FDR introduces the lend-lease program

FDR introduces the lend-lease program

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On January 10, 1941, Franklin Roosevelt introduces the lend-lease program to Congress. The plan was intended to help Britain beat back Hitler’s advance while keeping America only indirectly involved in World War II.

As Roosevelt addressed Congress, the Battle of Britain was in its full destructive swing and Hitler seemed on the verge of invading Great Britain. The cash-strapped Brits desperately needed airplanes, tanks and ships to fight Hitler’s imminent invasion. For months, Britain’s prime minister, Winston Churchill, had begged Roosevelt for help, but the president was committed to abiding by Americans’ wishes to stay out of another bloody world war.

The lend-lease program provided for military aid to any country whose defense was vital to the security of the United States. The plan thus gave Roosevelt the power to lend arms to Britain with the understanding that, after the war, America would be paid back in kind. Congress overwhelmingly accepted the plan, which only staunch isolationists opposed. Roosevelt’s program enabled the U.S. military to prepare for the growing threat of Japan on its Pacific flank while helping Britain to contain Hitler across the Atlantic, as it permitted aid to Europe without committing American troops that might be needed in a Pacific war. Even though Roosevelt’s plan did not require immediate repayment, the United States commandeered what was left of Britain’s gold reserves and overseas investments to help pay for the increased defense production.

With the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941, Japan forced the entry of the United States into the war. Roosevelt then recognized the strategic advantage of also supplying the Soviet Union with arms under lend-lease in order to draw Hitler’s resources away from Western Europe. This gave the United States a better chance at fighting a war on two fronts while planning for an invasion to liberate Europe. Roosevelt, mindful of the inherent conflict between American democracy and Soviet communism, counted on using U.S. military aid to the Soviet Union as a bargaining chip in post-war diplomatic relations.

By the end of the war the United States had given more than $50 billion in armaments and financial support to Britain, the U.S.S.R. and 37 other countries. The lend-lease program laid a foundation for the post-war Marshall Plan, which provided aid to European nations to help rebuild their economies after two devastating world wars.

Lend-Lease Act

Definition and Summary of the Lend-Lease Act
Summary and Definition: The Lend-Lease Act was enacted on March 11, 1941 and was formally entitled "An Act to Promote the Defense of the United States". The Lend-Lease Act removed the cash requirement of the Neutrality Acts allowing the British and other allies continued access to American arms, munitions and supplies despite their rapidly deteriorating financial situation. The provisions of the Lend-Lease Act provided that the US could ship weapons, food, or equipment to any country whose struggle against the Axis powers of Germany, Italy and Japan assisted U.S. defense.

Lend-Lease Act
Franklin D Roosevelt was the 32nd American President who served in office from March 4, 1933 to April 12, 1945. One of the important events during his presidency was the Lend-Lease Act of 1941.

Lend-Lease Act Facts for kids
The following fact sheet contains interesting facts and information on Lend-Lease Act for kids.

Lend-Lease Act Fact 1: The 1939 Neutrality Act eliminated the ban on arms sales to nations at war but still included a "cash and carry" provision. If an allied nation (Britain or France) wanted to buy items from the US, it had to pay cash and send its own ships to pick up the goods.

Lend-Lease Act Fact 2: By December 1940 Great Britain had run out of money to buy the arms needed to continue its desperate fight against Germany. It could no longer afford to pay cash for US arms and munitions as required by the Neutrality Acts.

Lend-Lease Act Fact 3: President Roosevelt won the 1940 presidential election and the general acceptance of the 'Destroyers for Bases' deal marked a shift away from Isolationism and the neutral position of the United States. FDR began to expand the nation's role in the war and providing help to the Allies.

Lend-Lease Act Fact 4: In May 1941 President Roosevelt used a loophole in the Neutrality Acts to set up the Destroyers-for-Bases deal with Great Britain by which the US sent 50 old American destroyers to Great Britain in exchange for the right to build American bases on British controlled islands in the western Atlantic and the Caribbean. As the 'Destroyers for Bases' deal did not involve the actual sale of the US destroyers the Neutrality Acts did not apply.

Lend-Lease Act Fact 5: But the greater part of US help was provided under the Lend-Lease Act, "An Act to Promote the Defense of the United States".

Lend-Lease Act Fact 6: Critics of the bill included the 'America First Committee' a group who favored Isolationism and staunchly opposed US intervention or aid to the allies. FDR responded to the critics by stating that help to keep the British fighting would make it unnecessary for Americans to go to war.

Lend-Lease Act Fact 7: The 1941 Lend-Lease Act allowed President Roosevelt to authorize the transfer of military materials to Great Britain with the understanding that they would ultimately be paid for, or returned if they were not destroyed.

Facts about the Lend-Lease Act for kids
The following fact sheet continues with facts about Lend-Lease Act for kids.

Facts about the Lend-Lease Act for kids

Lend-Lease Act Fact 8: FDR created the Office of Lend-Lease Administration under the leadership of Edward R. Stettinius, a former steel industry executive

Lend-Lease Act Fact 9: The biggest problem was how Americans could help to get the war supplies across the Atlantic to Great Britain. British cargo ships were under constant attack by German U-Boat submarines and their precious cargoes were being sunk.

Lend-Lease Act Fact 10: The United States was still technically neutral so FDR was unable to order the US Navy to protect the British cargo ships. He therefore declared the western half of the Atlantic as neutral and ordered the US Navy to patrol what he called the 'Hemispheric Defense Zone' and then report the location of German submarines to the British.

Lend-Lease Act Fact 11: In April 1941, FDR expanded the program by offering lend-lease aid to China for their war against the Japanese

Lend-Lease Act Fact 12: In June 1941 Germany launched a massive invasion of the Soviet Union. Winston Churchill detested Stalin and the communists but vowed that any country who fought against Nazism would have his support. FDR supported Churchill's view and extended Lend-Lease aid to the USSR.

Lend-Lease Act Fact 13: Almost 50% of U.S. Lend-Lease shipments consisted of munitions meaning all kinds of weapons, ammunition and war machinery, such as tanks, warplanes and warships. Other shipments included fuels, industrial machinery, raw materials and food products.

Lend-Lease Act Fact 14: The Lend-Lease program continued after the US entry into the war following the Attack on Pearl Harbor in December 7, 1941.

Lend-Lease Act Fact 15: As the war continued engulfing almost all regions of the world, the number of Lend-Lease recipients grew, eventually including more than 30 countries

Lend-Lease Act Fact 16: In 1942, a reciprocal aid agreement or "reverse lend-lease" was made between the United States with Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and the Free French. Under the "reverse lend-lease" terms goods, services, shipping, and military installations were given to American forces overseas

Lend-Lease Act Fact 17: The Lend-Lease program substantially strengthened the Allies, especially Great Britain and the Soviet Union, in their fight against Nazi Germany. Refer to US Mobilization for WW2.

Facts about the Lend-Lease Act for kids

Lend-Lease Act for kids - President Franklin Roosevelt Video
The article on the Lend-Lease Act provides detailed facts and a summary of one of the important events during his presidential term in office. The following Franklin Roosevelt video will give you additional important facts and dates about the political events experienced by the 32nd American President whose presidency spanned from March 4, 1933 to April 12, 1945.

