Did Russia Really Go It Alone? How Lend-Lease Helped the Soviets Defeat the Germans

Soviet general A. A. Kuznetsov climbs from a British Hurricane cloaked in Soviet colors. (National Archives)
Soviet general A. A. Kuznetsov climbs from a British Hurricane cloaked in Soviet colors. (National Archives)

The Soviets have long insisted that Lend-Lease aid made little difference. Newly discovered files tell another story

After a series of dramatic Nazi successes during the opening stages of Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, foreign observers predicted that Soviet resistance would soon collapse. By October, German troops were poised outside both Leningrad and Moscow. But the Germans were doggedly held off in front of Moscow in late November and early December, and then rolled back by a reinvigorated Red Army in a staggeringly brutal winter counteroffensive.

That the Soviet victories of late 1941 were won with Soviet blood and largely with Soviet weapons is beyond dispute. But for decades the official Soviet line went much further. Soviet authorities recognized that the “Great Patriotic War” gave the Communist Party a claim to legitimacy that went far beyond Marxism-Leninism or the 1917 Revolution, and took pains to portray their nation’s victories in World War II as single-handed. Any mention of the role that Western assistance played in the Soviet war effort was strictly off-limits.

During Nikita Khrushchev’s rule in the late 1950s and early 1960s, there was a window of greater frankness and openness about the extent of aid supplied from the West under the Lend-Lease Act—but it was still clearly forbidden for Soviet authors to suggest that such aid ever made any real difference on the battlefield. Mentions of Lend-Lease in memoirs were always accompanied by disparagement of the quality of the weapons supplied, with American and British tanks and planes invariably portrayed as vastly inferior to comparable Soviet models.

An oft-quoted statement by First Vice-Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars Nikolai Voznesensky summed up the standard line that Allied aid represented “only 4 percent” of Soviet production for the entire war. Lacking any detailed information to the contrary, Western authors generally agreed that even if Lend-Lease was important from 1943 on, as quantities of aid dramatically increased, the aid was far too little and late to make a difference in the decisive battles of 1941–1942.

But since the collapse of the Soviet Union, a trickle of information has emerged from archives in Moscow, shedding new light on the subject. While much of the documentary evidence remains classified “secret” in the Central Archives of the Ministry of Defense and the Russian State Archive of the Economy, Western and Russian researchers have been able to gain access to important, previously unavailable firsthand documents. I was recently able to examine Russian-language materials of the State Defense Committee—the Soviet equivalent of the British War Cabinet—held in the former Central Party Archive. Together with other recently published sources, including the wartime diaries of N. I. Biriukov, a Red Army officer responsible from August 1941 on for the distribution of recently acquired tanks to the front lines, this newly available evidence paints a very different picture from the received wisdom. In particular, it shows that British Lend-Lease assistance to the Soviet Union in late 1941 and early 1942 played a far more significant part in the defense of Moscow and the revival of Soviet fortunes in late 1941 than has been acknowledged.

Particularly important for the Soviets in late 1941 were British-supplied tanks and aircraft. American contributions of the time were far fewer. In fact, for a brief period during December 1941, the relative importance of British aid increased well beyond levels planned by the Allies as a result of American reaction to the outbreak of war with Japan; some American equipment destined for the Soviet Union was actually unloaded from merchant vessels and provided to American forces instead.

Even aid that might seem like a drop in the bucket in the larger context of Soviet production for the war played a crucial role in filling gaps at important moments during this period. At a time when Soviet industry was in disarray—many of their industrial plants were destroyed or captured by the advancing Nazi troops or in the process of evacuation east—battlefield losses of specific equipment approached or even exceeded the rate at which Soviet domestic production could replace them during this crucial period. Under these circumstances even small quantities of aid took on far greater significance.

According to research by a team of Soviet historians, the Soviet Union lost a staggering 20,500 tanks from June 22 to December 31, 1941. At the end of November 1941, only 670 Soviet tanks were available to defend Moscow—that is, in the recently formed Kalinin, Western, and Southwestern Fronts. Only 205 of these tanks were heavy or medium types, and most of their strength was concentrated in the Western Front, with the Kalinin Front having only two tank battalions (67 tanks) and the Southwestern Front two tank brigades (30 tanks).

Given the disruption to Soviet production and Red Army losses, the Soviet Union was understandably eager to put British armor into action as soon as possible. According to Biriukov’s service diary, the first 20 British tanks arrived at the Soviet tank training school in Kazan on October 28, 1941, at which point a further 120 tanks were unloaded at the port of Archangel in northern Russia. Courses on the British tanks for Soviet crews started during November as the first tanks, with British assistance, were being assembled from their in-transit states and undergoing testing by Soviet specialists.

The tanks reached the front lines with extraordinary speed. Extrapolating from available statistics, researchers estimate that British-supplied tanks made up 30 to 40 percent of the entire heavy and medium tank strength of Soviet forces before Moscow at the beginning of December 1941, and certainly made up a significant proportion of tanks available as reinforcements at this critical point in the fighting. By the end of 1941 Britain had delivered 466 tanks out of the 750 promised.

The British Military Mission to Moscow noted that by December 9, about ninety British tanks had already been in action with Soviet forces. The first of these units to have seen action seems to have been the 138th Independent Tank Battalion (with twenty-one British tanks), which was involved in stemming the advance of German units in the region of the Volga Reservoir to the north of Moscow in late November. In fact the British intercepted German communications indicating that German forces had first come in contact with British tanks on the Eastern front on November 26, 1941.

