Alexander Dolitsky: U.S. Lend-Lease aid to Soviet Union during World War II



 “The structure of world peace cannot be the work of one man, or one party, or one nation…it must be a peace which 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 error and the Nazi Germany invasion of the Soviet Union

On Aug. 23, 1939, the Soviet Union astounded 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 the Nazi leaders now had a “green light” to attack Poland and other democracies without fear of intervention from the Red Army.

With the signing of the Nazi–Soviet Pact, the conditions for the start of World War II were set. On Sept. 1, 1939, Nazi Germany attacked Poland, and, on September 17, the Red Army advanced into the eastern part of that country, claiming its share of old, pre-revolutionary Russian Poland. Several days after the German invasion of Poland, Britain and France, honoring their treaty commitments to Poland, declared war on Nazi Germany and the other Axis powers.

Not only did Stalin place an almost naive faith in the 1939 Non–Aggression Pact, but up until June of 1941, provided Hitler with all sorts of raw materials and logistical support to feed the Nazi war machine.

Then, on June 22, 1941, Nazi Germany launched a massive attack against the Soviet Union. Operation Barbarossa had begun. One hundred and fifty-three German divisions crossed the Soviet border along a wide front, while German planes carried out heavy bombing of border installations, airfields, railway stations, and towns. At the same time, Romania, Hungary, and Finland sent a combined total of 37 divisions against the Soviet Union.

Altogether, the Axis powers amassed 190 divisions, comprising 5.5 million men, 3,712 tanks, 4,950 planes, 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 held a million soldiers of the well-trained Kwantung Army ready for action along the Soviet Far Eastern borders.

The situation along the Eastern Front at the beginning of the invasion proved extremely unfavorable for the Soviet Army. The Soviets suffered devastating damage from enemy air attacks that destroyed almost the entire Soviet Air Force in the first week of the invasion—4,017 out of the 7,700 aircraft in western Soviet Union (this may not include 1,445 aircraft of the three western naval air forces) 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, while downing only 78 enemy planes. 

By early July of 1941, the Germans occupied Lithuania, a large part of Latvia, and the western territories of Belorussia and Ukraine and were approaching the Western Dvina River and the upper reaches of the Dnieper River. Through unparalleled acts of bravery on the part of thousands of Soviet soldiers, by mid-July 1941, the enemy was halted near Kiev and remained stopped for 73 days. The German Wehrmacht killed or captured more than 660,000 Soviets in the battles of Kiev—about one third of the deployed Red Army.

The battles at Kiev and Uman would prove to be the greatest defeats in the history of the Russian people. As a result of the defeat, the north, center, and south were left wide open to rapid German advances.

By November of 1941, the Germans occupied the Baltic States, Byelorussia, Moldava, most of Ukraine, Crimea, and a large part of Karelia east of Finland. They had also seized considerable territory around Leningrad and Moscow. Before the war, those occupied parts of the country had 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 again. 

Part II: To Help or not to help? Many conservatives in the United States argued vociferously against the U.S.–Soviet Pact, asserting that America’s aid should be disbursed only to proven friends, such as Great Britain and China. In congressional debates on the subject in late July and August, isolationists insisted that to aid the Soviet Union was to aid communism. Read about the political fight in Congress in Part II on Friday.

Photo at top: Soviet and American officers and enlisted personnel mix under the wing of the Soviet Li-2 transport plane in Nome upon arrival of the first contingent of the Soviet Military Mission. September 3, 1942. Courtesy of USAF.

