack from the land. Additionally, the issue of how to even place Allied forces within the area of operation was a baffling one. Prior to undertaking Operation Gunnerside, the Allies had two failed missions to take out the plant, Operation Grouse and Operation Freshman. The areas in which the Allied forces had to enter the country were extremely mountainous and inhospitable. Cross country skiing was unbelievably crucial in coordinating forces as well as the attack itself. Without the use of this technology, it is quite probable Hitler would have been successful in his pursuit of nuclear weapons. This video will examine the extraordinary actions taken by the Allies to carry out Operation Gunnerside, as well as provide a brief breakdown of what heavy water is and why it is important.


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A huge thank you to Dr. Judith Miller for all of her work and support over this semester, as well as all of the Emory staff that have been so open and generous!

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