For many years when writing about World War II and the contribution of Baku oil, Soviet officialdom, the Russian mass media, Soviet and Russian writers and Soviet military commanders have restricted themselves to versions of the phrase, "...a sufficient amount of oil came mainly from Baku". Clearly they think that this "important" phrase gives the full picture. How did Baku oil influence the general balance in the European theatre of war? How did the fuel situation develop on the crucial battlefields? And finally, the main question - how did the fuel situations affect the course of battles and the overall outcome of World War II? Serious researchers know well that in order to assess the influence of a factor or other complicated and ambiguous events, a full picture and not just fragments is required ("...a sufficient amount of oil came mainly from Baku"). Moreover, as much information as possible is needed on emergencies and their effect on the overall process oil supplies to the fronts, as this information reveals underlying processes.
By exploiting the oil-bearing regions of occupied and dependent countries, in 1941 fascist Germany was producing up to eight million tonnes of oil, natural gasoline and shale oil. In its own territory, Germany produced 1,562,000 tonnes of oil in 1941. In 1941 the Nazis seized over eight million tonnes of petroleum products in Western Europe.
Not that much for the global war that Germany had begun.
At the beginning of what the Soviets dubbed the Great Patriotic War the correlation of forces and facilities in terms of numbers was in Germany's favour; the Nazis had no problems with fuel either. On 23 November, 1940 Goering ordered, "Do not accumulate raw material reserves fearfully but use them up entirely." That was a typical economic method, subordinated to the interests of conducting a Blitzkrieg. The Nazis intended to solve once and for all the problems of raw material supply, especially oil, by successfully completing operations in the East.
In 1941 Germany used five million tonnes of fuel and only 500,000 tonnes of ammunition on all fronts, from Europe to Africa. By comparison, in 1944 it consumed 4.2 million tonnes of oil and 3.5 tonnes of ammunition which meant deadly combat on all fronts. The consumption of fuel and ammunition in 1941 reveals that in approaching the suburbs of Moscow, the Germans literally drove around Europe, firing a shot once in a while! Another comparison: in 1941 the USSR used on the fronts one million tonnes of fuel and 1.6 tonnes of ammunition. It is clear that this quantity of fuel would have been enough only to move! In 1941 24 million tonnes of oil was produced in Azerbaijan and 31 million tonnes in the USSR.
One can imagine how much fuel was destroyed and seized by the fascists in the first days of the Soviet Union joining the war! Even with that level of success for the Germans, a Blitzkrieg was still a highly dubious military action.
In this respect it is relevant to quote V. Suvorov, "By what means did Hitler intend to carry out the Blitzkrieg against the Soviet Union? Blitzkrieg is a tank war. Hitler had 3,410 outdated tanks and we had 22.4 million sq. km of territory. One German tank per 6,568 sq. km of our territory. Not so much. Seventeen of the 22 million sq. km are unfit for tank warfare, while tanks can operate in other areas only in summer, otherwise they get stuck in heavy mud and snow. And Hitler has a six week fuel reserve. What idiot could imagine a Blitzkrieg in such circumstances?"
The biggest problem for the Germans in these circumstances was oil!
From the stenograph of a meeting in Wehrmacht headquarters: "Though distances are great in Russia, they are no longer than those the German Armed Forces have already successfully covered with. The aim of the operation should be the defeat of the Russian armed forces, the capture of important economic centres and destruction of the remaining industrial regions, first of all Yekaterinburg; it is also necessary to seize the Baku region. KTB Wehrmacht Supreme Command, Bd. 1, S. 253-258"
But as early as three or four months after unleashing the war against the USSR, the aggressor felt the lack of fuel, a year later breakdowns began in the ammunition supply and in 1943 virtually the entire combat army was on emergency rations, especially of fuel.
Nazi Germany was crushed by the Soviet and first of all Russian people, at the expense of great losses - this is indisputable. But it would be unfair not to mention other factors that influenced the ultimate outcome of the war.
In 1941-45 Hitler's Germany and its allies suffered severe shortages of other military production as well. On 22 July, 1941 the following record appeared in the Wehrmacht Supreme Command log: "Due to the development of operations in the East fuel consumption (4,700 cubic meters per day at present) exceeds the monthly rate set for the East; the reserve prepared for Operation Citadel will be depleted in the next few days."
Albert Speer writes in his Memoirs, "However, from autumn 1941 we suffered fuel shortages. Even for our programmes of of paramount importance only one-third of the required amount was allocated in September 1941, and from January 1942 even one-sixth of the required amount, which is another example of Hitler overreaching himself in relation to the Russian campaign."
I. Fest says in his book, "In August, after breaking through 'Stalin's line', German troops still managed to conduct large-scale encirclement operations in all parts of the front, but at the same time it became obvious that the optimistic expectations of the previous month had been illusive, for no matter how great the number of prisoners might be, the mass of reserves the enemy was bringing in again and again was even greater... In addition, the German military machine turned out to have reached its saturation point for the first time... and fuel reserves shrank to the level of monthly demand..."
Col Guderian writes in his book Tanks Forward:
The tank regiment, the first winter in Russia.
Extract from the log.
23.10.1941. The order is received to attack only with tracked vehicles. Tanks are used partially for fuel transportation.
26.10.1941. Heavy rain again, making some parts of even the main road impassable. The regiment commander goes in the commander's tank (the only way possible) to the rear to gain urgent fuel supplies.
11.11.1941. Heavy frost. For several days, tank fuel has been delivered by Junkers squadrons, as even tanks stick in the mud.
29.5.1942 (Reich Chancery, Berlin).
We saw on the screen numerous frozen German tanks, oil-cars, trucks, guns, everything was abandoned due to the lack of fuel and clothing fit for such a frost. And all because the Land Forces Command had not delivered all this to the front on time.
In April 1922, then unknown commander of the 3rd company of the 10th Jaeger battalion, Heinz Guderian, was transferred to the Reichswehr motorized troops department and in 1934 was appointed chief of the German armoured troops staff. It was Guderian who proposed making tanks the main strike force and this was a real revolution in military science. Germany began forming tank divisions. Literally several years later, they were to conquer the whole of Europe in several months, just like during manoeuvres. Fuel shortages played a considerable part in the fact that the Germans were stopped only at Moscow in winter 1941.
On 6 June, 1942 the Wehrmacht Supreme Command estimated the current situation as follows, "Oil and lubricants supply will be one of our weak points this year. The lack of fuel and lubrication materials of all kinds is so great that it will complicate the freedom of action of all three branches of the armed forces and it will have a similar adverse affect on military industry... A small improvement is to expected by the end of the year when new synthetic fuel plants are to be put into operation, but this will not bring a major turnaround in the supplies of fuel and lubricants."
(The Germans' fuel problems at Stalingrad are described in Chapter Five.)
In 1942 the German armed forces consumed 4,410,000 tonnes of liquid fuel of all kinds and oil and petroleum products consumption should have reached 25 million tonnes. To say that it had no influence on the war, as Soviet historians do, is incorrect.
The Germans had serious fuel problems at Kursk as well. On the first day of the battle for Kursk, the German advance was successful. Having mined approaches to villages and cross-roads and organized defences, the Russians managed to blunt the German attack with fire from artillery, anti-tank guns and grenade launchers. But where the terrain was open and a plain lay behind the forest, German tanks penetrated the Russian defences and forced the 47th Army 10 or 20 km back. The plan for Operation Citadel operation involved providing all kinds of material supplies for the Centre and South groups by the beginning of military action. The demand for supplies for the conduct of the operation for the 9th Army was as follows: Ammunition - 30,500 tonnes, fuel - 60,500 cubic meters, foodstuffs - 18 tonnes. Taking into consideration the reserves already available, it was necessary to deliver 13,000 tonnes of ammunition and 19,800 cubic metres of fuel. This shows that by the beginning of the offensive the German troops had received 30-35% less than needed.
"On the eve of the Yalta Conference," Sudoplatov writes in his memoirs, "the longest meeting in the whole war of heads of the People's Commissariats of Defence, the Navy and NKVD-NKGB was held, first under the chairmanship of Golikov, then of Beria. It took two days to consider the main issue, an assessment of the practical capacity of the German troops to further resist the Allies. Our forecasts that the war in Europe would not last more than three months due to the fuel and ammunition shortage in the German army proved to be right."
To be honest, it would have been enough to use basic high school maths, rather than to convene summit meetings and discuss strategic problems there.
The German troops felt the fuel shortage even more acutely in 1944. In early 1944, at the first and second Ukrainian fronts, a German fascist group of 10 divisions, one brigade and several artillery, tank and engineer units and subdivisions was cut off from the main body of the enemy by strikes delivered from two sides at the foot of the Korsun-Shevchenko salient.
