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Was lend-lease essential in securing a Soviet victory?


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Prewar fully 1/4 of the US population considered itself of German heritage. Italians constituted another large chunk of the US population. Add this to the super strong isolationist tendencies of the population as a whole and you can see why the US simply wasn't prone to getting involved.

I think there was one additional factor, and that was a certain amount of residual anti-British sentiment, some of which goes all the way back to the American Revolution. Britain found itself on the wrong side of a number of issues in the ensuing decades as far as the US was concerned including the War of 1812, and almost taking the Confederacy's side during the Civil War. This anti-British sentiment was perhaps most concentrated in the armed forces, especially the Navy. But there was another, more recent source of dislike and distrust among the US ruling elite. In 1933 the UK defaulted on their WW I war debts. Fairly or not, this cast the UK as a deadbeat nation and among the US powers that be there was not a lot of eagerness to leap to that embattled nation's defense. As one consequence, before Lend-Lease could be enacted, just about every penny that could be wrung out of the British economy was demanded for war supplies. Roosevelt had to go to some lengths to convince the American people that we were getting our money's worth.

Michael

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I can't remember the payout for the standard GI life insurance bill - was it $10k? Figure the Western Allies "saved" this amount for each of the Soviet lives spent in the conflict and the question of whether the Soviets paid enough for Lend Lease becomes a little clearer.

You can build tanks, but they won't drive themselves.

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The issue people always miss when discussing things like this is that WW2 was an economic conflict. Given sufficient manpower (and other resources), the issue is how to best spend it to achieve the best military effect. Unless people know enough about the war economy of the USSR to know how much slack there was to change production priorities/amounts to compensate for the lack of Lend Lease, it is hard to discuss the role of Lend Lease in the victory.

That's the most sensible statement posted here. The tanks and airplanes get the headlines, but the most significant contribution Lend-Lease made was to Soviet industry, through provision of scarce metals, additives and chemicals, as well as the transfer of technology in refining, metallurgy, and with machine tools, etc. To put it another way: the fact that Lend-Lease made it possible for Soviet industry to build more Soviet equipment, of better quality, was more important than the American equipment that was sent.

As for whether it was decisive? Certainly not, except in the American history of the war. Lend-Lease has been heavily politicized since the start of the Cold War, and it remains so in western histories. Contemporary Russian historians are at least a decade ahead of western historians in revisiting the history of the German-Soviet War and more recent Russian publications put Lend-Lease in a much more appropriate context. Lend-Lease allowed the Soviets to focus their production on critical sectors, to the exclusion of items that could be shopped from abroad. That meant more tanks and aircraft, Soviet tanks and aircraft, every one of which was needed for victory. Lend-Lease shortened the war my a year, perhaps two, saving millions of Soviet AND AMERICAN (and British) lives. It was selfish altruism, of the best kind.

More to the point, the aid received from the USA, which was most of it, did not start to arrive until 1943. Many historians, including myself, will insist that whatever slim chance Germany had of defeating the Soviet Union was gone after 1941. German victory depended on destroying the Red Army AND toppling the regime within a few weeks of the invasion. Barbarossa failed to achieve those objectives. From that point, it was only a matter of time before the USSR, with the advantages of geography, population and industry, came back to rally, rebuild and drive the Nazis back to Germany. Lend-Lease made it possible for that to happen in 1945. Without Lend-Lease, it would still have happened.

Regards

Scott Fraser

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Remember, it's a good thing the Nazi's were idiots. But I also think if they weren't idiots they wouldn't be Nazis. They were delusional fanatics, apt at making one bad decision after another. What I can't understand is why the military chiefs, who supposedly were not idiots, went along with it to the degree they did.

Because they were duty bound by the highly-complex and occasionally contradictory ideals of the "Honorable Prussian Officer" stereotype. Which demanded the utmost loyalty to Germany, the problem was in defining what "Germany" was once Hitler was in power. Sad reality is most of the Army's leadership did not make a distinction between their country and their leader anymore. Partly because of duty, but also because many of them shared Hitler's views. They just weren't as radical about them.

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  • 2 months later...

I found a delightful bit of grog goodness by executing a partially successful Resurrect spell on an old friend, The Russian Battlefield as it was before a devastating server crash. Here's the Russian take on the radio situation both domestically and via Lend Lease. The translation's a bit rough, but it's still relatively simple to figure out what's being said.

