Standing in Nome puts you closer to Russia than just about any other place in the country. That thought was probably a comfort to Russian pilots during World War II, who traveled to the U.S. over a three-year period to shuttle desperately-needed war materials – including planes – back to the war front.
Due to its location, the small town of Nome served a critical role in the top secret U.S. program that supplied military goods to the Allies. Many today still aren’t aware of this amazing effort, which called for lending or leasing war materials to the aid Russia in the fight against Germany.
During this Lend-Lease program, approximately 8,000 aircraft flew through Nome to the Russian front. This Alaska-Siberian (ALSIB) supply route was shorter and less dangerous than sea routes, which were perilous due to German submarines. Instead, the aircraft flew from Great Falls, Montana, through Canada, Whitehorse, and Fairbanks, where they were painted with a red soviet star and turned over to Russian pilots. The pilots would refuel and make repairs in Nome before completing their journey.
You can find remnants of this history three miles outside of Nome on the Teller Road. Local World War II buffs have been working to restore a 1944-era WWII T-Hangar, and to create an aviation museum so that this fascinating part of Nome’s history can be preserved.
Objects of interest at Nome’s Satellite Field T-hangar include:
- Six-inch guns that protected Nome during the war. The same type of gun was used against the U.S. by the Japanese in the Aleutians. These guns are reportedly ex-British cannons off of ships, decommissioned after WWI, and purchased by both the US and Japan.
- Several Higgins boats, made famous during D-Day. Originally designed in New Orleans, the Higgins plywood boat was used all over during the war.
- A B-25 Mitchell Bomber that was part of the lend-lease program. Russian pilots flying the plane from Fairbanks landed roughly in Nome, leaving it irreparable. After 70 years in the tundra, the plane waits in a shipping container at the hangar for a possible move to an aviation museum in Michigan.