Project Hula

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Fort Randall at Cold Bay, Territory of Alaska, in 1942. Project Hula took place here in 1945. The head of the bay itself is at center right. Fort Randall Army Airfield 1942.jpg
Fort Randall at Cold Bay, Territory of Alaska, in 1942. Project Hula took place here in 1945. The head of the bay itself is at center right.

Project Hula was a program during World War II in which the United States transferred naval vessels to the Soviet Union in anticipation of the Soviets eventually joining the war against Japan, specifically in preparation for planned Soviet invasions of southern Sakhalin and the Kuril islands. Based at Cold Bay in the Territory of Alaska, the project was active during the spring and summer of 1945. It was the largest and most ambitious transfer program of World War II.

World War II 1939–1945 global war

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 70 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

United States Federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country comprising 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the most populous city is New York City. Most of the country is located contiguously in North America between Canada and Mexico.

Soviet Union 1922–1991 country in Europe and Asia

The Soviet Union, officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), was a Marxist-Leninist sovereign state in Eurasia that existed from 1922 to 1991. Nominally a union of multiple national Soviet republics, its government and economy were highly centralized. The country was a one-party state, governed by the Communist Party with Moscow as its capital in its largest republic, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. Other major urban centres were Leningrad, Kiev, Minsk, Tashkent, Alma-Ata, and Novosibirsk. It spanned over 10,000 kilometres (6,200 mi) east to west across 11 time zones, and over 7,200 kilometres (4,500 mi) north to south. It had five climate zones: tundra, taiga, steppes, desert and mountains.

Contents

Origins of Project Hula

The Russian Empire and Japan had previously fought the Russo-Japanese War, in 1904–1905, followed by Japan sending troops into Siberia during the Russian Civil War in the Siberian Intervention of 1918–1920, with animosities continuing as the two countries remained rivals in Northeast Asia after the establishment of the Soviet Union. Japan's increasingly aggressive political and military behavior in East Asia during the 1930s led to border clashes between Soviet forces and Japanese forces in the Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo in Manchuria in 1937 at Kanchatzu Island in the Amur River and in 1939 in the Khalkhin Gol/Nomonhan Incident. But after 1939 the two countries turned their attention elsewhere – Japan to focus on the Second Sino-Japanese War in China and the Soviet Union to the signing of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact. Eventually, the Soviet–Japanese Neutrality Pact was signed on 13 April 1941. [1]

Russian Empire former country, 1721–1917

The Russian Empire was an empire that extended across Eurasia and North America from 1721, following the end of the Great Northern War, until the Republic was proclaimed by the Provisional Government that took power after the February Revolution of 1917.

Empire of Japan Empire in the Asia-Pacific region between 1868–1947

The Empire of Japan was the historical nation-state and great power that existed from the Meiji Restoration in 1868 to the enactment of the 1947 constitution of modern Japan.

Russo-Japanese War 20th-century war between the Russian Empire and the Empire of Japan

The Russo-Japanese War was fought during 1904–1905 between the Russian Empire and the Empire of Japan over rival imperial ambitions in Manchuria and Korea. The major theatres of operations were the Liaodong Peninsula and Mukden in Southern Manchuria and the seas around Korea, Japan and the Yellow Sea.

The Soviet Union entered World War II when Germany invaded in June 1941, and in December 1941 Japan entered the war by attacking Allied forces and territories in the Pacific and East and Southeast Asia. Although these events placed the countries on opposite sides in the war, neither had an interest in engaging in military operations against the other, both being fully occupied with the wars in which they already were involved. Thus, the countries maintained a scrupulous neutrality toward one another until almost the very end of World War II; other than inspecting cargos to ensure they did not include war materials and protesting the reflagging of American ships as Soviet ones, [2] Japan did not deliberately interfere militarily with Lend-Lease convoys carrying war materiel from the United States to the Soviet Union in the North Pacific, and the Soviet Union turned down American requests to base American aircraft on Soviet territory for operations against Japan and ignored Allied requests for any other actions which might provoke Japan, its leader Josef Stalin stating only that Soviet entry into the war against Japan would not be possible until after the defeat of Germany. [3]

Operation Barbarossa 1941 German invasion of the Soviet Union during the Second World War

Operation Barbarossa was the code name for the Axis invasion of the Soviet Union, which started on Sunday, 22 June 1941, during World War II. The operation stemmed from Nazi Germany's ideological aim of conquering the western Soviet Union so that it could be repopulated by Germans (Lebensraum), and to also use some Slavs as a slave labour force for the Axis war effort and to annihilate the rest according to Generalplan Ost, and to acquire the oil reserves of the Caucasus and the agricultural resources of Soviet territories.

Allies of World War II Grouping of the victorious countries of World War II

The Allies of World War II, called the United Nations from the 1 January 1942 declaration, were the countries that together opposed the Axis powers during the Second World War (1939–1945). The Allies promoted the alliance as a means to control German, Japanese and Italian aggression.

Pacific Ocean Ocean between Asia and Australia in the west, the Americas in the east and Antarctica or the Southern Ocean in the south.

The Pacific Ocean is the largest and deepest of Earth's oceanic divisions. It extends from the Arctic Ocean in the north to the Southern Ocean in the south and is bounded by Asia and Australia in the west and the Americas in the east.

