World War II The Lend-Lease Act


WorldWar II: The Lend-Lease Act

Thelend-lease Act which came into force in the early years of 1941,after a pungent partisan deliberation by Congress and a vibrantprotest by isolationists, gave authority to the President Franklin D.Roosevelt to sell, transfer ownership and dispose of military vitalsupplies and military aid to foreign governments whose defense wasparamount to the defense of the U.S. (Seidl, 2012). The Act allowedthe officially nonaligned U.S to become in the President Roosevelt’sterms the “the arsenal of democracy” in the war against AdolfHitler and his allies. The Act had so many impacts on the battlefronts in Europe to the extent that Adolf it was cited by Hitler, theNazi leader when declaring war on America in December 1941. Under theprovisions of this Act, the United States give aid to allied statesuntil the war was won (Scott, Rainey &amp Hunt, 2000). The programcontinued up to 1946 even when Japan attacked American naval base inthe Hawaii Island. Between1941-45 the U.S had given aid to the alliedpowers totaling $50.1 billion, which today would be equivalent to$760 billion (Scott, Rainey &amp Hunt, 2000). These supplies andmilitary aid were shipped to Britain, China, U.S.S.R. and the FreeFrench. By allowing the transfer of aid and supplies withoutimmediate compensation to U.S.S.R, Britain, Free French, China andother governments, the Act made it possible for the U.S to maintainits war interest without being over-constrained in combat.

Aidto Britain and Free French

Theact accorded Roosevelt immense powers to spend funds allocated byCongress as he deemed necessary for the security of the UnitedStates. Immediately after the passage of the Act the U.S presidentordered the shipment of supplies from various ports in the UnitedStates to Great Britain (Scott, Rainey &amp Hunt, 2000). One monthlater large quantities of war materials, medical and food supplieswere reaching ports in the U.K. In the first appropriation about $4billion of army type materials and $3 billion of naval materials weresent through the North Atlantic to the Great Britain. These materialsencompassed different forms of supplies and ordinances such as tanks,trucks, vehicles, aeronautical supplies, aircrafts, militarysupplies, foodstuffs and naval supplies. After the invasion of Russiaand the Pearl Harbor attack, Roosevelt expanded the lend-lease aid toRussia, Free French, and China (Scott, Rainey &amp Hunt, 2000). Tothe Free French, about half of the consignment constituted munitions,which encompassed all forms of ammunitions, weapons, ad war vesselssuch as war planes, tanks, warships and personnel carriers (Seidl,2012). Fuel, raw material, and industrial machinery constituted abouta quarter of the shipment to the Free French and Britain. Differenttypes of foodstuffs and food products constituted about 14 percent ofthese shipments. The remainders were services, more specificallytransportation. This paper will give details of the materialssupplied to allied members in the course of the war after the passageof the Lend –Lease Act.

Aidto the U.S.S.R

Whenthe Act was passed in 1941, the main aim was to give aid to GreatBritain so that it could resist the invasion of Nazi Germany. By1941, Britain had remained the only country that had the resources toresist the debilitating offensive waged by Hitler troops (Scott,Rainey &amp Hunt, 2000). After the Berlin –Moscow pact of 1939that saw the creation Germany and Soviet Union alliance to conquerPoland, many Americans and Europeans looked upon U.S.S.R withsuspicion and distrust. Congress perceived Soviet Union as Acollaborator and a possible Nazi ally. Nonetheless, it was evident toPresident Roosevelt that Hitler would soon turn against Moscow and assuch he made sure that the language used in the Act would allow himto give support to other governments perceived vital for globalstability and U.S security. Shipment of aid and supplies to SovietUnion began a few months after Nazi invasion in 1941. Initially, theSoviet Union was able to pay for the aid with gold but as Germancontinued to inflict massive damages and losses to the economy.Russia could no longer manage to pay for the aid (Scott, Rainey &ampHunt, 2000).

Bythe end of 1941, there was rising support for U.S.S.R war effort inthe U.S.A and a surging respect for the determination and sacrificethat the Soviets were making. It was evident that Hitler andMussolini were determined to create a new world order by hook andcrook. It also became apparent that if Axis powers overran SovietUnion it would take immense sacrifice by the U.S to prevent Hitlerand his allies from dominating the world (Scott, Rainey &amp Hunt,2000). In this light, President Roosevelt added Soviet Union to thecountry in the list of the Lend-Lease and immediately Soviet Unionbecame the second largest beneficiaries of supplies and military aidafter Britain totaling to $11.3billion. In fact by the end of the warin 1945 the Soviet Union had received about a quarter of the entireaid dispatched under the program in the form of food, industrialinputs, munitions and other raw materials (Weeks,2004).Under the program, a total of 14,833 United States aircraft ofdifferent types were sent to the Soviets between1942-44. About 30percent of the fighter aircraft used by the Soviets troops were madein the U.S (Scott, Rainey &amp Hunt, 2000).

Aidto China

LandLease Act to China was meant to improve transport routes, especiallythe Burma roads. As the war intensified, it was important to supplycontinuously supplies to the Eastern front through China. Aid toChina was aimed at improving transport to the eastern front, and itdoubled the total tonnage conveyed over the Burma route (WisconsinUniversity Library, n.d). After the loss of Burma to the Axis powers,shipment to China was primarily carried through cargo planes fromIndia. China also received munitions, fighter planes, trucks,gasoline, medical aid, trainers and miscellaneous supplies. After thePearl Harbor attack, the amount of aid to China was expanded, andAmerican planes were sent to China to help quell the invasion byJapan. Appendix 1 is a summary of the amount of aid dispatched toallied powers under the Lend –Lease Act.