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Non-interventionism and neutrality Edit

The 1930s began with one of the world's greatest economic depressions—which had started in the United States—and the later recession of 1937–38 (although minor relative to the Great Depression) was otherwise also one of the worst of the 20th century. Following the Nye Committee [nb 1] hearings, as well as influential books of the time, such as Merchants of Death, both 1934, the United States Congress adopted several Neutrality Acts in the 1930s, motivated by non-interventionism—following the aftermath of its costly involvement in World War I (the war debts were still not paid off), and seeking to ensure that the country would not become entangled in foreign conflicts again. The Neutrality Acts of 1935, 1936, and 1937 intended to keep the United States out of war, by making it illegal for Americans to sell or transport arms, or other war materials to warring nations—neither to aggressors, nor to defenders. [6]

Cash and carry Edit

In 1939 however – as Germany, Japan, and Italy pursued aggressive, militaristic policies – President Roosevelt wanted more flexibility to help contain Axis aggression. FDR suggested amending the act to allow warring nations to purchase military goods, arms and munitions if they paid cash and bore the risks of transporting the goods on non-American ships, a policy that would favor Britain and France. Initially, this proposal failed, but after Germany invaded Poland in September, Congress passed the Neutrality Act of 1939 ending the munitions embargo on a "cash and carry" basis. The passage of the 1939 amendment to the previous Neutrality Acts marked the beginning of a congressional shift away from isolationism, making a first step toward interventionism. [6]

After the Fall of France during June 1940, the British Commonwealth and Empire were the only forces engaged in war against Germany and Italy, until the Italian invasion of Greece. Britain had been paying for its materiel with gold as part of the "cash and carry" program, as required by the U.S. Neutrality Acts of the 1930s, but by 1941 it had liquidated so many assets that its cash was becoming depleted. [7] The British Expeditionary Force lost 68,000 soldiers during the French campaign, and, following the Dunkirk evacuation in 1940, abandoned much of its military hardware.

During this same period, the U.S. government began to mobilize for total war, instituting the first-ever peacetime draft and a fivefold increase in the defense budget (from $2 billion to $10 billion). [8] In the meantime, Great Britain was running out of liquid currency and asked not to be forced to sell off British assets. On December 7, 1940, its Prime Minister Winston Churchill pressed President Roosevelt in a 15-page letter for American help. [nb 2] [9] Sympathetic to the British plight, but hampered by public opinion and the Neutrality Acts, which forbade arms sales on credit or the lending of money to belligerent nations, Roosevelt eventually came up with the idea of "lend–lease". As one Roosevelt biographer has characterized it: "If there was no practical alternative, there was certainly no moral one either. Britain and the Commonwealth were carrying the battle for all civilization, and the overwhelming majority of Americans, led in the late election by their president, wished to help them." [10] As the President himself put it, "There can be no reasoning with incendiary bombs." [11]

In September 1940, during the Battle of Britain the British government sent the Tizard Mission to the United States. [12] The aim of the British Technical and Scientific Mission was to obtain the industrial resources to exploit the military potential of the research and development work completed by the UK up to the beginning of World War II , but that Britain itself could not exploit due to the immediate requirements of war-related production. The British shared technology included the cavity magnetron (key technology at the time for highly effective radar the American historian James Phinney Baxter III later called "the most valuable cargo ever brought to our shores"), [13] [14] the design for the VT fuze, details of Frank Whittle's jet engine and the Frisch–Peierls memorandum describing the feasibility of an atomic bomb. [15] Though these may be considered the most significant, many other items were also transported, including designs for rockets, superchargers, gyroscopic gunsights, submarine detection devices, self-sealing fuel tanks and plastic explosives.

In December 1940, President Roosevelt proclaimed the United States would be the "Arsenal of Democracy" and proposed selling munitions to Britain and Canada. [11] Isolationists were strongly opposed, warning it would result in American involvement with what was considered by most Americans as an essentially European conflict. In time, opinion shifted as increasing numbers of Americans began to consider the advantage of funding the British war against Germany, while staying free of the hostilities themselves. [16] Propaganda showing the devastation of British cities during The Blitz, as well as popular depictions of Germans as savage also rallied public opinion to the Allies, especially after Germany conquered France.

Lend-Lease proposal Edit

After a decade of neutrality, Roosevelt knew that the change to Allied support must be gradual, given the support for isolationism in the country. Originally, the American policy was to help the British but not join the war. During early February 1941, a Gallup poll revealed that 54% of Americans were in favor of giving aid to the British without qualifications of Lend-Lease. A further 15% were in favor of qualifications such as: "If it doesn't get us into war," or "If the British can give us some security for what we give them." Only 22% were unequivocally against the President's proposal. When poll participants were asked their party affiliation, the poll revealed a political divide: 69% of Democrats were unequivocally in favor of Lend-Lease, whereas only 38% of Republicans favored the bill without qualification. At least one poll spokesperson also noted that "approximately twice as many Republicans" gave "qualified answers as . Democrats." [17]

Opposition to the Lend-Lease bill was strongest among isolationist Republicans in Congress, who feared the measure would be "the longest single step this nation has yet taken toward direct involvement in the war abroad". When the House of Representatives finally took a roll call vote on February 9, 1941, the 260 to 165 vote was largely along party lines. Democrats voted 238 to 25 in favor and Republicans 24 in favor and 135 against. [18]

The vote in the Senate, which occurred a month later, revealed a similar partisan difference: 49 Democrats (79 percent) voted "aye" with only 13 Democrats (21 percent) voting "nay". In contrast, 17 Republicans (63 percent) voted "nay" while 10 Senate Republicans (37 percent) sided with the Democrats to pass the bill. [19]

President Roosevelt signed the Lend-Lease bill into law on March 11, 1941. It permitted him 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, [20] and in October to the Soviet Union. Roosevelt approved US$1 billion in Lend-Lease aid to Britain at the end of October 1941.

This followed the 1940 Destroyers for Bases Agreement, whereby 50 US Navy destroyers were transferred to the Royal Navy and the Royal Canadian Navy in exchange for basing rights in the Caribbean. Churchill also granted the US base rights in Bermuda and Newfoundland for free, allowing British military assets to be redeployed. [21]

After the attack on Pearl Harbor and the United States entering the war in December 1941, foreign policy was rarely discussed by Congress, and there was very little demand to cut Lend-Lease spending. In spring 1944, the House passed a bill to renew the Lend-Lease program by a vote of 334 to 21. The Senate passed it by a vote of 63 to 1. [22]

Multilateral Allied support Edit

In February 1942, the U.S. and Britain signed the Anglo-American Mutual Aid Agreement [23] as part of a greater multilateral system, developed by the Allies during the war, to provide each other with goods, services, and mutual aid in the widest sense, without charging commercial payments. [24]

Value of materials supplied by the U.S. to its Allied nations [25]
Country Millions of
US Dollars
Total 48,395.4
British Empire 31,387.1
Brazil 372.0
Soviet Union 10,982.1
Mexico 39.2
France 3,223.9
Chile 21.6
China 1,627.0
Peru 18.9
Netherlands 251.1
Colombia 8.3
Belgium 159.5
Ecuador 7.8
Greece 81.5
Uruguay 7.1
Norway 47.0
Cuba 6.6
Turkey 42.9
Bolivia 5.5
Yugoslavia 32.2
Venezuela 4.5
Saudi Arabia 19.0
Guatemala 2.6
Poland 12.5
Paraguay 2.0
Liberia 11.6
Dominican Republic 1.6
Iran 5.3
Haiti 1.4
Ethiopia 5.3
Nicaragua 0.9
Iceland 4.4
El Salvador 0.9
Iraq 0.9
Honduras 0.4
Czechoslovakia 0.6
Costa Rica 0.2