Soviet Radio Equipment

https://web.archive.org/web/20080407182210/http://www.battlefield.ru/content/category/9/64/96/lang,en/

Regards,

John Kettler

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There have been studies by experts in the Soviet economy such as Mark Harrison see here for some of his articles https://warwick.academia.edu/markharrison and his book Accounting for War - Soviet Production, Employment, and the Defence Burden, 1940-1945 (Cambridge Russian, Soviet and Post-Soviet Studies)

and in short the conclusion that he comes to, is that the most important Lend Lease material supplied was FOOD which without this would have resulted in substantial extra deaths both in the civilian population and the labour force. The military effort would have been degraded by this loss extending the war by a number of years.

Of course the element missing from this debate is some sort of quantitative analysis of delivered military effort year on year and then this can be set against the value of Lend Lease delivered from which a view can be taken as to its effectiveness.

I do not have those figures but a quick look at all military deaths (as a very crude measure of delivered military effort) over the war shows :

World-War-II-military-deaths-in-Europe-by-theater-year.png

This shows quite clearly that the bulk of the defeat of Germany was achieved by the USSR and certainly the destruction of the Heer was down to them. So Lend Lease was the Western Allies aid in this and so has a value. But you cannot over rate its value because the other side of the coin is paid in the lives of Soviet Citizens and in the destruction of the Soviet economy which resulted in further deaths and in higher post war mortality until 1955.

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Der Alte Fritz,

Did someone say food? Here's the Lend Lease breakdown on that very topic, from which others not mentally befogged can calculate food as a percentage of the overall deliveries.

http://www.o5m6.de/Routes.html

People don't generally seem to understand how malnourished the Russians were going into the war, a condition which was general throughout the populace throughout, absent other food sources. Account after account on IRemember.ru talks about poorly fed were even tankers readying for battle. In one, the writer talks about how incredibly weak and energyless his new crew was, to the point where he wondered how the tank would be worked. The merciless collectivization of the farms so disrupted normal agricultural production was badly hurt, resulting in multiple famines. The great Russian novelist and dissident Solzhenitsyn relentlessly documents the figures in his masterful nonfiction book The Gulag Archipelago. There, he explicitly talks of the arrest (and execution?) of a butcher whose sausage was found by the nauseated eater to have a human finger in it! The criminal butcher, you see, couldn't get even enough horse meat to make his wares.

Over and over again in the articles at IRemember and the war memoirs I've read, there's this kind of wonderment and appreciation for canned meat from America, a treasure of the first order and real fuel for the Red Army in battle. And the Studebaker truck that gets the practically priceless meat to the frontoviki. British bully beef wasn't held in such high regard. Speaking of the British, with the Lend Lease spigot turned off at War's end and a pretty much imploded economy from overwhelming war debts, the British populace was even hungrier in the years AFTER the War than even during the Blitz.

Regards,

John Kettler

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This shows quite clearly that the bulk of the defeat of Germany was achieved by the USSR and certainly the destruction of the Heer was down to them.

Mmm.

Very roughly speaking, the US destroyed the German airforce, the UK destroyed the German navy, and the USSR destroyed the German army.

Without the UK's contrib the US wouldn't have gotten to Europe.

Without the US's contrib the USSR would have had a very rough time.

Without the USSR's contrib the US and the UK would be glaring menacingly across the Channel.

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LL provided just single digit levels of material compared to Russian production except in the area of radios and comm gear as some one stated earlier.

IIRC, that was in terms of monetary value (GDP), which begs the question to be asked: how much does it cost to produce a can of Spam vs. how much is a can of Spam actually worth to someone who doesn't have enough food?

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This argument was countered in the 1960s by the rise of the counter argument that 'quality' counts and that there were certain essentials without which the USSR could not fight the war. Lend Lease contribution was around 4-7% (depending on who is counting) but in certain areas (such as rubber which was 100% imported) the totals are considerably higher or there is a technology advantage. Which is all true Lend Lease did help the Soviet War effort. And the Allied Bombing Campaign and U-Boat Campaigns did draw off German economic effort and manpower from fighting the Soviet Union.

But you also have to recognize that some of these claims are propaganda (from both sides), the locomotive one is typical. The USA delivered 2,000 odd Baldwin locomotives which were copies of the old WW1 locomotives delivered to the Tsar equivalent to the Soviet E class of 1918-1927. Real workhorse, behind the front type of machine. But there are claims that these 'won' the war' for the Soviets when in reality the NKPS had 25,000 locomotives, captured thousands more and when it received the nice bright shiny new ones, simply did not repair worn out ones and pushed them to the side of the workshop until after the war.

