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silbervogel-landing-at-trauen

(‘Silbervogel’ – Landing at Trauen Airfield Complex)

Obersaltzburg

“Kommen!”

Goering entered Hitler’s study in the Kehlsteinhaus, or Eagle’s Nest – it had been presented to Hitler on his 50th birthday the year before in 1939; a present from the Party, instigated by Martin Bormann. Hitler didn’t use the place much, but when he did, it made the perfect retreat.

Goering could never figure out what Bormann did, outside of look important. But, he was one of the oldest Party members, and hence the person Hitler could point to and say, “Stick with me; I’ll stick with you!” It was the only reason. Unless, of course, Bormann had photos of the Fuhrer in compromising positions –

Hitler broke Goering’s reverie with some impatience. “Goering! Did you see this?” Hitler was beaming; holding up a copy of the Zeitung and tapping the third page with a forefinger.

The article was a small and rather obtuse feature; in it, there was news of a bright-red finned cylinder which had dropped from a plane by parachute, and popped confetti over the Manhattan Island shoreline. Local officials were trying to find out who had dropped it and what they were promoting, as there had been no permit issued, there hadn’t been a plane in the area and it wasn’t a holiday.

“Sanger was right, Goering! Drop confetti on the Americans and they’ll think it’s a prank! Meanwhile, we proved that we can drop a bomb on an American city with enough accuracy! Now, all we need is the BOMB!”

Goering smiled, uncomfortably. The study was a small room, and he never did well in confined spaces. So that was Sanger’s secret?, Goering thought. He actually tested the guidance system as well? Good! Good!

“Goering, I want some answers.”

“Yes, Mein Fuhrer. What may I do for you?”

“I want to know when we are to see the weapon we’ve been promised from the Trauen project. I want to know when Raeder is going to have enough submarines to blockade America and England. I want to know when Messerschmitt is going to be done with this new engine and the new aircraft. I want to know when Porsche is going to have these new tanks – what does he call them? Cats, I think – “Panthers and Tigers”; yes – I want to know when he’ll have them finished. And what of the new rifles? We’ve been promised a fully-automatic rifle from Mauser for over a year now.”

Such a list, thought Goering. Such a list.

Trauen

“The extraction process is complete, Herr Doktor. Between Hahn’s team and mine, we have completed the process of refining the denser explosive-metal – as you know, we are calling it ‘Plutonium’ – from the spent Uranium in the powerplant reactors. We now have enough for four weapons.”

Heisenberg continued his presentation to Sanger, Himmler, and Goering. “We will need to test two of the four in order to ensure that we can replicate the reaction. Then, we’ll take what we’ve learned and create the next two within the 3,600 kilogram payload specifications outlined in the Silbervogel project.”

Goering spoke first. “When will you be ready to test?”

“In about three months, Herr Reichsmarschall. June 15th, 1940 is our target.”

“Excellent!” Himmler, in his squeaky voice, chimed in. “Excellent! The Fuhrer will be pleased!” Himmler reminded Heisenberg of nothing so much as a weasel. Although weasels had a use in nature. Heisenberg was not so sure about Himmler.

Heisenberg continued. “There will be a need for absolute secrecy. We must test in international territory, somewhere so remote that there will be no knowledge of our presence. We’ve come up with three possible sites.”

Moving to the map-board, he continued. “Northern Greenland isn’t international, but it is accessible by U-Boat and no one would be the wiser. The Arctic is largely international, and is also accessible by submarine that time of year. The third possibility is to transport the weapon by submarine to China, and test it under Japanese auspices.”

“Number three is out, Herr Heisenberg.”, said Goering. “We will not share this technology with the Japanese.”

“We were already preparing feasibilities for Greenland. The northeastern peninsula of Christiaanland is unpopulated; no one would ever know we were there.”, said Heisenberg.

(‘Silbervogel’ — over Illinois; Great Lakes in background – after test-run to New York)
_____________________________

Goering spoke with finality. “Get what you need from Raeder; tell him it’s from me. You will have your U-Boat, your crew, and anything else you need to haul this thing to Greenland and set it off. The Fuhrer is waiting.” Standing, Goering signaled an end to the meeting.

Afterward, Sanger said, “That went well, Heisenberg. Now – can you do all this?”

“Yes, Herr Doktor. I can honestly say that without your focus and drive, I might not have done so.” Heisenberg was proud, as a boy would be after having proven he could multiply and divide. Sanger was happy; he’d been right, after all.

Heisenberg had just needed a nudge.

Kiel

“Final specifications?”