Finding themselves caught in a "mousetrap", the enemy divisions started to suffer fuel and food problems from the very first day. The despair that engulfed Guderian is clearly visible in his letters to his wife in Germany, "Arctic cold, the lack of shelter and warm clothes, heavy losses of manpower and equipment, all this makes the job of a commander a disaster and the longer it lasts, the stronger is the pressure of the responsibility I have to bear..."
In a letter to Hitler, Albert Speer wrote, "Land forces subdivisions in their turn have almost completely lost mobility due to the fuel shortage. In late October I informed Hitler about my night trip to one of the units of the 10th army deployed south of the Po. I saw there a column of 150 trucks each of which was drawn by four bulls; tanks and haulers were also towing many trucks...
"In early December I was especially worried by the fact that 'due to the fuel shortage, the level of training of tank drivers fell sharply'. Col-Gen Jodl naturally knew of our plight even more than I did. To obtain the 175,000 tonnes of fuel we needed for the counterattack in Ardennes (it had taken two days to produce this amount before), on 10 November 1944 he ordered that supplies should be stopped to those army groups that were not to participate in the planned operation. Meanwhile, incessant raids on oil refineries had affected the condition of all our chemical facilities. I had to inform Hitler that 'we have to mix powder with salt or shells are not filled to the top'. Indeed, the powder and explosives we produced in October 1944 and the subsequent months contained 20% of rock salt which considerably decreased their efficiency.
"The successful conduct of the operation was hindered by the same fuel shortage. Tank units went into attack with insufficient fuel reserves. Hitler displayed surprising thoughlessness. He supposed that the fuel seized in American fuel storages would be enough with interest for our tanks. When the threat of suspending the advance emerged, I immediately got in touch with the directors of the benzol producing plants located in the nearby Ruhr and ordered that a tank train should be formed and sent to the front right away. Thereby I helped Model get out of an extremely difficult situation."
I. Fest describes the Ardennes battle in his book Adolph Hitler, "...And yet in several days it was clear that this advance was destined to fail even without the fierce resistance of the Americans, simply as a consequence of the exhaustion of forces and reserves. One tank subdivision was less than two kilometres to the huge American food stores where almost 15 million tonnes of petrol were stored, another was waiting for fuel and reinforcements in vain at the heights near Dinan to go down the slopes to the Maas, just several kilometres away."
Goebbels writes in the book The Last Records (28 February - 10 April 1945), "The General Staff now realizes the necessity of our strikes in Hungary, though have so far been opposing the idea of our activity here. But now they have realized because of the petrol supply problem that we must in any circumstances hold on in Hungary if we do not want to abandon the idea of a motorized war. The Fuehrer is right to say that Stalin has a number of outstanding military commanders but no brilliant strategists, for if he had such a man, the Soviet strike would fall not on Baranov bridgehead, but on Hungary. If we lost Hungarian and Austrian oil, we would be altogether incapable of the counteroffensive that we plan to conduct on the east.
"By the end of the month our aircraft had only 30,000 tonnes of fuel. Some of it is saved as a last emergency reserve. A considerable amount of petrol is expected to come in the autumn. Petrol will not be used from now until that time, except for flights for troop maintenance. In accordance with the availability of fuel, all but five types of aircraft will be withdrawn from our armament programme. The five are: 1) the ME-262 jet fighter equipped with four guns (30 mm caliber); 2) XE-162 (not tested yet); 3) TA-152 single-seated fighter; 4) Arado-234 and 5) Ju-88 night fighter. Losses of our fighters in the air in recent weeks are about 60%. Aircraft production in the next few months is to make up (monthly): 1) 1,000 ME-262 with a reserve of 500 aircraft and 800 available at the front; 2) 500 XE-162 with a reserve of 1,000 aircraft; 3) 500 TA-1512; 4) 80-100 Arado-234 and 5) 50 Ju-88. By the decision of the Fuehrer, the emphasis will be laid on the production of the ME-262 that is capable of staying 70 minutes in the air and consuming something like diesel fuel of which we have 44,000 tonnes and can replenish. Reichsminister Speer will do his best to ensure the top-priority production of the ME-262. Preparation for its serial production have advanced so far that in two or three months those aircraft will be able to begin to attack enemy aircraft.
"By order of the Fuehrer, Kammler has already taken control over the delivery of new fighters from the plants to the airfields and of new airfield equipment. In this regard, he received the broadest authority from the Fuehrer. Though grumbling, Goering declared his consent. However, he has no other choice. Airfields, motor-cars and oil are now the chief issues. The success achieved by our new fighters lately is highly essential and comforting. When these fighters appear in the sky in great numbers, we will probably relieve him [Kammler] of his duties. But now, as the Fuehrer says straightforwardly, it is already two seconds to 12. Perhaps, we will still be able to turn the course of events to our favour in the last remaining second of horror. It is here that the real decision lies. The reason for our air defeat is to be found in the air terror of the enemy and therefore we should begin our new military actions with the Air Force."
Fascism's chief ideologist is wrong. Stalin himself was a strategist in his own way and did not need any others. He had a plan to seize Europe and would not have been distracted by 400-500,000 tonnes of annual oil production, as he realized that this was just a drop in the ocean of the great war.
The liquid fuel crisis became hopeless in Germany in 1945. After the loss of Romanian oil the situation deteriorated even more. American and British air raids on important liquid fuel producing plants resulted in underproduction of 2.8 million tonnes from May 1944 to February 1945... The delivery of fuel from the western part of Hungary and Austria was completely stopped by mid-April 1945 due to the introduction of Soviet troops there.
The petrol situation, especially the type necessary for aircraft engines, made the Nazis rush to find a solution. By March they managed to bring into operation facilities producing only 52,000 tonnes of liquid fuel monthly. Aviation fuel reserves were 11,000 tonnes in April (monthly demand was 195,000 tonnes) and, as a consequence, the fascist command had to reduce sharply the number of flights.
The energy crisis had serious consequences for transport, military production and all important branches of industry.
Wolfgang Bleier and others stress in their book Germany in World War II 1939-45, "The fuel shortage was quite tangible, reducing to a minimum at the end of 1944 the movement of cars, the tactical use of tanks and aircraft, which placed an even greater limitation on the operational capability of Hitler's Wehrmacht. The reasons for the fuel shortage were mass air raids from May 1944 on oil refineries and the decrease in the import of petroleum products from south-east Europe to 10-15% of the 1943 level. The substantial decrease in the production of aviation fuel from 180,000 tonnes in March 1944 to almost 10,000 tonnes in September threatened to paralyse aircraft completely. In a period when industry supplied far more aircraft than usual this meant that some of them could not be used at all."
I. Fest points out in his book, "...the Allies shifted to the systematic bombing of fuel producing plants which they had planned once but then abandoned. As a result, underproduction could be observed of, for instance, aviation fuel from 156,000 tonnes in May 1944 to 52,000 tonnes in June, 10,000 tonnes in September and finally to just 1,000 tonnes in February 1945. In this way all possibilities to continue the war began to be exhausted. From autumn 1944 explosives had been mixed with 20% salt and aircraft standing in airfields had empty tanks, and in one of his memos at the time Speer concludes that 'given the time for storage and processing in the refining industry, chrome-dependent production, i.e. all weapons production, will finish by 1 January, 1946." However, it did not get to 1946!
The authors of the collected work World War 1939-45 write, "The acute degradation of the combat capability of German aircraft was due not so much to the lack of aircraft or fuel as, according to some historians, to a lack of air crew as they had been killed mainly at the Soviet-German front. In three years of war against the Soviet Union, the number of crew in the German fascist air forces fell 45,000 to 21,000, i.e. more than halved. From June 1941 to December 1943, German air forces lost over 50,000 flying personnel." That is true, but something else is also true. They had no air training due to the fuel shortage and were thrown into the fray immediately. They were not like the German pilots at the beginning of the war.
Just one fact. Albert Speer writes, "The fuel shortage caused far more concern. In late September I wrote to Hitler, 'The fighter group deployed near Krefeld, which consists of more than 37 battle-ready aircraft, despite the favourable weather and after two days of enforced idleness and having obtained 20 tonnes of aviation fuel, made a very short assault flight to the Aachen region in which only 20 fighters took part. When my aircraft landed at the airfield of the Armed Forces air training centre in Werleuchen several days later, the head of the airfield explained that no more than one hour a week for one trainee was dedicated to training flights now, for his unit received only a small part of the required amount of fuel."
Speer wrote in his memoirs later that during his night trip to the remains of the German 10th Army that was continuing to fight in Italy, he observed a depressing scene that clearly illustrated why only weeks remained to the complete fall of the Reich. Speer saw a slowly moving mechanized column of the German army. One hundred and fifty trucks were each being hauled by four bulls. That was the only way for the vehicles to move, as there was no fuel. Bulls are known as good for breeding, but not for pulling vehicles during war.
