FDR and Lend Lease

tanks for britain
Building Tanks for Britain

With the November election behind him, Roosevelt was in a quandary as to how best help the British who were rapidly running out of money to pay for their armaments. In December, Roosevelt left on an extended cruise to the Caribbean to rest; the only aid he took with him was Hopkins. During the cruise he received a long letter from Churchill outlining Britain's strategies as well as its dire financial circumstances. Roosevelt read the letter many times. Then as Hopkins stated: "One evening he suddenly came out with it- the whole program. He didn't seem to have any clear idea, as to how it could be done legally. But there wasn't a doubt in his mind, he'd find a way to do it."

His idea was lend lease. As he stated in a White House Press confrence on December 17, 1940: "What I am trying to do is eliminate the dollar sign. All right! Well let me give you an illustration: Suppose my neighbor's home catches fire ...if he can take my garden hose and connect it up with his hydrant I may help him to put out his fire. Now, what do I do? I don't say to him before that operation, "Neighbor, my garden hose cost me $15; you have got to pay me $15 for it. I don't want $15 - I want my garden hose back. In other words, if you lend certain munitions and the munitions come back at the end of the war, you are all right."

In his State of the Union Address to Congress on January 6th Roosevelt outlined the Four Freedoms that the people of the world were entitled to: Freedom of Speech and expression, freedom of religion, freedom from want, and freedom from fear.

Despite being attacked from isolationists, Lend Lease was passed by Congress. The house passed it 260-165 and the Senate 60 to 31.

Slowly, the United States increased its activities in the Atlantic. In July, it occupied Iceland and announced that it was part of the American Defensive zone. In August, Roosevelt and Churchill met for their first wartime conference, in the Argentia Harbor on the south coast of New Foundland. Roosevelt arrived on the cruiser Augusta, while Churchill sailed on the battleship Prince of Wales. During four days of meetings, Churchill and Roosevelt developed a band of friendship that became critical in the pursuit of the war. At the end of the meeting, Roosevelt and Churchill issued their Joint Declaration, which became known as the Atlantic Charter. Its most important feature was the binding of the United States to the British overall war aims - the destruction of Nazi Germany.