May 1

By Susan Milligan

The quote from the pre-war Soviet comedy “Volga-Volga” was not accidentally taken into the headline by the author. According to the memoirs of the Secretary of the Union of Cinematographers of the USSR G. Maryamov, in 1942 Joseph Stalin presented a copy of this film to US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt through his envoy Harry Hopkins. This story gained fame in the presentation of other Soviet publicists. True, some write that Roosevelt was somewhat puzzled by this gift of Josef Stalin and could not understand why the Soviet leader sent this comedy to him. Others, on the contrary, argue that the American president liked to watch this picture in his spare time. And especially he liked the song about America giving Russia a steamboat – so ancient and dilapidated rarity that this slow-moving wheeled steamer from Mississippi, remembering, probably, the tricks of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, having retired on the Volga, turned out to be a real low-priced. A little stamp on his deck, immediately falling apart. And this ship was terribly afraid of water.

Historian journalists say that when Franklin Delano Roosevelt listened to this funny song about the very first pre-revolutionary delivery from America to Russia as compensation for Alaska, he also forgot about the bombing of the US Navy in Pearl Harbor in December 1941 by Japanese pilots, and he also tried not to think about one of the Aleutian Islands, which was then occupied by the Japanese, and about the war in Europe, as well as about the economic problems in his own country, which had not fully recovered after the Great Depression in 1929. The President of the United States, sitting in his personal cinema, laughed so infectiously, wiping away tears, dropping popcorn on the floor, spilling foaming Coca-Cola on the carpet, which he surely reigned firm confidence in the coming victory of Russians and Americans over Nazism.

However, this is just a legend that has not been confirmed in the American archives. But we will return to this legend. In the meantime, we proceed to a direct examination of the history of our allied relations and supplies under the Lend-Lease program. From childhood, the author remembered the stories of his grandmother and parents about flour, egg powder and American stew, which, by the way, is still produced at a cannery in one of the small towns in Minnesota. True, the omelet from this egg powder was not so tasty as from real, freshly brought village chicken eggs. But in general, breakfast from American canned food was quite edible and very high-calorie. In addition to food, the United States supplied the USSR with weapons: tanks, planes, ammunition, and others.

Five regiments of ferry pilots played a huge role in the Great Patriotic War, they transported planes from Alaska to Chukotka, then through the territory of the Magadan Region and Siberia directly to the front to Stalingrad. Lack of alternate aerodromes, lack of maps and air navigation equipment, endless taiga spaces, severe weather conditions, lack of fuel, engine failure, blind flights, all these difficulties sometimes led to air accidents. So, Soviet pilots rightfully received military orders and medals for their work in the Far North. After the war, the Americans solemnly reburied the remains of fourteen Soviet pilots who crashed in Alaska and were originally buried in Nome and Fairbanks. Since 1946, they rest in the memorial cemetery at Fort Richardson in Anchorage. Americans take care of the Russian pilots’ graves, as well as their own. In addition to the graves of American and Soviet soldiers, Japanese prisoners of war also lie in the same cemetery.


In general, the history of Russian-American relations originates from the discovery of Alaska and the Aleutian Islands by Russian sailors in the Petrine era at the beginning of the eighteenth century. In the second half of the same eighteenth century, Empress Catherine the Second supported the American colonists fighting for independence from the English crown, refusing King George III to lend 20,000 invincible Russian soldiers to pacify the rebellious Americans. In a letter to the British monarch, the Russian empress replied: “It is not worth the two great powers to join forces in order to crush a people deprived of any allies in its just struggle for independence.” The American people praised the support provided by Russia. Future US President George Washington wrote: “We are very pleased to learn from a reliable source that the requests and proposals of Great Britain to the Russian Empress were rejected with contempt.”

In 1854, more than forty American doctors volunteered to participate in the Crimean War on the Russian side. American society then strongly sympathized with Russia. And when British diplomats tried to recruit volunteers for the English army, which fought in the Crimea against Russia, the US government was arrested and brought to court all active recruiters. The British envoy to the United States was declared persona non grata and was forced to return to his homeland. Meanwhile, American doctors in the Crimean War, risking their lives, saved the wounded Russian soldiers and sailors, the heroic defenders of Sevastopol. A quarter of these doctors died defending Sevastopol. Russia praised the contribution of American volunteers. All of them were awarded the Sevastopol Medal on the order ribbon of St. George.

