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  • Time, Blood and Money in World War Two September 17, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary , trackback


    It is perhaps the best quotation about the Second World War. ‘The British gave time, the Americans gave money, the Soviets gave blood’. In other terms the defeat of the Axis was made possible by the UK hanging on in the summer of 1940; by the Americans ability to outproduce the enemy; and by twenty million Soviet dead. This is not, of course, to say that British and American nationals did not die in World War Two or even, for that matter, that the Soviet didn’t have an industry of their own. But this neat little saying happily assigns the three most important contributions of the ‘Big Three’. Where, though, does it come from? Well, there are different versions as with many ill-assigned quotations. But it is commonly ascribed to Stalin or the Soviet Union.

    Stalin once said: ‘To the defeat of Nazism, the British gave Time, the Americans gave Money, and the Soviet Union gave Blood.’

    A Soviet epigram had it that to win the war the British gave time, the Americans money, the Russians blood.

    The earliest reference that Beach has found dates from 1990, suspiciously late:

    As Stalin so rightly put it: ‘The Americans gave money, the British gave time, the Russians gave blood’ in I.J. Gentles, A Time to Choose Life (1990), 10

    Beach’s Russian is probably not good enough (ahem) to go hunting down this reference. Is it genuine, is it fictional? He has been able to find no more specific reference save this from vol 4, 735 of the Collected Works of George Grant: 1970-1988 published in 2009.

    Harry Hopkins (1890-1946), President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s personal emissary to both Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin reported that Stalin had summarized the contributions of the major allies to the Second World War, declaring that ‘The British gave time, the Americans gave money, and the Russians gave blood.’

    There is no reference and Beach has been unable to track anything down in writing by or relating to Harry Hopkins pictured above with serial killer Joe.

    Beach did, however, run across a wartime quotation from Norway of all places.

    It used to be said that three things were needed to win a war: Money, money and money. Now we still need three things: Human resources, war material and time. Russia has the first, America has the second, and time is provided by England. (Folklore Fights the Nazis, 166) For i tiden sa man at det trengtes 3 ting for a vinne en krig: Penger, penger og atter penger. Na trenger man ogsa 3 ting: menneskemateriel, krigsmateriell og tid. Det forste leverer Russland, det annet leverer Amerika og tiden leverer England. [Schou-Sorensen]

    Perhaps Stalin wasn’t first? Perhaps Stalin never said it? Note that this appears in the excellent Stokker, Folklore Fights the Nazis and ‘time’ here is, Beach understands, an ironic comment on the British, not a complimentary one.

    Can anyone help give someone credit for this phrase: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com

    Mike Dash, 30 Nov 2017, points out that Reddit has now a thread on this. I (Beach) would note two things. First, that the Norwegian quote seems to be an early and just chance version? Not sure. Second, the earlier mainstream version is British brains, American material and Russian blood. Time seems to only take over at a later date.


    Did Stalin really say that "the British gave time, the Americans gave money, and the Russians gave blood"? from AskHistorians