Lesson 4: FDR and the Lend-Lease Act

The Lend-Lease Act, approved by Congress in March 1941, gave President Franklin D. Roosevelt virtually unlimited authority to direct material aid such as ammunition, tanks, airplanes, trucks, and food to the war effort in Europe without violating America's official position of neutrality. By 1945 the Lend-Lease program had cost $49.1 billion, and over 40 nations had received aid in its name.

Lend-Lease, like Social Security and other New Deal programs, proposed a vastly expanded role for the U.S. government, particularly the President. As he did in advocating other programs, FDR employed fireside chats, press conferences, and the State of the Union address to gain support for Lend-Lease. After the program was implemented, he even employed the same photography unit that had documented the Farm Security Administration to provide photographs to promote the program.

This lesson shows students how broadly Lend-Lease empowered the federal government—particularly the President—and asks students to investigate how FDR promoted the program in speeches and then in photographs.

Guiding Questions

How did the Lend-Lease program increase the power of the executive branch of the federal government to act in response to world affairs?

Learning Objectives

After completing this lesson, students should be able to explain what the Lend-Lease program did

Analyze the way President Roosevelt presented the program to the public

Discuss the scope of the program in terms of countries served and materials provided

Evaluate the domestic and international implications of America's new role as "the arsenal of democracy."