Germany's plans for Baku in World War II were flexible and changed according to the military and political situation on the fronts. Before the war Germany worked out plans to destroy the Baku oilfields so that the Anglo-French coalition could not get them. Since spring 1942 the Germans had been working to neutralize the Anglo-French threat to Baku. That was repeatedly reported to Berlin by the German consul in Tabriz, an agent of Canaris, Captain Lewerkun. From the information provided by the multi-branched intelligence network in Iran, the German General Staff thoroughly studied "the military-geographic line Syria-Baku", while the Abwehr's second department was charged with developing a plan to destroy the Baku oilfields should the Allies threaten to occupy them. The Germans said that the future Allies had already flown air reconnaissance missions over Baku. Indeed, there was a single instance in April 1940; the anti-aircraft defence in Baku attacked an aircraft that supposedly belonged to Lockheed-Electra. The aircraft flew away safely, taking the secret of this flight with it.
The defeat of France that followed in May-June 1940 eliminated any danger from the army of Weygand which that had been "neutralized" according to the agreement between Berlin and Vichy. After Germany invaded the USSR, the Baku oilfields became a primary object of German interests.
The destruction of the Baku oilfields in the beginning of the war, we emphasize, in the beginning of the war, was not part of the strategic plans of the leading Nazis, despite the popular opinion of Soviet military historians; at least there is no mention of it in the memoirs of the Nazi commanders. It is common knowledge, and recorded in the book Lost Victories, that after the occupation of Sebastopol the air fleet supporting Manstein was transferred to Crete where it remained until the end of the war. This fact proves once again that the Germans did not intend to bomb the Baku oilfields. Everyone knows how strong this fleet was and Baku was within its range of action.
Moreover, the Germans were afraid, as it emerged later not without reason, that the Russians could blow up these oilfields themselves if the threat of losing Baku emerged.
Declassified documents show this clearly. In February 1941 Tomas sent Hitler a memo via the chief of the Wehrmacht Supreme Command General Staff, General-Field Marshal Keitel. The memo was entitled "Military and economic consequences of the operation in the east". General Tomas concluded his analysis of material on the Soviet economy with an urgent recommendation, "by means of rapid and resolute actions PREVENT THE DESTRUCTION OF THE RESERVES, THE DESTRUCTION OF THE TRANSPORTATION NETWORK, POWER STATIONS, THE AGRICULUTURAL MACHINERY STOCK AND, FIRST OF ALL, THE CAUCASIAN OILFIELDS (highlighted by the author). "Regions to the south of the mouth of the Volga and the Don, including the Caucasus, are to be involved in the operation. The Caucasus fuel-producing region is vital to the exploitation of the occupied areas," he emphasized.
The German command was developing different kinds of action to preserve the Baku oilfields from sabotage by Stalin's spies.
THE PLAN OF THE ARMED FORCES SUPREME COMMAND STAFF DEFENCE DEPARTMENT FOR THE OCCUPATION OF THE CAUCASUS' OIL-BEARING AREAS
The Fuehrer's headquarters.
4 May, 1941
14 copies printed.
For the command only. Appendix to the document:
Armed Forces Supreme Command.
Operational Command Staff. Defence Department.
I operations subsection NY44564/41.
Military and economic significance of the oil-bearing regions for the needs of the Axis powers and for Russian agriculture.
a) Needs of the Axis powers:
The monthly requirement of the European Axis powers, including occupied territories, is 1.75 million tonnes of mineral oils of all kinds. After the depletion of accumulated reserves (towards late August) the production and import of mineral oils (Russia excluded) will make up merely 850,000 tonnes. Thus, beginning from September the deficit will amount to approximately 300,000 tonnes per month. Iraqi oil not taken into account, this deficit can be covered only at the expense of Russia.
…3. The threat of the oil industry being ruined by the Russians themselves. As the Russians undoubtedly realize the importance of the problem overall, they do not reject the need to destroy the transport infrastructure and, if the occasion requires, to eliminate oil refineries and other industrial facilities according to the Moscow 1812 model.
If they make such a decision, we would hardly be capable of thwarting it by military means. Therefore, it is reasonable to try and apply political and other means in advance to further the establishment of an independent state formation in the Caucasus, taking into consideration possible disintegration inside the Russian state after the first major successes of the Germans. Such a state would naturally be interested in preserving the productivity of oil facilities.
This document says a great deal about German plans for Baku.
First, the Germans' plans to bomb the Baku oilfields at the beginning of the war which were thwarted by the Soviet Armed Forces, according to Soviet propaganda.
Sergo Beria writes in his memoirs about his father, "When Father arrived in the Caucasus the German aircraft were displaying no activity, but it was easy to suppose that the situation could change. 'Even if we are able to stop them quickly, the Germans will not abandon their attempts to bomb the oil regions,', Father said then.
"Air defence was organized by General Mikhail Stepanovich Gromadin. Afterwards, he received the rank of colonel-general, commanded the air defence troops and then headed the country's entire air defences again. But at that time he was deputy people's commissar of air defence and led the air defence troops.
"WHEN THE GERMANS TRIED BOMBING OILFIELDS [highlighted by the author], not a single bomber could find the target. It was just individual reconnaissance aircraft that did it, and even then from a great height. At least I have never heard of successful raids of the German operational air force. The equipment transported from Iran came in useful then, as far as I can remember."
We should mention that the equipment transported was outdated and both father and son were wrong about the bombing of Baku!
Sergo Beria did not hear of successful raids by the German operational air force for one plain reason - there were no such raids. As for reconnaissance flights, it would be surprising if they had not been made above such an important object as Baku.
For some reason the following simple idea does not occur to the military historians and commanders who argue that the bombing of the Baku oilfields was thwarted during the German advance to the south. WHAT WAS THE USE OF THE GERMANS BOMBING THE OBJECT FOR WHICH THEY HAD ABANDONED THE ADVANCE ON MOSCOW AND WHICH THEY WANTED TO OCCUPY IN ORDER TO FULFIL THEIR THEIR FUTURE AMBITIONS? Bombing what they wanted to seize - as Stierlitz used to say - there's no connection! Bombing Baku oilfields would have made sense only if Hitler had chosen Moscow as the target of his main strike.
So, now let us look in more detail at the German intentions to bomb Baku, the condition of Baku's air defences, the possibility of an air attack on Baku for the Germans and other related factors, first of all, as is common in such cases, the opportunities for offensive and defensive action by the warring sides.
First, some words on the state of affairs of USSR air defence in general and in Baku in particular.
As early as 11 July, 1928 a Resolution of the USSR Council of Labour and Defence was adopted "On the air defence of facilities of primary importance in the zone of the USSR potentially susceptible to air attack" which set the objective of bringing to full readiness in five years the 48 most important air defence stations in the country, first of all in Moscow, Leningrad, Kharkov, Baku and Minsk. But nothing serious had been done even after 10 years.
This can be seen in the report of the chief of the Trans-Caucasus Military District, Corps Commander N.V. Kuibyshev (brother of V.V. Kuibyshev), at a meeting of the People's Commissariat of Defence Military Council, on 21-27 November, 1937.
"Comrade Kuibyshev: Summing up the results of inspection tours and manoeuvres in the district, the Military Council of the district assessed the military training of the Trans-Caucasus Military District troops as unsatisfactory."
Several months before the war the following secret document was adopted:
Document No: 254. From the resolution of the USSR Council of People's Commissars "on the organization of air defence"
25 January, 1941
Top secret. Especial importance.
…7. To approve the composition and organization of air defence units in the rear:
a) Three corps of air defence, one for each of the cities of Moscow, Leningrad and Baku, with the composition: 600 medium-calibre guns, 72 small-calibre guns, 231 heavy machine guns, 648 anti-aircraft motor searchlights, 432 anti-aircraft balloons (?648 for Leningrad) both in Moscow and Leningrad; 420 medium-calibre guns, 84 small-calibre guns, 236 heavy machine guns, 564 anti-aircraft motor searchlights, and 216 anti-aircraft balloons for Baku.
The 1941 collection, Document No: 222.
When Col-Gen Stern was appointed chief of the Red Army Air Defence Department, he considered the Resolution of the USSR Council of People's Commissars of 25 January, 1941 and decree No 0015 of the People's Commissariat of 14 February of the same year "On dividing the USSR territory into zones, districts and points of Air Defence" to be almost sabotage and did not intend to fulfill them. He was supported by the chief of the Air Forces Bureau, Rychagov. Stern believed that such decrees and resolutions on air defence made the entire USSR territory unprotected against air raids by any enemy, be it the Luftwaffe intending to bomb Kiev, Sebastopol, Minsk or Riga, or the British intending to bomb Baku, or the Japanese aiming at Vladivostok and Khabarovsk. The following events showed that Stern was right, but he never knew it, for he was shot down!
The following incident reveals a great deal about Soviet air defences in the pre-war years. In May 1941 a German Junkers-52 broke into Soviet air space and landed safely and unnoticed at the central aerodrome in Moscow near the Dynamo stadium. That stirred the Kremlin and caused a wave of repression among the military command: it all began with discharges and then arrests and execution of the Air Forces high command.
Baku's air defence system was no different from that of the rest of the USSR, which is natural, despite numerous resolutions.
According to military historians, much of the arms specified in the secret document did not reach Baku, and the arms just could not reach it as Moscow and Leningrad which were also mentioned in the resolution got into difficulties at the start of the war, especially Leningrad, and all arms, particularly heavy ordnance, were used to defend these cities. Moreover, the 193rd air defence artillery regiment was deployed from Baku to Moscow during Moscow's troubles. That was the oldest battle-ready regiment that dated back to the Putilov anti-aircraft armoured train, to the time when Lenin had come to help the workers of Putilov to build it. In July 1941 this regiment, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel M.G. Kiknadze, came into firing positions near Kuntsevo covering the central route to Moscow. All this weakened considerably the defence of the airspace over Baku.
There were no anti-aircraft weapons in the USSR, including Baku, unlike in Britain which successfully fought off the Luftwaffe. There were not enough night fighter aircraft on duty, there were just individual planes. The bulk of the fighters received from the USA and Britain were deployed over Moscow. More than 90% of Baku air defence's anti-aircraft guns were of small and medium calibre and were useless in a high altitude night-time air raid. And it was at night that the Germans carried out their strategically important bombing raids. After urgent requests from Roosevelt and Churchill, Stalin allowed the Americans to equip some Air Defence fire divisions in Baku with American 37 mm cannon and shells. V. Vasilyev and V. Roshchupkin say that the shells were defective and, thanks to a coded message from Baku to the USA, a spy network was uncovered at US military plants. The small amount of heavy ordnance in Baku, including the American 37 mm cannon, could not put up resistance to bombers flying at high altitudes. Eyewitnesses said that when German reconnaissance aircraft appeared over Baku at high altitude, shells fied at them obviously did not reach their targets. The USSR did not have new generation sights for air targets. As the Battle of Britain showed, sights devised on the auto-correlation principle by British mathematicians considerably helped Britain's air defences. When the Germans approached Baku, it would be easy for the Luftwaffe flying aces to find the oilfields and refineries that then covered half of the territory of Baku and its suburbs.
Neither Baku, nor anywhere else in the USSR had early warning radar, unlike Britain and Germany. By that time the Germans already had the Ju-88 Junkers aeroplane with a flying range of 2,480 km and bomb capacity of three tonnes.
We should not forget that the Germans had bomb-sights that were efficient for that time and were in no way inferior to the top secret American Norden bomb-sights which was important for pinpoint bombing. What is most important is that on the eve of the war, about 75-80% of Soviet aircraft lagged behind German aircraft of the equivalent type in terms of flight performance. Reorganization of the Air Forces also required flight crew conversion training.
The new German Messerschmitt (Me-109e) fighter and Junkers (Ju-88) bomber had a significant advantage over the Soviet I-15 and I-16 fighters and SB bombers.
This is acknowledged by famous expert A.S. Yakovlev who contributed considerably to aircraft construction in the war years.
"In air combat, despite their good manoevurability", A.S. Yakovlev said, "our fighters proved worse than the German ones, inferior to them in speed and especially in cannon calibre and shooting range. SB bombers could not fly without cover of fighters, but the latter lagged behind the German ones and could not ensure effective protection."
We know from the History of the Great Patriotic War of the Soviet Union (v.1) that 80% of pilots who had to be retrained for the Migs had already been trained by 1 May, 1942 while similar training had not been begun on Yaks as there were not enough of them in the flying squadrons. This implies that there were not enough Yaks to defend the skies over Baku because of a lack of skilled pilots, whereas, according to the memoirs of famous Soviet pilots, it was the Yaks and Ils that could confront the Luftwaffe.
The Germans could find any target for their night-time attacks. That was not surprising, as they had a powerful radio beam system dubbed "Bow Leg" by the British. German pilots flew by radio beam right to the target. After huge losses the British invented a countersystem to jam those beams. Baku had nothing like it, neither beams nor countersystems.
