Oil is the lifeblood of nations. No substance has ever proven more beneficial to the world when it comes to sustaining day to day livelihoods and moving vast quantities of commerce across the globe. It’s the one thing people, regardless of background, have to agree on if they want to be truthful. Oil is what makes the world work. And just like all resources provided by the earth, it plays no favorites. Right or wrong, good or bad, it serves at the pleasure of its users… and never more so than when it comes to waging war.
Throughout World War II, Germany, like its Axis partners Japan and Italy, depended on imported oil to feed its ever-thirsty military. Conquering Western Europe, occupying North Africa and controlling a vast swath of the Soviet Union had done little to offset the increasing burden of oil necessities.
Hitler tried what could be considered an all or nothing gamble to eliminate the problem, by launching the offensive named “Case Blue” in southern Russia during the summer of 1942. Here, 1.25 million troops fought their way through the Caucasus region, intending to capture the grand prize of the seemingly endless oil fields around the city of Baku. Instead, as history shows, they were stopped, and Hitler’s attention soon diverted further north to capture a city named for his arch rival. Stalingrad. The once mighty offensive petered out as the Ratten Krieg (Rat War) raged in the streets and buildings of a place once considered an afterthought, and when the Germans were encircled and destroyed there, the units fighting in the Caucuses were forced to retreat to avoid a similar fate.
The great gamble had failed, and ultimately, less than 30,000 of those involved in Case Blue made it back to their homeland. From this point on, endless supplies of oil remained out of reach, and Germany would have to depend on its ally, Romania, with its Ploesti oilfields, to continue supplying some 60% of the military’s needs. Because of this, conversations at the Casablanca conference in January, 1943 began about what the results might be if these fields could be heavily damaged, if not outright destroyed. A decision soon emerged to bomb Ploesti’s refineries as quickly as possible.