|Arctic convoys of World War II|
|Part of World War II|
View from the cruiser HMS Sheffield as she sails on convoy duty through the waters of the Arctic Ocean. In the background are merchant ships of the convoy.
|Date||August 1941 – May 1945|
|Location||Norwegian Sea and Arctic Ocean|
| United Kingdom |
|Casualties and losses|
|85 merchant vessels |
Arctic convoys of World War II
The second series of convoys, JW (outbound) and RA (homebound) ran from December 1942 until the end of the war, though with two major interruptions in the summer of 1943 and again in the summer of 1944.
Several convoys are particularly notable:
- The "Dervish" convoy assembled at Hvalfjörður and sailed on 21 August 1941. It arrived at its destination, Archangel, ten days later. The convoy was relatively small and consisted of only six merchant ships: Lancastrian Prince, New Westminster City, Esneh, Trehata, the elderly Llanstephan Castle, the fleet oiler Aldersdale and the Dutch freighter Alchiba. The Commodore was Captain JCK Dowding RNR. The escorts comprised the ocean minesweepers HMS Halcyon, Salamander and Harrier, the destroyers HMS Electra, Active and Impulsive and the anti-submarine trawlers HMS Hamlet, Macbeth and Ophelia. As evidence of Churchill's astute mastery of propaganda, on board Llanstephan Castle were two journalists and the artist, Felix Topolski.
- On 30 May 1942, the surviving ships of Convoy PQ 16 arrived, most ships to Murmansk and 8 ships to Archangel; the convoy was such a success in terms of the war stores delivered that the Germans made greater efforts to disrupt the following convoys. The crane ships from PQ16 including SS Empire Elgar stayed at Archangel and Molotovsk (now Severodvinsk) unloading convoys for over 14 months.
- In July 1942, convoy PQ 17 suffered the worst losses of any convoy in the Second World War. Under attack from German aircraft and U-boats, the convoy was ordered to scatter, following reports that a battle group, which included the battleship Tirpitz, had sailed to intercept the convoy (although the German group did not leave port until the following day, and was subsequently ordered to return to port). Only 11 of the 35 merchant ships in the convoy succeeded in running the gauntlet of U-boats and German bombers. This convoy is said[by whom?] to have inspired author Alistair MacLean to write his first novel HMS Ulysses.
- The Battle of the Barents Sea: In December 1942, German surface forces, including the heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper and pocket battleship Lützow sailed to intercept Convoy JW 51B. The German force was driven off by a combined force of destroyers and cruisers.
- In December 1943, Convoy JW 55B was the target of the German battleship Scharnhorst. However two British warship Forces were in the area. In the resulting Battle of the North Cape, Scharnhorst first encountered British cruisers then was sunk by HMS Duke of York and her escorts in a night action before it could return to port. German destroyers missed the convoy which had been diverted north based on intelligence from the Norwegian resistance movement.