Ten years later, Emperor Alexander II assisted the US federal government in the armed confrontation of the North and the South by sending two Russian naval squadrons to the shores of America to prevent England and France from supporting the rebellious southerners. The presence of Russian ships in American territorial waters contributed to the victory of Abraham Lincoln in the civil war against the Confederates. Several decades later, already during our civil war, the American expeditionary force took part in foreign intervention against Soviet Russia, occupying Arkhangelsk and Murmansk in 1918 – 1919. Then, even before 1933, when the US government signed diplomatic relations with the USSR, many members of the American Socialist and Communist Parties moved from America to Russia. Skilled builders and engineers emigrated to the USSR because they lost their jobs during the Great Depression of 1929. According to various estimates, in the late 1920s and early 1930s, more than ten thousand such Americans moved to Russia.


Between the two world wars, the US government maintained a policy of isolationism and non-interference in international conflicts. In 1935, the US Senate passed a law of neutrality. After the outbreak of World War II, when the situation in Europe did not change in favor of the countries of the anti-Hitler coalition, the US senators amended this law by introducing the principle of “pay and carry.” Under this amendment, the US government received the right to sell weapons to any warring country. This will be further discussed below.

In less than a year since the outbreak of hostilities, Nazi Germany occupied almost all of Europe. After the fall of France in June 1940, the threat of British defeat arose. In May 1940, Winston Churchill became Prime Minister and he repeatedly appealed to US President F. D. Roosevelt for help. He asked for the temporary use of “40 or 50 old destroyers”, as well as “several hundred of the latest type of aircraft that you are currently releasing.” At the same time, the British Prime Minister made a reservation that his country still does not have the opportunity to pay for these supplies.

In order to help London, politicians in Washington recalled the old law of 1892, which the Americans had already forgotten about, and under this law the US Congress had the right to authorize the Secretary of Defense to lease army and naval property to other countries, in cases when it is done “in the interests of the state.” In September 1940, the transfer of the American destroyers to England took place. But this transaction was not free, but in exchange for the temporary provision of a number of naval bases on the British islands in the Atlantic, primarily in Bermuda and the West Indies. In addition, in November 1940, the United States handed over to the United Kingdom several thousand aircraft. In December of that year, F. D. Roosevelt came up with the idea of transferring arms to the British under the Lend-Lease program. In February 1941, the Lend-Lease Act was passed by the US Congress and was valid until June 30, 1943, and then it was renewed twice.

Thus, the generally accepted point of view in Russia that the Lend-Lease program was created by the Americans specifically to help the USSR is a misconception. The first to whom the United States provided assistance were the British. In addition to them, military and monetary supplies were made to other countries, in particular, to Saudi Arabia, which had nothing to do with the World War II, and was very remote from the main areas of military operations. The thing is that back in the 1930s several American companies acquired large tracts of land in Saudi Arabia for nothing. Geologists sent to conduct exploration discovered huge oil reserves there, promising considerable profits. When the war began, the heads of oil companies convinced F. D. Roosevelt to invest in Saudi Arabia in order to further consolidate America in this region. As a result, one hundred million dollars was transferred from America to the Saudi monarch. Thus, the United States gained not only access to oil fields, but also a loyal ally on the Arabian Peninsula.


Under the Lend-Lease Act, President F. D. Roosevelt had the right to “transfer, exchange, lease, loan, or otherwise supply military materials or military information to the government of any country if its defense against aggression is vital to the United States.” As early as September 11, 1941, F. D. Roosevelt, speaking before the US Congress, noted: “We provide this assistance not as an act of charity, but with the aim of protecting America.”

Confirming this thesis of Roosevelt, the American historian J. Herring wrote in his book “Good War: The Oral History of World War II”: “Lend-Lease was not the most disinterested act in the history of mankind … It was an act of prudent selfishness, and the Americans always clearly understood the benefits that they can derive from it.“

In fact, with the help of Lend-Lease, the Roosevelt administration solved several foreign policy and domestic problems. First of all, supplies to the Allies in the anti-Hitler coalition allowed the Americans to create new jobs. In 1940, 47.5 million people were employed in the United States, and the number of unemployed exceeded 8 million. However, already in 1942, the American economy absorbed the entire reserve of labor and until the victory in 1945, the US labor market was full-time and there was even a shortage of labor.

Secondly, Lend-Lease was beneficial to the American monopolies, which expanded production and received fabulous profits from military orders. The U.S. government, through taxpayers, paid private corporations the refurbishment of old businesses and the construction of new buildings. For this purpose, $ 26 billion was allocated from the US budget. And thirdly, sending Europeans only weapons, President F. D. Roosevelt kept his campaign promise when he firmly declared: “Our guys will not participate in other people’s wars.”


Already in the twenties of June 1941, immediately after the treacherous German attack on the USSR, W. Churchill and F. D. Roosevelt offered Russian help. A month later, the representative of the US president, Harry Hopkins, flew to Moscow to discuss military supplies with J. Stalin and V. Molotov. In August, the next annual extension of the trade agreement between the USA and the USSR from 1937 was announced. On the American side, it was announced that this decision was made in order to provide “economic assistance to strengthen the Soviet Union in its fight against armed aggression.”