Herr Grosadmiral, the specifications are as follows.” The representative from Blohm and Voss Shipyards was clearly nervous; this project had been in the works since its initial design in 1937, and it was, again, Goering who’d championed it. They were all justifiably proud of the result – giving the design to the Japanese had proven a master-stroke.

“We have improved significantly on the original design with the help of the Japanese.”, he began. “The Japanese have experimented with alloys which, while expensive, will enable us to dive the submarine – designated Type XXI — to over 450 meters. Top speed submerged is a little over 22 knots in standard measure, with a top surface speed of a little under 18 knots.”

“Phenomenal!”, said Raeder. “Continue, please!”

“It is fitted with both radar and underwater-detection equipment. Passive weaponry include an array of noisemakers which may be jettisoned into the water to confuse surface ships, plus preloaded decoy materials – another idea of the Japanese – to make a surface-ship think they’ve sunk the submarine.”

Raeder smiled. The best solutions were the simplest.”, he thought. The speaker continued. “The Type XXI is fitted with six torpedo tubes and 24 torpedoes. We have modified our tubes to handle the Japanese ‘Long Lance’ wakeless torpedo.”

“When may we expect the first ones?”, Raeder said.

“In early 1942, Herr Grosadmiral.”

“Excellent! How many are on order?”

“One hundred and twenty five. We are building them pre-fabricated, in plants all over Germany. The components will be brought to our yards here in Kiel and in Hamburg, and assembled, tested, painted, fitted, and launched. The order should be filled completely by the end of 1942.”

“Again; excellent! Now, I have something to review with you.” Raeder rolled out one set of plans with another still in a storage-tube. “I need one of our large Type IX submarines re-fitted with this cylinder, like so.”, he pointed to a large cylindrical shape on the deck of plan-elevation. “The specifications are on the subsequent pages. I need this done by the end of May.”

The Blohm and Voss representative wondered why the navy’s highest-ranking officer was dispatched from Berlin to perform a task that a junior engineer would have assigned to a courier – but strange things were happening nowadays; there was talk over at the aviation wing of new engines, and planes that didn’t need propellers….

“And this – which is of greater importance.” Raeder had already given the first set of plans to the rep, and rolled out the second. “There will be a representative from the Special Branch of the Todt Organisation here next week. He will be giving you the actuals on this. However, they are designing a new powerplant for your new submarine. Diesels and batteries will be replaced by this powerplant.”

“Ah! The Walter plant?”, said the representative.

“No. Walter’s powerplant can provide excellent speed, but it is too dangerous. This one will allow you to drive your submarine to even higher speeds – and it won’t require refueling for over 100,000 nautical miles.”

The rep’s eyes widened. Raeder continued. “The Fiesler people also want a mount built here.” – Raeder pointed to the rear deck – “in place of the deck gun. It is to be built as shown; it will mount flush-to-the-deck and then may be raised and locked in place at any angle. Again, the elevations are shown in the drawings; the details are below.”

“Fiesler! Do they want to launch V-1’s from the deck?” The Blohm and Voss rep’s mouth was now open.

Raeder smiled, and addressed him as he would an errant schoolboy. “It is best not to ask too many questions. Just get these to your superiors. Have them call me directly with any questions of their own.” He all but patted the young man on his head. “Thank you for your time. Now, I must go.”

Raeder turned, and left a very puzzled but motivated man behind.

Trauen

Summer was nearly upon them. Again, the maples and birches were in full leaf; the field-grasses in the distance were turning brown; if it were a hayfield, the farmers would be thinking already about the harvest.

Instead, Heisenberg was thinking about the test.

The math was right. They’d solved the main problem – how to create a reaction – and again, the simplest ideas were the best. It just required timing.

They’d created a small analog device to trigger high-explosives in a precise order. These explosives were placed around the inside of the front-dome of the bomb. In front of the explosives was the plutonium core.

If what they’d created really worked – and they’d tested it on a non-reactive target – the resulting shockwave would be ‘focused’ on the plutonium core, causing neutrons to spin off their nuclear ‘orbit’, and collide with other nuclei.

The result would be the spontaneous release of the energy within matter itself – a ‘chained-reaction’ as he called it – which would, within a fraction of a second, release all the energy within the plutonium at once.

The resulting explosion and destructive force would be staggering. They’d estimated it around ten thousand metric tons of conventional explosive.

He could only guess at the damage something like that could do. Level a city? Part of a city? Destroy a whole army? Without one German life lost? It was worth it.

“Herr Heisenberg?”