The exploits of the British-equipped 136th Independent Tank Battalion are perhaps the most widely noted in the archives. It was part of a scratch operational group of the Western Front consisting of the 18th Rifle Brigade, two ski battalions, the 5th and 20th Tank Brigades, and the 140th Independent Tank Battalion. The 136th Independent Tank Battalion was combined with the latter to produce a tank group of only twenty-one tanks, which was to operate with the two ski battalions against German forces advancing to the west of Moscow in early December. Other largely British-equipped tank units in action with the Western Front from early December were the 131st Independent Tank Brigade, which fought to the east of Tula, south of Moscow, and 146th Tank Brigade, in the region of Kriukovo to the immediate west of the Soviet capital.

While the Matilda Mk II and Valentine tanks supplied by the British were certainly inferior to the Soviets’ homegrown T-34 and KV-1, it is important to note that Soviet production of the T-34 (and to a lesser extent the KV series), was only just getting seriously underway in 1942, and Soviet production was well below plan targets. And though rapid increases in tank firepower would soon render the 40mm two-pounder main gun of the Matilda and Valentine suitable for use on light tanks only, the armor protection of these British models put them firmly in the heavy and medium categories, respectively. Both were superior to all but the Soviet KV-1 and T-34 in armor, and indeed even their much maligned winter cross-country performance was comparable to most Soviet tanks excluding the KV-1 and T-34.

A steady stream of British-made tanks continued to flow into the Red Army through the spring and summer of 1942. Canada would eventually produce 1,420 Valentines, almost exclusively for delivery to the Soviet Union. By July 1942 the Red Army had 13,500 tanks in service, with more than 16 percent of those imported, and more than half of those British.

Lend-Lease aircraft deliveries were also of significance during the Battle of Moscow. While Soviet pilots praised the maneuverability of the homegrown I-153 Chaika and I-16 Ishak fighters—still in use in significant numbers in late 1941—both types were certainly obsolete and inferior in almost all regards to the British-supplied Hurricane. The Hurricane was rugged and tried and tested, and as useful at that point as many potentially superior Soviet designs such as the LaGG-3 and MiG-3. There were apparently only 263 LaGG-3s in the Soviet inventory by the time of the Moscow counteroffensive, and it was an aircraft with numerous defects. At the end of 1941 there were greater numbers of the MiG-3, but the plane was considered difficult to fly. The Yak-1, arguably the best of the batch, and superior in most regards to the Hurricane, suffered from airframe and engine defects in early war production aircraft.

A total of 699 Lend-Lease aircraft had been delivered to Archangel by the time the Arctic convoys switched to Murmansk in December 1941. Of these, 99 Hurricanes and 39 Tomahawks were in service with the Soviet air defense forces on January 1, 1942, out of a total of 1,470 fighters. About 15 percent of the aircraft of the 6th Fighter Air Corps defending Moscow were Tomahawks or Hurricanes.

The Soviet Northern Fleet was also a major and early recipient of British Hurricanes, receiving those flown by No. 151 Wing of the RAF, which operated briefly from Soviet airfields near Murmansk. As early as October 12, 1941, the Soviet 126th Fighter Air Regiment was operating with Tomahawks bought from the United States by Britain. Tomahawks also served in defense of the Doroga Zhizni or “Road of Life” across the ice of Lake Ladoga, which provided the only supply line to the besieged city of Leningrad during the winter of 1941–42. By spring and summer of 1942 the Hurricane had clearly become the principal fighter aircraft of the Northern Fleet’s air regiments; in all, 83 out of its 109 fighters were of foreign origin.

British and Commonwealth deliveries to the Soviet Union in late 1941 and early 1942 would not only assist in the Soviet defense of Moscow and subsequent counteroffensive, but also in increasing Soviet production for the next period of the war. Substantial quantities of machine tools and raw materials, such as aluminum and rubber, were supplied to help Soviet industry back on its feet: 312 metal-cutting machine tools were delivered by convoy PQ-12 alone, arriving in March 1942, along with a range of other items for Soviet factories such as machine presses and compressors.

Once again, raw figures do not tell the whole story. Although British shipments amounted to only a few percent of Soviet domestic production of machine tools, the Soviet Union could request specific items which it may not have been able to produce for itself. Additionally, many of the British tools arrived in early 1942, when Soviet tool production was still very low, resulting in a disproportionate impact. The handing over of forty imported machine tools to Aviation Factory No. 150 in July 1942, for example, was the critical factor in enabling the factory to reach projected capacity within two months.

Lend-Lease aid did not “save” the Soviet Union from defeat during the Battle of Moscow. But the speed at which Britain in particular was willing and able to provide aid to the Soviet Union, and at which the Soviet Union was able to put foreign equipment into frontline use, is still an underappreciated part of this story. During the bitter fighting of the winter of 1941–1942, British aid made a crucial difference.

This story originally appeared in the June/July 2008 issue of World War II magazine.

70 Responses

  1. paul penrod

    Even if the USSR hadn’t received a single tank or plane from the west they still wouldn’t been able to wage a successful offensive war without US/UK assistance. Soviet soldiers were fed (they liked our SPAM) and clothed, were equipped with western radio and telephone equipment, medical supplies, railroad cars and locos (built for the Russian gauge) and especially hordes of trucks to sustain their later offensives. This allowed the Soviets to concentrate their production on tanks, guns and planes.

    • Brent

      no they did not like our spam they liked our tusenka. Russian recipe for us canned pork/beef.

    • panki

      All that was not aid, but trade. USSR paid every boot, in gold, and that many gold that they could buy world. And if that is help than Germans help Serbia to win WWI against them self, because many of weapons they use were bought from Germans. And if there is some truth in this numbers, message is only that Soviets used better even UK/USA tanks and planes, but if this numbers are really true then we got that Russia made 96 t34 tanks per day in remaining period and what about KV series. Truth is that in best they were producing 33 tanks per day and that is 3x less. Which suggests this trade was like Soviet sources describe it and this trade had no influence in 1941/42 it is just one more Western propaganda. Also you must not forgot that Brits buy 3x times more goods from USA and Canada and didn’t nothing for years. Also u must not forgot that USA blackmail UK to give them all patents they had and all Islands near USA and to give up from colonies(which is actually good thing).

