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The Mannheim Project: A Technological 'What If?'

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  • The Mannheim Project: A Technological 'What If?'

    Simple premise. For whatever reason, in 1940 the world leading British theoretical atomic physicists team up with Werner Heisenberg's team trying to build an atomic weapon in Germany (dubbed, by me, 'The Mannheim Project'). All other things being equal, could they have built a working bomb and a functional delivery system before the Third Reich collapsed?
    Signing out.

  • #2
    Originally posted by Full Monty View Post
    Simple premise. For whatever reason, in 1940 the world leading British theoretical atomic physicists team up with Werner Heisenberg's team trying to build an atomic weapon in Germany (dubbed, by me, 'The Mannheim Project'). All other things being equal, could they have built a working bomb and a functional delivery system before the Third Reich collapsed?
    Strategic materials would have been a major issue. The destruction of the Norwegian heavy-water plant being a prime example.
    Any man can hold his place when the bands play and women throw flowers; it is when the enemy presses close and metal shears through the ranks that one can acertain which are soldiers, and which are not.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Arnold J Rimmer View Post
      Strategic materials would have been a major issue. The destruction of the Norwegian heavy-water plant being a prime example.
      Indeed. But would that still happen though? Even if it didn't would the heavy-water provide enough material for a bomb? As I understand it (and I could be wrong) what was produced was barely enough for an experimental reactor? Could the British have procured the materials from other sources like the Belgian Congo?
      Signing out.

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      • #4
        Full Monty wrote:

        Could the British have procured the materials from other sources like the Belgian Congo?
        Britain owned a large stake in the uranium mines in the Congo, and they could also get it from Canada, so I don't think raw materials would be any kind of a problem.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Full Monty View Post
          Indeed. But would that still happen though? Even if it didn't would the heavy-water provide enough material for a bomb? As I understand it (and I could be wrong) what was produced was barely enough for an experimental reactor? Could the British have procured the materials from other sources like the Belgian Congo?
          British intelligence was pretty effective-I think any German operation attempting to get the material out of the Congo would have had a very slender chance of success.

          I think your scenario has sufficent expertise to do the job, but without a steady supply of strategic materials the practical could not keep pace with the theroy.

          One issue that leaps to mind: where would they test the first bomb? They couldn't risk a combat test lest the weapon be captured. Where in German-held territory could they have made a test? by '44 they had lost North Africa, so the options of a remote unpopulated pace were thin on the ground. Norway, maybe?
          Any man can hold his place when the bands play and women throw flowers; it is when the enemy presses close and metal shears through the ranks that one can acertain which are soldiers, and which are not.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Full Monty View Post
            Simple premise. For whatever reason, in 1940 the world leading British theoretical atomic physicists team up with Werner Heisenberg's team trying to build an atomic weapon in Germany (dubbed, by me, 'The Mannheim Project'). All other things being equal, could they have built a working bomb and a functional delivery system before the Third Reich collapsed?
            Why in 1940 after the two countries are already at war? Wouldn't, say, 1935 be a more believable start point?


            Philip
            "The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts." Bertrand Russell

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            • #7
              Originally posted by PhilipLaos View Post
              Why in 1940 after the two countries are already at war? Wouldn't, say, 1935 be a more believable start point?


              Philip
              I was operating under the assumption that the Brit scientists had 'gone rogue'.
              Any man can hold his place when the bands play and women throw flowers; it is when the enemy presses close and metal shears through the ranks that one can acertain which are soldiers, and which are not.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Arnold J Rimmer View Post
                I was operating under the assumption that the Brit scientists had 'gone rogue'.
                I was operating under the assumption that the "for whatever reason" scenario was something like appeasement in an ATL brought about by a Lord Halifax instead of a Churchill premiership.


                Philip
                "The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts." Bertrand Russell

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by PhilipLaos View Post
                  I was operating under the assumption that the "for whatever reason" scenario was something like appeasement in an ATL brought about by a Lord Halifax instead of a Churchill premiership.


                  Philip
                  In that case, if no war exists between the UK and Germany, than nothing will delay the bomb.
                  Any man can hold his place when the bands play and women throw flowers; it is when the enemy presses close and metal shears through the ranks that one can acertain which are soldiers, and which are not.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Arnold J Rimmer View Post
                    One issue that leaps to mind: where would they test the first bomb? They couldn't risk a combat test lest the weapon be captured. Where in German-held territory could they have made a test? by '44 they had lost North Africa, so the options of a remote unpopulated pace were thin on the ground. Norway, maybe?
                    I think they would risk a 'combat test', not only because the opportunity to safely test the weapon is limited but also historically the Nazis had little compunction about throwing their latest systems into battle even if they weren't 'ready', at least as we would understand the term.

