Most people are familiar with the famous mushroom-shaped cloud picture which shows the famous atomic bomb dropping on Nagasaki, Japan on August 9, 1945. But what if Germany also had produced its own smaller-scale mushroom cloud a year earlier in the fall of 1944?
The Germans may have lost the neck-and-neck race to build a successful nuclear bomb during WWII, but it’s clear that they were able to test a pretty impressive warhead in 1944.
“A cloud shaped like a mushroom with turbulent, billowing sections (at about 7000 meters) stood, without any seeming connections over the spot where the explosion took place. Strong electrical disturbances and the impossibility to continue radio communication as by lightning turned up.”
This was a disturbing statement made by German test pilot Hans Zinsser, in Allan Hall’s DailyMail.com article, who was doing test flights over Ludwigslust at the time. He was not the only witness to the spectacular sight that day.
The Dawn of Nuclear Weapons
In December 1938, German chemist Otto Hahn discovered nuclear fission, the building block of nuclear chain reactions and disastrously dangerous atomic weapons. Shortly after this discovery, Germany’s nuclear weapons project was born.
For over four years, groups of German scientists explored the possibilities of nuclear weapons production under Hitler’s watchful eye. The Third Reich achieved success in building “uranium machines” otherwise known as nuclear reactors. However, after repeated alterations to the design, they lacked enough of a heavily-ionized water source known as “heavy water.”
Once their supply of heavy water from Norway was cut off due to resistance to German occupation, Hitler’s team only had enough resources for a few more large-scale experiments. This resulted in the sensational production of the first nuclear warhead testing cloud ever seen.
The First Ever Nuclear Test
Mark Walker’s article “Nazis and the Bomb,” published by PBS’s Nova states: “During the last months of the war, a small group of scientists working in secret under Diebner and with the strong support of the physicist Walther Gerlach, who was by that time head of the uranium project, built and tested a nuclear device.”
The multi-colored cloud that was several miles wide was definitely not the imagination of those few eyewitnesses who came forward to describe it. Two German pilots, as well as an Italian observer sent by famed dictator Benito Mussolini, described the sight in similar detail to each other.
Germany was not able to produce the atomic weapons it had hoped for in order to gain the upper hand in WWII. In 1942, Hitler ordered the Reich Research Council to be reorganized as a separate division from the military. With Reich Minister for Armament and Ammunition, Albert Speer, heading the council, the project morphed into a study for alternative energy production, Mail Online reported.
This change did not prevent Hitler from being able to demonstrate at least one impressive large-scale test of nuclear power. No one can be sure of the exact nature of the warhead that Nazi Germany tested, but what remains undisputed is that it was accomplished and reported by several different sources.