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War!:  The Arsenal of Democracy

The Arsenal of Democracy

"We must be the great arsenal of democracy. For us this is an emergency as serious as war itself. We must apply ourselves to our task with the same resolution, the same sense of urgency, the same spirit of patriotism and sacrifice as we would show were we at war."

     - Franklin Roosevelt, Fireside Chat, December 29, 1940

During the fall of 1939, FDR worked to loosen the grip of America's Neutrality Acts, which barred U.S. weapon sales to warring nations. He sought to find a way to sell arms to Great Britain and France. In November, Congress voted to permit weapon sales to belligerent nations - but only if the goods were purchased with cash and transported in foreign ships.In the spring of 1940 German armies swept across Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, and Belgium. In June, France collapsed. Suddenly, Britain stood alone. FDR responded by increasing military spending and supporting a peacetime draft. He arranged a deal to give Britain 50 aged American destroyers in exchange for leases to British bases in the Atlantic. And he continued selling Britain arms despite warnings that America's own military was under-equipped. In December he declared America "must be the great arsenal of democracy."

To learn more about the artifacts shown above, visit our Digital Artifact Collection.
Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum Home Page   National Archives and Records Administration
Lobby Foundations of a Public Life A New Deal FDR's "Act of Faith" The Promise of Change America, 1932: A Nation in Fear Temporary Exhibit Gallery War!  Lower level FDR's Death and Legacy First Lady Behind the scenes Legacy The Arsenal of Democracy Timeline Letter, Winston Churchill to Franklin Roosevelt, December 7, 1940, pages 14-15.