On the basis of indisputable statistics, N.A. Zenkovich writes, "In 1989 International Life magazine published information about the total figures for the whole war: out of 45,000 Soviet aircraft lost in air battles, 24,000 were shot by 300 German pilots. That means on average 80 aircraft were shot down by one German flying ace, while in our country the title of Hero of the Soviet Union was awarded even for 20 aircraft shot down. Even such celebrated flying aces as I.N. Kozhedub and A.I. Pokryshkin, who were honoured with this title three times, shot down 62 and 59 enemy aircraft respectively. The difference is incommensurable!
"I fear whipping up a storm of indignation from Soviet aviation veterans, but one cannot argue with the facts. And this is established fact: our aircraft neither prevented nor considerably slowed down any operational troop movement of the Germans throughout the entire war!"
We can add to the figures given by Zenkovich that only one German pilot, Hartman, shot down 352 Soviet aircraft, that is more than 15 Heroes of the Soviet Union and more than the famous five Soviet flying aces taken together: Hartman shot down 352 aircraft, Barkhorn 301, Nowotny 258 and the best Soviet flying aces Kozhedub 62 aircraft, Pokryshkin 59 and Gulayev 57.
The Russians dubbed Erich Hartman the Black Devil.
In May 1945 Erich Hartman together with the remaining part of his group surrendered to an American tank subdivision which in their turn sent him to the Soviet command. Having served 10 years in Russian prisons and camps, Hartman returned home.
Honouring the memory of the glorious Soviet pilots who fought as they were taught (let us remember the sincere dying words of the pilot general shot down by the Germans from K. Simonov's novel The Living and the Dead), we did some minor arithmetic. If the German flying aces had had a full supply of aviation fuel, even if Soviet aviation plans had worked at full capacity, German pilots would have reigned supreme in the skies, systematically destroying new Soviet aircraft.
The situation on the ground was no better: one German soldier killed 14 Soviet ones, on average.
We can give numerous similar examples of fuel shortages in the Wehrmacht. This failure is mentioned by almost all German military commanders in their memoirs.
Fascist Germany had 93 plants in European countries with a total refining capacity of 26,582,000 tonnes but did not have the main ingredient, oil.
The fuel situation was made worse in Germany, which was to have have been expected, by intensive Allied air raids on plants producing synthetic fuel.
The bulletin published by the USA Economic War Department on 9 December, 1942 said that it was much more reasonable to "inflict heavy damage on really vital industrial targets than to try to expose to intense bombing as many plants as possible. The appropriate plan has already been drawn up and remains only to be implemented with stern resolve."
The Americans were steadily realizing this strategy, intensely bombing synthetic fuel plants.
On the orders of Carl Spaatz, commander of the US Strategic Air Forces in Europe, in spring 1944 the 8th Air Force continued raids on German oil refineries.
After the Normandy landings, American bombers targeted mainly oil refineries and aircraft factories.
And Britain's Royal Air Force General Staff accepted the American point of view of the need to give priority to strikes on oil refineries. As early as April the 15th Air Force struck a blow against the Ploiesti oilfields in Romania from Italy. On 12 May, the 18th Air Force began raids on German oil refineries from England. The Germans threw 400 fighters against 935 American bombers, but, American escort fighters managed to inflict considerable damage on the enemy (65 German aircraft were destroyed, while the Americans lost 46 bombers).
In June, taking into consideration the success of bomber command in night targeted bombing, the Royal Air Force General Staff ordered raids on oil refineries. The raid on Gelsenkirchen on the night of 8-9 July was successful.
American aircraft continued their strikes. On 16 June, more than 1,000 bombers accompanied by almost 800 fighters took part in a raid and on 20 June, the number went up to 1,361 bombers. At the same time, another group of American aircraft bombed oil refineries and then landed in Russian territory. American losses were increasing, but on the other hand more and more oil refineries were breaking down which had an adverse effect on fuel supplies to the German Air Force. By September, they had received only 10,000 tonnes of fuel, while the minimum monthly demand was for 160,000 tonnes. By July, all Germany's large oil refineries had been ruined or gravely damaged, and many new aircraft and tanks produced thanks to Speer's efforts were virtually useless because of the fuel shortage.
In the period from October 1944 to May 1945, as military experts point out, bombers played the main role for the USSR's Allies. In the last three months of 1944 British bombers dropped more bombs than in the whole of 1943. Germany's resistance weakened under the influence of these raids and its economy suffered ever growing hardship with a desperate fuel situation.
The picture of these bombing raids would be incomplete without witnesses from the German side.
Albert Speer writes in his memoirs, "We got a first foretaste of the serious ordeals to come in 1943 as early as the night of 31 May, 1942 when the English made a raid on Cologne. A total of 1,046 aircraft took part in it, which is actually their entire air fleet...
On 8 May, I returned to Berlin to get down to work again. Four days later an event occurred that made me remember this date forever. That was the day when the enemy won the ultimate victory in the sphere of military production. Before that we had managed to meet the requirements of the Wehrmacht by and large, despite heavy losses in arms. After the raid of 935 bombers from the 8th American Air Force on synthetic fuel producing plants in the central and eastern parts of Germany, a completely new period of air warfare began; it laid the foundations of the destruction of the German military industry...
"On 19 May, I flew hastily to Obersalzberg and informed Hitler in the presence of Keitel about the impending disaster, 'The enemy has struck one of our most vulnerable spots. And if he continues in the same way we will soon have to stop fuel production almost completely...'
"Hitler convened a meeting which was to be attended by Goering, Keitel and Milch and also by manufacturers Krauch, Pleiger, Buetefisch and E.R. Fischer and the head of the Resources Planning and Accounting Department, Koerl... Four days later, we were standing in the big hall waiting for Hitler to become free and invite us into his apartments... Summing up, Hitler stated expressly, 'In my opinion, the breakdown of the plants producing synthetic fuel, artificial rubber and nitrogen can force us to stop fighting...'"
It turns out that because of the fuel shortage Hitler wanted to use suicide pilots. Goebbels wrote in his diary, "By the way, as for the war, the so-called suicide pilots are to be used against the enemy bombers. The Fuehrer agreed to use about 300 suicide pilots with a 95% guarantee of self-sacrifice against the groups of enemy bombers so that one fighter shoots down one enemy bomber in any case. This plan was suggested as far back as several months ago but Goering did not support it, unfortunately.
"At the same time aircraft of the 15th American Air Force bombed oil refineries near Ploiesti in Romania's oil region.
"In my second memo I literally implored Hitler 'to send to the front just a small part of all the fighters produced by the aviation industry' and begged him to understand that 'it is much more reasonable to provide advance air cover for a liquid fuel producing plant to be sure at least that its production will not stop in August and September, than to leave everything as it is and know for certain that in September or October the air forces will have to suspend military operations because of the fuel shortage...'"
We can see that both sides had an almost identical assessment of the actions of Allied aircraft with discrepancy in just the minutest details.
According to a number of modern military experts, when when the Nazis were totally devoid of fuel, the Allies decided to take their main strategic action - to open the Second Front; the basic factor for them was not Stalin's persistent requests but other factors including the fuel situation. This was one of the reasons why the American and British forces had hesitated to land before. Only after it became clear that the Romanian valve on Hitler's oil pipeline had been completely closed and synthetic fuel plants considerably damaged by Allied bombing, was the order given to land. Of course, it was not the only reason for the decision on the time and place of the landing of Allied troops, but it is undeniable that the pragmatic Americans took this factor into account as well.
Here is an example. In Normandy German Army Commander Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt had to give an order, "Transport the equipment by hand or use horses, save fuel for combat operations.".
Meanwhile, the Allies took thorough care of fuel supplies for their troops before the landing.
Winston Churchill wrote of the Allied landings in Normandy, "The absence of large harbours along this part of the coast made Mountbatten's staff suggest the construction of sectional harbours... I should also mentions the Pluto underwater oil pipelines through which oil was pumped from the Isle of Wight to Normandy and later from Dungeness to Calais. We are much obliged to Mountbatten's staff for this and many other ideas."
Soviet military historians argue that by seizing a considerable part of Europe, Germany considerably increased its military power but they keep silent about something else. The occupation of Poland, Denmark, Norway, Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg, France, Yugoslavia, Greece, and the annexation of Austria and Czechoslovakia by the Nazis did not solve their fuel problems. On the contrary, fuel had to be taken from their old reserves for activities in those countries.
Some of the Reich's fuel requirements were met by supplies of crude oil and finished products from American and British companies through shell firms in neutral countries. That was immoral trading with the enemy, described in detail in the book by Charles Higham, Trading with the Enemy: The Nazi American Money Plot 1933-1949.. When during World War II the US Congress investigated the role of firms that had large subsidiaries in Germany (General Motors, Ford, International Telegraph and Telephone, Standard Oil etc.), amazing things were found out: the Wehrmacht could not conduct the war without trucks produced by the Opel and Ford plants belonging to American concerns, without motor engines and special equipment from the Lorenz plants, let alone oil supplies.
