Long-delayed update on my documentary’s progress:
First, it’s not done yet (damn). However, the research portion is very nearly at end and I’m actively working on the script, visuals, graphics, etc.
I’ve recently obtained another 4,000+ pages of original documents from the US National Archives, British National Archives, and German Bundesarchiv that, among other things, clarify to a great extent who the major national players in the planning for the attack on Ploesti were, and especially their attitudes, recommendations, and decisions.
Interesting how this unfolded: some documents I got from the British National Archives led to investigation of several completely new categories of documents from the US National Archives, which are not adequately indexed. This required a great deal of research time, but revealed critical new information not previously known or available.
I’ve also obtained some additional rather obscure but extremely interesting film of the mission and related activities that will help show a clearer, more exciting, and broader picture of what went on.
Some of the new specific document types include a large number of ULTRA decrypts related to Ploesti. You’ll recall that ULTRA was the TOP SECRET British codebreaking operation that was so secret no one outside the tiny group of intelligence initiates was even allowed to know the program existed, let alone the contents of the intercepted messages.
The ULTRA material covers a wide variety of subjects in detail, sometimes in considerable detail. For example, some of the intercepted German messages included such details as the Werke Nummer (serial number) of destroyed or damaged Luftwaffe aircraft (this applies to far more than just Ploesti). German military unit and personnel movements, damage assessments, and to a limited degree overall plans were other subjects covered.
It is utterly amazing to read how well Churchill, and to possibly a lesser extent FDR, were informed on what was going on behind German lines. ULTRA was undoubted one of, if not THE, major coups of the war.
Of particular interest is the extreme difference between the very accurate information the Allies were receiving from the Germans themselves through the ULTRA decrypts, and the amazingly bad information coming to them from some human intelligence sources, especially through Swedish, Polish, and Yugoslavian sources. Contemporary German and Romanian sources available to me now, especially from the oil companies, highlight these inaccuracies. Thankfully the Allies did not put much stock in these inaccurate reports. Because it’s outside the scope of my project, I have not investigated whether these inaccuracies were the result of German penetration of Polish and Yugoslavian intelligence networks or simply over-eager reporting of what was merely positive speculation.
Can’t recall whether I’ve already told you this, but my previous research into OKW (German high command), OKL (Luftwaffe high command) and Hitler’s personal diaries and logs has revealed considerable insight and detail on the German’s attitudes and actions with regard to Romanian oil. Among other things, Hitler’s utter contempt for the Romanian people (and his high regard for Marshal Antonescu) is as well documented as FDR’s well known contempt for Winston Churchill, both in spite of their many public proclamations to the contrary.
In addition to the contextual information I’ve been researching recently, I’ve also made considerable progress on a number of specifics related to the actual attack and its results.
In sum, there is today a massive amount of original documentation that was still classified or completely unavailable 50+ years ago when Stewart and Dugan wrote their landmark book. What’s most amazing is that they did such a superlative job given the relative scarcity of information available to them. As always, I feel honored to walk in the footprints of giants who have preceded me.