With regard to the threat of bombing Baku, it is worth remembering that a small plot of land has been burning for centuries not far from Baku. During the war, the military realized that this burning plot of land could become a natural guiding landmark for Nazi pilots on their way to Baku and attempted to put out the flame. The land was blown up, cast in cement etc. but all to no avail. It kept on burning, remaining a landmark, and still burns today.
If the Germans had approached Baku, it would have been a piece of cake for the Luftwaffe pilots to find the oilfields and refineries that then made up half the territory of Baku and its suburbs.
Below is a comparison of the USSR and British air defence systems, which is not favourable towards the USSR.
The Luftwaffe had met a worthy rebuff in the skies over Britain before they invaded the USSR. Those flights entered history under the name the Battle of Britain. Asked why there was no anti-Semitism in Britain, Churchill replied, "Because the British do not think that they are smarter than the Jews!" As for the Jews, it is not for the author to judge, but the fact is that the British were no worse than the Germans and sometimes even better in the intellectual confrontation of World War II. The British rapid computing machine installed in Bletchley Park during World War II was unique. Better technically than the Bomb, it gained fame as the "the first programmed electronic digital computer". The machine was capable of picking up about 25,000 bytes of information per second (the speed achieved by "true" computers only in the early 1950s). The Colossus had 1,500 electric lamps which was almost a miracle at that time.
According to Harry F. Hinsley's British Intelligence in World War II (1984), the machine appeared just in time to make a great contribution to the success of Operation Overlord. By the end of the war Britain had 10 Colossuses.
British cryptographers cracked German codes. German naval historian Jurgen Rower described that period in his book The Critical Convoy Battles of March 1943 (1977), "That is why it is quite clear that it was cracking the German code system that played the decisive role in the military actions on the sea lanes in April and May (1943) and, as time showed, determined the subsequent success of the Allies in the fight against the German Submarine Force."
Britains's high intellectual capacity seriously influenced its defence capacity.
Nevertheless, we should add that though the airspace over Britain was defended by first-rate land armaments equipped with the ultimate (for that time) artificial intelligence, up-to-date fighters and pilots, the Germans got through the fierce air fights over Britain and successfully bombed London, Sheffield and Coventry and other British cities and towns. Brave Churchill cried when he inspected the ruins left after German bombing.
The Nazis are known to have carried out sabotage and bombing on a massive scale. Here are some examples.
At dawn on 22 June, between 0315 and 0320 German Heinkel-111, Junkers-88 and Dornier-215 bombers from the 2nd, 3rd and 53rd bombing squadrons, Kampfgeschwader, under the command of specially trained and picked crews conducted a sudden air raid on the 10 largest Soviet airfields, catching the Soviet Air Force command by surprise and inflicting grave damage on Soviet bomber and fighter aircraft.
On 22 June, 1941 26 airfields in the Western Special Military District, 23 airfields in the Kiev district, 11 airfields in the Baltic district and 10 airfields in the Odessa Military District were subject to sudden air attacks.
The Nazis destroyed one-third of Soviet aircraft at the airfields, as most of them did not have enough time to take off. By noon on 22 June the Soviet Air Forces had lost 1,200 aircraft, 300 of which were shot down in air fights, virtually on takeoff, and 900 of which were destroyed at the airfields. The Western Special Military District suffered particularly heavy losses - 528 aircraft were destroyed on the ground and 210 shot down mid-air.
That was actually a unique major act of sabotage, as no serious air combat was waged at that time, just local air fights.
Here is another, more striking example of operations conducted by the Luftwaffe.
In mid-1940 German Air Forces squadrons set about British towns. Despite Britain's powerful air defence systems, 23,000 British citizens were killed in air raids in just six months, including residents of London, Coventry, Birmingham, Southampton and other cities. The most destructive raid was on the centre of Britain's aviation industry, Coventry, on the night of 15 November. About 450 Luftwaffe released their their deadly payloads over more than 10 hours. The fires caused by the bombing could be seen 200 km away, while delayed-action bombs continued exploding for three more days. The gas and water supply systems were disabled in the city. Some 550 people were killed and 800 injured.
London was targeted with flying bombs as well, the doodlebugs. The Nazis sent a total of 11,300 doodlebugs against Britain. About 20% of them exploded at the start, 25% were shot down by fighters, another 25% by air-defence artillery and only 30% reached British land (2,400 of these 3,200 bombs fell in Greater London). Most of the FAU-1 exploded in densely populated areas. This weapon killed 5,500 Londoners and injured 16,000. From February 1941 the British ports of Portsmouth, Southampton, Plymouth and others were the targets of German air raids. At the same time the Germans continued regular raids on the industrial centres. Hitler's aviation struck their last mass blows at London in late April and early May 1941. During the Luftwaffe air offensive on Great Britain (12 August, 1940 - 11 May, 1941), the British lost 42,320 people and 49,675 were injured.
This damage and destruction are, however, incomparable to the losses of Soviet cities which were much greater.
There were similar actions on a smaller scale but better targeted. In assessing the ability of the Germans to conduct an air attack on Baku in 1941-42, we should consider a little-known incident of World War II that was made public not so long ago, owing to materials preserved by chance in US archives . This incident is typical of the targeted, pinpoint attacks of the Luftwaffe on a strategic target.
F. Chuyev writes, "Roosevelt remarked, 'Comrade Molotov, we have 24 up-to-date heavy bombers in Khartoum. What would the USSR say if they flew northwards to bomb Romanian oilfields and then landed somewhere in the region of Rostov? I believe it is unreasonable to send those bombers as well as the 200 aircraft we supply to you monthly, for the simple reason that bomber crew training requires two months.' 'I consider this proposal quite acceptable,' Molotov replied. 'Our government would not mind an agreement under which Soviet bombers could also carry out shuttle operations in Germany, as long as they were refuelled and rearmed in England.' They discussed the supply of American fighters from Alaska to Siberia and farther to the west..."
This idea had a continuation. V.M. Berezhkov, Stalin's personal interpreter, wrote the following in this regard. "Ambassador Harriman visited Stalin in the Kremlin on 2 February, 1944 to discuss the issue.
"Having summed up the essence of the problem, the ambassador emphasized that, having airfields in the territory of the Soviet Union at their disposal, American aircraft could start from England and Italy and bomb Germany. At the moment bombing is conducted mainly on the periphery and if individual targets are attacked pilots often have to struggle back via the same route, sometimes in damaged aircraft chased by an entire squad of German fighters.
"'How many aircraft will take part in shuttle operations?' Stalin asked.
"'We are planning to make from one to three flights, with 120 craft in each,' the ambassador answered.
"'Are the Russians to supply these aircraft with fuel?'
"'No, fuel, bombs and the necessary spare parts will be supplied from the United States.'.
"'And who will carry out the maintenance, the Americans or the Russians?'
"'It looks as though some American specialists will have to be brought in, especially for the maintenance of the B-17 and B-24 heavy bombers. If the Russians can provide ground personnel to work in subordination to the American specialists, that would be excellent.'
"Having thought for a while, Stalin said, 'We have a positive attitude towards this plan. I suppose the Hitlerites will feel the great power of the Allies' strikes.'"
"The shuttle operation that was agreed in this way had the code name Frantic. To start with, Stalin offered airfields to receive from 150 to 200 heavy bombers on Soviet territory. He also gave permission for the daily landing of American photographic reconnaissance aircraft, one flying from Italy and the other from Britain.
"Stalin thanked the ambassador and asked questions about the octane rating of the fuel used in American aircraft and about the means of communication with the ground and possible language barriers to this communication. Harriman said he would instruct the chief of the American military mission, General Dean, to coordinate the practical issues with Soviet specialists."
Poltava airfield was chosen for this purpose. At first everything went well, and the intensity and productivity of American bombing of strategic German targets increased. The USSR did its best to support this operation. American bombers were accompanied by Yak-9DD fighters on shuttle operations from Italy (Bari) landing at Poltava and bombing oil refineries in Romania.
However, the Germans soon realized that the American bombers flying from Italy and England to Germany were refueling somewhere but could not find the exact location! Soon the Germans were lucky to discover a document in a Flying Fortress that had been shot down which specified Poltava airfield as the refueling and bomb loading station. Goering ordered that the Luftwaffe prepare immediately for revenge. The air attack on Poltava airfield was assigned to the elite Condor wing which immediately began preparations for the attack in an airfield not far from Warsaw. On the night of 17 July, 1944 German bombers appeared over Poltava airfield at a height of 4,000-5,000 metres. It was like a bolt from the blue. Eyewitnesses said afterwards that it had been hell. Only 10 Flying Fortresses survived out of 73 that had been standing on the airfield, and even the survivors required repair. Besides, German bombers littered the airfield with 10,000-15,000 "jumping" mines, turning it into a dead zone. German bombers returned to their base safely. The Americans were horrified to find out that the Russian early warning system did not operate, that the Russians had no night fighters and the heavy air defence ordnance did not reach an altitude of 4,000-5,000 metres, so on. After the tragic raid they first suggested supplying a whole air defence system from the USA but then changed their mind and flew away.
Something else is curious. For many decades after the end of the war, the whole truth about the Poltava events was not told by American sources either. The documentary Unknown War, which was very popular in the West, shows Americans playing baseball in Poltava, Ambassador Harriman arriving in Poltava and presenting awards to Soviet and American pilots and ground personnel, but does not say a single word about the tragic end of this operation. In other words, everything had to have a "happy end".
The Luftwaffe conducted plenty of successful major and local operations. With reliable information about targeted German air attacks, we can say that, taking into account the military situation in the USSR, the amount of ordnance in Baku and its combat parameters, it would not have been difficult to enact a Poltava scenario for Baku. This was quite possible at that time. In 1941-42 the Germans had about 10 airfields in occupied Soviet territory (in Crimea, on the Taman peninsula, in Rostov, Novocherkassk, Salsk etc.) that were situated much closer to Baku than Warsaw to Poltava. It was much easier to cross the frontline in 1941-42 than in 1944, as it was like a sieve at that time. The airspace over the Caspian was not controlled by anyone and reconnaissance aircraft from both sides would appear there from time to time. There were no actual USSR Naval Forces in the Caspian.
Since the Germans managed to bomb any targets in Europe, they would have undoubtedly found the opportunity to drop several dozen bombs on Baku oilfields when they approached the Caspian. But at that time, as we mentioned above, they were pursuing a different goal, namely, seizing Baku oilfields intact to use them in the future to achieve their main goal - world domination. This is clearly shown by documents and quotes from numerous top-rank German generals. Hitler understood that his plans required at least 60-70 million tonnes of oil annually, otherwise a global war would be impossible; and he could get this oil only in Baku and in the countries of the Persian Gulf.
It does not take a military expert to understand that the Germans could bomb Baku oilfields on a large scale if they wanted to when they got to Baku. All this talk of protecting the Baku oilfields was another myth of Soviet propaganda! Neither Soviet military historians, nor commanders wrote the whole truth about Baku in their post-war memoirs. The following example shows this clearly.
The book Commanders and Generals of the Great Patriotic War. Edition 2 recounts the military role of Mikhail Stepanovich Gromadin, "In September 1942 a long trip to the Caucasus and Trans-Caucasus followed. The situation itself made a trip to these regions necessary. Beginning the advance on the Caucasian axis, the enemy was striving to get hold of the USSR's sources of oil in the Caucasus or, if they failed to take control of them, to destroy the oil wells in order to scupper the Red Army's fuel supplies. The troops of the Trans-Caucasus Air Defence Zone and the Air Defence Groznyy, Rostov, and Krasnodar divisional areas were meant to repulse the air attacks on the main targets in the Caucasus. The troops had the important task of defending the oil-bearing regions of Azerbaijan, first of all Baku, from air strikes. Air defence was maintained by the Baku Air Defence Army which had over 300 medium and small calibre air defence guns and, more than 370 fighters in its service. (It is now known the figures were greatly exaggerated. Besides, the weaponry was old fashioned and the pilots were green youngsters unable to put up substantial resistance to the Luftwaffe at that time. - Author). Facilities in Tbilisi, Yerevan, and Ordzhonikidze (Vladikavkaz) were defended by anti-aircraft artillery units and partly by fighter aircraft (I have not come across any mention of Nazi intentions to bomb Yerevan or allusions to Yerevan in general in the immense amount of material on World War II. - Author)
"As a result of the tour of inspection Air Defence units were reinforced and cooperation organized but most important was the impregnable air shield in the Groznyy region. The Luftwaffe failed to disable the oil-producing facilities and destroy the most significant oil-bearing facilities of the Caucasus."
Summaries of all these authors resemble party and government slogans for May Day celebrations: there is no serious information for analysis. The whole text resembles a record of intention written after the event!
