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No, US Lend-Lease Did Not Win WWII

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The structure of the Lend-Lease Act required the recipient nation to meet a number of conditions:

1) payment is not required for any items that go missing or that are lost or destroyed during hostilities, but any property that survives and is suitable for civilian use must be paid for in full or in part, as repayment of a long-term loan granted by the US

2) military articles being stored in the recipient countries may remain there until the US requests their return

3), in turn, all leasees must assist the United States using all the resources and information in their possession

The Lend-Lease Act required countries requesting American assistance to provide the US with an exhaustive financial report. US Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau, Jr. was correct to recognize this requirement as something unprecedented in world affairs, claiming during a Senate Committee hearing that for the first time in history, one state and one government was willingly providing information to another about its own financial position.


Signing the bill

With the help of the Lend-Lease Act, President Roosevelt’s administration prepared to address a number of urgent issues, both foreign and domestic. First, its framework would make it possible to create new jobs in the US, which had not yet fully emerged from the extreme economic crisis of 1929-1933. Second, the Lend-Lease Act made it possible for the American government to exert a certain degree of influence over the countries on the receiving end of the lend-lease assistance. And third, by sending his allies weapons, goods, and raw materials, but not boots on the ground, President Roosevelt was able to stay true to his campaign promise, in which he pledged, “Your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars.”

The lend-lease system was in no way designed to aid the USSR. The British were the first to request military assistance on the basis of this special leasing relationship (which was similar to an operating lease) at the end of May 1940, at a time when France’s crushing defeat had left Great Britain with no military allies on the European continent. London asked Washington for 40-50 “old” destroyers, offering three payment options: getting them for free, paying in cash, or leasing. President Roosevelt quickly accepted the third option, and that transaction was completed in late summer of 1940.

At that point, staffers inside the US Treasury Department came up with the idea of taking the concept behind that private deal and extending it to apply to all intergovernmental relations. The War and Navy Departments were brought in to help develop the lend-lease bill, and on Jan. 10, 1941 the US presidential administration brought that act for consideration before both houses of Congress, where it was approved on March 11. Plus, in September 1941, after much debate the US Congress approved what was known as the Victory Program, the essence of which, according to US military historians (Richard Leighton and Robert Coakley), was that “America’s contribution to the war would be in weapons, not armies.”

On Oct. 1, 1941, People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs Vyacheslav Molotov, British Minister of Supply Lord Beaverbrook, and US Special Envoy Averell Harriman signed the First (Moscow) Protocol, which marked the beginning of the expansion of the lend-lease program to the Soviet Union. Several additional protocols were subsequently signed.


Molotov in the US

How important was the US lend-lease?

During the war, Soviet factories produced more than 29.1 million small arms of all major types, while only 152,000 small arms (0.5% of the total) were manufactured by American, British, and Canadian plants. Looking at all types of artillery systems of all calibers we see a similar picture – 647,600 Soviet weapons and mortars vs. 9,400 of foreign origin, representing less than 1.5% of the total.

The numbers are less grim for other types of weapons: the ratio of domestic vs. allied tanks and self-propelled artillery was, respectively, 132,800 vs. 11,900 (8.96%), and for combat aircraft – 140,500 vs. 18,300 (13%).

Out of the almost $46 billion that was spent on all lend-lease aid, the US allocated only $9.1 billion, i.e., only a little more than 20% of the funds, to the Red Army, which defeated the vast majority of the divisions from Germany and her military satellites.

During that time the British Empire was given more than $30.2 billion, France – $1.4 billion, China – $630 million, and even Latin America (!) received $420 million. Lend-lease supplies were distributed to 42 different countries.


American bomber A-20 “Boston”

But perhaps, despite the fact that the quantities of transatlantic assistance were fairly negligible, is it possible that it did play a decisive role in 1941, when the Germans were at the very gates of Moscow and Leningrad, and within 24-40 km from the Red Square?

Let’s look at the statistics for arms shipments from that year. From the onset of the war until the end of 1941, the Red Army received 1.76 million rifles, automatic weapons, and machine guns, 53,700 artillery and mortars, 5,400 tanks, and 8,200 warplanes. Of these, our allies in the anti-Hitler coalition supplied only 82 artillery weapons (0.15%), 648 tanks (12.14%), and 915 airplanes (10.26%). In addition, much of the military equipment that was sent – in particular, 115 of the 466 tanks manufactured in the UK – did not even make it to the front in the first year of the war.

