Archaeology Magazine

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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Operation Gunnerside

The threat of an atomic Germany was the driving force behind the race for the Allies to develop their own nuclear bomb capability. It also drove to them to conceive of Operation Gunnerside, a clandestine operation to destroy the heavy water plant at Vemork, Norway. Heavy water is a necessary component for efficient nuclear fission reactions, and thus was highly prized by the Germans, who had invaded and taken over Norway in April of 1940. The Vemork Plant was the only factory capable of producing heavy water, and thus became a crucial target for the Allies. Operation Gunnerside, which was undertaken on February 27, 1943, has been called the most successful act of sabotage of World War II. To read a full article on the archaeology of the site, go to “The Secrets of Sabotage.”