A total of $50.1 billion (equivalent to $575 billion in 2019) [26] was involved, or 17% of the total war expenditures of the U.S. [2] In all, $31.4 billion ($360 billion) went to Britain and its Empire, $11.3 billion ($130 billion) to the Soviet Union, $3.2 billion ($36.7 billion) to France, $1.6 billion ($18.4 billion) to China, and the remaining $2.6 billion to the other Allies. Reverse lend-lease policies comprised services such as rent on bases used by the U.S., and totaled $7.8 billion of this, $6.8 billion came from the British and the Commonwealth, mostly Australia and India. The terms of the agreement provided that the materiel was to be used until returned or destroyed. In practice very little equipment was in usable shape for peacetime uses. Supplies that arrived after the termination date were sold to Britain at a large discount for £1.075 billion, using long-term loans from the United States. Canada was not part of Lend Lease. However it operated a similar program called Mutual Aid that sent a loan of C$1 billion (equivalent to C$14.9 billion in 2020) [27] and C$3.4 billion (C$50.6 billion) in supplies and services to Britain and other Allies. [28] [4]

Administration Edit

Roosevelt made sure that Lend-Lease policies were supportive of his foreign policy goals by putting his top aide Harry Hopkins in effective control over its major policy decisions. [5] In terms of administration, the president established the Office of Lend-Lease Administration during 1941, appointing steel executive Edward R. Stettinius as the operating head. [29] During September 1943, he was promoted to Undersecretary of State, and Leo Crowley became director of the Foreign Economic Administration which was given responsibility for Lend-Lease.

Lend-lease aid to the USSR was nominally managed by Stettinius. Roosevelt's Soviet Protocol Committee was dominated by Harry Hopkins and General John York, who were totally sympathetic to the provision of "unconditional aid". Few Americans objected to Soviet aid until 1943. [30]

The program began to be ended after VE Day. During April 1945, Congress voted that it should not be used for post-conflict purposes, and during August 1945, after Japanese surrender, the program was ended. [31]

Lend-Lease contributed to the Allied victory. Even after the United States forces in Europe and the Pacific began to attain full strength during 1943–1944, Lend-Lease continued. Most remaining Allies were largely self-sufficient in frontline equipment (such as tanks and fighter aircraft) by this time but Lend-Lease provided a useful supplement in this category and Lend-Lease logistical supplies (including motor vehicles and railroad equipment) were of enormous assistance. [32]

Much of the meaning of Lend-Lease aid can be better understood when considering the innovative nature of World War II , as well as the economic distortions caused by the war. One of the greatest differences with prior wars was the enormous increase in the mobility of armies. This was the first big war in which whole formations were routinely motorized soldiers were supported with large numbers of all kinds of vehicles. [33] Most belligerent powers severely decreased production of non-essentials, concentrating on producing weapons. This inevitably produced shortages of related products needed by the military or as part of the military–industrial complex. On the Allied side, there was almost total reliance upon American industrial production, weaponry and especially unarmored vehicles purpose-built for military use, vital for the modern army's logistics and support. [33] The USSR was very dependent on rail transport and starting during the latter half of the 1920s [34] but accelerating during the 1930s (The Great Depression), hundreds of foreign industrial giants such as Ford were commissioned to construct modern dual-purpose factories in the USSR, 16 alone within a week of May 31, 1929. [35] With the outbreak of war these plants switched from civilian to military production and locomotive production ended virtually overnight. Just 446 locomotives were produced during the war, [36] with only 92 of those being built between 1942 and 1945. [37] In total, 92.7% of the wartime production of railroad equipment by the USSR was supplied by Lend-Lease, [32] including 1,911 locomotives and 11,225 railcars [38] which augmented the existing stocks of at least 20,000 locomotives and half a million railcars. [39]

A particular critical aspect of Lend-Lease was the supply of food. The invasion had cost the USSR a huge amount of its agricultural base during the initial Axis offensive of 1941-42, the total sown area of the USSR fell by 41.9% and the number of collective and state farms by 40%. The Soviets lost a substantial number of draft and farm animals as they were not able to relocate all the animals in an area before it was captured and of those areas in which the Axis forces would occupy, the Soviets had lost 7 million of out of 11.6 million horses, 17 million out of 31 million cows, 20 million of 23.6 million pigs and 27 million out of 43 million sheep and goats. Tens of thousands of agricultural machines, such as tractors and threshers, were destroyed or captured. Agriculture also suffered a loss of labour between 1941 and 1945, 19.5 million working-age men had to leave their farms to work in the military and industry. Agricultural issues were also compounded when the Soviets were on the offensive, as areas liberated from the Axis had been devastated and contained millions of people who needed to be fed. Lend-Lease thus provided a massive number of foodstuffs and agricultural products. [41]

According to the Russian historian Boris Vadimovich Sokolov, Lend-Lease had a crucial role in winning the war:

On the whole the following conclusion can be drawn: that without these Western shipments under Lend-Lease the Soviet Union not only would not have been able to win the Great Patriotic War, it would not have been able even to oppose the German invaders, since it could not itself produce sufficient quantities of arms and military equipment or adequate supplies of fuel and ammunition. The Soviet authorities were well aware of this dependency on Lend-Lease. Thus, Stalin told Harry Hopkins [FDR's emissary to Moscow in July 1941] that the U.S.S.R. could not match Germany's might as an occupier of Europe and its resources. [32]

Nikita Khrushchev, having served as a military commissar and intermediary between Stalin and his generals during the war, addressed directly the significance of Lend-lease aid in his memoirs:

I would like to express my candid opinion about Stalin's views on whether the Red Army and the Soviet Union could have coped with Nazi Germany and survived the war without aid from the United States and Britain. First, I would like to tell about some remarks Stalin made and repeated several times when we were "discussing freely" among ourselves. He stated bluntly that if the United States had not helped us, we would not have won the war. If we had had to fight Nazi Germany one on one, we could not have stood up against Germany's pressure, and we would have lost the war. No one ever discussed this subject officially, and I don't think Stalin left any written evidence of his opinion, but I will state here that several times in conversations with me he noted that these were the actual circumstances. He never made a special point of holding a conversation on the subject, but when we were engaged in some kind of relaxed conversation, going over international questions of the past and present, and when we would return to the subject of the path we had traveled during the war, that is what he said. When I listened to his remarks, I was fully in agreement with him, and today I am even more so. [42]

Joseph Stalin, during the Tehran Conference during 1943, acknowledged publicly the importance of American efforts during a dinner at the conference: "Without American machines the United Nations could never have won the war." [43] [44]

In a confidential interview with the wartime correspondent Konstantin Simonov, the Soviet Marshal Georgy Zhukov is quoted as saying:

Today [1963] some say the Allies didn't really help us . But listen, one cannot deny that the Americans shipped over to us material without which we could not have equipped our armies held in reserve or been able to continue the war. [45]

David Glantz, the American military historian known for his books on the Eastern front, concludes:

Although Soviet accounts have routinely belittled the significance of Lend-Lease in the sustainment of the Soviet war effort, the overall importance of the assistance cannot be understated. Lend-Lease aid did not arrive in sufficient quantities to make the difference between defeat and victory in 1941–1942 that achievement must be attributed solely to the Soviet people and to the iron nerve of Stalin, Zhukov, Shaposhnikov, Vasilevsky, and their subordinates. As the war continued, however, the United States and Great Britain provided many of the implements of war and strategic raw materials necessary for Soviet victory. Without Lend-Lease food, clothing, and raw materials (especially metals), the Soviet economy would have been even more heavily burdened by the war effort. Perhaps most directly, without Lend-Lease trucks, rail engines, and railroad cars, every Soviet offensive would have stalled at an earlier stage, outrunning its logistical tail in a matter of days. In turn, this would have allowed the German commanders to escape at least some encirclements, while forcing the Red Army to prepare and conduct many more deliberate penetration attacks in order to advance the same distance. Left to their own devices, Stalin and his commanders might have taken twelve to eighteen months longer to finish off the Wehrmacht the ultimate result would probably have been the same, except that Soviet soldiers could have waded at France's Atlantic beaches. [46]

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." [47] To which Senator Robert Taft (R-Ohio), responded: "Lending war equipment is a good deal like lending chewing gum—you certainly don't want the same gum back." [48]

In practice, very little was returned except for a few unarmed transport ships. Surplus military equipment was of no value in peacetime. The Lend-Lease agreements with 30 countries provided for repayment not in terms of money or returned goods, but in "joint action directed towards the creation of a liberalized international economic order in the postwar world." That is the U.S, would be "repaid" when the recipient fought the common enemy and joined the world trade and diplomatic agencies, such as the United Nations. [49]

Allied shipments to the Soviet Union [50]
Year Amount
1941 360,778 2.1
1942 2,453,097 14
1943 4,794,545 27.4
1944 6,217,622 35.5
1945 3,673,819 21
Total 17,499,861 100

If Germany defeated the Soviet Union, the most significant front in Europe would be closed. Roosevelt believed that if the Soviets were defeated the Allies would be far more likely to lose. Roosevelt concluded that the United States needed to help the Soviets fight against the Germans. [51] Soviet Ambassador Maxim Litvinov significantly contributed to the Lend-Lease agreement of 1941. American deliveries to the Soviet Union can be divided into the following phases:

  • "Pre Lend-lease" June 22, 1941, to September 30, 1941 (paid for in gold and other minerals)
  • First protocol period from October 1, 1941, to June 30, 1942 (signed October 7, 1941), [52] these supplies were to be manufactured and delivered by the UK with US credit financing.
  • Second protocol period from July 1, 1942, to June 30, 1943 (signed October 6, 1942)
  • Third protocol period from July 1, 1943, to June 30, 1944 (signed October 19, 1943)
  • Fourth protocol period from July 1, 1944 (signed April 17, 1945), formally ended May 12, 1945, but deliveries continued for the duration of the war with Japan (which the Soviet Union entered on August 8, 1945) under the "Milepost" agreement until September 2, 1945, when Japan capitulated. On September 20, 1945, all Lend-Lease to the Soviet Union was terminated.

The Arctic route was the shortest and most direct route for lend-lease aid to the USSR, though it was also the most dangerous as it involved sailing past German-occupied Norway. Some 3,964,000 tons of goods were shipped by the Arctic route 7% was lost, while 93% arrived safely. [53] This constituted some 23% of the total aid to the USSR during the war.

The Persian Corridor was the longest route, and was not fully operational until mid-1942. Thereafter it saw the passage of 4,160,000 tons of goods, 27% of the total. [53]

The Pacific Route opened in August 1941, but was affected by the start of hostilities between Japan and the U.S. after December 1941, only Soviet ships could be used, and, as Japan and the USSR observed a strict neutrality towards each other, only non-military goods could be transported. [54] Nevertheless, some 8,244,000 tons of goods went by this route, 50% of the total. [53]

In total, the U.S. deliveries to the USSR through Lend-Lease amounted to $11 billion in materials: over 400,000 jeeps and trucks 12,000 armored vehicles (including 7,000 tanks, about 1,386 [55] of which were M3 Lees and 4,102 M4 Shermans) [56] 11,400 aircraft (4,719 of which were Bell P-39 Airacobras) [57] and 1.75 million tons of food. [58]

Roughly 17.5 million tons of military equipment, vehicles, industrial supplies, and food were shipped from the Western Hemisphere to the USSR, 94% coming from the US. For comparison, a total of 22 million tons landed in Europe to supply American forces from January 1942 to May 1945. It has been estimated that American deliveries to the USSR through the Persian Corridor alone were sufficient, by US Army standards, to maintain sixty combat divisions in the line. [59] [60]

Restrictions in the supply of weapons from the United States were mainly limited to supply of heavy bombers. The United States did not provide heavy bombers to the USSR when requested. For example, in the 4 Ottawa Protocol (July 1, 1944-30 June 1945) the USSR requested 240 B-17 bombers and 300 B-24 bombers, none of which were supplied. Heavy bombers had not been mentioned in previous protocols. [61]

The production of heavy bombers in the United States until 1945 amounted to more than 30 thousand.

The USSR had a small number of heavy bombers. The only modern heavy bomber the USSR had was the Petlyakov Pe-8, and it only had 27 such bombers at the start of the war, with fewer than 100 produced until 1945. [62]

The United States delivered to the Soviet Union from October 1, 1941, to May 31, 1945 the following: 427,284 trucks, 13,303 combat vehicles, 35,170 motorcycles, 2,328 ordnance service vehicles, 2,670,371 tons of petroleum products (gasoline and oil) or 57.8 percent of the high-octane aviation fuel, [32] 4,478,116 tons of foodstuffs (canned meats, sugar, flour, salt, etc.), 1,911 steam locomotives, 66 diesel locomotives, 9,920 flat cars, 1,000 dump cars, 120 tank cars, and 35 heavy machinery cars. Provided ordnance goods (ammunition, artillery shells, mines, assorted explosives) amounted to 53 percent of total domestic consumption. [32] One item typical of many was a tire plant that was lifted bodily from the Ford Company's River Rouge Plant and transferred to the USSR. The 1947 money value of the supplies and services amounted to about eleven billion dollars. [63]

On this day in 1941, as World War II raged across the Atlantic, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Lend-Lease Act. This gave the president authority to sell, lease or lend military hardware to any country he designated vital to national security.

In a January message to Congress, Roosevelt wrote: “We cannot, and we will not, tell them that they must surrender, merely because of present inability to pay for the weapons which we know they must have.” FDR acted after the British told U.S. officials that their beleaguered nation would no longer be able to pay cash for arms, as the law required.

Seeking public support, FDR likened lend-lease to a fire hose lent to a neighbor to put out a fire, after which the hose is returned. “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.”

Nonetheless, Republican-led isolationist sentiment in Congress ran high. GOP Reps. Hamilton Fish of New York, Dewey Short of Missouri and Karl Mundt of South Dakota opposed lend-lease, arguing that it ceded congressional prerogatives and would further embroil the United States in the war. “We have never been asked to consider anything like it,” said Rep. James Wadsworth (R-N.Y.). “The powers proposed to give to him by Congress are enormous.”

On Feb. 8, 1941, after weeks of debate, including congressional testimony against lend-lease by Charles A. Lindbergh, the House voted 265-165 to approve the measure. On Dec. 11, Germany’s Adolf Hitler cited the lend-lease program when he declaredwar on the United States.