The Soviet Union suffered massive military, civilian and economic losses in the war. During a meeting with United States Ambassador to the Soviet Union Averell Harriman in October 1944, Stalin finally offered to enter the war against Japan, but not until three months after the surrender of Germany, whenever that might be. He also made such an entry contingent upon the Allies providing substantial assistance to the Soviet Union in building up its armed forces and military supplies in East Asia and the Pacific in advance of any Soviet operations against Japan. After the Soviet Union provided a list of equipment it required, which the United States codenamed MILEPOST, the United States began the work of meeting the Soviet requirements outside of and in addition to annual Lend-Lease allotments of aid to the Soviets. [4]

As part of MILEPOST, the Chief of the Soviet Main Naval Staff, Admiral V. A. Alafusov, and the deputy commander of the U.S. Military Mission in Moscow, Rear Admiral Clarence E. Olsen, agreed on 20 December 1944 to a list of a dozen types of ships and aircraft the United States would transfer to the Soviets. Among the ships were various types of escort vessels, landing craft, and minesweepers. Olsen also recommended that a "program for training of personnel and for delivery of some of each type of ship should be set up at once" so that Soviet crews could receive instruction from American personnel in the operation of the ships and craft transferred to them. [4]

Admiral is one of the highest ranks in some navies, and in many navies is the highest rank. It is usually abbreviated to "Adm" or "ADM". The rank is generally thought to have originated in Sicily from a conflation of Arabic: أمير البحر‎, amīr al-baḥr, "commander of the sea", with Latin admirabilis ("admirable") or admiratus ("admired"), although alternative etymologies derive the word directly from Latin, or from the Turkish military and naval rank miralay. The French version – amiral without the additional d – tends to add evidence for the Arab origin.

Moscow Capital city of Russia

Moscow is the capital and most populous city of Russia, with 13.2 million residents within the city limits, 17 million within the urban area and 20 million within the metropolitan area. Moscow is one of Russia's federal cities.

Landing craft small and medium seagoing vessel used to convey a landing force

Landing craft are small and medium seagoing watercraft, such as boats and barges, used to convey a landing force from the sea to the shore during an amphibious assault. The term excludes landing ships, which are larger. Production of landing craft peaked during World War II, with a significant number of different designs produced in large quantities by the United Kingdom and United States.

Choosing a location

Cold Bay
USA Alaska location map.svg
Red pog.svg
Cold Bay
Cold Bay lies on the Alaska Peninsula in Alaska.
Coordinates: 55°12′33″N162°42′51″W / 55.20917°N 162.71417°W / 55.20917; -162.71417

In early January 1945, the commander-in-chief of the Soviet Navy, Admiral Nikolai Gerasimovich Kuznetsov, suggested that the United States establish the location for the transfer of ships and training of crews in the Territory of Alaska 's Aleutian Islands, where the presence of only a very small civilian population would help to assure the security of the program, which was to be conducted in strict secrecy to avoid alerting the Japanese and perhaps provoking Japan into launching an attack against the Soviet Union. He suggested Dutch Harbor on Unalaska Island as a good choice; both the Soviet Navy and merchant marine frequently called there and at nearby Akutan, so Soviet personnel were most familiar with those waters. [5]

Soviet Navy naval arm of the Soviet Armed Forces

The Soviet Navy was the naval arm of the Soviet Armed Forces. Often referred to as the Red Fleet, the Soviet Navy was a large part of the Soviet Union's strategic plan in the event of a conflict with opposing super power, the United States, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), or another conflict related to the Warsaw Pact of Eastern Europe. The influence of the Soviet Navy played a large role in the Cold War (1945-1991), as the majority of conflicts centered on naval forces.

Territory of Alaska territory of the USA between 1912–1959

The Territory of Alaska or Alaska Territory was an organized incorporated territory of the United States from August 24, 1912, until Alaska was granted statehood on January 3, 1959. The territory was previously the Department of Alaska, 1868–1884; and the District of Alaska, 1884–1912.

Aleutian Islands Chain of islands in the northern Pacific Ocean

The Aleutian Islands, also called the Aleut Islands or Aleutic Islands and known before 1867 as the Catherine Archipelago, are a chain of 14 large volcanic islands and 55 smaller ones belonging to both the U.S. state of Alaska and the Russian federal subject of Kamchatka Krai. They form part of the Aleutian Arc in the Northern Pacific Ocean, occupying an area of 6,821 sq mi (17,666 km2) and extending about 1,200 mi (1,900 km) westward from the Alaska Peninsula toward the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia, and mark a dividing line between the Bering Sea to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the south. Crossing longitude 180°, at which point east and west longitude end, the archipelago contains both the westernmost part of the United States by longitude and the easternmost by longitude. The westernmost U.S. island in real terms, however, is Attu Island, west of which runs the International Date Line. While nearly all the archipelago is part of Alaska and is usually considered as being in the "Alaskan Bush", at the extreme western end, the small, geologically related Commander Islands belong to Russia.

