Add this to World War II’s seemingly infinite supply of untold stories: Warplanes to Siberia will retrace the historic Alaska to Siberia route used to deliver American planes to the Soviet war effort through President Franklin Roosevelt’s Lend-Lease program. Wait, what?
The Cold War obscured one of the key facts about World War II: the Soviets were able to hold off the Nazi invasion in no small part because of the U.S. war materiel. American factories produced planes and weapons that were shipped to Russia and provided the firepower the Soviet government couldn’t produce on its own.
Jeff Geer discovered the story of how American aircraft were delivered to Russia and started the Bravo 369 Flight Foundation to pay tribute to the men and women who contributed to this war effort. His organization attracted the attention of Russia aircraft corporation Rusavia and gaming company Wargaming (creators of WW2 online games World of Tanks, World of Warplanes and World of Warships), who combined to fund a commemorative recreation of the original flight path.
Starting next week in Great Falls, Montana, Two DC-3 and one T-6G Texan aircraft (piloted by Geer) will retrace the delivery route, recreating the original route that American pilots took to Fairbanks, where they handed off planes to Soviet pilots who continued on to Siberia. The DC-3s will continue across the Bering Strait and work their way to Krasnoyarsk, the original delivery point, after an 18-day journey. The planes will continue on to Moscow for the MAKS-2015 air show.
This year, Russia is going all-out to commemorate the 70th anniversary of victory in what they call the Great Patriotic War and the private sponsors of this effort have timed the arrival of these planes in Moscow to give a high-profile reminder of what Russian and American cooperation accomplished during World War II.
You can follow the effort at the ALSIB.org website.
There were over 8,000 planes delivered to the Soviet Union via this route, mostly Bell P-39 Aircobra fighters (over 2600) and the successor Bell P-63 Kingcobra fighters (almost 2400), a design that was created in part with feedback from Soviet pilots who were flying the P-63. There were 177 fatal crashes during the program and the planes had to stop for refueling at remote airstrips located in some of the most treacherous areas of the United States, Canada and Siberia. The story also includes America’s female pilots, WACS who were responsible for flying planes from the factories to Great Falls before they began their journey to Siberia.
Check out the full flight schedule below:
· July 17th AT-6: KBLI (Bellingham) to KGEG (Spokane) to KGTF (Great Falls)
· July 17 arrival of all planes to Great Falls
· July 18-19 Event in Great Falls, press-conference
· July 20 (KGTF) Great Falls to CYYC (Calgary)
· July 21 CYYC to CEX3 (Edmonton) – media event at Reynolds Air Museum
· July 22 CEX3 to CYDQ (Dawson Creek)
· July 23 CYDQ to CYYE (Fort Nelson)
· July 24 CYYE to CYXY (WhiteHorse) –Lend Lease Hangar
· July 25 CYXY to PAOR to PFTO to PAFA (Fairbanks)
· July 26 Event in Fairbanks
· July 27 PAFA to PAGA to PAOM (Nome) – media event
· July 28 Nome to Diomede, then AT-6 turns back at border.
· July 29 Leaving Anadyr, arrival in Magadan, press-event
· July 30 Leaving Magadan, arrival in Yakutsk
· July 31 Press-event in Yakutsk at airfield
· August 8 Public event in Yakutsk (event at historical monument)
· August 2 Leaving Yakutsk, arrival in Bratsk with press-event in airfield
· August 3 Leaving Bratsk, arrival in Krasnoyarsk with press-conference at airfield
· August 4 Public event (at historical monument)
· August 5-12 Planes in Krasnoyarsk
· August 13-19 planes fly from Krasnoyarsk to Moscow
· August 25-30 MAKs airshow, Moscow
· September Donate Planes to Central Armed Forces Museum