It is well known that Wehrmacht received 30% of tyres produced by Ford plants and that in autumn 1942 alone Ford's subsidiary in Switzerland repaired 2,000 German trucks.
As Lev Bezymensky writes, "While American oil was flowing to Germany, the Texas oil magnate William R. Davis became the official supplier of the German Navy."
When after the war American historians and economists counted the proportion of American business in supplying Hitler's aggression, resulting figures were stunning:
American plants in Germany (Opel and Ford) produced 90% of trucks with a carrying capacity of up to three tonnes for the Wehrmacht;
the same plants produced 70% of heavy trucks for the Wehrmacht;
50% of engines for Ju-88 aircrafts were produced by Opel;
the same firm produced engines for the first ME-262 jet aircraft;
Opel's board of directors, appointed by the management of General Motors, operated all the time even when the USA declared war on Germany. Even after that, technical and organizational contacts between Opel and General Motors continued through Switzerland.
"Sometimes it was even reduced to absurdity," Vladimir Vasilyev and Vladimir Roshchupkin write. "For example, the American firm Aluminum Companies of America for a long time supplied its output to the insatiable aviation industry of Reichsmarschal Goering. And when the USA declared war on the Reich in December 1941, it turned out that very little of their own aluminum was left for the US aviation industry which began the mass production of combat aircraft."
The USA shared with Germany the most significant dual use technological developments. For example, according to V. Vasilyev, and V. Roshchupkin, the Ethyl Gasoline Corporation jointly with General Motors, with the assent of the US government, gave the Germans the secret of lead tetraethyl production, an important additive to boost octane in aviation fuel for modern engines. The Americans gave the German military industry the techniques to produce synthetic fuel, rubber, lubricants and plastics which the Fuehrer's military machine could not operate without.
Among the companies supplying the enemy with fuel were Standard Oil of New Jersey and Standard Oil of California.
According to the US Constitution, assistance to the enemy in wartime is considered to be treason. On 22 September, 1947 United States Judge Charles Clark declared, "Standard Oil can be regarded as the enemy of the nation due to its contacts with I.G. Farben after the United States and Germany had gone to war."
In the early 1940s 53 American firms were directly associated with I.G. Farben.
On 15 July, 1941 US military intelligence reported that the concern had organized oil transportation from Aruba (in the Lesser Antilles in the West Indies) to the Canary Islands. Among other things, the report said, "About 20% of these supplies is intended for fascist Germany, moreover, the crew of six of the vessels carrying out the transportation on this route are mainly Nazis. Our agent managed to find out that German submarines continuously cruising in the area of the Canary Islands go directly there for refueling. The same agent paid attention to the following. No tankers of the Standard Oil concern have been torpedoed by the German Navy, while the vessels of other American companies sailing on other routes have met such a fate."
On 22 July, 1941 a council of representatives of the US Treasury Department and Deputy Secretary of State Acheson was held on the issue of oil supplies to Tangier by American companies, including Standard Oil. During the war the open port of Tangier served as a transfer point for various goods intended for Nazi Germany. No positive decisions were made at the meeting.
One of Standard Oil of New Jersey's most serious competitors in the oil trade with Germany was a company named after its owner Rhodes Davis, the Davis Oil Company. Davis maintained close relations with Goering and Himmler. His old business partner was the chairman of the board of I.G. Farbenindustrie Hermann Schmitz.
Daniel Yergin writes that as early as June 1932 high-ranking employees of the largest chemical industry syndicate I.G. Farben had meetings with Hitler in a hotel in Munich. The chancellor-to-be was late for the meeting, for he had just returned from election campaigning. At first he intended to give the visitors from I.G. Farben just half an hour but then the conversation absorbed him and lasted for two and a half hours. Hitler asked questions, entered into the details of a synthetic motor fuel production project and at the end of the conversation indicated that such a project suited his strategic plans best. "Today," Hitler said, "the economy of Germany cannot be imagined without oil. Motor fuel produced by Germany must become a reality, even if that requires sacrifice."
There are plenty of such immoral instances Charles Higham's book Trading with the Enemy and elsewhere, and it is useless to list all of them; the main thing is that those instances were not exceptions but part of an elaborate system.
When a congressional representative asked Roosevelt why the USA provided weapons to Japan whom they were at war with, the president answered that Japan could be the enemy not only of the United States but also of another state. The answer has implications.
Some Jewish organizations are known to accuse Swiss banks that during the war Nazis hid currency and jewellery stolen from well-to-do Jews who ended their lives in concentration camps. This is not surprising. In the world's darkest hour the Nazis used Switzerland as an intermediate oil route to France which they fully occupied from mid-November 1942. In addition, the theory that Swiss banks still keep funds obtained from that blood oil transfer is valid. The principle that "money does not smell, even if oil does" (author unknown) reigned then and still reigns today.
In the late 1990s discussions began on the need to return gold stolen in occupied countries to its former owners and to pay for the labour of millions of citizens of other states, primarily Eastern Europeans who had been taken to Germany during the war as forced labour. This concerned some of the largest German firms and banks including the Allianz insurance company, Deutsche Bank, Dresdner Bank, the former IG Farben concern, Degussa, Daimler-Benz and others.
The USA also traded with Germany's ally, Japan.
Semen Ratkin writes, "After the beginning of the war in Europe, American corporations continued supplying the Land of the Rising Sun with strategic reserves. As they joked in Wall Street, the Americans were sending their good feelings to the Chinese and fuel and scrap metal to Japan."
Strategic goods were supplied to Japan by the 10 largest American metallurgical companies (among them such influential companies in the US political world as United States Steel), the eight largest oil companies (including Standard Oil, Shell Oil and the Texas Corporation), 15 mechanical engineering companies (including General Electric, General Motors, whose influence is so great that they say in America, "What is good for General Motors is good for the USA", Chrysler, Du Pont de Nemours, Eastman Kodak, Douglas Aircraft and Lockheed Aircraft). Four American companies supplied Japan with cotton; Pacific Lines and United States Lines shipping companies made an extremely high profit from shipping American goods to Japan. In January 1941 the USA sold Japan 40% of Japan's metal and cotton imports, 70% of scrap iron, 50% of petroleum products and 95% of automobile parts. Bankers from the First Nation Bank of New York and Guarantee Trust (Morgan group), Bank Manhattan, the Union Trust Co (Mellon Group) were actively fostering trade with Japan. One of the heads of American intelligence, Rear Admiral Zacharis, said that strategic goods supplies from the USA to Japan had continued, despite the official embargo imposed on such operations in 1940.
The USSR also traded actively with the enemy. Veteran, Professor P.A. Nikolayeva writes, "Moreover, my generation always associates the words 'oil' and 'petrol' with an ugly historical period in our behavior. On Stalin's orders, A. Mikoyan transported oil and petrol to Germany for two years (1939- 41). The tanks Guderian led to Moscow were fuelled by our petrol. We, former soldiers, do not like this talk." In 17 months from late 1939 to June 1941, Germany received 865,000 tonnes of oil from the USSR. It was Mikoyan's highest point - he was serving two dictators! And he did it faultlessly. According to generals' war memoirs, the last train with petroleum products from the USSR left two hours before the artillery was prepared. "At dawn on 22 June, 1941 German aircraft, powered by Soviet fuel, began to bomb Soviet cities," F. Avtorkhanov writes in the preface to the collected work The USSR - Germany 1939-1941. "They were followed by German tanks powered by Soviet fuel. Under the protection of these tanks, German infantry marched on Soviet bread." The fuel shortage made the Nazis look for unusual ways to obtain it. The Nazis paid for oil and other strategic materials with occupied territories. "In January 1941 the USSR buys another 8,200 sq. km of Polish land from Germany for 35 million marks (actually for oil and other strategic materials). Known as the Vilkavys salient, not far from the Polish town of Suwa?ki, this was occupied by the Germans and then became part of Soviet Lithuania. Thus, the Lithuanian SSR expands to the south-west," Viktor Alksnis, a member of the Duma Committee for International Affairs, said in conversation with APN observer Lev Sigal. They do not like to remember this fact in Lithuania today!
NEWS ru.com reports in its Dossier: Europe, Germany, Society that the Nazis shot porn films to exchange them for oil and iron. The films were shot secretly in 1941 and were to be exchanged for the right to extract oil in North Africa and iron ore in Sweden. This is stated by the author of a book about the so-called Saxenwald films, Thor Kunkel. He managed to find the first porn actress who received 220 marks for her role.
Finally, the world learned about the end of the war from a German newsreel of March 1945. It showed an ME-163 plane standing in an airfield like a dead weight - no fuel, with gloomy German pilots around it. In February 1945 aviation fuel production in Germany was only 1,000 tonnes, i.e. just 0.5% above the level of the first four months of 1944.
