In the fall of 1939, FDR won a revision of the Neutrality Act, which now allowed belligerents to buy arms in the United States, but only with cash and only if they transported their purchases themselves, a provision called ""cash and carry."" Nearly one year later, the United States and Britain struck a deal in which the Americans loaned the British fifty mothballed destroyers in return for the use of eight British military bases. And in March 1941, FDR won enactment of a Lend-Lease program that allowed the British and other Allies continued access to American arms and supplies.In June 1941 Hitler launched a massive invasion of his former ally, the Soviet Union. Second, he tried to conquer the British by choking that island nation from the sea, ordering Nazi submarines to attack British shipping in the North Atlantic. The two decisions drew the United States closer to war, as FDR extended Lend-Lease aid to the Soviets. More important, he ordered the U.S. Navy to the North Atlantic first to patrol that region and then to escort British ships. This latter order allowed the Navy to fire on German subs at sight in U.S. vessels were endangered.The immense challenges that Roosevelt faced in the European conflict were compounded by the worsening situation in Asia. In 1937, Japan attacked China, a nation to which a number of Americans had a strong attachment. Japan invaded southern Indochina in the summer of 1941 to secure industrial supplies it deemed necessary to maintain its empire and military advantage. The Roosevelt administration responded by freezing Japan's assets in the United States, and restricting its access to petroleum products. Japanese leaders were both furious and even more convinced that the United States imperiled their national interest.
War came, on December 7, 1941, when Japan launched a surprise attack against the United States at Pearl Harbor naval base in Hawaii, America's vital outpost in the Pacific. Congress declared war on Japan on December 8; three days later, Germany and Italy declared war on the United States, which the U.S. Congress acknowledged in a resolution accepting the state of war. By December 1941, the United States had finally entered the war - now a true world war - as a participant.Though many Americans had over the years opposed the measures the Roosevelt Administration had taken that made war more likely, the nation pulled together like never before. More than 16 million American men and women served in the U.S. Armed Forces during World War II, and another 3.5 million worked as federal civilian employees during the war. Moreover, the U.S. home front supported the war effort in many ways, including a wide range of volunteer efforts, and willingly submitting to government-managed rationing, diversion of industries to war work, and price controls. There was a wide-spread general feeling of agreement that the sacrifices were for the national good during the war, and the national good became the paramount goal.From the outset of the war, it was clear that enormous quantities of airplanes, tanks, warships, rifles and other armaments would be essential to beating America’s foes. U.S. workers played a vital role in the production of such war-related materials. Many of these workers were women. Indeed, with tens of thousands of American men joining the armed forces and heading into training and into battle, women began securing jobs as welders, electricians and riveters in defense plants. Until that time, such positions had been strictly for men only. Children followed the progress of the war, with many placing maps of the battle fronts on the wall and using pegs to mark the progress of the American and Allied armies. The war became very real to everyone.FDR knew precisely how to describe the can-do, unified feeling abroad in the land, and did so in this letter. Typed letter signed, on White House letterhead, Washington, January 5, 1943, to Frederic A. Smith, the Chairman of the Defense Committee of the Poughkeepsie Lodge of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks. “I have just had an opportunity to read the report you sent me just before Christmas, and am delighted at the fine work and the successful outcome of the activities of our Lodge in its work with Aviation Cadets. It is really a remarkable showing and I should like for you to tell the Exalted Ruler and the others who have taken such an active part, that I am very proud.“With our boys and those of our friends and neighbors in the thick of the great fight, this war is certainly brought home to us all. With kindest personal regards and wishes for a Happy New Year.”FDR’s letters written during the war, and relating to the war, are quite uncommon; we have had only two or three in all our decades. But this letter, saying “With our boys and those of our friends and neighbors in the thick of the great fight, this war is certainly brought home to us all,” stands alone in its majesty and beauty, as well as in its recognition that the war touched every family, which created the magnificent spirit of the nation. (Inventory #: 20571)