National Geographic : 1945 Oct
Lend-Lease and the Russian Victory skepticism here about the practicability of such a beam, until the Nazis employed it to good effect in their invasion of Russia. Even tually the Russians captured some of the beams and asked us to produce them under Lend-Lease. This we did, although both man ufacture and transportation brought many a headache to those in charge of the program. The beams required two flatcars for the haul to seaboard, and aboard ship they had to be carried in special racks fitted to the deck. The American copper industry has produced tubing of a thinness never before achieved here in order to meet a Russian requirement. The Russians said that the speed and maneuver ability of their planes would be greatly in creased if we could give them thinner radiator tubing than that which was then being used. We worked it down to four one-thousandths of an inch. The dies required to make this tubing were themselves the result of a spectacular produc tion record. One afternoon in 1942 the Russians re ported the destruction of dies which they had been using and made an urgent request for duplicates. It developed that the best time we could give them was 39 days. Speed was es sential; 39 days might mean the difference between victory and defeat. What, if any thing, could we do? The problem was turned over to the War Production Board. Michael Schwarz, Direc tor of the Copper Division, located Harry L. Erlicher, Vice President of the General Elec tric Company, at a reception in Schenectady. "For heaven's sake," pleaded Schwarz, "get on a plane and go out to Detroit! Check with the Carboloy Company and see what you can do to hurry up those dies they are making for the Russians." Then, winking at Soviet officials who were listening in on the conversation, he concluded: "The time limit is three days." Erlicher went to Detroit. At 7:30 o'clock the next morning he called Schwarz, reported that he and the Carboloy people had worked all night, and that they could produce the dies in five days. The project was given highest priority. Machines were run 24 hours a day, and each operator was buttressed with a stand-by so that there would be no interruption when he went for a smoke, lunch, or what not. On the fifth day the dies were flown to Waterbury, Connecticut, where the tubing was produced, and within a few hours an initial consignment was on its way to Russia by air. The Russians later presented Schwarz with a medal contrived of copper tubing and im- printed with Russian characters symbolic of their appreciation for the job he and his asso ciates had done. Ten Routes to the U.S.S.R. The Russian program has involved one of the most complicated shipping problems ever undertaken by any country either in war or in peace. Goods have gone to the U.S.S.R., at one time or another, over ten different routes. Eight of these routes lie over water; two of them lie in the air. The logical shipping route, via the Baltic, was of course closed to us. The route across the Pacific from our West Coast to ports of the Soviet Far East suffered from the disadvantage that supplies, after dis charge, had to be railed several thousand miles to the front. However, shipments were made this way throughout the war. The outbreak of war with Japan closed the transpacific route to American vessels. After Pearl Harbor, the run could be made only by Russian ships, which were then neutral so far as the Japanese were concerned. In addition to maintaining the service to Vladivostok and near-by ports, the Russians have also sent vessels via Bering Strait over the dangerous and little-used passage north of Siberia. This passage, known as the north ern sea route, is open only for three months of the year and even then it cannot be trav ersed without the aid of icebreakers. Each summer for four years a convoy fought its way over the northern sea route to deliver supplies to a once-desolate region now dotted with mines, airports, and weather stations. At one time it was considered impossible to send ships into this area and then get them out before the ice began to set. The success of the wartime operation resulted from im proved icebreakers, the use of airplanes for scouting floes, applied meteorology, and the establishment by the Soviets of a chain of up to-date weather stations. The Russians, who are not generally re garded as a maritime people, have shown an unexpected aptitude for the sea. Vessels made available to them under Lend-Lease have been efficiently operated and well kept up, despite a shortage of trained seamen. Ships "Manned" by Women Boys of 13 and 14 have been sent to sea, and many vessels have been "manned" with women. One of the Russian ships was skip pered by a woman "master," and Pacific coast shipping men stick to their story that another ship was held up two days while the chief engineer had a baby!