Canadian military history professor Alexander Hill, writing in the Moscow Times:
Many Russians are understandably proud of the Soviet victory in the Great Patriotic War — the Soviet term for their war against Nazi Germany fr om June 22, 1941 to May 9, 1945. Few historians in the East or West would disagree that the bulk of the German army was destroyed on the Eastern Front during World War II. The eastward advance of the German army and its allies was halted initially at Moscow in December 1941, then again at Stalingrad in November 1942, almost two years before the Americans had committed significant ground forces against Germany.
The surrender of German and Romanian forces at Stalingrad in February 1943 marked the destruction of a force of more than 250,000 men, of whom more than 91,000 surrendered to the Red Army. By the time of the D-Day landings in Normandy on June 6, 1944, the Red Army was advancing rapidly westward through Ukraine and Belarus, recapturing Minsk in July 1944 and reaching the gates of Warsaw by August. Berlin finally fell to the Red Army on May 2, 1945, with German capitulation following shortly afterward — technically on May 8 according to the Western Allies, or May 9 for the Soviets, although sporadic fighting continued for a day or two afterward.
These victories were achieved at horrendous cost — more than 8.5 million Soviet soldiers were either killed, died later of wounds or did not return from German captivity. Up to 27 million Soviet citizens died as a result of the war.
World War II was not, however, just a war between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany, and the victory in May 1945 was not just a Soviet victory but a victory for the Allied alliance as well. From June 1940 to June 1941, Britain and the Commonwealth fought alone against Nazi Germany, even while material assistance increased from the United States as 1941 progressed.
Months before the United States joined the war against Nazi Germany in December 1941, it was supplying increasing quantities of weapons and war materials to Britain without charge under the provisions of the Lend-Lease Act of March 1941 — assistance that was extended to the Soviet Union in November 1941. Little U.S. aid reached the Soviet Union before the end of 1941, but the lim ited war materials supplied by Britain in late 1941 and early 1942 reached the Soviet Union at a critical time before the Soviets were able to make up for horrendous losses during the summer and fall of 1941. British-supplied tanks were used by the Red Army in battle as early as November 1941.
By the summer of 1943, even if the Western Allies hadn’t yet launched a second front against mainland Europe, they were still making an increasingly significant contribution to the defeat of Nazi Germany. By this point, U.S. aid was flowing in to the Soviet Union through the Persian Gulf. Dodge and GMC trucks, along with Spam and powdered eggs, were making a major contribution to keeping the Soviet advance moving.
More significant, increasing numbers of German aircraft were being drawn from the Eastern Front, not only by Western Allied air operations in the Mediterranean but also by the Western Allied bomber offensive against Germany that was picking up steam during 1943. The Battle for the Atlantic was also a big drain on German industrial resources, and in May 1943 the Western Allies seemed to be making headway against the U-boat menace. Even the official Khrushchev-era Soviet history of the Great Patriotic War suggests that by July 1943, up to one-third of German divisions were either fighting or preparing to fight Western Allied attacks, and by June 1944 this figure jumped to 40 percent.
Although the Western Allies and the Soviet Union were united in fighting a common foe, there was little contact between the Eastern and Western Allies at a grass roots level for most of the war, except for meetings among politicians, diplomats and generals. The Soviet Union and the Western Allies were joined in a union that required them to ignore or at least play down differences, but it was, of course, a marriage of convenience. Stalin’s deep suspicion of foreigners meant that there were few Allied personnel in the Soviet Union during the war.
It was only on April 26, 1945 — two weeks before the fall of Berlin — that American and Soviet forces advancing from East and West linked up on the Elbe River as the tightening noose strangled the Nazi regime. But fraternization between the troops was not encouraged by Red Army political officers. Stalin feared that Western influence would undermine the Soviet system. The joint Allied victory parade in Berlin on Sept. 7, 1945, did not become an annual event.