National Geographic : 1943 Jun
Lend-Lease Is a Two-way Benefit Innovation in Creative Statesmanship Pools Resources of United Nations, and Supplies American Forces Around the World BY FRANCIS FLOOD * PAINT sprayers, blankets, water barrels, cookstoves, watches, socks, bicycles, gasoline, barbed wire. It reads like an inventory from an old-time general store back in the forks of the creek. But this list calls for a million blankets, two million suits of underwear, four million pairs of wool socks. It is part of a list of supplies given to the United States Army in Britain by the British Government, under reverse Lend-Lease. If those figures are too big for the begin ning of a story, here is a smaller one. There is a $20 limit on any single expenditure that a United States Army officer may make for Army supplies in Britain. Supplies of any higher value are simply requisitioned from the British Government, under reciprocal Lend-Lease, which means we get them free. The result is that our own expenses for supplies for an American soldier in Britain are down to less than 25 cents a month. 2,500 to 1 The Lend-Lease principle is an innovation in creative statesmanship. In World War I, equipment, supplies, and food furnished to our A.E.F. were paid for by Uncle Sam. In this war much of it is given to us under Lend-Lease. We spent only about one million dollars for supplies for all our forces in Britain dur ing the first 13 months of this war. That one million dollars compares with the 2,500 million dollars we spent during the other war for supplies for our soldiers in Europe. The list of these supplies given to our Army in Britain is too long to publish here. Briefly, it includes whatever we need. And the test of whether or not the U.S. forces need a particular article is simply the signature of the United States officer on the requisition. More than a million tons of equipment and food were given us in Britain during the last seven months of 1942. But the dollar value of these supplies has never been figured, and for an interesting reason. Our Engineer Corps estimates that the bookkeeping job would keep half an Army division constantly employed. It has seemed more necessary to devote the limited manpower in Britain to furnishing these supplies to us than to keeping a record of their value. The British civilian labor employed for U.S. forces, and paid for by the British, varies from 12,000 to 25,000 peo ple at all times. Any really sound business benefits both parties. It was to defend America that we sent aid to Britain, aid to Russia, aid to China. And the supplies now given by our allies to our forces abroad are as much for their own defense as for ours. Call it bread cast on the waters which re turns after many days. Call it mutual aid against a common enemy. It started early, this two-way benefit, though in the early days we recognized it sim ply as sound business. It was in their own in terests that Britain and the other Empire countries, excluding Canada, spent seven bil lion dollars in the United States, most of it before the Lend-Lease Act was passed. One and one-half billion was to finance the start of our infant war aircraft industry, but this helped us get off to a flying start. When Britain ran out of dollars, we formally recog nized our responsibility and continued our aid as Lend-Lease. To retool a nation to war production takes a long time. Those British cash orders, some of them two years before Pearl Harbor, fol lowed in turn by Lend-Lease orders, meant that by the time we jumped into the fight we "lit a-runnin'," gun in hand, already in pro duction, with a two-year start. With America in the war, Britain and our allies adopted the same Lend-Lease principle toward us and freely provide all the assistance they can under the name of reciprocal aid. Whose Patrol Is It? We send 50 destroyers to Britain. Then a fleet of Royal Navy ships, complete with officers and men, is lent to the U.S. Navy to escort our U.S. tankers off our North Caro lina coast. They fly the British flag, pay their crews from His Majesty's treasury, op erate under our admiralty, eat our food, and drink their tea and rum. Just whose patrol is it, anyway? Follow it further. The cargo of fuel from that protected tanker later goes to England as Lend-Lease. There it may be refunded to one of our Army Air Force units operating * Associate Editor of the Farmer-Stockman, Okla homa City, on leave with the British Supply Coun cil, Washington, D. C .