People's Commissar K. Baybakov, an eyewitness to the events, writes about "the impregnable air shield in the Groznyy region," Gromadin says. "AFTER THE CRUSHING DEFEAT AT STALINGRAD (not before - Author), losing their last hope of using Caucasian oil, Hitler ordered the destruction of the oil refineries of Groznyy. ON 10 OCTOBER, 1942, THE ENEMY FIERCELY BOMBED GROZNYY (highlighted by the author). The enemy aircraft dropped hundreds of blast bombs and incendiary bombs on the city that day. Dozens of Focke-Wulf bombed those plants right before my eyes. Buildings were crumbling. All that could burn was burning. Bricks and concrete pieces flew hundreds of metres away. Civilians died beneath the bombs…"
It is of interest to mention the following in regard to the Nazis' alleged intentions to attack Yerevan. The article Burning Ashes by Vsevolod Ovchinnikov, included in collected works and material on the Manhattan Project entitled The Chronicle of the Enola Gay Bomber, says, "On 14 December, 1945 the Joint War Plans Committee of Britain and the USA adopted Guideline No 432D which specified the first 20 targets for nuclear bombing on the territory of the Soviet Union as a first strike. The USA, Great Britain, Turkey and France were the executors of this plan. Bombers from bases in Italy , India (British colony), China (American military bases) and Japan were to be used according to the plan.
"They chose the following cities as their targets: Moscow, Leningrad, Gorkiy, Kuibyshev, Sverdlovsk, Novosibirsk, Omsk, Saratov, Kazan, Baku, Tashkent, Chelyabinsk, Nizhnyy Tagil, Magnitogorsk, Perm, Tbilisi, Novokuznetsk, Groznyy, Irkutsk and Yaroslavl…"
Curiously enough, Yerevan is not on this list either. Well. They are good at arranging everything both with the tsarist power and with bombers, with Bolsheviks and Mensheviks and Social Revolutionaries, with the Nazis and the Allies, with the Stalinists and anti-Stalinists, with partocrats and democrats, with terrorists and the anti-terrorist coalition at the same time.
Moscow was surrounded with a large, thick defensive shield of anti-aircraft guns, heavy machine guns, searchlights and anti-aircraft balloons. The capital was also defended by 300 fighter planes. The surrounding forests were interspersed with many anti-aircraft batteries.
The flaw in the defence was the lack of night fighters.
We should not forget that Moscow's air defences were onsiderably reinforced by up-to-date arms and high-octane aviation fuel supplied from the USA and Britain. Besides, the prime of Stalin's falcons were here.
Although the successful defence of the Moscow skies was a positive precedent, the Luftwaffe turned their attentions to the USSR's second largest city and began to bomb Leningrad. In the first wave on 8 September 1941 6,000 incendiary bombs were dropped on Leningrad, and about 500-1,000 pound bombs were dropped in the second wave. The bombing of the city continued later. The Germans were playing, bombing Kiev, Minsk, Brest and other USSR cities.
We are unaware of similar systematic attempts to break through into the airspace of Baku, and it is exactly such large-scale actions that determine the strategic line. Sergo Beria clearly overdid it in portraying his father as a defender of the Baku oilfields, as none of the documents made public after the war mention the bombing of Baku oil facilities since the start of military action. It was not only Beria that overstated the case, many commanders wrote in their memoirs that Baku was safely protected.
Memoirs and publications on World War II include many accounts of possible sabotage of the Baku oil industry. Making secret materials public helps to clarify the issue, though it should be clear here initially: if the Germans did not intend to bomb Baku oilfields in the first years of the war and wanted to seize them "alive", what was the use of committing large-scale acts of sabotage?
In full accordance with Hitler's general strategy for the Southern advance, which is quite natural, the Abwehr operated in the oil regions of the East. It is interesting that, apart from intelligence functions, the Abwehr developed and put into practice the overwhelming majority of sabotage and large-scale provocative acts.
In the very first days of the war the Abwehr naturally turned its attention to the oil regions.
A. Volkov and S. Slavin in their book The World at War: Admiral Canaris, the Iron Admiral, (Olympus Publishing House, Moscow, Rusich, Smolensk, 1998) write, "At 3.15 am on 22 June Russia was awakened by a shower of fire. Canaris' agents came first. They were followed by the biggest army in the history of humanity. It contained 152 divisions, 3,580 tanks, 2,740 combat aircraft and 3 million people.
The vanguard of the Soviet troops was simply trampled underfoot. The Abwehr soldiers distinguished themselves too ; they seized important targets in the rear of the enemy, paved the way to the east for German units and watched closely any moves of the enemy. Subdivisions of the Brandenburg Abwehr model regiment took Przemy?l, seized the bridgehead on the other bank of the San, consolidated their position and several days later reached Lemberg-Lvov.
The Abwehr went on to conduct new, more daring actions. In Operation Erich, run by a Brandenburger and former journalist Schwarze, he and 6 Abwehr men on two hydroplanes tried to blow up the White Sea Canal. In Operation Erna 80 Estonian agents began guerrilla war in the Soviet rear in Estonia. In Operation Tamara a group of Caucasian paratrooper agents was ready to land in Georgia and organize an uprising there.
It is well known that the Abwehr and, first of all, Otto Skorzeny's men, skillfully organized acts of sabotage against strategically important military and industrial facilities.
Skorzeny began his full activity on the Soviet front during the attack on the USSR of 22 June, 1941. At that time his Brandenburg 800, divided into three companies, began its subversive activities in front of the advancing German army. They seized river crossings, blew up bridges before the retreating Soviet army, disabled communications, conducted acts of sabotage at railway stations, killed commanders of the Soviet army etc. Here are some extracts from The Chronology of Abwehr Sabotage-Reconnaissance Operations (from the operations log) and other sources. 22 June: At about midnight Brandenburg-800 saboteurs, disguised as German customs officers, mercilessly shoot a detail of Soviet frontier guards in the district of the Wehrmacht 123rd infantry division, breaking through the frontier defences. At dawn Abwehr sabotage groups strike in the region of August?w- Grodno - Golynka - Rudavka - Suwa?ki and seize 10 strategic bridges (Veisiejai - Porechye - Sopotskin - Grodno - Lunno - Mosty). A company of the Brandenburg-800 1st Battalion, reinforced by a company from the Nightingale battalion, occupy Pshemysl, force a crossing of the San and seize a bridgehead near Valava. 24 June: Brandenburg-800 saboteurs make a night landing from a very low altitude (50 m) between Lida and Pervomaysk. The Brandenburgers seize and hold for two days the railway bridge on the Lida - Molodechno line until the approach of the German tank division. In the course of fierce battles the subdivision suffers heavy losses. A reinforced company of Nightingale battalion is redeployed to Lvov. 28 June: Saboteurs from Brandenburg-800, wearing Red Army uniforms, seize and demine the bridge across the Daugava at Daugavpils which had been mined by retreating Soviet troops. The company commander, Chief-Lieutenant Knak, is killed in the course of fierce battles, yet the company still holds the bridge till the approach of the North army group vanguard on its way to Latvia. 29-30 June: In the course of a blitz-operation the Brandenburg-800 1st battalion and reinforced companies of Nightingale battalion seize Lvov and take control over strategic facilities and traffic centres. According to the "proscriptive lists" drawn up by agents of the Abwehr's Krakow department, SD Einsatzkommandos (death squads) and Nightingale battalion begin mass executions of the Jewish population of Lvov.
The seizure of bridges across the Bug and the Dvina by Skorzeny's saboteurs furthered the rapid progress of the German armies deep into Soviet territory. They took numerous prisoners. Skorzeny's men stormed the mine-laden bridges across the Bug without letting Soviet engineers blow them up. Virtually all the bridges across the Bug in a 750 km area were seized intact.
When the last train with coal arrived in Brest, its wagons had double bottoms where Skorzeny's saboteurs were hiding. They started their "work" immediately on arrival in Brest.
The actions of German saboteurs in the early days after the USSR joined the war are accurately described in I. Stadnyuk's novel The War.
On 1 September, 1941, German saboteurs blew up Badayev warehouses in Leningrad, condemning hundreds of thousands of Leningraders to starvation.
Skorzeny's men successfully carried out similar sabotage operations against Anglo-American troops too. John Toland writes, "When Skorzeny rose to leave, Hitler stopped him, 'Now I want to give you the most important task.'. He told him about the forthcoming advance in Ardennes. 'Skorzeny', he said, 'is to play the leading part: preparing saboteurs in American uniforms. They will seize bridges across strategically important water barriers, spread panic, and give false orders…'
"Only seven 'jeeps' with Skorzeny's sabotage groups managed to break through into the rear of the Allies, but their work was first-rate. The commander of one group sent a whole American regiment on a false route; his people changed signposts and cut telephone wires. Another team feigned terrible panic, infecting a column of Americans who fled in disarray. The third team cut the communication line connecting Bradley's general staff with his assistant General Hodges…
"Twenty-eight of Skorzeny's saboteurs who created a major disturbance in the rear of the enemy, became heroes of the operation.".
This short list of actions carried out by Brandenburg-800 and other sabotage groups on Soviet territory soon after the USSR joined the war shows that the saboteurs were successful and considerably facilitated the German invasion of the territory of the USSR. The success of Skorzeny's saboteurs on Soviet territory can be explained by the fact that in conditions of chaos and confusion no-one confronted them seriously. It is impossible to deny their professionalism, but as soon as a degree of order was restored in the Soviet armies after the first shock, the German saboteurs were less successful.
The Germans had strong positions in Iran, before the Allies sent their troops there, and in the early days for the Soviet Union of the war, when the Soviet army was in shock, the Abwehr had an opportunity to carry out sabotage in the Baku oilfields, but did not.
Azerbaijani security officers did neutralize some local acts of sabotage that had more of a warning nature.
However, as F. Klyuev writes in his book Soldiers of Empire, the Moscow special forces achieved sensational success when they found and arrested in Baku relatives of Hitler's ideologist Rosenberg. His female cousin, the author says, "worked in the chemical department of a military facility. Seven kilograms of potassium cyanide alone were picked up while searching her place, which would have been enough to poison the whole city." The author seems to have completely believed former KGB officer Ryasnov who told him this story. It has more than a hint of mischief-making by Beria. Moreover, this operation had nothing to do with Baku's oilfields.
Canaris' department certainly contributed to the potential occupation of the Baku oilfields by Germans' main forces, but in a different way. As early as 1935, the Abwehr started to establish strongholds in Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, China and Japan from which to conduct sabotage and reconnaissance activity against the USSR.
On 25 March, 1941, Canaris labeled top secret a plan developed by the Wehrmacht Supreme Command Foreign Department entitled Special Operations in the Middle East, which entailed the creation of a secret-service network in Turkey, Egypt, Syria and Iraq.
According to The Chronology of Abwehr Sabotage-Reconnaissance Operations (from the operations log), theAbwehr carried out the following activities in Azerbaijan and neighbouring areas before the USSR joined the war:.
31 March: The Luftwaffe supreme command reports to the Wehrmacht Supreme Command the results of many years of work by air reconnaissance squadrons in the Middle East: Great Britain's trans-Atlantic strongholds (the Suez Canal, military ports, fortresses in the North Africa desert, military and civil airports, etc.) and strategic facilities (oil pipelines, oil storage depots and oil refineries, etc.) in Turkey, Transjordan, Palestine, Iraq and Iran.
March - April: Abwehr Major Schultze-Holtus, alias Doctor Bruno Schultze, disguised as a tourist, visits the USSR. The major collects intelligence information about military and industrial facilities, strategic bridges, etc. located along the Moscow - Kharkov - Rostov-on-Don - Groznyy - Baku railway line. Schultze-Holtus goes to Moscow where he passes the collected information to Germany's military attach?.
Schultze-Holtus is sent to Tabriz. He collects intelligence information using the forged deeds of an administrative assistant of a German trading company and used informants among Armenian and Azerbaijani ?migr?s.
15 May: Abwehr officers Tilike and Schultze-Holtus, alias Zaba, carry out intensive intelligence work from Iran in border areas, using informants among the locals. The son of the chief of Tabriz police and a staff officer in an Iranian division deployed in Tabriz are successfully recruited.
June: Abwehr-2 begins Operation Amina in Iran. TheAbwehrgruppe of Lieutenant Merzig is instructed to disable an oil refinery at Abadan which supplies diesel fuel to Great Britain's Middle East Fleet and colonial troops. The operation is disrupted. The Abwehrgruppe of Lieutenants Meinhard and von Hammerstein takes off from the military airfield on the Greek island of Samos and lands troops near the Iranian town of Khoy. Agents get in touch with anti-British Kurdish tribal leaders and establish a training camp in the mountains where they train the Kurds in small-arms fire and teach them the basics of sabotage warfare.