The extension of trade relations between Russia and America was an important milestone in strengthening the common struggle of the USSR and the USA against Nazi Germany. At the end of September, at the beginning of October 1941, a conference of allied countries, including Great Britain, was held in Moscow, at which it was decided to supply the Soviet Union with various military equipment, raw materials and food, about which a secret protocol was signed. According to him, the United States and Great Britain pledged to supply 400 aircraft each month to the USSR by the end of June 1942 (including 100 bombers and 300 fighters), as well as 500 tanks, 765 guns from the United States and 500 guns from England over the next nine months. In addition, the Allies pledged to supply 5,000 trucks, cable, telephones, steel, other metals, barbed wire, as well as raw materials and food.

In August 1941, an Anglo-Soviet agreement on mutual deliveries, credit and clearing was also signed. Under this agreement, the UK granted the USSR a loan of £ 10 million for 5 years at 3% per annum to pay for military supplies. The Soviet leadership pledged to pay forty percent of the delivered goods in cash, dollars or gold. However, it soon became clear that the USSR was not able to transfer large amounts in a timely manner, and the United Kingdom could not demand payment for military equipment that England received from the United States free of charge under the Lend-Lease program. And only in early November, President F. D. Roosevelt informed Joseph Stalin that the US Congress decided to extend the Lend-Lease program to the USSR. At the same time, the United States provided the Soviet Union with an interest-free loan of one billion dollars to pay for weapons, equipment, food and raw materials. Formally, the Lend-Lease Act in relation to the USSR entered into force on November 7, 1941.

Nevertheless, it should be noted here that the Americans were not in a hurry with deliveries to the Soviet Union. In the midst of the battle for Moscow, when the Red Army was desperate for military equipment and ammunition, only 0.5% of the promised volume of tanks, aircraft, and other weapons was delivered from the United States to the USSR. That is, the material assistance of the allies did not correspond to their industrial capacities and the decisive importance of the Soviet-German front.

In his letter to Joseph Stalin, F. D. Roosevelt expressed the wish that the USSR, for its part, supply some types of raw materials necessary for US industry. And return deliveries from the USSR were of great strategic importance to the American economy. The Soviet Union in the form of “reverse Lend-Lease” delivered to the United States during the war years: 300 thousand tons of chromium ore, 32 thousand tons of manganese ore, a large amount of platinum, gold, wood for a total of $ 2 139 000.

At the beginning of the Lend-Lease program, the USSR paid off with the United States its money in the amount of $ 40 million frozen in the accounts of American banks. In addition, Moscow paid for American weapons and gold. In 1941, US Secretary of State Dean Acheson flew to Moscow with the only mission – to find out how creditworthy the USSR was. Joseph Stalin immediately sent the American guest on a special flight to Magadan, from where Dean Acheson traveled throughout Kolyma, where he was shown gold mines. Seeing the scale of precious metal mining in this region, Dean Acheson said that he had lost the slightest doubt about the solvency of the USSR. And only after this inspection of the Kolyma mines by the US Secretary of State from the USA to the USSR, real deliveries under the Lend-Lease program began. Every month, an American submarine arrived in Magadan, Kolyma gold was loaded onto it in payment for the supply of military equipment, weapons, food and other goods. As a result, by 1949, the largest amount of this metal had ever been collected in one place – 2 800 tons, accumulated in the stores of Fort Knox in the USA. Currently, this amount is approximately three times less.


In the first months after Hitler’s Germany’s attack on the USSR in 1941, deliveries from the USA and Great Britain to the USSR were not carried out on time; there were cases of incomplete assembly of aircraft that came without propellers, airborne weapons and spare parts. The same was true for supplies of Anglo-American tanks, outdated and with light armor. This was due, in particular, to the fact that the American industry had not yet managed to arrange the production of the latest heavy tanks. The Japanese attack in December 1941 on the United States and Great Britain caused a short-term suspension of Lend-Lease supplies. Along with the defeat of the Allies in the Pacific, a grand battle took place near Moscow, pushing the Nazis away from the capital of Russia, which radically changed the situation in the war, which had already turned into a world war by then and made America one of its main participants. On December 28, 1941, F. D. Roosevelt ordered the resumption of military supplies to the USSR, and in February next year, the United States allocated Moscow a second billion interest-free loan.

On July 11, 1942, the Soviet-American agreement “On the principles applicable to mutual assistance in the conduct of the war against the aggressor” was signed, the text of which noted that “the defense of the USSR against the aggressor is vital for the defense of the United States.” Thus, the legal framework of the Lend-Lease program was determined. Previously, supply issues were resolved by unilateral US actions. On June 27, a similar agreement was signed with Great Britain.

