This week in the war, 11 March 1941, President Roosevelt signed into law a statute that was diplomatically titled ‘An Act to Further Promote the Defense of the United States’; it was the famous Lend-Lease bill. Ideas and intentions that flowed from the ‘garden hose’ of FDR’s press conference of 17 December 1940 were about about to materialize and to flow to beleaguered Britain in the form of guns, planes and explosives.The agreement was signed on the same day in London by Prime Minister Winston Churchill and the US ambassador to Great Britain. Nine months before Pearl Harbour, Roosevelt steered his country further away from neutrality and closer to its role as the arsenal of democracy—a phase he coined in one of his ‘fireside chats’.
Britain could no longer pay for its war with Germany, and the USA charged nothing for Lend-Lease supplies. The American public saw supporting Britain as a way to stay out of the fighting themselves.
Lend-Lease was extended to China one month later, and to the Soviet Union six months after that. The United Nations would never have won the war without Lend-Lease—a fact that even Joseph Stalin eventually acknowledged. By the time the USA itself became a belligerent, its war-production factories were up and running.
For the UK domestic front, see Wartime Britain 1939–1945 (Review, 2005) by Juliet Gardiner. She mentions Lend-Lease as supplying US-made food, such as tinned meat—including the now world-famous spam—and also Virginia tobacco.