List of Arctic convoys
|This article is incomplete. Please help to improve it, or discuss the issue on the talk page. (April 2010)|
|Dervish||departed Hvalfjörður, Iceland, August 21; |
arrived Arkhangelsk, Russia, August 31
|PQ 1||departed Hvalfjörður September 29; |
arrived Arkhangelsk October 11
|QP 1||departed Arkhangelsk September 28;|
arrived Scapa Flow, Scotland, October 10
|PQ 2||departed Liverpool, England, October 13; |
arrived Arkhangelsk October 30
|PQ 3||departed Hvalfjörður November 9; |
arrived Arkhangelsk November 22
|QP 2||departed Arkhangelsk November 3;|
arrived Kirkwall, Scotland, November 17
|PQ 4||departed Hvalfjörður November 17; |
arrived Arkhangelsk November 28
|PQ 5||departed Hvalfjörður November 27; |
arrived Arkhangelsk December 13
|QP 3||departed Arkhangelsk November 27;|
dispersed, arrived December 3
|PQ 6||departed Hvalfjörður December 8; |
arrived Murmansk, Russia, December 20
|PQ 7a||departed Hvalfjörður December 26; |
arrived Murmansk January 12, 1942
|QP 4||departed Arkhangelsk December 29;|
dispersed, arrived January 9
|PQ 7b||departed Hvalfjörður December 31; |
arrived Murmansk January 11
|PQ 8||departed Hvalfjörður January 8; |
arrived Arkhangelsk January 17
|QP 5||departed Murmansk January 13;|
dispersed, arrived January 19
|Combined PQ 9 and PQ 10||departed Reykjavík, Iceland February 1; |
arrived Murmansk February 10
|QP 6||departed Murmansk January 24;|
dispersed, arrived January 28
|PQ 11||departed Loch Ewe, Scotland February 7; |
departed Kirkwall February 14;
arrived Murmansk February 22
|QP 7||departed Murmansk February 12;|
dispersed, arrived February 15
|PQ 12||departed Reykjavík March 1; |
arrived Murmansk March 12
|QP 8||departed Murmansk March 1;|
arrived Reykjavík March 11
|PQ 13||departed Reykjavík March 20; |
arrived Murmansk March 31
|QP 9||departed Kola Inlet, Russia March 21;|
arrived Reykjavík April 3
|PQ 14||departed Oban, Scotland March 26; |
arrived Murmansk April 19
|QP 10||departed Kola Inlet April 10;|
arrived Reykjavík April 21
|PQ 15||departed Oban April 10; |
arrived Murmansk May 5
|QP 11||departed Murmansk April 28;|
arrived Reykjavík May 7
|PQ 16||departed Reykjavík May 21; |
arrived Murmansk May 30
|QP 12||departed Kola Inlet May 21;|
arrived Reykjavík May 29
|PQ 17||departed Reykjavik June 27; |
dispersed, arrived July 4
|QP 13||departed Arkhangelsk June 26;|
arrived Reykjavík July 7
|(August sailing postponed)||(August sailing postponed)|
|PQ 18||departed Loch Ewe September 2; |
arrived Arkhangelsk September 21: first convoy with aircraft carrier escort (HMS Avenger)
|QP 14||departed Arkhangelsk September 13;|
arrived Loch Ewe September 26
|(PQ cycle terminated )||QP 15||departed Kola Inlet November 17;|
arrived Loch Ewe November 30
|Operation FB||sailings by independent unescorted ships||(QP cycle terminated )|
|JW 51A||departed Liverpool December 15; |
arrived Kola Inlet December 25
|JW 51B||departed Liverpool December 22; |
arrived Kola Inlet January 4, 1943;
see Battle of the Barents Sea
|RA 51||departed Kola Inlet December 30;|
arrived Loch Ewe January 11
|JW 52||departed Liverpool January 17; |
arrived Kola Inlet January 27
|RA 52||departed Kola Inlet January 29;|
arrived Loch Ewe February 9
|JW 53||departed Liverpool February 15; |
arrived Kola Inlet February 27
|RA 53||departed Kola Inlet March 1;|
arrived Loch Ewe March 14
|(cycle postponed through summer)||(cycle postponed through summer)|
|JW 54A||departed Liverpool November 15; |
arrived Kola Inlet November 24
|RA 54A||departed Kola Inlet November 1;|
arrived Loch Ewe November 14
|JW 54B||departed Liverpool November 22; |
arrived Arkhangelsk December 3
|RA 54B||departed Arkhangelsk November 26;|
arrived Loch Ewe December 9
|JW 55A||departed Liverpool December 12; |
arrived Arkhangelsk December 22
|RA 55A||departed Kola Inlet December 22;|
arrived Loch Ewe January 1, 1944
|JW 55B||departed Liverpool December 20; |
arrived Archangel December 30;