If we convert these shipments of arms and military equipment into their monetary equivalent, then, according to the well-known historian Mikhail Frolov, DSc (Velikaya Otechestvennaya Voina 1941-1945 v Nemetskoi Istoriografii.[Great Patriotic War 1941-1945 in German historiography],  St. Petersburg: 1994), “up until the end of 1941 – the most difficult period for the Soviet state – under the Lend-Lease Act, the US sent the USSR materials worth $545,000, out of the $741 million worth of supplies shipped to all the countries that were part of the anti-Hitler coalition. This means that during this extraordinarily difficult period, less than 0.1% of America’s aid went to the Soviet Union.

“In addition, the first lend-lease shipments during the winter of 1941-1942 reached the USSR very late, although during those critical months Russia was able to put up an impressive fight against the German aggressors all on her own, without any assistance to speak of from the democracies of the West. By the end of 1942 only 55% of the scheduled deliveries had made it to the USSR.”

For example, in 1941 the United States promised to send 600 tanks and 750 aircraft, but actually sent only 182 and 204, respectively.


Lend-lease convoy PQ-17 destroyed

In November 1942, i.e., at the height of the battle for the Caucasus and Stalingrad, the arms deliveries practically came to a complete halt. Disruptions in shipments had already begun in the summer of 1942, when German aircraft and submarines almost entirely wiped out the infamous Convoy PQ 17 that was abandoned (at the order of the Admiralty) by the British destroyers assigned to escort it. Tragically only 11 of the original 35 ships arrived safely into Soviet ports – a catastrophe that was used as a pretext to suspend subsequent convoys from Britain until September 1942.

A new convoy, the PQ 18, lost 10 of its 37 vessels along its route, and another convoy was not sent until mid-December 1942. Thus, for three and a half months, when one of the most decisive battles of the entire Second World War was being waged on the Volga, fewer than 40 ships carrying lend-lease cargo arrived intermittently in Murmansk and Arkhangelsk. For this reason, many were understandably suspicious that London and Washington were spending that time just waiting to see who would be left standing after the battle of Stalingrad.

As a result, between 1941 and 1942 only 7% of the wartime cargo shipped from the US made it to the Soviet Union. The bulk of the weapons and other materials arrived in the Soviet Union in 1944-1945, once the winds of war had decisively shifted.

What was the quality of the lend-lease military equipment?

Out of the 711 fighter planes that had arrived in the USSR from the UK by the end of 1941, 700 were hopelessly antiquated models such as the Kittyhawk, Tomahawk, and Hurricane, which were significantly inferior to the German Messerschmitts and the Soviet Yakolev Yaks, both in speed and agility, and were not even equipped with guns. Even if a Soviet pilot managed to get a German flying ace positioned in the sights of his machine gun, those rifle-caliber guns were often completely useless against the German plane’s rugged armor. As for the newest Airacobra fighter planes, only 11 were delivered in 1941. And the first Airacobra arrived in the Soviet Union disassembled, without any sort of documentation, having already long outlived its service life.

Incidentally, this was also the case with the two squadrons of Hurricane fighters that were armed with 40-mm tank guns designed to engage German armored vehicles. But these fighter planes turned out to be so completely useless that they sat out the war mothballed in the USSR because no Red Army pilots could be found willing to fly them.

A similar situation was observed with the much-vaunted British light Valentine tanks that Soviet tank operators nicknamed “Valentinas,” and the medium Matilda tanks, for which those tank operators reserved a more scathing epithet: “Farewell to Our Homeland.” Their thin armor, highly-flammable gasoline-powered engines, and positively prehistoric transmissions made them easy prey for German gunners and grenade launchers.