On 18 January 1945, the U.S. Chief of Naval Operations and Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Navy, Fleet Admiral Ernest J. King, contacted the Commander of the North Pacific Force, Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher, to alert him that the United States planned to transfer approximately 250 ships and craft to the Soviet Union between April and December 1945 and that about 2,500 personnel would be present at any given time at the transfer site with a two-week cycle of personnel turnover; he also inquired as to whether Dutch Harbor could accommodate such a program. Fletcher responded on 29 January 1945 rejecting Dutch Harbor because of the lack of housing and training space there and because its harbor was too small to accommodate the expected numbers of ships and too exposed to heavy seas for safe training. He recommended Cold Bay on the Alaska Peninsula as a much better choice because of its protected harbor, shore facilities, and the complete absence of a civilian population, making security of the program much easier than at Dutch Harbor. Kodiak on Kodiak Island, which had adequate shore facilities but a harbor inadequately protected from rough seas, was Fletcher's second choice, and Dutch Harbor only his third. King duly informed the U.S. Military Mission in Moscow of the choice of Cold Bay. [6]

During a meeting with King at the Yalta Conference on 8 February 1945, Kuznetsov stated that Dutch Harbor was the Soviet Union's first choice and Kodiak its second. King informed him that the United States had chosen Cold Bay. Kuznetsov was not familiar with Cold Bay but, upon finding it on a map, immediately agreed to it as the training site. [7]

Planning

The Tacoma-class patrol frigate USS Hoquiam (PF-5) at Mare Island Navy Yard, Vallejo, California, on 14 June 1944. Transferred at Cold Bay on 16 August 1945, she became EK-13 in the Soviet Navy, and was returned to the United States in 1949. The patrol frigates were the largest, most heavily armed, and most expensive ships transferred in Project Hula. USS Hoquiam (PF 5).jpg
The Tacoma-class patrol frigate USS Hoquiam (PF-5) at Mare Island Navy Yard, Vallejo, California, on 14 June 1944. Transferred at Cold Bay on 16 August 1945, she became EK-13 in the Soviet Navy, and was returned to the United States in 1949. The patrol frigates were the largest, most heavily armed, and most expensive ships transferred in Project Hula.
The minesweeper USS Admirable (AM-136) was transferred at Cold Bay on 19 July 1945, becoming T-331 in the Soviet Navy. Admirable-136.jpg
The minesweeper USS Admirable (AM-136) was transferred at Cold Bay on 19 July 1945, becoming T-331 in the Soviet Navy.
Rear Admiral Boris Dmitrievich Popov, commander of the 5th Independent Brigade of Soviet Navy Ships at Cold Bay, cuts a cake while his counterpart, Captain William Stewart Maxwell (right), commanding officer of U.S. Navy Detachment 3294 at Cold Bay and overall commander of Project Hula, and members of their staffs look on during a party in Popov's honor on Memorial Day, 30 May 1945, probably at Dutch Harbor. Popov Maxwell cake.jpg
Rear Admiral Boris Dmitrievich Popov, commander of the 5th Independent Brigade of Soviet Navy Ships at Cold Bay, cuts a cake while his counterpart, Captain William Stewart Maxwell (right), commanding officer of U.S. Navy Detachment 3294 at Cold Bay and overall commander of Project Hula, and members of their staffs look on during a party in Popov's honor on Memorial Day, 30 May 1945, probably at Dutch Harbor.
Rear Admiral Popov speaks aboard an unidentified Admirable-class minesweeper during the ship's transfer ceremony, probably on 21 or 22 May 1945. Popov on minesweeper.jpg
Rear Admiral Popov speaks aboard an unidentified Admirable-class minesweeper during the ship's transfer ceremony, probably on 21 or 22 May 1945.
A Soviet Navy signalman (left) receives training from a U.S. Navy signalman at Cold Bay in 1945. Soviet US signalmen.jpg
A Soviet Navy signalman (left) receives training from a U.S. Navy signalman at Cold Bay in 1945.
The U.S. Navy auxiliary motor minesweeper USS YMS-143 when new in February 1943. Transferred at Cold Bay on 17 May 1945, she became T-522 and took part in the Soviet conquest of the Japanese province of Karafuto on southern Sakhalin Island between 11 and 25 August 1945. T-522 served in the Soviet Navy until stricken in July 1956 and dismantled for spare parts. USS YMS-143.jpg
The U.S. Navy auxiliary motor minesweeper USS YMS-143 when new in February 1943. Transferred at Cold Bay on 17 May 1945, she became T-522 and took part in the Soviet conquest of the Japanese province of Karafuto on southern Sakhalin Island between 11 and 25 August 1945. T-522 served in the Soviet Navy until stricken in July 1956 and dismantled for spare parts.
The large infantry landing craft USS LCI(L)-551 in May 1945, flying her colors at half-mast in honor of the recently deceased President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Transferred to the Soviet Navy at Cold Bay on 29 July 1945, she became DS-48 and took part in the Soviet invasion of the Kuril Islands. The Soviet Union returned her to the United States in 1955. USS LCI(L)-551.jpg
The large infantry landing craft USS LCI(L)-551 in May 1945, flying her colors at half-mast in honor of the recently deceased President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Transferred to the Soviet Navy at Cold Bay on 29 July 1945, she became DS-48 and took part in the Soviet invasion of the Kuril Islands. The Soviet Union returned her to the United States in 1955.
The large infantry landing craft USS LCI(L)-585 and USS LCI(L)-591 at Cold Bay in the spring of 1945, awaiting transfer to the Soviet Navy, in which they became DS-45 and DS-35, respectively. The Soviets returned LCI(L)-585 to the United States in 1955; DS-35 was sold for scrap in the Soviet Union. USS LCI(L)-585 USS LCI(L)-591.jpg
The large infantry landing craft USS LCI(L)-585 and USS LCI(L)-591 at Cold Bay in the spring of 1945, awaiting transfer to the Soviet Navy, in which they became DS-45 and DS-35, respectively. The Soviets returned LCI(L)-585 to the United States in 1955; DS-35 was sold for scrap in the Soviet Union.
The submarine chaser USS SC-1011 off Terminal Island, California, in July 1943. Transferred at Cold Bay on 17 August 1945, she served as BO-327 in the Soviet Navy until stricken in 1955. USS SC-1011.jpg
The submarine chaser USS SC-1011 off Terminal Island, California, in July 1943. Transferred at Cold Bay on 17 August 1945, she served as BO-327 in the Soviet Navy until stricken in 1955.
The floating workshop USS YR-74 was not among the Project Hula ships, but the United States transferred four YRs identical to her at Cold Bay in the summer of 1945. USS YR-74.jpg
The floating workshop USS YR-74 was not among the Project Hula ships, but the United States transferred four YRs identical to her at Cold Bay in the summer of 1945.
The U.S. flag is lowered aboard LCI(L)s as the U.S. Navy decommissions them for immediate transfer to the Soviet Unon at Cold Bay on 9 June 1945. LCIL(L)s lower US flag.jpg
The U.S. flag is lowered aboard LCI(L)s as the U.S. Navy decommissions them for immediate transfer to the Soviet Unon at Cold Bay on 9 June 1945.
The Soviet naval ensign is raised aboard the LCI(L)s at Cold Bay as they are commissioned into the Soviet Navy immediately after their transfer on 9 June 1945. Redesignated desantiye suda (DS) or "landing ship," these craft saw action against Japanese forces during the Soviet campaign in northern Korea in August-September 1945. LCI(L)s raise Soviet naval ensign.jpg
The Soviet naval ensign is raised aboard the LCI(L)s at Cold Bay as they are commissioned into the Soviet Navy immediately after their transfer on 9 June 1945. Redesignated desantiye suda (DS) or "landing ship," these craft saw action against Japanese forces during the Soviet campaign in northern Korea in August–September 1945.