Some claims are misinterpreted like the great cross country truck debate. The USA and Great Britain delivered thousands of lorries to the USSR and so Soviet Infantry was able to drive to Berlin and defeat the Germans a lot quicker is the claim. This was made by an academic called Roberts (?) in 1963 who measured the speed of Soviet advances for each year and compared these to the deliveries of Trucks to the USSR and saw a correlation. Unfortunately this argument is bunkum as he did not allow for any other factor for the speed of advance increasing other than the one he was looking at. In reality cross country trucks were important but if you study the GATV report from 1945 you can see why.

In terms of numbers, the trucks both 2 wheel and multi wheel drive were important simply because the Red Army had not been very motorised in the first place so any additions were going to help. In 1945 you had 630,000 trucks for an army of 6,000,000 and an Armed Forces of 11,000,000 which gives you a completely truck mounted Armoured Force (Tank and Mech Corps) truck hauled supplies from railhead to the front (a distance of 300km max) and enough lorries to haul the ammunition for the Rifle Divisions (40-100 trucks per division) but everything else is HORSE DRAWN. The entire supply effort is based on railways and every one of the 600 Rifle Divisions has HORSE DRAWN equipment, artillery and divisional supply. Soviet mobility did not come from 4x4 trucks.

In the GATV report it is clear where the Studebakers and Dodges were deployed as they are all classed as PRIME MOVERS. The difference made by these vehicles was that it made Soviet artillery and in particular AT Artillery more mobile than the usual horse drawn or catapiller tractor drawn guns which meant that late war German Panzer attacks ran into walls of AT gun fire which was able to keep up with the marching infantry far better than when it had been horse drawn, especially now that A guns had to be larger than the 45 or 76mm guns.

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It also gave mobility to the Breakthrough Artillery unit so that when they had blasted a hole in the German defences, they could move (without railways) to another section of the front to repeat the process (eg the 1st Belorussian Fronts second offensive after Operation Bagration when its Left wing attacked) or move forward and destroy the Festungplatz.

More recent claims have been that certain raw materials were vital to the Soviet war effort but the reality of both the Soviet and German experience shows that in reality no 'strategic' material is a bottle neck to producing weapons as alternatives can be found albeit less effective ones.

But really what this argument is about is national pride and Cold War politics. The West felt after 1945 that the USSR did not fully recognise the effort made into delivering Lend Lease and the Soviet Union felt that its sacrifice and achievement in the defeat of Germany was not fully recognised in the West. This remains true to this day, there is little note of the Soviet war in the Western public conciousness and a failure to recognise valid Russian concerns about their borders and security.

The USSR lost 40% of its industry and agriculture devastated by the war equivalent in US terms from the Atlantic seaboard to the Mississippi, they suffered casualties equivalent to 1 in 5 of their adult population and in return 85% of the casualties of the German Army were suffered on the Eastern Front. And we are saying to them "You could not have won the war without us because we sent you some trucks, tins of beans and Spam".

We can see what this feels like by shining a light on other aspects of Lend Lease and the war in general.

The USA could not have won the war in the Pacific without British technical help, radar, sonar and the VT fuse were vital in defeating the Japanese. Likewise vital US equipment such as the Mustang fighter were only produced because of British orders and staff requirements.

The USA deliberately excluded Allied forces such as the British and Australians from the attack on Japan in order to gain post-war dominance in the Pacific.

The British deliberately passed on second hand equipment to the Soviets when it received new supplies from the USA, particularly in the Middle East.

Lend Lease was not the altruistic gesture portrayed as the USA extracted trade agreements from Great Britain to open up closed markets such as South America and Asia to US companies which used the war to gain dominance in these areas. Much of Britains post war decline was not simply down to loss of Empire but also due to the loss of traditional markets to the USA which gained dominance in South America, parts of Africa and Asia.

I do not happen to agree with these statements, but they are based on underlying true facts and have been quoted before. But it does illustrate perhaps, the level of irritation Russians feel when the Lend Lease subject is brought up yet again.

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sort of tangential, but one interesting fact I came across recently was the disposition of German forces in 44.

It is always repeated that 2/3rds of the Wehrmacht was deployed against the Russians, which is true, but in june 44, roughly 50% of German AFVs (1500) were in France, around 1300 or so were facing the Russians and another 200 were in Italy.

so it is a bit of an exaggeration to say most of the Germans were facing the Russians. That is true for the non-mobile infantry divisions, but not for the Panzer units.

