Officially, 247 soldier of the Soviet Armed Forces were massacred in a Wehrmacht ambush. In reality, these soldiers massacred each other under the influence of Midnight Oil, a failed stimulant created by Stark Industries which Howard Stark himself had decided against distributing due to the catastrophic side-effects.
During World War II, industrialist Howard Stark was ordered by the US Army to design a gas that would keep soldiers awake for days. However, his experiments failed. The final product, which he named the Midnight Oil, caused symptoms similar to sleep deprivation, anger, hallucinations, and psychosis. Stark decided to not hand it over to the Army, but the man who ordered the making of the Midnight Oil, General John McGinnis, had other plans.
- "Do you know what your creation does?"
"I saw it afterwards."
"And I saw it while it happened. I was only spared because I had a gas mask to protect myself. My comrades were not so lucky, my brother wasn't so lucky...when I found him he had no eyes; pieces of his flesh had been bitten off. Can you imagine this?""
- ―Johann Fennhoff and Howard Stark[src]
In 1944, General John McGinnis' soldiers raided Howard Stark's laboratories, stealing the gas and all documents about Stark's research. Using Air Force planes, they flew over the battlefield on the Eastern Front, near the city of Finow in Germany and released the gas. They wanted to help the Soviet Armed Forces in crushing the German defenses in the area. However, the released gas had a different effect on the Soviets than they expected. Hundreds of soldiers went mad, with a sole thought on their minds - to kill everyone around them.
The Soviets started behaving like animals, biting each other, slitting each others' throats, gouging their eyes out, and cutting their skin. In the end, the field was filled with dozens of bloody corpses. Only a few soldiers managed to survive, but at the cost of their voices, not being able to speak anymore. A Soviet medical officer, Johann Fennhoff, survived by putting a gas mask on his face. His brother, however, was not as lucky, having been killed like the rest of his comrades.
After the massacre, a group of German soldiers led by Colonel Ernst Mueller investigated the area, discovering the corpses. A day later, Howard Stark arrived and saw the horrific sight. General John McGinnis did everything in his power to cover-up the incident. The few survivors of the massacre, including Leet Brannis, Sasha Demidov and Johann Fennhoff, were later recruited by the Soviet spy agency Leviathan. Fennhoff used this incident which caused his brother's death to justify his revenge plot on Howard Stark.