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Fact or Fiction: Inside Episode 4

Did Princess Martha truly sway Roosevelt’s political actions? Was the President reluctant to run for a third term? And did he actually have time to help Martha house-hunt? Discover which details and events in Atlantic Crossing Episode 4 really happened, and which didn’t.* [Contains spoilers.]

Fact or Fiction: FDR helped Martha house-hunt!

FDR's telegram to Prince Olav, dated Nov. 22, 1940. Courtesy of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library archives.

FACT: President Roosevelt was involved in several of Martha’s trips to search for a home outside of Washington, D.C.—and was present when they found Pook’s Hill, says Atlantic Crossing‘s co-writer and historian, Linda May Kallestein. The Tudor-style mansion was owned by publisher Merle Thorpe and sat on 150 acres in Bethesda, MD. Thorpe named his home after Rudyard Kipling’s novel, Puck of Pook’s Hill. Princess Martha first leased the estate, moving in in late autumn 1940. The royals eventually purchased the property outright and lived there for the war’s duration. Later owners demolished the house and subdivided the property, which now includes condos and a hotel. For scenes in Atlantic Crossing, Chateau Kotěra in the Czech Republic stood in for Pook’s Hill.

Fact or Fiction: The President wasn’t eager for a third term in office.

Delegates at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, 1940.

FACT: Roosevelt had actually begun retirement plans during his second term , anticipating a quiet life in Hyde Park and the building of a presidential library there. But after Hitler’s series of invasions in the spring of 1940, FDR reconsidered his responsibilities, say Atlantic Crossing writers.

He chose to remain silent about another run for office, according to the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum, not wanting to be viewed as willing to upend the two-term tradition. The President didn’t even attend that summer’s Democratic National Convention but sent Harry Hopkins to organize a spontaneous draft of his candidacy, had a cryptic message read to delegates, and pulled Eleanor away from a July vacation to also go speak on his behalf—the first time the spouse of a presidential candidate addressed a party convention. Roosevelt was ultimately reelected president for an unprecedented third time and spent the next year preparing the American public for war.

Fact or Fiction: Martha influenced the President's wartime decisions.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt signing the Lend-Lease Act on March 11, 1941.

FICTION: If Martha’s close friendship with Roosevelt ever did sway him on policy, “it is not documented in any written sources, which isn’t odd at all,“ says Kallestein. “She wasn’t appointed by the Norwegian government to hold an official role … and was never considered an important figure.”

In terms of the Lend-Lease Act for example, while Martha had lobbied the President to help Norway, he had considered renting or lending munitions to U.S. allies of his own accord, say Atlantic Crossing writers. Those plans accelerated once British Prime Minister Churchill wrote him in December 1940, disclosing the U.K. could no longer pay for American-made war supplies their previous “cash and carry” arrangement. The Lend-Lease Act was approved by Congress in March 1941 and gave Roosevelt virtually unlimited authority to direct material aid to the war effort without violating America’s official position of neutrality.

The Episode 4 scene where FDR presents the idea over cocktails on Christmas Eve 1940 is fiction: His historic press conference on the subject really occurred on December 17, 1940. And while the President used the metaphor of lending a fire hose to his neighbor when publicly presenting the idea of lend-lease, there’s no evidence it was inspired by Martha’s anecdote about a fire at the royal’s Skaugum estate back in Norway.

Fact or Fiction: Roosevelt had a lifelong passion for stamp collecting.

FACT: Collecting stamps was a hobby he began as an only child and the President ultimately owned over a million different examples from around the globe. Atlantic Crossing writers say their research reveals he unwound with his collection almost daily, often just before bed. While President, he brainstormed new stamp designs, colors, and themes with his Postmaster General. FDR took albums with him on his travels abroad and actually did introduce Martha’s children to his hobby, says Kallestein.

*Based on a series of articles (in Norwegian) written by Mari Aftret Mørtvedt and Ola Nymo Trulsen for NRK, the Norwegian Broadcasting Company.

How was FDR Able to Get the Lend-Lease Act Passed?

During World War 2 and FDR’s drafting of the Lend Lease Act, how was he able to convince the public / isolationists to accept such a war-active act so early after World War 1? What are the different schools of thoughts on the topic? Are there any books you suggest I purchase on the topic?

The Lend-Lease Act was introduced on January 10, 1941 and passed on March 11 following two months of congressional debate, pitting advocates such as Secretary of War Henry Stimson against isolationists such as Robert Taft, Hamilton Fish and Charles Lindbergh. In the end, Act H.R.1776 (a number chosen for emotional impact) was passed by a virtually solid Democrat vote as well as Republicans who were starting to see isolationist arguments as unrealistic and the prospect of war against Adolf Hitler as inevitable. That process had really begun after Hitler invaded Poland in September 1939, after which the Neutrality Act was altered from a complete embargo on American weapons to an agreement to sell arms on a cash and carry basis, for transport aboard foreign flagged ships (the later stipulation of which clearly favored Britain and France over Germany).

Lend-Lease changed the cash-and-carry stipulation to aid a Britain whose treasury was by then all but exhausted.

For more details, you might want to consult Lend-Lease Act (1941): a DocNotes Analysis, by Mark R. Wilson, or Most Unsordid Act: Lend-Lease 1939-1941, by Warren F. Kimball

Jon Guttman
Research Director
World History

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How Harry Hopkins Became One of the Most Influential Persons in FDR’s Life

JOKING TO THE PRESS that “we are going to Christmas Island to buy Christmas cards, and to Easter Island to buy Easter eggs,” President Franklin Delano Roosevelt left the White House in early December 1940 for a two-week cruise in the Caribbean. Aside from the crew, the only passengers aboard the cruiser USS Tuscaloosa were three reporters, select members of Roosevelt’s staff, and his close friend and adviser, Harry L. Hopkins.

It was a largely uneventful trip. After stopping in Cuba to pick up cigars, Roosevelt and his companions spent most of their time fishing and watching movies. On December 9, however, a navy seaplane slid alongside the Tuscaloosa to deliver mail to the president. Among the stacks of newspapers and correspondence was a long letter from British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. In his remarkable, 4,000-word discourse, Churchill detailed the military situation in Great Britain and across Europe. After a year of war with Germany, he wrote, Britain was running out of money to pay for war goods and needed American help. He could not, however, suggest exactly how the president would provide it.

History turned on that letter. While German bombers unleashed their heaviest attack of the war on London on the night of December 29, Roosevelt delivered a “Fireside Chat” in which he declared that the United States “must be the great arsenal of democracy.” Harry Hopkins, who was also one of Roosevelt’s speechwriters, suggested the key phrase. A week later, Roosevelt dispatched Hopkins on a special mission to London.

Born in 1890 in Sioux City, Iowa, Harry Hopkins grew up imbued with traditional Midwestern values of self-reliance, thrift, and pragmatism. At Grinnell College, he studied American politics and the British Parliamentary system. He began his career working for charitable organizations such as the American Red Cross, New York City’s Association for Improving the Condition of the Poor, and the New York Tuberculosis Association. From the start, Hopkins’ own well-being took a back seat to his work. Jacob A. Goldberg, secretary of the Tuberculosis Association, later described the chain-smoking Hopkins as “the ulcerous type.” Intense and driven by nervous energy, Goldberg recalled, Hopkins reported to work “looking as though he had spent the previous night sleeping in a hayloft. He would wear the same shirt three or four days at a time. He managed to shave almost every day—usually at the office.”

