The 1941 Lend-Lease Agreement
This page is from a heritage partnered project. It was written in 1998 by students from Stephenville Integrated High School and edited by their teachers. It has not been vetted by the heritage website's academic editor.
The 1941 Lend-Lease Agreement began when public opinion in the United States wanted to increase rearmament to help the Allies. President Franklin Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill made a defense agreement for the transfer of 50 U.S. destroyers to England in return for 99-year land-leases for U.S. military bases. Eight British territories would be used. Newfoundland and Labrador was a British territory at that time. The agreement was sometimes referred to as the Destroyers for Bases Agreement.
Although the bill was opposed by isolationists such as American senator Burton K. Wheeler, it passed the house 260 to 5. By the time the program ended in 1945, $50 billion in lend-lease aid had been shipped to Britain, China, the USSR and other allies. Negotiations regarding the bases in Newfoundland and Labrador were complicated by the interests of Ottawa, Washington, London and St. John's. Details regarding the bases was completed in March of 1941 in London, England. The U.S. obtained authority to build, operate and maintain control of bases and U.S. forces on Newfoundland soil, as well as other British territories, without interference from local governors.
In August of 1940, Ottawa made an agreement with the Newfoundland Government stating that Canada assumed the responsibility of protection for the island. Roosevelt was interested in placing U.S. naval and air bases in the region because it guarded the entrance to the St. Lawrence River and the Gulf, as well as the western reaches of sea lanes in the North Atlantic. The lend-lease measure allowed the President to lease, transfer or lend any defense article to a country that is deemed vital for the defense of the United States. The British Commonwealth gave the U.S. "Reverse lend-lease" in September of 1942. Eight billion dollars worth of services and goods were provided to U.S. forces that were overseas. After the war, financial settlements were made until 1972.
The Ernest Harmon Air Force Base, located in Stephenville, Newfoundland and Labrador, was constructed as a direct result of the 1941 lend-lease agreement between the United States and Britain. The base was operational from 1941-1966. During that period of time it contributed significantly to the economy and culture of Stephenville. It is difficult to imagine what Stephenville would be like today, if not for the lend-lease agreement and the base that resulted.