In the spring of 1942, the submarines of the German Navy began hunting for ships of Anglo-American convoys escorting transport vessels that went the shortest route to the Soviet ports of Murmansk, Arkhangelsk and Severodvinsk, and transporting aircraft, tanks, artillery pieces and other goods for the Soviet Union. At the suggestion of W. Churchill back in the summer of 1941, the Allies began to pave the second, less dangerous way of supplying the USSR with military and other materials. This route ran through the South Atlantic, the Persian Gulf and Iran. On September 8, 1941, an agreement was signed in Tehran, which laid the foundation for Anglo-Soviet-Iranian cooperation during the war years. The southern route has been fully involved since May 1942. For this purpose, the Trans-Iranian railway line and the highway to Azerbaijan were specially built. Five hundred 20-ton railcars and fifty locomotives were delivered from India. The volume of daily rail transportation under the Lend-Lease program for the USSR for the period from autumn 1941 to summer 1942 increased from two hundred to seven hundred tons of cargo. Thus, the Iranian route became the second in the total cargo flow for the USSR.

In addition to the United States and Great Britain, Canada also provided substantial assistance to the Soviet Union, which provided Russia with a loan of ten million Canadian dollars in 1942, which was used to pay for supplies of wheat and flour to the USSR.

Allied supplies under the program of military and economic assistance to the Soviet Union were determined by annual protocols signed by the USSR, the USA and Great Britain. The first of them operated from October 1, 1941 to June 30, 1942. During its operation, 1,420,000 tons of cargo were sent to the USSR. Of the 282 ships carrying weapons, food and raw materials for the Soviet Union, only 209 ships reached their destination, 51 ships were sunk by the Germans, 22 ships could not pass through minefields, and were forced to return to England, where they unloaded.

The second protocol was valid from July 1, 1942 to June 30, 1943. At this time, the United States and Great Britain sent about eight million tons of military cargo to the USSR, some of which ended up at the bottom of the northern seas along with ships torpedoed by German submarines. The number of irretrievable losses included 124 thousand tons of cargo from the “PQ-17” caravan, which, nevertheless, the Soviet Union fully paid for to the United States. Since, according to the agreement, the USSR did not pay for received, but for equipment, weapons, etc., shipped by the allies All deliveries under the Lend-Lease program during the war were regularly paid by the Soviet Union. Only one English cruiser “Edinburgh”, which was sunk by the Germans on May 2, 1942, there were 465 gold bars with a total weight of 5.5 tons. All this together, coupled with reverse Lend-Lease, that is, the supply of raw materials from the USSR to the United States, provides a more than eloquent assessment of Soviet-American relations during the World War II.

The Third Protocol lasted from July 1, 1943 to June 30, 1944, and for the first time Canada, along with the USA and Great Britain, took part in it, which in May 1943 adopted its Lend-Lease Act, allocating one billion dollars to help the USSR. During this period, the allies delivered to Russia more than seven million tons of military cargo, as well as part of the undelivered weapons and other goods under the Second Protocol.

The Fourth Protocol was valid from July 1, 1944 to June 30, 1945. If the First Protocol was signed in Moscow, the Second was signed in Washington, and the Third was signed in London, then the latter was executed already in Ottawa. A little later, an addition was made to the Fourth Protocol regarding the supply of military equipment and food for the Red Army in connection with the entry of the USSR into the war with Japan.


During the World War II, there were several supply routes to the USSR through Lend-Lease. The northern route from Iceland and Great Britain to Arkhangelsk, Murmansk and Severodvinsk, which was the shortest, but also the most dangerous and vulnerable from the German Navy. Of the 1,530 transport vessels that were part of the 78 convoys, the Germans sank 42 ships sailing with cargo to the USSR, and another 36 ships sailing back. However, during the same time, the Allies, with the participation of Soviet ships and aircraft, sank 27 German submarines, 2 battleships and 3 destroyers in the North. The Allies sent about four million tons of cargo along this route, which amounted to 22.7% of the total number of Lend-Lease deliveries.

The second route, as already noted, ran through the South Atlantic, the Persian Gulf and Iran. Also used were the ports of Iraq. And in Iran, assembly plants, railways and highways were built. Soviet pilots made training flights of the assembled aircraft, as well as Soviet pilots transported these aircraft directly to the front. Over 4.2 million tons of cargo was delivered along this route, that is, 23.8% of Lend-Lease deliveries.