Something of the kind happened more than 40 years later at the end of the war in Afghanistan. The war in Afghanistan ended not with the withdrawal of the Soviet troops, as political analysts have often written, but for another reason. During the fighting in Afghanistan, Afghan leader Nadjibullah repeatedly asked Gorbachev and Shevardnadze for 100,000 tonnes of petroleum products to meet the needs of his army and invariably got a refusal. Finallylast, his rather shabby army lost mobility, was defeated and scattered throughout the world, and Nadjibullah himself was hanged.
This was the general, lamentable fuel situation in fascist Germany.
The table below shows German fuel reserves in 1939-45 (quoted from the book German Military Economy). Synthetic fuel made up about 60% of the total volume of supplies in the German military economy. Most of it was produced by the hydrogenation technique and Fischer-Tropsch process but it also included spirit, benzol and coke-oven tar derivatives.
One does not need to be a military expert to look at this table and conclude that it is impossible to fight for world domination with this volumen of fuel! A protracted war is also impossible - Hitler's Blitzkrieg had shades of oil.
|YEAR||SYNTHETIC FUEL||OTHER||TOTAL||SHARE OF SYNTHETIC FUEL|
|1939||2 346 555,4||6 016 235,8||8 362 791,2||28.1%|
|1941||4 390 210,1||5 899 879,7||10 290 089,9||42.7%|
|1943||6 130 964,2||5 566 989,8||11 697 954,1||52.4%|
|1944||15 301 639,8||3 052 102,7||8 353 742,5||56,8%|
|268 176,4||874 323||1 142 499,3||23.5%|
One final anecdote about the Reich's fuel shortage. "Hitler", John Toland writes, "took his aide-de-camp Guensche aside and said that he together with his wife would now commit suicide and wanted their bodies to be burnt. 'I do not want', he explained, 'to be exhibited in the Russian waxworks museum after my death.' Guensche phoned the Fuehrer's personal driver Kempka and said anxiously, 'I urgently need 200 litres of gasoline.' Kempka thought it was a joke and asked what he needed so much gasoline for. 'You must deliver fuel to the entrance to the Fuehrer's bunker immediately,' the answer followed. Kempka objected that all the gasoline was in the underground storage in Tiergarten where battles were waging. 'I cannot wait. You will have to take fuel from the remaining vehicles,' the aide-de-camp ordered…
"Dazed, Guensche came out of the room, carefully closing the door. He was met by Kempka. 'For God's sake, Otto,' the driver asked, 'what is going on? I had to send people to their doom for just 200 litres of gasoline, because of your mad scheme.' Guensche said, 'The chief is dead…'
"Linge opened the door and asked where the gasoline was. Kempka answered that he had brought about 170 liters in petrol cans (they could not find 200 litres - Author)."
A twist of fate - the entourage of the man who had wanted to build the 1,000- year Reich could not find enough petrol to carry out their idol's last wishes and burn his corpse.
The Japanese oil industry was also experiencing difficulties. They had an ambitious project to produce fuel from coal (the patent and technique had been given to the Japanese by the Germans) but the cost of this project doomed it to failure.
Indonesia, British Borneo and Burma were the main source of oil for Germany's ally Japan. In 1945 oil imports ceased completely and only 137,000 tonnes of it were produced in the country, when Japan's annual war-time consumption was 7.5-8 million tonnes. Here, as in Germany, the war ended with the loss of sources of oil and final American bombing which pursued quite different aims.
According to the theory of famous American expert Daniel Yergin, one of the reasons that fostered the emergence of the "kamikaze" was the fuel shortage. He writes, "Driven by despair, the Japanese used new weapons for the first time, aircraft navigated by suicide pilots - 'kamikaze' which means 'divine wind'. That was the name of the typhoon that scattered the immense fleet of Khan Hubilay in the 13th century before the latter could land in Japan. Directing their aircraft at American ships, kamikazes were considered the best embodiment of Japanese spirit and set the pattern of self-sacrifice for their compatriots. But apart from that, they solved an important practical problem. The Japanese calculated thoroughly that while sinking one American aircraft carrier or liner requires the efforts of eight bombers and 16 fighters, the same goal could be achieved by means of only one or three aircraft with suicide pilots. In such cases the vehicles were just half-filled with fuel as they did not have to come back." However, I would argue against Yergin's hypothesis, as I think the dominating factor remained the martial spirit of the Japanese. Cool calculations taking only fuel into account is inherent in American pragmatism.
Another of Germany's allies, Italy, was also in a catastrophic situation. Italy could reckon only on supplies from Albania which made up no more than 2% of the required amount. This was possible only with the free movement of shipping in the Adriatic Sea which was far from the case during the war. Italy pinned all its hopes on Germany which was choking in its own fuel shortage.
While the Germans' fuel problems were caused by an actual lack of fuel, the USSR's fuel problems in the beginning of the war were caused by the lack of a well-defined transport and storage strategy. From this point of view, as from many others, the USSR was not prepared for the war.
Kurkotkin writes that in July 1940, at the suggestion of the people's commissar of defence, the CPSU (B) Central Committee and the Council of People's Commissars adopted a resolution "On the plan of accumulation of state reserves and mobilization reserves for 1940". This resolution envisaged the accumulation of a considerable amount of mobilization fuel reserves by May 1941, including aviation fuels, heavy vehicle fuel, aviation oil, motor oil, lubricant grease and diesel oil to meet the requirements of border and inland military districts. I am familiar with this resolution - it stimulated oil production in Baku and the purchase of some export equipment, but without strategic direction.
By 1 June, 1941 96.8% of mobilization fuel reserves had been accumulated within the People's Commissariat of Defence system. Almost half of them were stored at bases of the Chief Department of Petroleum products Supply deep inside the country.
Military experts argued at the time that this location of mobilization reserves did not meet war-time demands, as, according to the Soviet military strategy, the war was to shift to enemy territory immediately. Thus, in June 1941, at the suggestion of the General Staff, the Soviet government approved the plan to relocate more than 100,000 tonnes of fuel from the heart of the country to the Oil Product Supply Department's bases in the western border military districts, many of which were destroyed or occupied by the Germans soon after the USSR joined the war.
In 1940 and the first half of 1941, considerable fuel reserves were accumulated in the People's Commisariat of Defence system. They were sufficient to supply the Soviet Army for a long period of the war. However, serious problems arose in the supply of fuel to the battlefields.
Diagram 5 shows the equipment of the Soviet Army's fuel supply services as of 22 June, 1941.
The graph shows that supply services in the western border military districts were not prepared for the storage of a large amount of fuel. The supply services were not sufficiently mechanized and were chronically short of basic storage facilities, refueling vehicles and pumps. As of 22 June, 1941 the supply services were about 18-40% equipped. Despite the demands of wartime, it was impossible to fill this gap with supplies from central storage and plants. By the beginning of the war, the liquid fuel reserves were 25-29% of the Navy's annual demand (for 91-111 days of military actions, coal 44% and there were food stocks for 60-75 days.
As we can see, there was a good supply of fuel, but no well-defined strategy for its storage and supply to the combat army. Discussions were under way only about the volume and location of storage, in the rear or immediately in the units.
When the Great Patriotic War began, the responsibility for a timely fuel supply to the combat army rested with A.I. Mikoyanm member of the CPSU (B) Central Committee and the Politburo and the first deputy chairman of the USSR Council of People's Commissars. Lt-Gen Khrulev, chief of the Soviet Army's Support Services, was in charge of the administration of fuel supplies.
Mikoyan made a mess of his job. After all, strategic crude oil is not sausage production which Mikoyan only just managed to cope with.
Since in the early days of war the USSR had no well-defined strategy for fuel supplies in the event of a sudden attack, a difficult fuel situation arose. In accordance with the mobilization plan, a huge number of fuel wagons were sent to the fronts. At the same time, as a result of the poor strategy and due to the retreat of the Soviet troops, the evacuation of fuel from the immediate battle area began. Freight trains met head to head and as a result about 8,500 fuel wagons gathered at railway junctions and in sidings, where they were exposed to enemy air raids and almost totally eliminated. Chaos reigned; in some parts of the front fuel wagons made it through to the battlefields, while in other parts they were heading to the rear. Fuel supplies went out of control. Nazi pilots bombed important strategic facilities and easily destroyed almost the entire fuel reserve. There was no effective cover, as military laws required, either from air or the ground. Skorzeny's saboteurs were highly effective in the first months of the war with the Soviet Union. Well-trained and able to cope with the local conditions, they attacked the most vital centres, first of all the ammunition and fuel dumps. The whole frontline was turned into hell, as everything flammable was on fire.