see Battle of the North Cape
|RA 55B||departed Kola Inlet December 31;|
arrived Loch Ewe January 8
|JW 56A||departed Liverpool January 12; |
arrived Archangel January 28
|JW 56B||departed Liverpool January 22; |
arrived Kola Inlet February 1
|RA 56||departed Kola Inlet February 3;|
arrived Loch Ewe February 11
|JW 57||departed Liverpool February 20; |
arrived Kola Inlet February 28
|RA 57||departed Kola Inlet March 2;|
arrived Loch Ewe March 10
|JW 58||departed Liverpool March 27; |
arrived Kola Inlet April 4
|RA 58||departed Kola Inlet April 7;|
arrived Loch Ewe April 14
|(escorts only to Murmansk)||RA 59||departed Kola Inlet April 28;|
arrived Loch Ewe May 6
|(cycle postponed through summer)||(cycle postponed through summer)|
|JW 59||departed Liverpool August 15; |
arrived Kola Inlet August 25
|RA 59A||departed Kola Inlet August 28;|
arrived Loch Ewe September 5
|JW 60||departed Liverpool September 15; |
arrived Kola Inlet September 23
|RA 60||departed Kola Inlet September 28;|
arrived Loch Ewe October 5
|JW 61||departed Liverpool October 20; |
arrived Kola Inlet October 28
|RA 61||departed Kola Inlet November 2;|
arrived Loch Ewe November 9
|JW 61A||departed Liverpool October 31; |
arrived Murmansk November 6
|RA 61A||departed Kola Inlet November 11;|
arrived Loch Ewe November 17
|JW 62||departed Loch Ewe November 29; |
arrived Kola Inlet December 7
|RA 62||departed Kola Inlet December 10;|
arrived Loch Ewe December 19
|JW 63||departed Loch Ewe December 30; |
arrived Kola Inlet January 8, 1945
|RA 63||departed Kola Inlet January 11;|
arrived Loch Ewe January 21
|JW 64||departed Clyde, Scotland February 3; |
arrived Kola Inlet February 15
|RA 64||departed Kola Inlet February 17;|
arrived Loch Ewe February 28
|JW 65||departed Clyde March 11; |
arrived Kola Inlet March 21
|RA 65||departed Kola Inlet March 23;|
arrived Loch Ewe April 1
|JW 66||departed Clyde April 16; |
arrived Kola Inlet April 25
|RA 66||departed Kola Inlet April 29;|
arrived Clyde May 8
|JW 67||departed Clyde May 12; |
arrived Kola Inlet May 20
|RA 67||departed Kola Inlet May 23;|
arrived Clyde May 30
Purpose and strategic impact
Role of intelligence
Other supply convoys
- Rösselsprung ("Knight's Move")—German naval campaign to sink Arctic convoys
- Operation Wunderland
- List of merchant ships lost in Convoy PQ17
- Arctic Ocean operations of World War II
- Arctic Star
- Don't Play the Fool — Russian comedy, which story is based on life of war veteran, party Arctic convoys.
- Coackley, Robert W. (2000). "Chapter 9: The Persian Corridor as a Route for Aid to the USSR". In Kent Roberts Greenfield. Command Decisions. United States Army Center of Military History. CMH Pub 70-7.
- London Gazette CONVOYS TO NORTH RUSSIA, 1942
- Allies and Lend-Lease Museum, Moscow
- MOD veterans' agency
- German account of Rösselsprung
- Soviet account on the war in Arctic and the convoys (by Admiral Nikolai Gerasimovich Kuznetsov)
- Murmansk Run: Arctic Convoys to Russia (A free print-and-play boardgame.)
- Naval History.net
- The Quiet Courage of Chief Steward Horace Carswell DSM, MM, BEM during Convoy PQ.17[permanent dead link]
- Coxswain Sid Kerslake of armed trawler "Northern Gem" and the Russian Convoys
- Convoy PQ.17, a primary source diary and supporting material by Jack Bowman, ERA aboard HMS La Malouine.
- Lend-Lease, Northern Convoys from the Voice of Russia website
- The Norwegian Merchant Fleet
- Newsreel video of HMS Scylla fighting the Luftwaffe while protecting convoy PQ18
- Royal Canadian Navy in the Second World War
- Thank you, brave comrade
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Etymology and terminology
Ancient Near East
Ancient Hebrew culture
Beginning in the late 1980s, many states in the US increased the penalties for prostitution in cases where the prostitute is knowingly HIV-positive. Penalties for felony prostitution vary, with maximum sentences of typically 10 to 15 years in prison.
