BOOK: Spies in the Congo – The Race for the Ore that Built the Atomic Bomb – Susan Williams

A thrilling account of the extraordinary efforts of America’s OSS in gaining control of Belgian Congo’s uranium and keeping it from Hitler.


Spies in the Congo is the untold story of one of the most tightly-guarded secrets of the Second World War: America’s desperate struggle to secure enough uranium to build its atomic bomb.

The Shinkolobwe mine in the Belgian Congo was the most important deposit of uranium yet discovered anywhere on earth, vital to the success of the Manhattan Project. Given 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 — a task entrusted to Washington’s elite secret intelligence agents. Sent undercover to colonial Africa to track the ore and to hunt Nazi collaborators, their assignment was made even tougher by the complex political reality and by tensions with Belgian and British officials.

A gripping spy-thriller, Spies in the Congo is the true story of unsung heroism, of the handful of good men — and one woman — in Africa who were determined to deny Hitler his bomb.


Susan Williams has published widely on Africa, decolonisation and the global power shifts of the twentieth century. Her widely acclaimed book on the founding president of Botswana, Colour Bar (Penguin, 2006), recently became a major motion picture (A United Kingdom). Who Killed Hammarskjöld? (2011) triggered a fresh UN inquiry into the death of the secretary general. She is a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London.


‘To have found in the history of the Second World War a million square miles of unfamiliar territory— the Congo— is an achievement in itself. On top of that, her story is thrilling. Even the mundane details are delightful.’ — The Sunday Telegraph

‘Williams pieces together her history in forensic fashion. The result is a gripping work that uncovers a world long cast in shadow … A little-known story, but one with a terribly familiar ring—and ultimately devastating consequences.’ — The Economist

‘[Williams’s] new, meticulously researched book has shades of Graham Greene, a hint of Conrad, even echoes of Indiana Jones … truly a thriller, in which Williams paints clear and sympathetic pictures of characters thrust into a totally unfamiliar territory.’ — The Guardian

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