All For One:
One For All

The Story of Lend-Lease


Lend-lease is a plane fresh out of San Diego, roaring into battle on the Russian front; it is a fat, silvery barrage balloon sent us from Britain, and now guarding the San Diego plant turning out the planes that go to Russia; it is dry skimmed milk from the dairy country of Wisconsin, giving health and vigor to British war workers producing weapons for many fronts; it is roast beef--Australian beef--piled on the plate of a Yank from Wisconsin, now stationed in the South Pacific. It is not a dull statistical bookkeeping operation, but a giant interchange of war goods and war services--from us to our allies, from our allies to us.

e are fighting a war of alliance. Our men swarmed ashore in North Africa from a giant flotilla--warships and transports--two-thirds of which had been provided by Great Britain. Most of the landing craft were American-built, but some had been lend-leased to Britain and were manned by British crews. American fighter squadrons flew British Spitfires and American planes. Over half of the ground forces were American, and the air forces were equally divided. American forces mostly used American equipment from the assembly lines of American war plants, but supplies lend-leased to us by Britain included such items as four complete field hospitals, medical supplies in large quantities, more than half a million anti-tank mines and grenades, and many miles of portable airfield runways.


Lend-lease has come to mean offensive action on the basis of all for one and one for all. It has only one object: swift and total victory over the enemies of civilization. Today it is helping to pack a series of hard wallops at weak spots in the enemy's armor. It is rushing the greatest amount of goods to the points where they are most needed. The question today is not dollars or debts, but battles won. Who can measure the relative value of Stalingrad's magnificent resistance against the equipment we have sent to the Russian front? Who can say whether the stand of the British against the Luftwaffe in 1940 is worth more or less than the food and equipment we have sent to the United Kingdom ? There has not been and there never will be developed a standard of values by which we can measure lives lost against the cost of airplanes or guns.

The Crisis

The Lend-Lease Act, passed by Congress in the spring of 1941, was an expression by the American people of their will to oppose the Axis in its attempt to dominate the free peoples of the world. The would-be conquerors of the world had the upper hand. Japan had long overrun Manchuria and was pushing her way more deeply into China; Germany had seized Austria and Czechoslovakia. Poland had fallen, and the Axis armies had blitzed their way through Norway and the Low Countries. France lay under the Nazi heel. Our neighbor's house was literally on fire: the Luftwaffe was over Britain.

There was grave doubt that Britain could hold out alone. She had lost the major part of her equipment at Dunkirk, and was left with a pitifully small stock of weapons and supplies. In fact, her supplies were so small that a million old American Enfield rifles, 190 million


rounds of ammunition, 895 pieces of artillery, and 60 thousand machine guns sent by our Government out of its stock from the last war proved a major contribution to her army. In 1939 and 1940 Britain had ordered airplanes, tanks, and other munitions from us, but they had barely begun to arrive.

Stitch in Time

But British, French, Dutch, and Chinese cash orders for plant expansion and for munitions had stimulated our industries to take the first steps toward conversion to war. "We had just begun the long, hard work of building and equipping plants, of designing, retooling, and testing. It takes time to build instruments of war in an economy geared to peace. That time was necessary---necessary to the defense of the United States today. To a large extent we and our allies are fighting now with the machines, planes, and weapons ordered in 1940 and 1941.

Fortunately, the American people and the Congress had determined to help. What would have happened otherwise? Can anyone believe today that there would have been a Libyan or North African offensive in 1942 if Britain had been bombed into submission? Or would we now be fighting Hitler on the shores of South America or possibly in Maine and Florida?

The American people and the Congress determined in 1941 that the support of Britain was necessary to the defense of this country. Britain desperately needed the tools of war, but she could no longer pay cash for them. The British dollar exchange had run low, making it impossible for her to place orders in this country, her major remaining outside source of additional war material and supplies.


Thus the issue before the Congress in March 1941 was this: should the American people stand by and say, no munitions unless the cash--the non-existent cash--is put on the barrel head?

America's Answer

The issue was met in the most practical way. We would supply the tools and discuss the terms of settlement later. The American people and the Congress of a democratic country understood our danger and met the Nazi challenge. The Axis had not expected us to help our friends when their tills ran empty.