“Ja.” Heisenberg didn’t even look up. He was involved in more administrative work; things were so secret that a lot of the product ordering – especially for the bomb – was left to the physicists themselves, and this was no exception.

“The Blohm and Voss people are here for you.” Heisenberg’s aide was quiet and intense; respectful and invisible, at least most of the time.

“Ah! Send them in!” Seated; Heisenberg got to the point – something he was learning from Sanger. “What brings you here?”

“We have the design-specifications for the cylinder which was requested through Admiral Raeder’s office.”, said one of the engineers. “We’d like to review it with you.”

A half-hour went by; excruciating details, but they boiled down to this: The cylinder would work; it would store the bomb; it would be waterproof; it would resist pressures up to 1,000 meters if necessary, and it was lead-lined against any escaping radiation. That was all he wanted to know.

That, and the fact that it was ready. It was time to go to Greenland.

Christiaanland

The temperature was anything but warm. Plus it was nearly midnight, and although low on the horizon, the sun was still up – something he’d’ve thought impossible otherwise, even in early June. While everyone was pleased that they’d beaten their test-date by two weeks, the seasickness Heisenberg endured on the way up to Greenland was torture, as well as the conditions. How on earth the submariners tolerated sleeping with each other’s presence so close-by was beyond him. It was like being a caged animal.

The deck was welcome relief from the stifling confines, even if the temperature was still hovering around four degrees.

The inflatable floatation-system created a ‘raft’ around the cylinder – a crane which had been shipped flat on the U-124 had been erected; the captain, a man named Mohr, had done his best to accommodate an unusual but critical assignment.

“I don’t know what you’re up to – but Admiral Raeder himself told me that this was of the utmost importance. Skipping Admiral Doenitz was a breach of protocol – but I suppose rank has its privileges, eh?” Kapitanleutnant Johann Mohr was on the bridge with Heisenberg. Heisenberg vaguely heard the jovial and high-energy Mohr speaking. He was watching the progress.

He’d brought several technicians with him; there was no need to go ashore, and he hadn’t planned on it.

The cylinder slid off the deck in its inflated collar with a resounding splash. Sailors in inflatable dinghies lashed onto the collar and started small outboard motors. Pulling the cylinder, even in sheltered seas, would have been problematic, but in the stiff breeze there was a worry that it might just sink.

After ten excruciating minutes, they had the raft on the sand. Hitting the quick-release valves on the collar, they guaranteed that the cylinder – along with its cargo – would go nowhere again. Heisenberg’s technicians fitted the receiver and antenna to the cylinder, and then headed back to U-124.

All men safely aboard and with U-124 standing out to sea, Heisenberg thought that the cylinder looked like nothing so much as an egg-in-a-nest.

An eagle’s nest.”, he said to himself.

Wass?”, Mohr said.

“Oh, nothing.”, said Heisenberg. “Just passing time.”

At a distance of 18 kilometers, Mohr ordered U-124 to kill her engines and come to a dead-stop. “All right, Herr Doktor; it’s all yours.”, Mohr said. “I’m going below.”

Heisenberg asked for the detonation switch. The switch was connected to an FM transmitter which would send a signal to the cylinder. The second officer, who remained on the bridge, said, “Now, remember – the moment I say ‘go’, you get down that hatch. I’m right after you.”

Heisenberg pointed to the man’s sunglasses in his watch-coat pocket. The second officer of U-124 donned his sunglasses along with Heisenberg.

Heisenberg then flipped a switch to activate the circuit, lifted a switch-cover, and pressed the button under it.

A moment later, the horizon began growing brighter in the twilight. This continued until a large ball of light illuminated the submarine; the ocean – everything around them.

It was as if the sun had risen out of the ground. Heisenberg was mesmerized.

The second-officer had better training. He leaned over the round hatch opening and screamed, “ALARM!”

Klaxons hooted. Heisenberg could hear the air rushing out of vents under the deck; he felt the electric motors start. His reverie broken, he dropped through the hatch, followed quickly by the second-officer.

Pushed rather rudely aside by a passing sailor, Heisenberg remained there in the conning tower. A moment later, he was shoved aside again, this time by the shock wave traveling through the water. This was why the captain insisted on diving as soon as the device was detonated.

The prevailing winds were north and east. U-124 traveled south for half a day, then surfaced. Heisenberg handed the radio operator a message.

“Exactly as it is written. Send nothing else.”, Heisenberg said.

Puzzled, the radio operator tapped out the message in Morse:

“German explorer has reached the New World.”


(Next — Aquila in Mare Tranquillitatis)


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