At a loss for what to write that could spark my interest today I decided to look up events of this day in history and was pleasantly surprised to discover an event which had, possibly, a transformative impact on the world. In this day in 1941 the Lend-Lease Act was signed into law allowing the transfer of free provisions and materiel from the United States to Allied countries at war with Germany, Italy, and Japan.
This was quite a controversial move for a country that was still technically neutral until events later that same year. However, strong arguments can be made that it was the transfer of materiel, especially aircraft and food, which tilted the balance in the Battle of Britain and in gaining air superiority over the English Channel.
While I had known about the Lend-Lease agreement in doing a bit of digging for today’s blog I learned a few interesting new things. Firstly, the agreement was to return anything at the end of the war unless it had been destroyed, however in practicality most materiel was in unusable condition for peacetime and as such allies were allowed to keep, free of charge, most remaining supplies. Interestingly, the agreement was ended without warning though after the surrender of Japan and any shipments which were already enroute to the Allies were charged for, although at a severe discount.
Secondly, the Lend-Lease agreement also accommodated reciprocal exchange in the use of zero-cost leases for army and navy bases in allied countries, many of which still exist though of course no longer for free.
By the end of the war the equivalent of over $50 billion in supplies (over $500 billion in modern terms) had been donated to Allied nations with the lion’s share going to the UK. Conversely the use of land for bases and other reciprocal deals are estimated to have been at a value of almost $8 billion over the course of the war. This figure was very surprising to me in serving to show just how immense the industrial and transportation capacity of the US was in the 1940s.
All told, the signing and continuance of the Lend-Lease Act over the course of the war was vital to Allied victory and almost certainly altered history in a fundamental way. And it all started 78 years ago on this day.