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Postcard to Representative Sol Bloom of New York, November 1, 1939

As war spread in Europe in the fall of 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked Congress to pass legislation to allow sales of materiel to belligerents, provided the recipients paid cash and transported what they bought in their own ships. “Cash and carry” favored the Allies, as German ships could not easily maneuver around the larger British Navy. Congress passed the legislation in November.

Records of the U.S. House of Representatives, National Archives and Records Administration

Postcard to Representative Sol Bloom Postcard to Representative Sol Bloom

U.S. Neutrality during World War II

The brutality of World War I, the strength of the pacifist and isolationist movements, and the Nye Committee’s inquiry prompted Congress to approve a series of neutrality acts in the 1930s aimed at preventing U.S. intervention abroad. The laws banned arms sales to all belligerent nations and forbade loans or credits to all nations at war. Declarations of war in Europe in 1939 forced Congress to relax these policies, allowing nations at war to purchase war materiel from the United States on a “cash and carry” basis.

If we repeal it, we are helping England and France. If we fail to repeal it, we will be helping Hitler and his allies. Absolute neutrality is an impossibility.

Senator George W. Norris of Nebraska, Constituent Correspondence, 1939