"The German intelligence service in the Middle East countries", Lev Bezymensky writes in Riddles of the Third Reich Deciphered, "received guidelines which we already know about from the Kinzel's directive to General-Field Marshal List. The head of the German sabotage group in Iran, Schultze-Holtus, hiding under the assumed name Saba, conducted negotiations with Iranian nationalists and their leader Colonel Shamil. Hitler's agent promised to supply them with German weapons, if Shamil invaded the territory of Soviet Azerbaijan and helped the Germans advance on Baku. Shortly before that, an agent of Canaris, Colonel Lahousen, visited the German ambassador to Iran, Ettel, to investigate the possibility of sending armed bands from Iran into the Soviet Union. German intelligence in Iran worked to the utmost; however, the entry of Soviet and British troops into Iran in September 1941 was a blow. But the saboteurs did not go quiet even after that: Schultze-Holtus went underground and managed attacks on British units, establishing links with the nomadic tribes on the Afghan border."
The Chronology of Abwehr Sabotage-Reconnaissance Operations (from the operations log)
14-19 June: "Under orders Schultze-Holtus sends agents from North Iran into the region of Kirovabad/Azerbaijan to collect intelligence information on the Soviet civil and military airfields in this region. While crossing the border, the Abwehrgruppe of six persons encounters a border guard squad and returns to base. Fire was opened and all six agents receive serious gunshot wounds."
22 June: The Ausland/Abwehr/Wehrmacht Supreme Command charges Major Schultze-Holtus, the Abwehr's resident in Tabriz/Iran, with stepping up the acquisition of intelligence information on Baku's oil producing region and on communication lines in the Caucasus region and Persian Gulf.
The numerous books on the role of the Iron admiral, Canaris, do not mention the planning of sabotage in the Baku oilfields.
The above information shows that the Abwehr was not clearly pursuing sabotage of the Baku oilfields in the early days of the war - the emphasis was placed on the collection of information and the formation of capture groups and preparation of an uprising against the Soviets if the main body of troops should approach.
As the Germans approached the Caucasus, the intensity of Abwehr actions in the region was growing considerably.
Summer 1941: Under the guise of members of a German trade mission in Iran, Abwehr officers continue to gather intelligence information in accordance with the Wehrmacht's plans to break through to the Suez Canal and Persian Gulf area in autumn 1941.
17 July: Through the German embassy in Tehran/Iran von Lachousen demands that the Iranian residency step up its sabotage and reconnaissance activity in the territory of Soviet Azerbaijan.
25 August: Iranian secret services prevent an attempted military coup, masterminded by the Abwehr.
25-26 August: The USSR and Great Britain temporally bring occupying troops into Iran.
Late August: Iranian secret services liquidate the majority of the Brandenburg-800 commandos involved in Operation Amina. Government troops force Kurdish guerrillas and Lieutenant Meinhard and Lieutenant von Hammerstein's group to North Persia. The Schultze-Holtus's secret service group is arrested in Birdshand (Iran).
January - November: NKVD employees neutralize 170 agents of Abwehr-1 and Abwehr-2 operating in the territory of the Northern Caucasus/USSR.
25 July - December 1942: The Wehrmacht summer advance on the Northern Caucasus, USSR.
Thirty commandos from Brandenburg-800's 2nd battalion, in Red Army uniforms, are parachuted into the Mineralnyye Vody region in the North Caucasus. The saboteurs mine and blow up a railway bridge on the Mineralnyye Vody - Pyatigorsk line.
The Abwehr group of Lieutenant Baron von Velkersam, wearing NKGB uniforms, is thrown into the heart of the Soviet army with the purpose of seizing the oil production regions near Maykop.
Twenty-five of Chief-Lieutenant Lange's Brandenburg commandos are parachuted into the Groznyy region with the objective of seizing the oil refineries and oil pipeline. Red Army guards shoot the sabotage group before they land. Losing up to 60% of their personnel, the Brandenburgers storm their way through the Soviet-German front line.
The 8th company of the Brandenburg-800 2nd battalion seize the bridge across the river Belaya at Maykop and hinder the redeployment of Red Army subdivisions. The commander of the company, Lieutenant Proch?zka, is killed in the fight.
A team from the Brandenburg-800's 6th company, wearing Red Army uniforms, seizes a road bridge and cuts off the Maykop - Tuapse main highway at the Black Sea. During fierce fighting Red Army subdivisions almost completely defeat the Abwehr saboteurs.
Autumn: Simultaneously with the advance on the Caucasus, the Command of the Ausland/Abwehr/Wehrmacht develops a plan to invade the areas of British oil production in Iran and Iraq.
2 November: Fighters of the Brandenburg 5th company, wearing Red Army uniforms, seize the bridge across the Terek at Darg-Kokh. NKGB units liquidate the saboteurs.
End of December 1942 - 1944: Jointly with the 6th department of the Central Department of Reich Security (the SD Foreign Intelligence Service - Ausland/SD), Abwehr-1 and Abwehr-2 conduct anti-Soviet and anti-British activity in Iran. Commander Schueler (Abwehr) and SS Hauptsturm-Fuehrer Schubak (Central Department of Reich Security) coordinate subversive operations (mining of railway bridges and tunnels, sabotage on strategic highways in Bushehr and Shir, organization of insurgent movements in Lurensk, Kashgaysk and Bakhtiar districts).
1 September: Abwehr-2 and Ausland/SD prepare paratrooper agents to land in different regions of Iran to conduct sabotage operations on railways and roads and attacks on transport columns and to organize terrorist acts.
9 September: The Iranian government declares war on Germany, specifying "the landing of a great number of German paratroopers in sovereign Iran..." as one of the reasons.
The information above, taken from the original source, shows that the Abwehr had developed intensive activity in the regions within the range of the German pincer movement. This activity was diverse but in the early days was not aimed at mainly sabotage. They did not plan operations other than the major Operation Amina, carried out by the Lieutenant Merzig Abwehr group on an oil refinery at Abadan. Moreover, when the Germans were 20 km from Groznyy, the sabotage group that tried to seize the Groznyy oilfields was destroyed by the military; it is possible to say with confidence that the Abwehr meant to protect the oilfields against destruction by the retreating Soviet troops before the main forces arrived, but not the contrary, as Soviet sources assert. This is also confirmed by the following confession of N. Baybakov, "Very heavy fighting occurred in the North Caucasus in August and September 1942 when I was there. Our special division mined oil wells and derricks in the regions of Mozdok and blew them up the moment that German motorcyclists approached. Merkulov and I saw that the explosions occurred strictly by order, and at the last moment we joined our sabotage group and withdrew to the mountains. Later we received a message from our code breaking group in Sweden: the Germans had failed to use the oil reserves and wells of the North Caucasus, which they had been pinning great hopes on.
The Abwehr was doing in this region exactly what special services do to ensure the success of their main forces - wreaking havoc, blowing up bridges, cutting communications, killing commanders etc. The Abwehr's activity in the region was certainlymuch more intensive than in Scandinavia or the Baltic, for example.
THE SITUATION CHANGED AFTER THE DEFEAT AT STALINGRAD - ATTEMPTS TO SABOTAGE OIL FACILITIES IN IRAN CAME TO THE FORE. What was most important for the Allies in this region (moreover, for the Allies altogether and individually) was the fact that their special services were acting in the common interest, and their actions were much more coordinated and sincere (if thius word can actually be applied to the actions of special services) than in other regions of the world.
Honoured Professor of the Academy of Foreign Intelligence and retired Lieutenant General Vadim Kirpichenko says, "Our contacts with the special services of England and the USA were very difficult. Britain did not share with us the information that they should have shared, being our allies, as it concerned Hitler's plans for war on the Soviet front. But in Kabul, in Afghanistan and in Tehran, our cooperation was rather fruitful. In particular, on the eve of the Tehran Conference we and the Britsih caught and defeated all the sabotage groups that had already begun landing. So here we had practical cooperation by the secret services. Although the British deceived us here as well, but I think we were not sincere in everything either... Nevertheless we did have contact with the special services of the Allies on our southern borders." The honoured professor obviously does not finish, for this cooperation among the Allied secret services was first of all due to oil and PROBLEMS IN THIS REGION DID NOT SERVE THE INTERESTS OF ALL THE ALLIES.
They chose other regions to sort out their relationship, and there were plenty such regions! Learning about the meeting of leaders of the anti-Hitler coalition in Tehran, the Nazis managed to conduct some preparatory work for terrorist attacks on the leaders of the anti-Hitler coalition, despite the particular vigilance of the special services of the USSR, the USA and Britain. According to Soviet sources, Nazi terrorists had been neutralized by the Soviet special services and Western sources did not deny this.
A.T. Rybin wrote in the article Stalin at the Front, based on the recollections of V. Tukov, "28 November, 1943. The meeting of the three heads of states was being prepared in Tehran. German intelligence was preparing, too. In 1966 the famous terrorist Otto Skorzeny wrote, 'Hitler ordered to kidnap Roosevelt. Operation Elephant envisaged attacks on the three leaders. Hitler's Naval secret service deciphered a coded telegram about the beginning of the conference. In August, 1943 the Germans landed troops in northern Iran, led by a very good spy, Roman Gomota. He established two-way communication with Berlin. Detachments of SS saboteurs joined him. However, a detachment of reconnaissance guerrillas of the chekist Medvedev was working in the forests of Roven district. A prominent secret service agent in the detachment had mastered the German language perfectly; his nickname was Paul Siebert (Nicolay Kuznetsov). Over a tankard of beer he made friends with SS Sturmbannfuehrer Erlich Ortel who, having drunk too much schnapps, told Siebert about the forthcoming conference of the three in Tehran. The Soviet government, therefore, learned about Hitler's projects and Stalin's security guards were fully informed. Stalin's journey across the mountain range Sumgait was risky. The Caspian Sea was under German air control. Several hundred fighter aircraft, American, British and Russian, flew above Tehran itself. A journey to Tehran was by no means safe. Mr Churchill also arrived in Tehran."
To Rybin's mention of Sumgait, I would like to add the following: in wartime, Sumgait was a small settlement inhabited mainly by families of military servicemen. Colonel Akim Abbasov's regiment was deployed there. With the strategically important airfield in the settlement of Nasosniy, the district was of great military significance. My father, Captain Ali Sultanov, was the commander of air defences in this district.
One fine day, soldiers appeared in Sumgait, who stood out clearly from the many other military servicemen in the town. It is possible to say today that they were tall, well-groomed, healthy and made contact with hardly anyone. I remember well that I saw them through a child's eyes. THEY WERE DIFFERENT from the soldiers of Sumgait!
Neither my father nor his friend A. Abbasov knew what these soldiers were doing in Sumgait. They would spend days and nights in American jeeps in the higher ground around Sumgait, which is confirmed by Rybin.
Many years later, it emerged that their appearance in Sumgait was connected with Stalin's journey to Tehran.
At different stages of the war, German strategy towards Baku was different.
THE NAZIS' GENERAL STRATEGY OF OCCUPATION OF THE BAKU OILFIELDS CHANGED WHEN THE GERMANS WERE A LONG WAY FROM BAKU. Once they had abandoned their hopes of taking Baku, the Germans would have wanted to bomb the Baku oil industry, but after Stalingrad they were afraid of being encircled once again and fled hastily. They ran so fast that, as Leonid Brezhnev used to say, "we could not catch up to them!" General von Butler said on 1 September, 1943, "So, the Russians seized the offensive in Taman... we left the Caucasus, obviously for good." Abandoning Caucasusian oil meant giving up all the previous plans!
World domination had already been forgotten. The former deputy chief of the general history department of the US Army Military History Service, Earl F. Ziemke, writes in his book From Stalingrad to Berlin. The Defeat of the German Troops in the East, "…The situation was already different in 1943. The times of blitz breakthroughs were left in the past, and after them vast schemes passed into oblivion which just a year ago had envisaged the creation of giant pincers through the Caucasus and Egypt closing up in the Middle East." In these cases, special services decrease their reconnaissance activity and terrorist acts come to the fore. However, conducting them already becomes very complicated.
This idea can be seen clearly in the post-war memoirs of Otto Skorzeny. "At our base in Friedenthal," he writes in his memoirs, "we worked unremittingly. Certainly, we had to spend, or I would say rather waste, half of our time and effort on the endless struggle against the bureau... Nevertheless, we were constantly devising and developing vast schemes…
"We, on the other hand, were poor - awfully, incomprehensibly poor! The Naval department never gave us the green light to use a serious combat vessel, and the 200th fighter squadron, fortunately placed at our disposal, had great difficulty in obtaining every single item of equipment. For example, the aforementioned aviation subdivision, which was qualified to decide promptly the most difficult combat missions over a vast territory, had only three Junkers-290s for all its tasks.
"It was only at the end of autumn 1944 that I was informed that six such aircraft were completely ready to use and awaiting our orders at a Bavarian airfield. A few days later, another report dashed my hopes to the ground: a powerful air raid had totally destroyed all six aircraft…
"For a long time we cherished a dream about a large-scale sabotage attack on the pipeline transporting oil from Iraq.
