Twenty percent of US manufactured aircraft were transferred to foreign recipients as part of the Lend-Lease program. The British Commonwealth nations were the largest foreign beneficiary followed by the Soviet Union. The United States Army Air Force received more than half of the total planes produced.
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Recipients of US Aircraft Production
According to Table 79 of the “United States Air Force Statistical Digest World War II” document, the distribution of aircraft to various allied nations during World War II was as follows:
United States Army Air Force (USAAF): The USAAF received the largest number of aircraft during the war, with a total of 158,880 aircraft. This included 47,050 fighters, 47,481 bombers, 34,469 trainers, and 15,769 transport planes.
United States Navy: The US Navy received a total of 73,711 aircraft during the war, including 27,163 fighters, 20,703 bombers, 13,859 trainers, and 2,702 transport planes.
British Empire: The British Empire received a total of 38,811 aircraft during the war, including 8,003 fighters, 13,385 bombers, 7,640 trainers, and 3,789 transport planes. This includes aircraft given to the Royal Air Force (RAF) and other British Commonwealth air forces.
Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR): The USSR received a total of 14,717 aircraft during the war, including 9,868 fighters, 4,031 bombers, 85 trainers, and 703 transport planes.
It is worth noting that the USAAF received most of the aircraft produced by American manufacturers during the war, while the US Navy, British Empire, and USSR received smaller but still significant amounts.
Transportation to Great Britain and the USSR
American aircraft were flown from factories in the United States to airfields in Great Britain. One was the North Atlantic Ferry Route. The North Atlantic Ferry Route was typically used for fighters flying from New England to Newfoundland to Scotland and was used for thousands of aircraft during the war.
Another was the Crimson Route utilizing the Great Circle route to ferry aircraft from manufacturing plants in Southern California and Seattle via Montana over Canada to Greenland using Arctic air routes. These were typically bombers and transport aircraft.
To transport aircraft to the Soviet Union utilized a route known as the Alaska-Siberia air route. This route involved flying from airfields in the United States, across Alaska, and then over the Bering Strait to airfields in Siberia. From there Soviet aircrews took over and flew them westwards.
Why Supply Allies Versus Retain Aircraft for Own Usage
The United States provided significant military aid to its allies under the Lend-Lease Act. This aid included the shipment of US-manufactured aircraft to countries such as Great Britain and the Soviet Union.
The US recognized that the defeat of the Axis powers was a global objective, and that it would be easier to achieve this objective if its allies had the necessary military resources to fight the war. By providing aircraft to its allies, the US aimed to strengthen their military capabilities, which would help to defeat the Axis powers more quickly and effectively.
Sending aid to its allies also had political and diplomatic considerations. It helped to build and maintain diplomatic relationships with Great Britain and the USSR. The aid provided to its allies ensured that they would be able to continue to fight the war. In summary, the US sent aircraft to allied nations during World War II as part of a larger effort to defeat the Axis powers.
Recipients of US Aircraft Production Data
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Source: Abstracted from United States Air Force Statistical Digest World War II, Office of Statistical Control, December 1945, p. 127, https://apps.dtic.mil/sti/pdfs/ADA542518.pdf, accessed April 5, 2023
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