The Lend-Lease Act meant that supplies would go where they were needed, with reference only to need and not to dollars. It meant that we could really begin to organize our economy and our people against Axis aggressors.

Within 16 days after the passage of the Lend-Lease Act, the Congress appropriated $7 billion to carry out its provisions. Shortly thereafter about $2 billion of this lend-lease money was allocated for the United States production of aircraft, over half a billion dollars for new shipways and new ship construction, and more than $1.7 billion for the expansion of munitions plants and the purchase of other munitions. What was produced under those early orders fought many months later in the great battles of Leningrad, Stalingrad, Libya, and Tunisia, in the skies over Germany, and in the Pacific.

World-wide War

Today, 2 years later, the entire globe is at war. There is only one war. What we send to fight in Russia or the Middle East, the bombers based in Britain, Australia, India or China, the tanks which swept across 1,200 miles of desert in 90 days, are all part of


our war effort. The guns, food, and facilities we receive all over the world as reverse lend-lease are a vital factor in the supply of our troops. Mutual aid among the allies, on the supply side as on the battlefields, is an essential part of our organization for waging war.

Pie Chart: Total Lend-Lease Aid to 30 Apr 1943
Total Lend-Lease Aid to April 30, 1943

In this war, there has been a genuine pooling of the available resources of all of the United Nations, each country contributing in accordance with its ability to the defeat of the Axis powers. This is in marked contrast to the experience of the United States forces abroad during the last world war when all of the necessary expenses of our army were paid for in dollars. These expenditures exceeded $2 billion dollars in France and England during the year and one-half the United States' army was in the war.


It is different this time. The United States is providing weapons, food, industrial equipment and services to our allies, principally under lend-lease. And our allies, to the extent of their resources, are supplying the armed forces of this country overseas with equipment, food, shelter, and all necessary services as lend-lease in reverse, without payment by us.

Two-way Street

As an example of reverse lend-lease, the British have provided our forces in England with articles, equipment, facilities, and services necessary to the maintenance of an army on foreign soil.

In addition to articles and equipment, our men receive services and facilities from the British, including all United Kingdom communication, all transportation within the United Kingdom, and all heat, power, light, water, and gas used by the Army. The British do not inquire into the need for articles and services requested. They take the word of the American supply officer signing the requisition. The only considerations are those of availability and the effect on the British war economy.

Britain is not self-sufficient in foodstuffs. Yet the British have given us important quantities, and a few troops are supplied 100 percent from British rations. The remainder-on American rations-have their diet supplemented by fresh British home-grown vegetables, and by bread, tea, chocolate, candy, cereals, sugar, and many other items from British stocks.

Joint Planning

During the preparation of the African expedition, the British delegated two of their ranking supply officers, and their entire staffs, to the United States


Service of Supply headquarters. The British said that they would supply any required article or service which was not readily obtainable from American stocks. They met our requests with great swiftness. Among other things, we received over 3,800 tons of ammunition, artillery for a United States division, 80,000 tons of coal, over 2,000 tons of British rations, and 30,000 tons of engineer equipment. Shortly before the expedition was launched, it was discovered that American planes destined for Africa required somewhat different radio equipment from that being used in the United Kingdom. The RAF stripped themselves to meet our need, turning over to us every last piece of radio equipment of the type proved to be satisfactory in the Middle East.

Necessary civilian personnel has been made available to us without stint. It has been estimated that as much as two-thirds of the civil and military labor available for military work services in Great Britain has been employed on work for the American Army as reciprocal aid.

Cranes and Dinghies

Here is a list of some of the articles and equipment received by our forces under reciprocal lend-lease:

Concrete mixers, cranes, flame throwers, hangars, huts, lumber, pile drivers, railroad equipment, bakeries, blankets, camouflage, clothing, clothing repair supplies, soap, tents, towels, warehouse equipment, cable-laying equipment, switchboards, automobiles, explosives, grenades, torpedoes, various types of harbor, assault, and combat boats, airplanes, defrosting and de-icing materials, parachutes, dinghies, gas detectors, eyeshields, and incendiaries. In short, the British have obligated themselves to deliver, and have delivered, to United


States forces in the European theater, everything which could be made available.

