But it is an earlier act of resistance against occupation that the men sitting around the table are discussing. The next day they will start retracing a path taken by a group of Norwegian commandos a generation older than them, who, in February 1943, attacked a plant at Vemork, on the southern edge of the plateau. The plant, created to use hydroelectric power to make fertiliser, had developed a rare speciality in the manufacture of deuterium oxide—“heavy water”. In a nuclear reactor, heavy water slows down neutrons, and thus speeds up nuclear reactions. The allies believed Vemork’s heavy water was crucial to Germany’s development of atomic weapons.
The first raid on the site, in November 1942, had been a disaster. Operation Freshman involved British commandos landing gliders close to the plant. The gliders went off course and crashed. The survivors were captured, tortured and executed by the Gestapo: 38 were killed in all. In the 1943 assault which the veterans are commemorating—codenamed Gunnerside—Norwegian commandos parachuted in well away from the target, from where they were to cross the Vidda undetected, join forces with a smaller group, codenamed Grouse, which had acted as scouts for the ill-fated Freshman, and mount the attack.
Lovely, evocative piece on a retracing of Norwegian commandos’ WW2 raid on the Vemork heavy water plant https://t.co/ctWQ6wkaOP
— Shashank Joshi (@shashj) December 23, 2018