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The USA could not have won the war in the Pacific without British technical help, radar, sonar and the VT fuse were vital in defeating the Japanese.

You can't be serious can you? You don't actually think that the USA would have been defeated by Imperial Japan in the Pacific if the British didn't help the USA do you? Do you know how many carriers the USA had by 1945 and how many carriers Imperial Japan had by 1945?

About the Lend Lease trucks ... as the Germans themselves demonstrated in 1939, 1940, 1941, and 1942, you don't need your entire army to be motorized in order to have enough mechanized units to have a substantial impact on the battlefield. By 1944 the Soviet forces were effectively more mobile on the battlefield than the German army and that hampered the German ability to react to operational conditions. Yes, the entire Soviet army wasn't motorized but enough of it was that it made a substantial difference.

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You can't be serious can you? You don't actually think that the USA would have been defeated by Imperial Japan in the Pacific if the British didn't help the USA do you? Do you know how many carriers the USA had by 1945 and how many carriers Imperial Japan had by 1945?

You have to read all the post

*****"I do not happen to agree with these statements..... "*****

but your reaction just proves the point. Imagine if you are a Russian citizen sitting in Moscow and your grandfather died in the Great Patriotic War, your aunt starved to death in the Siege of Leningrad and Stalin's OPGU shot your brother for a mis-spoken word and then some Yankee or Brit comes along and says "We won the war 'cos we have more money than you and we were able to send you over some beans to help you out. You should be really grateful to us."

The point I am making is that the argument that 'Lend Lease won the war' is immensely disrespectful to the suffering of the Soviet peoples. Remember that for every US soldier (or British soldier or civilian) who died in WW2 - 16 Soviet Military men died and 40 Soviet civilians died.

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*****"I do not happen to agree with these statements..... "*****

I thought that was only referring to the last statement that you made.

but your reaction just proves the point. Imagine if you are a Russian citizen sitting in Moscow and your grandfather died in the Great Patriotic War, your aunt starved to death in the Siege of Leningrad and Stalin's OPGU shot your brother for a mis-spoken word and then some Yankee or Brit comes along and says "We won the war 'cos we have more money than you and we were able to send you over some beans to help you out. You should be really grateful to us."

The point I am making is that the argument that 'Lend Lease won the war' is immensely disrespectful to the suffering of the Soviet peoples. Remember that for every US soldier (or British soldier or civilian) who died in WW2 - 16 Soviet Military men died and 40 Soviet civilians died.

I don't think that anyone is arguing that Lend Lease, all by itself, won the war. However, I think that an argument could be made that the Soviet Union, all by itself, could have been defeated by Nazi Germany irrespective of what some Russian citizens may say or think. If you subtract the western allies air force a good case could be made that Germany would never have lost air superiority on the eastern front. I don't even think the Soviets achieved air parity until late 1943 and that was with one hand tied behind its back (metaphorically of course). If you eliminate all the allied bombers and move the entire German Luftwaffe from France, Sicily, and Germany to the Eastern Front then I'm not certain that the Soviet Union ever would have gained air superiority. If you subtract all the Lend Lease trucks from the Soviet OB and you give Germany as much fuel as it needs because their oil supplies aren't threatened by allied bombing then a good case could be made that Germany retains the mobility advantage on the eastern front for the duration. If you move all those German and perhaps even Italian soldiers from combat and occupation duties in France and North Africa then the Soviet manpower advantage would be reduced .. perhaps even significantly enough to make a big difference (in terms of armor especially).

The same could be said about the western allies too of course. If the Soviet Union wasn't actively involved in fighting Germany it is not hard to imagine a case where a continental invasion would be prohibitively difficult to pull off.

You simply can't make that argument in the Pacific though. America was basically fighting Japan all by itself from a naval standpoint and I'm not sure how much of a difference the land fighting would have made since Japan is an island. So you could subtract the entire British war effort in the Pacific, and even eliminate the American radar advantage, and Japan would still lose the war. I don't think there is any question about it.

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Without the Russians, we'd've had to nuke Berlin to bring the Germans to the negotiating table, I reckon, and that's assuming Adolf was home when The Bomb dropped. Who knows whether there was the political will to take that step.

But the Russians were pretty keen for us to open up the Western Front, so I don't think they considered the Allies' contribution to be negligible at the time. Small changes can produce big effects if they tip some factor over a threshold.

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"move the entire German Luftwaffe from France, Sicily, and Germany to the Eastern Front " and you have the world's most elaborate lawn ornament. None of it actually takes off, because they don't have any gas, because they can't get it there.