      • Sascha

        The difference between aid and trade is, that aid is often an emergency solution that get’s paid (if ever) later. So it started as an aid and once the war was won it became a trade.

        No matter if you call it aid or trade the result is that without foreign help and outside factors, the USSR might have lost the war or at least suffer LOTS of casualties more. After all the Blitzkrieg depended on a fast overwhelming of the enemy with massive power as germany was unable to win any war of attrition.

        These outside factors were:

        1) The Lend Lease pact. Obviously the massive (especially british) help to increase the defenses of the USSR in a vital moment when the war was decided in 41/42. What this article doesn’t focus on is the massive aid of infrastructure, as machines to allow mass production like the US already had invented it, lots of telephone cables, radar and radios. Things that gave the USSR the infrastructure to outproduce their opponent.

        2) The harsh winter. Without the incredible mud period and harsh winter, the germans would have still advanced through the SU like a hot knife in butter.

        3) The declaration of war from the allies. Without the war against france and enspecially britain which drained vital resources, Hitler would just have attacked the USSR possibly already not long after poland in 1940 without having to worry to waste resources on other fronts. So in a way you can say that without the brave actions of the british, germany would possibly have steam rolled the USSR in 1940/41. Remember that it was never Hitlers goal to dominate all of europe or even the world but to gain Lebensraum in the east and secure those precious resources for germany.

        4) The italians. Sounds weird at first but their failed balkan offensive delayed the attack on the SU for 1 1/2 months. Imagine the 1941 offensive with 1 1/2 more months of time without mud or snow and moscow might have fallen.

        So all in all there were a lot of factors that lead to the lucky outcome for the SU of winning this war.

      • Garnet

        In order to comment you must not be caught up in patriotic fervor. “The Soviet Union” produced without doubt the best Tank of WW2 the T-34-85. One can also argue unquestionably that the shear volumes of roughly manufactured Soviet artillery and Katushya Rocket Trucks dominated the Eastern battlefields. The Germans downfall was they did not realise ever that they shouldn’t be building Tanks and Artillery with precision ball bearings and low machining tolerances when the average life expectancy of a Tank in WW2 was about 2 weeks. Yes the Soviets paid in gold for Lend/Lease, but it was the brave crews of the Allied Merchant Marine and Royal Navy that fought their way to Archangel and Murmansk past the battleships, Cruisers, Destroyers and U-Boats of the Kreigsmarine!, not to mention the torpedo and straffing attacks of the Luftwaffe. Indeed HMS Edinburgh was sunk with a shipment of gold aboard. My Uncle delivered your country these critical war materials, constantly chipping and sledgehammering off frozen ice from the topsides of his Royal Navy Destroyer in the most hazardous and arduous of conditions to prevent it from capsizing, at a time when the Soviet Union effectively had no Navy to speak of. The USA & Canada were “The Arsenals of Democracy” that stockpiled the Unsinkable Aircraft Carrier Great Britain right up till 22 June 1941- that is 16-22 months of fighting alone against the Kriegsmarine & the Luftwaffe all at a time when Stalin conspired with Hitler to carve up Poland!
        That sure backfired on the Big Russian Bear Stalin didn’t it? He lost 20,500 Tanks, almost His entire Air Force on the ground within the 1st week of Operation Barbarossa and several million Soviet soldiers killed or captured by the Germans by the end of November 1941! – What a great man Stalin was, not only did he ignore Churchill’s warnings about the Germans, he almost lost his whole Country and enslaved its entire population to work & death for the Germans. Prior to the start of WWII Stalin had purged almost the entire Soviet army of its top Generals, because of his fear of being overthrown in a coupe. No to mention starving and killing off of 40 million of own population in the 1920-30’s!
        Yes had it not been for American supplies in the form of Rubber, Metal, Machine Tools, Ammunition, Bombs, Studebaker 6×6 Trucks, Tank Busting P-63 37mm Fighters, Hurricane & P-40 Warhawk fighters, Medium Bombers that proved their worth in the Crimea. Studebaker 6×6 Trucks to move Soviet Troops on the Battlefield, Tow Soviet Artillery, mount Katyusha Rockets etc supplied though IRAN! And the 50,000 Jeeps that the Soviet Generals and Colonels were so fond of – then the Great Soviet Patriotic War would have ended in defeat at Moscow eventually at the hands of the Germans.
        Politics is Politics yes, and the Americans were more than glad to trade 50 rusty WW1 Tin Can Destroyers that the UK desperately needed, in exchange for bases. This was a no brainer, as this was beginning to look like the start of a World Wide War as tensions were heating up everywhere. Not to mention many rich capitalists in the USA were more than glad to see Britain start to become indebted to the western arms manufactures and the slow decline of her once mighty empire under the burden of debt. After all she shouldered the war against Germany on her own for almost 28 months until the Americans entered the fray (the French effort not being counted here.) You are wrong though, about the patents on the Jet engine etc. as Britain was fighting on her own and in the darkest days of the Battle of Britain and the Blitz the Cities and Docks it seemed prudent to transfer all that they patents and military know how – lest they were invaded by the Germans!


      • Nick

        Incorrect. The Soviets did not get food from us in “trade”. They got the supplies out of desperation.

        Sure, they paid the U.S. with some gold, but they did not pay for it all. In fact, the USSR paid the U.S. until 1972 in an effort to repay the war debt…..but the U.S. forgave the remaining debt in 1972. The British only finished paying its war debt in 2006.

