More than a year ago, we talked about Nikolai Baibakov and his work in keeping Russia’s vast oil supplies from falling into the hands of the Germans during the Second World War. His incentive, according to his boss Joseph Stalin, was simple. Save the oil, save your life. Lose the oil…well, you can probably figure it out.
By early 1942, Leningrad (in the far north) had already been under seige for months and getting supplies into that desperate city, particularly fuel, was difficult. But in April, the Russian Defense Committee came up with the idea of an oil pipeline under Lake Ladoga, situated to the west and north of the city.
And with a stern directive from Stalin coupled with the knowledge of the “award” for failure, work began at a feverish pace. In less than 2 months, on June 18, 1942, a tremendous technological achievement was completed and the pipeline became operational. Nearly 300 tons of fuel per day were pumped through the underwater lifeline…not nearly enough for every need, but enough to keep Leningrad alive.
The idea caught on and, by September, the Volkhov power station was using an underwater cable to send electricity to the city. And in August 1944, after the Allies invaded Normandy, Operation PLUTO (PipeLine Under The Ocean) was launched. A pipeline was laid under the English Channel, pumping (as you might guess) about 300 tons of fuel per day. Of course, more capacity would be added, increasing daily flows ten-fold. But that was a couple of years down the road and, right now, the fuel to power essential services and the defenses of Leningrad was mighty welcome.
Recommended Reading: Absolute War – Soviet Russia in the Second World War