These discussions of what was possible ignore the fearsome screwups command generates unforced in the actual deal. Germany could have done light years better than it did even with the west in the war; it didn't because its commanders screwed the pooch repeatedly. But no, it could not have defeated Russia with its actual existing commanders and their actual existing idiocies - Steve got that one right back on page 1...

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Just started reading David Glantz' new book on the battle of Smolensk between July and August 1941 which is all about the delay imposed on the German advance by a successful Soviet defence.

The Battle of Moscow was a major turning point in the war, a major German defeat and there was no 'air war' to speak of, little Lend Lease or Allied aid either. It was won purely by the Red Armies ability to mobilise its population and turn them into some sort of fighting force and the Germans inability to support its force logistically at that distance from its home base.

So I am afraid I am going to have to disagree with the notion that the Soviets did not win the war by themselves, since staying in the fight over that first winter was crucial and did not really involve the Allies to any great extent.

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The Battle of Moscow was a major turning point in the war, a major German defeat and there was no 'air war' to speak of, little Lend Lease or Allied aid either. It was won purely by the Red Armies ability to mobilise its population and turn them into some sort of fighting force and the Germans inability to support its force logistically at that distance from its home base.

Nah. I credit Soviet spy extraordinaire Richard Sorge. In late 1941, he informed the Soviet command that Japan was not going to attack the Union in the near future, allowing the command to transfer the 18 divisions Siberian division, plus thousands of tanks and aircraft from Siberia and the Far East to the Moscow region. They turned the tide, nearly destroying the Wehrmacht.

Three factors doomed the Nazis invasion: Sorge's activities, the unprecedented atrocious weather beginning late Autumn and the month delay of the start of Barbarossa from May to June .

Debate. ;)

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"move the entire German Luftwaffe from France, Sicily, and Germany to the Eastern Front " and you have the world's most elaborate lawn ornament. None of it actually takes off, because they don't have any gas, because they can't get it there.

These discussions of what was possible ignore the fearsome screwups command generates unforced in the actual deal. Germany could have done light years better than it did even with the west in the war; it didn't because its commanders screwed the pooch repeatedly. But no, it could not have defeated Russia with its actual existing commanders and their actual existing idiocies - Steve got that one right back on page 1...

If you subtract the entire western allied order of battle from the equation the Germans have plenty of fuel because their POL isn't being bombed. I said that an argument could be made that the Germans could have defeated the Soviet Union if you completely subtract the Western Allies from the equation. Der Alte Fritz seems to be of a mind that even if you completely subtract the entire western allied order of battle the Soviets would have defeated Germany regardless because the Western Allies contributed almost nothing to the defeat of Germany.

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So I am afraid I am going to have to disagree with the notion that the Soviets did not win the war by themselves, since staying in the fight over that first winter was crucial and did not really involve the Allies to any great extent.

IMHO that depends on what is meant by "win the war". My own opinion for what it's worth (since at this point all we are doing is speculating) is that most likely the Soviets could have evicted the Germans from their territory unassisted. But by that time their losses in manpower, among other things, would have so sapped their strength that further advances against a determined German defense would not have been possible at that time. Germany, however exhausted, would be unconquered. Again, this assumes a War in the East without any Western intervention at all. Since that was not going to happen in any plausible historical scenario, I regard this whole argument as beside the point. Can we get back to the real war?

Michael

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Just started reading David Glantz' new book on the battle of Smolensk between July and August 1941 which is all about the delay imposed on the German advance by a successful Soviet defence.

The Battle of Moscow was a major turning point in the war, a major German defeat and there was no 'air war' to speak of, little Lend Lease or Allied aid either. It was won purely by the Red Armies ability to mobilise its population and turn them into some sort of fighting force and the Germans inability to support its force logistically at that distance from its home base.

So I am afraid I am going to have to disagree with the notion that the Soviets did not win the war by themselves, since staying in the fight over that first winter was crucial and did not really involve the Allies to any great extent.

You have now made your position clear. The Soviet Union, by itself, without any assistance or participation in WW2 from Britain or the US would have defeated Germany all by itself. If Britain and France did not declare war on Germany after it invaded Poland and Germany then invaded the Soviet Union history would not have changed at all and the Soviets would be in Berlin regardless. Perhaps that might be the case or perhaps not we will never know. This does explain your position on the utter uselessness of Lend Lease though and how it contributed absolutely nothing to Soviet victory.

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