The Soviet Army's General Staff, chief of the Support Services and Fuel Supply Office tried to move quickly to clear the wagons from the railways. It was also decided to stop fuel supplies temporarily to the north-west. That decision, as K. Simonov wrote in his novel The Living and the Dead, divided all those who were fighting in those regions into the living, the dead and the "traitors" (prisoners of war). Resisting the well-tuned fascist machine without fuel and, therefore, without equipment was a lost cause.
It became clear that the old procedure for fuel supplies to the troops, based on quarterly bids to the USSR State Planning Committee and distribution of the allocated funds among the fronts and districts, had collapsed. It was not dynamic and did not meet the requirements of the current situation. Fuel supplies were now carried out by five-day plans, and from November 1941 until April 1942 by 10 day plans, as this approach left some room to manoeuvre.
The fuel delivery system to the fronts also collapsed. Until July 1941, fuel transports went to distribution stations and from there they were forwarded to storehouses at the front. To increase efficiciency, distribution bases were set up at the major oil supply bases. In August 1941, the chief of staff of the rear sent 200 officers to accompany the transports; at the end of 1941 a numbering system was introduced for the transports (!? - Author) which determined the type of fuel and destination of every special train (!? - Author). In other words, they moved from a vague address (Grandad, In the Country) to a more definite transport system. However, there was still no protection for fuel deliveries.
Supplying troops in the battle for Moscow was one of the problems faced by the fuel supply services in autumn and winter 1941-42. When the Germans approached Moscow Goebbels said on Berlin radio, "But I will not be exaggerating if I say that the campaign against the Russians has been won in 14 days!"
Goebbels gave the order, "On 12 October all newspapers are to leave a special place for the urgent news about the capture of Moscow."
Belgium did not stand even five days. Holland fell in four days. Huge France was defeated in 16 days. After a pleasure trip in Europe, the Germans found themselves in a real hell, not a burning one but a freezing one!
In October 1941, on the instructions of the chairman of the USSR CPC, State Defence Committee member A.N. Kosygin who managed the evacuation of equipment from Moscow facilities, made a record of all the fuel at oil depots in Moscow and Moscow district and worked out a plan to increase fuel deliveries to Moscow. Kosygin did a good job.
Aviation fuel to protect the skies above Moscow was sent from Baku via the Caspian and Volga.
Kurkotkin believes that the fuel supply system was working properly for the first time during the battle for Moscow. This contributed considerably to the defeat of the Germans there. Not only petroleum products came from Baku to Moscow in this difficult time for the capital. The 193rd anti-aircraft artillery regiment was redeployed from Baku to Moscow. By July 1941, this regiment under the command of Lt-Gen M.G. Kiknadze took up firing positions at Kuntsevo covering the central approach to Moscow from the west.
After the Moscow victory, the farsighted Churchill remembered Baku and sent Stalin a telegram on 12 December, 1941, "Six weeks ago people were asking themselves if Moscow and Leningrad would be taken and whether the Germans would soon occupy the Caucasus and Baku oilfields… And now an amazing change: the armies of Hitler are retreating. Losses are huge. Damage is almost unprecedented in the history of wars."
Certainly, "General Frost" also had his part to play in the battle for Moscow. Here is an extract from a letter of Private Adolph Fortgeimer, dated 6 December 1941. "My dear wife! It is hell here. The Russians do not want to leave Moscow. They began advancing, terrible news for us. It's so cold that my soul is freezing. I beg you to stop writing to me about the silk and boots I am to bring you from Moscow. Do you get it, I am going to die here…." The German historian L. Gruchman says that German losses caused by the cold "considerably exceeded those in battles".
Edward Radzinskiy writes, "…And then a miracle happened. Metropolitan Iliya told the truth, The Blessed Virgin had not left the country. Heavy snowfalls occurred unusually early that year, in the beginning of October. An early and uncommonly severe winter came."
"As early as 12 October a real frost struck. But there was no sign that we would get our winter uniforms," General Blumentritt wrote.
On 3 November the temperature fell to eight below zero. Fuel and lubricants started freezing in the tanks. The Germans lay on ice under their tanks and made fires. Gen Guderian whose tank group was heading for to Moscow through Tula asked in vain for warm clothing for his soldiers. Apart from the severe frost, as one writer observed, "the fascists were faced with minor irritants such as the work of fantasy The USSR Road Atlas, Belorussian partisans, swamp areas and Stalin's order "Not a single step back!"
We should not forget either that the Centre army group did not receive any fresh divisions in December 1941. The Soviet Supreme Command redeployed 30 new rifle divisions, three cavalry divisions and 33 brigades to the Moscow front, mainly from Siberia.
As for the soldiers from Siberia, a woman living in Nikola hill near Moscow recalled, "Siberian units stood in our forest on the eve of the battle. Pink-cheeked lads in brand new white short fur coats. They managed to sleep on their feet leaning against a tree. The snoring was terrible."
The exploits of the Siberians in Moscow and Stalingrad are well known, but few people know that of the hundreds that went to the front from each Siberian village, only two or three returned, according to USSR People's Artist Mikhail Ulyanov, himself a native of Siberia.
According to Soviet data, in the battle for Moscow battle the enemy lost over half a million soldiers and officers, 1,300 tanks, 2,500 guns and mortar-guns and over 900 Ju-88 aircraft.
The Red Army's losses in the battle were not given in Soviet sources. Probably they were even greater than the Germans', both in terms of the dead and wounded and especially in terms of prisoners of war, according to western sources.
Henry Picker wrote of the battle for Moscow battle:
"29 May 1942, midday. Berlin, Reich Chancery.
"Foreign films are sometimes shown at the Wochenschau screenings, for instance, a Russian documentary on the Soviet victory over our troops at Moscow in December last year. At the beginning, the bells of all the Moscow churches started ringing, Soviet anti-aircraft guns opened fire on our planes, the mysterious silhouette of the Kremlin flashed up on screen, home to Stalin whom whom Hitler regards as a genius and whom he admires sincerely;, priests in flowing robes, holding their crosses high, walked from house to house, raising men and women, young and old, to the last crucial battle for 'the holy Russian land'. The formation of Red Army units, especially cavalry, and the consequences of the uncommon frost (it had not been so strong for more than 100 years) which made everyone wear padded clothes and felt boots. Then the first German prisoners, crowds of them, without greatcoats, without gloves, without winter clothing, dancing because of the cold, with hands thrust deep in their pockets which they took out from time to time to rub their ears and noses! And still no fear on any face: unknown soldiers, unknown heroes. Finally, an endless train of icy German tanks, tank-cars, trucks, guns, everything abandoned, because the General Staff had not provided anti-freeze and winter clothing in time."
In winter 1941 in Kluge's headquarters Gen Blumentritt made a prophetic remark, "No German soldier will ever see the Kremlin unless as a captive."
In spring 1942, difficulties emerged in fuel supplies to the troops at the Leningrad front and the city of Leningrad. As far back as August 1941, fascist troops had intercepted all railway communications going to Leningrad.
In autumn 1941 fuel was delivered to Leningrad via Lake Ladoga by means of self-propelled barges, and when the freeze began, it was delivered by motor transport on the Road of Life. When spring came, waterborne vehicles were brought into action again but there were not enough of them in the Ladoga flotilla.
On 2 April, 1942 the decision was made to build a pipeline across Lake Ladoga.
This solved the acute problem of fuel supplies to Leningrad. Daily 300 or 400 tonnes of fuel flowed through the pipeline, which met the demands of the front and also allowed reserves to accumulate for the fighting to break the Leningrad blockade. However, there was not enough fuel to provide warmth for the citizens of the heroic city. They were starving and dying of cold.
Summer 1942 was the toughest period for fuel supplies to the Soviet Armed Forces caused by the situation at the fronts. The enemy was approaching Stalingrad, had invaded the North Caucasus, seized the oil region of Krasnodar and come close to the oil region of Groznyy. An immediate threat to the Baku oil complex emerged.
Maykop and Groznyy oilfields had to be mothballed, the oil refineries of the North Caucasus and some of those in Batumi had to be dismantled and evacuated. As a result, oil refining in Groznyy fell between May and October 1942 from 404,000 tonnes to 2,300 tonnes distillation of crude and from 228,000 tonnes to 37,000 tonnes cracking of crude, i.e. everything stopped.
In August 1942 the Baku-Batumi oil pipeline was dismantled and evacuated to the Volga region. Azerbaijani oil workers dismantled some of their equipment and sent it to the Second Baku. There were grave difficulties on the rail and sea links to the oil region of Baku. Fuel transportation on the Volga fell by a factor of four from August to November 1942. Most fuel from the Caucasus was shipped through Baku and Makhachkala by the Caspian and then by rail via Tashkent towards the fronts. A large number of tanker wagons stayed on the North Caucasus and Trans-Caucasus railways. The number of tanker wagons in operation meant that just over half the fuel could be supplied to the fronts.
A suggestion was developed to send fuel from Baku and Makhachkala to Guryev where a transfer point from sea to rail could be equipped. This was almost half the Krasnovodsk - Tashkent route.
