World War II - Lend-Lease & Pearl Harbor

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Aim: How did the Neutrality Acts and Lend-Lease lead to America’s involvement in World War II?

Do Now: What did President George Washington warn us about in his farewell speech?

Lesson Overview:

Item Approx Time
Do Now 3-5 Min
Mini Lesson 15-20 Min
Activity 15 Min
Discussion 5-7 Min


Neutrality Acts

The Neutrality Acts were laws that were passed by the United States Congress in the 1930s, in response to the growing turmoil in Europe and Asia that eventually led to World War II. They were spurred by the growth in isolationism and non-interventionism in the US following its costly involvement in World War I, and sought to ensure that the US would not become entangled again in foreign conflicts.

The legacy of the Neutrality Acts in the 1930s was widely regarded as having been generally negative: they made no distinction between aggressor and victim, treating both equally as "belligerents"; and they limited the US government's ability to aid Britain against Nazi Germany. The acts were largely repealed in 1941, in the face of German submarine attacks on U.S. vessels and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.


Lend-Lease was the program under which the United States of America supplied the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, China, Free France, and other Allied nations with materiel between 1941 and 1945. It was signed into law on March 11, 1941, a year and a half after the outbreak of war in Europe in September 1939 but nine months before the U.S. entered the war in December 1941. Formally titled An Act to Further Promote the Defense of the United States, the Act effectively ended the United States' pretense of neutrality.

A total of $50.1 billion (equivalent to $647 billion today) worth of supplies were shipped: $31.4 billion to Britain, $11.3 billion to the Soviet Union, $3.2 billion to France, and $1.6 billion to China. Reverse Lend-Lease comprised services such as rent on air bases that went to the U.S., and totaled $7.8 billion; of this, $6.8 billion came from the British and the Commonwealth. The terms of the agreement provided that the materiel were to be used until time for their return or destruction. Supplies after the termination date were sold to Britain at a discount for £1.075 billion using long-term loans from the United States. Canada operated a similar program that sent $4.7 billion in supplies to the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union. The United States did not charge for aid supplied under this legislation.

This program was a decisive step away from non-interventionist policy, which had dominated United States foreign relations since the end of World War I, towards international involvement.

Pearl Harbor


Just before 8 on the morning of December 7, 1941, hundreds of Japanese fighter planes attacked the American naval base at Pearl Harbor near Honolulu, Hawaii. The barrage lasted just two hours, but it was devastating: The Japanese managed to destroy nearly 20 American naval vessels, including eight enormous battleships, and almost 200 airplanes. More than 2,000 Americans soldiers and sailors died in the attack, and another 1,000 were wounded. The day after the assault, President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war on Japan; Congress approved his declaration with just one dissenting vote. Three days later, Japanese allies Germany and Italy also declared war on the United States, and again Congress reciprocated. More than two years into the conflict, America had finally joined World War II.


The USS Arizona Memorial is built over the remains of the sunken battleship USS Arizona, the final resting place for many of the 1,177 crewmen killed on December 7, 1941 when their ship was bombed by Japanese Naval Forces. This loss of life represents over half of the Americans killed during the worst naval disaster in American history.

Classwork & Homework

Lesson PowerPoint: Lend-Lease to Pearl Harbor

Lesson Video:

Lesson Activity: Lend-Leas to Pearl Harbor Packet

Homework: Complete Classwork Packet

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