Published Date

January 1, 1945

Resource Type

GI Roundtable Series, Primary Source

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

Assuming that the above principles are followed, what should the United States expect in return for lend-lease?

Some people think that we should cancel all obligations for lend-lease goods used directly in the war effort. When a Nazi is hit by a shot from an allied gun, it doesn’t make much difference whether the trigger was pressed by a Russian, a Frenchman, a Briton, or an American. Ought we, for example, to present a bill for a Sherman tank blown up with its British crew on the field of battle? Or for a P-39 pursuit plane shot from the sky with its Russian pilot dead?

If used-up munitions are omitted, it will be easier to arrive at a settlement retarding the unused goods and the capital equipment (machine tools, manufacturing equipment, oil refineries, etc.) which have postwar value.


What about lend-lease leftovers?

Shall we ask for the return of equipment that has been damaged in battle? Burned-out lend-lease tanks, the wreckage of planes shot from the sky, artillery blown to pieces—all this has value as scrap. But will we ask our allies to collect it after the war and ship it to us? There surely will not be a shortage of steel and copper and other metals in the United States.

But much unused materials in good condition are likely to remain in Britain, France, North Africa, Russia, and elsewhere—food supplies, munitions, petroleum, metals, chemicals, lumber, and the like.

Some of the food and industrial items like metals could be turned over for relief and rehabilitation in Europe. But it will be difficult to separate some types of lend-lease goods from others not obtained under lend-lease. Will Britain, for example, be able to separate American lard or bacon from lard or bacon received from Canada?

Military supplies will provide a different problem, one that may be easier to solve. The lend-leased articles still unused in British, Russian, French, and other United Nations military depots on the day Germany surrenders will probably be used in policing the occupied countries and in conducting the war in the Far East. After Japan surrenders, however, will we demand the return of lend-lease guns, ammunition, tanks, and other military items? Do they have any peacetime value? Is there any reason why they should not be left where they are? After the last war, our Army sold a lot of its munitions to France. Presumably, some lend-lease munitions could be similarly sold after this war and the money turned over to the United States Treasury.

What about capital goods?

Capital goods supplied under lend-lease will probably offer the most difficult problems. Such items have definite postwar value. Machine tools, for example, could be used by our allies to manufacture civilian goods, some of which mi ht compete in world markets with our own.

Cargo planes, trucks, and merchant ships can be used for relief purposes, or sold to the highest bidder and the money turned over to the United States. Or we could ask that the articles be returned for use in this country.

Port facilities, assembly plants, railroad equipment, pipelines, and the like, are still another matter.

The National Association of Manufacturers in a press release of August 7, 1944, suggested that “many lend-lease items such as food, clothing and industrial installations under construction in Russia, might be sold to the Soviets on a cash or credit basis.” Presumably the N.A.M. would suggest that similar items in the British Empire, North Africa, China, and elsewhere be disposed of in the same way after the war.

Up to June 30, 1944, we had lend-leased over 6 billion dollars’ worth of industrial materials and products, not including airfields and naval bases, port facilities, and the like. A definite postwar value could undoubtedly be placed on many of these items. Perhaps this would provide a basis for at least partial settlement of lend-lease accounts in terms of cash or credit or other property.

Strategic bases and materials

Some prominent Americans have bluntly asked that Britain, Russia, and other countries cede us military bases, grant post: war rights to our commercial air lines, and provide strategic materials, such as petroleum, in return for lend-lease-aid.

One influential spokesman of this viewpoint put it in these words: “The American people are entitled to some return for the more than 15.5 billion dollars already (in 1943) invested in lend-lease funds. … We have already spent more than 500 million dollars on airfields and equipment all over the world. In most places we have no right except to get out when the war is over. We have constructed these fields and placed these installations on the land belonging to other countries.” He declared that we must hold on to these strategic bases to prevent hostile nations from ever getting a foothold there. This, he said, could be part payment for lend-lease.

The Thirteenth Report to Congress on lend-lease operations in some measure replied to this argument. It pointed out that lend-lease equipment installed in airfields abroad will be fully taken into account” in the final lend-lease settlement, but “the question of the future use of airfields in all parts of the world, both for strategic and commercial purposes, involves many factors besides lend-lease.”

The demand for transfer of foreign petroleum, copper, nickel, tin, and other reserves in the final lend-lease settlement has been voiced by various groups, both in Congress and out. This proposal to help restore our own stocks, depleted in the war, also presents problems. Can we calculate how much of the extra drain on our resources has been due to lend-lease? It may not be easy to do this precisely—or even close enough to assure a square deal on both sides.

One can see from this discussion how many complications may arise in clearing accounts. The American people will have to think the matter through, just as they did the idea of lend-lease when it was first proposed.

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