In 1928, Hopkins supported Democrat Franklin Roosevelt for the governorship of New York, and Roosevelt rewarded him three years later by naming Hopkins the head of the state’s new Temporary Emergency Relief Administration. Hopkins subsequently supported Roosevelt’s campaign for the presidency and his promise of a “New Deal” for Americans. In 1933, President Roosevelt tapped the 42-year-old social worker to be his federal emergency relief administrator, and from 1935 to 1938 Hopkins headed the Works Progress Administration.

Rather than giving needy people handouts, Hopkins liberally granted money to the states for work programs. His critics scornfully referred to him as the leader of a bunch of “leaf-rakers.” Robert E. Sherwood, a Roosevelt speech writer and director of the Foreign Information Service, later wrote that “Hopkins came to be regarded as the Chief Apostle of the New Deal and the most cordially hated by its enemies.”

Hopkins also repeatedly clashed with Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes, who ran the Public Works Administration (PWA), over the amount of federal money allocated to their respective programs. Despite agreeing that his organization would handle projects costing $25,000 or less, Hopkins simply divided more expensive projects into smaller parts and funded them separately.

Meanwhile, Hopkins’ personal life suffered terribly. In October 1937, his second wife, Barbara, died of cancer, and in December surgeons removed two-thirds of Hopkins’ stomach in order to stave off the same disease. The gangly Iowan survived, but his health remained fragile for the rest of his life. Encouraged by Roosevelt, who originally hoped to retire at the end of his second term, Hopkins briefly entertained thoughts of the presidency. His hopes were further legitimized when Roosevelt appointed him secretary of commerce in December 1938. Hopkins’ tenure as commerce secretary, however, proved frustrating and brief. Afflicted with hemochromatosis—a result of his chronically inadequate digestive system—he was unable to fully dedicate himself to his job and by the following August was at death’s door. Roosevelt arranged for the best navy doctors to treat his friend. Hopkins rallied, but his ordeal drained him of political ambition. He resigned his cabinet position in August 1940, determined to serve Roosevelt and his country in other ways for as long as possible.

Hopkins’ assignment to meet with Churchill bypassed normal diplomatic channels. He held no official position, and when reporters asked the president if Hopkins was to be the next ambassador to Great Britain, Roosevelt answered, “You know Harry isn’t strong enough for that job.” Recent events, however, had left a serious void in communication between the two nations. Ambassador Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr., had resigned, and the British ambassador to the United States, Lord Lothian, had died just days after Roosevelt received Churchill’s pivotal letter. Unable to meet with his British counterpart himself, Roosevelt told the press he was sending Hopkins to London so that he can “talk to Churchill like an Iowa farmer.”

The mission was indicative of the special trust that Roosevelt put in Hopkins. Unassuming and plainspoken, Hopkins enjoyed a unique relationship with the chief executive. Roosevelt had other advisers, but he found Hopkins perfect company and liked to discuss important matters with him informally. Hopkins was unswervingly loyal to the president, who in turn often heeded his friend’s advice on significant policy issues. The president’s decisions, however, were clearly his own. For example, Roosevelt appointed General Dwight D. Eisenhower chief of Operation Overlord (the 1944 Normandy Invasion plan) instead of General George C. Marshall, despite the opposition of Hopkins and many others, including Churchill. Meanwhile, the public regarded Hopkins as something of a “mystery man,” as Time magazine described him in 1944, consumed by a strange illness and privy to the war’s many secrets.

Noticeably ill during a visit with the president in May 1940, Hopkins spent the night in a White House suite. At one time President Abraham Lincoln’s study, the suite was just down the hall from Roosevelt’s room. Hopkins lived there for the next three and a half years. When he married for the third time in July 1942, his wife, Louise, joined him and his daughter Diana in the White House. The family remained there until December 1943, when Harry rented a house in nearby Georgetown. Other members of Roosevelt’s circle, such as Rexford Tugwell and Henry Morgenthau, came to accept Hopkins’ closeness to the president as a fact of Washington life. Not everyone, however, was happy with the arrangement. Harold Ickes resented Hopkins’ insider role, and the two remained at odds for years. “I do not like him,” Ickes once noted in his diary, “and I do not like the influence that he has with the president.” Wendell Willkie, Roosevelt’s opponent in the 1940 presidential campaign, asked Roosevelt why he placed such faith in Hopkins when he knew that others resented it. The president told Willkie that if he ever became president, “You’ll learn what a lonely job this is, and you’ll discover the need for someone like Harry Hopkins who asks for nothing except to serve you.”

Winston Churchill’s initial reaction upon receiving word of Hopkins’ impending visit was, “Who?” When the tall, lean American arrived in London, however, he quickly impressed Churchill with his forthrightness. British officials who were initially taken aback by Hopkins’ rumpled appearance soon accepted him as he was. He seemed to the British to be the stereotypical American: confident, secure, and oblivious to formality. Sherwood wrote that “Hopkins naturally and easily conformed to the essential Benjamin Franklin tradition of American diplomacy, acting on the conviction that when an American representative approaches his opposite numbers in friendly countries with the standard striped-pants frigidity, the strict observance of protocol and amenities, and a studied air of lip-curling, he is not really representing America—not, at any rate, the America of which FDR was President.”

Hopkins’ visit heartened British citizens, who saw his presence as a sign of forthcoming U.S. help. Churchill confidante Brendan Bracken told the prime minister’s secretary, John Colville, that Hopkins “was the most important American visitor to this country we had ever had . . . . He could influence the president more than any living man.”

For his part, Hopkins was struck by the spirit of the British people. At a dinner given by newspaper magnate and Minister of Aircraft Production Lord Beaverbrook, Hopkins addressed the press. He described the feelings he experienced while visiting Britain’s blitzed cities and spoke of the affection and admiration that Roosevelt had for Britain. Beaverbrook later wrote that Hopkins’ ”speech left us feeling that although America was not yet in the war, she was marching beside us, and that should we stumble she would see that the President and the men about him blazed with faith in the future of Democracy.”

Scheduled for two weeks, Hopkins’ visit ended up lasting nearly six. Staying at the prime minister’s residence at 10 Downing Street, Hopkins met with government officials, business leaders, and many others, trying to assess what kind of assistance Britain needed. He toured industrial sites and shipyards, witnessed bomb damage firsthand, and was impressed with Britain’s resolve to fight. Churchill affectionately dubbed him “Lord Root of the Matter” for his ability to quickly get to the heart of problems.

In 1941, Hopkins was not the only person making extra-official efforts on Roosevelt’s behalf. Colonel William J. Donovan met with British representatives in the Balkans and the Mediterranean area, and Wendell Willkie threw his support behind Roosevelt’s war effort during his own trip to England. Only Hopkins, however, as a reporter wrote in 1942, was privileged to sit before the fire at 10 Downing Street and “discuss the grave predicament of Western Civilization” with Winston Churchill.

When Hopkins returned from London, debate was raging over Roosevelt’s Lend-Lease plan to aid Britain. Roosevelt had introduced the plan to the public by simply saying, “Suppose my neighbor’s home catches fire, and I have a length of garden hose . . . .” The bill would provide Britain—and eventually several other Allied nations—with desperately needed war matériel without requiring payment up front, thereby skirting the tenets of the 1939 Neutrality Act. Though there was vehement opposition to the Lend-Lease plan, Americans sympathized with Britain, which was waging war against enormous odds.

