Lend-Lease and American "Neutrality"


  • 2020 2019 2018

    Interesting read here, courtesy of the Hampton Roads Naval Museum:

    http://hamptonroadsnavalmuseum.blogspot.com/2018/05/new-princes-namesake-naval-hero-in.html?m=1

    I didn’t know that the Lend-Lease Act included a provision for the repair of Allied ships, nor did I know that six battle-damaged British warships were repaired at American shipyards in 1941. It seems President Roosevelt skipped over the “Powers Not At War” section of the rules.  😉


  • 2020 2019 2018 2017 '16 '15 '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    Very interesting article – thanks for posting the link.

    About the “powers not at war” thing: if I’m not mistaken, that wasn’t an element of the Lend-Lease Act, it was an element of the Neutrality Acts (which were, in essence, superseded by the Lend-Lease Act).  Lend-Lease was intended to benefit countries which were “at war with aggressor nations”, if I remember correctly the phrase Roosevelt used in his “arsenal of democracy” speech, so by definition a power had to be at war (and specifically to have been the victim of aggression, which translated roughly into “having been attacked by Hitler”) to be eligible for Lend-Lease.

    In late September 1939, by the way, the US found a clever way to amend the Neutrality Act that technically kept the US neutral but in practice favoured the Allied powers (which at the time basically meant the British and the French).  It allowed powers at war to buy implements of war from the US, as long as they transported the stuff using their own ships and paid immediately in cash.  This favoured the British and the French, and for all practical purposes excluded Germany, because the Royal Navy quickly managed to sweep most German shipping off the face of the Atlantic after WWII broke out.



  • The greatest FU US did to the axis while not at war was alloying US destroyers to escort British trade ships in active U-Boat waters and daring the Germans to attack.


  • 2020 2019 2018

    @CWO:

    Very interesting article – thanks for posting the link.

    About the “powers not at war” thing: if I’m not mistaken, that wasn’t an element of the Lend-Lease Act, it was an element of the Neutrality Acts (which were, in essence, superseded by the Lend-Lease Act).  Lend-Lease was intended to benefit countries which were “at war with aggressor nations”, if I remember correctly the phrase Roosevelt used in his “arsenal of democracy” speech, so by definition a power had to be at war (and specifically to have been the victim of aggression, which translated roughly into “having been attacked by Hitler”) to be eligible for Lend-Lease.

    In late September 1939, by the way, the US found a clever way to amend the Neutrality Act that technically kept the US neutral but in practice favoured the Allied powers (which at the time basically meant the British and the French).  It allowed powers at war to buy implements of war from the US, as long as they transported the stuff using their own ships and paid immediately in cash.  This favoured the British and the French, and for all practical purposes excluded Germany, because the Royal Navy quickly managed to sweep most German shipping off the face of the Atlantic after WWII broke out.

    The more I learn about the “technical”/situational status of US neutrality, the more I am simply fascinated. The reality was in no way black and white (as we were taught in school), but very much shades of gray.

    As for the 1939 amendment to the Neutrality Act…Thanks for including that info. It sheds light on the phone conversation between Churchill and FDR portrayed in Darkest Hour (I won’t detail it here, so as to avoid a ‘spoiler’ for anyone who hasn’t seen the movie. If you haven’t seen it, though, you really should).


  • 2020 2019 2018 2017 '16 '15 '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    @The:

    The more I learn about the “technical”/situational status of US neutrality, the more I am simply fascinated. The reality was in no way black and white (as we were taught in school), but very much shades of gray.

    Yes indeed.  Another action along these lines pertains to the 200 PBY Catalina seaplanes which the US sold (quite openly) to Britain early in the war.  The first units were delivered in 1941, and there was nothing secret about the sale in and of itself.  However, what was a secret (even Congress didn’t know) was the fact that Roosevelt had also loaned three US Navy pilots to the British to help train them in operating the planes.  The Catalina piloted by US Navy Ensign Leonard B. “Tuck” Smith was one of the planes which was sent out to hunt for the Bismarck when the German battleship managed to give the slip to the Royal Navy ships which had been persuing it.  Smith’s plane was the one which ultimately spotted the Bismarck and relayed its position to the British, who then were able to intercept and sink it.  Smith received the Distinguished Flying Cross for his role in this important Allied victory, though he had to keep quiet the circumstances for which it was awarded to him.  You can read more about the story in various places, for instance here:

    https://www.defensemedianetwork.com/stories/the-american-who-helped-sink-the-bismarck/


  • 2020 2019 2018

    Great story - thanks for posting the link. The Bismarck article raises another fascinating hypothetical question: What if Roosevelt’s efforts to circumvent the Neutrality Act resulted in his impeachment? Would the likely changes in American foreign policy have been enough to convince the Japanese to call off the Pearl Harbor attack? Without Pearl Harbor, when does the US go to war?

