maandag 16 januari 2017
Operation Pike was the code-name for a strategic bombing plan, overseen by Air Commodore John Slessor, against the Soviet Union by the Anglo-French alliance. British military planning against the Soviet Union occurred during the first two years of the Second World War, when despite Soviet neutrality, the British and French came to the conclusion that the Nazi-Soviet pact made Moscow the ally of Hitler. The plan was designed to destroy the Soviet oil industry, to cause the collapse of the Soviet economy and deprive Nazi Germany of Soviet resources.
Wikipedia article related to Operation Pike called: Operation Pike
National Interest article called: Operation Pike: How a Crazy Plan to Bomb Russia Almost Lost World War II
Nazi Germany was defeated largely – though not solely – by the Soviet Union.
But what if Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union had been allies instead of enemies? What if America, Britain, and their allies had faced a massive Red Army backed by the military prowess and technological sophistication of the Luftwaffe, Nazi panzers and U-boats?
That apocalyptic vision of a new Dark Ages almost happened. In the early days of World War II, Britain and France planned to bomb Russian oil fields. The goal was to impede Hitler. The outcome would probably have helped Hitler win the war.
The idea was foolish, but not irrational. By late 1939, Britain and France were convinced that Germany and Russia were already friends. Stalin had tried hard to form an anti-Nazi coalition before the war, only to meet such resistance and hesitation that he became convinced that the capitalists were plotting to embroil Germany and Russia in a mutually exhausting war while the West stayed on the sidelines.
While London and Paris dithered over whether to ally with the Communists, Berlin had no such hesitation: on August 23, 1939, Germany and Russia signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Russia gained Eastern Poland and the Baltic states, a prospective breathing space to build up its military strength, and the prospect that Germany and the Western powers would exhaust themselves while Russia bided its strength.
Yet the real winner was the Fuhrer. The treaty left the Third Reich free to gobble up Poland and Western Europe without fear of a second front in the East. Just as important, the Soviets agreed to supply vital raw materials – especially oil – to the Third Reich, keeping the German war economy running and breaching the Allied naval blockade that had proved so decisive in World War I.
In Allied eyes, the Soviet Union had changed from Germany's nemesis into Germany's ally. So why not strike the Soviet Union and kill two birds with one stone? Perhaps there was also the frustration of the sitzkrieg, as Allied armies sat impotently behind the Maginot Line while the Germans overran Poland and Scandinavia. Bombing Russia must have seemed easier than confronting the German army on the battlefield.
Thus was born Operation Pike. Flying from Allied bases in Iran and Syria, as well as neutral but anti-Soviet Turkey, more than a hundred British and French bombers would continuously attack Soviet oil fields in the Caucuses in a night strategic bombing campaign. This was more than idle planning. Unmarked British reconnaissance planes flying from Iraqi airfields actually photographed oil installations at Baku and Batumi in March 1940.
Allied air planners were confident this would be a mighty blow. We know now that it would have been a joke. British night bombing efforts in 1940-41 was so inaccurate – only a handful bombs landed within miles of their target – that the Germans hardly noticed them. Even in 1944, thousand-bomber Royal Air Force night raids, supported by the most sophisticated radar and navigation technology of the time, drop their loans on entire German cities because they could not destroy pinpoint targets.
As the Germans proved, bomb-damaged facilities could be restored with remarkable speed. A 1944 Lancaster bomber carried 7 tons of bombs; a 1940 Blenheim only half a ton. Only the deepest hubris – which indeed afflicted strategic bombing enthusiasts throughout World War II – could make anyone believe that a hundred primitive early-war bombers could devastate the Soviet oil industry.
Patrick Osborn also points out, in his book "Operation Pike," that Allied intelligence concluded that Russian oil only comprised a small part of Germany's fuel supply (much of which actually came from Romania). "The important thing here is not the accuracy of the British intelligence reports but that British and French leaders alike were willing to overlook them in order to pursue their idea of attacking the USSR in order to bring under the feet of Germany: the principle of killing two birds with one stone' taken to ridiculous links."
In any event, fortune, or rather misfortune, saved the world. In May 1940, German panzers smashed through the Low Countries and into France. Six weeks later, France surrendered. Operation Pike was not to be. Except that, as Hitler's armies appeared on the verge of seizing the Caucasus oil fields in 1941-42, Britain still made plans to bomb the oil facilities should the Soviets fail to demolish them before they were captured. Interestingly, the British seemed willing to do battle with Soviet fighters to accomplish this goal.
