Fascinating subject, but I didn t finish the book As others have said, it is easy to get bogged down in this one. Interesting historical espionage story of a little known chapter of WWII, and the Manhattan Project s need to guard the mine supplying the essential rich uranium ore needed for the development of the atomic bomb.Listened to the audiobook version for background on some of the history of the colonial era of the Congo woven in book club read of The Poisonwood Bible The spies were U.S and Allied espionage agents guarding the secret of the the Shinkolobwe Mine in the Belgian Congo, whose rich uranium ores were vital to the Manhattan Project, and the bombs dropped on Japan in 1945 Having learned the fascinating story of top secret Manhattan Project at the Trinity Site and Los Alamos NM and Oakridge TN on U.S travels, this part of the story was completely unknown to me A bit long in the details, may have been the audiobook version where you cannot skim the detail parts, I found the story of the nascent SOS office in the desperate WWII era to guard essential and strategic resources for your side, and ensure the essential uranium needed for the Manhattan Project was not smuggled to the Axis powers thought to be developing their atomic bomb version, highly interesting There is a bit of background on the early Belgian colonial era of rubber plantations, and exploitation of the Congo peoples by Belgian commercial interests to give understanding of some of the story in The Poisonwood Bible The end chapters speak to the present day concerns of this rich uranium deposit, and the possibilities of the ore smuggled into Iran s, or South Korea s nuclear development programs. A Thrilling Account Of The Extraordinary Efforts Of Allied Intelligence In Gaining Control Of Belgian Congo S Uranium Mines And Keeping Them From Hitler And Stalin This Book Is The True Story Of American Spies In Africa In The Second World War, Which Until Now Has Never Been Researched Or Told It Is Set Against The Background Of One Of The Most Tightly Guarded Secrets Of The War America S Struggle To Secure Enough High Quality Uranium To Build Atomic Bombs These Efforts Were Focused On The Shinkolobwe Mine In The Belgian Congo, Which Was Described Within The Manhattan Project As The Most Important Deposit Of Uranium Yet Discovered In The World Uranium From This Mine Was Used To Build The Bombs Dropped On Japan In Given The Very Real Possibility That Germany Was Also Working On An Atomic Bomb, It Was An Urgent Priority For The US To Prevent Uranium From The Congo Being Diverted To The Enemy This Task Was Given To The Newly Created Office Of Strategic Services In Washington, Which Sent Some Of Their Best Secret Intelligence Agents Under Cover To The Belgian Congo To Track The Ore And To Hunt For Nazi Collaborators Their Assignment Was Made Even Tougher By The Complex Colonial Reality And By Tensions With British Officials Spies In The Congo Tells The Story Of The Men And One Woman Who Were Sent On This Dangerous Wartime Mission The great bulk of the uranium used in both the American and German atomic bomb programs during World War II came from the Shinkolobwe mine in the Belgian Congo, which had been closed down by the start of the war Germany had access to the uranium inventory in Belgium after invading that country in 1940, and the U.S made arrangements with Belgian Congo officials to purchase the ore and tailings remaining at the mine and subsequently made arrangements to have the mine reopened to provide uranium for the Cold War atomic weapons program.During and immediately after World War II there were only a few known uranium deposits western U.S., Canada, Czeckoslovakia , and the concentration of U3O8 in the ore was very low, significantly less than 1% At Shinkolobwe, on the other hand, the concentration in the ore was as high as 70%, and even the concentration in the tailings was 20% For this reason, it was important for the U.S to obtain its output and to prevent Germany from doing so Acquiring the output required negotiations with Union Mini re officials in the Belgian Congo, which officially had sided with the Allies, but preventing the smuggling of uranium to Germany required the use of spies from the Office of Strategic Services OSS , the forerunner to the Central Intelligence Agency CIA The focus of this book is the activities of these spies.The challenges the OSS agents faced were daunting While the governor general of the Belgian Congo had sided with the allies, there were many officials who, feeling that Germany was likely to win the war, were in favor of neutrality such that they could trade with both the Axis and the Allies, thereby profiting no matter what happened To the north of the Congo was French Central Africa Like Belgium, France was occupied by the Germans This French colony had chosen to be loyal to the government in exile under Charles de Gaulle but was still a hotbed of spy activity and smuggling To the southwest was the Portuguese colony of Angola Portugal was officially neutral but was under the control of