Article 201601080261: REVIEW: Spies in the Congo: America’s Atomic Mission in World War II


REVIEW: Spies in the Congo: America’s Atomic Mission in World War II

ID: 201601080261

The core in America’s first atom bombs came from rich uranium deposits deep inside Belgian Congo, and Williams (Who Killed Hammarskjöld?), a senior research fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London, details the Allied efforts to secure that source of uranium in light of reports that Nazi Germany had begun to develop an atomic weapon. He uses newly released records from American, British, and Belgian archives, including from the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). Derring-do is in short supply, and the ore shipments proceeded smoothly, but readers will not regret learning about the activities of some of America’s least heralded spies. Williams’s central figure is Dock Hogue, an engineer with a taste for adventure who was recruited by the OSS and sent to Léopoldville (now Kinshasa) in 1943. He and colleagues suffered from heat and disease. They mostly enjoyed working with British agents but held a lower opinion of Belgian officials; many were corrupt, some sympathized with the Nazis, and all treated Africans terribly. As a cover for uranium-based activities, agents were publicly engaged in fighting diamond smuggling. They turned up little uranium smuggling but risked their lives, engaged in a few gun battles, often ruined their health, and received scant recognition. Williams’s niche but engrossing story offers new insight on intelligence activities in sub-Saharan Africa during WWII.

PublicAffairs, $28.99 (400p) ISBN 978-1-61039-654-7