    It’s a bit too early in the day for whisky and a philosophical discussion, but I’m filing this topic away for later.  😄


  • 2020 2019 2018 2017 '16 '15 '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    @The:

    Great story - thanks for posting the link. The Bismarck article raises another fascinating hypothetical question: What if Roosevelt’s efforts to circumvent the Neutrality Act resulted in his impeachment? Would the likely changes in American foreign policy have been enough to convince the Japanese to call off the Pearl Harbor attack? Without Pearl Harbor, when does the US go to war?

    A film that you might like to watch as background material, to get a perspective on how all this was being pitched to the American public at the time, is “War Comes To America,” the final film of the “Why We Fight” series made by Frank Capra.  It’s in public domain by now, so you can watch it on YouTube or download it for free.  Among other things, it shows the US initially cranking up neutrality measures as public sentiment grew increasingly isolationist towards the European and Asian powers who were at war with each other, then cranking them down as public sentiment grew increasingly concerned that the US might itself become threatened by  some of those same powers (i.e. Germany, Italy and Japan).

    Pay particular attention to the film’s use of phrases along the lines of “Congress, correctly reflecting the mood of the nation, took such-and-such an action…”  One of the film’s premises is that in a dictatorship it’s the dictatorial leaders who set national policy and who wage war, whereas in a democracy it’s the people who do so, and Capra uses this premise as the basis of his idealistic representation of how American politics operated in the years leading up to US entry into WWII.  According to the film, the process was admirably grass-roots in nature: 1) Americans would collectively make up their minds about important national matters by reading newspapers and by discussing the issues among themselves in such contexts as passionate (but civil) arguments between neighbors; 2) polling firms such as Gallup would conduct surveys to determine where the majority of public opinion was at a given time on a given subject; and 3) Congress would read the poll results and, acting in accordance with the will of the people, would take the appropriate action after having its own passionate (but civil) debate of the subject.  It’s a very Norman Rockwell type of imagery, but one has to remember that the Why We Fight series was fundamentally a propaganda film series (originally meant to motivate US troops, but later also shown to the public), though a well-intentioned one whose basic message – that freedom has to be defended against tyranny – is hard to argue with.  But given what is now known about such behind-the-scenes elements as the story of the “secretly loaned” US Navy Catalina pilot who was flying a combat mission against a German battleship – and doing so on behalf of the RAF rather than the USN – seven months before Pearl Harbor, it’s interesting to speculate how John Q. Public would have reacted if such facts had ended up on the front page of the New York Times.


  • 2020 2019 2018

    I’ve seen several of the “Why We Fight” series, but not the one you mentioned. I’ll check that out.

    I just started watching “Five Came Back,” a Netflix documentary mini-series about five major Hollywood directors (including Frank Capra) who joined the war effort. Very good so far. One interesting nugget from episode one: In 1939, Capra wanted to make a George Washington biopic. His studio head shot it down, saying the timing was wrong for a movie in which the British were the villains. Capra made “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” instead.



  • A few months ago I read a book about the US naval activity in the Atlantic prior to Dec 7, and my takeaway was that Roosevelt felt compelled to fight against Germany very early on in WWII, and from 1939-1941 he was pushing every boundary he could in the Atlantic theater to get closer to that goal, without directly coming out and declaring war. He understood the political realities and that the country wasn’t yet in favor of war, so he essentially fought a secret war in the western and middle Atlantic, that only the navy and administration knew about in 1940-1941. Lend-lease and helping the British were part of this push. As was the US occupation of Iceland, which had to be done by one of our two Marines Corps divisions, because the law at the time prohibited overseas deployment of the Army in peacetime (or something like that); both this and lend-lease give an idea of the sort of playing with the rules that Roosevelt was doing.