According to Valentin Berezhkov, an interpreter for Joseph Stalin who took part in all the negotiations between Soviet leaders and Anglo-American visitors, Stalin was often deeply offended by British actions such as offering obsolete aircraft like the Hurricane as lend-lease handouts, instead of newer fighters like the Spitfire. Moreover, in September 1942, in a conversation with Wendell Willkie, a leader in the US Republican Party, Stalin asked him point-blank in front of the American and British ambassadors, William Standley and Archibald Clark Kerr: why were the British and American governments supplying such poor-quality equipment to the Soviet Union?

He explained that he was primarily speaking of shipments of American P-40s instead of the much more up-to-date Airacobras, and added that the British were providing completely unsuitable Hurricane fighters, which were far inferior to what the Germans had. Stalin claimed that once when the Americans were preparing to ship 150 Airacobras to the Soviet Union, the British had intervened and kept them for themselves. “We know that the Americans and British have planes that are equal to or better than the German models, but for some reason many of those are not making it into the Soviet Union.”

The American ambassador, Admiral Standley, knew nothing about this, but the British ambassador, Archibald Clark Kerr, admitted that he was aware of the Airacobra event, but he defended their redirection with the excuse that in British hands those fighters would be much more valuable to their common Allied cause than if they ended up in the Soviet Union…

To be continued…

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‘Deviance and morality’: The history of the same-sex marriage movement in Switzerland

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The 56-year-old historian still recalls his run-ins with “suspicious” real estate agents in Switzerland, where police in some places were still keeping registers of homosexuals.

Three decades later, in a referendum on Sunday, the wealthy Alpine nation looks set to allow same-sex couples to marry, and grant them the same rights as their heterosexual counterparts.

“It is a huge step forward,” said Delessert, an expert on the history of homosexuality in Switzerland at Lausanne University.

READ MORE: Broad support for same-sex marriage ahead of referendum

The country decriminalised homosexuality in 1942, but numerous local and regional police forces continued to keep “gay registers”, some into the early 1990s.

These registers were aimed at “controlling deviance and morality”, Delessert explained, adding that they had dire impacts on the lives of those listed.

“If a supposed homosexual was convicted of theft, his homosexuality was submitted as additional proof of his immorality,” he said.

“If a homosexual applied to rent an apartment, he would not get it. If a homosexual wanted a job in the public sector, he would not get it.”

But the causes of the discrimination remained unsaid: the registers were never made public, and those listed there were never informed. 

‘Difficult to comprehend’ 

Only Zurich and Basel publicly announced that they were scrapping the registers, in 1979 and 1980, Delessert said, voicing frustration that all the other registers had simply vanished.

He said he had managed to find handwritten notes on police documents where officers requested the creation of “files” on homosexuals arrested after committing an offence.

Delessert said he had also found testimony from a commissioner mentioning that around 200 homosexuals were registered in Zurich each year.

Zurich’s official records division told AFP that these registers had been kept for internal police use, and had been destroyed.

An account by a whistleblower published in the Swiss media in April 1990 first alerted the public to the existence of one of these registers, in Bern, with the outcry pushing authorities to halt the practice.

When contacted by AFP, Bern cantonal police said they had searched internally, but “were unable to find information about this register, which apparently existed.”

“At an ethical level, it is difficult to comprehend today.” While such statements are welcome, Delessert highlighted that “the political authorities have never apologised” for the practice.

Zombies and crying babies

But he hailed the political turnaround in recent years. A referendum early last year opted to criminalise acts of homophobia, and towards the end of the year, parliament voted to legalise same-sex marriage.

That law aimed to finally bring Switzerland in line with much of Europe on gay rights.

But opponents of the law demanded a referendum within the country’s direct democratic system, in a bid to block it.

READ MORE: Switzerland to hold same-sex marriage referendum

Recent polls however show that a large majority of Swiss voters back changing the law.

Same-sex couples can already register a civil partnership in Switzerland, but that status does not provide the same rights as marriage.

Allowing same-sex marriage would fix that, enabling foreign spouses in same-sex relationships to apply for citizenship through a simplified procedure, and allowing same-sex couples to jointly adopt children.

And it would controversially give lesbian couples access to sperm donation.

The opponents, mainly drawn from the populist right-wing Swiss People’s Party, have plastered Swiss cities with stark posters decrying the commodification of children and warning the law will “kill the father”.

One of their posters shows a crying baby with its ear tagged like cattle, and the question: “Babies on demand?”

