U.S. Planes Reenacted Military History in Flight Over Siberia
U.S. and Russian pilots reenacted the Alaska-Siberian air route of World War II
The last time American planes like these flew from Alaska to Siberia, there was a war on. Granted, the planes were World War II-era DC-3s – known as the Douglas C-47 Skytrain in its American military version.
But for the first time in 70 years, U.S. and Russian pilots flew the Alaska-Siberian air route or ALSIB, recreating the perilous wartime aerial highway that delivered aircraft and supplies to the Red Army under the Lend-Lease program.
Jeff Geer, president and chairman of the BRAVO 369 Flight Foundation that raised funds for the flight, said the journey served as a reminder of better times.
“I think a lot of people don’t really realize that the Soviet Union and the United States were allies during World War II,” Geer told Air Force Times. “In today’s tough times with relations between the U.S. and Russia, it was an opportunity for us to come together again to remind each other — if not the world — that, hey, we worked together during some horrible times during the war; there’s an opportunity again to come together in some camaraderie to celebrate the end of World War II.”
The BRAVO 369 Flight Foundation partnered with the Russian company Rusavia, which purchased the two DC-3s from American owners, Geer said. The Americans flew aboard the planes as co-pilots from Montana to Alaska. The DC-3 crews were entirely Russian during the flight over Siberia.
“The project itself, today, demonstrates the willingness and the ability of two grassroots organizations to be able to come together in spite of political differences to commemorate a piece of World War II aviation history that largely remains untold,” Geer said. “There are so many people out there right now that did not know of this program – and still don’t know.”
The aircraft flew about 6,000 miles from Great Falls, Mont., with stops in Canada and Alaska, and across the Bering Strait to Siberia and then Krasnoyarsk, Russia. Although the DC-3s had GPS, satellite communications and modern avionics, the journey was still risky because of the possibility of bad weather or an emergency landing in the vast, frozen wilderness.
The planes arrived in Russia on Aug. 4. The DC-3s were part of the world-famous MAKS 2015 airshow on Aug. 25 in Moscow, and are now on display at a Russian World War II aviation museum.
Lend-Lease was a program signed into law March 11, 1941, by Pres. Franklin Roosevelt to provide food, fuel and military hardware to nations fighting the Axis powers. The policy was one of a handful of political decisions engineered by FDR that preceded U.S. entry into World War II but served to move the nation toward deeper involvement in the war.
Russia received more than $11 billion in aid from the United States to help the USSR fight the Germans on the Eastern Front – an amount second only to the United Kingdom’s share under the program.
The United States transferred military aircraft such as Bell P-39 Airacobra and P-63 Kingcobra fighters to the Russians as part of Lend-Lease. C-47 Skytrains carried parts and ferried pilots to and from Russia.
The Soviet Union’s losses during World War II were nothing short of staggering. Some estimates place the death toll as high as 27 million.
Many Russians — and Americans — to this day consider the Soviet Union’s sacrifices during World War II the leading cause for the Allied victory over the Axis. However, Russians also recall the alliance between the United States and their nation fondly, saying it was a time when the two countries were united in defeating a common enemy.