RUSSIA - POLTAVA - AND FRANTIC
During World War II the United States was provided three
temporary air bases in the Soviet Union. The largest of
these was Poltava and was headquarters for the Eastern
Flying Command. The purpose of these bases was to serve
aircraft of the England based 8th Air Force and the Italian
based 15th Air Force when they flew missions deep into
Germany and German occupied territory. The concept was
designed to provide a place for bombers and fighters to
land, refuel and rearm their aircraft in order for them to fly
another mission while returning to their home bases; thus
these missions became known as shuttle missions.
The negotiations to obtain the three air bases is a story of
American effort to initiate collaboration with the Russian
leadership and is fraught with frustration, where yes meant
maybe and maybe meant nyet, Russian for no. To Stalin
every deal with the Aliies was on a tit for tat basis. The
Russians couldn’t understand giving without taking. Having
granted the Americans air bases in Russia, Stalin demanded
an air base in Italy so the Russians could fly to and from
their mission to Tito in Yugoslavia. The request was
granted but it touched off a problem of establishing a
“bomb-line” dividing the Red Air Force and the
Mediterranean Army Air Force’s spheres of activity in the
Balkans and eventually in Poland.
Three small cities in the Ukraine were chosen for the Allied
bases, Poltava,, Mirgorod and Pyratin, all three of which
were woefully inadequate. None of the runways were
oriented toward the prevailing wind...
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