King officially established the transfer-and-training program as Project Hula in mid-February 1945 and ordered Fletcher to commence the rehabilitation of the United States Army facilities at Cold Bay's Fort Randall, which had been closed in November 1944. He advised Fletcher that an officer appointed to take charge of the training and his staff would arrive at Cold Bay by 24 March 1945, and that the first 2,500 Soviet trainees would arrive by 1 April 1945, with 550 more to follow by 1 May and another 2,000 by 1 June. [7]

An early issue to resolve was the matter of how to transport the Soviet Navy personnel to Cold Bay. At the Yalta Conference in February 1945, Kuznetsov initially proposed that Allied merchant ships returning to North America after delivering cargoes in Europe transport Soviet personnel to the United States East Coast, from which the Soviets could travel across the continental United States to the United States West Coast and then by ship to Cold Bay; however, a shortage of Allied shipping in the Pacific made this plan highly problematic. The day after the conference, the Deputy Chairman of the Soviet Government Purchasing Commission, Admiral A. A. Yakimov, proposed that the United States transfer three Liberty ships or similar vessels to Soviet registry, and that these ships carry Soviet personnel to Cold Bay, presumably from ports in the Soviet Far East, but the Allied shipping shortage blocked this idea as well. On 24 February 1945, the Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Navy, Vice Admiral Richard S. Edwards, informed Yakimov that transferred motor torpedo boats and two disassembled self-propelled pontoon barges would be shipped aboard Soviet merchant ships from the U.S. West Coast directly to the Soviet Far East, without calling at Cold Bay, reducing the demand on shipping by Soviet personnel requiring transportation to Cold Bay. The Soviets finally decided to transport their personnel to Cold Bay in their own merchant ships while the ships were making their regular voyages to carry Lend-Lease materials from the U.S. West Coast to the Soviet Far East, with each ship carrying about 600 men at a time. [18]

As the plan was finalized, the United States was to transfer 180 ships – 30 Tacoma-class patrol frigates (U.S. Navy hull classification symbol PF), 24 Admirable-class minesweepers (AM), 36 auxiliary motor minesweepers (YMS), 30 large infantry landing craft (LCI(L)), 56 submarine chasers (SC), and four floating workshops (YR) – to the Soviet Union by 1 November 1945, training about 15,000 Soviet Navy personnel to operate them. After their commissioning into the Soviet Navy, which would take place at Cold Bay simultaneously with their transfer, the ships would steam in a series of convoys from Cold Bay with a U.S. Navy escort, passing through Unimak Pass and then moving westward along the northern side of the Aleutian Islands, with smaller vessels which could not make the voyage nonstop – the auxiliary motor minesweepers and submarine chasers – pausing at Adak to refuel and reprovision. Northwest of Attu, the U.S. Navy escort would turn the convoy over to a Soviet Navy escort, and each convoy would then steam north of the Commander Islands to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, from which the transferred ships would disperse to their designated home ports. [19]

The Soviets planned for the first Soviet personnel to arrive at Cold Bay aboard five merchant ships in late March or early April 1945, depending on ice conditions in the Soviet Far East. The first ship would carry a staff of 23 headed by a rear admiral, three substaffs (out of a planned five) of 11 to 17 personnel each, and 45 to 50 interpreters. Upon disembarking at Cold Bay, Soviet personnel were to come under the overall command of the American officer commanding the training-and-transfer program and were under orders to accede to American orders without question while at Cold Bay. [20]

