World War II U.S. Neutrality

Neutrality Act

Neutrality Act, law passed by the U.S. Congress and signed by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in Aug., 1935. It was designed to keep the United States out of a possible European war by banning shipment of war materiel to belligerents at the discretion of the President and by forbidding U.S. citizens from traveling on belligerent vessels except at their own risk. The demand for this legislation arose from the conviction of many Americans that U.S. entry into World War I had been a mistake. This conviction was strengthened by the well-publicized investigations by a Senate committee headed by Gerald P. Nye of American war loans to the Allies. The Neutrality Act was amended (Feb., 1936) to prohibit the granting of loans to belligerents, and later (Jan. and May, 1937) neutrality was extended to cover civil wars, a step inspired by the Spanish civil war. In Nov., 1939, the act was revised in favor of supplying warring nations on the "cash-and-carry" principle; but U.S. vessels were excluded from combat zones, and U.S. citizens were forbidden from sailing on belligerent vessels. These provisions were lifted by amendment in Nov., 1941, after the lend-lease policy had been established. The act was thus practically out of operation even before American neutrality ended with Pearl Harbor.

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2015, The Columbia University Press.

World War II U.S. Neutrality: Selected full-text books and articles

America First: The Battle against Intervention, 1940-41 By Wayne S. Cole University of Wisconsin Press, 1953
War Propaganda and the United States By Harold Lavine; James Wechsler Yale University Press, 1940
Librarian’s tip: Chap. II "The Greatest Neutral"
Roosevelt and Churchill: Their Secret Wartime Correspondence By Franklin Delano Roosevelt; Winston Churchill; Francis L. Loewenheim; Harold D. Langley; Manfred Jonas Saturday Review Press; E. P. Dutton, 1975
American Neutrality, Trial and Failure By Charles G. Fenwick New York University Press, 1940
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