Roosevelt’s instinctive generosity and vision in 1941 must be recognised when he decided to throw his country’s industrial might into supporting the Soviet Union immediately after the Nazi invasion. The letters in My Dear Mr Stalin, a collection of the correspondence between the two, remind us of the staggering scale of US aid. In October 1942, at the height of the Battle of Stalingrad, Stalin provided a shopping list for delivery each month: 500 fighter planes (he understandably rejected the American Kitty Hawk as obsolete and demanded the newer Airacobra); 8,000 to 10,000 trucks; 5,000 tons of aluminium; and 5,000 tons of explosives. “In addition to this,” Stalin continued, the USSR needed “two million tons of grain” over 12 months as well as “fats, food concentrates and canned meat”. Machine tools, smelters, even refineries were to be shipped.And:
The great irony, unacknowledged by Russian historians even today, is that had it not been for the hundreds of thousands of Dodge and Studebaker trucks, the Red Army would never have reached Berlin before the Americans.
When Roosevelt had to tell Stalin that the invasion of France would take place not in 1943 but “as soon as practicable”, he rightly (but in vain) emphasised the importance of the strategic bombing campaign by the USAF and the RAF. This aerial second front diverted Luftwaffe resources, both fighters and anti-aircraft batteries, away from the Eastern Front.This is great primary material, and would be wonderful for any lectures on the Second World War.
“As you are aware,” he wrote, “we are already containing more than half the German Air Force in Western Europe and the Mediterranean.” This proportion would rise above 80 per cent by the end of the following year, with huge advantages for the Red Army which, for the first time, benefitted from virtual air supremacy. One could argue that Operation Bagration, which destroyed Army Group Centre in the greatest surprise attack of the war in the early summer of 1944, depended largely on the fact that German reconnaissance aircraft had not stood a chance.