Gwynn Compton wrote:I've already used part of this passage, but I feel the need to expand on it now to drive home the importance of Lend Lease to the Soviet War effortAs soon as Germany declared war on the United States, on 11 December 1941, Lend-Lease shipments began to flow to Russia directly from America, via Vladivostok, Murmansk and the Persian Gulf.The American railroad industry supplied 2000 locomotives, 11,000 freight carriages and 540,000 tons of rails, with which the Russians laid a greater length of line than they had built between 1928 and 1939. American supplies of high-grade petroleum were essential to Russian production of aviation fuel, while three-quarters of Soviet consumption of copper in 1941-4 came from American sources
-All from John Keegan, The Second World War
Keegan makes plenty of mistakes, he's good as a general introductory historian, but you don't want to use him for specialist stuff. To his credit, lend-lease is particularly difficult to measure due to inadequate Soviet accounting, and Keegan's book was written at a time when access to Soviet historical data was incomplete.
1. On the "lend-lease shipments began to flow",
The source for US lend-lease is "Roads to Russia", and for Commonwealth lend lease, there's "Comrades in Arms". Please note that all the dates are when the stuff was shipped, i.e. left the US. Sailing time to the Soviet Far East was about a month, and about 3.5 months to Persia (counting delays to form convoys). Then you have to wait for the ship to be given a berth, then a couple of weeks to unload it, then transport from the port (I think that a lot of resources which were shipped to the Soviet Far East, which includes most of the lend lease food, were used locally to save transport).
With that in mind, below are figures for tonnage sent from the Western Hemisphere to the USSR ("North Russia" means the Murmansk convoys), in long tons. They include about half a million tons lost in transit, mostly in 1942, and 550,000t of petroleum products sent by the British from the Abadan refineries and made good by US lend-lease to Britain separately. I think that they are available online somewhere, but as I already have them I'm too lazy to search them
1941: 360,778t, of which 13,502t Persian Gulf, 193,229t Soviet Far East, 153,977t North Russia.
1942: 2,453,097t of which 705,259t Persian Gulf, 734,020 Soviet Far East, 949,711 North Russia, 64,107 Soviet Artic.
1943: 4,794,545t of which 1,606,979 Persian Gulf, 2,388,577 Soviet Far East, 681,043 North Russia, 117,946 Soviet Artic.
1944: 6,217,622t of which 1,788,864 Persian Gulf, 2,848,181 Soviet Far East, 1,452,775 North Russia, 127,802 Soviet Artic.
1945 3,673,819t (last shipments 20 Sept) of which: 44,513 Persian Gulf, 2,079,320 Soviet Far East, 726,725 North Russia, 680,723 Black Sea, 142,538 Soviet Artic.
So the amount of lend-lease that is described as "flowing" in 1941 is 2% of the total. This is certainly a "flow" of sorts, but more a trickle than a flood. We should keep that in mind when assessing how much lend-lease helped the Soviet Union survive.
Some notes on the British contribution: in the Persian Gulf, 165,655 tons delivered by the British during their operation of the Iranian State Railways in 1942, and 480,731 tons delivered by the United Kingdom Commercial Cooperation and other British agencies throughout the entire period. The remaining 4,502,990 tons were delivered chiefly by the US Army but include unknown British tonnages in 1942 figures for assembles trucks and aircraft, as well as the British share of rail deliveries during the period of joint operation which reduce the US share to 4,417,243t.
Other Commonwealth supplies were 5,218 tanks and 5,591 carriers, 250,000 trucks, 32,000 tons of aluminium, 40,000 tons of copper, 28,000 tons of tin and 114,000 tons of rubber. Also 8,210,000 pounds sterling worth of food (how much food that represents depends on how light and how expensive you consider British food to be, and how much of it you might consider edible although the Soviets wouldn't be too choosy).
In total, the Soviets received some 17 million tons of lend-lease, of which over 15 million were US.
2. On the "lend-lease supplied vital rolling stock", this begs the question "vital for what ?".
On the face of it, the figures look impressive: 1,911 steam and 70 diesel electric locomotives, 11,155 rail cars. However none of this was shipped before the second half of 1943, no locomotives were sent before 1944, and only 20% of these amounts (in tonnage) was shipped - i.e. you then have to add sailing time, debarkation time, transit time to the front, etc - before 1 July 1944.
Additionally, a lot of the US locomotives were too heavy for Soviet tracks so could only be of limited use except where the railway was rebuilt. All in all, the lend-lease rolling stock allowed a faster Soviet advance, but it certainly didn't influence the survival of the Soviet Union. One more influencial lend-lease contribution which I didn't find mentioned on this board was the equipping by the US of large portions of Soviet tracks with an automatic signalling system. This boosted the efficiency of the existing rail network by allowing higher average speeds. But I don't know by how much.
The two questions about lend-lease:
The first question, i.e. "would the Soviet Union have collapsed without lend-lease ?", is very difficult to answer for a number of reasons. Personally I believe that it could well have, not in 1941 but during the winter of 1942/43 when the Soviet economy was over-mobilized and the difference between success and failure was very slim, but of course I'm not sure and a good case can be made for the opposite view.
The second question, i.e. "How important was lend-lease to the rest of the war ?" was examined by Mark Harrison in his "Accounting for War". He assumed that the Soviets would keep civilian consumption at the historical levels, the result being that for 1942-45, in terms of defense outlays, the Soviets would be short of 2.1% of GNP but they would still have 1.6 % (vs. 6.5% with the Lend Lease) left in gross investments and 2.7% (vs. 4.2 % with the Lend Lease) in civilian surplus.
In other words, historically between 1943-45 the Soviets devoted the same (and by the end of the war larger) amounts of resources to rebuilding their country than they received from lend-lease, so Harrison assumes that they would simply make their population suffer a while longer and delay the rebuilding of the country until after the war.
I have my problems with that theory, particularly the fact that rebuilding infrastructure in the liberated areas served a military purpose (supply lines) and not just a "civilian surplus + gross investment" one. However, it should be noted that the Soviets in 1942 weren't sure exactly how far they could safely go in pressuring their own population, and that the Soviet population received smaller levels of civilian surplus in 1943-44 than in 1942.
So I think it can definitely be considered a fact that the historical Soviet war effort could be increased in an emergency, particularly in 1943-45. Which is one of the reasons why I don't buy the "Germans maintain a stalemate on the Eastern Front in 1943-45" scenario, but that's another story.