The Sovi­ets’ Claim that Lend-Lease Was Un­im­por­tant

Flight Journal - - 10 AVIATION MYTHS OF WORLD WAR II -

Pres­i­dent Franklin Roo­sevelt lauded Amer­ica as “the ar­se­nal of democ­racy,” a bit­ter irony to which he was ap­par­ently im­mune con­sid­er­ing that a ma­jor ben­e­fi­ciary was the despotic Soviet regime of Joseph Stalin.

Dur­ing and long af­ter the war, how­ever, Moscow stead­fastly re­fused to ac­knowl­edge the ex­tent of Western largess. The rea­sons mainly were twofold: a na­tion­al­ist re­luc­tance to ad­mit that the Ro­d­ina could not fully arm it­self and the in­creas­ingly bit­ter post­war cli­mate of com­pe­ti­tion be­tween the to­tal­i­tar­ian East and demo­cratic West.

The United States, how­ever, pro­vided the

Soviet Union with some $11 bil­lion in aid from 1941 to 1945. Mer­chan­dise in­cluded 400,000 trucks and jeeps; 12,000 ar­mored ve­hi­cles, in­clud­ing 7,000 tanks; 11,400 air­craft; and 1.7 mil­lion tons of food.

The Soviet of­fen­sives of 1943–45 sig­nif­i­cantly rode on the Stude­baker deuce and a half truck—a fact ig­nored in Soviet pro­pa­ganda then and since.

Ad­di­tion­ally, Bri­tain sent 7,000 air­craft,

5,000 ar­mored ve­hi­cles, 4,000 trucks, and thou­sands of ra­dios and radar sets. Per­haps Bri­tain’s great­est ben­e­fit was 15 mil­lion pair of boots.

Dur­ing the war the Sovi­ets re­paid some of the Amer­i­can aid to the tune of about $2 mil­lion. Those “re­funds,” how­ever, largely con­sisted of fees for ser­vic­ing, fu­el­ing, and main­tain­ing air­craft and equip­ment al­ready pro­vided to Moscow. The Soviet Union pro­vided par­tial di­rect pay­ment in gold, but nearly 30 years later, the United States set­tled for pen­nies on the dol­lar.

Right: P-39s and P-400s flew with the “Cac­tus Air Force” de­fend­ing Guadal­canal in late 1942 but were quickly re­placed by other types. (Photo cour­tesy of Stan Piet)

Above: While the Bell P-39 was not pop­u­lar in the USAAF and the fol­low-on P-63 never saw com­bat wear­ing white stars, both saw plenty of suc­cess wear­ing red stars. The Rus­sians liked both types. (Photo by John Dibbs/ planepic­ture.com)

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