Another featuring a huge zombie-like head, meant to represent a dead father, was covered over by a nearby primary school in Wallis canton out of fear it would frighten the children.



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Simon Harris and wife welcome new baby boy

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Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris has announced the birth of a baby son.

Posting on Instagram, the Minister said he and his wife Caoimhe had on Wednesday “welcomed Baby Cillian into the world”. Cillian is the couple’s second child, they also have a daughter Saoirse.

“Caoimhe and baby doing great and Saoirse delighted to be a big sister and looking forward to meeting him soon.”

Mr Harris thanked all of the staff at the National Maternity Hospital in Holles Street, Dublin.

The Fine Gael TD said he will be taking paternity leave for a few weeks to “get to know this new little man”.

In a previous post he said Tánaiste Leo Varadkar would be taking any of his department’s business to Government during the time while Minister of State Niall Collins would be carrying out his day-to-day work in the department and Labour leader Alan Kelly would be providing a pair for Dáil votes.

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Macron presses Biden for ‘clarifications’ over submarine snub

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Macron was left furious by Australia’s decision last week to ditch a 2016 deal to buy diesel submarines from France in favour of nuclear-powered ones from the United States and Britain.

After a cabinet meeting, government spokesman Gabriel Attal made clear French anger had not abated with an unusually frank statement of Macron’s expectations from the scheduled conversation with 78-year-old Biden.

The exchange would be an opportunity to “clarify both the way in which this announcement was made and the way for an American re-engagement in its relationship with an ally,” Attal said.

Paris was particularly outraged that Australia negotiated with Washington and London in secret, which French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian denounced as “treachery” and a “stab in the back”.

French officials were notified about the loss of the contract just hours before Biden unveiled the new AUKUS security and defence partnership between the three English-speaking countries.

READ ALSO OPINION: France’s Australian submarine row shows that Macron was right about NATO

Macron was expecting “clarifications about the American decision to keep a European ally outside of fundamental talks about cooperation in the Indo-Pacific,” Attal added, without giving the schedule time for the exchange.

“We expect our allies to acknowledge that the exchanges and consultations that should have taken place did not, and that this poses a question about confidence, which all of us need to draw conclusions about now.”

Showdown

The submarine row has plunged Franco-US ties into what some analysts view as the most acute crisis since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, which Paris opposed.

After four years of tumultuous relations with ex-president Donald Trump, the spat has also dashed hopes of a complete reset under Biden, who took office in January aiming to rebuild frazzled ties with Europe.

As the row drags on, observers and some of France’s European partners are wondering how and when the French leader will call an end to the face-off, which is playing out just seven months ahead of presidential elections.

British Prime Minister Johnson said it was “time for some of our dearest friends around the world to ‘prenez un grip’ (get a grip)” in comments in Washington that mixed French and English.

“‘Donnez-moi un break’ because this is fundamentally a great step forward for global security,” he told Sky News.

Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, whose country is staunchly pro-American, defended Biden as “very loyal” and warned against turning “challenges which will always exist between allies into something they should not be.”

Conditions

Attal said that France and the US needed to begin a process “to create the conditions for confidence to be restored”.

As well as an acknowledgement of French interests in the Pacific region, the process should include “full recognition by our American allies of the need to boost European sovereignty as well as the importance of the growing commitment by the Europeans to their own defence and security.”

This latter point is a source of tension between Biden and Macron, who has pushed hard during his four-and-a-half years in office for Europeans to invest more in defence and pool resources in order to increase their joint military capabilities.

The US, and some EU members including Denmark and Baltic countries, see this as a potential challenge to NATO, the US-led transatlantic military alliance that has been the cornerstone of European defence since World War II.

French Defence Minister Florence Parly argued against the idea of France withdrawing from NATO command structures, which some politicians in France have suggested in the wake of the submarines snub.

“Is it worth slamming the door on NATO? I don’t think so,” she said, while adding that “political dialogue is non-existent in NATO.”

Australia’s decision to order nuclear-powered submarines was driven by concern about China’s commercial and military assertiveness in the Pacific region, where Biden is seeking to build an alliance of democratic states to help contain Beijing.



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