Published Date

January 1, 1945

Resource Type

GI Roundtable Series, Primary Source

From GI Roundtable 13: How Shall Lend-Lease Accounts Be Settled? (1945)

Many people think that lend-lease is a one-way affair, operating just for the benefit of our allies. In August 1943, when we had been in the war twenty-one months, the Office of War Information conducted an extensive survey and found out that more than four out of five people had not heard of reverse lend-lease.

The basic idea of allied cooperation is that each of the United Nations is giving to the full extent of its ability—in both manpower and materials—to accomplish the defeat of the Axis. Lend-lease and reverse lend-lease create a pool of resources to which and from which contributions and withdrawals are made as the demands of the fighting fronts dictate.

Some countries, like the Soviet Union and China, have required all they can produce—and more—to fight the enemy on their own soil. Others, like the United States, Canada, Great Britain, India, Australia, and New Zealand, can make available to their allies substantial quantities of munitions, food, and other war supplies and services.

Canada has received no lend-lease aid from the United States, but has its own mutual aid program, corresponding to our lend-lease. It has made outright gifts of about 1 billion dollars’ worth of supplies to the United Kingdom and in addition sent l billion dollars’ worth as mutual aid (up to the summer of 1944). Britain has not only furnished large quantities of war goods to the Soviets, but had provided our forces with almost 2 1/2 billion dollars of reverse lend-lease aid up to June 30, 1944.


What kind of bundles from Britain?

In many cases, this aid began even before our troops reached the other side. Large numbers of American soldiers have been carried across the Atlantic in British superliners, like the Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth, convoyed by British warships. After landing, the hospitality of the British government was theirs. “Nothing conceivably helpful” has been withheld from American commanders, according to the British Ministry of Production in a report on aid to the United States. For its part, the United States government, reporting on aid received through reverse lend-lease, disclosed that “thirty-one percent of all the supplies and equipment currently required by the United States Army in the European Theater of Operations between June 1, 1942 and June 30, 1944, was supplied by the British as reverse lend-lease.

The British have built for our troops hundreds of barracks, airfields, hospitals, supply depots, roads, and other facilities. They have paid the costs of transporting our men and our supplies within the British Isles. Most American soldiers stationed in England have received supplemental food rations from British stocks. Almost all the bread eaten by our troops while training in Britain was baked with flour furnished under reverse lend-lease.

The catalogue of items placed at the disposal of United States military forces by the British government is impressive for its variety as well as for its volume. It ranges from tea kettles to hotels; from monkey wrenches to finished planes; and from eye shields to diving suits.

Some strategic commodities have been shipped to the United States by the British under reverse lend-lease. These include barrage balloons and small naval craft, tea and crude rubber from Ceylon, rope fibers, chrome, and asbestos from British Africa, and cocoa from Nigeria.

Reverse lend-lease in the Pacific

In the war against Japan, the Australians and New Zealanders have supplied hundreds ,of millions of dollars of reverse lend-lease aid to the United States. Up to June 30, 1944 Australia provided our forces with over a million and a quarter pounds of food, as well as blankets, socks, shoes, and other articles of GI clothing. She has built barracks, airfields, hospitals, and recreational centers and furnished landing craft, motor transport, telephone and telegraph facilities, and numerous other services. Altogether, to June 30, 1944, Australia had spent about 550 million dollars on reverse lend-lease aid.

New Zealand, which has a population of only 1,650,000, and much slenderer resources than Australia (population 7,000,000), has made available to our military personnel almost 580,000,000 pounds of food, as well as camps, warehouses, hospitals, small ships, and other equipment. New Zealand’s total expenditures on reverse lend-lease aid to the United States amounted to more than 131 million dollars on June 30, 1944.

All in all, we received from Australia and New Zealand during the summer of 1944 reverse lend-lease supplies at a greater rate (in dollar value) than the lend-lease goods we sent them.

Had it been necessary to ship from America the goods furnished by Australia and New Zealand under reverse lend-lease, hundreds of thousands of tons of shipping space would have been required. Such shipments would have hindered the transport of munitions and other materiel to the Pacific war theater.

The Burma-India Theater

India’s contribution to reverse lend-lease has risen steadily as increasing numbers of American troops have been billeted there. Supplies, services, and facilities provided to American forces in the Burma-India Theater by the United Kingdom and India totaled 232 million dollars on June 30, 1944. More than half was the share of the Indian government. This offset to some extent the large amounts of munitions for the Indian army, the industrial materials for India’s war plants, the railways, port facilities, and communications systems which we have provided under lend-lease.

Of the British share of reverse lend-lease supplied to our forces in the Burma-India Theater, a substantial part is in the form of aviation gasoline and other vital petroleum products. The crude oil comes from British oil fields in the Middle East and is refined at the British refinery at Abadan in Iran. A large part of the gas and oil used by the United States Tenth Air Force in India, the Fourteenth Air Force in China, and by the B-29’s of the Twentieth Air Force operating from bases in both India and China is thus of British origin, supplied to us without cost under reverse lend-lease.

Next section: What Criticisms Have Been Made against Lend-Lease?