On this day in 1940, Franklin Delano Roosevelt is re-elected for an unprecedented third term as president of the United States.
Roosevelt was elected to a third term with the promise of maintaining American neutrality as far as foreign wars were concerned: “Let no man or woman thoughtlessly or falsely talk of American people sending its armies to European fields.” But as Hitler’s war spread, and the desperation of Britain grew, the president fought for passage of the Lend-Lease Act in Congress, in March 1941, which would commit financial aid to Great Britain and other allies. In August, Roosevelt met with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill to proclaim the Atlantic Charter, which would become the basis of the United Nations; they also drafted a statement to the effect that the United States “would be compelled to take countermeasures” should Japan further encroach in the southwest Pacific.
Despite ongoing negotiations with Japan, that “further encroachment” took the form of the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor—”a day that would live in infamy.” The next day Roosevelt requested, and received, a declaration of war against Japan. On December 11, Germany and Italy declared war on the United States.
Certain wartime decisions by Roosevelt proved controversial, such as the demand of unconditional surrender of the Axis powers, which some claim prolonged the war. Another was the acquiescence to Joseph Stalin of certain territories in the Far East in exchange for his support in the war against Japan. Roosevelt is often accused of being too naive where Stalin was concerned, especially in regard to “Uncle Joe’s” own imperial desires.