Alexander B. Dolitsky was born and raised in Kiev in the former Soviet Union. He received an M.A. in history from Kiev Pedagogical Institute, Ukraine, in 1976; an M.A. in anthropology and archaeology from Brown University in 1983; and was enroled in the Ph.D. program in Anthropology at Bryn Mawr College from 1983 to 1985, where he was also a lecturer in the Russian Center. In the U.S.S.R., he was a social studies teacher for three years, and an archaeologist for five years for the Ukranian Academy of Sciences. In 1978, he settled in the United States. Dolitsky visited Alaska for the first time in 1981, while conducting field research for graduate school at Brown. He lived first in Sitka in 1985 and then settled in Juneau in 1986. From 1985 to 1987, he was a U.S. Forest Service archaeologist and social scientist. He was an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Russian Studies at the University of Alaska Southeast from 1985 to 1999; Social Studies Instructor at the 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 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 lecturer on the World Discoverer, Spirit of Oceanus, andClipper Odyssey vessels in the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions. He was the Project Manager for the WWII Alaska-Siberia Lend Lease Memorial, which was erected in Fairbanks in 2006. He has published extensively in the fields of anthropology, history, archaeology, and ethnography. His more 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; Old Russia in Modern America: Russian Old Believers in Alaska; Allies in Wartime: The Alaska-Siberia Airway During WWII; Spirit of the Siberian Tiger: Folktales of the Russian Far East; Living Wisdom of the Far North: Tales and Legends from Chukotka and Alaska; Pipeline to Russia; The Alaska-Siberia Air Route in WWII; and Old Russia in Modern America: Living Traditions of the Russian Old Believers; Ancient Tales of Chukotka, and Ancient Tales of Kamchatka.

A few of Dolitsky’s past MRAK columns:

Understanding anti-semitism and anti-semites in America

Russian Old Believers in Alaska live lives reflecting bygone centuries

Russian saying: Beat your friends so your enemies fear you

Neo-Marxism and utopian Socialism in America

Old believers preserving faith in the New World

Duke Ellington and the effects of Cold War in 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 perspective

Beware of activists who manipulate history for their own agenda

Alaska Day remembrance of Russian transfer

American leftism is true picture of true hypocrisy

History does not repeat itself

The only Ford Mustang in Kiev

What is greed? Depends on the generation

Worldwide migration of Old Believers in Alaska

Traditions of Old Believers in Alaska

Language, Education of Old Believers in Alaska


  1. It’s not like we gave them anything good. We didn’t give them any P-51 mustangs or anything like that. We gave them what today would be considered as subpar trainer type weapons. Leftover stuff from world war I.

    • That’s bullshit. They didn’t need P-51s because they didn’t face the Luftwaffe’s bomber defense. We gave them what they really needed; trucks and the P-39-P-63, and B-25. The trucks could move men and materiel. the a/c could provide ground attack capability There was no “leftover stuff from WWI.” We issued all that to our Marines in the Pacific.

    • Gregory, My old High School teacher, Bill Dean, stationed in Nome during WWII told me a story about Soviet pilots flipping five P-47 Thunderbolts on their backs while attempting take off in one day.
      Turns out the Russians didn’t understand how powerful those big radial engines were? They told them to Crack the throttle, not to firewall them.
      So, yeah, if I got the story right, we gave them the highest kill ratio fighter plane we had.
      The P-47 was a devastating ground attack platform and air to air fighter.

      • More likely pilot error. On a side note, I talked with elders on St Lawrence Island and as children they can remember being on the gravel Beach and a Japanese gun boat going by and the little suckers on the boat turned their guns on the kids playing on the beach but didn’t fire. I wouldn’t have thought the Japanese had compassion like that after cutting the heads off of Chinese children. I guess they weren’t excited to have target practice on that day.

  2. Were the Poles slaughtering ethnic Germans within their borders in large numbers in 1939, prior to Germany’s invasion?
    What role did the NKVD play in that?

    • Might one ask whether the Soviets/Russians repaid the U.S. for Lend Lease equipment?
      Seems ironic does it not that, 78 years after sailors were killed and ships were sunk bringing Lend Lease gear to the Soviets, American leadership provokes WWIII with the former Soviet Union for no other apparent reason than propping up one of the world’s most corrupt dictatorships.

    • Yes, not to mention the Volgadeutsch and other ethnic Germans who, after the defeat of the White Russians in the civil war, emigrated to Germany and warned everyone about what was coming. These people strongly influenced German popular opinion regarding the Soviet Union as well as future influential NSDAP leaders such as Alfred Rosenberg and Hitl0r.

