How much did the Murmansk convoys help the Soviet Union?

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How much did the Murmansk convoys help the Soviet Union?

Postby pak » Thu Mar 06, 2008 7:43 am

The Murmansk convoys was a major undertaking of the Brits and Americans to give help to the Soviet Union.

Where can I find numbers of how much goods, aeroplanes, tanks etc was delivered to Murmansk by the convoys?

And how much was this compared to Soviets own production of a given item?

Was it a real help or was it just a "booster" of moral?

/pak
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Postby nigelfe » Sun Mar 16, 2008 2:51 am

According to Chris Bellamy in his recent book 'Absolute War' it probably made the difference between eventual victory and the USSR's defeat in 1942. Interestingly the Finns seem to have restrained the activities of the German 4th Mtn Army in N Finland and prevented them cutting the route South from Murmansk, there was really no alternative to Murmansk even if UK and US were thinking of reflagging their merchant ships as Soviet and delivering to Vladivostock!
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Postby phylo_roadking » Sun Mar 16, 2008 7:41 am

Actually...they did! And even after December 7th 1941, the Japanese reached an agreement with the NEUTRAL - to them - USSR that US ships supplying via Vladivostock could continue! Russia was too big an enemy for them to aggravate. Valdivostock was actually the port of entry for the phosphates, mercury, and other chemical and precious metal imports that the Americans sent to Russia, and I believe the thousands of US radio sets and parts that were sent to Russia. Also, being at the far end of the Trans-Siberian Railway it was also the point of entry for the railway engines and rolling stock that were sent to the Russians.

Remember - Japan's cooperation with Russia on this and other intelligence was the data that allowed the Soviets to transfer a sizeable percentage of the Far Eastern garrison to Moscow in late 1941.
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Postby phylo_roadking » Sun Mar 16, 2008 7:50 am

As for Murmansk- the aid that reached there via Britain - more on that in a minute - starting in the autumn of 1941 was what kept Russia in the war at its lowest point. Over the five years of the Great Patriotic War, the Americans ploughed in thousands of trucks, transpost aircraft, and later armour types into Russia - in that first calendar year of the German invasion it was the aircraft and tanks supplied by the British that helped plug the holes in the Russian rosters caused by the huge armour and aircraft losses in the first weeks of Barbarossa. Britain supplied very nearly ALL the combat aircraft supplied during the whole war to the USSR starting then...

...and although they were American types originally supplied to Britain under Lend Lease, they weren't "American" aid, they'd already been bought and paid for by Britain! Although the various American types were the ones the British had purchased and simply didn't like for some reason, or were no longer competitive with the LW in Western Europe, they were FAR better than the majority of Russian types available through 1941.

Britain actually made a VERY sound strategic decision in the summer of 1941 to bolster the Soviets' morale in this way, and keep them in the war...remember, though not competitive in WESTERN Europe - these same aircraft could have been FAR better employed in combat terms being sent to the Desert Air Force! :wink:
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Postby lwd » Mon Mar 17, 2008 5:57 am

phylo_roadking wrote:... even after December 7th 1941, the Japanese reached an agreement with the NEUTRAL - to them - USSR that US ships supplying via Vladivostock could continue! ....

I thought most of the trafic was via Soviet flagged ships and US flagged ones were fair game.

Also note that there was a third channel through the Mideast.
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Postby Tom Houlihan » Mon Mar 17, 2008 6:02 am

Okay, here's another way of asking. There's no doubt that aid from the Western Allies kept the SU in the war.

But, even if the Murmansk rail line had been cut, could not the ships have gone to Archangelsk? Wasn't that a clear port also, even in winter?
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Postby phylo_roadking » Mon Mar 17, 2008 6:06 am

The Persian Corridor was indeed the one by which the vast majority of American vehicles reached the Soviet Union. Also, there was a limited air bridge right over the Pole for aircraft for the first few months of American involvement, but the losses were too high IIRC

The point about the Russian Convoys however is that the British sent military aid when it made the most morale-strengthening and loss-replaceing difference. It kept the Russian Army in the fight, proved there really were Allies out there, even if they couldn't launch a Second Front on demand LOL....AND when Stalin was wavering the most and making occasional peace forays via the Bulgarians.

The long-term American aid was more deep infrastructure support - a HUGE amount of canned food, boots, chemicals, lorries, radios, transport, aircraft. etc. - in addition to large number of .50 MGs and Sherman tanks...which the Soviets didn't overly like LOL Mind you - the strange people didn't overly like the Spitfire either!!!
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Postby phylo_roadking » Mon Mar 17, 2008 6:10 am

Tom, they actually DID! In roughly equal numbers. The Wiki entry lists them all by date and port of departure/arrival;

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arctic_convoys
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Postby Tom Houlihan » Mon Mar 17, 2008 8:02 pm

That's what I was getting at, Phylo. So Murmansk is cut off. Big deal! Archangelsk would just have to carry the load!

Would losing the POE at Murmansk really have hurt the SU that much?
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Postby phylo_roadking » Mon Mar 17, 2008 8:08 pm

For that you'd need to know -

1/ Total cargo handling capacity of Murmansk vs. Archangelsk;

2/ the cargo carried by each convoy;

3/ Was there anything Murmansk as a POE could handle that Archangelsk couldn't? Thinking of airfields for assembly of aircraft for flying-on etc.

4/ the decision-making process behind why each convoy was sent where. There may be considerations we're not otherwise acquainted with.
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Postby pak » Sun Mar 23, 2008 3:24 am

Thanks for the answers.

