Global Logistics and Strategy, 1940-1943

By Richard M. Leighton; Robert W. Coakley | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III
The Army and Early Lend- Lease Operations

After passage of the Lend-Lease Act in March 1941, supply of military materials to foreign governments became a direct responsibility of the Army and one of its principal supply activities. Lend-lease was in its conception largely a means of overcoming financial and legal barriers to the continuance of aid to the British, and this concept was clearly reflected in the manner in which needs of the British at first absorbed both the immediate and the prospective supply of munitions to be distributed under it. But gradually other nations secured recognition of their claims, and by December 1941 China, the Soviet Union, the Netherlands Indies, and the Latin American nations had taken their places beside Britain as lend-lease beneficiaries.

While funds appropriated by Congress to finance lend-lease would contribute to the ultimate expansion of munitions production, there was no magic formula that could make these funds immediately produce weapons. Industrial mobilization continued at a slow pace, and the production estimates upon which hopes of fulfilling Army and British programs rested proved too optimistic. Competition grew keener, both for the limited stocks of munitions on hand and for the ample flow expected from future production. The situation demanded a policy to govern current and projected allocations.

There was a growing conviction within the War Department that lend-lease operations should be tied to definite national objectives, but the President, with an eye on isolationist opposition in Congress, was reluctant to spell out these objectives. He had to justify lend-lease before Congress in the first instance as a measure of defense, and the first lend-lease programs were formulated only on the general assumption that aid to Britain and China would contribute to that end. The ABC-1 meetings produced a strategic concept for American participation in the war against the Axis in alliance with Britain, but the President would never specifically sanction tying lend-lease operations to this conditional agreement. Indeed ABC-1 gave no final answer to the question of whether the American contribution should be in weapons or armies. The British pressed for delay in American rearmament in favor of foreign aid, but the Army found it difficult to accept the full implications of such a policy. The President's decisions, generally favoring foreign aid, found expression in a series of specific actions rather than in any pronouncement of a general policy for the Army to follow.

The War Department sought to center

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