US-Russian Memorial Flight Commemorates War Time Journey

On the 70th anniversary commemorations of the end of World War Two, US-Russian memorial flight is taking place between the two countries.

During the war the US military flew more than 8000 aircraft from airbases in the state of Montana to the Soviet Union, in order to provide the Soviet military with vital air support against the Nazis.

The aircraft were simply being transported and were then to be left in the Soviet Union for Soviet pilots to fly and use in Red Army missions against Nazi troops invading the Soviet Union from the west.

The route took the 8000 aircraft over Alberta, western Canada, Alaska and Siberia to cover the more than 9500km journey.

One of those aircraft that made the journey has been restored to its former flying glory and is now 72 years old. The US T-6 Texan was one of 54 Texans that made the flight to the Soviet Union during the war.

In the memorial flight the T-6 Texan was due to land at Villeneuve Airport near Edmonton, Canada and then again in Alberta on Sunday.

As thousands of planes made the journey it was kept top secret to ensure that the Nazis wouldn’t discover the mass of air power being supplied to the Soviets.

The US supplied Soviet and other Allied forces including the British and French, with military equipment and vehicles, as well as vital food, clothing and other supplies during the war. The supplies were made possible through the lend-lease programme that enabled America to provide aid to countries which were fighting to secure freedom from the Nazis and that which was in the interest of the United States.

Even so, the agreement with the Soviet Union was kept under wraps because the Soviet Union also had a pact of neutrality with Japan, which was the US and Allies’ enemy in the Pacific. If the general public found out about the Soviet pact with Japan there could have been a huge public backlash, even though the Soviets were doing everything to fight off the Nazis.

American and Canadian people would have known that the route was being used as a military transport route because of the sheer numbers of aircraft making the journey throughout the war.

But historians say that they didn’t really know what they were being used for, many believed they were being used against Japan in the Pacific, the National Post reports.

The route ensured that Edmonton air base in Canada became one of the world’s busiest air fields during the war. It would sometimes see over 800 aircraft passing through every day.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE