10. 3 The U.S. and the War
Though public sympathies were with the democracies
of Britain and France, the majority of Americans did not want to
get involved in the war. The President reassured the nation in a
radio broadcast: "As long as it remains within my power,
there will be no black out of peace in the United States."
On September 5, 1939 the U.S. government declared neutrality
and applied the embargo on arms, ammunition and implements of warfare.
Initially the U.S. remained a silent spectator to the worldwide
The Neutrality Act (1939)
In 1939, the Congress passed the Neutrality Act. The Act lifted the arms embargo and American ships were forbidden to enter the war danger zones. The Congress also extended the cash-and-carry principle to war material. In this manner, U.S. production was made available to Britain and France. By the cash-and-carry policy war-goods of belligerent countries could be transported in neutral American vessels at a cash payment.
In the Pan-American conference on September 23, the U.S. was urged to take to initiative to defend the American boundaries. So the U.S. established a 300-mile defense zone. Meanwhile the war progressed with Hitler invading Norway and later Denmark in April 1940. The German conquest of Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg in May shocked the American public. The year 1940 also saw the collapse of Britain and France. As the World War was on, pro and anti-war groups began debating through the media. Editor William Allen White led the interventionists who wanted to support the Allies. He became the head of the interventionist organization in America, called: The Committee to defend America. A great debate began between the interventionists and the isolationists. By 1940, the American public was convinced that if democracy was to remain safe in the world, Hitler and his axes of powers had to be defeated.