Project Hula begins

The U.S. Navy created Naval Detachment No. 3294 specifically for Project Hula; it was to be responsible for all training and transfer activities at Cold Bay. On 7 March 1945 it assigned Commander William S. Maxwell, then in Washington, D.C., to command the detachment. Before leaving Washington, Maxwell recommended an increase in the number of Russian-language translators to be assigned to Cold Bay and urged that the U.S. Navy Bureau of Ships ensure that each ship to be transferred had all of its authorized equipment loaded and installed and no equipment not authorized for transfer aboard before arriving at Cold Bay. He then left for Cold Bay. [21]

Arriving at Cold Bay on 19 March 1945 and newly promoted to captain, Maxwell took command of the naval base there the following day. Under his command were 694 U.S. Navy and United States Coast Guard personnel, 47 United States Marines, and a U.S. Army contingent of 605; his personnel strength soon stabilized at around 1,500 as Army personnel transferred out and naval personnel replaced them. He found that an advance party under his second-in-command, U.S. Coast Guard Lieutenant Commander John J. Hutson, had already established Detachment 3294's Antisubmarine Warfare Department. He also discovered that the naval facilities required more rehabilitation than he had been led to believe, so he moved his command into Fort Randall, which had been closed since November 1944, and set about readying its facilities to support Project Hula, including the establishment of housing, classrooms, movie theaters, a radio station, and a softball field, the selection of instructors for courses in radio and radar operation, engineering, gunnery, minesweeping, damage control, and landing craft operation, and the procurement of radios, radars, minesweeping gear, gyrocompasses, engines, movie projectors, and training films and other educational tools. [22]

The first Soviets to arrive at Cold Bay were members of the Soviet Purchasing Commission, who disembarked at the base on 23 March 1945. Maxwell believed that a great deal of classroom training would be necessary before the Soviet personnel began to train at sea, but the Soviet officers disagreed, preferring a greater emphasis on training at sea. They worked for a week on a training program that both sides could agree on, and achieved a successful compromise before the first trainees arrived. [23]

The first Soviet trainees reached Cold Bay aboard five Soviet merchant ships, each carrying nearly 500 Soviet trainees, that arrived one per day each day from 10 to 14 April 1945, by which time 2,358 Soviet personnel of what were to become the Soviet Navy's 16th Minesweeper Division and 2nd Submarine Chaser Division had disembarked, joining 1,350 American personnel. Rear Admiral Boris Dimitrievich Popov arrived on 11 April aboard the steamer Sevastopol and took command of Soviet personnel at Cold Bay, who the Soviet Navy designated the 5th Independent Detachment of Soviet Navy Ships. [23]

Training and transfers

The first 220 Soviet officers and 1,895 enlisted men began training at Cold Bay on 16 April 1945, divided by ship type and then further divided by individual ship assignment. Although the Soviet personnel took their training very seriously, an immediate challenge for the American instructors was the Soviets' complete lack of familiarity with radar, sonar, and the ships' propulsion plants, and a lack of Russian-language training manuals was an obstacle. Personnel of the Soviet Purchasing Commission and 5th Independent Detachment remedied this by producing Russian-language manuals for use in Project Hula. [24]

Material issues also arose in relation to the ships themselves. The Bureau of Ships had not heeded Maxwell's request to ensure that all ships to be transferred arrived properly equipped, and early in the program every ship arrived at Cold Bay without all authorized equipment or with unauthorized equipment still installed. A great deal of required equipment had to be flown into Fort Randall Army Airfield daily, and some ships had to undergo on-the-spot revisions to their authorized equipment lists. A further difficulty was damage to the wooden-hulled ships – the auxiliary motor minesweepers (YMS) and submarine chasers – in the rough seas in the training area. The closest repair facilities for these ships was nearly 200 nautical mile s (370  km ; 230  mi ) away at Dutch Harbor, and an auxiliary motor minesweeper and nine submarine chasers had to visit Dutch Harbor for major repairs, delaying the submarine chaser program by eight days. [25]

Despite these difficulties, the first convoy of transferred ships – three minesweepers and five auxiliary motor minesweepers – departed Cold Bay for the Soviet Union on 28 May 1945; the second – of three minesweepers and six submarine chasers – departed on 30 May, with one of its submarine chasers dropping out at Adak for repairs, and the third, made up of three minesweepers and seven submarine chasers, left on 7 June 1945. [10] However, poor repair work and supply problems in Seattle plagued the submarine chaser program, and Maxwell was forced to arrange for submarine chasers assigned to duty in the U.S. Navy's 13th Naval District to substitute for some of those originally scheduled for transfer in order to meet a deadline of having all ships transferred by 1 October 1945. [16]

Training 100 Soviet officers and 800 enlisted men for the transfer of 30 large infantry landing craft (LCI(L)) in two training cycles began on 7 May 1945 and proved to be the most successful of the Project Hula training programs. The first cycle lasted 15 days, and experience gained in it allowed the second cycle to be cut to nine days. The fourth convoy to depart Cold Bay – consisting of four LCI(L)s, two minesweepers, and six submarine chasers – which left on 11 June 1945, was the first to include LCI(L)s, and all Soviet LCI(L) crews departed for the Soviet Union aboard their ships before the end of July 1945. [26]

