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Operation Swallow: The Battle for Heavy Water

Operation Swallow: The Battle for Heavy Water

A Feature film by Jean Dréville, Titus Vibe-Müller

Produced by Le Trident, Hero Films

Release in France : 13/05/1948

  • Contents

Production and distribution (2)

Executive Producers :

Le Trident, Hero Films

French distribution :

Filmsonor Marceau


Story of how a small band of Norwegian partisans, assisted by British forces, destroyed their heavy water plant which Hitler had captured.



Comparing this film (1948) with the Heroes of Telemark (1965), Kampen om Tungtvannet (The Struggle for the Heavy Water) casts the saboteurs themselves, playing their respective roles, though actors were also cast to play the roles of the saboteurs who have given their lives in Norway's struggle for freedom in later campaigns. The plot is in four languages: Norwegian along with French, German and English (complete with Norwegian subtitles).

Impressive during this course of history was what led to the struggle. French scientists were interested in obtaining some two hundred kilograms of heavy water from Norsk Hydro in Vemork to take back to France in order to do lab studies on its effectiveness. Simultaneously, the Nazis, too, were interested in obtaining heavy water to build a secret weapon. The French were worried that the Nazis might take an early lead by invading Norway, and through secret codes, their man carefully eluded Nazi spies on his trip to Oslo where he received the heavy water and making it back without hindrance. He was watched by two spies as he boarded an airliner, but they did not see him hop out on the other side where he crossed the tarmac to another plane nearby where his cargo was waiting for him. This clever trick worked by using the airliner as a decoy that the Nazis later forced down in Hamburg.

However, the invasion of Norway on the morning of April 9, 1940, the Nazis took over Norsk Hydro and it was up to the Norwegian Underground and British intelligence in London to take action. Professor Leif Trondstad volunteered the services of eleven young Norwegians; the "Swallow" and "Gunnerside" groups who would successfully sabotage the heavy water production in Vemork. This was shown in detail on how they actually carried out the operation, including the sinking of the ferryboat after the Nazis abandoned Norsk Hydro to take the shipment of heavy water on rail cars to Berlin.

The quality of the film was fair though there were many splices in the film. I highly recommend this film to anyone interested in World War II history.

Source : IMDb

Full credits (5)

Assistant Director :

Yves Ciampi

Directors of Photography :

Marcel Weiss, Hilding Bladle

Narrators :

Jean Marin, Pierre Laroche

Technical details

Feature film

Genres :

Fiction, Documentary

Sub-genre :

Adventure, Drama

Production language :

French, Norwegian

Coproducer countries :

France, Norway

Original French-language productions :


Nationality :

50% French (France, Norway)

Production year :


French release :


Runtime :

1 h 36 min

Current status :


Visa number :


Visa issue date :


Approval :


Production formats :

35mm - 35mm

Color type :

Black & White

Aspect ratio :


Audio format :


Posters (4)

Directors (2)

Festival Selections

Venice International Film Festival  - 1948

Venice International Film Festival (Italy, 1948)


Official Competition