No. 2, 2010

Oleg Anatolyev


During the Second World War, the Lend-Lease program of 1941-1945 became an important element in the modern history of relations between Russia, the United States, and the United Kingdom. These countries of the anti-Hitler coalition managed to achieve mutual understanding under extreme wartime conditions and were able to use the mechanism of international leasing effectively to defeat Nazi Germany.

Unity in the face of fascist aggression

Nazi Germany's treacherous attack on the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, changed the course of the Second World War sharply. The same day, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill declared,

The Russian danger is therefore our danger and the danger of the United States It follows, therefore, that we shall give whatever help we can to Russia and the Russian people .... We have offered the Government of Soviet Russia any technical or economic assistance which is in our power, and which is likely to be of service to them.

On July 24, 1941, U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt announced his country's readiness to "give all possible aid to the USSR." The visit of a Soviet mission headed by General-Lieutenant Filipp Golikov to the United States soon afterward established the outlines of the future Lend-Lease Program.

On August 16, 1941, the USSR and the United Kingdom signed the Treaty on Joint Action in the War against Germany. It was on this basis that the Soviet Union was granted credits totaling £10 million for a period of five years, and deliveries of arms and strategic materials (including petroleum products, especially high-octane aviation gasoline) began immediately.

Several days later, the Intergovernmental Committee on Aid to Russia, headed by Harry Hopkins, Arthur Purvis, and Soviet Ambassador Konstantin Umansky, was established by order of President Roosevelt. The American president soon issued an order to provide $1,000,000 worth of aid to Russia in the form of interest-free loans that would be paid back over a period of ten years, beginning five years after the end of the war. Roosevelt told Secretary of War Henry Stimson and Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox,

I consider it of exceptional importance to the defense and security of America that Russia be given as much aid in the form of munitions as is reasonable ... so long as she continues to successfully fight against the Axis powers.

From June to the end of October 1941, $92,000,000 worth of strategic goods were delivered from the United States to the Soviet Union, including payment for deliveries of aviation gasoline. In the first part of the war, before Lend-Lease was extended to the USSR, these deliveries totaled 156,335 short tons, of which 25,185 tons were more than 99 octane aviation gasoline; 130,729 tons were 87-99 octane aviation gasoline; and 421 tons were less than 87 octane aviation gasoline.

The so-called First (Moscow) Protocol, an agreement on mutual deliveries, was signed at the Moscow Conference of September 29 - October 1, 1941. It called for deliveries of 1.5 million tons of more than 70 kinds of arms and 80 kinds of medical supplies. From the provisions of the document, it is clear that petroleum products played a key role in Lend-Lease. In talks with Harry Hopkins, the U.S. president's personal representative, Stalin noted especially the need for priority deliveries of the high-octane aviation gasoline badly required by the Soviet air forces.

Over the course of the war, there would be another three protocols named after the cities in which they were signed: the Washington, London, and Ottawa protocols. The period covered by the Second Protocol ran from October through June 30, 1942, with subsequent protocols running through July 1943, July 1944, and May 1945. Beginning with the Third Protocol, which entered into force on July 1, 1943, Canada would take direct part in supplying aid to the USSR.

The four Lend-Lease routes

Deliveries of Lend-Lease supplies were made via four main routes. The first and most dangerous of these was through the North Atlantic and Arctic into Soviet northern ports. Another began at the ports of the Persian Gulf and ran through the deserts and mountains of Iran and Iraq up to the Soviet border. The third was an air route running from North America through Siberia, from Fairbanks, Alaska (USA), to Krasnoyarsk (USSR). Finally, the fourth and most effective route (though it was also long and dangerous) ran through the Pacific Ocean, from the shores of California in the United States to the ports of the Soviet Far East.

Cargoes traveled the Northern Route to the ports of Murmansk, Arkhangelsk, Severodvinsk, and Polyarnyi. This was the shortest route, and an effective one: convoys traveled across it in only 10-12 days. It was, however, extremely dangerous, and many seamen from the Soviet Union, Britain, the United States, and Canada perished along it. Of the 1,570 freighters that made up its 78 convoys, 85 were lost en route and 41 were forced to turn back for various reasons.

A more reliable route for Lend-Lease deliveries of military cargoes and strategic materials was the Far Eastern Route. More than 8 million tons of freight (almost half the total amount) were delivered during the war years, the most of any of the routes. The nature of the cargoes varied, but consisted mainly of foodstuffs, petroleum products, and technical equipment. Cargoes delivered from California ports were as a rule shipped on freighters manned by Soviet crews and sailing under the Soviet flag. The Northern and the Pacific routes were the main routes for the delivery of aviation and automotive gasoline, and other fuels and lubricants.

In order to ferry aircraft from Alaska to Siberia an air route was created in the summer of 1942. To accommodate the route, Soviet specialists had to create aerodromes in hard-to-reach places, build housing and service facilities, and organize the catering for no fewer than 3,000 aviators and technicians. The route was in operation by the end of the year. U.S. pilots ferried the aircraft (mostly fighter planes) to Fairbanks, Alaska, where there was a Soviet military mission that took delivery of the aircraft. Under the supervision of U.S. and Soviet experts, Soviet aircrew and technicians familiarized themselves with the aircraft being handed over to the USSR. Before the war was over, 7,925 aircraft (more than half of all the planes supplied by the USA to the USSR) were delivered via the Fairbanks-Krasnoyarsk route.