Payments and salaries
Roughly speaking, the possible attitudes are:
- "Prostitution should be tolerated by society":
- decriminalization: "prostitution is labor like any other. Sex industry premises should not be subject to any special regulation or laws", the current situation in New Zealand; the laws against operating a brothel, pimping and street prostitution are struck down, but prostitution is hardly regulated at all. Proponents of this view often cite instances of government regulation under legalization that they consider intrusive, demeaning, or violent, but feel that criminalization adversely affects sex workers.
- regulation: prostitution may be considered a legitimate business; prostitution and the employment of prostitutes are legal, but regulated; the current situation in the Netherlands, Germany, most of Australia and parts of Nevada (see Prostitution in Nevada). The degree of regulation varies very much, for example in Netherlands prostitutes are not required to undergo mandatory health checks (see Prostitution in the Netherlands) while in Nevada the regulations are very strict (see Prostitution in Nevada)
- "Prostitution should not be tolerated":
- abolitionism (prostitution itself is not prohibited, but most associated activities are illegal, in an attempt to make it more difficult to engage in prostitution, prostitution is heavily discouraged and seen as a social problem): prostitution (the exchange of sexual services for money) is legal, but the surrounding activities such as public solicitation, operating a brothel and other forms of pimping are prohibited, the current situation in Great Britain, France and Italy among others;
- neo-abolitionism ("prostitution is a form of violence against women, it is a violation of human rights, the clients of the prostitutes exploit the prostitutes"): prostitutes are not prosecuted, but their clients and pimps are, which is the current situation in Sweden, Norway and Iceland (in Norway the law is even more strict, forbidding also having sex with a prostitute abroad).
- prohibitionism (both prostitutes and clients are criminalized and are seen as immoral, they are considered criminals): the prevailing attitude nearly everywhere in the United States, with a few exceptions in some rural Nevada counties (see Prostitution in Nevada)
Other groups, often with religious backgrounds, focus on offering women a way out of the world of prostitution while not taking a position on the legal question.
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- by cards in newsagents' windows
- by cards placed in public telephone enclosures: so-called tart cards
- by euphemistic advertisements in regular magazines and newspapers (for instance, talking of "massages" or "relaxation")
- in specialist contact magazines
- via the Internet
A difficulty facing migrant prostitutes in many developed countries is the illegal residence status of some of these women. They face potential deportation, and so do not have recourse to the law. Hence there are brothels that may not adhere to the usual legal standards intended to safeguard public health and the safety of the workers.
Use of children
In Russia and other countries of the former USSR, prostitution takes the form of an open-air market. One prostitute stands by a roadside, and directs cars to a so-called "tochka" (usually located in alleyways or carparks), where lines of women are paraded for customers in front of their car headlights. The client selects a prostitute, whom he takes away in his car. Prevalent in the late 1990s, this type of service has been steadily declining in recent years.
Escort services may be distinguished from prostitution or other forms of prostitution in that sexual activities are often not explicitly advertised as necessarily included in these services; rather, payment is often noted as being for an escort's time and companionship only, although there is often an implicit assumption that sexual activities are expected.
Typical responses to the problem are:
- banning prostitution completely
- introducing a system of registration for prostitutes that mandates health checks and other public health measures
- educating prostitutes and their clients to encourage the use of barrier contraception and greater interaction with health care
- Drugs and prostitution
- Fallen woman
- International Day of No Prostitution
- International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers
- Mann Act (White-Slave Traffic Act)
- List of prostitutes and courtesans
- Prostitution among animals
- Recreation and Amusement Association
- Gale, Steven H. Sharp Cut: Harold Pinter's Screenplays and the Artistic Process. University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 0-8131-2706-8.
- Knauer, Elfriede (2002). "Portrait of a Lady? Some Reflections on Images of Prostitutes from the Later Fifteenth Century". Memoirs of the American Academy in Rome. University of Michigan Press. 47: 95. doi:10.2307/4238794. JSTOR 4238794.
