Local writer and President of the Alaska-Siberia Research Center Alexander Dolitsky took his audience on a historical plane ride through Alaska and into Siberia during the U.S. arms supply at the start of World War II. He spoke at the Chamber Lunch lecture series on Thursday at the Moose Lodge.
Anthropologist Dolitsky has published several books on Siberia and Alaska. His book Allies in Wartime was released in 2007.
Dolitsky said the Alaska-Siberia Land Lease Airway delivered U.S. made P63 fighter aircraft to Russia through Juneau first before flying on to Anchorage and then to Russia. The trip could take 30 stops.
“Aviation at the time was fairly primitive,” Dolitsky said.
Aviators in the U.S. and Russia developed friendships as they worked together in a dangerous profession. Over a route that delivered planes to Siberia and Petersburg most crashes occurred between Fairbanks and Nome, Dolitsky said.
“Maybe too much vodka?” Dolitsky said of the notoriously ruddy pilots.
The arms shipment bolstered Russian defenses against a fast-moving and vicious German army on the Eastern front during the Second World War. It is estimated that Germany killed millions of Russians during the opening months of the war.
Russian female aviators nicknamed the Night Witches flew up to German lines and cut their engines to silently dive in to bomb and strafe. They were well known to be a frightful foe.
Dolitsky lives in Juneau. He was born in Kiev and has worked and studied in the Soviet Union and in the U.S.
Dolitsky said he found that as the U.S. and Russian relationship matured, access to research material became easier.
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