The only "lifeline" lay through Krasnovodsk and the sands of the Kara Kum desert. Thanks to this line, the army and the front received Baku oil.
An initiative of sailors from the Caspian oil tanker fleet had great practical value; for the first time on the Caspian, they towed 35 oil tanker wagons from Baku to Krasnovodsk and three oil storage tanks with a capacity of 5,000 tonnes from Makhachkala to Krasnovodsk. Those huge storage tanks were filled with one-third water and towed by steamships.
As a consequence of the decrease in fuel production, the sharp increase in consumption by the troops and losses at the beginning of consumption by the troops, the mobilization reserve had gone down considerably by May 1942, when it was 48% of the level of May 1941. The majority of these reserves were stored in the Far East and Eastern Baykal region. Therefore, it was planned to accumulate about 800,000 tonnes of fuel in the Volga, Urals and West Siberian regions by November 1942. However, the approach of the German troops to Stalingrad meant the plan had to be speeded up. The objective was achieved by 1 September 1942, two months before the deadline. This enabled an uninterrupted fuel supply to the troops at the front during the most intense fighting.
The aforementioned information shows that here was no clearly-defined system suitable to deliver fuel to military units in wartime, especially at the beginning of the war, despite all the efforts made. Virtually all the fuel supply problems were solved individually, "each in their own way". Certainly, this caused serious breakdowns in fuel supply and additional difficulties for the fighting, which was to be expected as there were no strategically important priorities.
Rational structures and transportation and storage methods were decided in the course of the fighting , and the adaptation process was accompanied by heavy losses of fuel itself and inefficiency. Adaptation processes can be successfully completed only with a high margin of error.
Only the fact that the USSR had far more oil than the fighting against Germany required (this fact was confirmed in the future) allowed the fuel supply system to be adapted in the tough conditions at the beginning of the war. It was helped above all by the record oil production in Azerbaijan, 24 million tonnes.
As the events of the first months of the war involving the Soviet Union showed, the USSR was ready neither technically nor strategically with fuel supplies. Potential developments had not been calculated. Everything complied with the Red Army's doctrine: at any attack on the USSR, military action is immediately carried into the aggressor's territory.
In the most stressful period of work to accumulate fuel reserves for the troops fighting near Kursk, German aircraft managed to destroy aviation fuel at bases in Saratov and disable the Saratov craking refinery. The losses were made up with extra aviation fuel production at Baku oil refineries. Using the experience of fuel supply to the troops in the Stalingrad counteroffensive, the Fuel Supply Department built up substantial reserves of Baku aviation fuel (about 10,000 barrels) in storehouses and airfields in the Moscow area for urgent delivery by and also prepared 150 tanker wagons and 200 fuel trucks for the same purpose.
Over 204,000 tonnes of fuel were used in total in the battle for Kursk, most of it from Baku. The petroleum products situation began to improve substantially in 1943. Oil extraction in new regions increased a little. In late 1942, an oil refinery in Syzran, assembled with equipment evacuated from Odessa and Tuapse, was put into operation. Oil refineries in Komsomolsk-on-Amur, Krasnodar and Perm also turned out some products. Groznyy's oil refineries were being repaired. Nevertheless, they yielded a small amount of petroleum products, and Baku remained the basic fuel supplier.
By 1 February, 1944, considerable fuel reserves had been accumulated at the fronts which met the requirements of the troops. In March and April 1944 alone, 190 tonnes of fuel were supplied to the troops of the 3rd Ukrainian front in 405 flights. In February and March 1944, military air transport supplied over 600 tonnes of fuel, mainly aviation and motor fuel and aviation oil from Baku plants to the troops on three Ukrainian fronts from central warehouses.
A total of 180,000 tonnes of fuel was used in the offensive operations to liberate eastern Ukraine by troops of the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Ukrainian fronts from 24 January to 17 April, 1944.
The Belorussian offensive conducted in June-July 1944 is of particular interest from the point of view of fuel supply. The general depth of this operation was 600 km and the Soviet troops sometimes covered 30-45 km and more per day.
To supply fuel to the troops of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Belorussian fronts and the 1st Baltic front, which took part in the Belorussian operation, the State Defence Committee adopted a special resolution under which 71,000 tonnes of fuel were to be given to the People's Commissariat of Defence from the mobilization reserve and 19,500 tonnes from the state reserve.
In the second half of 1944, the fuel reserves situation considerably improved. As a result of the successful advance of the 2nd and 3rd Ukrainian fronts, the chance emerged to use the Romanian oil industry for military purposes. Fuel supplies for the Soviet Union were provided by Romania in compliance with the corresponding agreements.
The year 1945 began with successful Soviet offensives on all fronts. The fuel supply service already had all the necessary reserves of all types of fuel by that time. The basic problem in that period was organizing the timely supply of a huge amount of fuel to the troops over long distances. The 1st Belorussian front alone required about 60,000 tonnes of fuel in preparation for the Vistula-Oder offensive but even that amount by no means covered the needs of the troops.
However, petrol tankers did not manage to deliver the required amount of fuel to the troops by road. The tankers reached their destinations half-empty, as fuel had been used by the delivering battalion itself.
The units that reached the Narew and Vistula were completely without fuel.
Fuel supply to tank troops advancing far ahead of the rear was also difficult.
During the most intensive fighting, fuel and oil for the tanks deep in the theatre of war were supplied by air.
The lack of capacity again made itself felt. The supply of petrol during the Vistula-Oder operation was particularly problematic.
The main difficulty was that all the reserves were stored to the east of the Vistula. Fuel was brought by train on Soviet tracks, but was then delayed as the gauges had to be changed from Soviet to European. . Goebbels wrote in his diaries, "Vlasov himself believes that though the Soviets have more soldiers and weapons, they have come up against almost insurmountable difficulties in supplies from the rear. They have plenty of tanks by the Oder but they lack petrol."
As early as the beginning of the Vistula-Oder operation and the defeat of the Nazi's East Pomeranian Group, preparations started for the Berlin operation. Immense reserves of aviation and motor fuel were built up in advance amongst the troops and at army and front depots. These reserves basically covered consumption, though the latter was considerable.
Despite the comparatively small depth of the Berlin operation and its tight schedule, the troops of three fronts used about 150,000 tonnes of all kinds of fuel in the course of the offensive, as much as in the battle for Stalingrad (12 July, 1942 - 2 February, 1943). While 820 tonnes of fuel on average were supplied to the fronts in Stalingrad daily, the average daily supply to the Berlin offensive was 4,140 tonnes, with a much longer supply route. By the end of the war, thanks to Baku oil, the domestic oil industry completely met the Soviet Army's requirements for aviation and motor fuel, diesel fuel and oils. There were no fuel shortages during the Berlin operation.
The Navy's fleets and flotillas required great expenditure of material resources. During the war the Navy used in total 5,338 torpedoes, 54,858 sea mines, 3,647 mine sweepers, 73,484 depth charges, 11.5 million shells, 38,500 tonnes of aviation bombs, 6.2 million tonnes of fuel, 1.3 million tonnes of foodstuffs and 1.5 million uniforms.
The fuel situation of the Soviet Army differed completely from that of the German troops.
The USA had no fuel problems, other than a few local difficulties caused by late deliveries. "The armed forces never suffered shortage of the right type and right volume of oil in the right place," a post-war report of the Department of Army and Navy Oil and Petroleum products Supply declared proudly. None of the high-ranking military commanders denied this in their post-war memoirs. This is a typical example:the Allies' largest fuel dump and refuelling base was, the largest in Europe, was located near Stavelot in eastern Belgium. Here the Allies stored 2.5 million gallons of fuel for their troops and two million road maps of Europe. Hundreds of thousands of 5-gallon oil canisters were placed along roads in the region. The Allies' vehicles would stop, refuel without any restrictions and continue on their way. Just like on parade!
Overall, the USA enjoyed the best situation of all the warring countries, and not only in relation to oil. The USA produced two-thirds of the world's oil, about half of the world's cotton and almost half its copper.
The fuel problems of the other warring sides all occurred for different reasons.
The Red Army military doctrine of the immediate transfer of military action into the aggressor's territory played a fatal part at the beginning of the war and affected the fuel situation. The considerable volume of fuel stored at the border without camouflage was either burnt or seized by the Germans. No proper protection was organized for the main railways and the oil wagons were easy targets for the Luftwaffe.
Strategic pipelines were not laid and this led to additional difficulties in oil transportation.
In the pre-war period, only 2,500 km of main pipelines were built in the USSR. By 1941, 4,100 km of oil and gas trunk pipelines with a total throughput of 7.9 million tonnes per year (annual production was 31 million tonnes) were in operation. The diameter of the pipelines did not exceed 325 millimetres. Plunger pumps with a stationary diesel engine drive were used to pump oil and petroleum products. In other words, the transportation of oil and petroleum products was in its infancy in comparison with Western European countries. That led to heavy losses in oil and petroleum products, especially in the first days of the war. The Nazis made every effort to paralyze oil supplies.