      • Nick

        And no, the USSR did NOT produce the best tank of WWII. The T-34 was certainly a good tank, but during the Korean War the T-34 consistently got its ass kicked by the American Sherman Tank, which was faster and more mobile.

        And lets not forget, many of the Russian T-34s were made with American steel as the USSR hadn’t the means to mine their own iron ore.

  2. jack turso

    If not for our convoys to archangel and murmansk ,and loss of life to brit and usa merchant seamen they were toast..Germany Hitler wanted only short range bombers.the russians moved their factories further north to be out of range of the twin engine bombers..Not to mention the fact that stalian insisted on an invasion of north africia and italy to take the strain off the eastern front,,Worst campaign ever and needless loss of lives.
    Patton wanted to go through the Balkins..the 5th army suffered much needless loss of lives,,Grant you russia had millions of soldiers and had the germans not sacked and raped the civilians who knows? Last but not least,russia had three great generals.JANUARY,FEBRUARY AND MARCH.WORST WINTER IN 100 YRS.WHAT IF GERMANY INVADED IN MAY INSTEAD OF JUNE?

    • Eric

      If not for the Soviet bravery then the UK would have been toast in both North Africa and anywhere else they would have wanted to fight.

      The Germans had plenty of time from June onwards. They specifically believed in launching in June that they would have taken Moscow before winter,

      85% of German losses were on the Eastern Front…..they are owed almost every gratitude

  3. Peter

    Jack turso: the greatest enemy the Germans faced was mud, not snow. It was the mud of October and November slowed the Germans down. When the mud froze solid in late November early December their advance picked up speed again. In early May the Russian ground was still muddy from the previous winters snow melt. Between that and having to bale the Italians out in Greece there was no way that Germany could have invaded in early May. The delay taking Kiev rather than move on Moscow was far more significant although no sane German general could really have left that many Russians on their flank.

    The claim that Russia was saved by winter diminishes the way the Russians defended Moscow. Zhukov fought a very, very clever defence of the city and the Russians halted the Germans with blood. The foul winter of 1941 hurt the Russians as much as the Germans…. the Russians aren’t snow proof. If German tanks couldn’t move neither could Russian ones.

    Getting back on topic at the Battle of Prokhorovka the only significant quanity of heavy tanks available to the Soviets were 31 Lend lease Churchills. The way some Russians dismiss the aid they recieved from Britain is highly offensive. I had a great uncle die on a petrol tanker heading to Archangel… we’ll never know if he burnt or froze/drowned. Likewise my Grandfather in North Africa would have had an easier war if the tanks and fighters we sent to Russia had been available to his division instead.

    • s gosling

      Does not affect the fact that Russia won the war. 88% of German casualties inflicted by Russians!

      • Phillip

        Actually it was the Soviet Union, not Russia. Also 88% may be a little high. I have seen statistics which indicate that the figure is 70%, not 88%. Either way, it’s historic fact that The Soviet Union’s Red Army killed more Germans than all other Allies combined. The Soviet Union also suffered more casualties than everyone else combined. Just google it.

        And if someone on your winning team scores 70 or more points out of 100, then who won the game? The Soviets deserve at least MVP, and most of the time we Americans doesn’t even mention the UUSR and are always acting like we won the war single-handedly, and, my friends, it just ain’t so.

        This of course doesn’t lessen individual casualties of other countries such as someone’s great uncle, or my own uncle, who died as a result of Nazi injuries.

        But as a former simple U.S. soldier from the 1960’s and 70’s war, I hate to see lies in reporting. even more I hate war. period.

        May God grant us peace, so that the common soldier doesn’t have to die for politicians.

      • Figgster

        And how many casualties did the Soviets inflict on the Italians and Japanese. You seem to have ignored the fact that the USA bore the vast bulk of the work in defeating the sons of Nippon, a formidable, and wildly fanatic, opponent. Given the production of US factories and the fact their armed services operated on two critical fronts, I think we may want to rethink your MVP award.

        And let’s not forget that the Soviet Union was virtually non existent when it came to maritime struggles, which was a huge factor in WW2.

      • Nick

        The U.S. fought both in Europe and the Pacific against Japan. We had the same number of troops in service as the USSR, we produced over 17 million tons of supplies to the USSR (roughly the same amount consumed by the US on both fronts)

        The only reason the USSR had such a high number of troops fighting Germany is because they did not have to fight Japan on a 2nd front. The U.S. took care of that all by themselves.

        Not to mention all the trucks the U.S provided Russia for Operation Bagration…over 220,000 trucks….so the entire Red Army could become mobile rather than march on foot.

    • Mike

      Very good Peter, you are 100% correct on the mud, something that even many WWII buffs miss. I might differ on the winter hurting Russians as much as the Germans though. The Germans were expecting to have them finished off back then and their troops were unequipped for the frigid temperatures.

  4. Marcelo Jenisch

    WWII was won by the joint Allied effort. The USSR was more important in the ground war against most European Axis; the remaining Allies in the air and on the sea; and figthing Japan (let’s not forget China); as well as supplying the Soviets with vital assistance as show here. The ‘my dick is bigger than yours’ business is not only nonsense, but also a big disrespect to all people who perished in that war. Period.

  5. Eastern Front June 28 1941 - Page 2 - Stormfront

    […] forces had first come in contact with British tanks on the Eastern front on November 26, 1941. Did Russia Really Go It Alone? How Lend-Lease Helped the Soviets Defeat the Germans And lets look at the year 1941/42 From December 1st 1941 to November 1st 1942 the Red Army […]

  6. Igor

    This is wrong. Lend-Lease was very importaint for britain, but not fpr the Soviet Union. Lend-Lease was only 4-6% of the soviet war production.

