Spies in the Congo: America’s Atomic Mission in World War II
Author: Susan Williams
Publisher: Public Affairs Books | 9 August, 2016
An important new book has just been published by Susan Williams, author of the 2011 work “Who Killed Hammarskjöld?” that has led to the United Nations reopening the investigation of the death of Dag Hammarskjöld. Williams’ new book is titled “Spies in the Congo: America’s Atomic Mission in World War 11”. It reveals previously little known information about the US atomic bomb project, the Manhattan Project. The story opens with Albert Einstein’s 1939 letter to President Franklin Roosevelt warning of a possible Nazi program to build an atomic bomb. Einstein, writing also on behalf of other atomic scientists, alerted Roosevelt to the three potential sources of uranium ore for a bomb- small and less concentrated deposits in Canada and Czechoslovakia, and the best source for almost unbelievably concentrated uranium ore, in the Belgian Congo.
Williams describes how FDR soon established U.S. bases in West Africa, as well as air and sea routes from the U.S. to the region. Gen. Groves, head of the Manhattan Project, designated obtaining the uranium from the Congo mines a top priority. Williams describes the Manhattan Project as a secret ‘state within the state’, known to a select few government officials and financed through secret accounts.
The Office of Strategic Services (OSS), predecessor to the CIA, was assigned a highly secret task of preventing smuggling of uranium from the Congo to Germany. OSS opened offices in West Africa, the Belgian Congo and Portuguese East Africa, and operated under a cover story of preventing the transfer of industrial diamonds to Germany for its war effort. Williams had access to released OSS records, which tell a previously unknown story of top priority U.S. intelligence activity in Africa during World War II.
It may not surprise students of Cold War struggles in the Congo to learn that the uranium mine in the Congo was located in the Katanga province. Katanga was the site of prolonged and violent clashes backed by the Cold War adversaries, not to mention its relevance to the murder of Congolese nationalist leader Patrice Lumumba on January 17, 1961. Control of the uranium mine is a likely cause of these events.
Williams writes of OSS personnel who are virtually unknown even to students of intelligence, and may have as yet unknown significance. An emerging story is that of Huntington Harris, who served as the head of OSS in West Africa, as well as its principal in Portuguese East Africa (Mozambique). In 1945 he was sent to Rome by OSS as part of a ‘special Vatican project’. James Angleton was chief of station for OSS in Italy at this time and involved in Vatican projects.
According to released OSS records available at the National Archives, in Portuguese East Africa, Huntington Harris was case officer for Werner von Alvensleben, a German who was a valued double agent for OSS, and a subject of a pending Freedom of Information Act lawsuit in the federal court in Washington D.C. Harris tried mightily to get von Alvensleben and wife admitted to live in the U.S. after the war, but was blocked by the U.S. Department of State. Von Alvensleben’s personal history included serving as an assassin for the Nazis in 1933 in the Austrian Tyrol while he was a member of the Bavarian Military Police headed by Heinrich Himmler. Von Alvensleben remained in Portuguese East Africa after World War II where at first he worked for the U.S. consulate and later established the largest big game hunting operation in Africa, Safarilandia.
Of interest to Americans in particular is that von Alvensleben journeyed to Dallas, Texas in late 1963 as the guest of D. Harold Byrd, owner of the Texas School Book Depository building. Byrd was reported to be at Safarilandia on the date in November 1963 on which President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, allegedly as a result of shots fired from Byrd’s Texas School Book Depository building. Byrd, an oil producer and defense contractor, is also a subject of a pending Freedom of Information Act lawsuit in federal court in Washington, D.C.
Werner von Alvensleben was widely known in big game hunting circles for his proficiency with the Mannlicher-Schoenauer rifle, described by firearms experts as the “World’s Finest Rifle”. Kennedy was said to have been assassinated by shots from a Mannlicher-Carcano rifle which used ammunition virtually identical to that fired in the Mannlicher-Schoenauer. Warren Commission member (and former High Commissioner for Germany) John McCloy, in the official investigation of Kennedy’s assassination, questioned the FBI’s firearms expert as to whether the ammunition of the two rifles could be fired interchangeably. The FBI expert said he did not know the answer as he was unfamiliar with the Mannlicher-Schoenauer rifle.
“Spies in the Congo” is a major work that significantly broadens our understanding of World War II and the Cold War in Africa, and opens up the possibility of other major breakthroughs in our knowledge and understanding of the period.
– Review by Dan Alcorn, AARC Board member
Spies in the Congo: America’s Atomic mission in World War II may be ordered HERE.
U.N. Chief Presses to Unlock Mystery of Dag Hammarskjold’s Death
LONDON — A few days from now, the anniversary of one of the most enduring international mysteries will slide by, hardly likely to be marked by those in Britain and the United States accused of withholding the secret clues to its resolution.
On the night of Sept. 17-18, 1961, an airplane carrying Dag Hammarskjold, the United Nations secretary general, crashed near the airport in Ndola in what was then called Northern Rhodesia, now Zambia. Mr. Hammarskjold was on a mission to end a secessionist war next door in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo. All 16 people aboard the plane perished.