2-329 Editorial Note on Lend-Lease, January-March 1941

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press

Editorial Note on Lend-Lease

January-March 1941

Hungry for aid in the early months of 1941, dozens of nations—but Great Britain especially—sought access to “the rich man’s table.” John J. McCloy, special assistant to the secretary of war, outlined British weaknesses in a sweeping memorandum. Their greatest needs, he noted, were in shipping, aircraft, and air crews. To maintain adequate food and munitions forty thousand tons had to be imported annually; sinkings by Germans had reduced that rate to thirty-five thousand tons. Although Britain possessed a year’s supply of beef, imports of fodder and fertilizer had been reduced by the sinkings. McCloy claimed that the British needed both impounded naval vessels and new ships from the United States. Aircraft, antiaircraft guns, and .30 caliber ammunition to continue the Battle of Britain were additional priority items. (McCloy Memorandum of Talk with L. K. Thorne, February 11, 1941, NA/RG 319 [OPD, Exec. 4, Item 11].)

“As the western Allies experienced greater and greater need for airplanes, guns, ammunition, and other supplies, they sought an increased proportion of the American output. In the ultimate victory over the Axis time would show American factory production to have been an immense factor. Early foreign orders also greatly expedited the enormous development of American industry to the long-range advantage of the Army. Yet this later benefit does not alter the fact that in diverting abroad much of the flow of new equipment those early orders temporarily retarded the equipping and hence the training of the new United States Army.” (Mark S. Watson, Chief of Staff: Prewar Plans and Preparations, a volume in the United States Army in World War II [Washington: GPO, 1950], p. 300.)

Marshall struggled to balance the development of the ground forces and the Air Corps with this assistance to Britain in 1941. To this end he testified twice before Congress in support of lend-lease, on March 13 and 20. He also testified in support of supplemental appropriations on February 12, March 5 and 25, to fund an army, according to mobilization plans completed at this time, of 4,100,000 men at an unspecified time in the future.

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), p. 379.

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