TheAtlantic Sealift

Mostof the supplies and military assistance were shipped across theAtlantic Ocean on merchant`s vessels under the guide of Unites Statesmerchant crew. Britain provided warships that escorted these vessels.These shipments formed the greatest and most treacherous sealift inthe history of the world. Most of the convoys from the U.S weredecimated by the U-boat and the German Luftwaffe. Approximately 9,300United States mariners were exterminated in the Atlantic (Weeks,2004).The newly created alliance of the Soviets and U.S.A in 1942, the planwas extended to allow their participation with large quantities ofsupplies passing through the Persian Corridor, the Arctic Convoys andthe Alaska-Siberian Air Route (Weeks,2004)

Itis important to note that getting supplies to the Soviets was adaunting task because of the German U-boats wrecking havoc in thePacific. Germany had managed to occupy prime Soviets ports in 1941,and the U.S had to open three routes to reach the Soviets (Weeks,2004).The first was the northern route (Arctic) to Ark Aangel and Murmansk.This was a crucial route because it was the most direct path from theU.S. to the Soviets fronts. Between August 1941 and May 1945 theUnited States had organized 78 convoys to the U.S.S.R using theArctic route. The second was the Western route (Pacific) (Weeks,2004).The path extended from the western coast in the U.S ports to theports on the Pacific in the Soviet Union. This was the mostimperative route and at least half of the shipments that reached theSoviets passed through the Pacific route. In fact some of theshipment was done by air, some of the U.S aircraft were flown fromAlaska to the U.S.S.R. although the huge quantities of supplies weredispatched through ships (Weeks,2004).

Significanceof Lend-Lease

Thelend-lease Act was very important in tilting the balance of theSecond World War. By the end of 1941, Europe with the exception ofBritain and Soviet Union were under the control of the Axis powers.Britain reserves were slowly getting depleted, and the Soviet Unionwas sustaining massive blows in the face of the Nazis (Spitsyn,2015).The Act paved the way for the support of Soviet Union and Britain intheir war efforts against the Axis powers. Blitzkrieg was consumingEurope like a bush fire and call for assistance by Winston Churchillmeant that if no effort were made by the U.S.A the world would beoverrun by the Nazi Germany. The U.S.S.R had its own extensivemilitary industry that had the capacity to manufacture formidabletanks and war weapons, but the country was in dire need ofammunitions, raw materials, aircrafts and other industrial equipment(Weeks,2004).

TheSoviet civilian was seriously debilitated by the battle and wasstraining to meet basic needs. In formulating the Act, the U.Spresident was striving to attain the country’s security interestand dismantling Nazi Germany, without entering the bloody war(Spitsyn,2015).But after the U.S was engaged in war against Japan in the Pacific ,the Act played a crucial role in assisting Soviet Union to resist theinvasion of Nazi Germany before the world was ready to open thesecond European front (Weeks,2004).

Britainwas able to mobilize its military for war against Hitler afterreceiving crucial supplies and military weapons. As the war againstAxis powers continued Britain was able to manufacture a sizableamount of weapons for its troops, nonetheless, this resulted in asweeping reduction in the manufacture of other essential commodities.Supplies from the Lend-Lease filled this gap n the form of food,trucks, munitions, rolling stock and transport aircraft (Spitsyn,2015).


Thelend-lease Act which came into force in the early years of 1941,after a pungent partisan deliberation by Congress and a vibrantprotest by isolationists, gave authority to the President Rooseveltto sell, transfer ownership and dispose of military vital suppliesand military aid to foreign governments whose defense was paramountto the defense of the U.S. The Act allowed the neutral U.S to becomein the President Roosevelt’s terms the “the arsenal of democracy”in the war against Axis powers. The program played a huge role inhelping key allied powers such as Britain and the Soviet Union toresist and finally overcome the might of the Axis powers. Aid came inthe form of combat vehicles (parts), trucks, tanks, munitions,machine tools, medical and food supplies, warships and transportcrafts, weapons parts, clothing and chemicals.

Theaid provided a great relief to exhausted British troops anddetermined Soviet soldiers maid massive and debilitating defeats inthe hands of Axis powers. By mid 1941 Britain had depleted its goldreserves and could not manage to buy supplies to support its warefforts. Soviet Union military production was running day and nightsbut still it could not match the Axis military muscle. China wasexperiencing difficulties in the Eastern front from the massiveattacks by the Japanese and Free French needed immediate assistanceto revivify its falling prospects in the war fronts. The Lend-LeaseAct enabled the Allied powers to resist and overcome invasion fromAxis powers through the assistance of the United States. The aidtilted the balance and paved way for the defeat of Nazi Germany andits allies.


Scott,F.B., Rainey,C.J. and Hunt, W.A. (2000). The Logistics of War. DianePublishing. Air Force Journal of Logistics, 1 August 2000. Availableat:,+tanks+and+aircraft+to+britain,+china+and+free+france&ampsource.[Accessed on 16.5/2015]

Seidl.M.M. (2012).The Lend-Lease Program, 1941-1945. Franklin D. RooseveltPresidential Library and Museum. Avaialble at:]Accessed on 16/6.2015]

Spitsyn,E. (2015). WWIIlend-lease: was the US aid that helpful? Open Dialogue ResearchJournal, May 2015. Available at:[Accessed on 16/6/2015]

Weeks,A. L. (2004). Russia`s life-saver: Lend-lease aid to the U.S.S.R. inWorld War II. Lanham [u.a.: Lexington Books

WisconsinUniversity Library. n.d .Aid to China Under the Lend-Lease program1943. Available at:

Appendix 1