(K. Brent Tomer),
Spies in the Congo: America’s Atomic Mission in World War II. By Susan Williams. PublicAffairs; 369 pages; $28.99. Hurst; £25.
“A HOTBED of spies”, remarked Bob Laxalt when he arrived in Léopoldville, capital of the Belgian Congo, in 1944. Why, wondered the fresh-faced young code officer for the American Consul-General, was his government so interested in this “dark corner of darkest Africa”? After all: “There’s no war here.”
Laxalt was not alone in his ignorance. America’s interest in the Congo—and, specifically, in the resource-rich south-eastern province of Katanga—was one of the best-kept secrets of the second world war. Beneath its verdant soil lay a prize that the Americans believed held the key to victory. It was the race to control this prize that brought the spooks to Léopoldville. The Germans, they feared, might be after it, too.
The prize, Susan Williams explains in “Spies in the Congo”, was uranium. Congo was by far the richest source of it in the world. As the architects of America’s nuclear programme (the “Manhattan Project”) knew, uranium…Continue reading