"Valuable raw material was coming via two pipeline branches to the oil refineries of Haifa and Tripoli on the Mediterranean coast. We knew that Arab partisans tried to blow up these pipes.
"For more than a year our engineers had been working to find a solution to this problem. It was only in 1943 that the specialists developed a floating mini-bomb with a weight equal to the density of oil. This bomb was to be put in the pipeline through a small oval hole that was to be made in the pipe by a mini-explosion at a particular time, and then quickly covered with a special patch. Despite its small size, the mine had sufficient destructive capacity and, if it went off inside the pump, could totally destroy the equipment inside; therefore I was enthused with the idea. Other specialists suggested using thermal charges to cause major destruction of pipelines where they crossed the lowlands. Unfortunately, the tests appeared unconvincing. Eventually, the Luftwaffe suggested destroying considerable areas of pipeline with magnetic bombs. But none of these developments ever went further than the preliminary research stage.
"After numerous failures we had no other option than to attack a few pumping stations with commando forces. Aerial photography showed the presence of a small airfield at every station; primitive unpaved airstrips were intended for aircraft carrying out patrol flights along the oil pipeline route. There was a fort beside it, just modest defensive fortifications to shelter engineering personnel in case of an unexpected air raid. Several hundred meters further there were proper pumping plants with diesel engines. Based on the analysis of these photographs, we developed in detail the following plan of action for our forces.
"Six four-engined aircraft land at the airfield and open intensive fire on all the fortified buildings from their cannon and machine-guns on board, covering the platoon of sappers so that they could do their work quickly and without hindrance... In addition, we reckoned on the element of surprise. However, some questions remained. For example, will the airstrip be long enough for a huge four-engined plane?
"Alas! Despite all our efforts, we failed to get a hold of the necessary number of aircraft.
"Another Achilles' heel of the Allies was indisputably the Suez Canal... But the year 1944 was already ending, the superiority of Allied aircraft above the Mediterranean became so overwhelming that we reluctantly had to shelve this project as well. 'Too late' again. Another plan, laboriously developed and truly perfect, envisaged a raid in the oil-rich region of Baku. A densely populated area, a great number of operating wells, an entire oil refining industry. A thorough study of the region allowed the identification of several key centres, the elimination of which would have meant a sharp drop in production, almost its complete termination. And again we had to give up the project for the same reasons."
In other recollections, Skorzeny writes, "At that time I considered the struggle against the Soviet Union and removal of the English-American presence as our main task in the Middle East. The first group was to carry out a series of subversive acts in Iran, for the Allies transported military equipment to the USSR via Iranian railways. Alas, all of my people were soon arrested. Later, meeting so-called double agents, I understood that only volunteers can be charged with really important and dangerous tasks. You cannot expect unbending loyalty from a hireling who counts the cost of his skin. And another thing - to inspire a man with the maximum boldness, courage and confidence, he has to have the chance of returning safe and sound.
" Operation Ulm to blowing up the blast furnaces at Magnitogorsk, power-stations and communications facilities in Siberia also appeared impracticable. We spent a year and a half on 'burying' this grandiose and completely senseless idea. We also had to give up the raid on the oil-rich Baku region. And on 26 July Hitler called me to his headquarters.
"'Mussolini, my friend and comrade-in-arms, has been arrested. I cannot let down the greatest of all the Italians. He embodies the last Roman Caesar for me. We must rescue Il Duce! You will succeed in this, Skorzeny.'
"Shaking hands with the Fuehrer, I realized that I could not but justify his confidence. I did succeed..."
The kidnapping of Mussolini was not Skorzeny's only exploit of the kind. "While the Hungarian delegation was bargaining for favourable terms in Moscow," John Toland writes, "the Fuehrer sent his favourite Otto Skorzeny to Hunagry with the task of putting its leaders back on the right track. He did it with a minimum of bloodshed in an operation codenamed Mickey Mouse. Skorzeny kidnapped Horthy's son, wrapped him in a carpet and took him to the airport. Then with just one landing battalion he seized the fortress where the Hungarian dictator lived and governed battalion. The operation took half an hour and seven people were lost."
Hitler decided to kidnap Pope Pius XII in 1943 when an anti-war mood began to develop in Italy, supported by the king and General Staff of the Italian army and with the tacit support of the Pope, according to the Vatican newspaper Avvenice,. Karl Friedrich Otto Wulf was to carry out the kidnap, but as soon as he got to the Vatican, he visited the Pope and revealed Hitler's intentions.
An attempt by Skorzeny's agents to accomplish a terrorist act in the USA ended in failure as well.
"On the night of 29-30 November, 1944, the US Coast Guard crushed the German Elster intelligence group which had landed on the Atlantic coast. None of famous SS agent Otto Skorzeny's graduates were taken prisoner. However, a portable radio beacon was found in the possession of the killed. It emerged later that the beacon was to have been set on top of a Manhattan skyscraper in New York. Its signal would have attracted an enormous, 29-m A9/A10 ballistic missile (3.5 mm in diameter). This was already a true space weapon, a two-stage creation of the same von Braun with a range of 5,000 km. The first part consisted of two missiles. One was to be tested by launching it on Greenland. The second, with a powerful Amatol 60/40 explosive, was to be fired at New York. A kamikaze pilot was to guide it. Actually, he would have been the planet's first astronaut…"
However, the chief of the SS military department, Obersturmbannfuehrer Skorzeny, had enough time to recruit a detachment of military astronauts - from 100 to 500 people, according to different sources. "It seems that they were to be used to target the rockets during the final stage of flight. Von Braun, therefore, did not intend to make the pilots 100 per cent kamikaze - after targeting the rockets at, say, New York, they were to parachute over a specified place in the ocean where submarines would have been waiting for them," the News World wrote on 7 October 1996.
Skorzeny served Hitler devotedly. Immediately after the unsuccessful assassination attempt against Adolph Hitler (20 July, 1944), when Berlin was in ferment for a while, Skorzeny quickly went to the war ministry and practically took command of all the German troops. He equipped the SS battalion that guarded the ministry building and hunted down and arrested many participants in the conspiracy.
After 1943, there was more legend about Nazi hero Skorzeny than real large-scale operations. Ordinary, routine terrorist acts and abductions were the norm, with the exception of the major operation, developed at the state level, to liberate Mussolini and to arrest conspirators. His memoirs concerning these years are more of a protocol of intent than an account of real actions. If Skorzeny attempted sabotage against strategic USSR facilities, once order had been introduced, he had to deal with Stalin's Second Department, Smersh, ("Death to spies"). This organization had top intelligence agents who could not be compared to the Italian carabinieri guarding Il Duce.
Smersh was founded in 1941 as part of the interior ministry, the NKVD, and intended to combat espionage in armed forces.
The Germans lost 80% of their saboteurs fighting Smersh.
Baku's oilfields were certainly better protected after Stalingrad than Il Duce was. Much is amusing and incomprehensible about the arrest and liberation of Il Duce. When Mussolini was arrested by his own people, he quipped, "This is the most successful operation of the Italian army's General Staff!" When he was freed by Skorzeny he was not eager to be set free and Hitler commented to him about it!
That this region was safe can be seen by fact that when the Allies proposed Cairo as a venue for the conference, Stalin insisted on Tehran, as everything was under control there.
There are different theories about how Stalin went to Tehran and returned. A participant in the events, S.M. Shtemenko, cleared up the matter.
"The night passed. A new day came. The work routine did not change. Three times I made a report to Stalin in his carriage. We went through Kizlyar, Makhachkala and reached in Baku by evening. Everyone except me got into cars and left. I spent the night in the train. At 7 o'clock in the morning I was picked up and we drove to the airfield.
"Several SI-47 aircraft were standing on the airfield. Air Force Commander A.A. Novikov and long-range Air Force Commander E. Golovanov were inspecting one of them. I saw a pilot that I knew, V.G. Grachev, next to another plane. At 8 o'clock I.V. Stalin arrived at the airfield. Novikov reported that two aircrafts were ready prepared for immediate departure: one would be flown by Colonel-General Golovanov and the second by Colonel Grachev. In half an hour another two planes would take off with the group from the People's Commissariat of Foreign Affairs.
"A.A. Novikov invited the supreme commander-in-chief to Golovanov's plane. Stalin first seemed to accept the invitation, but suddenly stopped after taking a few steps.
"'Colonel-generals don't often fly planes,' he said, 'we'd be better off flying with the colonel.'
And he turned to Grachev. Molotov and Voroshilov followed him.
"'Shtemenko will also fly with us to report on the situation on the way,' Stalin said as he was already climbing the steps.
"I did not make them wait for me. A.Y. Vyshinsky, some employees from the People's Commissariat of Foreign Affairs and the guard flew in the second plane.
"Only at the airfield did I learn that we were to fly to Tehran. Three groups of nine fighters accompanied us: one on either side, one in front and one above.
"We returned to Moscow after the end of the conference via the same route: to Baku on Grachev's plane and then to Moscow by train. As usual, I collected information and reported on the situation. Discussion naturally centred on the conference.
"In a few days we returned from the warm autumn of peaceful Iran to the wartime winter of Moscow."
Another participant in the events, V. Tukov, confirmed the report: "Stalin went to Baku by train and then flew across the Sumgait range from a Baku airfield and reached Tehran. By this time aviation division commander V. Grachev flew a Douglas plane from Chkalov airfield in Moscow to the Baku airfield and from there he took Stalin across Sumgait to the Tehran airfield."
There is a story that when he was passing through Baku, at night Stalin visited the places which he remembered from his past activity in Baku, where he had racketeered, robbed in broad daylight and been imprisoned.
It is well known that in Baku he extorted money from rich oil producers, robbed a passenger steamer at the quay in broad daylight and was imprisoned together with the procurator general of the USSR Vyshinsky in Bailov prison!
The German saboteurs had another problem, repeatedly mentioned by Skorzeny in his memoirs.
"The second problem, no less important, was the return of the landing party. At first sight, there were only two options: either they would surrender after an operation and end the war in a prison camp or they would try to break through to our positions which would mean travelling many hundreds of kilometers, the latter being much riskier, if not hopeless. I always held this opinion: to inspire a man with the maximum of boldness, courage and confidence, he must be given a chance of returning safe and sound. How can I guarantee such a chance?"
They had no chance of ending the war in a prison camp if the Baku oilfields were sabotaged and the participants arrested. They would have had to deal with Smersh. But the Smersh of 1941 and the Smersh of 1944 years were very different animals!
No mercy could be expected from Smersh. And Skorzeny's boys in Berlin knew this. At the same time, to return home from Baku over several thousand kilometers in the rear of the enemy was from the realm of fiction!
The information above, taken from an original source, shows that in full accord with Hitler's general for the Southern advance, the Abwehr did operate in the oil regions of the East. If, according to their strategic plan, the Germans did not intend to bomb Baku oilfields in the first years of the war and wanted to take them "alive", what would have been the use of committing large-scale acts of sabotage?
Before and after the beginning of the war, the Abwehr worked intensively in regions within the range of the German Operation Pincers. This work was diverse in the early years of war but did not concentrate on sabotage.
In the early days of the war, the Abwehr placed the emphasis on information gathering, on creating groups to seize facilities if the main body of troops approached and on preparing an uprising against the Soviets.
The Nazis' general strategy of capturing the Baku oilfields changed when the Germans were a long way from Baku. By that time the Germans had virtually no opportun to sabotage the Baku oilfields as the cream of Soviet intelligence, Chekist and Smersh agents, were protecting them.
The Germans lost 80% of their saboteurs when they fought Smersh, which speaks volumes!
The Allies were certainly far from indifferent to the problems of the Baku oilfields too.
Both Churchill and Roosevelt were deeply concerned about the defence of the Baku oilfields, for any problem in this region touched their military interests as much as than the USSR's.
World War II analyst A. Utkin writes, "The first and very significant meeting took place in mid-August, 1942. The most important thing for Britain was to know with maximum precision whether the Germans would cross the Caucasus range or not. In fact, three places were key for the Wehrmacht. They were Maykop, Groznyy and Baku. Three oil deposits of increasing consequence. The same things were vital to Churchill as well, because the British Empire's carotid artery was the Suez Canal. Where to send equipment, aircraft, etc. depended on that. That was why Churchill came to Moscow for 12 August."
Only when the risk of the Germans reaching Baku and Asia Minor emerged in December 1942 did President Roosevelt begin to considering ways to help the front which, from his point of view, threatened to collapse and open the prospect of the Germans reaching Turkey and India via Iran. The idea emerged in the White House of sending American bomber subdivisions under overall Soviet command. The Soviet side responded that in this area of the front fighter aircraft were more useful.
Both Roosevelt and Churchill were well informed that the Baku oilfields were not properly protected against air attacks. It is was Churchill who understood it really well, because he had faced the full brunt of the Luftwaffe's powerful air raids. British air defences and pilots had given a worthy rebuff to the Luftwaffe in the skies over Britain, and he knew in detail what forces were needed to give such a rebuff to the Luftwaffe in Baku.
