Neutrality Acts 1935-1941


Aug. 19 - Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved Pittman bill

Aug. 21 - Senate passed bill and sent to House

Aug. 23 - House passed bill with 6-month time limit

Aug. 24 - Senate passed amended bill

Aug. 31 - FDR signed bill

1. mandatory arms embargo:

"upon the outbreak or during the progress of war between, or among, two or more foreign states, the President shall proclaim such fact, and it shall thereafter be unlawful to export arms, ammunition, or implements of war to any port of such belligerent states."

2. discretionary travel restrictions

3. will expire in 6 months - Feb. 29, 1936


Oct. 5 - FDR invoked Neutrality Act

1. proclaimed mandatory arms embargo with belligerents Italy and Ethiopia

2. warned against travel on belligerent ships

FDR also urged "moral embargo" on all trade with Italy, but U.S. exports to Italy increased


Feb. 12 - Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved Thomas 14-month extension bill rather than Pittman-McReynolds discretionary bill or Nye-Clark-Maverick mandatory total trade restriction bill

Feb. 29 - FDR signed Thomas bill

1. mandatory arms embargo with belligerents and new belligerents entering a war in progress

2. discretionary travel restriction

3. mandatory ban on loans to belligerents but short-term credits exempt

4. American Republics exempt


Aug. 7 - U.S. did not invoke Neutrality Act but urged non-interference and a "moral embargo"

Aug. 10 - Glenn Martin Co. sought sale of 8 bombers to Spanish Nationalist government

- opposed by FDR but not illegal

Dec. 28 - U.S. reluctantly granted export license to Robert Cuse to sell aviation parts to Spanish rebels

- denounced by FDR as unpatriotic but legal

Nov. election won by FDR with Democratic majority in Congress, and FDR supported Anglo-French efforts to prevent war by halting foreign intervention in Spain rather than trying to help save Spain from fascism, and agreed to mandatory law for Spain. He also needed support in Congress for Supreme Court reform announced Feb. 5.

Jan. 6, 1937 - Congress quickly passed Pittman bill for mandatory arms embargo in Spanish conflict


May 1 - FDR signed permanent bill

1. mandatory arms embargo with belligerents

2. mandatory travel ban on belligerent ships

3. mandatory loan ban to belligerents

4. mandatory ban on arming of American merchant ships trading with belligerents

5. discretionary cash-and-carry for 2 years (Bernard Baruch's plan to allow trade with belligerents in non-contraband goods if paid in cash and carried in foreign ships)


Aug. 17 - FDR did not invoke Neutrality Act but said it was on "a 24-hour basis" until a formal

declaration of war or a real threat to the U.S.

Aug. 29 - U.S. freighter Wichita sailed from Baltimore with 19 planes for China after Japan

declared blockade of China coast

Sept. 13 - Maritime Commission chairman Joseph Kennedy ordered American Pioneer Line to

detain Wichita in San Pedro - unloaded planes and continued on to Hong Kong

Sept. 14 - FDR declared no government-owned ship to carry arms to China or Japan

Sept. 20 - DuPont Co. agreed not to sell arms to China or Japan, but U.S. exports to China and Japan continued, especially through England

July 1, 1938 - Joseph Green, head of National Munitions Control Board, would issue export licenses for aircraft to nations that bomb civilians only "with great regret" - private aircraft industry complied and stopped aircraft exports to Japan, although total 1938 exports to Japan = $9M

Sept. 12, 1938 - Munich conference - danger of war with Germany - FDR wanted discretionary powers

in case war breaks out to export arms to England and France

Sept. 23, 1938 - Gallup poll showed 73% favor keeping mandatory arms embargo


Jan. 4 - FDR annual message to Congress calls for "methods short of war" to defend the nation

Jan. 23 - Douglas DB-7 bomber crash in California - Frenchman injured - press reveals FDR plans to sell advanced U.S. aircraft to England and France & that the U.S. frontier was "on the Rhine"

March 15 - Germany occupies Czechoslovakia in violation of the Munich agreement

March 17 - FDR announces he wanted revision of the Neutrality law to aid the democracies

May 1 - Cash-and-carry neutrality law expired, yet 72% approve discretionary embargo of aggressors

June 29 - House approved Vorys amendment to keep mandatory arms embargo but allow export of"implements of war" - 51% approve - public opinion mixed and vacillating

July 10 - Senate Foreign RElations Committee voted 12-11 to postpone neutrality revision

- FDR and Pittman failed to win vote of Walter George of Georgia and Guy Gillette of Texas


Sept. 3 - British liner Athenia sunk - 28 of 112 killed were Americans

Sept. 5 - FDR invoked 1937 Neutrality Law after England and France declare war

Sept. 22 - Gallup poll showed 62% favor repeal of mandatory arms embargo

Oct. 3 - Declaration of Panama - 300-mile Security Zone around western hemisphere

Nov. 4 - FDR signed revision bill

1. arms embargo repealed, but trade must be cash-and-carry

2. no U.S. ships in war zone around British Isles

3. no loans to belligerents

4. not travel on belligerent ships

5. no armed merchant ships


July 10 - Battle of Britian begins

Aug. 27 - FDR executive order traded destroyers for bases - also allowed British pilots to train in U.S., British ships to be repaired in U.S. ports, Flight Ferry Command, Eagle Squadron

