The Soviets’ Claim that Lend-Lease Was Unimportant
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)