    Soviet Union was in war not only against germany. It was Germany with european ressources. With french, czech industries and so on.

    And Soviet Unino lost 1941 50% (!!!) of soviet industry. Soviet Unino has fought with one hand.

    • Nick

      This is a false figure concocted by some moron Russian historian. IF this statistic were true, then that means the USSR produced over 250,000,000 tons of supplies all on its own. Which is laughable to even suggest as the USSR couldnt even feed itself, clothe itself, nor produce enough military vehicles to transport troops en mass. That task was completed by the United States with over 2000 rail cars, 220,000 trucks for Operation Bagration alone (which finally pushed the Germans out of pre-Barbarrossa territory).

      The U.S. produced over 17 million tons of supplies for its military operations in both Europe and the Pacific combined. Likewise, the U.S. produced 17 million tons of supplies for the USSR. No way the USSR out produced the U.S. by 233,000,000 tons.

      So this proves the 4-6% figure to be a nice statistic pulled from the Vladimir Putin book of history. We all know its false.

      • Rommel

        In terms of tanks and airplanes these figures are actually correct. Americans did alot of work to help win the war. The problems is americans overplay their importance in the eastern front. 427,000 trucks were supplied, however as a whole, 22% of the entire lend-lease went to soviets, 63% to the commonwealth.

        Being someone who went to High School in the US, I can attest teachers push the idea that this alone saved the USSR and reading Nick’s comments he seems to be a victim of this. When in fact, once the factories were reestablished and working again in ’42 they were able to supply themselves.

  7. Major Tom

    I have been reading extensively on this recently and a slim majority believe the Soviets would have won without the Western assistance. A substantial minority are undecided

    Most agree that it would have been a long torturous war of attrition lasting 10 or more years.

    The wild card is technology. German nuclear research was not as advanced as some believe but add another 3-4 years to the equation and it is hard to believe they would not have the bomb.

    Germany with nukes means game over. Without nukes I imagine the Soviets would have ground them down

    All of this presupposes that Germany would retain all their allies and the USA and Britain are totally out of the fight. For the purposes of this discussion, we will also assume Japan is no factor.

    • geoduck

      If you want to suppose a ‘clean slate’ without the US and UK in the war then why not suppose that the UK and US are neutrals willing to solve their own economic problems by selling arms and materials to whoever has the gold to pay for them. In 1941 that would have been Germany and ‘game over’ for the Soviet Union. The point is you can’t cleanly separate what happened on the eastern front from pre-war politics and economics. If you’re looking for the fractal butterfly it might have been Wallis Simpson. Or maybe Belgium in 1914. If the Kaiser had gone on the defensive in the west…

      • Major Tom

        All true and excellent points. There are always new factors that can be added and subtracted ad infinitum, Adding or subtracting factors do not validate or invalidate speculation at any level

  8. Wolcott

    I agree that lend-lease aid made little difference to the Soviet victory on the Eastern Front. In fact, I would believe that it made absolutely no difference at all.

    I don’t recall any lend-lease aircraft or tank (American and British) being ever appreciated by the Soviets. From Operation Barbarossa until the fall of Berlin, it was always domestic vehicles like the T-34 tank and Il-2 Shturmovik aircraft which were given credit.

    All this aid could have been much better off in countries which never had them and as a result fell to the Axis powers (Malaya, Singapore, Philippines etc).

  9. Me

    So the fact is still that the foreign \aid\ to the USSR did not exceed 4% of the national production during the war.
    Supplying trucks and foaks is an insult when your ally is facing 2000 Panzers and 250 Nazis Divisions !

    The Red Army kicked the ass of Adolf with the power and the will of the Soviet People, cause they were so happy to enjoy a Communist Regime that they would never have given it up !
    French people has been screwed up by its government, the British didi NOT want to fight against the German, just as the German did not want to invade these useless british islands. So the \war\ between UK and Germany has been declared, but has never been undertaken (30 000 dead in the UK in 1940 ? it has not been even a single day of the casualties made in the USSR by the Nazis !).

    Thanks to the USSR, the Nazis have been defeated, sent to hell.
    The USSR has saved the whole Humanity.

    • Major Tom

      Well, I have already agreed that unless the Nazi developed nukes the Russians would have probably won a 10 year war.

      Just a couple of comments. The Russian people won the war not the “Soviet” people. If Hitler had been smart enough to not mistreat the Russians that greeted them as liberators early on it might have changed things. Stalin was hated in Russia as much as Hitler in 1940. There was nothing political about the defeat of Hitler. The Russians fought for their homeland, not for the now failed communist system

      There is no question that Russia paid the highest price for victory in WWII and the lend lease aid was indeed insignificant.

  10. Major Tom

    All true and excellent points. There are always new factors that can be added and subtracted ad infinitum..

  11. Archil

    Are you discussing \Big Troika\s decisions? After all it was Churchill’s and Roosevelt’s decision to have coalition and it was the only way to win and win with lowest casualties possible. Not every western operation was success and probably only hate for casualties delayed end of war for an year or so.

  12. Gil

    The British were already fighting in North Africa when Germany attacked the Soviet Union. The invasion of Italy was Churchill’s idea, not Stalin’s. The Balkan strategy, of which the Italian invasion was a piece, was also Churchill’s idea. Italy was selected as the second front at the insistence of Churchill at the Casablanca conference in 1943. That turned out to be one of the worst allied decisions of the war.

  13. Sascha

    The difference between aid and trade is, that aid is often an emergency solution that get’s paid (if ever) later. So it started as an aid and once the war was won it became a trade.

    No matter if you call it aid or trade the result is that without foreign help and outside factors, the USSR might have lost the war or at least suffer LOTS of casualties more. After all the Blitzkrieg depended on a fast overwhelming of the enemy with massive power as germany was unable to win any war of attrition.

