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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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Brendan Kennelly, one the country’s most popular poets, dies aged 85

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Brendan Kennelly, one the country’s most popular poets and a former professor of English at Trinity College Dublin, has died. He was 85.

Family members confirmed his death on Sunday evening at Áras Mhuire nursing home, Listowel, in his native Co Kerry.

Mr Kennelly was born in Ballylongford, Co Kerry, in 1936, the son of Tim Kennelly, publican and garage proprietor, and his wife Bridie Ahern, a nurse.

He graduated from Trinity College, wrote his PhD thesis there, and went on to become professor of modern literature at the university.

Mr Kennelly had more than 30 poetry collections published, which captured the many shades and moods of his home county as well as his adopted Dublin home.

He was also a popular broadcaster and made many appearances on radio and television programmes, such as The Late Late Show.

[His poetry is] infused with the details and texture of life, its contradictions and moments of celebration including the wry experiences of football and politics

President Michael D Higgins, a friend of Mr Kennelly’s, said his poetry held “a special place in the affections of the Irish people”.

“As one of those who had the great fortune of enjoying the gift of friendship with Brendan Kennelly for many years, it is with great sadness that I have heard of his passing,” he said.

“As a poet, Brendan Kennelly had forged a special place in the affections of the Irish people. He brought so much resonance, insight, and the revelation of the joy of intimacy to the performance of his poems and to gatherings in so many parts of Ireland. He did so with a special charm, wit, energy and passion.”

He added that Mr Kennelly’s poetry is “infused with the details and texture of life, its contradictions and moments of celebration including the wry experiences of football and politics”.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the country has lost a “great teacher, poet, raconteur; a man of great intelligence and wit”.

He added: “The Irish people loved hearing his voice and reading his poetry.”

He spoke the language of the people. We loved his writing. His eloquence was masterful

Trinity College Dublin’s provost, Prof Linda Doyle, said Mr Kennelly was known to generations of Trinity students as a great teacher and as a warm and encouraging presence on campus.

“His talent for, and love of, poetry came through in every conversation as did his good humour. We have all missed him on campus in recent years as illness often kept him in his beloved Kerry. He is a loss to his much loved family, Trinity and the country,” she said.

Tony Guerin, a close friend of Kennelly’s, and a playwright, said he will be remembered in Kerry and elsewhere as “the people’s poet”.

“My relation with Brendan was one of friendship. There are more scholarly people who will assess his contribution and discuss those matters. But he spoke the language of the people. We loved his writing. His eloquence was masterful, whether it was the written word or being interviewed by Gay Byrne,” he said.

Mr Kennelly is survived by his brothers, Alan, Paddy and Kevin, by his sisters, Mary Kenny and Nancy McAuliffe, and his three grandchildren.

His daughter Doodle Kennelly died earlier this year.

Arrangements for a family funeral are expected to be announced shortly.

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New skeleton find could reveal more about Vesuvius eruption

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The remains of a man presumed to be aged 40-45 were found under metres of volcanic rock roughly where Herculaneum’s shoreline used to be, before Vesuvius’ explosion in 79 AD pushed it back by 500 metres (1,640 feet).   

He was lying down, facing inland, and probably saw death in the face as he was overwhelmed by the molten lava that buried his city, the head of the Herculaneum archaeological park, Francesco Sirano, told the ANSA news agency.

“He could have been a rescuer”, Sirano suggested.

As Vesuvius erupted, a naval fleet came to the rescue, led by the ancient Roman scholar and commander Pliny the Elder. He died on the shore, but it is believed that his officers managed to evacuate hundreds of survivors.

The skeleton might have otherwise belonged to “one of the fugitives” who was trying to get on one of the lifeboats, “perhaps the unlucky last one of a group that had managed to sail off,” Sirano suggested.

It was found covered by charred wood remains, including a beam from a building that may have smashed his skull, while his bones appear bright red, possibly blood markings left as the victim was engulfed in the volcanic discharge.

Archaeologists also found traces of tissue and metal objects — likely the remains of personal belongings he was fleeing with: maybe a bag, work tools, or even weapons or coins, the head of the archaeological park said.

Other human remains have been found in and around Herculaneum in the past decades — including a skull held in a Rome museum that some attribute to Pliny — but the latest discovery can be investigated with more modern techniques.

READ ALSO: Study finds 2,000-year-old brain cells of man killed in Vesuvius eruption

“Today we have the possibility of understanding more”, Sirano said.

Researchers believe that in Herculaneum temperatures rose up to 500 degrees — enough to vaporise soft tissues. In a phenomenon that is poorly understood, a rapid drop in temperature ensued, helping preserve what remained.

Although much smaller than Pompeii, its better-known neighbour outside the southern city of Naples, Herculaneum was a wealthier town with more exquisite architecture, much of which is still to be uncovered.

READ ALSO: Where are Italy’s active volcanoes?



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Lou Reed: The Velvet Underground: an inside look at the band that gave a voice to the outsiders | USA

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The importance of The Velvet Underground has been endlessly discussed. They are, with a nod to The Beatles, the modern rock group par excellence. Formed by Lou Reed and John Cale in New York in 1965, the band was immediately endorsed by Andy Warhol, with whom they would collaborate until 1967, although his influence would never leave them. The Velvet Underground were a sixties group that, during its five years of existence, failed to fit into their era for a single day. While others sung of love and good vibrations, they designed a revolutionary and perverse alternative for rock.

It was an alternative that remains valid to this day, half a century after the group was mortally wounded by the departure of Reed in August 1970. To corroborate this, Apple TV will premiere The Velvet Underground in October. Directed by Todd Haynes, the documentary is full of never-before-seen footage and interviews with people who were in the thick of it at the time, more than compensating for a dearth of movies about a band that can be described as legendary without fear of slipping into musical nepotism.