The third, Pacific route was less known, but most effective. Despite the fact that since the spring of 1941, Berlin has actively urged Tokyo to declare war on the USSR, the Japanese government did not dare to attack Russia. And this is seen as a great merit, both of Soviet diplomacy and of Russian intelligence and counterintelligence. Due to the fact that the USSR did not fight with Japan at that time, the United States vessels with the Soviet flag and the Russian crew on board transported almost half of all cargo delivered by the Allies, the exact amount is 47.15%. But even on this route the USSR lost several ships, such as “Kola”, “Ilmen”, “Transbalt”, “Angarstroy”, “Belarus”, “Pavlina Vinogradova” and “Ob River”. In the post-war period, mean reports slipped in the Soviet press that these ships were sunk by Japanese or “unknown” submarines. However, recently both in Russia and abroad a lot of materials have been published that make it possible to uncover the veil of secrecy of the death of Russian merchant ships of the Soviet Far Eastern Shipping Company.


First of all, it should be noted that the Soviet ship “Pavlina Vinogradova” and 33 members of its crew died on April 22, 1944 off the coast of Alaska due to an internal explosion in the hold of a vessel carrying such an explosive cargo like acetone in barrels. The reason for the death of the remaining listed vessels, as well as fishing seiner No. 20, was the attack of submarines. But these were not Japanese or “unknown” submarines, but American ones. The following are summaries of the fate of these ships and their crews:

“The Angarstroy” cargo ship (built in 1927, gross tonnage – 4761, tonnage – 9800 tons) – sunk on May 1, 1942 in the East China Sea, 32 miles southwest of Kyushu Island (at the point with coordinates 31 ° 55 ‘N, 127 ° 42’ E) by two torpedoes of the SS-210 “Grenadier” submarine (commander – Lieutenant Commander Allen Joyce), without casualties among team members;

cargo ships “Kola” (built in 1919, gross tonnage – 4997) and “Ilmen” (DGMP, built in 1923, 2369 gross tonnage, 4200 tons) – both sunk on February 17, 1943 in the Pacific Ocean, 250 miles to the south Shikoku Islands (at points with coordinates 30 ° 45 ‘N, 135 ° 33’ E and 30 ° 35 ‘N, 136 ° 30’ E, respectively) each was destroyed by two torpedoes fired by the submarine SS-276 “Sawfish” (Lieutenant Commander Eugene Sands), 60 members of the crew of 64 and all 9 passengers died on the “Kola”, 7 members of the 42 crew on the “Ilmen”;

fishing seiner No. 20 (built in 1936, 263 tons) – sunk on July 9, 1943 in the Sea of Japan on the beam of the Rebun Island (Hokkaido District) with SS-178 Permit artillery fire (commander – Lieutenant Commander Chepple), 2 team members out of 13 died. The rescued fishermen were delivered to Dutch Harbor;

cargo ship “Belarus” (built in 1936, 2920 gross tonnage, 4120 tons) – sunk on March 3, 1944. in the Sea of Okhotsk, west of Iturup Island (47 ° N, 146 ° E), a torpedo fired from the SS-381 “Sandlance” submarine (Lieutenant Commander Malcolm Harrison) killed 48 of the 50 crew members;

cargo ship “Ob River” (built in 1917, 2198 gross tonnage, 3200 tons) – sunk on July 6, 1944. in the Sea of Okhotsk off the west coast of the Kamchatka Peninsula (51 ° 27 ‘N, 154 ° 58’ E) a torpedo from the SS-281 “Sunfish” submarine (Commander R. Peterson), 14 of 40 crew members were killed;

cargo ship “Transbalt” (built in 1899, 11439 gross tonnage, 14,000 tons) – sunk on June 13, 1945. in the Sea of Japan, 45 miles northwest of the La Perouse Strait (45 ° 43 ‘N, 140 ° 45’ E) by two torpedoes by the submarine SS-411 “Spadefish” (Commander G. Underwood), died 5 out of 99 team members and trainees.

Thus, during the period from 1941 to 1945, six Soviet vessels were killed due to the fault of American submarines in the Pacific Ocean, five of them cargo ships with a total tonnage of 28684 gross tonnage and 1 fishing trawler. In these marine disasters, 128 Soviet citizens died, including 21 women and 3 children.


In addition to the three indicated ways of cargo delivery under the Lend-Lease program, there was another secret route. In February 1942, F. D. Roosevelt proposed to distill planes from Alaska to Siberia. American pilots delivered them to the airfield in Fairbanks in Alaska, and from there Soviet pilots drove them along the route Uelkal – Seymchan – Yakutsk – Kerensk – Krasnoyarsk. It was the most difficult and dangerous route, but 7925 aircraft were delivered to the front line, more than half of all aircraft delivered by the United States to the USSR. The graves of Soviet pilots who crashed during the stretch testify to how difficult this route was. In addition to the cemetery in Fort Richardson in the city of Anchorage (Alaska), there are similar burials in the territory of Chukotka, the Magadan Region, in the city of Magadan and in various cities of Siberia.


