(WAR in EUROPE, 1941-45 – continued)

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WAR in EUROPE, 1941-45 (2 of 10)

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Stalin and Roosevelt through 1942

In October 1941, Stalin was negotiating with agents for the Roosevelt administration, primarily W. Averell Harriman. Stalin spoke to his comrades about Britain and the United States being evil capitalist powers, but he was willing to get what he could from anybody he could. He was asking the United States for troops as well as supplies. US soldiers would not be fighting on Soviet soil, but a lend lease agreement was signed, which started the flow to the Soviet Union of light trucks, light tanks, jeeps, chemicals including explosives, aluminum, communications wire, C-rations (canned food for soldiers) and clothing. Stalin was especially interested in the light trucks which would not collapse bridges. It was, he said, a war of motors. With him when the agreement was made was his ambassador, Litvinov, who was joyous and exclaimed, "Now we shall win the war!" note73   Scores of ships carrying supplies began leaving United States ports monthly, crossing the Atlantic and reaching the Russian port of Murmansk, and some of the supplies reached the Soviet Union through Iran.

The Soviet people were working hard to defeat the invasion. People had been dismantling their factories and transporting them behind the Ural Mountains, out of range of German aircraft and the German advance. As many as 1,360 factories were dismantled, including one of the world's largest steel mills. They reassembled the plants rapidly and began producing ammunition, Katyusha rocket launchers and T-34 tanks and other goods necessary for the war – while military people were being lost. By October,1941, 3,000,000 Soviet soldiers had become prisoners of war, to say nothing about a comparable number having been killed.

Franklin Roosevelt and the Americans Respond

President Franklin D. Roosevelt had been in accord with public opinion in 1939 when Stalin made his pact with Germany, and again in 1940 when the Soviet Union had invaded Finland. He had described the Soviet government as a dictatorship, said he disliked the regimentation of Communism, that he "abhorred the indiscriminate killings of thousands of innocent victims" and the turning away from religion. In 1941 with Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union, sympathy for the Russians in the United States increased, and so too did Roosevelt's attitude toward the Soviet Union – not unlike Winston Churchill, Britain's prime minister, who said to his private secretary that if Hitler had invaded Hell "I would make at least a favorable reference to the Devil in the House of Commons." note74

Churchill and the British people welcomed the Soviet Union as an ally, and they felt relief from Hitler's focus away from Britain and onto Russia. And for many Americans Communism was not the issue. They were of the opinion that it was not for Hitler to destroy Communism in the Soviet Union, that it was for the people of the Soviet Union to do so if they wished. By now many Americans saw Hitler as evil. Even the tough-minded American Legion at its annual convention in Milwaukee in September 1941 voted in favor of assistance to the Russians, amid shouts of "to hell with Hitler." note75

In late 1941, many Americans believed that Germany would win against the Soviet Union. There was fear that if Hitler gained the wheat and all of the oil and metals of the Soviet Union that Germany might become invincible. Roosevelt spoke of the defense of the Soviet Union as "vital to the defense of the United States." The United States was sending Russia all it could spare, and this had the support of a good majority of the American people.


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