Lou Reed in ‘The Velvet Underground’ documentary.
Lou Reed in ‘The Velvet Underground’ documentary.

The documentary arrives in good company. At the end of September I’ll be your mirror: A tribute to The Velvet Underground & Nico was released, an album of cover versions of the group’s influential debut album when the line-up consisted of Reed, Cale, Sterling Morrison and Moe Tucker. A posthumous work by producer Hal Willner, who died of Covid-19 in 2020, it features contributions by Thurston Moore, Sharon van Etten, Iggy Pop, Kurt Vile, Courtney Barnett and Michael Stipe, among others.

Speaking about the original The Velvet Underground & Nico, released in 1967, Haynes said in an interview with Uncut magazine earlier this year that it is music that makes you think about how fragile identity is, and also about life. The journalist Susana Monteagudo concurs with Haynes. “The Velvet Underground were the first punk group in terms of transgression of codes and creative freedom,” says the author of books including Illustrated History of Rock and Amy Winehouse. Stranger than her. “As well as practicing the philosophy of do-it-yourself and rejecting the commercial course of the music industry, they subverted the establishment by making dissidence visible on every level, not just in artistic terms. They embraced the marginal and they were too nihilistic, cynical and sinister for the Flower Power era.”

The Velvet Underground did not belong to their time, but to the future. Cale wanted to fuse rock and roll with experimental music. Reed’s lyrics were open to the influence of writers like Burroughs, Delmore Schwartz and John Rechy. They were a loud and screeching band, but they also composed melodic songs. This contrast is most evident on The Velvet Underground & Nico, which contains some of the group’s most beautiful songs. I’ll be your mirror and Femme Fatale are sung by Nico (who also provides vocals on the chorus of Sunday morning, originally written for her but eventually sung by Reed), one of the most conflicting elements of the band.

For trans artist Roberta Marrero, Nico, the German model and singer who died in 1988, was an “icon of undisputable beauty, as well as being a pioneer who opened the door for other greats like Siouxsie.” In spite of her beauty, Nico did not fit the prevailing pop girl model of the time. Her singing style was far removed from traditional rock and openly reflected her Germanic and Gothic roots. Her inscrutable personality was married to a talent that after she left the Velvet Underground would manifest itself in unclassifiable works such as The marble index (1969), whose idiosyncrasy – tearing up the blueprint of pop music and exploring musical latitudes reserved for men – would inspire Kate Bush and Björk, as well as more contemporary artists such as Julia Holter, St Vincent and Anohni.

The Velvet Underground, clockwise from top left: Lou Reed, Sterling Morrison, John Cale, Moe Tucker and Nico.
The Velvet Underground, clockwise from top left: Lou Reed, Sterling Morrison, John Cale, Moe Tucker and Nico.

The Velvet Underground also broke with the heterosexual tradition of rock music. In Monteagudo’s view, in addition to creating a literary imagery “where there was room for homosexuals, trans women, prostitutes, junkies and outsiders in general,” they were also “a band not exclusively made up of males, and men who at the same time did not identify with a heteronormative masculinity, especially in the case of Lou Reed. They integrated and normalized diversity in their sphere because their way of life was linked to this concept. It was also the dawning of the ambiguous, the queer.” Marrero believes that “they brought non-normative sexualities to the forefront, such as sadism, more so than homosexuality. Although when I think about it, I’m waiting for my man could be talking about a gigolo and not a drug-dealer. In reality, it’s very ambiguous.”

This divorce from the prevailing canons also had a lot do with the presence of Maureen “Moe” Tucker. Her drum work with the band anticipated a trend that would not take hold until 1977, with the explosion of punk. From that point on, the female role in groups ceased to be principally pigeon-holed into certain instruments and roles. In Monteagudo’s opinion, Tucker is “a key element of this breaking of stereotypes and, as such, a figure to be held up by feminism. Her playing style, as unorthodox as it was influential, is one of those achievements that should be emphasized by the movement. Furthermore, her androgynous image and her discretion made her a counterpoint to Nico’s glamour.”

Revered by bands such as The Jesus and Mary Chain, who dedicated a song to her, and as Marrero asserts, a precursor to drummers such as Hannah Billie, formerly of Gossip, Tucker is, along with Cale, one of the survivors of the Velvet Underground’s original line-up. Due to her social media stance on Donald Trump and gun ownership, Tucker has also become the band’s least popular member.

Warhol’s influence was a determining factor behind The Velvet Underground developing such a peculiar personality. In the strictly musical sense, the band projected through their instruments some of the ideas on repetition, improvisation and saturation that the artist applied to his experimental movies. On the literary side, the people who frequented Warhol’s Factory left their mark on songs including That’s the story of my life (inspired by Billy Name, the Factory’s archivist) Femme fatale (inspired by the ‘it’ girl Edie Sedgwick) or the Reed-penned Candy says, which is about Candy Darling, an icon of the trans community.

“When Candy says was released in 1969 nothing changed,” says Marrero, “but I think it was a marvelous celebration of trans culture on the part of the group. It is one of my favorite songs. You have to read the lyrics in a historical context because all that stuff about being trans and hating your body is a discourse that is now quite outdated in our community.” Marrero also notes that, years later, Reed was in a relationship with a trans colleague, Rachel Humphries, the two sharing a “romantic relationship that was utterly silenced by the hetero-ciscentric music press.”

When he started his solo career Reed would again talk about Candy Darling and other trans actresses on Walk on the wild side, one of the hits on his acclaimed 1972 album Transformer, a record that finally delivered many of The Velvet Underground’s artistic ideas to a wider audience. By that time, David Bowie, Patti Smith, Suicide, Modern Lovers and New York Dolls we ready to do the group’s legacy justice.

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