Lend-lease goods also went through the Arctic. The convoys of ships, including those provided by the Americans and the British, accompanied by icebreakers transported various equipment and food to the port cities of the Northern Sea Route, while at the same time supplying all the necessities to the inhabitants of the Soviet Far North and the Far East. Over the war years, and also through the Black Sea in the spring of 1945, over a million tons of cargo was delivered to the USSR through the Arctic, which amounted to 6.3% of all Lend-Lease deliveries.

In addition to military equipment, in the holds of ships that were guarded by military convoys, there were many goods needed to restore the Soviet national economy. Thus, in a memorandum to Stalin in February 1945, it was reported that American ships delivered to Odessa 1,860 trucks, 40 ship engines, 23 cranes, 776 tons of railway rails, 734 tons of gas pipelines and 256 tons of oil pipes, 11,100 tires, and 51, 2 thousand pairs of shoes and 13 22 tons of food and more.

It should be noted the contribution of Great Britain and Canada to the assistance program to the Soviet Union. During the war years, 7,400 aircraft, 4,292 tanks, 5,000 anti-tank guns, 4,000 radio stations, 12 minesweepers, and much more, including food and medicine, arrived from the USSR to England.

Canada delivered 1,188 tanks, automobiles, industrial equipment, food, but primarily wheat, to the USSR.

United States during 1941 – 1945 spent about 13-14% of their annual military spending on the Lend-Lease program. The cost of all deliveries under the Lend-Lease program from the USSR allies amounted to $ 11,200,344,000, including $ 9.8 billion from the United States.

In post-war publications on military assistance under the Lend-Lease program during the Great Patriotic War, a figure equal to four percent of the gross product of the national economy of the USSR was called. That is, despite the significant contribution of the Allies to our common victory over Nazism and Japan, most of the weapons, ammunition, food and medicine were produced in Soviet factories and in agricultural companies. If we compare the weight of the extracted coal, ore, timber, the total number of produced tanks, aircraft, weapons and other things, we can note the following:

The aviation industry of the USSR from 1941 to 1945 produced 122 thousand aircraft of all types, and under Lend-Lease we received 22 195 thousand aircraft, which is 18%;

The deliveries of motor vehicles turned out to be more significant, the United States handed over to the Soviet Union 427 thousand vehicles of all kinds. Since 1943, the famous Katyusha rocket launchers carried American Studebakers;

The allies supplied the USSR with 1,981 steam locomotives and 11,156 railway wagons for various purposes. At the same time, 92 steam locomotives and over 1 thousand freight cars were built in the USSR;

Also during the war years, the USSR received 560 vessels of various displacement under the Lend-Lease program.

The leadership of the USSR praised the importance of Lend-Lease in Soviet-American relations. So, in particular, Joseph Stalin, making a toast in honor of F. D. Roosevelt at the Yalta Conference in February 1945, emphasized the role of the American president “as the creator of the tool that led to the creation of the anti-Hitler coalition.” F. D. Roosevelt, in turn, believed that the established partnership of the three great countries should be maintained after the end of the war. In November 1944, speaking with a report on Lend-Lease in the US Congress, he said: “Lend-Lease and reverse Lend-Lease are a combined military supply system. They will have to end with the war, but the United Nations partnership must remain and grow stronger.”

But, unfortunately, Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s dreams were not destined to come true. April 12, 1945 he was gone. Roosevelt’s successor in the White House, Harry Truman made a turn in the opposite direction in US politics. However, on June 26, 1941, only four days after the treacherous attack of Nazi Germany on the USSR, Harry Truman, then the US Senator, said “If we see that Germany is winning we ought to help Russia and if Russia is winning we ought to help Germany, and that way let them kill as many as possible.“


On May 12, 1945, a note was received at the USSR Embassy in Washington announcing the termination of Lend-Lease deliveries. Part of the steamboats with goods was returned back. In Moscow, as expected, this Washington demarche provoked an extremely negative reaction. A number of negotiations were held, as a result of which supplies to the USSR were continued, but only from the western coast of the USA and only until the end of the war with Japan. Then another incident occurred between America and Russia.

As noted above, June 13, 1945 an American submarine sank the Soviet ship “Transbalt” between Sakhalin and the Japanese island of Hokkaido. In the hold of the ship was a Lend-Lease cargo: rails, truck bodies and food. The total cost of the cargo was estimated at $ 1,471,129. On June 18, this incident was reported to Joseph Stalin.

Further attempts by the Soviet leadership to extend the Lend-Lease program were unsuccessful. The United States refused to provide loans to the Soviet Union and to supply goods necessary for the post-war reconstruction of the country. And the atomic strike against Hiroshima three days before the USSR entered the war against Japan in fulfillment of the Yalta agreements, announced to the world not only the end of World War II, but also the beginning of the Cold War, in which nuclear blackmail played a special role.