Lend-lease in reverse has become an important reality sooner than many anticipated. It has become an integral part of the war of alliance-all for one and one for all. Outgoing lend-lease-goods and services from us to our allies-has grown from a trickling stream to a torrent since those critical March days of 1941. The flow of war supplies from the factories to the fighting fronts proceeds without being impeded by considerations of finance. Lend-lease in fact has fulfilled the President's original pledge to remove the dollar sign from war supply.

Facts and Figures

To the first of May 1943 the total amount of lend-lease aid was $11,102,000,000. Lend-lease shipments in the twelve months from May 1, 1942, to May 1, 1943, were four times those of the preceding twelve months.

The goods are mostly transferred to our allies at American seaports, so this figure does not tell the amount they actually received. Axis submarines have sent some lend-lease cargoes to the bottom. Nevertheless, the great majority of lend-lease goods have reached their destinations.

Goods make up about five-sixths of lend-lease (by dollar value), services about one-sixth. In the beginning we lend-leased more food and industrial materials than weapons. But now that our war production is humming, military items make up about 52% of lend-lease goods, agricultural products about 22%, and industrial equipment (meaning raw materials and machine tools) 26%. This last is particularly important, because much time and shipping space is saved


when weapons are manufactured close to the battle-fronts themselves. About half of the money spent for lend-lease services has been used for shipping to carry lend-lease goods where they are most needed. About a third has been spent to build American factories and shipyards to make lend-lease goods. And the rest has been used to repair and service United Nations ships in our own ports, and for such other purposes as air-pilot training. You will also find American engineers and artisans in Asia and Africa dredging harbors, building

Chart: Types of goods lend-leased
Goods We Have Lend-Leased, March 1941-April 1943


docks and roads and warehouses and airfields, so that lend-lease weapons and food can be pushed through to the points where they are needed. And you will see Dutch, Norwegian, British, and Soviet sailors in our seaports while their ships are being overhauled. It's all part of the same job of lend-lease service.

Even though it runs into billions of dollars, lend-lease has been only a small part of our own war effortless than one-eighth, to be exact. And, until 1942, less war material was being produced by this country than by either Britain or Soviet Russia.

It is also true that from the beginning of lend-lease to April 1, 1943 lend-lease exports were smaller--by about $400 million--than the purchases of our allies, paid for in cash. Until March 1942, in fact, we sold more to our allies each month than we lend-leased to them, but so fast has been the growth of lend-lease that it now accounts for more than two-thirds of what we are sending abroad. And more is being sent each month.

Lend-Lease Food

Foodstuffs sent abroad under lend-lease have generally been small in relation to the total supply in the United States. We have concentrated on foods which can be shipped anywhere and which will store well--for example, lard, cheese, dried milk, and dried eggs. Of our total supply of beef, we exported under lend-lease in 1942 only one pound in every 500 of our supply. We exported under lend-lease less than 1 percent of our lamb and mutton, and 10 percent of our pork supply. We exported less than 1 percent of our canned vegetables, less than 2 percent of our canned fruits, less than 1 percent of our butter, and less than one tenth of 1 percent of our coffee.


Lend-lease requirements had little to do with food shortages last year. The needs of the United States forces and greatly increased consumer purchasing power have been major causes of our shortages. During 1942 we shipped 23 percent of our total cheese supply, as cheese supplements the highly restricted meat rations of our allies. We shipped over 20 percent of
Chart: Lend-Lease Food Exports
Lend-Lease Food Exports


our dried skim milk, but all the milk products we sent took less than 4 percent of our total milk supply. We shipped 10 percent of our total egg supply, mostly in the form of dried eggs, but less than half of 1 percent of our supply of corn and corn products and wheat and wheat products.

The lend-lease food program for 1943 will probably take a bigger share of many of these products than it did in 1942. There are pressing requirements for the Soviet Army and the Soviet people. In addition, we must be prepared to meet the new demands that will come when United Nations forces liberate areas now held by the Axis.

Lend-Lease and the War Fronts

The map of lend-lease is the map of the world. Lend-lease countries--44 of them and the United States--cover nearly three-quarters of the earth and contain nearly three-quarters of the world's people. It is good to realize that all these people--united--are fighting the Axis.

