July 1940-March 1941
In July 1940, the German navy destroyed 11 British destroyers over a 10 day period. Winston Churchill asked for help from President Roosevelt, who responded by providing the United Kingdom with 50 destroyers in exchange for a 99 year lease on British territories in Newfoundland and the Caribbean. Roosevelt wanted America to remain neutral in the war, but also desired to defend the US from the rising power of Germany by protecting and supporting the countries that he believed would secure the safety of the United States. In January 1941, Roosevelt proposed the Lend-Lease Act to maintain America’s neutrality in the war but also support the countries that would keep America safe. After 2 months of debate in Congress, the bill was passed and arms and other weapons were lent from the US to Britain, giving them much needed support and supplies in the fight against the Axis powers. Many people argued about whether this violated the United States’ foreign policy of neutrality during the war. President Roosevelt justified the act with the reasoning that if America supported countries like Great Britain, their security would be ensured but they would still technically neutral. In March 1941, this bill was passed in Congress and supplies were sent out to Britain for the remainder of the war.
This event is significant to the US because it established a sense of security for America during the war, ensuring them that if they were attacked that they would have support from other countries because the US supported them. However, it also represented a shift in American foreign policy from strict neutrality to being more focused on alliances. While the US remained technically neutral, it became apparent who they were supporting in the war, which resulted in increasing feelings of animosity from the Axis powers to the US. This ensured that the US would have allies in case of attack, but also caused them to gain some enemies.