What do you do when supplies need to be transported in the North during World War II? Use reindeer, of course! Between 1941 to 1944, around 1,000 reindeer herders and 6,000 reindeer worked with the Soviet Army to deliver supplies in the fight against Germany.
According to the Anchorage Daily News, they were "pressed into service." However, using animals during war was not a new concept.
“The majority of ground combat in Europe among the Axis — and certainly the Soviets — was done with infantry on the ground using horses and donkeys. And in the north, it would be reindeer.”U.S. Naval Historian Tim Francis
According to NPR, the reindeer were used to take war supplies from the port in Murmansk as they arrived from North America. In fact, 25% of the supplies were "shipped across the Arctic to America's Soviet allies."
The supply route was tricky to navigate. The area was constantly under attack by the Germans. Francis said, "The reindeer were pack animals. Anything that would work to get stuff to places where people could use it. It makes perfect sense."
The Soviet Army may have used a lot of reindeer. However, they were not the only ones to use them. Finnish soldiers used them for transportation, too, and even used them against the Russians in the Winter War.
Many photos were taken of the Finnish and their reindeer. The Russian city of Usinsk accidently hung a photo of a Finnish soldier and its reindeer during their World War II Victory Day celebration.
Russia's reindeer with used for more than just carrying supplies. They were couriers, towed downed equipment, and were a part of covert missions.
The reindeer were so important that Naryn-Mar even created a memorial to honor their service in 2012. Since the animals were so revered, a Russian admiral once gave one to a British submarine commander as a gift.
The commander's wife was having difficulty pushing their stroller in the snow, and the reindeer was the perfect solution. It made the trip back to the UK on the submarine.
However, during this time, the total reindeer population began to drop. Overall, 220,000 reindeer were used as food, while others were used in the war.
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