Let’s take a look at some historical photos from Project Hula!
In the spring and summer of 1945, special detachments from the U.S. and Soviet Navies met at Cold Bay, Alaska, as part of a top-secret training operation. The plan was for the U.S. Navy to train some 15,000 Russian officers and men in the handling of 180 naval vessels that were scheduled for transfer to the Soviet Pacific Ocean Fleet under the lend-lease program. Code-named Project HULA, the operation required American and Russian sailors to work side by side in the largest and most ambitious transfer program of World War II. Its unique purpose was to equip and train Soviet amphibious forces for the climactic fight against Japan. However, the combined impact of the atomic attacks and the Red Army’s massive campaign in Manchuria delivered the coup de grace to Japan. The cancellation of the plans to invade Japan rendered the original concept of Soviet naval operations against Japan obsolete. Project HULA became superfluous.
The lend-lease operation at Cold Bay succeeded in spite of the language barrier, the constant impediment of bad weather, and the poor condition of many of the prospective transfer vessels. In this respect, Project HULA stands as a rare example of successful Soviet-American collaboration: 12,000 Soviet sailors were trained and 100 ships were transferred under the program.
Soviet and American signalmen at Cold Bay. Project Hula required sailors from both navies to work side by side in the largest and most ambitious lend-lease transfer program of World War II.
The arrival ceremony for Admiral Popov and his staff, in April 1945. In the front row, to the right of the American flag, are Capt. William S. Maxwell, U.S. commander; Rear Adm. Boris D. Popov, commander of the Soviet Navy’s Fifth Independent Detachment, the Soviet commander; Capt. Vladimir V. Khrivoshchekov, a veteran of PQ-17 in the Battle of the Atlantic and Admiral Popov’s interpreter; and Capt. Sylvius Gazze, Dutch Harbor’s commander.
All hands salute as a Soviet crew takes possession of Landing Craft Infantry (LCI(L) at Project Hula. Admiral Popov stands center, right.
The flag-raising ceremony during the official transfer of a lend-lease vessel from American to Soviet custody.
From a transfer ceremony on June 9, 1945. Soviet sailors raise the Soviet naval ensigns on the masts of LCI(L)s, completing the transfer of the ship.
Rear Adm. Boris D. Popov and his staff at Project Hula.
Wooden-hulled motor minesweeper YMS-143, from February 1943. As T-522, this ship saw action against Japanese forces around Southern Sakhalin, August 1945.
Capt. William S. Maxwell, U.S. Navy (L) and Rear Adm. Boris D. Popov (R) discuss training schedules. Capt. Sylvius Gazze, U.S. Navy, Dutch Harbor’s commander sits between them.
In the background, five frigates await transfer. The broad beam of the frigates that contributed to their strong seakeeping qualities is visible in this photo. Early on, chronic engine problems and other defects impinged on readiness, but once corrected, the type performed well. By 1943, responsibility for manning the Tacoma class had passed from naval personnel to the coast guard.
USS Hoquiam (PF-5) at Mare Island Navy Yard, San Francisco, Calif., in June 1944. Typical of the Tacoma-class frigates, this ship was one of 69 ordered by the U.S. Navy during World War II. Tacoma, Hoquiam and 26 other frigates were transferred to the Soviet navy at Cold Bay.
Admiral Popov takes a turn on the anti-aircraft trainer at Naval Operating Base Adak, July 1945.
Sailors line up for a transfer ceremony, with Cold Bay in the background.
USS Pasco (PF-6), a Tacoma-class frigate. Young Lieutenant N. I. Khovrin started his service on USS Pasco (PF-6), which under the Soviet flag, became frigate EK-6. After World War II, he was made an admiral, and was considered to be one of the most talented leaders of the Soviet Navy. Between 1970–80, he commanded the Black Sea Fleet.
A sailor raises the Soviet naval ensign, signaling that custody of the wooden-hulled motor minesweeper has been transferred to the Soviet Navy.
All photos are courtesy of the U.S. Naval Institute Photo Archive. Looking for more thrilling shots related to naval history? Check the Photo Archive online here.