- Otis, Leah Lydia (1985). Prostitution in Medieval Society: The History of an Urban Institution in Languedoc. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-64033-7.
|Look up prostitute or whore in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
|Look up prostitution in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Prostitution.|
|Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article Prostitution.|
- Database on Prostitution activities around the world.
- Prostitutes' Rights Issues and Organizations Around the World – Prostitutes' Education Network
- Agustín, Laura (26 March 2010). Border Thinking on Migration, Trafficking and Commercial Sex
- Rohrer, Finlo (22 February 2008). The men who sleep with prostitutes, BBC News Magazine.
- Schrager, Allison (10 April 2008). The Economics of High-end Prostitutes, Intelligent Life, (The Economist).
- "More bang for your buck: How new technology is shaking up the oldest business". The Economist. 9 August 2014. Detailed price survey and economic commentary.
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Germany’s ill-fated invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941 gave England an unlikely and problematic ally. Unlikely because Great Britain’s government was ardently anti-Communist, and problematical because of the vast distances involved in supplying aid under the protection of an already hard-pressed Royal Navy.
Political differences aside, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill felt that any nation warring with Germany was already an ally and deserved aid, from Britain as well as the United States. England’s commitments elsewhere around the globe precluded providing manpower or seizing the initiative. For now, the only aid readily available was a constant flow of supplies.
Originally, an informal agreement provided for the delivery of all goods to Soviet ships at British and American ports. The responsibility for ferrying supplies back to the Soviet Union would then rest entirely with the Soviets. But there were not enough ships in the Soviet navy to handle such a monumental task, and eventually the convoys to the Soviet Union came to consist mainly of British and American ships.
Axis domination of the Mediterranean left only two Allied supply routes to the Soviet Union open. One, through Iran, required a sea journey of more than 13,000 miles. The second was a more practical northern route of less than 2,500 miles, but it crossed the cruelest sea of all, the Arctic Ocean. This Arctic route became known as the Murmansk Run.
Sailing around the northern tip of Norway, the convoys would be exposed to one of the largest concentrations of German U-boats, surface raiders and aircraft anywhere in the world. Attacks by more than a dozen subs and literally hundreds of planes at one time would not be uncommon. Strict orders forbade the halting of any ship for even a moment for fear of being attacked by prowling German U-boats, and individuals who fell overboard or survivors seen adrift on the waters had to be ruthlessly ignored. In the first two years of the run, more than one-fifth of the supplies sent to Murmansk would be lost.
Late in August 1941 a small, unnumbered convoy of seven ships made the trip from Iceland to the Soviet port of Archangel in 10 days without incident. The convoy, which had been hurriedly assembled, made the trip both as an experiment and as a gesture of good faith.
That September a military mission was sent to work out a formal aid program for the beleaguered Soviets. Negotiations at first were difficult. The Soviets dismissed all discussion concerning aid and demanded the immediate opening of a second front. They were convinced that only an offensive somewhere else could reduce the pressure the Germans were putting on them.
Several times the talks broke up after bitter disagreement. Marshal Josef Stalin often pointed out that while the Soviet Union was saddled with the burden of carrying 90 percent of the war, all the British were offering was ‘the loss of a few ships in support of the common cause. It was only after it looked as if the negotiations would break down altogether that the Soviets were finally willing to listen to aid proposals. The British and American representatives agreed to furnish all the planes, tanks and other war materiel that the Soviets felt they needed. For an industrial giant like the United States, the manufacturing would be the easy part; getting the goods safely halfway around the world would prove more difficult.
Originally, the Allied convoys went unnamed and unnumbered. After several round trips were successfully completed, a coding system was established. All convoys bound for the Soviet Union were designated PQ, and those returning were designated QP.
At first the Germans had to ignore the Allied crossings because they had few warships available to track the supply convoys. By the end of 1941, seven convoys had delivered 750 tanks, 800 planes, 2,300 vehicles and more than 100,000 tons of general cargo to the Soviet Union. Convoy PQ-8 was attacked by a U-boat but safely reached Murmansk on January 19, 1942. By early February 1942, 12 northbound convoys including 93 ships had made the journey with the loss of only one ship to a U-boat.