Ironically, as Osborn notes, instead of harming Germany, the bombing would have weakened the Soviet regime that was the bulwark of the coalition fighting the Nazis. "Someone would have had to have filled the power vacuum if Stalin's government collapsed; that in all likelihood would have been Hitler."
However, the real what-if would have come in the summer of 1940. If Operation Pike had been launched prior to the surrender of France, then the British government would have faced the prospect of fighting a Nazi-Soviet alliance, with no French ally and the United States still withdrawn behind its walls of isolationism. Some British leaders, such as Lord Halifax, had favored making some kind of peace deal with Hitler. If Britain had also been at war with the Soviet Union, perhaps not even diehard Winston Churchill would have had the stomach to continue fighting what would have seemed like a hopeless war.
Of course, even if Allied bombing had brought Hitler and Stalin together, the romance would have been doomed. Two predators greedily devouring other prey would inevitably have turned on each other. Nonetheless, Operation Pike might have changed the history of the world.
Luckily, the world never had a chance to find out.
War history online article called: Operation Pike – The Plan to Bomb Soviet Oilfields In 1939 And Lose The War
Operation Pike was the code-name for a strategic bombing plan, overseen by Air Commodore John Slessor, against the Soviet Union by the Anglo-French alliance. British military planning against the Soviet Union occurred during the first two years of the Second World War, when despite Soviet neutrality, the British and French came to the conclusion that the Nazi-Soviet pact made Moscow the ally of Hitler.
The plan was designed to destroy the Soviet oil industry, to cause the collapse of the Soviet economy and deprive Nazi Germany of Soviet resources.
Even before the Nazis had occupied France, the UK and France had planned to bomb Russian oil fields to stop Hitler’s advance through Europe. But if the Allies had gone forward with their plan, it would have forced Nazi Germany and Stalin’s Soviet Union to forge an alliance together against the Allies.
Even though Hitler and Stalin did form a kind of alliance for some time during the war it was short-lived – Hitler’s hunger for power saw the alliance disintegrate when he decided to invade the Soviet Union.
The Allies, meanwhile, were undecided as to whether they should align themselves with the Communist Stalin. During all of this indecision, Hitler moved forward and signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact with Stalin, which meant that Russia gained occupation of East Poland and the Baltic States while Hitler took the rest of Poland. It also meant that while Stalin’s troops were occupied in the East of Europe, Hitler could move westwards taking the Netherlands, Belgium and France.
Stalin also agreed in the pact to provide supplies such as oil to the Nazi military, so that the German war machine could keep steaming ahead. Now the Soviet Union was an ally of Nazi Germany. Operation Pike was developed to send British and French bombers over the Soviet Union to attack and destroy its oil fields, thus impeding and possibly stopping the advance of Germany across Europe.
In March 1940, after the end of the Winter War, the British undertook secret reconnaissance flights to photograph areas inside the Soviet Union, utilising high-altitude, high-speed stereoscopic photography.
Analysis of the photography by the PDU revealed that the oil infrastructure in Baku and Batum were particularly vulnerable to air attack, as both could be approached from the sea, so the more difficult target of Grozny would be bombed first to exploit the element of surprise. Oil fields were to be attacked with incendiary bombs, while tests conducted at the Royal Arsenal at Woolwich, revealed that light oil storage tanks at the oil processing plants could be detonated with high explosives.
As of 1 April, four squadrons comprising 48 Bristol Blenheim Mk IV bombers were transferred to the Middle East Command, supplemented with a number of single-engined Wellesley bombers for night missions. A French force of 65 Martin Maryland bombers and a supplementary force of 24 Farman F.222 heavy bombers were allocated for night operations during the campaign.
The French were preparing new airfields in Syria which were expected to be ready by 15 May. The campaign was expected to last three months and over 1,000 short tons of ordnance was allocated to the operation.
The German Blitzkrieg and the swift fall of France from 10 May 1940 derailed the plans when the French military failed to hold back the Wehrmacht advance. The Germans captured a train stalled at the village of La Charité-sur-Loire that contained boxes of secret documents evacuated from Paris.Some of these documents were dealing with Operation Pike.
On 4 July, in a propaganda campaign to justify the invasion of France, the German News Bureau released excerpts of the captured documents relating to Operation Pike.
After the attack on the Soviet Union by Nazi Germany in Operation Barbarossa in June 1941, Operation Pike was revived as a contingency plan to be invoked if German forces occupied the Caucasian oil fields.