Global Logistics and Strategy, 1940-1943

By Richard M. Leighton; Robert W. Coakley | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XX
The Long Road to Russia --I

In the sphere of strategy there was little co-ordination of the war effort of the Soviet Union with that of the Western Allies. The Russians fought a separate war on their own front, for different purposes, it later proved, from those that motivated Great Britain and the United States. But while the war was on, there was common agreement on the necessity of defeating Germany in the most expeditious manner possible, and there was little inclination on the part of American leaders to explore the question of differences in postwar aims. Both sides had the same wolf by the ears and neither could afford to let go. American and British leaders had to accept the hard fact that without involvement of the major portion of the German Army on the Eastern Front any realization of the agreed ARCADIA strategy of defeating Germany first would be rendered difficult if not impossible. Since Soviet forces during 1942 and 1943 were carrying the brunt of the land fighting against Germany, and since there seemed to be throughout the period a grave danger that the USSR might be eliminated from the war entirely, the question of how best to aid the Russians was one of the most serious the Allied planners faced. There were two possible means, one by early establishment of a second front in Europe, the other by shipment of supplies. Pursuit of both courses simultaneously was of course desirable, but the Americans and British found it impossible during 1942 and 1943 to establish a second front on the scale the Russians asked. Consequently, the shipment of supplies to the Soviet Union had to be pushed as a matter of utmost urgency by both the President and the Prime Minister. The President was willing to interrupt or curtail supply to the Soviet Union only when sheer physical difficulty made delivery impossible or when it interfered directly with a major Allied project such as the invasion of North Africa. Since policy on aid to the USSR had to be determined at the highest level, the military leaders sometimes regarded it as primarily a political program. The War Department, the JCS, and even the CCS objected on occasion to its interference with Anglo-American operational plans. However, they had little choice but to accept the sacrifices involved, and indeed to recognize the great importance of aid to the USSR in any strategic program aimed at the ultimate defeat of Germany.

These circumstances explain why the program of aid continued to be based on rigid diplomatic commitments and subject to the surveillance of the Munitions Assignments Board only in matters of detail, and why little effort was made to go behind Soviet requests to determine the strategic justification of specific allocations or to secure Soviet co-operation in return for supply aid. Assignments to the USSR were not weighed in the balance of thea-

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