British Opinion About The United States After Pearl Harbor

Today’s post is written by David Langbart, an Archivist in the Textual Records Division at the National Archives at College Park.

World War II began on September 1, 1939, with the German invasion of Poland.  France and Great Britain, fulfilling their international obligations, declared war on Germany but could do little to aid the Poles in their fight.  In May 1940, Germany turned its attention west and in a lightening attack conquered the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Belgium, and France, and chased the British expeditionary force back to England through Dunkirk.  At that point, Great Britain stood alone against the Nazi behemoth.

Even though the United States was not formally in the war, under President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s leadership, the U.S. provided a great deal of support to its fellow democracy Great Britain, culminating in such actions as the destroyers-for-bases-deal and the Lend-Lease program, whereby the U.S. supplied much-needed supplies and equipment.[1]  Nevertheless, British opinion of the United States was not the best.

FDR undertook those actions in the face of a great deal of isolationist opposition in Congress and among the public.[2]  Most notable among the latter was the America First Committee, which counted among its leaders the noted aviator Charles Lindbergh.  Shortly after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and Germany declared war on the United State four days later, British authorities undertook a survey of British attitudes towards the United States and issued the following report, from Records Relating to Publications and the Foreign Information Service (NAID 1013120),  reflecting revised opinions now that the U.S. was in the war:

OWI.British opinion of US Jan 1942.2
Report attached to Memorandum by Estelle Frankfurter to Robert Sherwood, Nelson Poynter, Wallace Deuel, Edmond Taylor, James Warburg, Joseph Barnes, Irving Pflaum, and John Houseman, January 28, 1942; file England; Records of the Special Assistant (NAID 1013120), RG 208 p1
OWI.British opinion of US Jan 1942.3
Report attached to Memorandum by Estelle Frankfurter to Robert Sherwood, Nelson Poynter, Wallace Deuel, Edmond Taylor, James Warburg, Joseph Barnes, Irving Pflaum, and John Houseman, January 28, 1942; file England; Records of the Special Assistant (NAID 1013120), RG 208 p2
OWI.British opinion of US Jan 1942.4
Report attached to Memorandum by Estelle Frankfurter to Robert Sherwood, Nelson Poynter, Wallace Deuel, Edmond Taylor, James Warburg, Joseph Barnes, Irving Pflaum, and John Houseman, January 28, 1942; file England; Records of the Special Assistant (NAID 1013120), RG 208 p3
OWI.British opinion of US Jan 1942.5
Report attached to Memorandum by Estelle Frankfurter to Robert Sherwood, Nelson Poynter, Wallace Deuel, Edmond Taylor, James Warburg, Joseph Barnes, Irving Pflaum, and John Houseman, January 28, 1942; file England; Records of the Special Assistant (NAID 1013120), RG 208 p4

Source Note: Some of the records in this entry originated in the Foreign Information Service (FIS) of the Coordinator of Information (COI).  In June 1942, the function and many records of that organization were transferred to the new Office of War Information (OWI) when that agency was established while the other parts of the COI became the core of the new Office of Strategic Services (OSS).

[1] Once Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, the U.S. extended Lend-Lease aid to the USSR, too.

[2] See Wayne S. Cole, Roosevelt and the Isolationists, 1932-1945 (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1983) for a superb study.

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