Background: Standing alone against the brutal attacks from Germany, the United Kingdom was getting increasingly desperate and running out of material in 1940. While the United States had been sympathetic to these difficulties, the US Neutrality Acts of the 1930s required Britain to pay for military goods, food, and raw material from the United States with gold, as part of the "cash-and-carry" program. By the end of 1940, Britain had liquidated so many assets that its cash was becoming depleted. The strong isolationist factions in the United States had insisted on a policy of neutrality and noninterventionism since the end of World War II. In addition, many in the US military leadership were convinced that Britain would fall and that American supplies sent to the British would fall into German hands. President Franklin Roosevelt, however, was determined to help the British. In late 1940, he proposed the idea of a “Lend-Lease” program.
How do you think the average American responded to this January 1941 poll about the idea of a Lend-Lease program?
If the British are unable to pay cash for war materials bought in this country, should our Government lend or lease war materials to the British, to be paid back in the same materials and other goods after the war is over?
Source: Gallup Poll, July 1944, Roper Center for Public Opinion Research at Cornell University.
What Happened: While Americans had remained strongly isolationist after the outbreak of the war in September 1939, public opinion shifted in 1940 as the fall of France and the devastation of British cities during the Blitz were extensively reported in the news. An increasing number of Americans began to consider the advantage of funding the British war against Germany, while staying free of the hostilities themselves.
President Roosevelt signed the Lend-Lease Act into law on March 11, 1941. It permitted him to "sell, transfer title to, exchange, lease, lend, or otherwise dispose of, to any such government [whose defense the President deems vital to the defense of the United States] any defense article." The policy was later extended to China and the Soviet Union. In the end, more than 35 countries received aid through the Lend-Lease policy for a total of $50 billion. The program played a significant role in helping the Allies win the war.