Studebaker US6 trucks in the Iranian mountains, March 1943. Photo by Wikimedia Commons
In the fall of 1941, the USSR received the first American cargo sent under the Lend-Lease program. Such deliveries continued until the very end of the war and covered many directions. So, among the various equipment, the bulk of it was cars, primarily trucks. Consider the features of the supply of automotive equipment.
According to the reference books of the Institute of Military History of the Russian Ministry of Defense, as of June 22, 1941, the Red Army had at its disposal more than 281 thousand vehicles of all available types, mainly trucks. With such a fleet of vehicles distributed throughout the country, we had to start a war. In the first two months of the war, more than 206 thousand vehicles of various types were withdrawn from the national economy, which made it possible to strengthen army logistics – at the cost of worsening the situation in the rear.
During the Great Patriotic War, all major automobile factories continued to work, rebuilding production for current needs. Mostly trucks came off the conveyors, and some models of passenger cars were also produced. Some car factories have mastered the production of armored vehicles or weapons. From the beginning of the war to the end of 1945, the Soviet auto industry delivered more than 266 thousand units of automotive equipment.
Column of “Studebakers” in liberated Vienna. Photo Wikimedia Commons
Cars were of particular importance, and therefore quickly enough took the appropriate place in the orders for supplies under the Lend-Lease. Quite quickly, trucks, tractors and jeeps became the main equipment in the supply. According to a post-war report from the US military department, during the war, approx. 434 thousand American cars. More than 5.2 thousand units were supplied by Great Britain.
The American and British auto industries offered a wide range of products, and the Red Army seized the opportunity. A variety of samples were studied and ordered; the most successful and convenient became the subject of new orders. Equipment of fifty models from 26 automobile companies was sent to the USSR. Some samples were purchased in tens of thousands, others only in tens.
“Willis” in Manchuria, summer 1945. Photo Mirtransporta.ru
Most of the cars arrived in a semi-disassembled state or in the form of car kits. Assembly and preparation for operation was carried out at specially built enterprises in Iran and at Soviet factories. For example, the Gorky Automobile Plant in 1941-46. collected about 50 thousand imported cars – in parallel with the production of his own equipment.
The deliveries of lend-lease vehicles made it possible to quickly recover losses in equipment, re-equip units at the front and restore logistics in the national economy. As supplies continued under Lend-Lease, the share of imported equipment gradually grew. According to various estimates, in some periods up to 30-32 percent. the car park of the Red Army consisted of American and British cars.
The most massive foreign vehicle in the Red Army was the Studebaker US6 2.5-ton three-axle truck. Our country received more than 150 thousand of these machines, both in finished form and in the form of car sets. Such trucks, previously rejected by the US Army, performed well in the Red Army, which contributed to the emergence of new orders. The US6 has found use in both transportation and combat. A significant part of domestic rocket launchers were built on such a chassis.
Guards rocket launcher based on the Chevrolet G7107 chassis. Photo Mirtransporta.ru
In 1942-43. began deliveries of the Chevrolet G7100 series trucks. Until the end of the war, more than 60 thousand of these machines were shipped, of which approx. 48 thousand arrived in the USSR. American “lorries” have become a useful addition to domestic technology of this class and have found application in various fields. The G7100 came in the form of trucks and special vehicles. Our specialists also carried out experiments on re-equipment of the received cars.
During the war years, GMC manufactured more than 560 thousand CCKW trucks of several modifications. Of these, only 8.7 thousand were sent to the USSR. One of the reasons for such small delivery volumes was the availability of a more convenient alternative from Studebaker. Also noteworthy are 2.5-ton vehicles from International Harvester. For the same reasons, the Red Army acquired only 4.3 thousand of such equipment.
The commercial two-ton Dodge WF-32 truck turned out to be massive, but unsuccessful. In 1942-43. The USSR managed to acquire approx. 9.5 thousand of these machines. The undercarriage of a civilian vehicle turned out to be unsuitable for army loads. Due to constant breakdowns and maintenance problems, the army refused to further procure such equipment. As the failure progressed, the existing machines were replaced by others.
GMC CCKW as a mortar. Photo Kolesa.ru
In the context of automotive Lend-Lease, one cannot fail to mention the legendary Willys MB. Deliveries of such off-road vehicles began in the summer of 1942 and continued until the end of the war. “Willis” showed itself well as a staff vehicle, artillery tractor, etc., thanks to which orders for new batches of equipment constantly appeared. In total, the Red Army received more than 52 thousand of these machines.
In small quantities
However, not all cars were purchased in large quantities. For example, the Red Army showed interest in heavy 10-ton trucks, but did not need a large number of them. So, for several years, we received only 921 Mack NR cars in different configurations. These vehicles were used in artillery units equipped with heavy systems, as well as in other units and in the rear.
Probably the rarest Lend-Lease truck is the American six-ton Autocar U8144T. Truck tractors of this type were the basis of the imported pontoon-bridge fleet. The Red Army received only a few of these kits, and with them only 42 cars.
British Army Mack NR truck. In the back is a camouflaged Valentine tank. Photo Imperial War Museum / iwm.co.uk
After the end of the Great Patriotic War and World War II, the countries participating in the lend-lease agreements began mutual settlements. Lost equipment, incl. numerous cars of all types, was simply written off, and the rest of the material had to be returned or paid. Part of the automotive equipment was left in the Red Army and the national economy, taking it into account in further calculations. For a long time, in units, at factories and on collective farms, one could find imported machines of one type or another.
Lend-lease deliveries of American and British-made automobiles cannot but be considered useful. The regular receipt of equipment at a rate of up to several thousand units per month – together with its own production – made it possible to quickly replenish the losses of the active army, to re-equip it, as well as to saturate the rear units and the national economy. The increased rates of supplies of equipment obviously affected the indicators of the economy and the combat capability of the army.
The ability to purchase cars or other equipment from foreign countries made it possible to partially relieve their own production and reduce the corresponding consumption of raw materials. The freed up resources and production capacity could be thrown on other urgent tasks.
Six-ton truck Autocar U-8144-T. Photo US War Department
Finally, Soviet specialists were given the opportunity to fully study and evaluate the modern developments of many foreign automobile companies. The technique of fifty types has undergone a thorough study. Already during the war, the accumulated experience began to be used in their own projects.
War and reckoning
With all this, there were also economic benefits. During the war years, a significant part of the Lend-lease equipment was lost and therefore did not need payment. After lengthy negotiations, the USSR and the USA agreed to pay 720 million dollars, while the total value of the supplied products reached almost 11 billion dollars.
Already in 1941, the USSR had new opportunities associated with the American Lend-Lease program. The Soviet military and political leadership wisely used them and received maximum benefits – with very limited spending. The automotive direction, which is critical for the army, was no exception. As a result, the victory was brought closer by both domestic and foreign cars of all necessary models.