a fascist dictatorship sympathetic to Germany Hence, Angola was an ideal route for smuggling uranium and other resources such as industrial diamonds out of the Belgian Congo There were also enemy agents playing for keeps After a contact accidentally blew his cover, one OSS agent survived three attempts on his life before returning to the U.S Aside from these issues, the OSS agents frequently suffered from tropical diseases and had to deal with language barriers given the numerous languages spoken in the Belgian Congo and the surrounding territories.One aspect of the book that I really appreciated was Dr Williams commitment to readability At the front of the book is a list of the key individuals with their roles as well as code names if they were OSS Next to it was a list of acronyms Further, she would use organization names and their acronyms interchangeably in the following manner She would first use the proper name and then use the acronym If there was a gap of a chapter or before needing to use the acronym again, she would re introduce the proper name before reverting to the acronym With the alphabet soup of acronyms and the numerous individuals involved, these features made the book easier to read.I have one technical criticism In the book, Dr Williams states that the higher uranium concentration in the Shinkolobwe ore reduced or eliminated the need to enrich the uranium In this, she was mistaken Of the naturally occurring isotopes of uranium, one, U 235 is capable of fission, and it comprises approximately 0.7% of natural uranium, regardless of the concentration of the uranium in the ore The uranium in the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima required a U 235 content of greater than 90% for the bomb to work The process of raising the U 235 concentration is known as enrichment, and that took place at the gaseous diffusion plant at K 25 and the calutrons at Y 12, with both facilities located at Oak Ridge, TN.In spite of occasionally having to discuss the availability of some source material or admit uncertainty about what happened or how something happened, Dr Williams managed to keep the book reading like a thriller As a result, I enjoyed the book and had trouble putting it down. Interesting, but not quite thrillingI enjoyed it, but expected development of characters, a deeper understanding detail of day to day operations Outside of the biographical sketches, what did these folks do The book claims to be a true spy thriller, but, though the book was interesting at times, it was of a snoozer rather than a thriller Williams brings these sometimes interesting stories, but she often gets lost in the details I often times wondered, why this digression is important The most interesting part of this history is the way that blacks were horribly treated despite the way that they contribute to the French Empire Williams is clearly aware of the irony here, and she is interested in the way that these local blacks maintain a dignity despite their treatment These vignettes are interesting than the main story, and she would probably had a better book if she had written about these episodes I am also unsure of of whether she proved her thesis, that the story of uranium in the Congo was a crucial part of the effort to build the atomic bomb that no one knows about She has a little bit of evidence for the importance of the uranium, and clearly the Nazis, Belgians, Americans and Brits were all fighting over control of the uranium, but I do not think she proved that it was anything but a peripheral battlefield.I m glad I read the book, just because I know so little about Africa and the role it played in World War II, but this was a bit dull and the author had trouble figuring out which details were relevant, something that interfered in her composition of the narrative Excellent story on so many levels at least for me The history of the uranium race in the Congo and the OSS setting up shop in the Belgian Congo was fascinating Well written and captivating and close to home I spent 6 years there in my misspent youth and there was a family history with OSS. In addition to being a thrilling read about the espionage of World War Two in Africa, it is a well rounded, unbiased picture of what was taking place in the colony Remarkable people who achieved remarkable objectives despite the odds. Susan Williams did extensive research to bring a little known part of history to light While I applaud her scholarship, I found the narrative hard to follow I was continually going to the index so I could go back and re read about a person to remind me of his her name and position, so a glossary quick reference of people might have helped While the subject matter is interesting, I didn t find the narrative particularly gripping, possibly because of the aforementioned issue Nonetheless, this is a welcome addition to literature on the Second World War and Cold War Atomic Age and sparked interest in further reading on related topics. Didn t finish it Gets bogged down in too much detail that s not important to the story.