“The Winter Fortress: The Epic Mission to Sabotage Hitler’s Atomic Bomb,” by Neal Bascomb

The Winter Fortress - Cover

NONFICTION: A suspenseful, well-researched retelling of the heroes of Telemark, who prevented Hitler from developing the bomb.  If the “heroes of Telemark” had failed and Hitler got the bomb, London might have disappeared in a blast and the Allies could have lost the war. “By God’s mercy,” Winston Churchill declared following the bombing of Hiroshima at war’s end, “British and American science outpaced all German efforts.”


Winter Fortress Memorial
The saboteurs’ memorial at Vemork
Winter Fortress Picture of Participants
Surrounding their boss 
Leif Tronstad (front row, center) are most of the Vemork saboteurs, including (front row left to right) Jens Anton Poulsson and Joachim Ronneberg, and (back row left to right) Hans Storhaug, Fredrik Kayser, Kasper Idland, Claus Helberg, and Birger Stromsheim.

Winter Fortress Vemork Picture Color

Winter Fortress DF-Hydro (1944)
DF “Hydro” was a steam-driven railway ferry which was lowered on Lake Tinn by Norwegian sabotage during World War II .

Discussion Questions:

1).  Nazi occupation of Norway was unremittingly brutal.  The price for resistance was quite high.  To what lengths would you have gone to resist German Occupation?

On the other hand, countrymen did not forget collaborators and quickly punished them once liberated:

2).  While Bascomb explains, with remarkably accessible clarity, the state of nuclear physics at the time and the importance of heavy water to the German efforts to build a bomb, the heart of the story is how a small band of Norwegians escaped to England, trained and slipped back to Norway to deny Hitler this awesome power.  Was Bascomb right to focus on the individual stories of the saboteurs?  Does this tactic work well in non-fiction?

3). How do modern military heroes compare to those in Winter Fortress?

For examples of Iraqi war heroes, see:


4).  What tactical lessons can be learned from the events chronicled in Winter Fortress?

5).  Is there any comparison between the race to stop Hitler and his atomic program and today’s efforts to stop North Korea and Iran’s nuclear programs?

6).  There is no seeming end to the bravery shown by the British Special Operations Executive (SOE).  In the Pacific arena, Americans showed extreme bravery and grit in engagements such as Guadalcanal and Iwo Jima.  Is Tom Brokaw right that this generation was “The Greatest Generation”? 

See https://www.amazon.com/Greatest-Generation-Tom-Brokaw/dp/0812975294

7).  Finally, would you recommend this book to anyone or just WW2 buffs?

Winter Fortress Vemork DiagramWinter Fortress The-Heros-of-Telemark-1965

Winter Fortress DF-Hydro (1944)
DF “Hydro” was a steam-driven railway ferry sent to the bottom of Lake Tinn by Norwegian sabotage during World War II .

A World War II primer in thirteen minutes:


Interview with Bascomb:


About the Author:

Winter Fortress Neal-Bascomb

Neal Bascomb is a national award-winning, and New York Times bestselling author of a number of books.  All of Bascomb’s books are non-fiction narratives focused on inspiring stories of adventure or achievement. His work has been translated into over eighteen languages, featured in several documentaries, and optioned for major film and television projects.

Born in Colorado and raised in St. Louis, he is the product of public school and lots of time playing hockey. He earned a double degree in Economics and English Literature at Miami University (Ohio), lived in Europe for several years as a journalist (London, Dublin, and Paris), and worked as an editor at St. Martin’s Press (New York). In 2000, he started writing books full time.

His first book HIGHER was selected for the Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writer award and was featured in a History Channel documentary. His second THE PERFECT MILE was a New York Times bestseller and frequently ranks as one of the top books on running. His third RED MUTINY won the United States Maritime Literature Award and critical acclaim around the world. His fourth HUNTING EICHMANN was an international bestseller and led to a young adult edition called NAZI HUNTERS that was the 2014 winner of the YALSA Award, Sydney Taylor Book Award (Gold Medal), among numerous others. His fifth book THE NEW COOL was optioned by major producer Scott Rudin for film. His sixth ONE MORE STEP, focused on the first man with cerebral palsy to climb Kilimanjaro and finish the Kona Ironman, was a New York Times bestseller as well.

An avid hiker, skier, and coffee drinker, he is happily settled in Seattle, Washington with his family.




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s