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Surprise! Russia thanks America for secretly building 185 huge, state-of-the-art warplanes in Philadelphia…under budget and ahead of schedule

Circa 1944. Soviet PBN-Nomad Naval Factory assembly line at the US Naval Factory

Does such a gracious thank you sound preposterous given today’s strained American-Russian relations? Well, there was a time…

During the early moments of the Yalta Summit, Franklin Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin agreed to undertake a groundbreaking top-secret mission called Project Zebra that would be unheard of today. In fact, the mission was only declassified by the Department of the Navy in late December 2012, some 70 years after the fact.

During the 18-month mission, 2,000 American workers designed and manufactured 185 of the world’s largest amphibious warplanes — ahead of schedule — at the U.S. Naval Factory in Philadelphia. A team of 11 select Naval officers and their crews flew the planes — decorated with giant red stars — to Elizabeth City, population 12,000. There they were met by 300+ Soviet airmen who were trained to fly and maintain the planes. When the Soviet crews were deemed ready, multicultural crews transported these heavily armed amphibious planes – the size of todays 737’s — to the North Atlantic and Pacific Theaters where they ran hundreds of combat missions without losing a single plane.

But Project Zebra became more than just a one-of-a-kind military mission. It was a historic human drama where men overcame cultural stereotypes, political differences, and language barriers to build friendships that would quietly last a lifetime. As the mission entered its final days in September 1945, the senior Soviet production officer, Col. Boris Tiertsiev, wrote a poignant letter to Vice-Admiral Patrick Bellinger of the US Navy. It said in part, “there are not even words to describe our admiration and respect to the many Americans who built the reliable warplanes in a timely manner that allowed our culture to survive. You will remain in our hearts forever.”

Fortunately, much of never-before-told Zebra story, the town’s supportive relationship, and the lifetime friendships the Soviet and American Zebras would cultivate through the Cold War and beyond have been turned into the first book ever written about the mission, by critically-acclaimed author, M.G.
Crisci, Project Zebra. Roosevelt and Stalin’s Top-Secret Mission to Train 300 Soviet airmen in America. “It was also my good-fortune that the sole surviving Zebra, then U.S. Lt. Gregory Gagarin, became my collaborator and documentarian,” said Crisci.

Two respected Washington DC cross-cultural organizations, the Eurasia Center Worldwide and the American-Russian Cultural Foundation, call the book, “a lesson for future generations” and “an unknown heroic memoir in US-Soviet relations that serves as a historic signpost for future generations.”

DATE: Feb.12.2018 | CATEGORY: | COMMENTS: 0