Convoys for Britain

April 19, 1941

Report Outline
Aid to Britan and the U-Boat Menace
Shipping and the Battle of the Atlantic
Armed Neutrality and Convoys in 1917
Conflict on Current Convoy Proposals

Aid to Britan and the U-Boat Menace

When Winston Churchill reported to the House of Commons, April 9, the news of unfavorable war developments in the Balkans, he pointed out that “after all, everything turns upon the Battle of the Atlantic, which is proceeding with growing intensity on both sides.” After citing Britain's shipbuilding efforts and the “assurance that several millions of tons of American newly-built shipping will be available for the common struggle during the course of the next year,” he observed that “the Battle of the Atlantic must be won not only in the factories and shipyards but upon the blue water.”

The Prime Minister was confident of Britain's ability to cope with air attacks upon shipping, but “the U-boats and the surface raiders range ever farther to the westward, ever nearer to the shores of the United States, and constitute a menace which must be overcome if the life of Britain is not to be endangered and if the purposes to which the government and people of the United States have devoted themselves are not to be frustrated.”

Uncertainty as to Administration's Stand on Convoys

When Churchill added that “the defeat of the U-boats and of surface raiders has been proved to be entirely a question of adequate escorts for our convoys,” it became plain that he was appealing for use of United States naval vessels, whether under their own or British command, to supplement the now insufficient number of British craft engaged in the service of convoying war materials and food supplies across the Atlantic. While the Roosevelt administration so far has voiced opposition to employment of American naval units on convoy duty, an indication that it might be preparing to change front on the question was given in certain remarks included in a radio address broadcast April 8 by Rear Admiral Emory S. Land, chairman of the United States Maritime Commission.

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