The memo adopted at the Washington conference by the American and British Joint Chiefs of Staff on Allied strategy said that "it is necessary to show the Russians every support that would allow them to hold Leningrad, Moscow and the oil-bearing regions of the Caucasus, and also to continue military operations".
On 3 March, 1942, the combined Anglo-American Chiefs of Staff hastily convened a special meeting to discuss the Defence of the Caucasus. Sir John Dill briefed the meeting on the presence of British forces in the Middle East, before Japan entered the war, and on the possibilities of reinforcing the troops. The committee concluded that a German attempt to capture the Caucasus was highly likely. They ordered that instructions be given to ministers and that after consultations with the British joint planning board a memorandum be prepared for the US president about the consequences of Germany capturing the Caucasus, as well as on measures to combat the increasing aggression of the Germans.
Chief Marshal of the Artillery N.N. Voronov, who as a member of the special commission took part in negotiations with a British military delegation in Moscow in 1942, writes that he was repeatedly pursued by General Wavell during the meetings. The commander of the British troops in India was worried about the worsening situation in the Caucasus. This posed a direct threat to the Allies' right flank in India as well as to the supply routes through Persia. Voronov wrote, "The tone of Wavell's questions clearly showed that our interlocutors seriously doubt our ability to retain the Caucasus."
"General Brook asked him, 'How many forces defend the Caucasus?'
"'We have no fewer forces and facilities than the Germans in this region,' came the reply. 'Though they are advancing and we are defending.'
"The English became even more insistent in offering us their assistance in the Caucasus after that... They asked persistently whether the approaches to Baku and Batumi and to the centre of the Caucasus are covered safely... Finally our partners gradually put their cards on the table. They wanted to bring their air field units and subdivisions into the Caucasus region under the guise of preparatory work at airfields. Certainly, we could not agree to that."
A civilian may ask naively, why not? Did that not serve the strategic interests of the USSR? Did that not increase the protection of the Baku oilfields? Stalin used a considerable amount of the armaments supplied by the Allies in the defence of Moscow, didn't he?
In accordance with the Velvet plan developed by the USA and Britain during the toughest period at the Soviet-German front in summer 1942, 20 American and British air squadrons were to ensure the defence of the Caucasus and Caspian. Re-deployment of Britain's 10th Army in the Caucasus was planned at that time. However, Stalin who did not trust the Allies in everything, shut the door on their proposals.
Stalin's translator V.M. Berezhkov remembers that in a conversation with Stalin Lord Beaverbrook stressed that British divisions were concentrated in Iran and that these troops could be moved to the Caucasus if necessity. Stalin declined the offer, saying resolutely, "There is no war in the Caucasus, the war is in Ukraine…"
Stalin's gross blunder could have cost the USSR dear if there had been an air attack on Baku at that time. Fortunately, first of all for the Azerbaijani people, it did not happen for known reasons! Here is how A. Vert described the official response of London to what was going on: "We are unlikely to be surprised at the immense concern shown by Churchill at the German advance on the Caucasus and at his offering to Stalin considerable British-American air forces for the defence of the Caucasus." Vert undoubtedly meant Churchill's corncern about the safety of communications and British territories in the Middle East, because he realized that Baku was just the beginning!
Winston Churchill writes in his memoirs, "Three months ago we expected a German advance to the oil deposits of the Caspian and Baku through the Caucasus. It looks as though this threat has been averted , probably for four to five months until the end of winter,, and the continuation of the successful Russian resistance in the south would certainly provide us with complete security.
"However, this threat can arise again at the end of spring. Oil shortage, already grave in Germany and in the countries conquered by it, makes the capture of Baku and Iranian oilfields vitally important for it, yielding in significance only to the necessity of successful incursion on the British Isles...
"...Molotov raised… the issue on acknowledgement of claims of Russia on Romania in the secret agreement. It also contradicted our agreement with the USA. The negotiations in the Foreign Office conducted by Eden were approaching a deadlock, despite most friendly atmosphere of the talks. Then Molotov asked what position the British government would take if the Soviet Army broke down during 1942.
"I replied that if the Soviet military power decreased considerably as a result of the German onsurge, Hitler would probably redeploy as many troops and aircraft as possible westward with the purpose of invading Great Britain. He could also strike a blow southwards at the Caucasus and Persia through Baku. This offensive would subject us to very great danger, and so we must be sure that we have enough forces to repel it. THEREFORE, OUR FATE IS TIED CLOSELY TO THE RESISTANCE OF THE SOVIET ARMY (highlighted by the auhor).
"Finally, I asked a question concerning the Caucasus. Does he intend to protect this mountain range and with what number of divisions? During the discussion of this question he sent for a model of the range and explained quite frankly and knowledgeably the safety of this barrier that, according to him, had 25 divisions available for its defence. He pointed out different mountain passes and said that they would be protected. I asked whether they were fortified and he answered, 'Yes, of course.' The Russian frontline that the enemy had yet reached was to the north of the main range. He said that they would have to hold on for two months when snow would make the mountains impassable. He declared that he was certain that they would succeed in this and he spoke in detail of the power of the Black Sea Navy concentrated in Batumi.
"...At the conference in Moscow on 15 August, Voroshilov and Shaposhnikov met Brook, Wavell and Tedder who set out in detail the reasons for abandoning Operation Sledgehammer. It made no impression, as the Russians, though quite well disposed, were acting under strict instructions. They did not try to discuss this question seriously and in detail. After a while, the chief of the Imperial General Staff asked to be informed on the situation in the Caucasus in detail, to which Voroshilov answered that he was not empowered to speak on this matter though he would request the appropriate authority. The second meeting was held in the afternoon at which the Russians repeated what Stalin had told us, i.e. that 25 divisions would be drafted to defend the Caucasus mountain positions and passes on both sides and that they thought they would succeed in retaining Batumi, Baku and the Caucasus mountain range until winter snows improved their position considerably. However, the chief of the Imperial General Staff did not calm down. For instance, Voroshilov said that all the passes were fortified but flying at a height of 150 ft along the western Caspian coast, the chief of the Imperial General Staff saw that the north line of resistance had only begun to be built together with anti-tank barrier, pillboxes etc. In a private conversation, Stalin revealed other strong reasons for his confidence to me, including the plan for a large-scale counter-offensive, but he asked me to keep it secret, and I will not enlarge upon it here. Privately, I think that there are equal chances for them to hold out but the chief of the Imperial General Staff is not sure of it.
"...We were to depart at dawn on the 16th. The day before at 7 o'clock in the evening, I went to say goodbye to Stalin. We had a useful and important conversation. In particular, I asked (once again! - Author) whether he would be able to retain the Caucasus mountain passes and stop the Germans from reaching the Caspian Sea, taking the oilfields in the region of Baku, taking the advantage and then rushing southward through Turkey or Persia. He spread the map on the table and said with calm certainty, 'We will stop them. They will not cross the mountains.' He added, 'It is rumoured that the Turks will attack us in Turkestan. If this is true I will be able to do away with them as well.' I said that there was no such danger. The Turks want to keep aside and, certainly, will not want to quarrel with England.
"I returned from Moscow with new resolution to help Russia as far as we could. It was clear that the forthcoming winter campaign would be the critical stage of the struggle in the east, the Russian Southern flank in the Don and Caucasus region would be the theatre of military operations, and the direct German objectives would be the Baku oilfields and domination in the Caspian region. I was much impressed by Stalin's confidence that he would gain victory."
It seems that Churchill was not quite sincere in his last assertion, knowing the true state of affairs.
"As soon as I returned home (after the visit to Moscow - Author), I officially submitted this project to President (Roosevelt - Author).
Former naval seaman (W. Churchill) to President Roosevelt
30 August, 1942
... a) The proposal consists in sending the British-American air forces to the Trans-Caucasus in order to help the Russian Land and Air Forces retain the line going through the Caucasus mountains and the Black Sea coast. The necessary air forces will be withdrawn from Egypt, as soon as the situation in the Western desert allows the release of these forces from the front, after which they can be amassed in the region of Baku and Batumi in two months.
...The foregoing must make up the basis of the instructions to the mission, consisting of British and American Air Force officers, that should be sent to Russia immediately for the necessary planning of intelligence activity and practical preparations jointly with the Russians. It is extremely important that this operation should begin without a hitch.
The president, who was busy with Congressional elections at that time, replied briefly the next day, "I will let you know my decision in relation to your telegram by Tuesday. I quite agree with the advisability of this measure and I will make all efforts to coordinate it with other operations. We are also working on the problem of the Persian railway, and I will notify you about that, too."
Concerning Operation Velvet, the president suggested that I should tell Stalin the following, "You remember our conversation on the dispatch of the British-American air forces to the Caucasus. I considered this question together with President, and we decided to carry out it without delay. I will inform you about the amount of air forces we can select for this purpose and about our plans of preparation of these forces in the current months."
Prime Minister to Stalin
6 September, 1942.
I am waiting for President's reply to certain proposals I made him in relation to the use of English-American air forces contingent in the actions at Your Southern flank (in the region of Baku and Batumi - Author) in winter. He agrees in principle and I expect him to give me detailed plans. After that, I will wire you again...
President Roosevelt to the former naval seaman (W. Churchill)
16 September, 1942
We are ready to undertake the maintenance of the Persian railway and the appropriate plans are being developed now. We are considering in detail the question of dispatching English-American aviation to the South Russia (the region of Baku and Batumi - Author), and I hope to be able soon to inform you on this occasion. I am fully conscious of the importance of Stalin's knowing that we are taking on earnestly...
President Roosevelt to Prime Minister (W. Churchill)
27 September, 1942
... In addition, I suppose that in 10 days we can come to the final decision in relation to the dispatch of aviation to the Trans-Caucasus on which Stalin must be notified simultaneously.
Former naval seaman to President Roosevelt
28 September, 1942
... I agree that it is very important to make a certain proposal in relation to air support in the Caucasus.
President Roosevelt to the Prime Minister
5 October, 1942
I have got behind your telegram which you are going to send Stalin on 22 September.
I am strongly convinced that we should assume fixed obligation to provide air forces for the Caucasus and that this operation must not depend on any other one.
The Prime Minister to Premier Stalin
9 October, 1942
...3. President and I desire that English-American forces should be sent to Your Southern flank and that they should operate under the strategic control of the Soviet Supreme High Command. These forces will have the following composition: Britain - 9 fighter squadrons, 5 bomber squadrons; the USA one group of heavy bombers and one transport group. We made orders about the formation and dislocation so that they should be ready for fights by the beginning of the New Year. The most part of these forces will arrive from Egypt as soon as they are released from fights that, as we suppose, will be successful for us.
Premier Stalin - to the Prime Minister
13 October, 1942
I received your message dated 9 October. Thank you.
The above is just a small fragment from the numerous communications between the Allied leaders on this subject. However, it is quite enough to understand how deep the concern of the powerful was about Baku oil. Moreover, this anxiety was genuine. Their willingness to help Stalin to protect Baku oil was quite concrete. Something else is also indicative. It is well known that the Allies took their time to open the second front and, as Stalin used to say, bargained for every tank and aircraft, while they were ready to join the defence of Baku at any time Stalin allowed and offered up-to-date armaments!
Concerning the defence of Baku, Stalin was cunning (or he probably was not aware of the real state of affairs), and Churchill swallowed (or pretended to have swallowed) this bait, for the situation was not so optimistic as Stalin described it.
Here is the assessment of the protection of the Trans-Caucasus made by the Chief of General Staff in his memoirs after the war.
"I should mention that the plan to protect the Trans-Caucasus existed in peace-time, too. In 1941, after our troops entered Iran, it was refined; HOWEVER, IT WAS UNDERRATED (highlighted by the author). By the end of 1941, when the Germans took Rostov and tried to reach the Caucasus for the first time, the plan had to be rewritten fundamentally, taking into account the need to protect the Trans-Caucasus from Turkey and also from the north. Besides, the north assumed the key significance as matters stood.
"On 23 June, the Military Council of the Trans-Caucasus front submitted to Moscow the new revised plan of defence of the Trans-Caucasus. THAT WAS WHEN ALL ITS GAPING HOLES COULD BE SEEN EVEN MORE CLEARLY (highlighted by the author). The lack of forces of course affected the plan to use them. Quite correctly consolidating the Baku line by advancing the 44th army to the Terek, the command of the front left the whole Main Caucasus range almost defenceless. That task was allotted to the small 46th army. As a result, the Marukh pass, for example, was defended only by one infantry company with a mortar platoon and a combat engineer platoon, and Klukhor was covered by two infantry companies and one combat engineer platoon.
