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