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24 June 2009
ROOSEVELT, Franklin D. Typed letter signed ("Franklin D. Roosevelt"), as President, to [Henry Morgenthau, Jr.], Washington, 28 December 1941. 1 page, 4to, on White House stationery.
"THE WHOLE RUSSIAN PROGRAM IS SO VITAL TO OUR INTERESTS": FDR INSISTS THAT AMERICAN GUNS GET THROUGH TO THE BELEAGUERED SOVIET FORCES
Russia stood on the brink of defeat by the end of 1941. Here, just three weeks after Pearl Harbor--and in the teeth of an American public that wanted the war effort exclusively directed against Japan--F.D.R. insists that needed supplies get through to Stalin. "The whole Russian program is so vital to our interests," Roosevelt commands Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau, Jr., "that only the gravest consideration will lead you to recommend our withholding longer the munitions our Government has promised the U.S.S.R." The President declares that he wants "the Soviet aid program as provided in the Protocol Agreement be re-established beginning January 1." He's referring to the First Moscow Protocol under the Lend-Lease program, dated 1 October 1941, in which the U.S. pledged to supply tanks, aircraft and a wide array of munitions and supplies to the Russian army. "Existing deficits," Roosevelt writes, "are to be made up and shipped from this country not later than April 1. I realize that some amendments such as relate to anti-aircraft guns and their ammunition must be made as to times of delivery but I wish if possible when such amendments must be made you would give consideration to increasing the Protocol in other items essential to the Russians." He concludes by saying he wants "all items [to] go forward promptly after January 1, unless I authorize the specific amendment."
He sent an identical letter this same day to Secretary of War Henry Stimson, and continued to follow-up when Soviet shipments lagged in the spring of 1942. "[T]he President directed Donald Nelson of the War Production Board to get materials 'released...regardless of the effect of these shipments on any other part of our war program,' and told Rear Adm. Emory S. Land of the War Shipping Administration to give Russian aid a first priority in shipping'" (T. H. Vail Motter, U.S. Army in W.W. II: The Persian Corridor and Aid to Russia, 37). An important letter in the history of the Grand Alliance that won the Second World War.
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