US Aircraft in the Soviet Union and Russia Book Review

US Aircraft in the Soviet Union and Russia

By Yefim Gordon, Sergey Komissarov, and Dmitri Komissarov

Hardcover in dustjacket, 355 pages, bibliography, profusely illustrated, color profiles

Published by Midland Publishing Ltd., January 2010

Language: English

ISBN-10: ‎ 1-85780-308-6

ISBN-13: ‎ 978-1-85780-308-2

Dimensions: ‎ 8.9 x 0.9 x 11.5 inches

The Lend-Lease policy was enacted in March 1941, before America’s entry into the Second World War.  It allowed the United States to provide military and logistical material to Allied nations fighting the Axis.  While the main beneficiary of this aid was the United Kingdom, a significant portion went to the Soviet Union.  This included roughly half a million vehicles and about fifty percent of the food, ammunition and aviation gasoline consumed by the Soviets.  While this aid was officially downplayed publicly, Stalin admitted privately that the USSR would have lost the war without the vast amount of material supplied by the U.S., Great Britain, and Canada.

Part of this aid was over 11,400 U.S. aircraft.  Most types operated by the USAAF were represented, with the largest portions being the Bell P-39 Airacobra with 4,719 provided and the follow-on P-63 Kingcobra with 2,397.  Soviet pilots were enthusiastic about both types.

I expected this book to be about the Lend-Lease program.  While that is a primary focus and occupies a substantial portion of the page count, there is so much more.  The book opens with the purchase of a Wright A Flyer in 1908, and several additional pre-war types made their way to the Soviet Union under various arrangements.  A surprise (to me at least) were the Soviet efforts to acquire American heavy bombers.  These were denied under Lend-Lease, the USAAF citing the need for every bomber they could get, but several crash-landed examples were discovered as the Red Army pushed into Eastern Europe.  Many of these were repaired, and the USSR were able to operate both the B-17 Flying Fortress and B-24 Liberator in squadron strength.  The story of the Tu-4 Bull, reverse-engineered from three interred B-29 Superfortresses is better known.  There is also a small section dealing with U.S. types (or components) acquired in various ways during the Cold War, and a much larger section on U.S. civilian types purchased after the end of the Soviet era beginning in 1991.

This is a beautiful book and a valuable reference.  The pages are printed on glossy stock, and there is no shortage of photographs, line drawings, and high-quality profile artwork.  Modelers looking for unusual schemes for American aircraft types will be thrilled.  Highly recommended.  If the subject interests you at all pick this one up, you will not be disappointed!

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