Although the early convoys encountered little German opposition, they still had to traverse the treacherous Barents Sea, part of the Atlantic Ocean. Winter brought nearly four months of unbroken darkness, which helped conceal the convoys from the enemy but made navigation difficult. Polar ice also pushed down from the north, forcing all ships to make a closer voyage to German-held Norway. The subzero winds howling off the polar cap could easily reach hurricane velocity and whip waves to a height of 70 feet. At such temperatures, sea spray froze immediately and created a top-heavy covering on anything exposed to it. The ice had to be chipped away to prevent the Allied ships from capsizing. Binoculars iced up, as well as guns and torpedoes. Freezing decks could become mirror-smooth, making it impossible for the crewmen to walk on them.
Visibility was also frequently a problem. When the warmer waters of the Gulf Stream blended with the frigid Arctic waters, the result was often an unimaginably thick fog and occassionally blinding snow. Ships had to drastically reduce speed to prevent collisions. Escorting or intercepting the convoys became even riskier.
The pack ice soon began to retreat, and the convoys were able to pass north of Bear Island and farther away from the hostile coasts. But summer also brought its own perils. It was the time of the midnight sun, when the days were nearly endless and darkness never really came. Under those conditions, concealment from a vigilant enemy was all but impossible. German long-range bombers and surface ships had little trouble locating and attacking the convoys. The greater travel distance of the northern route also added several days to the voyage.
Despite the dangers and hardships, the Allies were unanimous in their desire to keep the Soviet Union in the fight. They feared that if the Soviets were knocked out of the war, as the Russians had been in 1917, the entire weight of the German army would be unleashed in the West before the United States was really ready to fight. The British had no choice but to grit their teeth and continue to honor their pledge to send supplies to the Soviets through the ports of Murmansk and Archangel, even at the risk of shortchanging their own forces, which were stretched thinly around the world.
Realizing the strategic importance of the supplies flowing to the Soviets, Germany planned to make the trip so costly in lives and ships that the Allies would be forced to abandon any further attempts. They assembled a force of more than 260 aircraft and about 30 U-boats to greet any convoys that attempted the voyage.
Despite the increased danger from the Germans and protests from some within the Admiralty, political commitments forced PQ-16 to set out as scheduled in May 1942. A total of seven ships were lost during the run, all but one to aircraft. Clearly, Germany was gaining the upper hand in the Arctic, and sooner or later there would be a real disaster–but it was impossible to determine where and when.
By the end of June 1942, PQ-17, the largest and most valuable convoy in the history of the run, was formed up and ready to sail for Murmansk and Archangel. Its cargo was worth a staggering 0 million. Crammed into bulging holds were nearly 300 aircraft, 600 tanks, more than 4,000 trucks and trailers, and a general cargo that exceeded 150,000 tons. It was more than enough to completely equip an army of 50,000. Although some argued that PQ-17’s run should be postponed until the shorter days of winter, it was considered politically prudent to continue supplying Russia without interruption, and the convoy left as scheduled.
Although PQ-17 was closely shadowed by U-boats, visual contact between the Germans and the Allied convoy was suddenly broken when the icy polar winds flowing over the warmer waters created a vast and welcome fog. Visibility was severely restricted for the ships of the convoy, as well, but PQ-17’s crews took comfort in the fact that if they could not see, then neither could they be seen by the enemy.
Although every crewman hoped that the protective fog would remain, in the still, bright afternoon the fog began to lift, and another long-range German scout plane appeared. Veterans aboard the convoy vessels knew that it would circle well out of gun range and remain only long enough to replot course and speed.
Now the men of the convoy waited for the inevitable attack. At 6:30 p.m. on July 2, seven Heinkel He-115 torpedo bombers struck. Loosely organized and lacking determination, the planes were driven off before any ships could be destroyed. Concentrated anti-aircraft fire kept the attackers at bay and prevented them from making accurate passes. After losing two planes, the Germans dropped their torpedoes well outside effective range and returned to their base.
