Alexander Dolitsky – US Lend-Lease aid to the Soviet Union during World War II

By Alexander Dolitsky

“The structure of world peace cannot be the work of one man, one party or one nation…it must be a peace that rests on the cooperative effort of the whole world.” ~ Franklin Delano Roosevelt, March 1, 1945, address to Congress on the Yalta Conference

Part I: Stalin’s tragic mistake and Nazi Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union

On August 23, 1939, the Soviet Union shocked the world by signing a non-aggression treaty with Nazi Germany.

The Hitler-Stalin Pact (often referred to as the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact) meant that Nazi leaders now had the “green light” to attack Poland and other democracies without fear of Red Army intervention.

With the signing of the Nazi-Soviet Pact, the conditions for the start of World War II were established. On September 1, 1939, Nazi Germany attacked Poland, and on September 17, the Red Army advanced into eastern Poland, reclaiming its part of the former pre-revolutionary Russian Poland. Several days after the German invasion of Poland, Great Britain and France, in keeping with their treaty commitments with Poland, declared war on Nazi Germany and the other Axis powers.

Stalin not only placed almost naive faith in the Non-Aggression Pact of 1939, but until June 1941 provided Hitler with all kinds of raw materials and logistical support to fuel the Nazi war machine.

Then, on June 22, 1941, Nazi Germany launched a massive attack on the Soviet Union. Operation Barbarossa had started. One hundred and fifty-three German divisions crossed the Soviet border along a broad front, while German planes heavily bombed border installations, airfields, railway stations, and cities. At the same time, Romania, Hungary, and Finland sent a combined 37 divisions against the Soviet Union.

In all, the Axis powers amassed 190 divisions, comprising 5.5 million men, 3,712 tanks, 4,950 aircraft, 47,260 guns and mortars, and 193 military ships, along the Soviet borders. Fascist Italy also declared war on the Soviet Union, and Spain and Bulgaria further aided Germany. At the same time, Japan had a million well-trained Kwantung Army soldiers ready for action along the borders of the Soviet Far East.

The situation along the Eastern Front at the beginning of the invasion turned out to be extremely unfavorable for the Soviet Army. The Soviets suffered devastating damage from enemy air raids which destroyed almost the entire Soviet Air Force in the first week of the invasion: 4,017 of the 7,700 aircraft in the western Soviet Union (this may not include 1,445 aircraft from the three air forces). western navies) for the loss of only 150 luftwaffe aircraft.

Some sources suggest that on the second day of the war alone, the Soviet Air Force lost a total of 3,922 aircraft and shot down only 78 enemy aircraft.

In early July 1941, the Germans occupied Lithuania, a large part of Latvia, and the western territories of Byelorussia and the Ukraine and were approaching the Western Dvina River and the upper reaches of the Dnieper River. Through unprecedented acts of bravery by thousands of Soviet soldiers, in mid-July 1941, the enemy was stopped near kyiv and held for 73 days. The German wehrmacht killed or captured more than 660,000 Soviets in the battles for kyiv, about a third of the deployed Red Army.

The battles for kyiv and Uman turned out to be the biggest defeats in the history of the Russian people. As a result of the defeat, the north, center and south were left completely open to rapid German advances.

In November 1941, the Germans occupied the Baltic States, Belarus, Moldova, most of the Ukraine, the Crimea, and much of Karelia east of Finland. They had also seized considerable territory around Leningrad and Moscow. Before the war, those occupied parts of the country contained 40 percent of the total population of the Soviet Union and had produced 63 percent of the nation’s coal, 58 percent of its steel, and 38 percent of its grain. Not only were the human losses enormous, but the Soviet people suddenly found their independence threatened once more.

Part II: To help or not to help? Many conservatives in the United States argued strongly against the US-Soviet Pact, stating that US aid should be disbursed only to proven friends, such as Britain and China. In congressional debates on the issue in late July and August, the isolationists insisted that helping the Soviet Union was helping communism. Read about the political fight in Congress in Part II on Friday.

Top photo: Soviet and American officers and enlisted personnel mingle under the wing of a Soviet Li-2 transport plane in Nome upon the arrival of the first contingent of the Soviet Military Mission. September 3, 1942. Courtesy USAF.

Alexander B. Dolitsky was born and raised in kyiv, in the former Soviet Union. He received a master’s degree in history from the kyiv Pedagogical Institute, Ukraine, in 1976; a master’s degree in anthropology and archeology from Brown University in 1983; and he enrolled in the Ph.D. program in Anthropology at Bryn Mawr College from 1983 to 1985, where he was also a professor at the Russian Center. In the USSR, he was a social studies teacher for three years and an archaeologist for five years at the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences. In 1978 he settled in the United States. Dolitsky first visited Alaska in 1981 while doing field research for graduate school at Brown. He first lived in Sitka in 1985 and then settled in Juneau in 1986. From 1985 to 1987, he was an archaeologist and social scientist for the US Forest Service. He was an adjunct assistant professor of Russian studies at the University of Alaska Southeast in 1985 to 1999; Social Studies Instructor at Alyeska Central School, Alaska Department of Education from 1988 to 2006; and has been the Director of the Alaska-Siberia Research Center (see from 1990 to the present. He has conducted about 30 field studies in various areas of the former Soviet Union (including Siberia), Central Asia, South America, Eastern Europe, and the United States (including Alaska). Dolitsky has been a speaker on the World Discoverer, Spirit of Oceanus, and Clipper Odyssey ships in the arctic and subarctic regions. He was the Project Manager of the World War II Alaska-Siberian Memorial Lend Lease, which was erected in Fairbanks in 2006. He has published extensively in the fields of anthropology, history, archeology, and ethnography. His most recent publications include Fairy Tales and Myths of the Bering Strait Chukchi, Ancient Tales of Kamchatka; Tales and Legends of the Yupik Eskimos of Siberia; Ancient Russia in Modern America: Russian Old Believers in Alaska; Wartime Allies: The Alaska-Siberian Airway during World War II; Spirit of the Siberian Tiger: Folktales from the Russian Far East; Living Wisdom of the Far North: Tales and Legends from Chukotka and Alaska; Pipeline to Russia; the Alaska-Siberian air route in World War II; and Ancient Russia in Modern America: Living Traditions of Russian Old Believers; Ancient Tales from Chukotka and Ancient Tales from Kamchatka.

Some of Dolitsky’s earlier MRAK columns:

Understanding Antisemitism and Antisemites in America

Russian Old Believers in Alaska live lives that reflect centuries past

Russian saying: Defeat your friends so that your enemies fear you.

Neomarxism and utopian socialism in America

Old Believers Preserving Faith in the New World

Duke Ellington and the effects of the Cold War in the Soviet Union on intellectual curiosity

United we stand, divided we fall with race, ethnicity in America

For American schools to succeed, they need this ingredient

Nationalism in America, Alaska, around the world

The case of the ‘delicious salad’

White privilege is a troubling prospect

Beware of activists manipulating history for their own agenda

Russian Transfer Alaska Day Souvenir

American leftism is the true picture of true hypocrisy

history does not repeat itself

The only Ford Mustang in kyiv

What is greed? Depends on the generation

World Migration of Old Believers in Alaska

Old Believer Traditions in Alaska

Language, education of the Old Believers in Alaska