(WAR in EUROPE, 1941-45 – continued)
In October 1941, Stalin was negotiating with agents for the Roosevelt administration, primarily W. Averell Harriman. To his colleagues Stalin spoke of Great Britain and the United States as evil capitalist powers, but he was willing to get what he could from anybody he could. He was desperate enough to ask the U.S. for troops as well as supplies. U.S. soldiers fighting on Soviet soil was not to be, 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!" [note] 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 greatest element in defeating the Germans would be the Soviet people. Not only were the Soviet people dying in greast number, they 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. With the factories went their workers, who reassembled the plants rapidly and began producing the goods necessary to fight the war, including ammunition, Katyushka rocket launchers and T-34 tanks.
And Soviet soldiers, meanwhile, were dying in great number. By October,1941, 3,000,000 Soviet soldiers had become prisoners of war. And great numbers of Soviet soldiers had been killed.
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 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. Then 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." [note]
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 before war was declared between the United States and Germany, Americans also modified their attitude. For many Americans Communism was not the issue. These people 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 a ruthless dictator bent on making war. 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." [note]
In late 1941, many Americans believed that Germany would win against the Soviet Union. U.S. strategists feared that if Hitler gained the wheat, the Ukraine and all of the oil and metals of the Soviet Union, along with mastery of all of Eastern Europe, that what was now America's enemy might be 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.
Copyright © 2000-2011 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.