I've been offline for a week so I have not been able to follow the disussion here :(

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Postby Andy H » Sun Mar 23, 2008 5:46 am

Arkhangelsk was a larger port than Murmansk and better equipped for accepting and handling war supplies.
However, the White Sea froze over in mid-December and could stay closed to navigation until the end of May.


http://www.o5m6.de/northern.html

Interesting site with decent basic information

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Postby nigelfe » Fri Mar 28, 2008 2:34 am

The problem with the Vladis route was the limited capacity west from there, that's why it wasn't a real option to Murmunsk, remember BAM wasn't built until the 1970s. The southern route was also very limited in capacity.

A very important US contribution was rail equipt, not least rails themselves. The size of the Red Army's construction capabilities is often forgotten.
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Postby John Kilmartin » Fri Mar 28, 2008 10:15 pm

Hi Guys,
It doesn't seem to me that you fellows understand how ice forms in salt water ie. if there is a high proportion of fesh water that freezes first . That would indicate that ice forms earlier rather than later at Archangelsk than Murmansk and actually lasts longer.As well you have to negotiate the break up ice to or from Archangelsk ie. ice drifting from farther north along that extra eastern leg of the journey from Britain. If the convoys passing through the North Atlantic barely made it do to ice they more than likely would have turned turtle all the way to Archangelsk. IMHO the Western Allies would have just waited another couple of months before attempting Overlord if the Soviets had not made the advances they did.
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Re: How much did the Murmansk convoys help the Soviet Union?

Postby pak » Sun Apr 27, 2008 9:10 am

I have at last found some numbers, comparing the different routes of delivering goods to the USSR.

All this found in this interesting piece of work:
THE PERSIAN CORRIDOR AND AID TO RUSSIA by T. H. Vail Motter

There is a comparison of how much was delivered to "the Continent of Europe for the American forces" and how much was delivered to USSR.
This route, joining Soviet territory to warm water across the mountains and deserts of Iran, was one of five by which 171 /2 million long tons of lend-lease supplies were carried from Western Hemisphere ports to Soviet destinations. It is difficult to visualize 171/2 million long tons in .the abstract; but 2,803 ships crossed the seas to carry them, a fleet more than nine times as numerous as that which mounted the Anglo-American invasion of North Africa in November 1942. The total tonnage figure nearly matches the 22 million long tons landed on the Continent of Europe for the American forces between January 1942 and May 1945. Russia's share of the common pool was therefore considerable, befitting her share in the common conflict


This is a breakdown of the five routes used to deliver goods to USSR:
Comparative Score
In the world-wide effort to deliver war supplies to Soviet Russia, how does the record of the Persian Corridor compare with that of the other routes from the Western Hemisphere? There were five routes: the Soviet Arctic, the Black Sea, the north Russian, the Persian Gulf, and the Soviet Far East.
The least important route, tonnage wise, was that which led from American Pacific ports to Siberian ports on the Arctic Ocean. Because the Arctic ports were ice free only during the summer months, sailings were restricted to those periods. The main military significance of the route was that aviation fuel was transported over it for an air ferry route across Siberia which, because of Soviet opposition, never materialized. Total tonnage was 452,393 long tons.32
Next in tonnage accomplishment was the Black Sea route, the last to be inaugurated. It was made possible by clearing the Axis from the Mediterranean and the Black Sea ports of Odessa, Constanta, and Novorossiysk. In 1944 the Andimeshk truck assembly plant and a number of PGC portal cranes were transferred to the USSR for installation at these ports. First ships arrived in January 1945. During the five months of operation of the route 680,723 long tons were delivered.
British convoys first sailed to the north Russian port of Murmansk in August 1941. Archangel served as an alternative port. This was the shortest route from American ports to the USSR, 4,500 miles, and required twenty-one days' running time and five weeks' convoy time. Inland clearance distance by rail from the ports to the battle front and industrial centers was satisfactorily short. During the last three months of 1941 and the first four months of 1942 the rate of shipments to north Russian ports was greater than by any other route then in use from the Western Hemisphere to Soviet ports; but the increasing severity of Axis attacks upon shipping in northern waters reduced its use drastically until July 1944, by which time an improvement in its safety reopened it to year-round activity. It did not again become a main artery of Soviet supply, for by that time it had been rivaled by the Soviet Far East and Persian Gulf routes. Its total of 3,964,231 long tons was nearly equal to that of the Persian Gulf.
Longest in mileage and ship round-trip time, the Persian Gulf route was nevertheless desirable because of its relative safety, its all-year usefulness, and its accessibility to Soviet territory if other routes should be denied. The difficulties of providing and operating adequate port and inland clearance facilities were substantial handicaps in operation of the Gulf route; but so long as other routes were threatened either by military denial or, in the case of the Far Eastern route, by a sudden change in Japan's attitude toward its use, the Persian Gulf remained a necessity. In receiving 4,159,117 long tons of Soviet-aid cargo from the Western Hemisphere, the Gulf was excelled only by the Far Eastern route.
Almost half, or 47 percent, of Russian-aid supplies from the Western Hemisphere reached the Soviet Union via a sea lane which extended from American Pacific ports around to the north of Honshu to eastern Siberian ports. The total tonnage via this route came to 8,243,397 long tons; but, because of the peculiar situation by which Japan winked at the traffic to her ally's enemy, only supplies classified as nonmilitary were carried.
The significance of the Persian Gulf route is measured by its tonnage accomplishment and its fulfillment of strategic necessity. Its handicaps were less serious than those which at one time or another afflicted the other routes; its advantages more solid and continuous. Development of the Persian Gulf line of communications to the USSR was clearly basic to global planning.
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