Operation Long Jump
|Operation Long Jump|
|Nazi Germany|| Soviet Union
|Commanders and leaders|
| Ernst Kaltenbrunner
| Joseph Stalin
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Operation Long Jump (German: Unternehmen Weitsprung) was a German plan to simultaneously assassinate Joseph Stalin, Winston Churchill, and Franklin Roosevelt at the 1943 Tehran Conference during World War II. The operation to kill the "Big Three" Allied leaders in Iran was to be led by SS-Obersturmbannführer Otto Skorzeny from the Waffen SS. A group of agents from the Soviet Union, led by Armenian spy Gevork Vartanian, uncovered the plot before its inception and the mission was never launched. The assassination plan and its disruption has been popularized by the Russian media with appearances in films and novels.
According to Soviet sources, German military intelligence discovered, after breaking a U.S. Navy code, that a major conference would be held at Tehran in mid-October 1943. Based on this information, Adolf Hitler approved a scheme to kill all three Allied leaders. Operational control was passed to Ernst Kaltenbrunner, chief of the Reich Main Security Office, who chose Skorzeny to head the mission. The German agent Elyesa Bazna (codenamed "Cicero"), in Ankara, Turkey, was also brought into the operation.
The NKVD alleged that, despite German secrecy, it quickly uncovered the plot following a tip-off from Soviet agent Nikolai Kuznetsov, who was posing as Paul Siebert, an Oberleutnant in the Wehrmacht from Nazi-occupied Ukraine. He got the information from an SS-Sturmbannführer named von Ortel, who was known to become "talkative" when drinking. The Soviet agent learned about the operation by getting him drunk.
The Soviets got more information from 19-year-old Soviet spy Gevork Vartanian, whose team of seven intelligence officers in 1940-41 had identified more than 400 Nazi agents, all of whom had been arrested by Soviet troops. In 1943, in their efforts to foil the assassination plot devised by the Nazis, Vartanyan’s group located an advance party of six German radio operators who had dropped by parachute near Qum, 60 km (37 mi) from Tehran. The Soviet agents tailed the German spies to the Iranian capital, where an existing Abwehr network set them up in a villa. From this location, the German observers radioed intelligence reports back to Berlin. However, unknown to them, all their transmissions were being intercepted, recorded and decoded by NKVD operatives. The decrypts revealed that a second group of operatives, led by Skorzeny, would be dropped into Iran for the actual assassination attempt in mid October. The NKVD claimed that this supported existing intelligence about the involvement of the SS commander because Vartanian's group had already tailed Skorzeny during his own reconnaissance mission to Tehran.
Vartanian later told the following details,
We followed them to Tehran, where the Nazi field station had readied a villa for their stay. They were travelling by camel, and were loaded with weapons. While we were watching the group, we established that they had contacted Berlin by radio, and recorded their communication... When we decrypted these radio messages, we learnt that the Germans were preparing to land a second group of subversives for a terrorist act — the assassination or abduction of the 'Big Three’. The second group was supposed to be led by Skorzeny himself.
All the members of the first group were arrested and forced to contact their handlers under Soviet supervision. The operation got off track and the main group led by Skorzeny never went to Tehran. This way the success of Vartanian's group in locating the Nazi advance party prevented the Nazi attempt to assassinate the 'Big Three'.
According to the NKVD, with October approaching the mission was aborted; Berlin is said to have received a secret code from Tehran indicating that its agents had discovered they were under surveillance.
In 1984, Vartanian was recognised for his role in uncovering Operation Long Jump. He was awarded the Gold Star medal of the Hero of the Soviet Union for his service in World War II and the Cold War. In 2007 he met with Winston Churchill's granddaughter and was congratulated for his great service to the Allies. In 2003, relying on declassified documents, Yuri Lvovich Kuznets published a book called Tehran-43 or Operation Long Jump, which detailed Vartanyan’s role at the Tehran Conference. A Soviet film, Tegeran-43, which featured the French actor Alain Delon, was released in 1981.
When Stalin informed Churchill and Roosevelt about the plan, some members within the American and British delegations doubted the existence of a plot because all evidence of its existence was provided by Soviet intelligence. In Britain, the Joint Intelligence Committee of the War Cabinet, considering the matter afterwards in London, concluded that the so-called Nazi plot against the Big Three was "complete baloney".
There have been debates about the veracity of the story. The skeptics brought up a number of arguments in this regard. Firstly, the German espionage network in Iran had been destroyed in mid-1943, well before Tehran was chosen as a meeting place. Secondly, more than 3,000 NKVD security troops guarded the city for the duration of the conference without incident. Thirdly, both Roosevelt and Churchill travelled on foot or open jeep throughout their four-day stay in Tehran.
