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In other words, how significant was American lend-lease in helping the Soviet front? Would the Soviets be suffering a lot more had lend-lease not happen, or was it not as significant as people make out?

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answered in large part here: history.stackexchange.com/questions/8687/… might even be considered a duplicate. – jwenting Jun 14 '13 at 6:57
The answer only has figures for 1941-43, Berlin was taken over in 1945... – Evil Washing Machine Jun 14 '13 at 17:52
I don't have the figures handy, but total value of U.S. Lend Lease aid was comparable to Axis war production. The Soviet Union got about a third of that, or about one year's worth. Maybe two years' worth of trucks, clothing and food, less of actual weaponry. – Tom Au Jun 14 '13 at 18:04
and the percentage of logistical equipment rather than weapons systems increased over time until at the end of the war it was the vast majority of aid, allowing the entire Soviet industrial effort to focus on productions of weapons and munitions. – jwenting Jun 17 '13 at 9:04
This is my opinion, so not really an answer: As much as it is true, Americans won the war out of soviet blood. Let's be honest about history. If soviets don't get help, they lose the war. If soviets don't sacrifise their blood, americans lose the war. Winning the war needed both sides, including UK's refusal of surrender. – CsBalazsHungary Jun 18 '13 at 8:43
up vote 19 down vote accepted

As others have pointed out, it will never be possible to answer this question conclusively based on documents, because the Soviet officials have always been eager to downplay (for the propaganda reasons) the importance of the Allied contribution to the war in general and Lend-Lease in particular, so all the official Soviet sources are suspect (as, by the nature of the USSR, they cannot be independently verified).

The only way to evaluate the impact of L-L is based on circumstantial evidence.

  1. As mentioned by @Kunikov, the Soviets stopped truck production - but they could not produce anything comparable to Studebakers they were receiving from the US anyway.

  2. The Soviets stopped locomotive production too - and the factories producing them switched to medium and heavy tank production (in fact, given the nature of the Soviet industry, tanks were the main output of the "locomotive plants" from the get go, locomotives were just a side show).

  3. The Russians could not produce "aviation-grade" (high-octane) gasoline. Savitsky in his memoires writes that when the US stopped delivering the aviation gasoline in June 1945, the speed of his fighter planes dropped by 10-20%. This seems enormously significant.

  4. Zhukov in his private conversations admits that the L-L was crucial wrt gunpowder, explosives, steel, trucks.

  5. Mikoyan said that without the L-L the war would have lasted for an extra 1-1.5 years. This is a very critical admission: the Soviet resources, especially the human ones (the army was huge, but there were no men left at home), were largely exhausted by 1945, so it is quite possible that, without L-L, the SU would have been forced to settle for a stalemate to avoid a national collapse (circumstantial evidence of the danger of the regime collapse is provided by the concessions to the church in 1943).

The bottom line is that, yes, "Soviet troops got into Berlin riding American trucks, walking in American boots and using American trains", but they also flew both American and Soviet aircraft, rode mostly Soviet tanks, fired Soviet rifles and canons (with US gunpowder) &c &c &c. Without the Western Allies, both their military action and Lend-Lease, the SU would have certainly not been in Berlin in 1945, and might not even been there in 1946, if ever.

PS. This is a very touchy subject for the Russians, so be careful what you believe...

