The Molotov Visits
The main work that now confronted Hopkins was the problem of supplies for the Soviet Union. The Germans were increasing the severity of their attacks against the route to Murmansk by submarine and by aircraft and surface craft based in northern Norway. Here in these Arctic latitudes where there was perpetual daylight in summer there was no such thing as refuge under cover of night.
At the time when Hopkins left England, there were fifteen ships in Iceland that had turned back from the Murmansk run; there were twenty-three more there that were waiting for convoys; there were twenty-one more Russian-bound ships halfway to Iceland that had to be rerouted to Loch Ewe in Scotland because of the congestion at Reykjavik. Thus, there were fifty-nine ships loaded with guns, planes, ammunition, oil, tanks, trucks, machinery, medical supplies, etc., for the Russians which were stalled and useless. In order to free some of these idle ships for some useful service their cargoes were unloaded in Scotland, which led to all manner of acrimonious charges from Moscow that the British were "stealing" Lend-Lease material assigned to them. There was consequently an increasing effort to get the ships through at whatever cost—and the cost was awful. In the months of April, May and June, eighty-four ships carrying 522,000 tons left U.S. ports for Murmansk. Forty-four of these, carrying 300,000 tons, got through. Of the remainder, seventeen discharged their cargoes in Scotland and twenty-three were sunk by the enemy or lost by shipwreck. Later, the losses became even worse; in one convoy, twenty-two out of thirty-three ships were sunk. In addition to all other hazards on this route was the horror of the Arctic Ocean itself; the crews knew the terrible death by freezing that confronted even those who might survive the loss of their ships.
The route across the Pacific to Siberia was kept open after Pearl