      The leadership of the NSDAP made to qualms stating that their revolution was a counter-revolution against the fledgling progressive-democratic Weimar government as well as a pre-emptive revolution against the coming Bolshevik takeover of Germany.

      They were not tin foil hatters, either. A socialist coup took place in Bavaria in 1918. Hitl0r’s lawyer, Carl Schmitt, was motivated to support the NSDAP in part because of that coup.

  3. It is unfortunate that we helped them. They threw us under the bus in the first war, and gave Germany one front. They tried to take China at the end of the second war. Patton was right, should have took them.

    • Two totally different governments, Gregory. The peasants in Tsarist Russia were forced into WW1 because of Russia’s binding alliances with Europe’s other monarchies. They began deserting the front in large numbers because the communist revolution was beginning to take root in Tsarist Russia which eventually overthrew the aristocratic Romanovs. By the beginning of WW11 Russia was a thoroughly Communist nation. It always astounds me how so-called educators & especially politicians, even today, do not understand that present day Russia is NOT a Communist country! This leads to disastrous foreign policy decisions such as the current Ukraine war debacle.

  4. The fact is the Russians defeated the vaunted Wermacht with their “high tech” wonder weapons and elite Waffen SS troops recruited from all over Europe (including the 14th Waffen SS Grenadier Division , 1st Galician) recruited from the Lvov region (Galicia) of Ukraine, with their fascist/racist Bandera doctrine, which remains prevalent in the modern one party regime which chokes the modern construct of regions called Ukraine today.
    The Russians suffered massive losses initially, with Siberian divisions stopping the Wermacht in sight of the Kremlin. The massive Stalingrad campaign ended the strategic offensive status of the Wermacht (there are more than 1 million military, German and Russian dead buried in Mamayev Kurgan, a hill in modern Volgograd) alone. The battle of Kursk in July 1943 ended any strategic offensive capability of Germany and its’ allies, Romania, Hungary, Italy and Spain (Blue Division). The Russians made short work of the high tech and high maintenance Panther IV and Tiger I tanks, swarming them with technically crude but very effective T-34 and KV1 and KV2 tanks of their own supported with overwhelming artillery fire support.
    Germany was already in its’ death gurgle status by the Normandy 1944 invasion. The hype of the Battle of the Bulge with worn out German units filled with over and under aged conscripts and foreign levies is a side show compared to Operation Bagration in the same year. The biggest benefit of Lend Lease was the grain sent to Russia, not the 2nd rate (in comparative relation to what the Germans and Russians were using) aircraft, tanks and sundry equipment. Russia moved its’ industry east of the Ural Mountains, and as the case today, out produced industrial volumes of equipment and ammunition, outgunned with artillery, out supplied and out witted (Field Marshall Zhukov) the fascist Goliath with its’ aristocratic Prussian military “geniuses”.
    Russia lost 27 million people, and their country was trashed. We Americans lost 500,000, a comparative rounding error, and our country was untouched. Lend Lease was helpful, arguably spared several million lives from starvation, but was not the leading factor in defanging the Wermacht.

    • I agree. By the time the invasion started in Normandy, Germany was flailing to survive. They made one last desperate push in the bulge and it was the beginning of the end. Anytime somebody can invade a continent like we did, and 11 months later March all the way to Hitler himself, there wasn’t much resistance. But this was all after we softened them up with our mustangs and bombers and had air superiority. That was a valuable lesson that we learned and still practice today.

    • The Baby Boomers believe and act like the United States was founded in 1945. Long, drawn-out paragraphs about muh Hitl0r but the question remains: Why does the United States look and feel like a country that has lost a war?

