Lend‐Lease Act and Agreements

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Lend‐Lease Act and Agreements (1941).When the British could no longer pay cash for arms and munitions in December 1940, after the presidential election Franklin D. Roosevelt suggested leasing or lending war supplies to those fighting the Axis. He likened it to lending a garden hose to a neighbor whose house was burning. Once the fire was out, said FDR, “he gives it back to me and thanks me very much,” or, if damaged, he replaced it. For three months Americans debated the Lend‐Lease bill in Congress. Isolationists condemned it as leading America into another European war, as in World War I. But many Americans saw the need to aid Britain and China against Germany and Japan. Numbering the bill H.R. 1776 gave it a patriotic aura, and Lend‐Lease eventually passed by a 60–31 vote in the Senate and 317–71 in the House.

Signed into law on 11 March 1941, Lend‐Lease permitted the president to “sell, transfer title to, exchange, lease, lend, or otherwise dispose of” defense articles to “any country whose defense the President deems vital to the defense of the United States.” Congress initially appropriated $7 billion, with a total expenditure of more than $50 billion by the end of World War II. The British received the lion's share, $31.6 billion in Lend‐Lease aid. After the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, Roosevelt provided Lend‐Lease to the USSR, $11 billion, without which “the war would have been lost,” as Josef Stalin admitted. That “most unsordid act,” as Winston S. Churchill called Lend‐Lease, turned the United States into the “arsenal of democracy” that forged victory in World War II.
[See also Isolationism; World War II: Military and Diplomatic Course.]


Warren F. Kimball , The Most Unsordid Act: Lend‐Lease, 1939–1941, 1969.

J. Garry Clifford