The official date for the termination of the Lend-Lease program for the USSR is September 20, 1945. All questions relating to the program of military and other assistance to the Soviet Union from 1941 to 1945 were transferred to the US State Department. Further negotiations on the repayment of debt and on the return of previously provided vessels continued intermittently for some time. In December 1947, the Soviet Union returned seven tankers and one dry cargo ship to America. In September 1949, Moscow and Washington signed an agreement to return three icebreakers and twenty-seven frigates.


At the same time, the USA and the USSR revised the USSR debt to the USA under Lend-Lease, which fell from $ 2.6 billion in 1947 to $ 1.3 billion in 1948 and was finally set at one billion in 1949. The reduction in the size of Soviet debt for Lend-Lease was not due at all to America’s altruism, but to Joseph Stalin’s firm position in the negotiations. Adjusted this amount and taking into account the supply of raw materials from the USSR on reverse Lend-Lease.

In 1954, the USSR returned 38 small naval ships to the United States. The following year, the USSR handed over to the United States another 62 ships, mainly torpedo boats and landing ships.

A new round of settlement of the issue of debt repayment for the Lend-Lease program came in 1972, when the period of detente of international tension began, and a number of agreements were signed between the USA and the USSR, including those on debt for assistance during the war. The USSR undertook by 2001 to pay $ 722 million, including interest. By July 1973, three payments had been made, totaling $ 48 million.

However, in 1974, the US Congress adopted the Jackson-Vanik amendment as a means of economic and political pressure on the USSR. The Americans then demanded that the unhindered emigration of Soviet Jews to Israel be allowed. This amendment deprived the USSR, and subsequently the Russian Federation, of the most favored nation treatment in trade with the United States. In protest of these economic sanctions, which were not the first in the history of Russian-American relations, the USSR stopped paying debt under the Lend-Lease program. In 1990, during negotiations between the presidents of the USSR and the USA, an agreement was reached on paying off debt in the amount of $ 674 million.

And already in 2003, the debt under the Lend-Lease program of Russia, as the legal holder of the USSR, was included in the general list of debts to the Paris Club, where as a result of mutual settlements and payments it was completely liquidated in 2006.

So the question of Russia’s debt under the Lend-Lease program, which periodically arose in relations between the United States and Russia throughout the time after the end of the World War II, was resolved. This topic is sensitive and little known to the general public. Until now, many people, both in the USA and in Russian Federation, believe that Russia still owes America for the help that our American allies provided to the USSR in 1941-45. But in reality, the Russian Federation has long paid for the Lend-Lease program, paying tribute to the courage of American, British, Canadian and Australian soldiers, pilots and sailors who, together with the Soviet army, fought against Nazism, and whom the Russian people have always considered and continue to consider brothers in arms, as well as the soldiers of all other countries participating in the anti-Hitler coalition. In 2020, we celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Great Victory over Nazism, and also as in 1941, we extend our hand of friendship and mutual assistance to all people of good will, to those whose grandfathers and great-grandfathers fought against the worst an enemy in the history of mankind.


Concluding the review of the Soviet-American partnership during the World War II, I should return to the theme of Joseph Stalin’s gift to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, which was made in the preamble of this article. Despite publications by various authors in Soviet and post-Soviet times, no evidence was found in the US archives that the copy of the “Volga-Volga” film was indeed donated by Stalin to Roosevelt. Among the versions published by Russian journalists, there is such Stalin did not send this picture as a gift to Roosevelt, but showed it to General De Gaulle and US Ambassador A. Harriman. According to the recollections of the Soviet aircraft designer A. Yakovlev, this event happened on December 9, 1944 during the visit of the leader of the French Resistance General De Gaulle to Moscow. After a joint dinner, Stalin showed his favorite comedy to distinguished guests. Whether the head of the USSR had a secret intention to hinder the American ambassador for his slowness in Lend-Lease deliveries, or was it just an act of politeness and a desire to please the guests, is hard to say now. In any case, the American ambassador should have heard the funny words of the captain’s song from the “Volga-Volga” film that America gave Russia a steamer, and that too much steam went off the whistle, the wheels were located at the stern of the ship and this ship was terrible quiet move. Thus, this playful song could help speed up Lend-Lease deliveries not at the end of 1944, but at the time when the Germans came close to Moscow, in November-December 1941. And although the help of the USA, Great Britain and Canada was very significant for the USSR, but the unlimited courage and heroism of the Soviet soldiers played the main role in the defeat of the Third Reich, which all our allies recognized.

