John Lee Pratt (1879-1975)

By Richard Sanders, Editor, Press for Conversion!

Pratt is known to have donated at least $20,000 to the American Liberty League.

Son of a Confederate soldier, Pratt started work in a farm equipment store. His interest in mechanics led him to attain a civil engineering degree at the University of Virginia in 1902. After graduating, he worked as an engineer for the du Pont Corp. (1905-1919). He transferred to General Motors in 1919 and became the company’s vice president (1922-1937).

Although he retired in 1939, Pratt continued on GM’s Board of Directors until 1968. Upon retiring, Pratt served on Roosevelt’s War Resources Board by Edward Stettinius, the chairman of U.S. Steel. Stettinius, a former vice president of GM, had been Pratt’s special assistant there in 1926. Stettinius later served as U.S. Secretary of State (1944-1945). The War Resources Board was meant to give advice on economic mobilization policies to the Munitions Board. However, it was dissolved in only six weeks after a public scandal erupted. People were upset with the board’s heavy corporate leanings and its lack of any labour or farm representatives.

Pratt was later a member of the Lend-Lease Administration through which he worked with General Dwight Eisenhower (later U.S. president) and then-Secretary of State George Marshall, a former General, who – while Chief of Staff – had served with Pratt on the War Resources Board. Lend Lease, administered by Pratt’s friend Edward Stettinius between 1941 and 1943, was an ingenious strategy for boosting U.S. industries. The U.S., which had stayed out of the war for two years, used the Lend-Lease program to provide $50 billion in credit to its allies, particularly Britain. This allowed the U.S. to sell, rent or lend weapons, ammunition and other war materials to Britain and other countries at war. This was, of course, highly profitable for U.S. bankers and industrialists, especially those connected to corporations – like GM – that converted their U.S. factories to war production. They became what Roosevelt, in 1940, called the “Arsenal of Democracy.” The fact that GM and other corporations benefiting from the Lend-Lease Administration were using their German subsidiaries to simultaneously arm Hitler to the teeth did not exclude them from receiving lucrative, post-war Marshall Plan contracts.


Timebase 1939

Gordon R. Sullivan, Mobilization in World War II

Mr. and Mrs. Pratt Believed Wealth should be used for Public Good

John Lee Pratt

Source: Press for Conversion! magazine, Issue # 53, "Facing the Corporate Roots of American Fascism," March 2004. Published by the Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade.

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