The House of Representatives passed the Lend-Lease Act on February 8, 1941, and the Senate followed suit a month later. Roosevelt tapped Hopkins to “advise and assist me in carrying out the responsibilities placed upon me” by the passage of the bill. Such a vague job description gave Hopkins nearly free rein for the task of preparing the armed forces and private business for war production. “Under my new responsibilities,” Hopkins wrote to Churchill, “all British purchasing requests are now routed through me.” Hopkins still lacked an official title, but he had become, in the eyes of many journalists, the “Deputy President.”

Under Hopkins the administration of Lend-Lease was diffuse and controversial. It essentially bypassed the State Department, where Secretary Cordell Hull was not happy to be left out of the loop. Hopkins came to be called “Roosevelt’s own personal foreign office.” The situation was quite irregular, Sherwood admitted, “but so was the fundamental situation in which the United States found itself at the time.” Lend-Lease’s quasi-governmental status suited its manager’s unbureaucratic style perfectly, and Hopkins, quite simply, got things done. His trademark tool was the telephone, and he never hesitated to call and berate high-ranking military officers for failing to meet production deadlines. In 1941, for example, when a strike at the Universal Cyclops Steel Corporation stalled the delivery of propellers for navy planes, Hopkins ordered photos of the propeller-less planes to be taken for publication in the newspapers.

Hopkins had brought back from his meeting with Churchill the conviction that the prime minister and Roosevelt must soon meet face to face. He was maneuvering to set up such a meeting when, in June 1941, Germany dramatically altered the world picture by invading the Soviet Union. A key factor in British defense planning—the central issue to be discussed at the impending conference—was ascertaining how long Russia would be able to hold off the Germans.

“The question of assistance to the Soviet Union was a ticklish one,” wrote FDR biographer Nathan Miller. “Public opinion was hostile, and many Americans preferred to let the twin devils of Nazism and Communism fight to the death.” To Roosevelt and Churchill, however, aiding the Soviet Union meant help in defeating Germany, provided the Soviet Union could survive the Nazi onslaught. Hopkins volunteered to fly to Moscow to find out for himself.

Hopkins met alone with Joseph Stalin and in two days dramatically increased Western understanding of the Soviet situation. “I had no conversations in Moscow,” he reported, “just six hours of conversation. After that there was no more to be said. It was all cleaned up at two sittings.” Stalin’s confidence and straightforward manner impressed Hopkins, who came away convinced that the Soviet Union would blunt the German advance. The Soviet dictator was equally impressed with Hopkins, whose diplomatic efforts helped Roosevelt obtain Lend-Lease aid for the Soviet Union.

In August 1941, with Hopkins the principal go-between, Roosevelt and Churchill met at sea off the coast of Newfoundland for the Atlantic Conference, where they drafted and signed the Atlantic Charter. A joint declaration by Roosevelt and Churchill, the document stated that their two nations sought no additional territory and that they hoped to assure that “all the men in all the lands may live out their lives in freedom from fear and want.” It called for the disarmament of the Axis powers and also set ground rules for the establishment of peace. Essentially, it united American and British policies and also brought the Soviet Union into the ring.

During the years 1941–1943, Hopkins could usually be found in his room at the White House, working in a bathrobe, with letters, papers, telegrams, and diplomatic dispatches strewn across his bed. It was common knowledge that Hopkins was desperately ill. In addition to the piles of official papers, his room was littered with medicines. He also was required to follow a strict diet that his wide-ranging activities made nearly impossible. Rexford Tugwell wrote that Hopkins seemed to hold himself together in 1943 through “sheer nerve.”

As the war progressed, Hopkins’ health grew progressively worse. His condition prevented his digestive system from absorbing enough fats and proteins, and Hopkins appeared more and more cadaverous despite regular blood transfusions. On New Year’s Day 1944, he fell seriously ill and never really recovered. In February, he received the news that his son Stephen had been killed in action in the Pacific. Able to work only two or three hours a day, Hopkins became less of a factor in Roosevelt’s planning.

Hopkins was, nevertheless, still capable of making quick and insightful decisions. Late in 1944, with the tide of war now in favor of the Allies, Churchill and Stalin were preparing for a meeting to discuss control of southeastern Europe. Busy with his reelection campaign, Roosevelt was unable to attend and decided essentially to let Churchill represent U.S. interests. Hopkins foresaw trouble with that arrangement and ordered the transmission of Roosevelt’s cable to Stalin stopped. After further thought, the president rewrote the cable and thanked Hopkins for preventing him from making a serious mistake.

Though his health was slipping, Hopkins continued to run the Munitions Assignment Board and returned to Europe to lay the groundwork for Roosevelt’s meeting with Churchill and Stalin at Yalta, on the Black Sea. For Roosevelt and Hopkins, the February 1945 Yalta Conference was the last hurrah. Sadly, the two parted on a sour note. Exhausted and sick at the conclusion of the meetings, Hopkins decided to rest in Marrakech, Morocco, for a few days before returning to the United States. Roosevelt had expected Hopkins to return with him aboard the cruiser USS Quincy and help him write a speech on the results of the conference. Hopkins, however, insisted on staying behind, and their parting was not amicable. Roosevelt left on February 18, and the long-time friends never saw each other again. When he returned to the States a week later, Hopkins headed for the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. He was recuperating there when Roosevelt died in Georgia on April 12.

Too sick to render new President Harry S. Truman the same yeoman service he had given Roosevelt, Hopkins nevertheless agreed to help when able. In May, he again departed for Moscow to meet with Stalin in order to iron out differences between the Allies and to plan a July meeting between Churchill, Stalin, and Truman at Potsdam, Germany. On July 2, Hopkins retired from government service. He accepted a job in New York and planned to begin writing about the war and Roosevelt, but his health began to crumble for the final time. In September, he returned to the capital for the last time to receive the Distinguished Service Medal from Truman. Two months later, Hopkins checked into New York’s Memorial Hospital, where he died on January 29, 1946, with his wife by his side.

Harry Hopkins’ unprecedented position in the Roosevelt administration, best described as that of a chief of staff, troubled many conservatives, who expressed their desire to prevent such an unofficial and powerful position from ever being refilled. They distrusted Hopkins’ liberal politics and blamed him for what they considered Roosevelt’s unwillingness to resist Soviet demands at Yalta. Even Churchill’s secretary, John Colville, while considering Hopkins “an honourable man and a sincere idealist,” believed that he ‘trusted the word and goodwill of Stalin to an imprudent extent, as did Roosevelt and the State Department.’

Hopkins certainly coveted the relationship he had with Roosevelt, and he jealously protected it from the challenge of other presidential advisors. Political considerations aside, however, Hopkins literally gave his life in service of Roosevelt and the nation. Physically weak but robust in will, Hopkins was, Churchill remembered, “a crumbling lighthouse from which there shone the beams that led great fleets to harbour.”

This article was written by Bill McIlvaine and originally published in the April 2000 issue of American History Magazine.

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On August 9, 1921, 39-year-old Franklin D. Roosevelt, at the time a practicing lawyer in New York City, joined his family at their vacation home at Campobello, a Canadian island off the coast of Maine. Among those at Campobello when Roosevelt arrived were his wife Eleanor, their children, his political aide Louis Howe, Howe's wife, and their young son. [1] : 40–42 On August 10, after a day of strenuous activity, Roosevelt came down with an illness characterized by fever, ascending paralysis, facial paralysis, prolonged bowel and bladder dysfunction, and numbness and hypersensitivity of the skin. [2] [1] : 47 Roosevelt came close to death from the illness. He faced many life-threatening medical problems including the possibility of respiratory failure, urinary tract infection, injury to the urethra or bladder, decubitus ulcers, clots in the leg veins, and malnutrition. Eleanor's nursing care was responsible for Roosevelt's survival. [3] : 148–151 [ self-published source ] Most of the symptoms resolved themselves, but he was left permanently paralyzed from the waist down.

