Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies – France’s sudden collapse shocked Americans out of their daydreams. The only democratic power remaining in the West was now Britain, which held on steadfastly. If Britain went under, Hitler would have at his disposal the workshops, shipyards, and slave labor of Western Europe. He might even have the powerful British fleet as well. Roosevelt moved with great energy, calling upon the nation to build huge air fleets and a two-ocean navy. Congress appropriated $37 billion to the project, while also passing a conscription law on September 6, 1940. Under this measure, provision was made for training 1.2 million troops and 800,000 reserves each year. At the Havana Conference of 1940, the US agreed to share with its twenty New World neighbors the responsibility of upholding the Monroe Doctrine – thus, in theory, keeping Hitler’s dirty hands out of the western hemisphere.
Britain was now the only bastion of democracy between the United States and Hitler. The wisdom of neutrality seemed increasingly questionable as Hitler launched air attacks against Britain in August 1940, preparatory to an invasion scheduled for September. For months the Battle of Britain raged in the air over the British Isles. The RAF’s tenacious defense of the UK eventually led Hitler to postpone his planned invasion indefinitely. During these months, debate in the US grew over whether to hunker down in the Western Hemisphere and assume a “Fortress America” defensive posture, and let the rest of the world go it alone, or to bolster beleaguered Britian by all means short of war itself. Supporters of aid to Britain formed propaganda groups, the most potent of which was the Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies. They appealed to both interventionists and to the isolationists.