Monday, January 09, 2006
Congress Approves Lend-Lease, January 10, 1941
Today in 1941, a bill for consideration of the Lend-Lease Program was brought before the US Congress. This program was an outward sign to the allied nations that the Arsenal of Democracy was getting up to speed.
In January, 1941, Great Britain stood alone in the fight against Nazi aggression. Despite the obvious fact that Germany was on the way to dominating all of Europe, the majority of the American people were dead-set against involvement in what they saw as another European war like the First World War. President Franklin Roosevelt devised the Lend-Lease Program as a way to help arm the island nation without directly involving American lives.
Congress authorized Lend-Lease in March, 1941. The move bolstered British morale and helped give them the feeling that they were not fighting alone. Winston Churchill described it as “the most unsordid act in the whole of recorded history.”
FDR also wanted to extend the Lend-Lease program to the Soviet Union after that nation was invaded by Germany in May, 1941. Congress was much less receptive to helping the Communists, but reluctantly approved the program for the USSR in November.
All told, more than $50 billion in weapons, aircraft and ships were distributed to more than 44 nations through the program. When the war was over and Europe began rebuilding, the program was changed and renamed the Marshall Plan, after General Marshall, the man who first proposed the plan which led to the revitalization of the democratic nations of Europe.