Allied Lend-Lease shipments provided 17,499,861 tons of material to the USSR during World War II. The average Liberty ship carried approximately 7,800 tons per shipment. Therefore, over 2,200 equivalent Liberty cargo shiploads were required to supply the USSR with materials to help them make it through the war.
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The 77th US Congress on March 8, 1941, passed the Lend-Lease act (subtitled “An Act to Promote the Defense of the United States”) which President Roosevelt signed into law on March 11, 1941. The first beneficiary was Great Britain and her Commonwealth of nations. Lend-Lease was later extended to China in the spring of 1941 and to the Soviet Union in November 1941.
The Soviet Union like all other Lend-Lease recipients developed their own list of needed items based upon gaps in their military and economic survival needs. Tanks, aircraft, and trucks got the headlines but items such as food, chemicals, aluminum, steel, explosives, aviation fuel, tooling, and rail equipment were essential to Soviet victory.
Lend-Lease took on many forms some less glamorous than others but still significant. Railcars and railway rails aren’t often thought of by the general public when thinking about supporting a war ally. However, not having to produce 1,977 locomotives, 11,075 railway wagons, or 622,000 tons of railway rails allowed USSR’s internal industries to concentrate on other needed war production.
Often overlooked is the effect of the German invasion in 1941-42 on the USSR’s breadbasket, Ukraine. The USSR lost 40% of its state farms as well as farm animals, farm equipment, and labor. Per US Embassy and Consulates in Russia 4,500,000 tons of foodstuffs were transferred to the USSR via Lend-Lease. There are stories of Soviet troops throwing empty Lend-Lease food cans at German troops just to irritate them.
The Soviet Union out produced all European Axis nations in crude oil production. However, octane boosters and aviation fuels were in short supply and Lend-Lease filled that gap. Prior to the US entry into the war the US was responsible for 63%*of the world’s oil production. Additionally, the US had extensive adjacent industries developing and producing petroleum, oil, and lubrication products. In all 2,700,000 tons of petroleum products were supplied through Lend-Lease.
* Source: American Foreign Relations, https://www.americanforeignrelations.com/O-W/Oil-Oil-and-world-power.html
Lend-Lease shipments of 8,244,000 tons transited over the Soviet Far East route with 99% arriving safely. Japan maintained neutrality with the USSR during World War II until August 1945. Even though Germany requested Japan to intervene in Lend-Lease shipments they did not. Japan’s would not intervene if the ships were under Soviet flags with Soviet crews. Additionally, those shipments could not include war materiel. Therefore, non-war material consisting of mostly food, trucks, railcars, locomotives, etc. utilized this route. Just over 47% of all Lend-Lease tonnage was shipped via this passageway. Most of these shipments originated in Auburn, Washington or Lathrop, California destined for Vladivostok, Russia. Many of these Soviet flagged ships were Liberty Ships.
An additional Pacific Lend-Lease route Alaska-Siberia Air Route (ALSIB) used to transport combat aircraft and some goods to Siberia. This route was far enough north that Japan could not intervene. The ALSIB delivered more than 8,000 aircraft. Aircraft were ferried by US pilots to Ladd Army Airfield in Fairbanks, Alaska where Soviet crews took over and completed the trip to Krasnoyarsk Krai, Russia.
The Persian Gulf route from the US east coast around the cape of southern Africa and north to the Persian Gulf ports was the longest sea going route but saw the second greatest tonnage of the five routes. Lend-Lease shipments of 4,160,000 tons transited over the Persian Gulf route with 99% arriving safely. Over 180,000 trucks were delivered via this route.
The Artic Route originated in many locations of the United States, Canada, Iceland, England, and Scotland. Most were destined for either Murmansk or Archangel in Russia. Lend-Lease shipments of 3,964,000 tons transited over the Artic. Tanks, planes, raw materials, fuel, chemicals, food, and ammunition were the main cardo items via this route.
The final route was the Black Sea route which was not utilized as much as the other sea going routes due to the gauntlet of the Atlantic and Mediterranean posed. Lend-Lease shipments of 681,000 tons transited over the Black Sea route.
Allied Shipments (tons) to the USSR Data
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Source: Wikipedia. “Lend Lease.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lend-Lease, Data accessed on June 28, 2022
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