The Persian Corridor was yet another Lend-Lease route. It ran through the Indian Ocean to the Persian Gulf, and then more than 2,000 kilometers overland by rail to the Soviet border. Britain supplied more than 100 locomotives and 1,100 freight cars for the route, largely ensuring regular, uninterrupted deliveries of Lend-Lease cargoes.

Lend-Lease's oil component

Over the years the Lend-Lease program was in effect, the total volume of just the high-octane aviation gasoline supplied by the Allies to the USSR was 1,197,587  tons, of which 558,428 tons had octane numbers higher than 99.

It is very clear that the Allies' delivery of octane-boosting additives for preparing high-octane aviation gasolines for the Soviet air forces, and for raising the octane number of automotive gasolines, was no less important. A total of 834,427 tons of these were delivered, of which 732,295 tons came from the United States, and 102,132 tons came from the British refinery in Abadan, Iran.

It should also be mentioned that U.S. oil deliveries included 267,088 tons of automotive gasoline; 16,870 tons of kerosene; 287,262 tons of fuel oil; 111,676 tons of lubricating oil; 5,769 tons of paraffin; 4,788 tons of chemical additives; and 999 tons of other products.

An agreement to supply complete sets of U.S. refinery equipment to the USSR, and to extend technical assistance in setting them up, signed under the terms of the July 11, 1942 intergovernmental agreement between the USSR and the United States and the Second (Washington) Protocol, was an important element of Lend-Lease. The company of E.B. Badger & Sons, the contract with which was registered with the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Bureau of Material and Technical Assistance under the heading DA-TPS 17000, Requisition R-4200, was chosen to execute the project's engineering. The total cost of the refinery equipment delivered under Lend-Lease was $43,138,000.

It should be emphasized that in addition to petroleum products and refining equipment, Lend-Lease's oil component included deliveries of drilling rigs and other oilfield equipment: casings; tubings; portable collapsible pipelines; instrumentation devices; and tanker ships, tank cars, and tank trucks.

Under Lend-Lease, the United States supplied $9,230,000 worth of drilling equipment; 222,107 tons of pipeline of various types and dimensions; 892 short tons of pumping rods; and $9,040,000 worth of welding equipment and 4,030 metric tons of welding electrodes. A large number of different instruments and devices were supplied to the USSR, as is evident from their total cost of $6,902,000.

Lend-Lease deliveries to the USSR officially ended on May 12, 1945. From that day until the Red Army crossed the Manchurian border, cargo was delivered under the Special Program of 17 October and the so-called Molotov-Mikoyan List appended to it. The maximum amount of military and civilian goods the United States and Britain could allocate to the Soviet Union was delivered under the terms of these agreements.

The Pipeline Agreement of October 15, 1945, extending the Lend-Lease protocols, was of great importance to the USSR's shattered economy. This $222,000,000 agreement also considerably influenced the development of Russia's oil and gas industry.

Know and remember

In July 1945, Stalin noted in a letter to U.S. President Harry Truman,

The agreement on whose basis the United States of America provided the Soviet Union with weapons, strategic materials, and foodstuffs under the terms of Lend-Lease throughout the war in Europe played an important role in, and to a considerable degree helped bring about, the successful conclusion to the war against our common enemy, Hitler's Germany.

It should also be noted that the movement of goods under Lend-Lease was, incidentally, two-way. The USSR supplied the United States and Britain with machine tools, anti-aircraft guns, armament factory equipment, strategic raw materials, and precious metals, while performing such services as forwarding certain military intelligence. From the first months of the war, the Soviet Union shipped substantial amounts of manganese, chrome, asbestos, and platinum to the United States as payment for the goods supplied under Lend-Lease.

We cannot, of course, use the same scale to weigh the goods provided under Lend-Lease against the loss of life incurred by Soviet citizens in paving the way to victory over the common enemy. This was, incidentally, emphasized more than once during and after the war years by prominent government figures in the United States, Britain, and other countries.

"The Russians paid a price that cannot be measured in dollars," said U.S. Secretary of State Edward Stettinius, who, in assessing the role of Lend-Lease, wrote,

It is the millions of Nazi soldiers killed or taken prisoner, the Nazi tanks turned into heaps of scrap iron on the battlefield, and the guns and trucks abandoned by the retreating German armies.

"We never thought that our Lend-Lease aid was the main factor in the Soviet victory over Hitler on the Eastern Front," noted Harry Hopkins. "It was achieved by the heroism and blood of the Russian army." John Hazard, deputy director of the Soviet department of the Lend-Lease Administration from 1941 to1945, wrote in 1990,

 I believe there is now hardly anyone in the United States who would dare assert that the deliveries of equipment and foodstuffs under Lend-Lease were the main factor ensuring the victory of the Soviet people and the Red Army in that war. Nevertheless, the Americans who were involved in Lend-Lease still feel enormous satisfaction from knowing that the cargoes we delivered helped fill a gap in supplying the Soviet people and their armed forces.

As we mark the 65th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, there are a great many different stories in the media with regard to the multilateral cooperation among the nations of the anti-Hitler coalition. Contemporary researchers have shown convincingly that Lend-Lease helped greatly in achieving the great victory of 1945 over humanity's common enemy: German fascism.

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Oil of Russia, No. 2, 2010
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