During World War II, the Lend-Lease program became a critical element in the Allied war effort, facilitating the transfer of military aid from the United States to its allies. Among the myriad of items supplied, an often-overlooked aspect was the lend-lease of watches from the USA to the USSR. These timepieces, small yet significant, played a unique role in the broader narrative of the war. This article delves into the intertwining histories of the USA and USSR in the conflict, the strategic essence of the American Lend-Lease, and specifically, the vital role and models of watches supplied to the Soviet Union.

Rare vintage WW2 watch Elgin, USA Army watchthe inside of the watch
Watch Elgin with engraving "Героическому народу СССР рошен УОР релиф США" (To the Heroic People of the USSR rosen UOR relief of the USA)

The USA and USSR in World War II

The USA's Entry and Role

The United States entered World War II after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. This turning point led to the USA's full engagement in both European and Pacific theaters. American involvement was marked by significant military contributions and industrial support, bolstering the Allies against the Axis powers. The U.S. mobilized millions of troops and became the 'Arsenal of Democracy,' supplying vast quantities of war materiel to Allied nations.

The USSR's War Effort

The Soviet Union, meanwhile, had been engaged in brutal conflict since Nazi Germany's invasion in June 1941. The USSR bore a heavy burden in the war, suffering immense casualties and destruction. The Eastern Front was the largest and among the deadliest theaters of war, with the Soviet Army playing a pivotal role in some of the most decisive battles against Nazi forces, such as Stalingrad and Kursk.

The American Lend-Lease Act: Overview

Origins and Objectives of Lend-Lease

The Lend-Lease Act, officially enacted in March 1941, was a pivotal program that allowed the United States to supply military aid to foreign nations during World War II. Initially designed to support Great Britain, the scope rapidly expanded to include other Allied nations. This act represented a significant shift in U.S. foreign policy from neutrality to active support for the Allies, albeit without direct combat involvement initially.

Lend-Lease as a Strategic Tool

The strategic utility of Lend-Lease cannot be overstated. By providing resources and equipment to Allies, the United States played a crucial role in sustaining the war effort against the Axis powers. This aid included a wide range of materials – from weapons and ammunition to food and medical supplies. It was a demonstration of logistical and economic strength, significantly bolstering the capabilities of recipient nations, including the USSR.

The Role of Watches in Wartime

Importance of Timekeeping in Military Operations

In the realm of military operations, the importance of precise timekeeping is paramount. Watches were essential for coordinating movements, timing attacks, and navigating. The reliability and precision of timepieces were crucial in the fog of war, where every second could mean the difference between success and failure. This was especially true in operations involving multiple units or branches of the military where synchronization was key.

 american watch

Watches as a Part of Lend-Lease Aid

Within the vast array of equipment and supplies sent to the USSR under the Lend-Lease program, watches represented a unique and vital category. These timepieces were not mere accessories but integral tools for military personnel. Their distribution to Soviet forces underscored the attention to detail in the Lend-Lease aid, recognizing the specific needs of the Soviet military.

American Watches in the USSR

Models and Quantities Supplied

The United States supplied various models of watches to the USSR, including rugged, durable pieces designed to withstand the harsh conditions of war. Brands like Hamilton and Elgin were among those sent, known for their precision and reliability. These watches varied in design, from wristwatches for infantrymen to larger, more complex pieces for naval and aviation use. The exact quantities and types of watches provided reflected both the manufacturing capabilities of the U.S. and the strategic requirements of the Soviet military.

Impact on the Soviet War Effort

The impact of these American-supplied watches on the Soviet war effort was significant. They enhanced operational efficiency and coordination among Soviet troops, contributing to the broader success of military campaigns. This seemingly small component of Lend-Lease aid exemplified the broader collaboration between the USA and USSR, two unlikely allies united against a common enemy.

"If Hitler invaded Hell, I would make at least a favorable reference to the Devil in the House of Commons".

- Winston Churchill

A banner that captures the theme of the Lend-Lease program during World War II, focusing on the specific aspect of watches being supplied from

The lend-lease of watches from the USA to the USSR during World War II is a fascinating story of wartime collaboration and logistical support. It highlights the strategic nuances of the Lend-Lease program and underscores the importance of even the smallest items in the grand tapestry of war. These timepieces not only kept time but also symbolized the unity and shared effort of the Allies in their quest for victory.

December 06, 2023 — Vlad Fokin