Lend Lease: Soviet Union--Southern Route

Figure 1.--Getting Lend Lease supplies to Britain even with the German U-boats was a relatively simple matter--a straight shoot across the North Atlantic to well established ports. Getting supplies to the Soviet Union was a very different matter as the Germans effectively bottled up the major Soviet ports. The Red Army had to fight the Whermacht on its own with only limited aid from the Allies after the German invasion (June 1941). But the Allies by 1943 were delivering supplies in large quantity, primarily on a southern route through Iran. The press caption here read, "Supplies for Russia roll along: Somewhere on the Persian corridor with the United States truck convoy carrying supplies for the aid of Russia; native Iranian boys look on as a long convoy makes a rest stop. Such scenes as these thrill the natives." The photograph was taken June 4, 1943 just as the Germans and Soviets were preparing for the climatic battle of Kursk. Notice the trucks. It was not just the supplies they carried, but the trucks themselves that would prove critical on the Eastern Front. Put your cursor on the image for a closer view of the famed 2 1/2 (duce and a half) ton trucks and the Iranian children.

The third Lend Lease sea route to the Soviets was the southern route through Iran, then called Persia. This route was opened when the British and Soviets moved into Iran in a coordinated action (August 1941). The British ousted Iran's pro-Axis Reza Shah. The route was imperiled by German u-boats and the Japanese Fleet during early-1942. The route was fairly secure by mid-1942. The problems experienced on the other two routes caused the Allies to take great interest in the this route. The principal disadvantage was the distance involved. The long voyages meant that ships could move much less material than the other two routes because of the substantial turn over times. This route involved a long trip around the Cape of Good Hope and then overland through Iran. This route was limited because the length of the voyage tied up shipping and the Iranian port and transportation infrastructure was not well developed. In addition during early-1942 the Indian Ocean was threatened by the Japanese Navy. Another serious constraint was the port facilities in Iran and the country's limited railroad network. After the British and Soviets seized control, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers played a major role in expanding the capacity of the ports and railway system. Even after the long trip around the Cape of Good Hope, the Iranian route (referred to as the Persian corridor) was still further fron the front lines than the northern route. It was, however, closer to the front than the ratheriffy voyage through Japanese controlled waters to Vladisvostock and did not face the Trans-Siberian Railroad bottleneck. Thus as the War progressed, this southern route became more and more important. After the Battle of Stalingtad, very large quatities of Lend Lease supplies began reaching the Soviets. Here we see a U.S. truck convoy in 1943 (figure 1). The mundane trucks proved to be one of the most important items delivered to the Red Army. American engineers and aid substantially imprtoved the Iranian transport netwoek, including ports, rail lines, and roads. The routes led primrily into the Caucauses. The northeastern area of the route was through Azeri populatedc arewas.


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Created: 6:38 AM 7/21/2010
Last updated: 6:08 AM 10/11/2011