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HOW THE ALLIES WON WORLD WAR II
Warner Heisenberg, the head of
The German Nuclear Weapons Effort,
Was full of the uncertainty
That he had discovered in physics.
Heisenberg was entangled with his old mentor,
The Danish physicist Neils Bohr,
They being old friends, like father and son.
They were also supposed to be enemies,
For Germany now occupied Denmark.
Together they had created a physics
Of deep truth and beauty,
For beauty was the expression of truth.
They also made possible the physics
To destroy large cities, even the entire world.
In 1941, Heisenberg went to see Bohr,
The ‘Father of Quantum Mechanics’,
In Copenhagen, Denmark,
But we don’t know what they discussed,
Yet Germany failed to complete its work
To build an atomic bomb.
Did Heisenberg deliberately withhold
Information from the Nazis?
Did this consummate mathematician
Neglect to perform an obvious calculation?
Did he, with Bohr, form a complimentary pair,
Joining their views of the political position
Versus its velocity to form a complete picture of reality?
Did a man’s heart turn the tide of war?
On september 9th, 1943,
Neil’s Bohr walked to a meeting place
Near the water and crawled
In complete darkness to a beach,
For the Gestapo in Copenhagen
Were about to arrest him.
He secretly crossed the Oresund to Sweden
And remained there until October 6th,
Wherefrom the British flew him to Scotland.
That evening, Sir John Anderson
Gave Bohr a briefing on just how far
The Anglo-American Atomic Bomb Program
Also, Fermi’s reactor had begun operating
On December 2, 1942.
Bohr was shocked, for he knew that only
The very rare isotope uranium 235 had fissioned
In the German Hahn-Strassman experiments.
This was fully two years after
Bohr had met with Heisenberg in occupied Denmark.
What had the Germans done during this time?
No wonder Bohr was alarmed.
And yet Bohr somehow
Had a drawing of the German nuclear reactor,
Which at first he thought might be the weapon itself.
All knew that plutonium,
Which does not exist naturally,
Could be chemically separated
From its uranium matrix
After bombarding a reactor’s
Uranium fuel rods with neutrons.
The critical mass was not in tons but in pounds,
Thus prompting the allied effort,
Not so much Einstein’s letter to Roosevelt.
Bohr went to work at Los Alamos
Where Oppenheimer was orchestrating
The impossible from 1943-1945.
On New Year’s eve of 1943,
Scientists looked at Bohr’s drawing
Of Heisenberg’s nuclear reactor
In Oppenheimer’s office.
Within two days, General Groves,
The military commander of the project,
Received a document beginning with
“The proposed pile [reactor] consists of
Uranium sheets immersed into heavy water.”
And ended with
“The arrangement [the drawing] suggested to you
By Bohr would be a quite useless military weapon.”
By late 1943, nearly everyone
In the German nuclear program,
With the exception of Heisenberg,
Had become convinced that uranium plates
Were inferior to a design using rods or cubes,
For the most efficient design
Involves separated lumps of uranium
Embedded in a lattice within the ‘moderator’;
But the worst possible solution
Is placing uranium in sheets or layers.
The role of the ‘moderator’
Is to slow down the fissioned neutrons,
With only heavy water or carbon
Seemingly being feasible.
The Germans had chosen heavy water,
Its separation from ordinary water
An expensive and difficult process,
Since carbon graphite is rendered useless
By an impurity of as little
As one part boron in 500,000.
At Los Alamos, Leo Szilard was a fanatic
About the purity of the graphite,
And since it was readily available
They decided to use it for carbon.
The dragon’s breath was to be unleashed.
None of the German reactors ever even operated.
Where did Bohr’s drawing come from,
For it had “Made in Germany” written all over it?
It could have only come from Heisenberg.
The Further Whims of Fate
In 1935, Fermi had almost discovered fission
Three years earlier than Hahn-Strassman,
But in order to shield the detectors
From unwanted radiation
From the slow-neutron process
He had covered the uranium target
With aluminum foil.
This prevented him from seeing
The very energetic pulses
From the uranium fission that was taking place.
Thus the race to build an atomic bomb
Might well have started in 1935 rather than 1939.
If so, World War II could have been nuclear
From the beginning or even have become a cold war—
All of this not happening because of some aluminum foil!