The USSR was not ready for the war in terms of means of transport or oil storage in the rear and this had serious consequences, especially at the beginning of the war. It lacked means of transport, fuel supply equipment (tanker wagons, fuel servicing trucks, oil trucks, dispensers etc.), trunk pipelines to supply fuel to the troops, containers (RG-50 reservoirs, KP-20 containers) and fuel storage facilities.
When the Soviet Union entered the war, difficulties in fuel supplies to the troops emerged. According to the mobilization plan, a large number of special trains carrying fuel were dispatched to the fronts. At the same time, owing to the forced withdrawal of our armies, the evacuation of fuel from the frontline began. With supply trains trying to go in both directions, about 8,500 tanker wagons carrying fuel gathered at railway junctions and sidings and were exposed to German air raids Virtually everything was burnt or seized by the Germans. From 15 July to 1 August fuel supplies to the North-West and Western areas were stopped. Stalin often repeated in the early days of the war that we had not managed to fulfill Lenin's precepts. Well, they did not fulfill Lenin's precepts in fuel matters either. In his article On Hunger Lenin wrote, "...It is necessary with a firm working hand to achieve extreme exertion to increase fuel production and strictly economize on it, with the strictest order in its delivery and consumption." Only Baku fulfilled Lenin's precepts by increasing production in accordance with wartime demands, and establishing a transport system.
The lack of a well-defined transport and storage strategy in the Soviet Army plunged the troops into difficulties at the beginning of the war.
All this rebounded on the tragic events at the beginning of the war.
The encirclement and capture of Red Army units at the beginning of the war took place, among other things, because of the fuel shortage. German generals mentioned in their memoirs that in the first days of the war against the Soviet Union a large amount of undamaged military equipment had been abandoned on the roads, owing to the absence of fuel - all of them had empty tanks.
There was no opportunity to use heavy equipment and aircraft. Meanwhile, it was actually impossible to get out of the current plight without tanks and full air support, as the Soviet troops were opposed by the well-trained and battle-hardened German army.
In a well-known incident Zhukov, in order to contain the enemy somehow, threw five mechanized corps, the reserve of the Supreme Command, into battle without fuel reserves. All those tanks of the South-Western Front went on the counteroffensive. The greatest border tank battle began. Over 2,000 tanks from both sides took part. Zhukov knew that most tanks had just one tank of fuel and were, therefore, doomed. But he took that step deliberately to strike a blow and stop the German advance at least for a while.
The plan was wholly successful; the enemy incurred tangible losses and was stopped for six days until 28 June. Nevertheless, Zhukov also lost and abandoned the tanks remaining after the battle due to the lack of fuel.
It is quite clear that if the tanks had had enough fuel, the Germans would certainly have been stopped for much longer than six days.
In his evidence, Pavlov who was shot down later, made striking confessions.
Pavlov, continuing to testify to the situation as of 23 June, 1941, said: "'On 23 June, the Staff of the Front received a telegram from Boldin addressed simultaneously to the 10th Army, reporting that the 6th mechanized corps had only a quarter of fuel. Taking into consideration the need for fuel, the Fuel Supply Department sent to Baranovichi all fuel available in the district, 300 tonnes, as early as the first day of the battle. The rest of the fuel was stored in Maykop, according to the General Staff plan. Fuel could not be transported further than Baranovichi because the enemy aircraft were constantly damaging the railway bed and stations.'
"(However, Pavlov was wrong in giving so low an estimate of the abilities of special department employees. They had the sense not to query why there was only 300 tonnes of fuel in the district. This is a ridiculously small amount for a special border district! Maykop was at the back of beyond. Only 300 tonnes means that the district was not expected to become a decisive theatre of military operations.)"
Of course, it wasn't! Pavlov told his chief of Staff, "But if they come, we'll strike so that they will fly back right to Berlin itself!"
It was with good reason that Stalin asked the USA for fuel at the earliest opportunity at the beginning of the war. He did not do that in Tehran or Yalta.
It is apparent from American sources that when H. Hopkins srrived in Moscow in the beginning of the war, Stalin asked America for aviation fuel and aircraft equipment at their very first meeting.
He asked the same Americans who had imposed an embargo on trade with the Soviet Union. This had been the response from overseas in late 1939 to the USSR's war against small Finland. The American embargo was in force until Germany invaded the Soviet Union.
Gen Z. Westfahl argues that, according to reliable information, the USA supplied the USSR with 2.6 million tonnes of petroleum products. This was not superfluous, as some Soviet military historians attempt to say.
The wrong strategy of the party and government on the exploration and development of oil deposits in the pre-war years and the consequent fuel shortage in preparations for the war and in the first months of war, the orthodox military doctrine, the lack of a clear, well-defined strategy for fuel transportation and storage and the lack of capacity for fuel transportation were some of the serious causes of the Red Army's failures in the first months of the war. These failures entailed heavy losses of manpower and equipment. We should emphasize it once again - some of the causes.
Finally, the main factor in fuel supplies to Soviet troops - the words of the Soviet military elite given below answer all the questions about fuel supplies to the Soviet Army.
The authors of the voluminous work The Great Patriotic War of the Soviet Union, 1941-1945, P.N. Pospelov, V.A. Andreyev, I.H. Bargramyan, A.A. Grechko, A.A. Yepishev, I.V. Zakharov, V.D. Sokolovsky and others write, "The situation remained tight in the oil producing industry. In 1943, the domestic economy received 4 million fewer tonnes oil than the previous year. That was explained by the fact that the oilfields of the North Caucasus had been considerably damaged. Morevoer, oil production in the Baku region also decreased sharply. Many wells here had to be suspended as the outflow of petroleum products was extremely difficult during the battles on the Volga and in the North Caucasus. When it became possible again to use the railway from Baku to the central regions via Rostov, it took some time to repair the wells.
"In these conditions, the development of the oilfields in the east of the country was accelerated, , first of all, in the 'Second Baku' (the region of the Urals and Volga) (in 1943, 1,946,000 tonnes were produced here - !? - Author) and also in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan (in 1943, 1,218,000 tonnes was produced here - !? - Author). Oil refining facilities produced as much aviation, motor and other sorts of petrol, kerosene and oils as possible from crude oil, which were greatly needed at the front. The creative initiative of workers and engineers who widely applied new oil refining techniques played a large part in this cause. As a result, petrol production increased by 10% in comparison with 1942, diesel fuel production by a factor of 2.3 and motor fuel production by a factor of 1.7. THUS, A STRANGE PICTURE, AT FIRST SIGHT, TOOK SHAPE: GENERAL PRODUCTION IN THE COUNTRY DECREASED IN 1943, BUT PILOTS, TANK DRIVERS AND MOTORCAR DRIVERS AT THE FRONT RECEIVED ENOUGH FUEL (highlighted by the author)."
It is odd that this picture should seem strange to such famous authors. It just took the introduction of some basic order into the transport and distribution of petroleum products for even a smaller volume of oil to be sufficient for the army. This "oddity" proves once again how chaotic the transportation, storage and distribution of petroleum products was in the first months of the war and how much oil was eliminated by the Germans in that period.
The situation in the German troops was different. The oil shortage was not the result of poor transportation or any other reasons: they simply lacked oil. The Americans and British had bombed the plants producing synthetic fuel. The Allies had virtually destroyed the oilfields of Romania. Germany could not solve the fuel problem right to the end of the war. It had enough fuel only at the beginning of the war against the USSR thanks to accumulated reserves.
Some Western military historians and German military commanders cite the fuel shortage as one of the main causes of the defeat of fascist Germany in crucial battles, alongside the Russian frost ("General Frost"). Of course, this is not the case. It was impossible to break the back of the well-tuned German military machine with just a fuel advantage. A system can be broken by another system, but with an advantage in fuel as well. At the same time, if strategic factors affecting Germany's defeat are singled out, then petroleum products will certainly be one of them.
To sum up, all the factors given by Soviet, American, Russian and Western European military historians and experts that brought about the victory of the USSR and the Allies over fascism (the main contribution belonging to the USSR) are beyond doubt. The question is only about the relative weight of each of these factors. This issue will be discussed for a long time to come. Anyway, not to mention that the Germans suffered acute fuel shortages, unlike the Soviet troops that were provided with enough Baku oil, is to gainsay the truth. This is no longer possible after the publication of many memoirs and recollections. Asked under interrogation about the causes of the German defeat at Stalingrad, the prisoner Gen von Rotenburg said, "because the Germans do not have Baku".
The above is by no means a full interpretation of the official Soviet phrase "a sufficient amount of oil came mainly from Baku" that could be heard in the USSR at all levels for more than 60 years!