Otto Skorzeny denied the story after the war. In his memoirs, he recalled a meeting with Hitler and SS-Brigadeführer Walter Schellenberg, from the foreign intelligence branch of the Sicherheitsdienst, when they did discuss the feasibility of assassinating Churchill. But Skorzeny said he told the Fuhrer the idea was unworkable and Hitler agreed with his assessment. Skorzeny wrote "Long Jump has really only existed in the imagination of a little bunch of truth-loving hacks [...]". He also castigated Russian sources for continually referring to Sturmbannführer Paul von Oertel, who Skorzeny said simply never existed.
To Russians the story remains a subject of great interest. In 2003, the Russian writer Yuri Kusnez held a press conference in the Foreign Intelligence ministry in Moscow to promote his book:Tehran-43. In 2007, a Russian television company promoted a documentary with the working title The Lion and the Bear. It documented Long Jump and was to be presented by Churchill's granddaughter Celia Sandys.
Pavel Sudoplatov in his memoirs brings up the details of how Kuznetsov recruited German officer Oster. According to Sudoplatov the training of German saboteurs were taking place on the foothill of the Carpathian Mountains where the group led by the intelligence officer Kuznetsov, who was disguised as a Wehrmacht lieutenant, was working. Oster, who owed Kunetsov some money, offered to pay back the debt by Persian carpets after his trip to Tehran; this suggested that the plot about the assassination attempt during the Tehran conference was quite feasible.
There are also a number of Western sources[who?] that have likewise confirmed the existence of the plot.
After the war French journalist Laslo Havas wrote a book about operation Long jump, where he confirmed that the Soviet intelligence had disrupted the German plot.
Political scientist Miron Rezun believes that operation Long Jump could not have been a part of Soviet misinformation campaign. Rezun notes that this was not the only planned and daring operation by German commandoes. As an argument supporting the existence of the operation Rezun cites Roosevelt’s confession in which he said that Stalin had informed him personally about the planned attempt. Another important source cited by Rezun is the diary of Alexander Cadogan, famous British diplomat, where he mentions about the information he received from the Russians on the plan to murder the leaders of the Big Three. According to Rezun some researchers and journalists in Germany deny the existence of the planned operation and accuse Laslo Havas of believing the Soviet misinformation. As an example of this Rezun cites German historian, famous specialist on the history of the Third Reich (and author of a complete biography of Wilhelm Canaris) Heinz Höhne, who in his article in Der Spiegel denied the existence of the German plot. Rezun notes that in this article Höhne for some reason omits the fact that Canaris had visited Tehran on the eve of German attack on the Soviet Union. 
Military historian Rupert Allason who wrote under the pen name Nigel West, gives the following description of events. After the arrest of German resident Franz Meyer in August of 1943, in Iran there were only remnants of German spy network left. Between 22 and 27 November, six groups of parachuters under the command of Rudolf von Holten-Pflug were dropped near Qom and eight more groups of 60 people, under the command of Vladimir Shkvarev, were dropped near Kazvin. Shkvarev’s group was quickly arrested by the NKVD. Others were deployed with SD agents Lothar Schollhorn and Winifred Oberg, who did not suspect that they had been sold out by Mayer. Stalin offered Roosevelt and Churchill to stay in the Soviet embassy in Tehran, however Roosevelt insisted on staying in the US embassy on the other side of the city. The ambushes planned on the way of the leaders of the Big Three were disrupted due to the fact that the British arrested Holten-Pflug and his friends on the night of 31st of November. On the 2nd of December six more German agents were arrested, who had been sold out by double agent Ernst Merser.
- Teheran 43, Soviet-French drama film from 1981 about an assassination attempt on Churchill, Stalin and Roosevelt during the Teheran Conference in 1943
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- The Telegraph, 11 Jan 2012, Gevork Vartanyan
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- RIA Novosti - Opinion & analysis - Tehran-43: Wrecking the plan to kill Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill
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- O'Sullivan, Donal (2010). Dealing with the Devil. New York. pp. 203–204.
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- Miron Rezun. The Soviet Union and the Iran: Soviet Policy in Iran from the Beginnings of the Pahlavi Dynasty Until the Soviet Invasion in 1941 // Collection de relations internationales / Institut universitaire de hautes études internationales, Université de Genève // Institut Universiatire des Hautes Études Series, Brill Archive, 1981. Р. 363
- Nigel West. Historical dictionary of World War II intelligence // Scarecrow Press, 2008. Pp. 140-141