The 30 Tacoma-class patrol frigates were the largest, most heavily armed, and most expensive ships scheduled for transfer in Project Hula. The first 572 officers and men of the Soviet Navy's 10th Frigate Division arrived at Cold Bay on 12 June 1945 aboard the Soviet steamer Felix Dzerzhinski and began training to take over the patrol frigates on 14 June, the same day that the first nine patrol frigates – USS Charlottesville (PF-25), USS Long Beach (PF-34), USS Belfast (PF-35), USS Glendale (PF-36), USS San Pedro (PF-37), USS Coronado (PF-38), USS Allentown (PF-52), USS Machias (PF-53), and USS Sandusky (PF-54) – arrived at Cold Bay. Another 570 personnel of the 10th Frigate Division arrived on 15 June 1945 aboard the Soviet steamer Chaikovskii. The first nine patrol frigates to arrive plus USS Ogden (PF-39), which arrived at Cold Bay on 27 June 1945, [27] made up the first group of 10 frigates transferred to the Soviets on 12 July 1945; they departed Cold Bay in convoy on 15 July 1945. [28]

The four floating workshops (YR) slated for transfer all were taken under tow by Soviet merchant ships calling at Cold Bay on their way from the U.S. West Coast to the Soviet Far East during the summer of 1945. [16]

Relations between Soviet and American personnel at Cold Bay remained amicable and cooperative throughout the life of the project. The best-performing Soviet trainees were retained at Cold Bay to serve alongside the American instructors in training other Soviet personnel who arrived later. By 31 July 1945, Project Hula had transferred 100 of the planned 180 vessels to the Soviet Union. [29]

Soviet Union declares war

As Stalin had promised, the Soviet Union declared war against Japan on 8 August 1945, exactly three months after the capitulation of Germany, and began an offensive against Japanese forces in Northeast Asia the next day. Although an armistice halted combat between the other Allies and Japan on 15 August 1945 (14 August on the other side of the International Date Line in Cold Bay) and Japan formally surrendered to the Allies aboard the battleship USS Missouri (BB-63) in Tokyo Bay on 2 September 1945, Soviet offensive operations continued until 5 September 1945, by which time Soviet forces had overrun the Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo in Manchuria, the Japanese province of Karafuto on the southern half of Sakhalin Island, and the Kuril Islands and the northern half of Korea, both of which had been Japanese possessions. Despite the Soviet Union's now-overt participation in the war, Project Hula remained secret and subject to strict censorship. [30]

The Soviet entry into the war seemed if anything to make Soviet-American cooperation at Cold Bay even better than before, and Maxwell and Popov worked to accelerate training and transfers to get ships into Soviet hands as quickly as possible in support of the Soviet offensive. Previously trained Soviet personnel returned to Cold Bay to serve as nucleus crews for newly transferred ships, and the training of their fellow crewmen was cut to the minimum necessary for the Soviet crews to take their vessels home. On 25 August 1945, Navy Detachment 3294 completed the final cycle of classroom training for Soviet personnel. [29]

At Cold Bay on the day of Japan's surrender, 2 September 1945, the Soviet Navy took control of the patrol frigates USS Bayonne (PF-21) and USS Poughkeepsie (PF-26). On 4 September 1945, the last four ships to be transferred in Project Hula – the patrol frigates USS Gloucester (PF-22), USS Newport (PF-27), USS Bath (PF-55), and USS Evansville (PF-70) – were commissioned into the Soviet Navy at Cold Bay. [31]

Project Hula concludes

On 5 September 1945, a few hours after Soviet forces completed their occupation of the Kuril Islands, Maxwell received orders to cease transfers of ships other than those for which Soviet crews already were in training; this cancelled the transfer of two patrol frigates, five auxiliary motor minesweepers, and 24 submarine chasers. The stop-transfer order caught some of the ships scheduled for transfer, including the patrol frigates USS Annapolis (PF-15) and USS Bangor (PF-16), while they were at sea bound from the U.S. West Coast to Cold Bay. The other ships turned back, but Annapolis and Bangor pressed on to Cold Bay, took aboard American personnel requiring transportation to the continental United States, and steamed back to Seattle. [32]

At Cold Bay, Soviet and American personnel set about the business of shutting down Project Hula. The last four patrol frigates transferred remained at Cold Bay for additional training and shakedown before departing for the Soviet Union in the final Project Hula convoy on 17 September 1945. The remaining personnel of the Soviet Navy's 5th Independent Detachment – Popov, his staff, and the partially trained crews of the 31 ships no longer scheduled for transfer – departed Cold Bay for the Soviet Union aboard the Soviet steamer Carl Schurz on 27 September 1945. Maxwell decommissioned the base at Cold Bay on 30 September 1945. [33]

Training and transfer results

Project Hula was "the largest and most ambitious transfer program of World War II." [34] During the 142 days between the commencement of training activities at Cold Bay on 16 April 1945 and the transfer of the last four ships there on 4 September 1945, U.S. Navy Detachment 3294 trained some 12,000 Soviet Navy personnel – about 750 officers and 11,250 enlisted men – and transferred 149 ships and craft – 28 patrol frigates (PF), 24 minesweepers (AM), 30 large infantry landing craft (LCI(L)), 31 auxiliary motor minesweepers (YMS), 32 submarine chasers (SC), and four floating workshops (YR) – at Cold Bay. [35]

