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Lend-Lease (Public Law 77-11)[1] was the name of the program under which the United States of America supplied the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, China, France and other Allied nations with vast amounts of war material between 1941 and 1945 in return for, in the case of Britain, military bases in Newfoundland, Bermuda, and the British West Indies. It was passed on March 11, 1941, over 18 months after the outbreak of the war in September 1939. It was called An Act Further to Promote the Defense of the United States. This act also ended the pretense of the neutrality of the United States and tantamount to a declaration of war on Germany. Hitler recognized this and consequently had his submarines attack US ships such as the SS Robin Moor, a merchant steamship destroyed by a German U-boat on May 21, 1941.

A total of $50.1 billion (equivalent to nearly $700 billion at 2007 prices) worth of supplies were shipped: $31.4 billion to Britain, $11.3 billion to the Soviet Union, $3.2 billion to France and $1.6 billion to China. Reverse Lend Lease comprised services (like rent on air bases) that went to the U.S. It totaled $7.8 billion, of which $6.8 billion came from the British and the Commonwealth. Apart from that, there were no repayments of supplies that arrived before the termination date, the terms of the agreement providing for their return or destruction. (Supplies after that date were sold to Britain at a discount, for £1,075 million, using long-term loans from the U.S.) Canada operated a similar program that sent $4.7 billion in supplies to Britain and Soviet Union.[2]

This program is seen as a decisive step away from American non-interventionism since the end of World War I and towards international involvement. In sharp contrast to the American loans to the Allies in World War I, there were no provisions for postwar repayments. Some historians consider it an attempt to bolster Britain and the other allies as a buffer to forestall American involvement in the war against National Socialist Germany.

Political background

Lend-Lease came into existence with the Lend-Lease Act of March 11, 1941, which permitted the President of the United States 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". In April, this policy was extended to China as well.[3] Roosevelt approved US $1 billion in Lend-Lease aid to Britain at the end of October, 1941.

There was an entirely different program in 1940, the Destroyers for Bases Agreement whereby 50 USN destroyers were transferred to the Royal Navy and the Royal Canadian Navy in exchange for basing rights in the Caribbean and Newfoundland. The UN had been paying for its material in gold under "Cash and carry".

Everett Dirksen, at the time a Republican U.S. Representative, was able to secure the passage of an amendment to the Lend-Lease bill by introducing the resolution while 65 of the House's Democrats were at a luncheon. Section (3)(c) of the Act thus provided that "after the passage of a concurrent resolution by the two Houses before June 30, 1943, which declares that the powers conferred by or pursuant to subsection (a) are no longer necessary to promote the defense of the United States, neither the President nor the head of any department or agency shall exercise any of the powers conferred by or pursuant to subsection (a)" [4]


Franklin Roosevelt set up the Office of Lend-Lease Administration in 1941, appointing steel executive Edward R. Stettinius as head. In September 1943 he was promoted to Undersecretary of State, and FDIC director Leo Crowley became head of the Foreign Economic Administration which absorbed responsibility for Lend-Lease.

Lend-Lease aid to Russia was nominally managed by Stettinius. Roosevelt's Soviet Protocol Committee, dominated by Harry Hopkins and General John York, who were totally sympathetic to the provision of "unconditional aid."


Lend-Lease was a critical factor in the eventual success of the Allies in World War IIreference required, particularly in the early years when the United States was not directly involved and the entire burden of the fighting fell on other nations, notably those of the Commonwealth and, after June 1941, the Soviet Union. Although Pearl Harbor and the Axis Declarations of War brought the US into the war in December 1941, the task of recruiting, training, equipping U.S. forces and transporting them to war zones could not be completed immediately. Through 1942, and to a lesser extent 1943, the other Allies continued to be responsible for most of the fighting and the supply of military equipment under Lend-Lease was a significant part of their successreference required. In 1943-44, about a fourth of all British munitions came through Lend-Lease. Aircraft (in particular transport aircraft) comprised about one-fourth of the shipments to Britain, followed by food, land vehicles and shipsreference required.

Even after the United States forces in Europe and the Pacific began to reach full-strength in 1943–1944, Lend-Lease continued. Most remaining allies were largely self-sufficient in front line equipment (such as tanks and fighter aircraft) by this stage, but Lend-Lease provided a useful supplement in this category even so, and Lend-Lease logistical supplies (including trucks, jeeps, landing craft and, above all, the Douglas C-47 transport aircraft) reference requiredwere of enormous assistance.

Much of the aid can be better understood when considering the economic distortions caused by the war. Most belligerent powers cut back on production of nonessentials severely, concentrating on producing weapons. This inevitably produced shortages of related products needed by the military or as part of the military/industrial economy.

