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Memorandum for the President
August 2, 1941 [Washington, D.C.]
Subject: Transfer of Air Materiel to Russia.
The following steps have been taken toward the transfer to the Russian Government of aviation materiel:
It has been proposed to the Russian Embassy, and accepted by them—subject to the confirmation of their government—to utilize out aviation set-up at Fairbanks, Alaska, as the point of transfer of equipment, including the transition training of pilots and mechanics. The Russian Embassy has been requested to have fifty single-engine pilots, 25 mechanics and ten two-engine bomber pilots and ten mechanics flown to Fairbanks, Alaska via Nome. The Russian Embassy says that these men can be in Fairbanks by August 11.
The War Department is assembling the pilots and mechanics necessary for the ferrying of planes to Fairbanks and the training of pilots and mechanics at Fairbanks.
There are 59 modern P-forties (Tomahawks) on British order now in this country. 28 of these are at the Curtiss Plant, and the remainder have been delivered on the docks on the Atlantic seaboard. We have the Curtiss plant now uncrating the 28 at Buffalo and have directed the return from the seaboard to Buffalo of the remaining planes. As these planes all lack radio and their wiring will not permit the installation of our radio, we have cabled London to send the British radios by B-24 transport planes as quickly as possible. Meanwhile we will undertake to fly these planes into Alaska, convoying them with our planes to provide the radio control. There is some hazard in this on account of the bad weather in passing out of the North Temperate zone, but this will have to be accepted.
Our principal complication at the moment is that the British authorities in this country, with whom our Air officers have been in contact, state that they have no definite instructions to release any planes. We have committed ourselves to the extent of having their planes uncrated and others ordered to Buffalo from the seaboard. We are endeavoring to get some authorization to go ahead with the matter.
As to the bomber types, we are preparing five B-twenty-fives for flight to Fairbanks with the necessary officers to give pilot and mechanic instruction. There is a sight complication here, as the Norden and the AFCE (automatic control) has to be removed. However, we will install a substitute sight.
The only bomber, approximately medium type, that the British have under order in this country is the Lockheed-Hudson. We are discussing with them the possibility of five of these being matched with five of our B-twenty fives. The difficulty here would be that while this British plane has its radio installed in this country, the turret is installed in England. Possibly it would be simpler for the British to fly their bomber contribution directly from Great Britain into Russia.
4,000,000 rounds of 30 caliber ammunition have been allotted, and will have to be shipped to some agreed-upon point in Eastern Siberia, possibly Vladivostok. A portion of this will be placed in the planes at Fairbanks as flight equipment during their transit flight to Siberia.
The 50 caliber ammunition required for these planes will have to be supplied by the British, who up to the present time have indicated an unwillingness to do so. Our Army reserves have been so depleted in building up to the Navy’s requirements that we should not release any of this ammunition. We are arranging to provide bombs on the same basis of “missions” as the 30 caliber ammunition.
P-forties in England:
Approximately 140 P-40s of the British 200 are in England. Just what their degree of readiness for service is I do not know, but there is a probability that spare part shortage will affect the availability of a number of these planes. I understand from Colonel Burns and Colonel Faymonville1 that you wish us to make available from our Air forces the necessary P-forties to off-set planes of this type now in England, if we could not obtain them elsewhere—presumably from British orders in this country. At the present time we have 149 P-tens [P-forties] in service in continental United States. The remaining 138 which have been delivered lack wing tips, or complete wings or propellers, due to the tendency to ground-loop and a shortage of spare parts.
The matter of the delivery of planes beyond the 59 first referred to can be adjusted a little bit later, as the first problem is to establish our contact at Fairbanks and get the instruction of pilots and mechanics under way.
The unadjusted difficulties of the moment in this matter are (1) the lack of authorization in this country for the British to turn over planes to us, and (2) whatever delay is involved in hearing from the Russian Government.
Document Copy Text Source: Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs (RG 165), Records of the Office of the Chief of Staff (OCS), 20141, National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland.
Document Format: Typed memorandum.
1. Major General James H. Burns, executive officer of the Division of Defense Aid Reports, and Colonel Philip R. Faymonville, of the same office, were studying the possibilities for sending military supplies to Russia. (Edward R. Stettinius, Jr., Lend-Lease: Weapon for Victory [New York: Macmillan Company, 1944], p. 122.)
Recommended Citation: The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, ed. Larry I. Bland, Sharon Ritenour Stevens, and Clarence E. Wunderlin, Jr. (Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 1981- ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 2, “We Cannot Delay,” July 1, 1939-December 6, 1941 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986), pp. 583-585.