July 5

This Day in History

World War II

Jul 5, 1940:

United States passes Export Control Act

On this day in 1940, Congress passes the Export Control Act, forbidding the exporting of aircraft parts, chemicals, and minerals without a license. This prohibition was a reaction to Japan's occupation of parts of the Indo-Chinese coast.

Now that the Germans occupied a large swath of France, the possibility of Axis control of French colonies became a reality. Among those of immediate concern was French Indo-China. The prospect of the war spreading to the Far East was now a definite possibility. Increasing its likelihood was the request by Imperial Japan to use army, naval, and air bases in French Indo-Chinese territory, an important vantage point from which to further its campaign to conquer China. As Vichy France entered into negotiations on this issue, the Japanese peremptorily occupied key strategic areas along the coast of Indo-China.

The United States, fearing the advance of Japanese expansion and cooperation, even if by coercion, between German-controlled France and Japan, took its own action, by banning the export of aircraft parts without a license and, three weeks later, the export of aviation fuel and scrap metal and iron without a license. The United States was not alone in its concern. Great Britain, which had it own colonies in the Far East (Burma, Hong Kong, and Malaya) also feared an aggressive Japan. The day after the Export Act was passed, the British ambassador would be asked by Japan to close the Burma Road, a key supply route of arms for China, Japan's prey. Britain initially balked at the request but, fearing a declaration of war by a third enemy, caved in and closed the road, though only for a limited period.

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