"It was certainly unthinkable that such forces could retain the passes. Pointing out the flaws in the plan to the commander of the front, the General Staff immediately set about searching for reserves to reinforce the defence of the Trans-Caucasus. In August the 10th and 11th rifle corps and 11 separate rifle brigades were redeployed there additionally... The Baku line was much more worrying. Visiting the scene, we found that the construction of defensive barriers was proceeding very slowly there. There was an obvious lack of forces. On 16 September, the State Defence Committee adopted a special resolution on the mobilization of 90,000 local residents daily for military construction in the regions of Makhachkala, Derbent and Baku. After that all went ahead at full speed. Trenches and anti-tank ditches were being built day, stakes were set up."
The last phrases cause a nostalgic smile: the defence of Baku was reinforced by trenches, anti-tank ditches and stakes.
Elsewhere, Shtemenko remembers a conversation with Stalin about the defence of Baku.
"Then it was my turn. I unrolled the map and reported what troops were organizing the defence of the Terek, what else could be sent there, how to cover the Baku area and Georgian Military Highway. I did not hush up the weak protection of the passes across the Main Caucasus range, the danger on Novorossiysk - Tuapse axis, and the need to accelerate the construction of defensive barriers.
"Stalin heard me out without interruption. He started to ask me questions only after I had finished.
"'What other troops are there in the Trans-Caucasus?'
"'Is it possible to redeploy anything from Central Asia?'
"'The 83rd mountain division under the command of Maj-Gen Luchinsky,' I answered and immediately added, 'It is better to put it on the Tuapse line. We can also take another division.'
"'What can be taken from Iran?' the supreme commander-in-chief asked.
"'One or two divisions at most,' and I explained why.
"'Make a point of the Baku direction," Stalin said, addressing P.I. Bodin."
As this unsubstantial conversation shows, all defensive measures were of a local character and there was no strategic plan to defend Baku, unlike Moscow for instance. Baku was to be defended on the "remainder" principle, i.e. to take something somewhere for the defence of Baku.
And, typically, the American and British generals, not going into detail, but guided by strategic reasons, said the same things Shtemenko wrote his memoirs much later, after the 20th CPSU Congress , when it was possible to write half-truths about World War II.
As we can see, both Stalin and Shtemenko were displeased with the defence of Baku. Many years later, both Brezhnev and Shtemenko were to be pleased with the introduction of troops into peaceful Czechoslovakia, for Brezhnev charged Shtemenko with this.
IF STALINGRAD HAD FALLEN, CLAIMS THAT THE TRANS-CAUCASUS COULD HAVE BEEN HELD BY MEANS OF THESE FORCES AND SUCH A STRATEGY WERE NOT SERIOUS! We should not forget that in reaching the Volga the Germans would cut off Russia's main supply artery and the Central regions would have stopped receiving petroleum products, while the troops defending the Trans-Caucasus would have had sufficient fuel, but would have stopped receiving military equipment, above all, tanks. According to military historians, had Stalingrad fallen, Japan and Turkey would have entered the war on the side of Germany, which would have driven the USSR from a dilemma into a corner.
It was for a reason that Roosevelt and Churchill persistently wanted to help Stalin with the defence of Baku - they definitely knew the situation in this region and felt its nuances more strongly!
The clairvoyant Churchill was wrong in November 1942 in his assessment of Germany's actions over the Baku oil fields#
Received on 8 November, 1942. W. CHURCHILL. TO I. STALIN. "No doubt, you know that when Hitler abandons the hope of taking Baku, he will try to destroy it by air attacks. I ask you to trust my message."
Stalin responded with a note.
PERSONAL MESSAGE FROM PREMIER STALIN TO PRIME MINISTER CHURCHILL. We are very glad about your successes in Libya and the successful beginning of Operation Torch 24. I wish you complete success. Thank you for the warning regarding Baku. We are taking measures for a rebuff. 9 November,1942.
It is important here to pay attention to Churchill's words "WHEN HITLER ABANDONS HOPE OF TAKING BAKU". This is the key phrase!
It shows once again that German plans for Baku changed over time.
The very same Churchill believed, or at least informed Stalin, that the Germans were going to attack Baku from the sea. On 30 September, 1942, when the Germans were approaching Baku, Churchill wrote to Stalin in a "strictly confidential and personal message", "The Germans have already appointed an admiral to take charge of naval operations in the Caspian. They chose Makhachkala as the main naval base. About 20 vessels, including Italian submarines, Italian torpedo boats and trawlers, are to be delivered by railway from Mariupol to the Caspian, as soon as the line is open. Due to the freezing of the Azov, the submarines will submerge until the completion of construction of the railway line. Undoubtedly, you are already prepared for such an attack. It seems to me that the plan I told you about, concerning the reinforcement of your Air Forces in the Caspian and Caucasusian theatres of military operations with 20 British and American squadrons gains more significance in the current situation.".
Indeed, post-war documents revealed that in September 1942 the German command did plan naval operations on the Caspian after breaking across the Terek and capturing Groznyy. The port of Makhachkala was to play the role of main naval base.
Italian miniature submarines did conduct successful local operations in Soviet waters. K. Strelbitsky writes in his Secrets of Submarine War, "in June 1942 at Ay-Todor cape, the Italians destroyed our С-32 boat that wasa going to Sebastopol with a cargo of petrol and ammunition. And in August 1943 our S-203 was wrecked south of Tarkhankut cape."
The appearance of submarine boats in the Caspian would surely have posed a direct threat to the Baku oilfields but it was unlikely that they would be shipped to the Caspian.
Interestingly, at that time a film was shot on the Caspian, Submarine Т-9, which depicted successful submarine attacks on German facilities on shore.
Churchill's concern for the safety of the Baku oilfields took a sudden turn when the situation in the Caucasus deteriorated badly.
REAL SABOTAGE OF THE OILFIELDS OF BAKU WHICH, BY THE WAY, THE GERMANS FEARED AT THE BEGINNING OF THE WAR IF THE STRATEGIC SITUATION IN BAKU BECAME HOPELESS, WAS BEING MASTERMINDED BY STALIN AND CHURCHILL. Rostov fell at the end of July 1942. The way to the Caucasus was open for the Germans. On 9 August, 1942, Maykop was taken. When the Fascist mountain division Edelweiss hoisted the Reich's flag on Elbrus, an unprecedented order was given to begin preparations for the destruction of the Baku oilfields and oil refineries.
At the direction of the State Defence Committee, the Central and Baku Committees of the Communist Party of Azerbaijan drew up action plans on for recovery work,in the event of air raids and a plan was in existence to destroy the oilfields and refineries in the event of a forced withdrawal from the city. Studying these measures in their entirety, one sees first that Baku should always remember the immortal feat of those who fought in Stalingrad where the fate of Baku was decided, and, second, that if Baku had been surrendered, the city and its habitants would have been very lucky if the Germans had not allowed the Soviet units the chance to realize the planned actions, because if this action had been taken, Baku would have vanished from face of the Earth and most of its inhabitants would have lost their lives. Operational staff and commissions were established in every oil trust and every oilfield. The order was planned in which oil wells would have been made workable. Non-operating wells were classified in the first category and all prolific wells in the fourth. After the plan had been approved and the relevant instructions drawn up, the facilities commission thoroughly instructed every brigade leader about the volume and nature of their allotted tasks.
The methods for rendering inactive or conserving wells and surface equipment, machines and machine-tools were shown in special instructions. The need to complete all work to deactivate the wells within 48 hours and other facilities within six to 12 hours was taken into account (highlighted by the author).
The Central Commission worked out a detailed plan, including such clauses as:
the transfer of the executors and all participants in the special action to barrack accommodation;
shutting down production in all oilfields and stopping work at oil refineries and other oil facilities;
partial evacuation of oilfield equipment, plant and assets;
export or destruction of geological and technical materials, evacuation of specialists, geologists and drillers;
deactivation or destruction of facilities of inter-regional importance (large oil-storage tanks and lakes, power-stations, large facilities located near trunk railways and highways etc.);
evacuation of those executing the plan, etc.
I was told about one option to destroy oil wells elimination by well-known oilman B.M. Listengarten who worked in the Leninneft oil and gas production department throughout the war and knew from personal experience, not hearsay, all that went on in the Baku oilfields during the war years. Prolific wells were mined by putting explosive devices down drive pipes in order not only to blow up the pipe and disable the well if necessary, but also to set the bottom hole area on fire, or maybe the reservoir too. If the bottom hole of the well were set on fire, it was very likely that this is how the process would develop.
This document specifies different actions in case of evacuation, BUT IT IS CLEAR THAT ONLY ONE ACTION WOULD HAVE BEEN CARRIED OUT IN FACT - DESTROY for there would have been no time or place for evacuation in such chaos! How could they evacuate within 48 hours when sabotage groups would have already been in Baku?
And Baku was not unique - the same fate was prepared for Moscow, should it have to surrender. IT WAS A SYSTEM. "The soul freezes," Anatoliy Dokuchayev writes, "when you read the documents on special actions at Moscow's facilities, which implied their destruction. A total of 412 facilities of defensive significance or that were partially working for the defence industry were to be blown up, 707 enterprises of non-defensive People's Commissariats were to be liquidated by mechanical destruction and arson. "During 10 October explosives will be delivered to the facilities and placed under guard."
"When in October 1941 I was called to Beria's cabinet," the chekist Sudoplatov writes, "where Malenkov was, and ordered to mine the most important buildings in Moscow and at the approaches to it, such as the main railway stations, arms industry facilities, some residential buildings, some subway stations and the Dynamo stadium, explosives were to be ready in 24 hours."
The commander of Moscow Military District, General P.A. Artemyev, asked for government consent to mine bridges in the city, railway junctions and other important facilities. The consent was received and about 21.6 tonnes of explosives were placed under 12 city bridges in three days. You can imagine what would have happened if the explosives had been detonated. There would have been no need for Hitler to realize his plan to destroy Moscow! It seems that such "measures" would have been enough for the Muscovites! The wartime film Regional Committee Secretary dramatically shows the process of the evacuation of Soviet cities. Universal panic! Contradictory demands are made, papers are lying around the whole city, someone sets something on fire. The director does not let the power-station be blown up, the regional committee secretary insists. Regional committee secretary Kochet escapes and picks up a radio operator girl who apperars from nowhere. Without thinking too much, they blow up the power-station, set the city on fire and swear to take revenge on the Fascists! This is a film. The reality was even worse. This was what happened during the evacuation of the Communist Party Central Committee building in Moscow in October 1941.
An excerpt from the Report of the Deputy Director of the 1st Department of the USSR NKVD, D. Shadrin to the deputy people's commissar for internal affairs of the USSR, V. Merkulov, on the results of inspection of the Central Committee building after the evacuation of the party apparatus: "Not a single employee of the Central Committee of the Communist Party was left who could put everything in order and burn confidential correspondence.. Absolute chaos reigned in the offices of the Central Committee ... Top secret material was taken to the boiler house to be burnt but was left in piles and not burnt. Five top secret parcels were discovered in the office of Comrade Zhdanov..." And this chaos did not occur during the evacuation of a regional committee in a provincial town, but in the communist holy of holies the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union! Curiously enough, something of the kind happened many years later, according to numerous eyewitnesses, in the premises of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union when Yeltsin banned the CPSU.
On the night of 15-16 October Beria convened a meeting of party leaders and gave the order, "Evacuate everyone who is incapable of defending Moscow. Distribute foodstuffs from the shops among the citizens so that the enemy cannot get them." In other words, in order to unleash civil carnage at the shops and after the seizure of Moscow, the population would have celebrated the collapse of Soviet power!
Army General A.V. Khrulev, deputy people's commissar of defence at the time, remembers, "The events of 16 October showed some of our leaders, especially the secretary of the Moscow Committee of the CPSU A.S. Shcherbakov in a very bad light. Learning somehow that 500,000 pairs of shoes and other items were stored in our main commissary, he suggested that I order that the goods be distributed among the population. I expressed my strong dissent to Scherbakov. We are not going to surrender to the mercy of the German troops. Therefore, we must spare our resources.
"However, on 17 October, on my way to the People's Commissariat of Communications, I saw many people carrying large quantities of fur caps, gloves and other warm things. These things turned out to be distributed by an industrial cooperative working for the army, at the direction of the Party's Moscow Committee."
Khrulev apparently did not know that Shcherbakov had been carrying out Beria's orders. That proved once again the absolute chaos in the management of the evacuation.
When panic began in the city, the Moscow authorities stuck bills throughout Moscow announcing a performance by filmstar Lyubov Orlova to calm the people down. Muscovites started saying that if Orlova was in Moscow, there was no need to panic! They did not post bills advertising the address by the first secretary of the CPSU's Moscow Committee, Shcherbakov (already after the war, at a meeting for Party activists, someone shouted at Shcherbakov, who weighed more than 100 kg, "You have all grown fat!").
