Chesterton Tribune



Reader column: South Bend's Studebaker trucks contribution to victory over the Nazis remembered

Back To Front Page


The following appeared as a letter to the editor in the printed Chesterton Tribune:

Just to change the subject matter for a day, I’d like to trace the history of a very critical and regionally manufactured vehicle from 75 years ago. I drive through South Bend often, and each time my vehicle seems to steer me past the old Studebaker plant buildings that still stand. In several of them, 200,000 of the most famous military trucks of all time were built between 1941 and 1945 - the Studebaker 2 & 1/2 ton tandem axle US6 cargo trucks. This was the workhorse for building the Alaskan highway in 1942, the Burma Road, and 150,000 served as the backbone of the Soviet military, munitions, and supply movements, from 1942 to 1945.

A well written article by Clell Ballard in this month’s “Turning Wheels” Studebaker magazine reminded me of this almost forgotten legacy for residents of this region, especially our children. He explains how the U.S. government “held its nose” and established the Lend Lease Act to provide almost 12 billion dollars to the Communists (our untrusted “ally") to help save American lives in this war to the death against the Nazis..

The six wheel drive Studebaker US6 was not only requested, but demanded, by Stalin (the butcher), to make his army mobile. This six wheel drive beast was superior to most other transport vehicles, and was one of the few models able to run on the low octane Russian gas (unlike the “Big Three", Studebaker was smart enough to use only big, lower compression 6 Cyl. JXD Hercules engines). The US6 could haul at least 8 to 10 tons through deep mud, streams, rough terrain, and blizzards.

The important fact is that the Eastern front did not start to turn for the Russians against the Nazis until these trucks arrived, especially at Stalingrad. Many US6’s were converted by the Russians as Katyusha mobile rocket launcher platforms.

To quote Ballard, who spent 10 years in research: “Historians agree that if the Red Army had not had huge fleets of Studebakers,. . .the Russians would have been thousands of miles away when Allied troops were on the doorstep of Berlin. . .the US6s were at least partially responsible for every military success on the Eastern front. . .the name “Studer” was synonymous for the word “truck” in Russia for decades. . .”

I would wish that some local students would pick this subject for a term paper or speech in high school or college, and help preserve the history of the great northern Indiana Studebaker legacy.

John J. Gregurich



Posted 9/8/2015




Search This Site:

Custom Search