January 18, 2024

1943. "Moscow's Mood"

Moscow Watches the Allied Victories in North Africa
"A Churchill tank and other vehicles parade through Tunis, 8 May 1943" (source)

From Newsweek, May 3, 1943, pp. 24-25:

Moscow's Mood

Hardy Moscow families had their first taste of American ham last week. In stores throughout the city, eager housewives lined up to buy their 2-pound share of the rare luxury. In the evening, movie-goers saw the arrival of other Lend-Lease supplies in the Russian picture "Iran," which shows American supplies being delivered in Iranian ports for transshipment to Russia. Other crowds, in six of Moscow's largest movie theaters, watched the Eighth Army in "Desert Victory."

All this added up to about the friendliest atmosphere toward the Allies since the start of the war. Newsweek's Moscow correspondent Bill Downs cabled a description of this new mood:

"Mounting enthusiasm has followed every step Rommel's forces have taken backward toward the sea. Russia's stolid citizens did not exactly dance in the streets, but they have other ways of showing their gratitude. British and American correspondents here all speak of greater cordiality shown by their friends. My personal experience, for example, is that the harried and overworked officials of Radio Moscow, who are usually as pokerfaced and uncommunicative as they are efficient, now sometimes smile and comment: 'Things going nicely in North Africa, aren't they?'

"Other friends who always could be expected sooner or later to make some cracks about the lack of a second front now discuss the Tunisian operations instead. People even know details of the campaign. Since Montgomery broke through the Mareth Line, the back pages of Red Star, Pravda, Izvestia, and other papers, where foreign news is usually printed, have been devoted almost completely to North Africa.

"Military analysts of leading newspapers gave detailed explanations of each stage of the Tunisian battle, fully picturing its difficulties. They all took pains to praise the British Eighth Army—which received ten times more attention than the United States forces in North Africa.

"Seventy-thousand Russian soldiers and civilians saw 'Desert Victory' in the first two days of its showing in Moscow. They came away mightily impressed with the toughness, equipment, and spirit of the Eighth Army. It is noteworthy that entire units of the Red Army marched to the theaters where seats had been reserved for them. A film like 'Desert Victory' is bound to have a beneficial effect on Russia's relations with her Allies. All Americans in Moscow hope the United States can and will send something similar to Russia.

"There was a nationwide surge of optimism and admiration here when the doughboys landed in North Africa—but it gradually waned when the Anglo-American march to the east bogged down and the Eighth Army was held up at the border of Tripolitania. The ballyhoo with which the landings and the Eighth Army drive were heralded abroad was reflected in the Russian press and naturally led the Russians to believe that the Allies would stop at nothing short of a second front. They overrode this disappointment just as they overrode other second-front disappointments, but the bitterness increased.

"However, it is believed that the Allied armies now have the situation in hand and people are looking forward to what military experts tell them will be 'further developments in the military plans of the Anglo-American forces in North Africa'— which to the Russians is a hopefully polite way of saying that the next Anglo-American move to be expected will be the second front."