In Soviet service, the patrol frigates were redesignated storozhevoi korabl ("escort vessel") and received the designation "EK"; minesweepers and auxiliary motor minesweepers were redesignated tralshik ("minesweeper") and received the designation "T"; large infantry landing craft were redesignated desantiye suda ("landing ship") and received the designation "DS"; and submarine chasers were redesignated bolshiye okhotniki za podvodnimi lodkami ("large submarine hunter"), and received the designation "BO". None of the ships received names in Soviet service. [16]

Popov reported to Maxwell at Cold Bay in late August 1945 that LCI(L)s transferred under Project Hula played an important role in the Soviet assault on the Kuril Islands just ten days after arriving at Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, and that other Project Hula ships had taken part in Soviet operations against the Japanese in northern Korea and on southern Sakhalin Island. He did not mention losses. [31] Five ships transferred in Project Hula, all former LCI(L)s – DS-1 (ex-USS LCI(L)-672), DS-5 (ex-USS LCI(L)-525), DS-9 (ex-USS LCI(L)-554), DS-43 (ex-USS LCI(L)-943), and DS-47 (ex-USS LCI(L)-671) – were lost in combat during the operations, [36] all of them sunk by Japanese coastal artillery on 18 August 1945 during the Soviet landings on Shumshu. [37]

The transfer dates for ships under Project Hula follow. The U.S. Navy decommissioned each ship on the day of transfer and the Soviet Navy simultaneously commissioned it. Each ship is identified by its U.S. Navy name and designation, followed by its Soviet Navy designation. [note 1] Not included are the four floating workshops (YRs), which were transferred to the Soviet Union in the summer of 1945. [16]

17 May 1945
21 May 1945
22 May 1945
26 May 1945
5 June 1945
6 June 1945
10 June 1945
14 June 1945
12 July 1945
19 July 1945
29 July 1945
2 August
16 August 1945
17 August 1945
26 August 1945
27 August 1945
2 September 1945
3 September 1945
4 September 1945

Aftermath

Under U.S. law, all ships transferred to foreign countries under Lend-Lease had to be returned to U.S. custody after the conclusion of World War II, and in February 1946, the United States began negotiations with the Soviet Union for the return of transferred ships. However, relations between the Soviet Union and the Western Allies deteriorated rapidly after the end of World War II as the Cold War began, hindering the return of ships. [38]

Subtracting the five former LCI(L)s lost in combat and an auxiliary motor minesweeper that sank in 1945, 143 Project Hula ships were subject to return to the United States. On 7 March 1947, United States Secretary of the Navy James V. Forrestal presented the United States Department of State with a list of 480 warships that the United States Department of the Navy wanted the Soviet Union to return, including all 28 patrol frigates transferred under Project Hula. In 1948, the Soviet Union finally agreed to return the patrol frigates, and it handed over 27 of them in October and November 1949; the 28th, EK-3, ex-USS Belfast (PF-35), had been driven aground and nearly sunk in a storm off Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky on 17 November 1948, was beyond economical repair, and was never returned, instead being scrapped in the Soviet Union in 1960. Negotiations over the Department of the Navy's other major focus, the 25 surviving former LCI(L)s, dragged on longer, but in the end the Soviets returned 15 of them to the United States in 1955. [39] By 1957, the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence reported that of the 149 Project Hula ships, only 18 of those still in Soviet custody – nine minesweepers (AM), five submarine chasers (SC), and the four floating workshops (YR) – remained serviceable. [40]

The U.S. Navy actually did not want to take delivery of many of the Lend-Lease ships because they were no longer useful and would be expensive to take custody of and dispose of; as a result some ships underwent a merely administrative transfer to U.S. custody to meet the letter of the law and then were sold for scrap in the Soviet Union or destroyed in Soviet waters under the direct observation of American naval authorities. The Soviet Union transferred two auxiliary motor minesweepers to the People's Republic of China, but all of the other 97 Project Hula ships remaining in Soviet hands after the return of the 15 LCI(L)s in 1955 were either sold for scrap in the Soviet Union (81 ships) or (in the case of the other 16 ships) destroyed off its coast, presumably off Nakhodka. [41]

Soviet lack of adequate naval capability

Many people believed that Project Hula would have given the Soviet Union the ability to invade the Japanese home islands. However, many historians agreed it was still not enough for the Soviets to pose a serious threat to Tokyo. As of 20 December 1945, 3,741 American lend-lease ships were given to the Soviets, 36 of which were capable of mounting an invasion of Japan. This was clearly not enough to pose a large threat to Japanese forces in the mainland. [42] Given how the Soviets conducted in their invasions of southern Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands with limited U.S. Navy ships and landing craft, it was likely that Soviets would not have succeeded in taking entire Japanese-occupied territories, including Hokkaido.

For example, the Soviets in their invasion of southern Sakhalin on August 11 outnumbered the Japanese by a factor of three but they were unable to advance due to strong Japanese resistance. The Soviet invasion of the Kuril Islands took place after Japan's capitulation on August 15, and despite this, the Japanese forces in these islands resisted quite fiercely (although some of them were unwilling to fight due to Japan's surrender on August 15). In the Battle of Shumshu, the Soviets had 8,821 troops unsupported by tanks and without larger warships. The well-established Japanese garrison had 8,500 troops and fielded around 77 tanks. The Battle of Shumshu lasted for five days in which the Soviets lost over 516 troops and five of the sixteen landing ships (most of these ships were ex-U.S. Navy) to Japanese coastal artillery while the Japanese lost over 256 troops. At the end, Soviet casualties totaled up to 1,567 while the Japanese suffered 1,018 casualties, making it the only battle in the 1945 Soviet–Japanese War where Russian losses exceeded the Japanese. If the war had actually gone on, the death toll among the Soviets in their invasion of the Kuril Islands would have been far higher and the logistics supply would be severely strained due to lack of Soviet capability to supply its forces and equipment overseas. At the time of Japan's surrender, an estimated 50,000 Japanese soldiers were stationed in Hokkaido [43] [44] [45] [46]