For example, the head of the Lend-Lease Law Compliance Office, Edward Stettinius, in his book “Lend-Lease: Weapon for Victory” wrote: “The main contribution to the US defense made by England, the Soviet Union, China and other countries, of course, was their war with Axis powers, and this is the most important thing that our country received in response to Lend-Lease assistance. In a report to Congress on January 25, 1943, I emphasized: “This help cannot be measured in numbers. There are no standard estimates with which, for example, one could compare the thousand dead Russian soldiers and the thousand fighters. Everyone who died on the battlefields in England, China, Russia, Africa and Asia fell, defending their homeland. But these peoples fought and are at war with our common enemy. Their victims save the lives of Americans.”

And we must not forget another interesting moment of our partnership with the American Allies. On June 22, 1991, on the 50th anniversary of Nazi Germany’s attack on the USSR and two months before 1991 Soviet coup d’état attempt, which marked the beginning of the collapse of the USSR, a twinning agreement was signed between two important points on the Lend-Lease supply map. Russian Magadan and American Anchorage became twin cities. Twenty years later, the author happened to be a participant in the celebration of the anniversary of this event, which took place very modestly in one of the central squares of Anchorage. In conversations with Americans, the author discovered a lot of interesting things. In particular, by questioning Alaskans what they know and remember about the Soviet-American brotherhood in arms during the World War II, the general opinion of the interviewees was somewhat discouraged. The answers were simple and standard. The Alaskans told me that they had no “brotherhood in arms” with the Russians. Americans and the British had a brotherhood in arms, but not with the Russians. It was an exceptional business partnership. Just a business, nothing personal. The United States only supplied military supplies to the Soviets. And the Russians paid for deliveries from the United States, but never paid in full. Perhaps these sentiments are the legacy of the Cold War era, and maybe something else.
And here we should remember one more slippery moment of American business during the World War II. Along with supplies to the Soviet Union, American industrial corporations traded with Nazi Germany. Standard Oil Corporation, owned by John Rockefeller Jr., through the intermediary of the German chemical concern I.G. Farben, who produced gas to kill prisoners in German concentration camps, sold gasoline and lubricants to Berlin for $ 20 million. And the Venezuelan branch of Standard Oil monthly supplied Germany with 13 thousand tons of crude oil, which the Reich chemical industry immediately processed into first-class gasoline.

In addition to the much needed gasoline from German cars, tanks and aircraft from America, the Nazis supplied tungsten and a lot of components for the automotive industry, which H. Ford delivered to A. Hitler. In particular, it is well known that 30% of all tires produced by Ford plants were used to supply the German Wehrmacht. For the Fuhrer, Henry Ford was more than an idol. “He is an inspiration to me,” Hitler said in 1931 in an interview with The Detroit News, answering the question why there is a portrait of an American automobile magnate in his office. A journalist from the New York Times who visited Berlin at that time said that the wall of Hitler’s personal office was decorated with a large-format portrait of Henry Ford, while the reception desk was littered with copies of “Der International Jude”, a book written by Henry Ford.

According to U.S. military historian Henry Schneider, Henry Ford also helped Nazi Germany with synthetic rubber technology, vital for the German war industry. For this help, Adolf Hitler awarded Henry Ford the Grand Cross of the Order of the German Eagle. The order was put on him by the German consul, who specially arrived in Detroit. It happened on July 30, 1938 at a grand gala dinner, organized on the day of Ford’s 75th birthday, in the presence of more than 1,500 spectators.

As for the total volume of deliveries of Nazi Germany from the United States during the World War II, there is no exact information on this subject, since this is the strictest trade secret. But even those crumbs of information that have become known to the public, allow us to judge that trade with Berlin did not stop until the defeat of Nazism.

In addition to Standard Oil and Henry Ford, other American companies actively traded with the Third Reich even after the United States entered World War II. American companies such as General Motors, which manufactured trucks for the Wehrmacht at the Opel factories, owned by the American automobile concern. General Electric, ITT, IBM, Coca-Cola, Random House. An interesting fact is that when the war broke out and the German branch of Coca-Cola stopped receiving the necessary ingredients from the USA for its signature drink, then Fanta was invented, which became the Nazis’ favorite fruit soda. The Kodak firm also continued to operate in Germany during the war years. Its German branch used the free slave labor of prisoners of Nazi concentration camps. Kodak not only supplied photo and film materials for creating propaganda films at Goebbels’s department, and for the needs of the Luftwaffe. A camera with Kodak film was installed on every German military aircraft. Also, Kodak produced detonators and other military products for the needs of the Wehrmacht.

We should know and remember all aspects of our allied relations with the United States, including certain negative aspects of the Russian-American partnership for a better understanding of our past, present and probable future, which is not predetermined, but created by the peoples of the world in accordance with their commitment to traditional values, ethical standards, national character and the mission that is assigned to all of us from above. All this is relevant to this day, especially in light of the tense relations between Washington and Moscow, the global economic crisis, various local conflicts, in a situation that is very reminiscent of the 1930s, pre-war years.