    The book was “Mr. Roosevelt’s Navy – The Private War of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet, 1939-1942” by Patrick Abbazia. Written in 1975 but republished in 2016 by Naval Institute Press and available on Amazon. I didn’t notice any factual errors, despite the book being so old. Very interesting insight into the orders given to the US Atlantic Fleet, our “neutrality” patrol, and Roosevelt’s strategic intentions. I highly recommend the book if this topic is of interest to you.

    EBard


  • 2020 2019 2018 2017 '16 '15 '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    @EBard:

    The book was “Mr. Roosevelt’s Navy – The Private War of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet, 1939-1942” by Patrick Abbazia. Written in 1975 but republished in 2016 by Naval Institute Press and available on Amazon. I didn’t notice any factual errors, despite the book being so old. Very interesting insight into the orders given to the US Atlantic Fleet, our “neutrality” patrol, and Roosevelt’s strategic intentions. I highly recommend the book if this topic is of interest to you.

    I’m not familiar with that book, but it sounds correct from what you’ve described.  If I’m not mistaken, one of the reasons Roosevelt felt that it was important to help Britian in its struggle against the Axis powers was that it was actually in America’s interest to do so from a maritime point of view.  Britian was a nation – and at the time an imperial power – whose economic strength depended on maritime commerce, and which maintained a large and powerful navy in order to protect that maritime commerce in both peacetime and wartime.  Keeping the oceanic seaways safe and open for Britain also, by extension, kept them safe and open for Britain’s allies too (“that we may be […] a security for such as pass upon the seas upon their lawful occasions”, as the Royal Navy’s Naval Prayer puts it), and this was a considerable fringe benefit to the U.S., which was also a maritime nation with vital economic interests in merchant shipping.  In other words, the Royal Navy, in protecting Britain’s oceanic trade, also helped to protect America’s oceanic trade too, which meant that the US Navy’s workload wasn’t as huge as would have been the case if the Royal Navy had been absent from the scene.

    Roosevelt did understand that he was ahead of the curve relative to American public opinion (and Congressional opinion), and that he had to find creative ways to work within those constraints; in some cases, this involved pushing the envelope through artful dodges and under-the-table actions.  Although we’ve been discussing the European theatre, another good example of this sort of thing over on the Pacific side is the American Volunteer Group of the Chinese Air Force, a.k.a. the Flying Tigers, who on paper were all American civilians but who in actual fact were mostly Army, Navy and Marine Corps pilots.  Another bit of creative footwork involved the occupation of Iceland (as was just mentioned) by the US, who took over that role from the British (who had originally invaded and occupied it).  Iceland is roughly half-way across the Atlantic, and the presence of US forces there, if I’m not mistaken, provided the US a rationale for providing naval escorts to friendly ships almost halfway to Europe.



  • The big reason for keeping UK an ally after WWI was because of their empire needed to be maintained and they bought equipment both military and civilian from the US. Germany since they lost all of their colonies to Japan, UK, France, and Belgium, this issue wasn’t the same.

    As for the Flying Tigers, no one recruited for the service was active US military, while most of them had US military training, some of them were “civilian” pilots who fought as mercenaries during the inter war periods around the globe. Technically, they are not mercenaries by traditional definition, they’re Americans being hired by the US


  • 2020 2019 2018

    I don’t know about every one of the Flying Tigers, but Gregory “Pappy” Boyington resigned his Marine Corps commission to join the AVG. According to his autobiography, he was promised (by whom, I can’t recall) that his USMC commission would be reinstated if/when the US entered the war. After Pearl Harbor, the AVG became part of the US Army Air Force and most Flying Tigers received Army commissions. Boyington refused, insisting on returning to the Marine Corps, and went back to the US until the matter was resolved to his satisfaction.



  • No Tiger Pilot was active US military because the Tigers were replacing the Soviet Pilots before Pearl Harbor so they didn’t want to give Japan direct evidence of an act of war.


Log in to reply
 

20th Anniversary Give Away

In January 2000 this site came to life and now we're celebrating our 20th Anniversary with a prize giveaway of 30+ prizes. See this link for the list of prizes and winners.
Axis & Allies Boardgaming Custom Painted Miniatures
Dean's Army Guys
T-shirts, Hats, and More

Suggested Topics

  • 5
  • 41
  • 8
  • 9
  • 43
  • 2
  • 10
  • 3
I Will Never Grow Up Games
Axis & Allies Boardgaming Custom Painted Miniatures
Dean's Army Guys

62
Online

14.8k
Users

35.5k
Topics

1.4m
Posts