Norway: Heroes of Telemark

On a moonlit winter night in 1943, nine Norwegian commandoes, trained and equipped in England, infiltrated the most heavily defended structure in occupied Europe. Their objective was to destroy the heavy water production facilities critical to the Nazi atomic bomb project. Four months earlier, three-dozen British soldiers had tried and died on a similar mission, without ever gaining sight of their target. But the Norwegians were destined to have a different fate...

After skillfully climbing the "unscaleable" (and therefore undefended) gorge below Norsk Hydro; they snuck into the facility, set and detonated their demolition charges, and escaped back down into the gorge without having to fire a single shot. This attack was the climax of the Allied efforts to deny Germany the bomb. But it was not the only dramatic event to surround the picturesque plant...

More Information

To learn the whole story--which includes British glider-borne commandoes, an American bomber raid, and a sabotaged ferry full of heavy water--you should consult two sources:

  • Dan Kurzman's book, Blood and Water: Sabotaging Hitler's Bomb.
  • The 1965 Hollywood Movie, The Heroes of Telemark, starring Kirk Douglas.

About the Scenic Snaps

It is interesting to remember that Norsk Hydro was primarily a hydroelectric facility designed to create electricity from falling water (notice the large water pipes coming down the mountain). Heavy water production was just an unusual byproduct, unique to this particular facility. In fact, it was the only plant in the world capable of producing the quantities of heavy water sought by the Nazis. This explains the plant's importance during World War II.

  • Notice the stone monument dedicated to the eleven men involved in "Operation Gunnerside" (the successful mission to sabotage Norsk Hydro). Nine were involved in infiltrating the compound while two provided radio communications with England (Haugland & Skinnarland).
  • Notice how steep and deep the gorge is. During the winter, when covered with snow and ice, it must have seemed impossible to climb. No doubt this is why the Germans failed to defend that approach to the plant.
  • The houses across from the plant are worker's homes. The real town of Vemork is found further down the valley (not shown).

Copyright 2000, Wayne Pafko trips/ norway/n10/