                    I was operating under the assumption that the Brit scientists had 'gone rogue'.
                    Originally posted by PhilipLaos
                    I was operating under the assumption that the "for whatever reason" scenario was something like appeasement in an ATL brought about by a Lord Halifax instead of a Churchill premiership.
                    I didn't make it as clear as I could have done. I don't believe the scientists would have 'gone rogue' but we could have two different lines of discussion. One would be based on an amicable Anglo-German peace treaty whereby resources and expertise would be fully shared as with the Manhattan Project. Alternatively we could have an enforced peace with a browbeaten Halifax acceding to Nazi demands but only a minimal cooperation taking place forcing the Germans to rely on Norwegian heavy-water and maybe a limited supply of Congolese uranium. Either way, how are the Germans going to deliver the nuclear payload? Jet bomber? Large rocket? I'd assume that the whatever else happened British aircraft designers wouldn't create the Halifax or Lancaster as there would be no need meaning the Germans would be pretty much on their own.
                    Signing out.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Full Monty View Post
                      I think they would risk a 'combat test', not only because the opportunity to safely test the weapon is limited but also historically the Nazis had little compunction about throwing their latest systems into battle even if they weren't 'ready', at least as we would understand the term.




                      I didn't make it as clear as I could have done. I don't believe the scientists would have 'gone rogue' but we could have two different lines of discussion. One would be based on an amicable Anglo-German peace treaty whereby resources and expertise would be fully shared as with the Manhattan Project. Alternatively we could have an enforced peace with a browbeaten Halifax acceding to Nazi demands but only a minimal cooperation taking place forcing the Germans to rely on Norwegian heavy-water and maybe a limited supply of Congolese uranium. Either way, how are the Germans going to deliver the nuclear payload? Jet bomber? Large rocket? I'd assume that the whatever else happened British aircraft designers wouldn't create the Halifax or Lancaster as there would be no need meaning the Germans would be pretty much on their own.

                      Good points.

                      There's an interesting novel by Len deighteon, SS-GB, which takes place in an Occupied England and touches on this very issue.
                      Any man can hold his place when the bands play and women throw flowers; it is when the enemy presses close and metal shears through the ranks that one can acertain which are soldiers, and which are not.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Arnold J Rimmer View Post
                        One issue that leaps to mind: where would they test the first bomb? They couldn't risk a combat test lest the weapon be captured. Where in German-held territory could they have made a test? by '44 they had lost North Africa, so the options of a remote unpopulated pace were thin on the ground. Norway, maybe?

                        Auschwitz
                        Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it whether it exists or not, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedy. -- Ernest Benn

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Full Monty View Post
                          Simple premise. For whatever reason, in 1940 the world leading British theoretical atomic physicists team up with Werner Heisenberg's team trying to build an atomic weapon in Germany (dubbed, by me, 'The Mannheim Project'). All other things being equal, could they have built a working bomb and a functional delivery system before the Third Reich collapsed?
                          No, because the single biggest factor in making a bomb at all is either producing the plutonium or enriching uranium sufficently. It would have pretty much come close to bankrupting either nation to do this.

                          Look at the US program: Billions were spent to build Oak Ridge where electromagnetic seperation of urainum was done. In a building half a mile plus long 1152 electromagnetic seperators ran 24/7 for years to get enough material to build just one bomb. Centrifugal diffusion was in its infancy.

                          At Haniford WA the US build 8 large graphite moderated reactor plants to produce plutonium and that too took years of effort to make enough material for just a few bombs.

                          Germany's heavy water reactor likely wouldn't have even worked on the first few tries and would have required an entire redesign of the fuel from 1 kg blocks on necklaces of stainless steel wire to a more stable and regular configuration.
                          While either Britain or Germany might have done a graphite moderated reactor like the one Fermi had pre-war at the University of Chicago, this would have been only a starting point for practical development.

                          So, without a massive program that used mass quantities of electricity in one case and mass produced reactors in the other neither could manufacture the necessary fissile material to produce a working bomb.

                          As for delivery, a US bomb design of 1945 could have weighed as little as 4,000 lbs. Almost 50% of the weight of the first bombs used was armor plating on the bomb to make it flak resistant. Remove that armor and you get a roughly 5,000 lb bomb. Take out another 1,000 in casing and structure to support that weight and you're at 4,000 lbs.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Tsar View Post
                            Auschwitz
                            Not sure I G Farben would approve.
                            Signing out.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Arnold J Rimmer View Post
                              Good points.

                              There's an interesting novel by Len deighteon, SS-GB, which takes place in an Occupied England and touches on this very issue.
                              I read Deighton's book many years ago. I can't have been too impressed because I don't remember much about it!
                              Signing out.

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