    These outside factors were:

    1) The Lend Lease pact. Obviously the massive (especially british) help to increase the defenses of the USSR in a vital moment when the war was decided in 41/42. What this article doesn’t focus on is the massive aid of infrastructure, as machines to allow mass production like the US already had invented it, lots of telephone cables, radar and radios. Things that gave the USSR the infrastructure to outproduce their opponent.

    2) The harsh winter. Without the incredible mud period and harsh winter, the germans would have still advanced through the SU like a hot knife in butter.

    3) The declaration of war from the allies. Without the war against france and enspecially britain which drained vital resources, Hitler would just have attacked the USSR possibly already not long after poland in 1940 without having to worry to waste resources on other fronts. So in a way you can say that without the brave actions of the british, germany would possibly have steam rolled the USSR in 1940/41. Remember that it was never Hitlers goal to dominate all of europe or even the world but to gain Lebensraum in the east and secure those precious resources for germany.

    4) The italians. Sounds weird at first but their failed balkan offensive delayed the attack on the SU for 1 1/2 months. Imagine the 1941 offensive with 1 1/2 more months of time without mud or snow and moscow might have fallen.

    So all in all there were a lot of factors that lead to the lucky outcome for the SU of winning this war.

  14. Robert

    I am so tired of this BS. Of course the USA was vital to the USSR’s effort by aid and US soldiers as well.

    Not only did the US soldiers in Europe aid Russia so did the “go it alone” effort by the USA vs. Japan. had the USA not taken on Japan the Japs would have been free to open a second front on the Russians from the East as China was already defeated and the British were of no consequence. To act as if Japan and Germany weren’t Allies is naive and somehow this fact is easily overlooked by the Russians or anyone who has an axe to grind with the USA.

    • omg

      “Not only did the US soldiers in Europe aid Russia so did the “go it alone” effort by the USA vs. Japan. had the USA not taken on Japan the Japs would have been free to open a second front on the Russians from the East as China was already defeated and the British were of no consequence.”

      lolz… Yet te Russians defeated the vast majority of Japanese ground forces in Manchuria. The USA was not alone in fightinging the Japanese. It was the Australians who first halted them. And the British, and its Allies, far out numbered the US on land, on sea, and in the air. Bud.

      • Facepalm

        You do realize the invasion of Manchuria was moved up because of the bombing on Nagasaki and Hiroshima?

  15. Mac

    Stalin was quite right when he mentioned towards the end of the war that in order to defeat the Germans the British provided the time, the Americans the money and the Russians the blood. While lend-lease certainly aided the S.Union at a critical time, it only really started to kick in when the Soviets already turned the war around in 1943 on their own accord. Most of the weapons supplied to the S.U. we’re already considered out-dated or second class by the Western Allies. What aided the Soviets more was the transport items such as trucks and locomotives, communication items, metals and food supplied. Between 1943 and ’45 these items certainly made life easier for the advancing Red Army, but without it, it would merely have been more difficult and took them longer. The Western Allies take far too much credit for \winning\ the war. Without the sacrifice of the S.U. they would never been able to have made it to Berlin, except maybe with the use of the Atomic Bomb.

  16. OMG

    I love reading USamericans views of history. They are always so US-centric in the main. Take the South East Asia campaign( the pacific).. The millions of other nationalities who fought and died and eventually defeated the Japanese forces do not get a mention. The Indians, the Pilipinos, the Australians, The New Zealanders, The Papua New Guinea tribes, The Chinese, The Indonesians, The Burmese, The Russians, etc, etc.

    The USA did’nt invent the Atomic bomb… They deployed it.

    The USA did not defeat the Germans, the helped.

    The USA did not defeat Japan, they took a few Islands.. Oh, and the British Empire, and the Dutch were attacked two hours before ‘Pearl Harbor’.

    By far the vast majority of US ‘aid’ was in the form of tobacco and food stuffs.

    etc, etc, etc… But hey, fly the flag boy’s.. Nationalism, Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.

    • Facepalm

      What history have you been studying? Among the western nations it was US soldiers who has the highest casualties in the pacific while the British surrendered Malaya and the Dutch surrendered Indonesia with hundreds of thousands taken prisoner.

      Heck US casualties were the third highest there.

      • OMG

        Lol and the US surrendered the Philippines. By far the greatest casualties in the Asian theatre were borne by the Chinese and the British Empire Forces. But carry on Waving the flag GI joe.

  17. Roger

    Excellent discussion with some less than intelligent exceptions. I read online somewhere that Vasily Chuikov the renowned architect of the victory at Stalingrad said that the Soviet Union would not have survived without Lend Lease. However I have not found any links to any such comments yet, but I will continue to look. Any comments from this twice Hero of the Soviet Union and life long member of Soviet Government on this subject should be given great credence. Any comments from modern pro Putin Russians and disgruntled Westerners should not.

  18. Cate

    WE won the war – together – the Soviet Union – the United Kingdom and the United States. Is that so hard to admit? I suspect our war dead would be able to admit it – would be happy to speak well of their comrades in arms. Only fools argue over this –

  19. Cate

    Might find this interesting US Lend Lease Museum in Moscow:

    The Allies and the Role of Lend-Lease in WWII: The Russian View

    “The Museum of the Allies and Lend-Lease is a unique, one-of-a-kind museum,” said Nikolai Borodin, Director, Museum of the Allies and Lend-Lease, Moscow at a 29 May 2012 Kennan Institute event. Borodin said he wished to honor and show gratitude to the United States and its veterans who rendered aid to the Soviet Union during World War II. “Those years were a very trying time and the aid received from the U.S. was substantial and timely,” he stated. The museum, which is located in a school in Russian and opened eight years ago, is dedicated to the WWII allies but mainly focuses on the American contribution to the war effort.

