Recruiting The Special Forces Who Hunted Hitler’s Nukes During The Second World War

A copy of the German nuclear reactor in a modern museum in Germany.  <a href=Photo Credit." title="A copy of the German nuclear reactor in a modern museum in Germany. Photo Credit." width="800" height="419" />
A copy of the German nuclear reactor in a modern museum in Germany. Photo Credit.

The incredible story of a Scottish scoutmaster who had some responsibility for destroying Adolf Hitler’s atomic weapons program has come to light.

The memoirs of John Skinner Wilson became known after they were discovered in the Imperial War Museum.

Wilson was 52 when he was asked to quit his post in the Boy Scouts to help select and train candidates for the Special Operations Executive, Winston Churchill’s covert unit during the Second World War.

His tough selection process is still employed as the basis of all those used by British special forces organizations such as the Royal Marine Commandos and the Special Air Service.

He spent almost two decades employed by the Boy Scouts after being recruited by the organization’s founder General Baden-Powell while Senior Deputy Police Commissioner in Calcutta, India.

The former policeman believed that anyone, given the right training, could make a good undercover agent.

After learning Nazi scientists were attempting to build nuclear weapons, US President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill resolved that all Nazi efforts in nuclear research must be thwarted.

An important element of Hitler’s nuclear program was the production of “heavy water” at the Norsk Hydro plant in Nazi-occupied Norway.

Churchill gave approval for a force of 34 commandos to destroy the facility, but the project was a disaster with all the commandos either killed or captured.

The next effort on the facility used ten special commandos trained by Wilson for covert action in the Scandinavian area.

The men successfully dropped by parachute into Norway, avoided capture and climbed a 600ft ice-bound vertical cliff to gain entry into the factory. They successfully blew up the heavy equipment and managed to escape, The Independent reported.

For his services, Colonel Wilson was awarded an OBE and a Commander of the Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olav.

A new book on the subject by British historian Damien Lewis has been released entitled Hunting Hitler’s Nukes.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE