Osprey's Soviet Lend Lease Tanks of WWII

Author:

Steven Zaloga

Publisher/Distributor

Osprey Publishing

Price

$18.00 MSRP

Reviewer:

Scott Van Aken

Notes: 48 pages, 7 x 9 inches, softbound
ISBN: 978-1-4728-1813-3

During WWII, when Hitler invaded the Soviet Union, all of a sudden, a nation that was not trusted by either the US or Great Britain, all of a sudden became an ally. It was a case of 'an enemy of my enemy is my friend' as certainly Stalin was just as horrid a person as Hitler if not more.

Thanks to the German Army decimating the Soviet tank corps, the Soviets started asking for aid. This became more and more critical as time went on and more and more Soviet tanks were destroyed. Because tank production was being moved to safer areas, production dropped precipitously. Getting equipment, food and raw materials to Russia was even more problematic as the only way to do so was to Archangel in the very north, where the remnants of the Gulf Stream kept that port open year round. Once the Germans discovered this, it was even more hazardous and a goodly amount of aid ended up at the bottom of the sea.

Another route through Iran was slowly opened up once the British and Soviets invaded that nation to ensure it did not fall into the hands of the Germans. But it took time to develop facilities as none was there. In addition, a route through Canada and Alaska to Siberia was opened up, but again, facilities had to be built.

In terms of tanks, the British offered Valentine and Matilda tanks. The Russians liked the armor of the Matilda, but not the slow speed or small calibre of the guns in either tanks. The Valentine's speed was the feature liked most about that one. From the US came M3 Stuart and M3 Lee tanks. The Stuarts fit well into the Soviet's light tank philosophy, but they thought it was under armored. The Lee's 75mm gun was its main attraction, but they thought it was too tall and found it useless in a hull down situation. Both American tanks proved to be quite reliable, though the radial engine of the Lee was not something of which they were fond.

Typically, the Soviets wanted several times the production capacity of equipment such as tanks. It is as if they did not realize that the US and Britain also needed these tanks in their own military. One can only think of these people as arrogant children with no consideration for others.

What the Soviets really wanted from the US were trucks, and thousands were shipped. Later the Churchill was sent, but it was not well liked, again due to the gun. Those British tanks upgraded with 6 pound guns were found to be a lot more useful. Initially shunned, the M4A2 Sherman was quickly found to be well liked. One main reason was the diesel engines. The tank was also extremely reliable, lasting four or five times as long in combat than the T-34. This is due to the T-34's very poor quality control, which often had tanks breaking down after as little as 100km of use. A variety of other types were supplied, but in very small numbers. While heavily used in the 1942 time period, by the time Soviet tank production got well under way, the percentage of Lend Lease tanks in service dropped quite a bit. Yet they were used until the end of the war.

The author does his usual excellent job of telling the story of these vehicles as well as the Soviet opinions of them, which generally was not officially very high, though the soldiers who used these tanks in combat had a different opinion. Post war, the impact of Lend Lease material during the war was downplayed considerably, but the facts speak for themselves. Without this assistance, things would have been much bleaker for the Soviets, especially during 1942, when British and American built equipment consisted of the highest percentage of the Red Army's tank forces.

It is a very good book that gives insights into the entire process as well as the issues of getting any kind of cooperation from the Soviets, and dealing with their seeming constant flow of complaints. A great read and one I know you will enjoy.

June 2017

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