The Alaska Siberia Route (ALSIB)

History of the ALSIB

The Lend-Lease policy, which was officially titled “An Act to Promote the Defense of the United States”, was a program where the U.S. supplied Free France, Great Britain and the Republic of China with food, oil, and materiel between 1941 and August 1945. Later, this program included the USSR and other Allied nations.

As far as materiel was concerned, this included warships and warplanes, as well as weaponry. The main types of aircraft ferried to the Soviet Union under the Lend-Lease policy were the Bell P-39 Airacobras, Bell P-63 Kingcobras, Douglas A-20 Havocs, North American B-25 Mitchells, Douglas C-47 Skytrains.

The Alaska Siberia Route (ALSIB) was the Soviet Union portion of the Alaska-Siberian Air Rode receiving Lend-Lease aircraft from the Northwest Staging Route. The air route was established by autumn 1942.

The artic route, while the shortest and most direct route, was also the most dangerous. Around 3,964,000 tons of goods made their way to the USSR across the arctic route. During the 21 months of the program, 7,923 aircraft were delivered to the Russians. Impressively, 93% of goods arrived at the destination safely.

The ALSIB and Northwest Staging Route also provided a diplomatic route between Washington, D.C. and Moscow. Wendell Willkie, Vice President Henry A. Wallace, Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov, and Andrei Gromyko were but a few who used the route.

Major General Vasily Molokov, famous north-polar aviator and Hero of the Soviet Union led a team of Soviet pilots tasked with making the dangerous trip. They were to cross hazardous mountain ridges and establish an air route and airfields in areas where no human had ever set foot. All of this they accomplished in just ten months.

The first to explore it were twelve Douglas A-20 Havoc bombers. The fleet was led by Lieutenant Colonel P. Nedosekin, and they flew from Fairbanks, Alaska, to Nome, Alaska. On September 29, 1942, the group started from Nome to Markovo, Russia. P. Nedosekin and his comrades crossed Siberia while the Battle of Stalingrad raged.

The aircraft manufactured in the United States were flown over this route for World War II combat service on the Eastern Front. The route also marked the first time wheeled airplane flew from Great Falls, Montana, through Siberia to Krasnoyarsk, Russia, before the ALSIB Air Route was established. Previously, the air lane was only used by North Pole aviators who covered it with seaplanes in summer and by skiplanes in winter.

Often, one can forget the sheer length and breadth of the continents. The total distance of the ALSIB Route from the city of Fairbanks, Alaska, to Krasnoyarsk was 6,400 kilometers (3,980 miles). Combining this with the American segment of the route, which was 4,800 (3,000 miles) that travelled through Canada, as well as many thousands of kilometers to the frontline airfields, the entire distance was about 14,000 kilometers (8,700 miles). This is over one-third of the distance of the equator.

The route survived until 1945, where it was closed because of growing political tensions between the United States and Soviet Union after the end of World War II. However, there is no doubt that, at the time, these international efforts played a vital part in diplomatic relations and resolving the war.

In 2015 the route was re-flown by some vintage WW2 aircraft all the way to Moscow to arrive for the MAKS Airshow.

Russian planning team. Refuelling Airocobra's on route
In 2014 Brent waded ashore from a zodiac to the remote Russian Inuit settlement of Uelen in the Russian Artic. In the small local museum were these commemoration cards. The spit which housed the settlement had an airstrip which was used by the ferry flights, this being the closest to Nome in Alaska.

P39's and B25's in transit - note drop tanks