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(Redirected from Operation Alsos)

Project ALSOS, also called Operation Alsos, was an effort at the end of World War II by the Allies (principally Britain and the United States), branched off from the Manhattan Project, to investigate the German nuclear energy project, seize German nuclear resources, materials and personnel to further American research and to prevent their capture by the Soviets, and to discern how far the Germans had gone towards creating an atomic bomb. The personnel of the project followed close behind the front lines, first into Italy, and then into France and Germany, searching for personnel, records, material, and sites involved.

Alsos is Greek for "groves", and so this designation is a play on the name of Major General Leslie M. Groves, the military director of the Manhattan Engineer District (the Manhattan Project), the Allied wartime effort to develop an atomic bomb (which itself was sparked out of fears of a German weapon). Groves was the major impetus behind the project, in part because of his desire to make sure that German technology and personnel did not fall into Soviet hands, so as to prolong the anticipated American monopoly on nuclear weapons as long as possible.

Samuel Goudsmit was the technical/scientific leader of Alsos, and Lt. Col. Boris Pash, a former Manhattan Project security officer, was its military leader. Moe Berg contributed in various phases.

The project managed to find and remove many of the German research effort's personnel and a good bit of the surviving records and equipment. Most of the senior research personnel (including Werner Heisenberg, Otto Hahn, and Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker) were sequestered at Farm Hall in England for several months. Their discussions were secretly taped, and transcripts of those tapes have been released.

In the end, ALSOS concluded that the Allies had surpassed the German atomic bomb effort monumentally by 1942. Compared to the Manhattan Project, one of the largest scientific endeavors of all time, the German project was considerably underfunded and understaffed, and it is questionable whether Germany would have had the resources or isolation which were required for the Allies to produce such a weapon. Goudsmit, in a monograph published two years after the end of the war, further concluded that a principal reason for the failure of the German project was that science could not flourish under totalitarianism — an argument seemingly rebutted by the Soviet Union's development of a nuclear weapon by 1949. The Soviets, however, benefited from Stalin's extensive spy network, which included two scientists in Los Alamos, Klaus Fuchs and Theodore Hall, working to prevent the United States from holding a nuclear monopoly over the world.

See also

Further reading

  • Jeremy Bernstein and David Cassidy, Hitler's Uranium Club: The Secret Recordings at Farm Hall, 2001.
  • Charles Frank, ed. Operation Epsilon: the Farm Hall transcripts, 1993.
  • David Irving, Virus House, 1967. (see Irving link for discussion of Irving's reliability as an historian).
  • Samuel Goudsmit, ALSOS: the failure of German science, 1947.
  • Mahoney, Leo J. A History of the War Department Scientific Intelligence Mission (ALSOS), 1943-1945. [Ph.D. Dissertation, Kent State University, 1981]
  • Pash, Boris. The Alsos Mission. [New York: Charter Books, 1969]
  • Thomas Powers, Heisenberg's War: The Secret History of the German Bomb, 2000.
  • Paul Lawrence Rose, Heisenberg and the Nazi Atomic Bomb Project: A Study in German Culture (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998), ISBN 0529219778.
  • Mark Walker, German National Socialism and the quest for nuclear power, 1939-1949,

pt:Operação Alsos


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