The Western share in the Soviet victory to be commemorated next month
It is fashionable these days to decry the role of the Western Allies in destroying Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime on the grounds that the Russians did most of the fighting in Europe and suffered vastly more casualties, both of which arguments are true.
Yet when victory was formally declared in Moscow on 9th May 75 years ago, loudspeakers all over the city played the American national anthem and joyful crowds streamed towards the American embassy. Averell Harriman, US ambassador in Moscow, remembered Russians weeping in the streets when Franklin Roosevelt died the previous month.
The Western contribution to ultimate victory was twofold. Firstly, every German division deployed in North Africa and Italy to fight the Allies, or stationed elsewhere in Europe and even in Norway to await the D-day landings, was a division unavailable for the fighting on the Eastern front. Secondly, the Russians received almost a quarter of all American Lend-Lease aid (most of the rest going to the British Empire).
In his best-selling autobiography I Chose Freedom published in 1947, Victor Kravchenko, who managed a number of major Soviet factories, wrote
“I came to know more intimately even than the ranking generals and admirals how valuable American lend-lease weapons, materials, and machinery were in achieving victory. God knows we paid back in full – in Russian lives – for Allied help. The Stalingrad triumph was clinched before the great flow of lend-lease got started. But without the great influx of American airplanes, motor transport, telephones, a thousand other things we lacked, what would have been the fate of Soviet resistance?”