“Riveting and poignant . . . The Winter Fortress metamorphoses from engrossing history into a smashing thriller . . . Mr. Bascomb’s research and, especially, his storytelling skills are first-rate.”—The Wall Street Journal
“Weaving together his typically intense research and a riveting narrative, Neal Bascomb’s The Winter Fortress is a spellbinding piece of historical writing.” — Martin Dugard, author of Into Africa and co-author of the Killing series
In 1942, the Nazis were racing to complete the first atomic bomb. All they needed was a single, incredibly rare ingredient: heavy water, which was produced solely at Norway’s Vemork plant. Under threat of death, Vemork’s engineers pushed production into overdrive. If the Allies could not destroy the plant, they feared the Nazis would soon be in possession of the most dangerous weapon the world had ever seen. But how would the Allied forces reach the castle fortress, set on a precipitous gorge in one of the coldest, most inhospitable places on earth?
Based on a trove of top-secret documents and never-before-seen diaries and letters of the saboteurs, The Winter Fortress is an arresting chronicle of a brilliant scientist, a band of spies on skis, perilous survival in the wild, Gestapo manhunts, and a last-minute operation that would alter the course of the war.
“A taut and peerlessly told adventure story full of thrills, derring-do and heart-stopping tension.” — Seattle Times
“Told with both historical and scientific accuracy . . . this book has rocketed into my pantheon of the top suspense-filled stories about [World War II], along with The 900 Days and The Colditz Story.” — Ethan Siegel, Forbes
Bascomb (The Nazi Hunters), a WWII historian and former journalist, thrillingly recounts the commando effort to destroy the Norwegian Vemork hydroelectric plant that was the source of heavy water, a necessary requirement for the Nazi Germany's atomic bomb program. The book chronicles four major attacks: an unsuccessful British commando raid, a successful Norwegian commando raid, a U.S. Air Force bombing attack, and the final efforts to demolish the remaining heavy water supplies. Bascomb's novelistic depiction focuses on the efforts of the Norwegian commandos and resistance fighters, who braved the threat of Gestapo torture and execution while showcasing the skiing and wilderness skills that helped them survive and operate in the arctic conditions of Norwegian winter. He contextualizes events by explaining the importance of heavy water to nuclear fission and reminding readers that the extent of the Nazi nuclear program was unknown at the time. Bascomb's meticulous research draws on U.S., British, German, and Norwegian archives, as well as interviews with surviving veterans. Much of the information Bascomb shares has been detailed elsewhere, but this is still a fascinating read about how a small group of Norwegians refused to submit to the brutal occupation of their country and contributed significantly to Allied victory.