Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Interesting Films on Netflix

"Die Suche Nach Hitlers Bombe": The Search for Hitler's Atom Bomb collects evidence from French and Russian intelligence files that suggests Hitler was either very close to having a nuclear weapon, or may have actually tested a small, Kim Jong Un sized one in Thuringia.  Interesting interviews with children of people who investigated it at the end of the war.

Hence the pressure to get our bomb ready in early 1945.

3 comments:

hga said...

I've read about this as part of learning a lot in detail about the Manhattan Project and the end of the war in the Pacific, and unless all the primary, and the best of the secondary sources are lying or incorrect, plus common sense in science and engineering, they were never close. In short:

The effort never got serious support from the state.

This was in part because they didn't get the fast fission insight to a practical bomb that's in the Frisch-Peierls memorandum, although somewhat more fissionable material was needed than they calculated, but not tons.

They intended to use heavy water moderation, which we sabotaged pretty well, because the one attempt they made with graphite failed due to neutron poisoning impurities, something we struggled a great deal with. We did find an incomplete heavy water reactor.

In general, if they'd done everything right, used for example the resources that were put in V weapons, and managed to devote enough scarce electrical energy on this (a food based choke-point that in part motivated the invasion of the USSR), it was possible they'd have succeeded in the plutonium path.

As it was, with our initial missteps until Grove was put in charge, and the extremes to which he went with a very large budget and the 2nd highest wartime priority after the super-Mulberry artificial harbor for the invasion of Honshuu, the main island of Japan, from multiple paths to really pushing hard on fissionable production, plus many right choices in people and handling them, we barely managed to bomb Japan before the first scheduled home island invasion.

Rich Rostrom said...

Umm, this film is complete rubbish. We know everything about German nuclear research - we captured all their files at the war. All their researchers, too - they had no clue how to build an actual Bomb, and were working, in a very feeble way, on a nuclear reactor for submarine power.

If the Allies had turned around and left Germany completely after 1944, Germany could have eventually developed the Bomb, but it would have taken them five to ten years.

takirks said...

I'm of the opinion that the Germans had something going, but I'll be damned if I know what.

The reason I say this is flows from two things: The evidence gone over in the movies, coupled with some interesting conversations I had with one of the guys who participated in the assessments of the Soviet leftovers in Eastern Germany after the Wall fell, and then there is the "dog that didn't bark".

That dog is this: The V2 program really makes no sense whatsoever as a "war-winner" without some kind of serious near city-killing WMD to put on top of it. The math just doesn't work out--The amount of resource sucked into the V2 program alone was proportionately greater than the US sunk into the B-29 and the Manhattan Project. And, for what? A one-time use weapon that cost about the same as a damn B-17, and which could deliver a ton or so of high explosives? WTF? Anyone doing back-of-the-envelope calculations should have looked at that and started calling von Braun on his "naked Emperor" problems.

Now, if the Germans had had something capable of killing a city? Not necessarily a full-blown atomic bomb, but something else...? Then, that whole thing might make more sense.

Of course, the Nazis were pretty much the poster children for "megalomaniac excess", so who knows? I just find trying to rationalize the known things about the V2 program leaves me going "Surely... They couldn't have been that crazy... Could they?".

So, in a nut shell? Show me evidence of something like a Nazi A-bomb, and I'm not going to be a bit surprised. Likewise, I would also not be surprised to learn that the whole V2 project was basically von Braun and his buddies scamming the Nazis into funding the development of their toys...