*** World War II campaigns -- defeating the NAZIs Europe first

Defeating the NAZIs: Europe First

importance of Lend Lease
Figure 1.--The Soviet T-34 tank is commonly seen as the definitive weapon of the Ostkrieg. The American Studabeker truck does not have the same star quality as the T-34. But without American trucks (the Studabeker was the most common model), the Red Army foot soldiers and their supplies could not have kept up with the armored forces. In addition the tucks were used to move artillery. (Earlier Red Army artillery was moved with horses, a much slower expedient.) Trucks essentially doubkded the effectuive fire power of Red sarmy artillery. The German reliance on horses was one of the primary reasons that Barbarossa failed (1941). And it is a major reason why Soviet Operation Bagration in contrast resulted in the destruction of Army Group Center (1944). Here we see American-made Studebaker duce and a half (2 1/2 t) trucks (some made by Chevrolet, Ford, and Dodge) at a Soviet depot near Moscow (August 1944). This was just at the time Bagration had effectibely ripped the German Eastern Fromt to shreds. The duece and a half was the mainstay of the American mechanized army. And not only was the same model used throughout the war, but most arrived in the Soviet Union fully loaded with war supplies, including spare parts. Compare this to the Germans who had several hundred different models of trucks and other unarmored vehicles to contend with in addition to Austrian, Czech, French, and other foreign vehicles. The number of different spare parts a German motor pool needed to contend with was astronomical.

The Germans were by far the most important Axis country. Japan and Italy would nogt gone to war ainst Anerica and Britain without Germany. The Germans had the industrial power to build a powerful military and because the democracies when Hitler seized power (1933) were at first focused on ending the Depression, not building powerful military forces. As a result, by 1939 the Germans had a military advantage over the Allies. Even more frightening, the German generals had invented modern warfare--Blitzkrieg. The results were stunning German military successes in the first 2 years of the War. As a result, even before America entered the War, there was an agreement on Europe First, of course meaning Germany First. The British were revealed that even after Pearl Harbor the Americans continued to believe in Europe First. The nightmare scenario was that the Soviets might join the Axis. That would have passed the world balance of power to the Axis. Stalin wanted to join, but Hitler blocked that, at the core of NAZI ideology was seizing th vast land and resources of the East, meaning the Soviet Union, for Lebensraum. As a result, Hitler ordered the invasion of the Soviet Union (June 1941), leading to the largest largest military campaign in human history. There would be two major campaigns, the War in the West and the Ostkrieg. The outcome of the Ostkrieg would decided World War II. And because the Soviets prevailed, many in Russia today believe that the Red Amy single-handedly won the War, viewing the War in the West as a. side show. In terms of manpower this is certainly the case. It was in the East that the Red Army tore the heart out of the Wehrmacht. Some 80 percent of the Herman casualties were sustained in Ostkrieg. An one has studied war, however knows that manpower is not the only element of combat power. If it was, China would have won the War. World War II was an industrial war. And while the German since most of their men East, German industrial output mostly went west. This disconnect meant that the Ostheer was poorly equipped and supplied. Mist of the Deutsche Ostheer invaded the Soviet Union on foot with horse-drawn supply carts. In the final analysis, this is why Operation Barbarossa failed.