Let's see who these people are and what they are getting under lend-lease:

To the British people, we sent most of our lend-lease shipments during their hours of greatest need in 1941. We have sent to Britain all kinds of munitions, as well as raw materials and tools for the production of more munitions in British factories. We have sent medical supplies, fire-fighting equipment, tractors, and supply trucks. We are continuing to send large quantities of supplies to Great Britain, which has become a great base for offensive operations against the Nazis in Europe. Many lend-lease weapons sent to Britain have been passed along to British forces in Egypt, India, and the Middle East.


Chart: Where Lend-Lease Goods Are Going
Where Lend-Lease Goods Are Going

Perhaps most important of all, we have sent shiploads of food which, though amounting to only about one-tenth of the whole British diet, meant the difference between enough to eat and going hungry. For hungry British war workers could not efficiently turn out the weapons of war which are today killing our enemies. We added an ounce of dried skim milk each week to the limited adult ration of fresh milk. We added in the form of egg powder the equivalent of one fresh egg a week to the ration of from one to four eggs a month. We provided 2 ounces of cheese out of every 5 which the British eat. We send vitamins and concentrated fruit juices for the children who cannot have oranges.

To the Soviet people, we have shipped more than 3 1/2 million tons of supplies. For the Russian Army, fighting the Nazi hordes on a two-thousand-mile front, lend-lease has provided planes, tanks, and trucks as well as hundreds of thousands of tons of food and raw materials.


By the end of 1942, we had sent the U. S. S. R. almost 2,600 planes, more than 3,200 tanks, and 81,000 motor vehicles.

By the end of December 1942, Britain had sent Russia more than 3,000 planes and almost 3,000 tanks, lend-leased mostly from Britain's own production.

The Russians need food desperately, for they have lost great areas of wheat and beet-sugar producing country. Lend-lease ships have a hard time reaching Russia. The northern route to Murmansk is patrolled by Nazi planes and submarines, and the southern routes through the Red Sea and Persian Gulf exceed 10,000 miles, not counting the distance by road from the seaports to the battlefronts. In spite of these difficulties the great majority of supplies are getting through, and have been amounting to nearly one-third of all our lend-lease shipments.

To the Middle East went lend-lease and cash supplies which helped Montgomery's Eighth Army to drive Rommel out of Africa. Between February and November 1942, we sent more than 1,000 planes, more than 500 medium tanks, 20,000 trucks, and hundreds of pieces of artillery to this battlefield.

To the Chinese people, we are sending needed supplies within the limit of our ability to deliver them. However, not until the Japs are driven out of Burma and the Burma Road reopened, will we be able to give China the amount of help she needs and deserves.

To Australia and New Zealand, in addition to finished weapons, have gone lend-lease industrial equipment and raw materials which have made it possible for these countries to produce more weapons. Lend-lease planes and munitions, together with our own men, are helping the Australians to fight the Japs in the Solomons and New Guinea.


To the liberated peoples, wherever they may be, will flow medical supplies, food and clothing from all the United Nations who can supply them. Already, $35,000,000 of goods have been sent to the people of North Africa who were left hungry and poverty-stricken by the Axis. This territory, once the granary and source of many raw materials for the Axis, now provides phosphates, iron ore, cobalt, manganese and other raw materials for the war production of the United Nations. In the months ahead, as the barren fields are restored to fertility, North Africa will produce food both for the inhabitants themselves and for the armies of the United Nations fighting in the European theater.

As other United Nations victories are won, lend-lease will strengthen the liberated peoples so that they can make their contribution to the winning of the war.

All for One; One for All

Lend-lease works. It is an essential means by which the strength of the United Nations has been mustered and brought to bear against the enemy. The mightiest military coalition in all history has pooled its manpower, its resources, all its strength-and the enemy is feeling the weight of that coalition.

We have come a long way with lend-lease since our neighbor's house was aflame. The American people made their decision in the bitter winter of 1941 with wisdom and imagination; they reaffirmed that decision in the critical winter of 1943, when Congress overwhelmingly extended lend-lease until June 1944. And when peace comes, the lend-lease idea-the idea of "all for one and one for all"-can help to lay the foundation for that better world toward which the United Nations are marching together.


June 1943



Transcribed and formatted for HTML by Patrick Clancey, HyperWar Foundation