How one chemist was able to stop the bombing of Leningrad

War is not only a mass of armed people and military equipment. Sometimes the outcome of a battle is decided by one person who is not at all a military man. Here is one such case ...

In early October 1941, a Me-109 was shot down over Leningrad. The pilot fell short of his own and landed the car on the outskirts of the city.

While the patrol was arresting him, a crowd of onlookers gathered, in which the famous Soviet organic chemist, a disciple of the great Favorsky, Alexander Dmitrievich Petrov, was wandering around. Fuel was leaking from the punched tanks of the plane and the professor became interested in what the Luftwaffe planes fly on. Petrov put an empty bottle under the stream and with the obtained sample in the laboratory set up a number of experiments in his laboratory in the empty buildings of the Leningrad Red Banner Chemical-Technological Institute, whose staff had already been evacuated to Kazan, while Petrov was left to watch exported property.

In the course of his research, Petrov found that the freezing point of captured aviation gasoline was minus 14ºC, versus minus 60ºC for ours. That is why, he realized, German planes do not climb to great heights. But how will they take off when the air temperature in the Leningrad region drops below minus fifteen?

The chemist turned out to be stubborn and got an audience with the deputy commander of the Air Force of the North-Western Front. And so immediately from the doorway, head-on, he announced that he knew a way to destroy all enemy flyugtsoigov. The general had some kind of apprehension, he even wanted to cause people in white coats. But after listening to the man of science, he showed interest in the information received.

To complete the picture, the chemist was delivered samples from a similarly landed Ju-87, then more scouts from behind the front were dragged from the airfields. In general terms, the results were the same. At this point, the military, in an atmosphere of secrecy, prepared an uberrashung for the Germans, and as fishermen began to wait for the weather from the sea. All the bosses who were in the know, several times a day asked the question: "Can you tell me how many degrees are below zero now?" They waited, waited and finally waited: on October 30, decrypted aerial photographs of the airfields in Gatchina and Siverskaya were laid on the table at the front air force headquarters.

The scouts in Siverskaya alone found 40 Ju-88s, 31 fighters and four transport aircraft. On the morning of November 6, Major Sandalov's 125th Bomber Aviation Regiment took off. From a height of 2550 meters, our Pe-2 fell on the enemy weatherboard. The navigator of the leading bomber, Captain V.N. Mikhailov, dropped bombs exactly on the enemy aircraft parking lot. Enemy anti-aircraft gunners raged, but the Germans could not lift a single fighter into the air - the frost was below twenty degrees. After 15 minutes, the pawns were replaced by six 174 attack aircraft, led by senior lieutenant Smyshlyaev. At the same time, a group of nine I-153s suppressed anti-aircraft artillery, and then fired at the parking of enemy aircraft with machine-gun fire. Two and a half hours later, seven 125 bap bombers, led by Captain Rezvykh, struck a second blow at the airfield. In total, 14 bombers, 6 attack aircraft and 33 fighters took part in the raid.

This raid was followed by raids on other airfields, as a result of which Colonel-General Alfred Keller's German 1st Air Fleet suffered significant losses and for some time actually lost its combat capability. Of course, the Germans soon delivered to their aviators a better quality aviation gasoline, which, although not 60-degree frost, made it possible to start aircraft engines at minus 20 degrees. However, the fleet regained its ability to launch massive bombing strikes on Leningrad only by April 1942. Petrov was soon evacuated to Moscow, and in 1947 he headed the laboratory of the Institute of Organic Chemistry of the USSR Academy of Sciences there. He lived until 1964.