What Was the Lend-Lease Act?

The Lend-Lease act of 1941 was an act of the United States Congress that authorized President Franklin Roosevelt to sell, lease or lend military equipment to any country whose defense he deemed vital to American security. It provided a way for the U.S. to assist its allies in World War II without officially breaking neutrality and entering the war.

The Lend-Lease program was initially targeted to help Great Britain who informed American officials that the war had nearly bankrupted the country, and they would no longer be able to pay for supplies in 1940. The idea behind the policy was that the U.S. would transfer military equipment to Britain with the understanding that Britain would return or pay for any equipment that was not destroyed, but could defer this payment until after the war.

The program was ultimately extended to other American allies, including France, China and the Soviet Union. By the end of the war, over $50 billion in military supplies had been provided to U.S. allies: $31.4 billion to Britain, $11.3 billion to the USSR, $3.2 billion to France and $1.6 billion to China.

The official title of the Lend-Lease program was "An Act to Further Promote the Defense of the United States." It was run by the Office of Lend-Lease Administration, which was led by Edward Stettinius, who went on to become the U.S. Secretary of State.