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Regarding point 5, that's doubtful. The Red Army contained some 12 million men in 1945 and had enough resources to take on a close to million man Kwantung Army in the Far East within a matter of a few weeks. – Kunikov Jul 11 '13 at 23:37
@Kunikov: Kwantung Army was grossly overrated by the Soviet propaganda. RKKA had 12M men in 1945 in part because of LL (w/o LL the losses would have been larger &c). The mobilization resources at home were largely exhausted. – sds Jul 11 '13 at 23:51
Precisely what I was looking for; Soviet factories were able to switch to producing tanks instead of logistics. Thanks for the answer. – Evil Washing Machine Jul 13 '13 at 0:02
-1 entirely for the bullshit 5th point. The USSR ended the war with much more troops than it had at any point. Also, how one can compare 1943 to 1945? And even in 1943 there was no threat of a collapse, the only such threat was in 1941. – Anixx Mar 22 '14 at 17:07
Bellamy's book Absolute War supports this, and concludes (putting words in the author's mouth a little) that while the impact was somewhat marginal, the Red Army's survival in 1941 was pretty damn marginal too, and without lend lease the Russians may well have collapsed. Page 423: "Russian war industry was by now [1941-1942] at its lowest ebb, and although the [Allied] aid during the war as a whole might appear relatively insignificant...it was very significant in these critical years, and would remain so in certain areas throughout the entire war." By 1945 things had changed, of course. – user4139 Mar 24 '14 at 4:47

In other words, how significant was American lend-lease in helping the Soviet front? Would the Soviets be suffering a lot more had lend-lease not happen, or was it not as significant as people make out?

This is a very hard question to answer for numerous reasons and one that will never be answered to everyone's satisfaction. Here are some things to consider and some problems that frequently come up when you're dealing with Lend Lease.

First off, significant Lend Lease aid was not felt until 1943. The Lend Lease that arrived before was nowhere near enough to make a decisive difference on how 1941 and 1942 turned out. There are some articles/arguments that have recently come out which attempt to argue that the Lend Lease tanks that did make it in 1941 played a decisive role in the defense of Moscow, but I don't believe they are conclusive enough (see the following article: British “Lend-Lease” Tanks and the Battle for Moscow, November–December 1941—A Research Note).

Secondly, the immediate problems that come up when attempting to qualify Lend Lease are the following. Just quoting numbers of what was sent is not enough. One needs to account for what was sent, when it arrived (and how much arrived), and when it was actually incorporated into the Red Army and used in the field. Additionally, one has to keep in mind that the Soviets began to scale back production of certain things because they knew they would receive them through Lend Lease. One example is trucks. The Soviets were producing practically none because they knew to expect them through Lend Lease, but that doesn't mean they couldn't produce more if they needed to. Many former truck producing factories were switched over to light tank production. Since the Red Army moved to relying on medium and heavy tanks, light tanks were something the Red Army could in theory do without or with less of. This type of analysis needs to be applied to everything the Soviet Union received. Specifically, what they received, if it was not coming through Lend Lease what were the alternatives? Meaning could they produce it internally or import it from another state/country (England, Canada, etc.). The Soviet Union did not just receive Lend Lease from the US.

Finally, the Soviet Union participated in reverse Lend Lease, sending back materials to the US. All of the above is just the tip of the huge iceberg that studying Lend Lease means, it's simply impossible to account for all the variables.

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You seem to be interpreting my question as an attack on Soviet contributions to the 2nd world war and that they couldn't have won without US help...this is absolutely not the case. I just would like to know how much L-L aided the Soviet war effort, and from sds' answer, it seems quite alot. – Evil Washing Machine Jul 12 '13 at 23:57
Also, what exactly did the Soviets supply to the US? Do you mean the gold shipments they sent and later tried to claim back (as regards to shipments which were sunk)? – Evil Washing Machine Jul 13 '13 at 0:01
I'm not interpreting your question as anything. I provided an answer that addresses how difficult it is to qualify the contributions of Lend Lease. As for reverse Lend Lease, I don't have a source off-hand as this is something I haven't looked into in a long time, but it also included the renting of bases, fixing US equipment, etc. – Kunikov Jul 13 '13 at 0:45
The U.S. Department of State claims (iipdigital.usembassy.gov/st/english/article/2010/05/…) that the value of Soviet "reverse lend-lease" was frankly insignificant. – user4139 Mar 24 '14 at 4:33

Here are the numbers and no speculations.

