In This Review

Forgotten Bastards of the Eastern Front: American Airmen Behind the Soviet Lines and the Collapse of the Grand Alliance
Forgotten Bastards of the Eastern Front: American Airmen Behind the Soviet Lines and the Collapse of the Grand Alliance
By Serhii Plokhy
Oxford University Press, 2019, 360 pp

In early 1944, the United States established a number of air bases in Soviet Ukraine. Their fate mirrored that of the uneasy U.S.-Soviet alliance, which was initially sustained by a common enemy but quickly unraveled after World War II ended. Plokhy’s unique account of this well-known episode benefits from the recent opening of Ukrainian archives containing KGB documents detailing the Soviet surveillance of the Americans at the bases. The American and Soviet servicemen eagerly cooperated but were struck by their cultural differences. The Soviets thought that the Americans were wasteful (they used spare parts instead of repairing broken ones) and lacked commitment (they broke for lunch before their work was finished). The Americans were surprised by the great number of Soviet women doing “men’s jobs” and by Soviet farmers’ reliance on hoes instead of tractors. Warm relations soon chilled as the Soviets recruited civilians and servicemen to spy on the Americans and roughly interfered in the Americans’ dating of local women. Meanwhile, leaders in Moscow and Washington grew increasingly suspicious of each other, and by the time the last air base was closed, in May 1945, the allies had become rivals.