For example, the USSR was highly dependent on trains, yet the desperate need to produce weapons meant that only about 92 locomotives were produced in the USSR during the entire war. In this context, the supply of 1,981 US locomotives can be better understood. Likewise, the Soviet air force was enhanced by 18,700 aircraft, which amounted to about 14% of Soviet aircraft production (19% for military aircraft).[5]

Although most Red Army tank units were equipped with Soviet-built tanks, their logistical support was provided by hundreds of thousands of US-made trucks. Indeed by 1945 nearly two-thirds of the truck strength of the Red Army was U.S.-built. Trucks such as the Dodge ¾ ton and Studebaker 2.5 ton, were easily the best trucks available in their class on either side on the Eastern Front.[6] US supplies of telephone cable, aluminium, canned rations and fur boots were also critical, the latter providing a crucial advantage in the winter defence of Moscowreference required.

Lend Lease was a critical factor that brought the US into the war, especially on the European front. Hitler cited the Lend-Lease program and its significance in aiding the Allied war effort when he declared war on the US on December 11, 1941.


Large quantities of goods were in Britain or in transit when Washington suddenly and unexpectedly terminated Lend-Lease on September 2, 1945. Britain needed to retain some of this equipment in the immediate post war period. As a result the Anglo-American loan came about. Lend-lease items retained were sold to Britain at the knockdown price of about 10 cents on the dollar giving an initial value of £1,075 million. Payment was to be stretched out over 50 years at 2% interest. [7] . The final payment of $83.3 million (£42.5 million) due on 31 December 2006 (repayment having been deferred on several occasions) was made on 29 December 2006, it being the last working day of the year. After this final payment Britain's Economic Secretary, Ed Balls, formally thanked the US for its wartime support.


Franklin D. Roosevelt, eager to ensure public consent for this controversial plan, explained to the public and the press that his plan was comparable to one neighbor's lending another a garden hose to put out a fire in his home. "What do I do in such a crisis?" the president asked at a press conference. "I don't say... 'Neighbor, my garden hose cost me $15; you have to pay me $15 for it' …I don't want $15 — I want my garden hose back after the fire is over." [8]

US deliveries to USSR

American deliveries to the Soviet Union can be divided into the following phases:

Delivery was via the Arctic Convoys, the Persian Corridor, and the Pacific Route. The Pacific Route was used for about half of Lend-Lease aid: by convoy from the US west coast to the Soviet Far East, via Vladivostok and the Trans-Siberian railway.[9] After America’s entry in the war, only Soviet (or Soviet-flagged) ships were used, and there was some interference by Japan with them. The Alaska-Siberia Air Route, known as Alsib,[10] was used for air deliveries and passengers from 7 October 1942.

UK lend-lease with Canada

UK lend-lease arrangements with its colonies is one of the lesser known parts of World War II history, as US Lend Lease dominates most available information due to its vast economic and physical scope. However, UK having lend-lease arrangements with its colonies is one of the many infrastructural reasons for the Allied Forces victory.

The Gander Air Base now known as Gander International Airport in Newfoundland was leased to Canada for 99 Years because of its urgent need for the movement of fighter and bomber aircraft to the UK. One of the reasons why the UK was able to win the Battle of Britain was because of this Canada-Newfoundland lend-lease arrangement, but not all Battle of Britain historians have noted this important connection.

Gander Air Base (built 1936) was mentioned in the 1941 Allied propaganda film Churchill's Island, winner of the first Academy Award for Documentary Short Subject.[11] The Gander Air Base land-lease is assumed to have been written in 1939-1940. Upon Canada absorbing Newfoundland in 1949 the lease is assumed to have terminated as Newfoundland was part of Canada.

The UK may have had similar (but more limited in scope) land-lease arrangements during WWII with The United Provinces of India, Australia and New Zealand -- but the Gander lend-lease model was not the predominate kind of arrangement in these regions.

See also


  1. http://books.google.com/books?id=hUoIaQqipboC&pg=PA28 Crossed Currents By Jean Ebbert, Marie-Beth Hall, Edward Latimer Beach
  2. Leo T. Crowley, "Lend Lease" in Walter Yust, ed. 10 Eventful Years (1947)1:520, 2, pp. 858–860.
  3. Weeks, Albert L. Russa's Life-Saver: Lend-Lease Aid to the U.S.S.R. in World War II, p. 24.
  4. "Everett Dirksen: Current Biography 1941." Time Magazine, 17 February 1942, pp. 227, 260–265.
  5. Kotelnokov B.P., 'Using Anglo-American Aviation Equipment in USSR during WWII and its impact on Soviet Aviation Development', July 30, 1993 report reprinted in "Iz Istorii Aviatsii i Kosmonavtiki', IIET RAN, Moscow, 1994, Issue 65, p. 58. See http://www.aviation.ru/articles/land-lease.html#b8
  6. See http://www.olive-drab.com/od_mvg_www_dodge.php3 and http://www.broadwaymusicco.com/stage2.htm
  7. Kindleberger 1984, p. 415.
  8. December 17, 1940 Press Conference
  9. http://www.ruvr.ru/main.php?lng=eng&q=20530&cid=189&p=19.12.2007
  10. http://www.ruvr.ru/main.php?lng=eng&q=22137&cid=189&p=28.01.2008
  11. Churchill's Island. NFB.ca. National Film Board of Canada. Retrieved on 2009-02-17.
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