The Ladoga Ice Road (the Road of Life)

Discussion in 'Soviet' started by Zoya, Apr 4, 2008.

  1. Zoya

    Zoya Partisan

    I have recently been watching the Ice Road Truckers on tv, about the guys who drive supplies to diamond mines in Canadea, across huge expanses of frozen ice. Amazingly, what they do is nothing compared to the traffic which used the ice road across lake Ladoga during the siege of Leningrad (from September 9, 1941, to January 18, 1943, when a narrow land corridor to the city was established. The total lifting of the siege occurred at January 27, 1944)

    It was known as the Road of Life, Doroga zhizni: Дорога жизни, doroga zhizni. The Stavka ordered the building of the road even before Lake Ladoga froze, as it became clear that they were not able to lift the German blockade of the city. It was designated as a military vehicular road: voenno-avtomobil'naia doroga/BAD 101, and stretched between Kobona on the eastern shore, across Shlissel'burg Bay to Vaganova on the western shore. The German capture of Tikhvin on November 8th 1941 forced the Soviets to construct a much longer road, BAD 102, 17.5-20 miles long.

    The road was built in extremely dificult conditios, under constant enemy fire; artillery and air bombardment. The builders also had to work around the changing conditions on the Lake itself, including cracks and fissures which often appeared in the ice, frequent storms and periodic thaws. The first cargo of supplies reached the besieged Leningrad on November 23rd.

    Between the 18th and 28th November, engineers constructed a second route, 16.8 miles long from Kokkorevo via Kloch'ia Island to Kobona, and further routes to the north as the ice thickened (the winter of 1941/2 was unprecendentedly cold, with temperatures regularly reaching -40). By the end of December the ice was 3.2 feet deep, and covered in almost a foot of snow, and was able to sustain the weight of military vehicles up to the size of a KV Tank. By the end of all the road construction, they extended a total of 1106 miles, including road guides, communication points, medical and rescue points, feeding stations and combat seurity posts along the routes.

    The intial success of the road in the 1941/2 winter was hampered by disorganisation and a temporary thaw in November before the onset of the very cold winter, but improved when party leaders Zhdanov and Kuznetsov took over operations. Daily shipments rose to 800 tons by December 23rd. This meant that the bread ration of Leningraders could be increased to 100 grams for workers/engineers and 75 grams for dependants/children (remmbering that 75 grams is one slice of bread). Still, the food shortages in the city were catastrophic, and the ice road increased it's supplies to up to 3 convoys a day. By the end of January 1943, food supplies were able to reach targets, but by this time most of the total 1.2 million casualities of the siege had died, mainly from starvation. But the drivers across the lake tried to achieve the target of "two convoys per driver per day", and successfully acheived by 261 drivers in january 1942, rising to 627 in March.

    The Road of Life was also used to evacuate the sick, women, children and the elderly from the city, (11,296 in January; 117,434 in February; 221,947 in March and 163,392 in April) as well as munitions and industrial equipment from Leningrad's factories.

    The thaw started towards the end of March, and all movement across the ice was halted on April 12th, when transport by boat and barge was used.

    Thanks to David Glantz's "The Siege of Leningrad" for much of this information.

    Attached Files:

  2. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    I know my reply sounds as though it belongs on one of the "comic" threads but the first place I ever learnt about the Ice Road was in a comic, in a Johnny Red story, I think.
    Comics were critised by educational authorities but comics such as Battle, Victor or Warlord introduced me to many facinating aspects of both History and Geography as well as being fun to read.

    I must get a good book on Leningrad one day.
  3. Gerard

    Gerard Seelow/Prora

    Great Pics Zoya. Thats some example of Russian tenacity and ingenuity.
  4. PaulE

    PaulE Senior Member

    Excellent Zoya , good info about the ice road and the siege of Leningrad in Bellamy's "Absolute War ",

  5. Zoya

    Zoya Partisan

    The Ice Road operated under almost constant air attack from the Luftwaffe, and was also vulnerable to both German and Finnish diversionary attack. Forces were needed for anti-aircraft defence, and also to defend the many routes across the ice, roads and railroads next to the Lake, and warehouses, some of which were on the Lake itself, others next to it.

    The 6th Red Banner Leningrad Army of VVS and PVO, nicknamed the Army of the "Road of Life", (motto: "Securely guarding the North-West sky of Russia" ~ “Надежно охраняем небо Северо-Запада России") had 200 mid calibre anti-aircraft guns, 50 small calibre guns, 100 anti-aircraft machine guns and 100 searchlights to defend against attack from the air. The 54th Army defeded the southern shore of the lake, and the 10th Rifle Division, the 4th naval Infantry Brigade and the 23rd Army Units defended the west shore. During early 1942, German aircraft attacked the road almost constantly.

    On the ice road itself there were 75 traffic control posts roughly 300-400 metres apart, 350 traffic regulators, and 150-200 blackout lanterns to light the way. Trafiic regulation became easier as the snow deepened and formed walls of snow which flanked the routes across the ice. The defense of the ice road was aided by the Partisan effort.

    The first picture below shows tanks manufactured in Leningrad during the siege leaving the city to travel to the front across the ice road, followed by a photograph of Zhdanov and Govorov, Commanders of the Leningrad Front, and finally a drawing of tanks travelling on the Leningrad Highway, from the book "Let the Living Remember".

    Attached Files:

  6. sksvlad

    sksvlad New Member

    My best friend's father was a driver on the Road of Life. This is one of his stories I remember. He was very young at that time. They drove with minimal sleep almost continuously. There was a standing order that if a driver fell asleep, an officer would shoot him in the head and instantly replace him with another driver. He did fall asleep. The officer who was supposed to kill him took a pity of him due to his young age and just slammed him over the head with a pistol. He was forever grateful to this officer for not shooting him even though the pain from the pistol whip was tremendous.
    Owen likes this.

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