Monday, January 30, 2006

Great Review

This review of My Dear Mr Stalin, a collection of correspondence between FDR and Stalin, is short but full of interesting facts and interpretations. For example:

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.

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.
And:

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.

“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.
This is great primary material, and would be wonderful for any lectures on the Second World War.

3 comments:

Stephen said...

But I thought the United States didn't "win" WWII...

Irish Paul said...

Well I just got back from a lecture on World War II by a certain retired faculty member (the really 'retired' one), using bubblegum cards as evidence, and he's pretty sure that the US did win the war. He didn't seem too sure on any other details. (I went thinking it might be entertaining - it was not - although apparently you can't understand history if you don't understand maps?!)

Anonymous said...

The most important Luftwaffe diversion from the OstFront because of Allied air operations were not the fighters, but rather the hundreds and thousands of anti-aircraft guns and their expert crews, desperately needed as tank killers in the east....