During World War II, the Japanese had a naval base at Paramushiro in the Kuril Islands and several bases in Hokkaido. The Sea of Japan was patrolled by the Imperial Japanese Navy day and night. If there was any Soviet Navy presence on those waters, the Japanese would have been aware of it. Since Japan and the Soviet Union were neutral up until the Soviets' declaration of war on Japan in August 1945, the Port of Vladivostok and other seaports in the Soviet Union were constantly watched by Japanese observers based in their own held territories in Manchuria, Korea, Sakhalin, and the Kuril Islands. [47]

The Yalta Conference gave the Soviet Union the right to invade the southern Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands, but not the Japanese home islands. According to Thomas B. Allen and Norman Polmar, detailed Soviet plans for the Far East invasions had been carefully drawn up, except that the landing for Hokkaido "existed in detail" only in Stalin's mind and that it was "unlikely that Stalin had interests in taking Manchuria and even taking on Hokkaido. Even if he wanted to grab as much territory in Asia as possible, he was too much focused on establishing a blockhead in Europe compared to Asia." [48] Two days before Japan's surrender on August 15, 1945, Commissar Nikita Khrushchev and Marshal Meretskov suggested that they should invade Hokkaido, but majority of Soviet diplomats and officers, including Vyacheslav Molotov and Georgy Zhukov opposed it on the grounds that they still didn't have enough landing craft and equipment needed for the invasion; thus, if they tried anyway, it would dangerously expose their troops to a fierce Japanese defense, and that it would violate the Yalta agreement with the Western Allies, which forbade the Soviets from invading the Japanese home islands. [49]

On September 11, 1947, a memo was written by American leaders[ who? ] concerning American troop withdrawal from their occupation of Japan:

Japan is not likely to present a threat to the security of the United States at any time in the foreseeable future. United States security measures in the Far East are, therefore, designed to primarily to safeguard, without the means available, against Russian armed aggression in the Orient. With respect to Japan, present estimates of Soviet capabilities recognize Russia's lack of adequate naval forces to carry out an amphibious assault on the Japanese Islands...Inasmuch as current United States air and land forces in Japan are considered adequate to disrupt the continued support of such an invasion after the initial surprise assaults, Soviet success would be extremely limited. [50]

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References

Notes

  1. All information from Russell, 1997 & pp. 34, 35, 39–40. Russell's table on page 39 places the final transfer date of patrol frigates on 9 September 1945, but this contradicts the text on pages 34–35 placing it on 4 September 1945 and stating that transfers were ordered to halt as of 5 September 1945.

Citations

  1. Russell 1997, pp. 3–4.
  2. Jacobs 2008, p. 15.
  3. Russell 1997, pp. 4-8.
  4. 1 2 Russell 1997, p. 8.
  5. Russell 1997, p. 9.
  6. Russell 1997, pp. 9-10.
  7. 1 2 Russell 1997, p. 10.
  8. Russell 1997, pp. 21, 38, 39.
  9. Russell 1997, p. 39.
  10. 1 2 3 Russell 1997, p. 20.
  11. Russell 1997, pp. 21, 39.
  12. Russell 1997, p. 26.
  13. Russell 1997, p. 29.
  14. Russell 1997, p. 19.
  15. Russell 1997, pp. 28, 40.
  16. 1 2 3 4 5 Russell 1997, p. 28.
  17. 1 2 Russell 1997, p. 24.
  18. Russell 1997, pp. 10–11.
  19. Russell 1997, pp. 12, 20–21.
  20. Russell 1997, p. 12.
  21. Russell 1997, pp. 12–13.
  22. Russell 1997, pp. 13, 16.
  23. 1 2 Russell 1997, p. 16.
  24. Russell 1997, p. 17.
  25. Russell 1997, p. 18.
  26. Russell 1997, pp. 19–21.
  27. Ogden I.
  28. Russell 1997, pp. 21, 24, 28, 39.
  29. 1 2 Russell 1997, pp. 18, 28.
  30. Russell 1997, pp. 29, 32–33.
  31. 1 2 Russell 1997, p. 34.
  32. Russell 1997, pp. 34–35.
  33. Russell 1997, p. 35.
  34. Russell 1997, p. 1.
  35. Russell 1997, pp. 1, 33, 35, 39–40.
  36. Russell 1997, pp. 39–40.
  37. Russell 1997, pp. 30–31, 39–40.
  38. Russell 1997, p. 37.
  39. Russell 1997, pp. 38–40.
  40. Russell 1997, p. 38.
  41. Russell 1997, pp. 38, 40.
  42. Russell 1997, p. 77.
  43. Frank, pp. 324-325.
  44. Frank, pp. 223-224.
  45. Glantz, p. [ page needed ].
  46. Jane's Fighting Ships, pp. 180-185.
  47. Allen 1995, pp. 115–120.
  48. Allen, 1995 & pp168-175.
  49. Russell 1997, p. 32.
  50. Eldridge 2001, p. 159.

Bibliography