Here is what an NKVD document says about the reaction of the capital's population to the approach of the enemy. On 16 October, 1941, the hasty evacuation of a number of organizations and establishments (General Staff departments, military academies, People's Commissariats, embassies and others) from Moscow into the depths of the country began. The largest plants, power-stations and bridges were mined. It was decided to sell to workers and employees one pood (16 kg) of flour or grain in excess of the norm and to pay monthly wages in advance. Due to the inability of the authorities to organize and due to the lack of accurate information about what was planned, the actions undertaken caused bewilderment, dissatisfaction and panic among some of the spopulation.
There were also other examples that could not be written during the Soviet period. Well-known broadcaster Andrey Karaulov says that he knows for certain that some people's artists of the USSR ordered themselves suits and dresses for meetings with the Nazis. USSR People's Artist Maya Plisetskaya confirmed this when she said that the pearl of Russian art, the Bolshoy Theatre, was ready to give performances to the Fascists.
Here is another dreadful example about evacuation. Three hundred members of the high command were shot in Moscow before evacuation in the basement of the Lubyanka, the KGB headquarters.
The central apparatus of the USSR NKVD was one of the first to be evacuated on the night of 15-16 October, 1941. They did not forget to take with them the important prisoners of the state and on 28 October were already up and running again. "Act. Kuybishev. 1941, 28 October, we the undersigned, in accordance with the order of People's Commissar of Internal Affairs of the USSR, General Commissar of State Security Comrade L.P. Beria, dated 18 October, 1941 No 2756/B, executed the extreme penalty, i.e. death by shooting, in respect of the following 20 convicted persons: Stern Grigory Mikhaylovich, Loktionov Alexander Dmitriyevich, Smushkevich Yakov Vladimirovich, Savchenko Georgy Kosmich, Rychagov Pavel Vasilyevich, Sakrier Ivan Filimonovich, Zasosov Ivan Ivanovich, Volodin Pavel Semenovich, Proskurov Ivan Iosifovich, Sklizkov Stepan Osipovich, Arzhenukhin Feodor Konstantinovich, Kayukov Matvey Maksimovich, Sobornov Mikhail Nikolayevich, Taubin Yakov Grigoryevich, Rozov David Aronovich, Rozova-Egorova Zinaida Petrovna, Goloschekin Filipp Isayevich, Bulatov Dmitry Alexandrovich, Nesterenko Maria Petrovna, Fibikh Alexandra Ivanovna. Signed by: Senior Major of State Security Rodos, Senior Lieutenant of State Security Semenikhin."
According to American sources, Beria himself, as his subordinates recall, had sex in the special train during the evacuation.
There is no doubt that Baku would have been destroyed and burned, which Lenin had threatened as early as the beginning of the century, his followers on a truly Bolshevist scale.
No doubt Stalin's demolition specialists would have done to Baku what they had prepared for Moscow on an even greater scale!
A veteran railway worker told me that when the Germans were approaching Stalingrad, several wagons with special explosives arrived in Baku, escorted by Special Department employees with orders from the USSR's top authorities that in turn all their orders should be obeyed. They ate and slept in those wagons, and nobody was allowed to approach them. This was confirmed by numerous interviews with former Baku chekists.
Stalin gave Kaganovich the task of carrying out this "measure" in Baku. Stalin knew well the latter's ability to blow up anything on Earth; it was Kaganovich who blew up the Church of Christ the Saviour on Stalin's orders! Here is just one quote about the competence of People's Commissar of the Fuel Industry L. Kaganovich in blasting work from the memoirs of N.K. Baybakov: "Several days later, in Khadyzhenske, where the front staff was evacuated, Kaganovich, a member of Military Council of the front, decided to check how well I had destroyed the oilfields.
"'What's this? I throw a stone into the well, it is falling and falling and falling and nothing is heard when it finally reaches the bottom. Is it the elimination of the field?!'
"'Lazar Moiseyevich," I replied, "you are not an oil worker. I only choked the filters. It is enough, it is already impossible to repair such a well.'
"'And there are still derricks there, intact!'
"'Well, I cannot blow up all the derricks, after all.'"
This episode explains the level of competence of the fuel industry's main strategist and his attitude towards the destruction of the oilfields. Kaganovich, Stalin's main "demolition specialist", received a serious head injury during German bombing in the North Caucasus.
The following incident best describes Kaganovich in Oil and Policy: "The vital issue was raised of increasing the oil yield. 'When I (Kaganovich - Author) was told in Groznyy by geologists and engineers that these were the working practices, the regime, I responded that it was a bad regime and that if we had destroyed the tsarist regime, we would manage to improve their backward technological regime, too.'" He was speaking at a conference in Baku before the war.
There is no need to explain how terrible it would have been for Baku if all these "measures" of the State Defence Committee had taken under the general supervision of Kaganovich! When a fire occurs in Baku in a small oil lake in peacetime, half of the city is shrouded in suffocating smoke. At that time, because wells were operating at their maximum rate of production and because of difficulties in oil transportation, several millions of oil had accumulated in oil lakes around the city. Oil was pumped to mountain hollows to be stored there, which allowed its further usage, i.e. artificial oil deposits were created on the surface.
We can imagine what would have happened to Baku, had these oil reserves been set on fire. According to the plans, oilfields, oil-storage pits, refineries and many other facilities would have burned. That would have been comparable to Hiroshima and Nagasaki! Most terrible was that, because of the rapidly changing situation, none of the region's officials had any idea when it would be best to begin the destruction. "Since a situation was developing at the front when it was sometimes hard to determine at what moment the oilfields might be occupied," N. Baybakov recalled, "we had in some instances to assume all responsibility. In Moscow, before we left for Krasnodar, we were warned if the enemy seized the oilfields, we would be shot, and if we hurried and disabled the oilfields and then they were not occupied, our fate would be the same."
The absurdity of this decision to destroy Baku oilfields was clear to rational leaders and is clear to all today, for after the destruction of the Baku oilfields the facilities in the rest of the USSR's territory would have been destroyed without hesitation as they would have been useless.
Many years after the war, when the USSR state security services began to open up their World War II files, it emerged that Churchill had also intended to bomb Baku as the Germans approached the city, as as the oilfields could not have passed to the enemy. The Allies were, therefore, willing to help Stalin not only to protect the Baku oilfields but also to destroy them!
As we have already mentioned, Churchill would have carried this out without hesitation explaining his step as the least-bad solution!
Anatoliy Dokuchayev wrote in the Krasnaya Zvezda (Red Star) newspaper on 10 October 2001, "The second volume of the eight-volume The USSR State Security Service in the Great Patriotic War. Collection of Documents has appeared and caused a stir. Today we cannot study the history of our state in the past century without it."
The author is referring to a project carried out by the Federal Security Service, the FSS Academy and Rus publishing house (the editor-in-chief is the FSS director, Army Gen Nikolay Patrushev, and the head of the authors and compilers group is Col Vladimir Yampolskiy, professor at the Military Academy).
Here is an abstract of a record of a British Joint Chiefs of Staff meeting on preparations for bombing the Baku oilfields; the document was obtained by NKGB foreign agents on 23 June, 1941, on the second day of the USSR joining the war. This record was a revelation to me. It turns out that in connection with Germany's invasion of the USSR, the chief of the Air Force Staff of Great Britain, Charles Portal, had suggested sending a telegram to the commander of troops in India and the Middle East, enquiring when preparations to bomb the Baku oilfields would be finished. And the Committee approved this proposal!
What could that mean? Most statesmen and politicians considered the possibility of an alliance with the USSR merely as a tactical step. The opinion dominated that the Soviet Union would be incapable of resisting Fascist Germany for more than six months. That would allow the strength of both warring sides to be depleted, which was in the interests of Britain and gave it the opportunity to resolve successfully its strategic geopolitical problems over the acquisition of new markets and raw material sources. Churchill's decision on unconditional support to the Soviet Union in the war against Fascist Germany at first met with disapproval from the majority of the Cabinet of Ministers and generals. So why do we today cast all blame on Stalin who allegedly opposed the alliance with Western democratic states? It was they who did not want the rapprochement. The price of English democracy is bombs on Baku! The authors and compilers should be thanked at least for the publication of such documents. They reveal a great deal.
And here is another, no less striking fact. When the Germans were approaching Baku, Churchill sent a memo to the Joint Chiefs of Staff that, among other things, said, "It is quite clear that if the Germans exert intensive pressure, neither the 18th nor the 50th division will be able to arrive in the appointed place at the appointed time while the British divisions ... in Iran and Iraq do not have the necessary qualities which would make their dispatch to the Caucasus possible. The delay in Operation Crusader ties our hands and feet and does not allow us to shape any constructive plans. I cannot see any reason to assert that it possible to hinder the German occupation of Baku or that the Russians are likely to destroy their oilfields....
"The only thing we can do is deploy four or five heavy bomber squadrons to support the Russians in the defence of the Caucasus, if possible; AT THE WORST WE COULD BOMB THE BAKU OILFIELDS AND ATTEMPT TO BURN THE REGION (highlighted by the author)."
The facts are really terrible but nonetheless Mr Dokuchayev's emotions are inappropriate. Had the British seen that Hitler would finally defeat the USSR and seize Baku oilfields, the British would no doubt have bombed the oilfields. They would have known for certain that after seizing the Baku oilfields and then the oilfields of the Persian Gulf, HITLER WOULD HAVE BEEN INVINCIBLE! The British were the first to make these plans, as Stalin had planned the same fate for Baku when the Germans were advancing towards the city. However Mr Dokuchayev seems to be unaware of this.
As we can see, the plans of Stalin and Churcill, two very people and politicians, fully coincided if Baku were to fall, and neither cared about the dreadful fate of the population of Baku. Oil managed to make such close associates of such different politicians, at the same time dooming hundreds of thousands of people to die! It is quite possible that if Stalin had started setting Baku oilfields on fire Churchill would have helped him!
Most astonishing, German troops provided the only hope that Baku would avoid being burnt to ashes!
The main conclusions from the above are as follows. If they advanced successfully, deep into the USSR, THE GERMANS WANTED TO SEIZE BAKU "ALIVE" AND THEY DID NOT PLAN ANY BOMBING OR LARGE-SCALE SABOTAGE IN THE BAKU OILFIELDS, WHICH IS CONFIRMED BY NUMEROUS INSTANCES. THAT WOULD HAVE GONE AGAINST THEIR MAIN INTENTIONS. AFTER THE BATTLE FOR STALINGRAD THEY WERE AFRAID OF GETTING DRAWN INTO A NEW, EVEN LARGER-SCALE ENCIRCLEMENT-UP, AND FLED FROM THE CAUCASUS HASTILY AFTER WHICH THEY HAD NEITHER THE CHANCE, NOR THE FORCES TO BOMB OR SABOTAGE THE OILFIELDS OF BAKU.
Of course, if Hitler had taken the tragic step and bombed the Baku oilfields when he had the chance, thereby leaving the USSR virtually without oil, and kept Romanian oil for himself, events on the Soviet fronts would have been much graver and more unpredictable.
If Baku ended up in a hopeless situation, the destruction of the oilfields was planned by Churchill and Stalin. But we believe that neither Churchill nor Stalin would have had time to realize their plans for the Baku oilfields. If the Germans had won the battle for Stalingrad they would have landed paratroops in Baku so as not to let the Allies destroy the oilfields, which they were good at. On 20 May, 1941, the Germans conducted the most powerful air operation in the history of war, according to military historians, in the course of which they seized the strategically important island of Crete. Some 32,000 British troops and 10,000 Greek troops were defeated in this operation, though the Germans had no numerical superiority.
Successful sabotage of the Baku oilfields in 1944-45 would not have had the strategic significance of 1941. The routes to the Urals, the USSR's technical storehouse, had already been opened and the destroyed oilfields could have been repaired at the earliest possible date and pipes and other equipment supplied. Certainly, the USA would have supplied the necessary quantity of oil equipment. There would have been no problems with power for drilling wells, as electricity would have been turned off in the residential part of Baku but wells would have continued to be drilled. Even in peace time after the war, when the atomic bomb was being developed, towns in the Volga region had their power cut off on Stalin's personal order; when Western radio broadcasts were jammed, which required an immense amount of power, tens of thousands of USSR towns and villages were left without electricity. Moreover, if there had been successful acts of sabotage in Baku, the Allies would have increased fuel assistance by lend-lease, for it was not 1941 but 1944 and US oil reserves were considerable. Few people know that alongside arms, aircraft, tanks and motor-cars, the agreement between the USSR and the Allies included a separate item on oil supplies to the USSR. Oil came from the USA across the Atlantic to Murmansk via the Northern Sea Route where it was offloaded to Murmansk oil refinery terminals. German submarines had been virtually neutralized already and it was possible to resume oil supplies on this route in 1943-44, if necessary.
As for grand declarations by Soviet commanders that Baku was safely protected in the first years of the war, both on the ground and in the air - they are, to put it mildly, rather dubious.