  5. Like I said, after they knocked off Nicholas, the Bolsheviks developed a treaty or truce with Germany during the war and let them aim all their forces towards the Western front. When was the precursor of communist Russia. If you think Putin isn’t a communist then you’re full of beans. The point I was making is we didn’t give Russia any of our good stuff because we didn’t trust the lousy bastards. We knew we were going to have to fight them someday. Patton knew this too.You could barely get Stalen into the same room as Roosevelt and Churchill. They hated Stalin. Don’t forget the airdrops we had to do into Berlin. What the world found out was no one can trust Russia or a Russian past or present for that matter. I’m glad you’re feeling better art. Go Chiefs

    • Where to start, Gregory? How about we substitute kraut, Jap, raghead, dirty injun, Jew, guinea or n@#ger, in your rant about “lousy bastards” or “you can’t trust”? It shocks me that a blatant racist like you was anywhere near a school! It’s amazing that you survived long enough to retire. As for your statement that Putin is now a communist, prove it. Most world economists acknowledge that Russia today practices the same crony capitalism that exists in the United States, albeit with less of a tendency towards socialism than exists to a much greater extent in our country today under Beijing Biden!

    • Where did the US borrow the funds to “purchase” the Russian interests in Alaska? Wouldn’t it be odd if it was the biggest trade route guys in the world? (China) Wonder if our straightforward elected servants every had treaties with them to pay it back and did they or not? Also when treatying with China when is the deal “done” from their eastern perspective? Perhaps never? Traditional endless reopening clauses etc as is their perpetual style?

  6. The psychological impact for the Russian population and the overwhelming majority of the local population in eastern Ukraine of German Leopard tanks marked with the balkenkreuz invading from the west across the steppe country will galvanize the public to unite in opposition to, resist and fight NATO far more than anything the current United Party controlling Russia’s government could achieve. The ill advised plan to piecemeal western armaments, which are complex and subject to frequent breakdowns, requiring specific technicians and parts for each model to keep them running, is a repeat of what the Wermacht attempted.

  7. A couple overlooked aspects in Part 1:

    1) Why did the United Kingdom and France declare war on Germany for invading Poland but not on the Soviets? Why didn’t they declare war on the Soviets after 1945 when they absorbed the entirety of Poland? It seems like they had beef with Germany more than they felt a duty to save princess Poland.

    2) There is credible evidence that the Soviet Union was planning its own strike force against Germany. The idea that the Soviets were completely shocked by Operation Barbarossa is farcical. The Germans, following the von Schlieffen doctrine, simply had a higher-quality and faster (albeit smaller) war machine than the Soviets and threw the first punch.

    Unlike with our forces in Iraq or Afghanistan, the slogan “We have to fight them there so we don’t need to fight them here,” was accurate.

  8. I have always been struck by the irony that in the post-World War II Western World, the archetype of the power-mad dictator and evil monster has been Hitler, when in fact Stalin was responsible for MANY more deaths, particularly many more deaths of his OWN people, rather than those of differing ethnicity. Why do we not routinely talk about “evil Stalins”, as opposed to evil Hitlers?

    • Jefferson, Hitler was a costume wearing runt in comparison to the paranoid, Greatest Killer of all time, Uncle Joe Stalin. Stalin had gravitas and street cred with American Academics, plus Stalin was a commie and they admired his administration of justice, especially towards capitalist.

    • Probably because Hitler thought they were Superior genetically over Jews and dark-skinned people. I don’t think Stalin I thought he was better than anybody, he just didn’t like them or thought they were politically dangerous. The Germans have always been on people’s radar from the Romans to the present. We should be talking about the Japanese as well. They’re a bunch of pretty ruthless folks. Who cuts off the heads of children and stab them down on a stick and then makes the parents march by to watch that? Who makes prisoners of war ride in the belly of a ship for 2 weeks when it contained over 2 ft of horse crap? There’s a reason why the North Koreans hate the Japanese and I’m on board with them. Some people feel sorry for the Japanese because we fire bombed them and blew them up, but those ignorant people don’t know that the Japanese were developing their own nuclear weapons to use on us and on the Panama canal. All’s fair in Love and war.

  9. Captain Isaac Hubley is an interesting name. An early Alaskan US Commissioner selected by Seattle for Alaska. He served from Unga I believe. He still has lots of descendants here.

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