On August 27, 2006, the official opening of the WW2 Lend-Lease Monument took place in Fairbanks, Alaska.
During the years 1942 – 1945, Fairbanks was the point of transfer of 7926 airplanes from US factories to the Soviet Union. American pilots brought airplanes from Great Falls, Montan to Fairbanks, Alaska, where Soviet representatives accepted and ferried them along the Soviet leg of the route to Krasnoyarsk and then to the battle fronts.
To commemorate the spirit of friendship and cooperation of the allies during WWII, a decision was made in 2001 to erect a monument.
The Juneau-based Alaska-Siberia Research Center (Chairman Alexander Dolitsky, Director William Ruddy) coordinated and managed the project, and renowned sculptor Richard T. Wallen designed and created this masterpiece. The project was funded by the Alaska State Legislature and the US Congress.
The formal dedication of the monument was scheduled for August 27th, but celebrations began on the 25th with the arrival of guests and welcome receptions. These were followed the next day with an official reception and awards ceremony. The downtown gallery room was filled with distinguished guests from Russia, Canada, Great Britain, France, and the United States. The guest list included Russian Ambassador Yuri Ushakov; Consul General Vladimir Volnov; several Consuls from Russian Federation; Military Attachй Rear Admiral Alexander Agapov; delegation from ALSIB Center of Russian Federation (representing Russian veterans organizations) headed by Svetlana Sologub and Colonel-General, Hero of the Soviet Union Nikolai Antoshkin; Consul General of France Frederick Desagneaux; Deputy NORAD commander Lieutenant-General Eric Findley of Canada; Minister of State for Intergovernmental Relations of British Columbia, Canada, Honorable John van Dongen; former Alaskan Senator John Binkley; Lieutenant-Governor of Alaska Loren Leman; Alaskan Representatives Jim Holm and Mike Kelly, and other distinguished guests. US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld also paid a visit.
The Russian American Colony Singers, a choral group from Anchorage (www.racs.us) gave a wonderful performance and welcomed participants in the traditional Russian way with a piece of bread and a pinch of salt.
The awards ceremony followed. Prestigious awards were presented to veterans Lt. Colonel James Miller, former chief test pilot of Great Falls air base; Capt. Jess Hall, veteran ferry and rescue pilot; Blake Smith and Everett Long, researchers and authors of several books on ALSIB and Lend-Lease; sculptor Richard T. Wallen as well as to a number of other individuals who contributed to the project in different ways.
On a beautiful Sunday afternoon, August 27th, the newly-developed park surrounding the monument was filled with WWII veterans, invited guests, and the general public. People chatted with each other, took pictures and made introductions. Everybody was excited by the significance of this event. Following the arrival of US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Russian Federation Minister of Defense, First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov, and other officials, the ceremony began.
Honor Guards held flags of Alaska, Canada, France, Great Britain, Russia, and the United States while the Air Force band opened the ceremony and performed state anthems. The flags of Alaska, Russia, and the United States were raised behind the monument.
Speeches were given by Former Alaskan Senator John Binkley, Alaska-Siberian Research Center Chairman Alexander Dolitsky, Lieutenant-Governor of Alaska Loren Leman, Governor of Alaska Frank Murkovski, Alaskan Senator Gary Wilken, US Senator Ted Stevens, Canadian General Eric Findley, United Kingdom Consul General Peter Broom, Consul General of France Frederick Desagneaux, Russian Minister of Defense Sergei Ivanov, and US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
Their remarks were dedicated to the heroism of WWII pilots who flew dangerous missions over the long route in adverse conditions; to the spirit of Allied cooperation during the war, and to the necessity to continue such a spirit today.
Ribbon-cutting brought a wave of applause from the guests and the monument was officially opened.
Participants and veterans alike were very touched and congratulated each other and the sculptor Richard T. Wallen for his outstanding work.
The monument will be a constant reminder of what can be achieved for a noble goal of victory when allies stand together.
It is the hope of many people that similar monuments will be erected at other points on the route, especially in Russia.
Photographs by Ilya Grinberg and Richard Wallen ©