Wings Over the Wilderness (by Blake W. Smith)
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Wings Over the Wilderness tells the story of the secret Second World War airway that arched across 8,000 miles of sub-Arctic wilderness and the adventures of the men who flew it. During June of 1941, under an assault that was code-named Operation Barbarossa, Nazi Germany attacked the Soviet Union, signaling the start to one of history's most bloody and bitter conflicts. The powerful German army crushed all opposition and swiftly conquered huge tracts of Soviet territory. The highly skilled German Luftwaffe swept the skies of Red air power, pulverized troop concentrations and demolished Soviet industry. On the ground, German Panzer and artillery units pursued and hammered the retreating, beleaguered Red Army as fast as their steel wheels could roll.
After two short months, the Nazis had rumbled up to the edge of Moscow: there seemed to be no stopping German military might and the complete collapse of the Soviet Union appeared inevitable. Within days of the initial June attack, both Great Britain and the United States responded to Stalin's appeal for assistance by extending Lend-Lease aid to provide Russia with the materiel of war. A downturn in aircraft production, combined with staggering battlefield losses, placed aircraft acquisition especially high on the Soviet's Lend-Lease shopping list. Both Britain and the United States responded with the immediate shipment of a small quantity of combat aircraft while pledging to send a steady stream of 400 aircraft per month.
Delivery of tactical aircraft to the Soviet battlefield presented significant logistical and technical challenges due to the great distances involved, exposure to hostile forces and damage to delicate aircraft components inflicted while in transit. Spanning the breadth of Siberia, there existed only a scattering of primitive airfields, and on the North American side the situation was only marginally better. To accommodate aircraft ferrying on the scale envisioned, additional airfields would have to be created, others upgraded, hangars and housing built, navigational aids installed, massive quantities of fuel delivered, and scarce manpower diverted for the purpose.
Wings Over the Wilderness tells the story of the secret Second World War airway that arched across 8,000 miles of sub-Arctic wilderness and over Siberia to reach an ally in need. The book pays tribute to the thousands of men and women who toiled under the most difficult of circumstances to help decide the outcome of the war. Primitive facilities, harsh climates and wild terrain were among the difficulties faced by American and Russian pilots in the transfer of nearly 8,000 warplanes from American factories to the Russian battlefield. The airway was cruel on man and machine as the grave markers and twisted wrecks of fallen warplanes littering forest and muskeg bear testament.
Smith's writings offer first-hand veteran accounts and fascinating stories surrounding the delivery of the warplanes to Russia. The book includes an extensive introduction by the author that offers the reader the historical and geopolitical background at the time of the writing. Accompanying the detailed text are hundreds of never-before-published photographs. Also included in the book are extensive end notes, a glossary of terms and abbreviations, a bibliography and index.
About the Author
Blake Smith was born, raised and lives in North Vancouver. His interest in Second World War aviation in the Canadian Northwest, Alaska and Russia began in 1985 when he first started to research historical documents relating to Lend-Lease flights. Around 1989, he became an honorary lifetime member of the 7th Ferrying Group Association (an American veterans’ group that conducted military flights to Alaska who during the Second World War).
In 1992, Smith began to earnestly seek out Russian veterans who participated with the Americans in Alaska to expedite the transfer of lend-lease aircraft into Russia. These associations with Second World War veterans inspired him to document their unique and interesting experiences. In addition to archival research and veteran interviews, Smith conducted several research trips along the former airway that these pilots flew and also investigated the remains of aircraft that had crashed in the wilderness. The construction of this work was based upon many sources and many years of research.