The stunned escort commanders received the Admiralty’s orders in the form of three rapid and poorly worded messages. First message: 2111…Most Immediate and Secret. Cruiser Force withdraw to Westward at high speed…. Second message: 2123…Immediate. Owing to threat of surface ships, convoy is to disperse and proceed to Russian ports…. Third message: 2136…Most Immediate. Convoy is to scatter….
PQ-17 was stripped of all protection and abandoned. Admiral Pound had decided to save the warships and let the merchantmen fend for themselves. Individual ships stood a better chance of survival against superior surface forces than vessels that were crowded together in the restrictions of a convoy. But scattering in the narrow confines north of the Arctic Circle would prove fatal. After confirmation of the orders was received, the men of the convoy could only stare in disbelief as their protection turned at high speed to join the cruiser force some 40 miles away.
Lieutenant Fairbanks wrote, It was such a terrible feeling to be running away from the convoy at a speed twice theirs and to leave them to the mercies of the enemy…. While every man aboard the merchant ships was a volunteer and had expected a hazardous run, none had bargained for a journey such as this.
Before the last of the escorts had disappeared over the western horizon, the ships of the convoy began starring–breaking up their well-disciplined lines. Some fanned out to the north toward the ice edge, some due east toward Novaya Zemlya, and some southeast, directly toward the Russian ports. The American ships were seen lowering their colors as if in surrender. But they were only defiantly replacing their faded and tattered flags with bright, new oversized ones. For the Americans in the convoy it was Independence Day, July 4, 1942.
The toll taken on the abandoned convoy was horrendous. Only 11 of the 35 merchantmen that left Iceland finally made it to the Soviet Union. Fourteen of the sunken ships were American. More than two-thirds of the convoy had gone to the bottom, along with 210 combat planes, 430 Sherman tanks, 3,350 vehicles and nearly 100,000 tons of other cargo. More than 120 seamen were killed and countless others were crippled and maimed. The financial loss exceeded half a billion dollars.
For the Royal Navy, the massacre of PQ-17 and the abandonment of the convoy was one of the most shameful episodes of the war at sea. Details of the losses were kept from the public until after the war. The British decision to withdraw its protection from the convoy strained Anglo-American relations. Admiral Ernest J. King, chief of U.S. naval operations, was so enraged that he was very reluctant to have American and British ships continue operating together. Churchill lamented the fate of PQ-17 and wrote in his memoirs years later, All risks should have been taken in the defense of the merchant ships.
To make matters worse, the suspicious Soviets refused to believe that 24 ships from one convoy had been sunk. They openly accused their Western allies of lying about the disaster, and remained oblivious to the dangers and hardships endured by the merchantmen and escorts alike. No thanks were ever extended for the safe delivery of 5,000 tanks and more than 7,000 fighters and bombers. The Soviets never acknowledged that the 4 million tons of supplies that did arrive through the Arctic ports and the Persian Gulf may have kept their forces from being defeated by the Germans in the summer of 1942.
With the exception of several months in 1943, when the Battle of the Atlantic was at its peak, the convoys to the Soviet Union ran from 1941 until the war’s end. Campaign ribbons were awarded for service in almost every other theater of the war, but not one was awarded for service in the Arctic. Before the fighting ended, however, Allied seamen had taken 1,526 individual ships in 77 convoys on the Murmansk Run. Nearly 100 ships were lost to enemy action and the unyielding weather. Allied losses in the Arctic eventually exceeded those in the North Atlantic sea lanes, and before the war ended the Arctic route had accounted for nearly 37 percent of all Allied surface ships sunk in all theaters of the war.
After the tremendous losses incurred by PQ-17, the Admiralty developed improved defensive tactics for convoys, including assigning greater numbers of escort vessels for each convoy as well as using radar, sonar and improved weaponry aboard the escort vessels. Because of the Allies’ improved defensive tactics and its own worsening military situation after 1942, Germany would never again be able to dominate the northern seas. Later convoys would still be subject to attack, but no other convoy, before or since, suffered such death and destruction as PQ-17.