The share of lend-lease supplies to the total number of produced and delivered to the USSR products -

  • 12% - tanks
  • 8% - Self-propelled gun
  • 12% - Airplanes
  • 3% - Guns and mortars
  • 22% - Ships
  • 63% - Cars
  • 1% - Firearms
  • 3% - Gasoline
  • 40% - Aviation petrol
  • 35% - Rails
  • 72% - Locomotives
  • 35% - Explosives
  • 55% - Aluminium
  • 45% - Сopper
  • 30% - Tyres
  • 30% - Sugar
  • 5% - Cotton
  • 24% - Metal-working machines and presses
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Do you have references for these numbers? – Semaphore Oct 6 '14 at 12:28
Do 'cars' include trucks? – Evil Washing Machine Oct 10 '14 at 20:05

Firstly let's talk about the total aide that Russia was provided with through the Lend/Lease Act. It appears as though by 1946, the United States had lent about $51 billion in total with $11 billion going to aide the Soviet Union. That's a substantial proportion. Almost 25% of American aide going to the Soviets.

But with the total amount of Soviet military production unknown, it's difficult to say exactly how much the Americans contributed.

With a little more digging, I can give you some estimates of what the Soviets attacked Berlin with and we can make some extrapolations from that. In 1945 it was estimated that the Russians had produced approximately 57,300 tanks (See Zaloga, Steven J., Jim Kinnear (1996). T-34-85 Medium Tank 1944–94, Oxford: Osprey Publishing.). According to this article on wikipedia 20,000 tanks and artillery pieces* were deployed to the battle. Among them were the Russian T34, SU-152, ISU-122 and the Iosif Stalin tank or the IS2. All of these were Russian tanks. Based on the known production numbers and the sheer force of Soviet troops mustered for the battle, it seems that roughly a third of the Red Army's tanks being deployed is not an unfeasible amount.

Further, eyewitness accounts of Soviet troops going into battle with nothing but tattered rags, the looted boots of SS troops clutching their battered Mosin-Nagant rifles lends credence to the idea I am suggesting. Namely that by the invasion of Berlin, Soviet troops had marched into the city with Soviet equipment, or the lack thereof. What they didn't have they did without. Even boots it seemed were scavenged from SS troops.

In short, if someone could find data on the total military prowess of the Russian industrial complex we could equate that to how much the Americans provided and determine if the American aide contributed significantly to Russian military operations leading up to the fall of Berlin. But bsed on my cursory research it seems unlikely that the Red Army derived such a significant advantage from US supply as to lend the quotation any real weight. It seems by 1945, the Soviets were on their own.

As a sidenote, the US lent over $31 billion to England, totaling over 60% of the Lend/Lease act.

*Although it is disputed by this site which cites Russian artillery pieces totaling 41,600. Note that while the Soviets made the trek to Russia they also encountered foreign tanks which were commandeered or joined the invasion of Berlin.

Though outside your time frame, this article details the termination of lend/lease a mere weeks after the capture of Berlin. Interpret it as you will.

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I doubt if the eyewitness account about the boots is really significant. First, it deals with one isolated incident which might or might not indicate the general state of Soviet logistics in the battle for Berlin. Second, the soldiers who took the SS boots might have done so for their moral trophy value; and it stands to reason that SS equipment was simply better than standard army issue of either of the belligerents. Third, what the German woman took for rags and tatters on the Soviet soldiers' feet could very likely be portyanki, footwraps worn by Russian soldiers under their boots. – Felix Goldberg Jul 11 '13 at 8:45
Since she saw the soldiers in what was apparently a moment of rest, it's likely that they took off their boots and remained in their footwraps. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Footwraps#Eastern_Europe – Felix Goldberg Jul 11 '13 at 8:46
interesting...I wonder if footwraps still convey any practical advantage over socks... – franklin Jul 11 '13 at 13:48
Not answering the question so I voted down – Evil Washing Machine Jul 12 '13 at 23:57
@franklin I know from personal experience that russian soldiers preferred footwraps over socks - even in 80ties. When properly folded (they told me) it protects foot better. – Peter Masiar Aug 18 '15 at 0:17

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