    The Great Patriotic War, as Russians call World War II, claimed the lives of more than 27 million Soviet citizens. When Putin traveled to Normandy, France to celebrate the 60th VE Day anniversary, he took with him two WWII veterans. Those veterans were members of the organization that ultimately helped to open the Museum the Allies and Lend-Lease. Shortly after Putin’s return from Normandy, the Museum of the Allies and Lend-Lease was given approval to open. The greatest contribution to the museum from the Russian government, according to Borodin, was Putin’s statement at Normandy, where he encouraged citizens to celebrate the aid the U.S. gave to Russia and to move beyond the Soviet practice of denying the importance of lend-lease.

    “The process of establishing and opening the museum was difficult,” Borodin explained. After WWII, high level officials in the Soviet government prohibited discussion about the aid the U.S. provided. As a result, few knew what the museum was for or why such a monument existed. Borodin considered this an obstacle for the museum in the early stages of its development. The museum was founded to prove through physical evidence, which visitors could touch and see in person, a part of history long buried. “Thus this is a more accessible way of presenting this history to a larger group of people in order to gain real understanding,” Borodin said. There are many Russians who doubt the U.S. aided the Soviet Union, but numerous products for Russian soldiers were made in America. Borodin hopes that a new generation will become aware of the good relationships and exchanges between the U.S. and Russia in a time when assistance was needed.

    The museum received much of its help from war veterans. These veterans and war heroes donate items, share stories, and bring their own unique contributions to the exhibits, said Borodin. The first items ever displayed in the museum were a jeep and ship’s beacon light. K. V. Rokossoviski, son of Soviet Marshall K. K. Rokossovski, donated his father’s American made WWII Willys Jeep, which is still operational and in use by the Lend-Lease museum. Borodin discovered the ship’s beacon light himself thirty-two years ago on the seashore at one of the first WWII lend-lease cargo and shipment sites in the Soviet Union. The light was possibly from an American or British ship, which may have sunk near the coast. The museum also has a collection of uniform buttons that carry Soviet symbols on the front, but are stamped “Made in Chicago” on the back. There is also a special exhibit celebrating the heroics of American Joseph Beyrle, a soldier who was shot down over Russia by German soldiers. Beryle went on to fight in Russian units, and is the father of former U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Beryle.

    Not all of the aid sent to the Soviet Union was military in nature. There were humanitarian supplies such as food, clothes, and toys sent to Russia from America. “Everything that was needed or necessary was supplied. Even items not wanted in America but were useful to the Soviets,” Borodin stated. For example, Studebakers, which fell out of popularity in America, functioned very well for the Soviets during WWII and were fondly remembered by Soviet soldiers. Borodin acknowledged that other items that might have been useful could not be supplied given their classified and secret nature. “This is natural because every country has a right to protect its technologies,” said Borodin. He explained that newer technologies would have also carried certain burdens such as low supply but high requirements for training and maintenance.

    Many Americans visit the Museum of the Allies and Lend-Lease, see the results of their efforts, and have given very positive responses. Borodin would like to expand the museum and convey the importance of lend-lease to Americans and Russians alike. During the period of lend-lease, “whatever was asked for was received,” Borodin concluded.

    By Thea Cooke
    Blair Ruble, Director, Kennan Institute

    Nikolai Borodin //

    Director, Museum of the Allies and Lend-Lease, Moscow



  20. mtman2

    No, the USSR was invaded(U know their homeland), of coarse it was bad for the Russian people but it was communism +Stalin Hitler wanted+oil.
    Hitler didn’t invade the USA, things would then be different who’d save us.
    Hitler refused to help those on the Eastern front as he wanted them to fight hard for victory to get warm. He couldn’t understand why not. Of course the UK equipment helped to hold the lines with the Russian people giving it all they had = to hold their homeland.
    Shortly before that Adolf+Uncle Joe were dividing up Europe so don’t tell me
    the communist leadership weren’t some altruistic reps for the people. Stalin was a monster. It’s to bad the FDR hadn’t help ‘him’ so much and the two tyrants slugged it out weakening both sides causing Hitler lots more men,supplies, fuel, and equipment but both sides on the leadership side were evil! With enough hardship on the Russian people they just might have Mussilinied him and he’d of been gone and 10’s of millions of wouldn’t have been murdered by him.Had this of happened different tactics+invasions could’ve been used so the USA didn’t have to rush thru the Western front w/D-Day to kick it off so horribly. Far less then would have died of OUR boys if both Nazi+Commies were epically locked up for another year. FDR trusted Stalin and Stalin trusted him but hated Churchill and complained about how slow the British were in coming thru . Not very bright on FDR’s part ~!

  21. disaksen

    All the weapons, munitions, tanks, planes, food, etc was aid to help Russia fight the German’s. It was not all paid for as panki claims it was. Money for aid supplied by Britain and America through the Lend Lease Act, has never been paid off.

    It was British/Canadian supplied tanks that made up 30-40% of the Russian tank forces, that allowed Russian forces to hold German troops to a near stand still around Moscow and other critical cities and regions, allowing Russians to move their military equipment production facilities much farther to the east so German short range bombers were not able to stop weapons production by bombing them. The large number of machine tools Britain sent to Russia allowed Russian to replace destroyed production tools so they could start building weapons and munitions destroyed by the Germans.

    British and American bombers and fighters were responsible for destroying Germany’s ability to build tanks, planes, weapons, ammunition, and fuel that runs the planes and tanks, That loss of production played a huge part in the German’s inability to continue fighting as they were able to before.

  22. Vulcan750L

    @Peter . . .
    The mud was caused by the melting snow. lol . . . so it is a consequence of the snow.

