During the fall of 1941 (but before December), the United States waged a "war short of war" against Nazi Germany's submarines using escort vessels, the Reuben James, the (James) Greer, and the Kearny that was operating in "waters necessary to the defense of the United States," that is, all the way out to Iceland (according to President Roosevelt's definition). They were protecting convoys of British and Canadian transport ships.

The Lend Lease Act of 1941 gave Roosevelt the right to lend or lease military equipment "vital to the defense of the United States."

Could America have taken this to its logical conclusion and escorted British supply ships all the way to Britain, or even Russia, or better yet, shipped arms to them in American vessels? This would be to force the Germans to either "lay off" American ships, or else risk war with the United States by sinking them.

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The Neutrality Acts of the 1930s in the United States were enacted with the exact intention of preventing the US from being drawn into foreign wars by sly or cynically contrived means, and there were specific provisions in those laws to restrict belligerent acts by US citizens and ships. Roosevelt was very conscious of the potential trouble that could result should he antagonize the isolationist elements in the United States and he worked very hard to present his policies as being primarily about protecting American interests. Even the Lend-Lease Act itself, formally titled, "An Act to Promote the Defense of the United States", was presented as a benefit to the United States by emphasizing the rewards of good neighborliness. The Neutrality Acts were gradually repealed during the war, but blatant actions which flew directly against the spirit of those Acts would have been politically risky for Roosevelt, even if some technical work-around could have been found to facilitate them.

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