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Tentative U.S. steps toward war

By 1938, the Roosevelt administration finally acknowledged that trouble may be coming to the U.S., so it started to build up the Navy to keep any attackers away from American shores. With Europe under Nazi control and America's mother country Britain fighting for its life, the U.S. passed its first peacetime draft called the Selective Service Act in September of 1940, beginning the process of bringing millions of men into the armed forces.

Any aid short of war

Also in September, President Roosevelt took the dramatic step of sending 50 old destroyers to Britain in exchange for some defensive bases in the Atlantic. He didn't wait for Congress: His friend Churchill had told him to act now. Aid wasn't that easy; an America First (1940) organization led by aviation hero Charles Lindbergh opposed any help for Britain that might draw America into the war. A law to continue the draft passed by only one vote. Despite Lindbergh's popularity, a majority of Americans now favored helping the fight with "any aid short of war."

In the middle of the war buildup came a presidential election. Franklin Roosevelt decided he had to run again for an unprecedented third term. He won easily despite some uneasiness about electing any president for a third term; the Democrats also maintained their majority in Congress.

Lend-Lease Bill

Britain was running out of money as well as supplies. A newly reelected Roosevelt introduced the Lend-Lease Bill (1941), which allowed the U.S. to lend or lease military supplies to Britain and other countries America supported without payment. This move was as close to declaring war as the nation could come without actually pulling the trigger; the hope was that other democracies would do the fighting for America. Lend-Lease had the additional advantage of tooling up U.S. defense plants to operate at full production before the country eventually ended up in the war.

Example

Question: What was the purpose of the Lend-Lease Bill (1941)?

Answer: The purpose of Lend-Lease was to get desperately needed supplies to Great Britain and other potential allies without payment in advance.

 
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