The Teenage Spy Who Saved FDR, Churchill, and Stalin

Hitler walking between SS general Ernst Kaltenbrunner, left, and Otto Skorzeny. Media Drum World

Operation Long Jump: The German Plan to Assassinate ‘The Big Three’

There was good cause for worry about the security of the planned Tehran Conference. The Germans’ intelligence presence in Iran had mushroomed after the country was occupied by the British and Soviets, and it was reasonable to expect that they would do what they could to derail the conference if they got wind of it. The Germans got wind of it after their military intelligence, the Abwehr, cracked a US Navy code, and discovered that a major conference was to be held in Tehran, tentatively scheduled for October of 1943.

The information was passed on to Hitler, along with recommendations to disrupt the planned Allied meeting with a commando attack. The result was Operation Long Jump, which aimed to definitively derail the Tehran Conference by assassinating the Big Three leaders. Operational control was passed to SS general Ernst Kaltenbrunner, chief of the Reichssicherheitshauptamt (Reich Main Security Office), the Nazis’ intelligence arm, combining the SS intelligence service and the interior ministry’s security police.

To carry out Long Jump, Kaltenbrunner utilized Germany’s prize undercover agent in the Middle East, the Albanian Elyesa Bazna (codename “Cicero”), to lay the groundwork. To carry out the actual attack, Kaltenbrunner turned to SS Obersturmbannführer Otto Skorzeny. By 1943 Skorzeny, a former bodyguard of Hitler who had gone into special operations work, had solidified his status as Germany’s premier commando. That September, he had successfully carried out a daring airborne raid that rescued deposed Italian dictator Benito Mussolini from captivity in a mountaintop ski resort. He then personally piloted a small plane that flew the freed leader to safety. In short, Skorzeny was a highly capable, and highly dangerous, operative.

Otto Skorzeny, center with binoculars, posing with Benito Mussolini after rescuing the Italian dictator. Wikimedia

Fortunately, the Allies got wind of the German scheme when a Soviet intelligence agent, posing as a Wehrmacht officer in Nazi occupied Ukraine, came across an SS officer who was prone to blabbing when in his cups. The Soviet operative got the SS man drunk, and the inebriated Nazi started boasting about his access and insider knowledge. Among the nuggets he let slip was that a “big” operation was in the works, that was to take place in Iran, and which was expected to strike the Allies a serious blow by assassinating their leaders.

The drunk SS man did not give specific dates, but he gave enough clues that when followed up and cross checked with information gathered from other sources, confirmed that the Germans knew of the Big Three’s planned meeting in Tehran. Soviet resources and assets in Iran were marshaled to counter the threat, and Gevork Vartanian and his team were put on the trail of the German agents.