The Lend-lease scheme of 1941 changed history. It gave hope to Britain as it faced its ‘Darkest Hour’ as Winston Churchill labelled the period between the defeat of France (June 1940) and the invasion of the USSR (June 1941).
With the defeat of France and the other continental European allies in 1940, Britain faced the possibility of being either bombed or starved into submission. Its southern and midland cities (including London) were located within range of German bombers based in occupied Europe. At sea, ships carrying essential foodstuffs to feed the British population and military supplies to equip the British military were being hunted by German U-Boats.
As an island nation, Britain depended upon its sea links – raw materials were available in its far flung colonial territories and the US had the industrial resources (albeit still on a peace-time basis) required to fuel the war. Furthermore, US land-based industries were effectively beyond direct enemy attack.
Yet the US was officially neutral in WW2 until the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour in December 1941. Popular US opinion since the end of WW1 had been to stay out of European politics. However, President Roosevelt represented a growing number of Americans who felt that Nazism in Europe, and Japanese militarism in Asia, needed to be opposed at any price.
In Part 4 (of this 10 Part series), I will discuss the ‘Cash and Carry’ policy of the US in 1939 and 1940, in which the US sold munitions to Britain. It was not long-term solution. It merely bought time for the Allied cause.