    The Mud may have done more to hamper movement, but it did not directly kill German soldiers. The cold and snow and lack of warm winter clothing and winter boots, and starvation and disease killed more German soldiers than Russian bombs and bullets.

    The cold and snow also caused German vehicles and weapons to freeze up and malfunction. This I’m sure resulted in many German deaths as well. Tanks and planes that don’t work, guns that don’t work, resulted in many dead Germans.

    German military equipment and weapons were built to tighter exacting tolerances than Russian equipment. Russian stuff was built more crudely and to looser tolerances which allowed them to perform even in adverse conditions.

    A good comparison and example would be the AK-47 vs the M-16 or M-4.

    The Russians were also much more familiar with problems and issues operating military equipment in cold Russian winters. They were fighting on their home turf and had superior knowledge of the local weather conditions and how it would effect their equipment so they built their military hardware accordingly. Their tanks for example, had extra wide treads and their engines were designed to operate in the extreme cold. Russian equipment were designed to work in cold Russian winters.

    Russians had proper winter clothing and had easier access to shelter than the Germans who had to camp out in the open or in open trenches. The Russians were fighting on their home turf and had the support of the civilians and their homes.

    The cold did much more to kill German soldiers than the mud, which only hampered their movement. The cold did both. It killed many German troops through exposure and hampered their movement by causing their vehicles to freeze up and seize up and killing their horses which they heavily relied on for towing artillery pieces and other supplies.

    Cold Russian winters devastated the German army in many ways. The Germans were not prepared for it. The Russians were.

    As for Lendlease . . . The Brits have the same ungrateful attitude about American aid to the UK. The British were by far the largest recipient of Lendlease. The only reason the UK was able to give anything to the Russians was because the US was supplying the Brits with all new better stuff, the latest stuff, in great quantities, which allowed the Brits to give the Russians their \leftovers\.

    If it wasn’t for the US, the UK would have had severe shortages in everything. The UK would not have had the luxury to have been giving anything away to anyone.

    And by far, most of the stuff the Russians got came from the US. So EVERYTHING the Russians got from Lendlease, came from the US either directly, or indirectly through the UK.

  23. Javier Herraiz

    You forget the 600000 trucks of USA origin,what helped moving supplies and troops on Stalingrad battle? Without them, the russians armies, don`t woud been in disposition of overrun the romanian and italian wings. The output of motorised vehicles in Usa then aumounted on more than 8 millions, by year, the output of germany was only 2,8 millions. In all war Russian can´t product more than of these 600000 trucks. German output was lightly upper.
    You bilieve than the troops, munitions and flour travel by theirselfs by air, like a mana?
    It`s most, nearly 40% of the soviet territory of Europe was in hand of germans, the most agricultural areas. Without the supplies of the USA crop, russians would perished of pure famine and the resistance of Russia broken before the summer of 1942 were reached

  24. Nick

    Soviet soldiers were often quoted as saying their favorite ration on the front lines was \American canned meat.\ Not to mention, Russia was not able to push the Germans out of pre-Barbarossa territory until after the allies had established a 2nd front in Europe.

    Also, the United States provided over 220,000 trucks for the Russian operation Bagration, which was the Russian version of DDay which took place on June 22, 1944. The US provided these trucks to provide fast mobility to the Red Army. Operation Bagration consisted of 1,700,000 Red Army soldiers…..which meant that ALL soldiers in this attack could ride in trucks rather than march on foot. This greatly aided the USSR (in my view, its the ONLY reason) in their fast advance from Soviet territory into German territory afterwards.

  25. Nikolai

    What a monumental mistake it was to help Stalin. Tens of millions died because we helped the evil empire. Hitler was really bad, but Stalin was actually worse. he was smart, while Hitler was stupid.

    Glad we finally destroyed them, but we had no business helping them in the first place. We made our mess and tens of millions of people were killed by the Russians for the stupid idea of communism.

    Next time, let us be smarter and give weapons to the side that fights Russia. instead of enabling the bear to maul whoever it chooses later.

  26. trey

    To Garret.

    1 minor issue the 37mm gun on the p-39/63 was not use as a tank buster by the soviets, this is a old error in western press that comes for a mistranslation of soviet papers.

    To prove the point the USA sent only M59 HE 37mm for the P-39/63 gun.

    Against soft targets even this round is quite good (shipping and transport) but against tanks it would have been of little use.

    The P-39 in the east was a very good FIGHTER against the Luftwaffe.


  27. Nick

    Yes, the U.S. did fight the Japanese alone. And sure, the Australians did skirmish with the Japanese, but did not take part in any major head to head battles as the U.S. did.

    In fact, the Australians relied on U.S. military for protection from any potential Japanese invasion.

    The British had virtually no Naval presence in the Pacific, much less a land army. (Redacted.)

  28. Nick

    Yes, but without American food aide to the USSR then the Soviet Red Army suffers the same fate as the starving Germans. Not to mention all of the bullets/food/clothes/boots for soldiers the US provided to the USSR. Stalin practically begged the US to help after Hitler (his friend) turned on him.

  29. Mark Bernadiner

    According to the US Department of States (USDOS) classified documents published over 10 years ago, USDOS provided for crude oil delivery from Saudi Arabia to Germany to secure operability of the high motorized German Army. Without those deliveries the war would be over within 2 years with full defeat of German. Many lives, including Americans and my relatives, would be spared. In about a month after D-Day in 1944 (the Soviet army was in Poland and it was clear that it may occupy entire Europe), USDOS sent a letter via Vatican to Hitler offering a peace that would let Hitler to send all troops to the eastern front and possibly to stop the Soviet army. Hitler rejected the offer. Obvious, the US and its allies plan was to let German and the USSR killing each other; the US and allies would be the winners.


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