Timeline of illness Edit

Mid July: Roosevelt gave testimony to a Senate committee investigating a Navy scandal. [4] : 7–9

July 28: Roosevelt visited the Boy Scout Jamboree at Bear Mountain State Park.

August 5–8: Roosevelt traveled to Campobello with his friend and new employer, Van Lear Black, on Black's ocean-going yacht. [3] : 19 [ self-published source ]

August 9 (Tuesday): Roosevelt fell into the cold waters of the Bay of Fundy. Later, arrived at Campobello. [4] : 1

August 10: Roosevelt spent the day physically active. Afterward, he complained of chills, nausea, and pain in his lower back. He skipped dinner and went to bed. Chills lasted through the night. [4] : 10 [5] : 235

August 11: In the morning, one of his legs felt weak. Roosevelt had fever. Dr. Eben H. Bennet, a general practitioner in the nearby village of Lubec who had known the Roosevelts for years, visited Roosevelt and diagnosed a bad summer cold. By the evening, one leg was paralyzed, and the other had become weak. [4] : 10–11 [6]

August 12: Both legs were paralyzed. His temperature was 102 °F (39 °C). Pain shot through his legs, feet and back. [1] : 51, 54 Bennet suggested a consultation with Dr. William W. Keen, an eminent retired neurosurgeon vacationing nearby. [6] Roosevelt's legs were numb. They then became painfully sensitive to touch, "so painful that he could not stand the pressure of the bedclothes, and even the movement of the breezes across his skin caused acute distress." [4] : 11 He could not pass urine. [6]

August 13: Roosevelt was paralyzed from the chest down. On that day and the following, his hands, arms, and shoulders were weak. He had difficulty moving his bowels and required enemas. [2] : 234 Keen made what Eleanor described as "a most careful, thorough examination". [1] : 57–58

August 14: Roosevelt continued to be unable to pass urine for two weeks, and required catheterization. His fever continued for a total of six to seven days. [2] : 234 Keen repeated his examination, a bending and prodding that Elliott later termed "excruciating" for his father. [1] : 58 Keen diagnosed a clot of blood to the lower spinal cord, and prescribed massage of the leg muscles. [6] Eleanor and Howe began massaging Roosevelt's legs as instructed by Keen, bringing on agonizing pain. [4] : 13

August 15: Prostrate and mildly sedated, Roosevelt was occasionally delirious. [4] : 14–15

August 19: Frederic Delano, Roosevelt's uncle, had received a letter from Louis Howe requesting to find a doctor to come see Roosevelt. Delano called his son-in-law, a physician, who recommended he speak to another physician, a Dr. Parker. Parker told Delano that the case sounded like infantile paralysis, and that the leading authorities on the disease were at the Harvard Infantile Paralysis Commission in Boston. Delano caught a train and arrived the next morning. [1] : 64

August 20: Dr. Samuel A. Levine was at his office when Delano telephoned Brigham Hospital on Saturday morning. Levine said the senior members of the Harvard Infantile Paralysis Commission, Dr. Lovett and Dr. Peabody, were out of town, but he would try to answer Delano's questions. After reviewing the messages Delano had received from Campobello, Levine thought Roosevelt was suffering from acute poliomyelitis. He urged that a lumbar puncture be done, with the goal of making a diagnosis, but mainly because Levine believed there could be acute benefit from the procedure. [1] : 64–65,327 [3] : 192 [ self-published source ] Delano phoned and wrote Eleanor the same day, [2] : 239 advising her to stop massaging Roosevelt's legs, and to disregard Keen's advice: "I think it would be very unwise to trust his diagnosis where the Inf. Paralysis can be determined by test of the spinal fluid." [1] : 66 Eleanor communicated with Keen, who "very strenuously" resisted the idea of poliomyelitis. Keen asked Lovett to visit Campobello. [1] : 66

August 22: Lovett met Levine for dinner. Lovett asked how to distinguish whether paralysis was caused by poliomyelitis or by a clot or lesion of the spinal cord. [3] : 183–184 [ self-published source ]

August 23: Lovett left for Campobello. [1] : 68

August 24: Lovett saw Roosevelt and performed a "more or less superficial" examination since Roosevelt was highly sensitive to touch. The arms were weak the bladder was paralyzed the left thumb indicated atrophy. Roosevelt could not stand or walk, and Lovett documented "scattered weakness, most marked in the hips". [1] : 68

August 25: Roosevelt's temperature was 100 °F (38 °C). Both legs were paralyzed. His back muscles were weak. There was also weakness of the face and left hand. Pain in the legs and inability to urinate continued. [2] : 234 After a brief conference with Keen, Lovett saw Roosevelt. Lovett informed him that the "physical findings" presented a "perfectly clear" diagnosis of poliomyelitis. [1] : 69–70 Lovett ordered an end to massage, which had no benefit and caused pain, and recommended a trained nurse to care for Roosevelt. [1] : 75–76

September 1: Roosevelt was still unable to urinate. His leg pain continued. [3] : 3 [ self-published source ]

September 14: Roosevelt was transported to New York, by boat and train, a long and painful journey.

September 15: Roosevelt was admitted to Presbyterian Hospital in New York City for convalescence, under the care of Dr. George Draper, an expert on poliomyelitis and Roosevelt's personal physician. Lovett continued to consult from Boston. [1] : 76 There was pain in the legs, paralysis of the legs, muscle wasting in the lower lumbar area and the buttocks, weakness of the right triceps, and gross muscle twitching in both forearms. [2] : 234

October 28: Roosevelt was transferred from Presbyterian Hospital to his house on East 65th Street. His chart still read "not improving". [1] : 110

Later: Roosevelt exercised daily. His hamstrings tightened, and his legs were encased in plaster to straighten them by degrees. [5] : 238 There was gradual recovery, but he remained paralyzed from the waist down.

Diagnosis Edit

After falling ill, Roosevelt was seen by four doctors. Eben Homer Bennet, the Roosevelt family doctor, diagnosed a heavy cold. William Keen, a retired neurosurgeon, thought Roosevelt had a blood clot. Robert Lovett, an expert on the orthopedic management of children paralyzed from poliomyelitis, diagnosed "infantile paralysis", as did George Draper, Roosevelt's personal physician.

Roosevelt's physicians never mentioned Guillain–Barré syndrome (GBS) in their communications concerning Roosevelt's case, indicating that they were not aware of it as a diagnostic possibility. [3] : 204 [ self-published source ] All reports before 1921 of what is now called GBS were by European physicians, in European journals. The result was that very few American physicians knew that GBS was a separate disease. For example, Lovett mistakenly believed that Landry's ascending paralysis, now termed GBS, was one of the clinical presentations of paralytic polio. [3] : 203 [ self-published source ] In 1921, an American physician would assume that if an individual developed a sudden, non-traumatic flaccid paralysis, it was due to paralytic polio. The concept of GBS as a separate disease was not widely accepted in the United States until after the Second World War. [3] : 232 [ self-published source ]

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