War Creates a Single-Minded Focus

Admiral William H. Standley

The United States agreed to furnish Lend-Lease and the Soviets did not doubt that they had earned it- at Leningrad, at Stalingrad, in the monstrous enclosures in the western USSR where the Germans, as they advanced, confined Soviet prisoners of war completely exposed without water or food. At least 4.5 million Soviet civilians and combatants had been killed by 1943; at least three million combatants died in enclosures and camps throughout the war; at least 25 million Soviet civilians and combatants died before the eventual Allied victory. From the Soviet point of view, Lend-Lease was the least America could do when the Russian people were dying; anything the Soviets could grab, legally or illegally, must still have seemed less than a fair exchange. “We’ve lost millions of people,” a Russian told Alexander Werth after the US ambassador, Admiral William H. Standley, complained at a Moscow press conference in March 1943 of the “ungracious” Soviet attitude toward Lend-Lease, “and they want us to crawl on our knees because they send us Spam.” The point was to win the war. “One can bear anything,” novelist and journalist Ilya Ehrenburg incited the men and women of the Red Army in August 1942: “the plague, and hunger and death. But one cannot bear the Germans… Today there are no books; today there are no stars in the sky; today there is only one thought: Kill the Germans. Kill them all and dig them into the earth. Then we can go to sleep. Then we can think again of life, and books, and girls, and happiness.”

Part 1, Chapter 5

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