Importance of Lend Lease

Very important to the Red Army victory was the support provided by Lend Lease. President Roosevelt conceived of Lend Lease after Prime-Minister Churchill informed him that Britain was going abruptness (December 1940). Congress passed the Lend Lease Act (March 1941). After Hitler invaded the Soviet Union (June 1941), the program was expanded to include the Soviets. The United States under Lease supplied the British, Soviets, and other Allied nations with significant quantities weapons and ammunition, food, oil, and other materials between (1941-45). The American Arsenal of Democracy was just beginning to mobilize (1941-42), but by 1943, really significant quantities were reaching the Soviets. The United States deliveries to the Soviets totaled $11 billion ($180 billion in the 2020 value). And remember that weapons in World War II were much less expensive than modern weapons). Shipments included 400,000 jeeps and trucks (two of every three Red Army trucks were American), 12,000 armored vehicles (including 7,000 tanks), 35,000 motorcycles, 11,400 aircraft, 8,000 tractors, 2,000 locomotives, 15 million pairs of army boots, 107,000 tons of cotton, 2.7 million tons of petrol products and 4.5 million tons of food through three corridors. The list goes on an on. After World War II, Soviet and now officials and academics have tried to downplay the importance of the Lend-Lease program to the Soviet war effort. These assessments, however , contradict to what Stalin, Zhukov, and others said during the War. Marshal Georgy Zhukov in a post-War conversation said, "Now they say that the Allies never helped us, but it can't be denied that the Americans gave us so many goods without which we wouldn't have been able to form our reserves and continue the war. We didn’t have explosives, gunpowder. We didn’t have anything to charge our rifle cartridges with. The Americans really saved us with their gunpowder and explosives. And how much sheet steel they gave us! How could we have produced our tanks without American steel? But now they make it seem as if we had an abundance of all that. Without American trucks we wouldn’t have had anything to pull our artillery with." Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin even raised a toast to the Lend-Lease program at the Tehran Conference (November 1943). "I want to tell you, from the Russian point of view, what the President and the United States have done to win the war. The most important things in this war are machines. The United States has proven that it can turn out from 8,000 to 10,000 airplanes per month. Russia can only turn out, at most, 3,000 airplanes a month. England turns out 3,000 to 3,500, which are principally heavy bombers. The United States, therefore, is a country of machines. Without the use of those machines, through Lend-Lease, we would lose this war." 【Office of the Historian】 Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev wrote in his nmemoirs, "If the United States had not helped us, we would not have won the war. One-on-one against Hitler's Germany, we would not have withstood its onslaught and would have lost the war. No one talks about this officially, and Stalin never, I think, left any written traces of his opinion, but I can say that he expressed this view several times in conversations with me." 【Khrushchev】 Anastas Mikoyan, another top Soviert leader actually involved in administerung Soviet procurement under Lend lease as the People's Commissar of Foreign Trade reported directly to Stalin and Molotov on Lend Lease shipments. 【Mikoyan, Report May 21, 1944】 After the War he wrote about its importance. He wrote, "Now it’s easy to say that lend-lease meant nothing. It ceased to be important much later. But in the autumn of 1941 we lost everything, and if not for lend-lease, weapons, food, warm clothes for the army and other supplies, the question is how things would turn out." He also wrote, " ... when we began to receive American stew, combine, egg powder, flour, other products, what immediately significant additional calories our soldiers received! And not only soldiers: something also fell to the rear. Or take delivery of cars [meaning truks and jeeops]. After all, we received, as far as I remember, taking into account the losses in the way about 400 thousand first-class cars of the Studebaker, Ford, passenger Willis and amphibians. Our entire army was actually on wheels and what wheels! As a result, its maneuverability increased and the pace of the offensive increased significantly." And also, "Now it’s easy to say that lend-lease meant nothing. It ceased to be important much later. But in the autumn of 1941 we lost everything, and if not for Lend-Lease, weapons, food, warm clothes for the army and other supplies, the question is how things would turn out."

Importance of the War in the West

We notice that in many interest discussions that Lend Lease is considered by many to be the primary Western contribution to the defeating the the Germans. Lend Lease was vital, but it was hardly the only or even most significant Western contribution. Hitler despite his pre-War intentions, found himself fighting a two front war as in World War I which drained German resources. Now it is absolutely correct that in terms of manpower, German forces were primarily committed to the East--the Ostkrieg. But the war in the West drained tremendous German industrial resources. So much so that the Ostheer could not be adequately supplied or supported. Hitler sent the Ostheer east largely on foot with horse drawn carts. And they remained that way, actually becoming less mechanized as the war progressed. Conquering the Soviet Union was a difficult opposition to begin with. Conquering it on foot with un motorized infantry nearly impossibility after the Ostheer was stopped before Moscow, (December 1941).


Khrushchev, Nikita. Edward Crankshaw, intro, commentary, and notes. Strobe Talbott, trans. and ed. Khrushchev Remembers (Little Brown: Boston, 1970), 639p. One author sourced Khrushchev's memoirs. He does discuss Lend Lease, but mostly the issue of repayment aftyer the War. He writes about a meeting with President Kennedy, "We also discussed the problem of Lend-Lease. I repeated to him what I had told Eisenhower: 'We are grateful to you for the help you gave us during the war. Your help was essential in our struggle against our common enemy. You gave us material aid, and it was very valuable. But we gave our blood, and blood is more expensive than the materils we received fromn you. Therefore we feel that we have long ago repaid you with interestfor your Lend Lease shipments.", p.497. Now it is diificult to argue with Khrushchev about that, but we also believe that there are maters that he and Soviet historians ignore. 1) It is difficult to believe that given the long list of horrendous Soviet atrocities thay Bllod was all that important to Stalin and other Soviet leaders. Khrushchev and of course Gorbechev seem exceptions, although Khrushchev was an Ukranian official and working wityh Stalin during the Ukranian Genocide. 2) There is an almost universal Soviet/Russian dismisal of the importance of the War un the West. 3) Also banned from Soviet/Russian history is any mention of the Soviet alliance with the NAZIs and the massive aid the Soviet Union provided to their NAZI ally under the NAZI Soviet Pact (1939-41).

Mikoyan, Anastas. "Report from Mikoyan to Stalin and Molotov regarding Lend-Lease shipments from the United States from 1 October 1941 to 1 May 1944 (May 21, 1944). This was a secret report, but available today in the Wilson Center Digital Archive.

Office of the Historian. "Foreign Relations of the United States: Diplomatic Papers, The Conferences at Cairo and Tehran, 1943," (U.S. Department of State).


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Created: 4:44 AM 6/13/2023
Last updated: 7:51 AM 7/20/2023