2-383 Editorial Note on Lend-Lease Bill, March 1941

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: March 1, 1941

Editorial Note on Lend-Lease Bill

March 1941

Marshall had testified in favor of the lend-lease bill in executive sessions of the House Foreign Affairs Committee (January 27 and 28) and the Senate Military Affairs Committee (February 20). When the bill stalled in the Senate and amendments were proposed that the Roosevelt administration opposed, Secretary of War Stimson brought the chief of staff to an important March 4 meeting with key Senate leaders. Marshall described the benefits that had accrued to the United States defense effort because of aid to Britain. Stimson recorded in his diary that Marshall “gave a ripping good speech on it. . . He made a great impression on the Senators, who evidently don’t know much about the whole situation.” (March 4, 1941, Yale/H. L. Stimson Papers [Diary, 33: 56].)

On March 12, the day after he signed the lend-lease bill into law, President Roosevelt requested a $7,000,000,000 appropriation to finance the program. Marshall testified in support of the measure on March 13 (House) and March 20 (Senate). The key question Marshall was asked at these hearings was: How would lend-lease help the nation’s defense? Marshall assured the committee members that the United States stood to benefit in several ways. First, “our own actual resources will not be diminished until the finished products come off the production line and are ready for shipment. Increased production will add to our strength until the time for distribution begins.” Second, the lend-lease commitment would encourage the nation’s friends—particularly the British and various Latin American countries—and demonstrate to potential enemies that “we mean business. . . . I think it will have a tremendously stimulating effect on the morale of the British Army. . . . Napoleon said that morale is to materiel as three is to one, and somebody remarked the other day that under many circumstances the correct ratio is more nearly 10 to 1. We have seen a nation collapse. Those who have attempted to explain the debacle have talked a great deal about lack of materiel, but it is quite evident now that the failure was primarily in morale.” (House Appropriations Committee, Defense Aid Supplemental Appropriation Bill, 1941, Hearings [Washington: GPO, 1941], pp. 23-25.)

Finally, the lend-lease act provided that the United States would become the primary contractual party with its own manufacturers; Great Britain could no longer place its own orders directly. “At the present time we have a confusion of orders and a division of responsibility, both on the part of the manufacturer and among various interested groups which are trying to place contracts practically in competition with each other. Once this bill becomes a law the entire matter of placing contracts, the types of materiel to be manufactured, and the inspection service to be carried on during this period of production will all be coordinated. . . . If we go ahead independently with the placing of our own contracts under the recent deficiency appropriation bill approved by this committee, while at the same time the British are also placing tremendous contracts in this country, the result, lacking coordination, will be unutterable confusion and the development of new bottlenecks in addition to those we already have to contend with.” (Senate Appropriations Committee, Defense Aid Supplemental Appropriation Bill, 1941, Hearings [Washington: GPO, 1941], pp. 19-20. Congress passed the bill, and the president signed it on March 27, 1941.)

Recommended Citation: The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, ed. Larry I. Bland, Sharon Ritenour Stevens, and Clarence E. Wunderlin, Jr. (Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 1981- ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 2, “We Cannot Delay,” July 1, 1939-December 6, 1941 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986), pp. 436-437,

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