HISTORY - Pre-Construction The Northwest Staging Route - Other Uses
The ALSIB and Northwest Staging Route also provided a diplomatic route between Washington, D.C. and Moscow. Diplomats, high political figures and countless other government officials shuttled back and forth along it in transports during the war. Wendell Willkie, Vice-President Henry A. Wallace, Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov, and Andrei Gromyko were but a few who used the route. President Roosevelt considered holding a summit in Fairbanks in 1944 to meet with Stalin, however the location was subsequently changed to Yalta in the Soviet Union. Also the route provided a means over which the Russians moved intelligence agents and classified information obtained illegally in the United States. The Soviets, claiming diplomatic immunity routinely moved large numbers of suitcases in batches of 50 or more, their contents diplomatically sealed.
The Russians who arrived in Alaska also frequently visited shopping areas in Fairbanks and Nome, and contingents visited the aircraft manufacturing plants in the United States. They maintained a strict decorum and politely paid for their purchases, sometimes in old US gold certificates. Many luxury items were bought and shipped back to the Soviet Union on the Lend-Lease aircraft with the hope that they would reach their final destinations in Russia. Most of the Russian pilots were experienced combat veterans who saw the ferrying mission as a respite from their combat missions. They were generally reserved and political officers that were sent to Alaska to ensure their loyalty.
As the Pacific War wound down, the wartime marriage of convenience between the capitalistic and communist countries was coming to an end. In 1945, the United States and Soviet Union were about to embark on a Cold War and the Russians departed Fairbanks shortly after the Japanese Capitulation in September 1945.
Possibly because of their strict inspection standards, there were remarkably few aircraft accidents. During the 21 months of the program, 7,983 aircraft were delivered to the Russians with only 133 lost to weather or pilot error. Thirteen Red Air Force pilots were buried in the Fort Richardson cemetery.