Tuesday, March 17, 2015


After the severe tank losses of 1941, the Red Army relied heavily on captured enemy vehicles and tanks supplied by Britain and the USA. Most Western tanks were seen as inferior, but were vital until new Soviet tanks arrived.

The USA, Britain and Canada supplied 22,800 armoured vehicles to the USSR during World War II. Of these, 1981 were lost at sea on the hazardous Arctic convoys to Murmansk. The shipments that did arrive were the equivalent of 16 per cent of Soviet tank production, 12 per cent of self-propelled gun production, and all of the armoured personnel carrier (APC) production. The first shipment in 1941 totalled 487 Matildas, Valentines and Tetrachs from Britain, and 182 M3A1 Light Tanks and M3 Medium Tanks from the USA. A year later, these figures had risen to 2487 from Britain and 3023 from the USA.

Despite being pressed in North Africa, Britain committed 14 per cent of her tank production to Lend-Lease supplies. Though Lend-Lease tanks helped the USSR while it was under serious pressure between 1941 and 1942 after it had suffered huge tank losses, in the long run, US trucks were the real war winners. The USA supplied 501,660 tactical wheeled and tracked vehicles: 77,972 Jeeps, 151,053 1.01 tonne (1 ton) trucks and 200,662 2.03 tonne (2 ton) trucks. These gave the infantry and logistic troops working with them a tactical mobility. The initials 'USA' stencilled on these vehicles were in the USSR taken to stand for the slogan' Ubiyat Sukinsyna Adolfa' - . 'Kill that son of a whore Adolf'.

In the Cold War period, it was common for Soviet historians to denigrate the quality of the Lend-Lease tanks supplied by Britain and the USA. It is true that their medium tanks did not compare well against the T-34. However, the M3A1 light tank was comparable or superior to the T-60 and T-70 light tanks, and the M4A2 Sherman was more durable and reliable than the T-34. Interestingly, in post-war encounters between the Sherman and T-34 in Korea and the Middle East, the M4 often came off the winner, even though it was theoretically an inferior design. The first unit to go into action with Lend-Lease armour was in the Staraya Russa and Valdai areas, fielding Valentines, Matildas and captured German tanks.

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