Nov. 7 - FDR allocated 1/2 of all arms to England, but England lacks cash to pay for orders made

Dec. 17 - lend-lease proposed at press conference - passed Congress and signed by FDR March 11


Mar. 24 - FDR froze $50M Yugoslavian assets when Prince Paul signed Tripartite Pact, but Mar. 27 Gen. Simovic overthrows Markovic - Hitler invades Apr. 6 - FDR pledges "all material aid possible"

Mar. 27 - Congress approved initial $7B lend-lease appropriation

Mar. 30 - Coast Guard siezed 64 Axis ships in U.S. ports for lend-lease convoys

Apr. 2 - FDR transfers 10 Coast Guard ships to England, allowed Royal Navy to use U.S. ports for

repair and refueling

Apr. 9 - Denmark's Henrik Kauffmann allowed U.S. occupation of Greenland

Apr. 10 - Security Zone extended to 26 longitude including Greenland and Azores - also Red Sea; removed from list of forbidden combat zones, allowing lend-lease to British in Mideast

Apr. 11 - U.S. destroyer Niblack fired 3 depth charges at German U-boat - began undeclared naval war

Apr. 17 - Neutral Egyptian liner Zam-Zam sunk in S. Atlantic, 140 U.S. aboard - 1 American died of injuries, 2 other seriously wounded passengers remained captive as "Guests of the German Navy" aboard the German merchant raider Atlantis (Hilfskreuzer) due to their injuries for another seven months

Apr. 24 - Navy ordered to begin observation patrols in Security Zone

Apr. 28 - FDR froze $50M Greek assets after Greece fell to Hitler

May 20 - Zam-Zam passengers and crew arrived at St. Jean-De-Luz in Occupied France aboard German Blockade Runner Dresden - Americans only debarked - Crewmen and passengers of belligerent nations taken to port of Bordeaux for transfer to internment camps - Americans repatriated through Spain and Portugal over next 35-days

May 26 - German battleship Bismarck located by US-built PBY with US pilot

May 27 - FDR declared "unlimited national emergency" - need to build ships, help British

June 6 - FDR seized 80 foreign merchant ships in U.S. ports under new law of Congress

June 10 - U.S. freighter Robin Moor lifeboats found - was 1st U.S. ship sunk May 21

June 14 - FDR froze Axis funds in U.S.

June 16 - FDR ordered German consulates closed, expels diplomats - ordered secret occupation of Iceland

June 20 - U.S. battleship Texas enters combat zone near England & tracked by U-boat

June 21 - Hitler ordered U-boats to avoid all U.S. warships

June 22 - Hitler invaded Russia

June 24 - U.S. released $39 million Soviet funds previously frozen

June 25 - FDR did not invoke Neutrality Act with Russia, sent Hopkins to Moscow in July and Averill Harriman in September, and Congress approved lend-lease appropriation of $1B in October


July 7 - FDR made public the arrival of 4000 Marines in Iceland, extended Security Zone and Navy patrols to Iceland - Gallup poll showed 61% approved

Aug. 9-13 - Atlantic Conference at Placentia Bay with Churchill, FDR and their staffs

- decided to follow Plan Dog, make public declaration of liberal war aims, affirmed secret guarantees

to defend British possessions, start search-and-destroy security patrols, provoke and incident

Sept. 4 - U.S. destroyer Greer attacked U-652, eluded 2 torpedos

Sept. 11 - FDR declared Greer attack was "piracy" as was Aug. 17 sinking of U.S.-Panamanian freighter Sessa killing 24 of 27 crew, and the Sept. 5 sinking of U.S. freighter Steel Seafarer clearly flying

U.S. flag - ordered "shoot-on-sight" - Gallup poll 62% approved

Sept. 11 - U.S. freighter Montana sunk en route to Iceland, none killed

Sept. 19 - armed U.S.-Panamanian freighter Pink Star sunk en route to Iceland with cargo of food

Sept. 27 - U.S.-Panamanian oil tanker I.C. White sunk en route to South Africa, 3 killed


Oct. 9 - FDR sought revision of 1939 Neutrality Act to arm merchant ships

Oct. 16 - U.S. tanker W.C. Teagle sunk and U.S.-Panamanian freighter Bold Venture sunk

Oct. 17 - U.S. destroyer Kearny torpedoed and damaged with 11 killed inside Security Zone

Oct. 19 - U.S. freighter Lehigh sunk in South Atlantic

Oct. 27 - FDR Navy Day speech: "America has been attacked" - claimed he had German map of Americas

Oct. 30 - U.S.-Panamanian armed tanker Salinas torpedoed and damaged

Oct. 31 - U.S. destroyer Reuben James sunk inside Security Zone, 115 killed - was the 1st U.S. warship lost

Nov. 5 - Gallup poll showed 81% favored arming merchant ships & 61% favored ships entering war zones

Nov. 6 - German blockade runner Odenwald , with cargo of rubber from Japan, captured inside Security

Zone off Brazil by U.S. cruiser Omaha

Nov. 7 - Senate approved revision 50-37 - closest vote since 1939

Nov. 13 - House narrowly approved revision 212-194

1. merchant ships may be armed

2. U.S. ships may enter combat zones

3. U.S. ships may enter belligerent ports

Nov. 24 - U.S. Army to occupy bauxite-rich Dutch Guiana

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