Susan Williams

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Spies in the Congo: The Race for the Ore That Built the A-Bomb

book | Non-Fiction | May 2016
World → C Hurst & Co. (Ed. Michael Dwyer)

A thrilling account of the extraordinary efforts of Allied intelligence in gaining control of Belgian Congo's uranium mines and keeping them from Hitler and Stalin. This book is the true story of American spies in Africa in the Second World War, which until now has never been researched or told. It is set against the background of one of the most tightly guarded secrets of the war -- America's struggle to secure enough high quality uranium to build atomic bombs. These efforts were focused on the Shinkolobwe Mine in the Belgian Congo, which was described within the Manhattan Project as the 'most important deposit of uranium yet discovered in the world'. Uranium from this mine was used to build the bombs dropped on Japan in 1945. Given the very real possibility that Germany was also working on an atomic bomb, it was an urgent priority for the US to prevent uranium from the Congo being diverted to the enemy. This task was given to the newly-created Office of Strategic Services in Washington, which sent some of their best Secret Intelligence agents under cover to the Belgian Congo to track the ore and to hunt for Nazi collaborators. Their assignment was made even tougher by the complex colonial reality and by tensions with British officials. Spies in the Congo tells the story of the men -- and one woman -- who were sent on this dangerous wartime mission.

Reviews

Relying in large part on papers that have only recently been made public, Susan Williams lays out in fascinating detail how several score US spies went about monitoring whether the Germans were gathering Congolese uranium and preparing to scupper them if so... Williams’s account is nuanced but gripping... [She] does a sterling job of delineating a complicated plot while at the same time giving a clear sense of the characters of the major players.

Benjamin Beasley-Murray
The Spectator

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Karolina Sutton
+44 (0)20 7393 4428
Email Karolina Sutton