If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

April 1945


After a battle, how does the Army check which men are dead or missing? I have known of some cases who were reported killed and later proved to be prisoners of war.

Each organization is required to submit what is known as a morning report to its regimental headquarters every morning. This morning report contains the roster of every man in the organization and accounts for him as of twelve o'clock midnight of each night. Any time after an action, or during an action, those who are wounded and those who are known to be killed are accounted for on this report, and those they know nothing about at all are reported as missing in action. In other words, they have to account for every man every day.

In answer to the second part of the question—such a report is due to an erroneous report which has been given for some individual. Under the stress of battle the mind does not react as acutely as otherwise. Some noncommissioned officer might report to the company commander that he saw So-and-So killed, and then subsequently the enemy government will report that that person is a prisoner of war. The officer undoubtedly saw someone killed, but the person who was killed was not the one reported. The following example was given. A chaplain made a report to the parents during the North African action that a certain boy was killed. The chaplain had seen him killed by a shell that completely blew the boy to bits and nothing remained. He wrote a splendid letter to the parents, and firmly believed he was right until the War Department received a report on the same boy, indicating that he was convalescing in a hospital. The chaplain was wrong in his identification, as there were two boys at the time the shell hit—one was blown to bits but the other was merely injured and the chaplain had the wrong name. However, such cases are most exceptional.


Are you a good cook? Can you bake a pie?

I am a very poor cook, and while I think that in a pinch I could bake a pie, I would hate to have to do it without some practice first. I rather like cooking, but my opportunities for doing it are few and far between.

Years ago I went to a cook whom I knew and took lessons for some time until I felt I was doing a fairly good job, but from that day to this I have had comparatively few opportunities to use what I learned; and cooking, I think, is a question of doing it pretty steadily to be really proficient.


What is the maximum length of time before a marine in combat in the South Pacific is granted a furlough?

There is no maximum time before a furlough is granted. Emergency furloughs can be granted by the commanding general, but these are given only under emergency conditions. Shipping space and operations do not allow many people to go back to the States. When marines are returned to the States after their tour of duty, they are given thirty days' leave plus travel time to their homes. The tour of duty depends entirely upon the number of replacements going to the Pacific, and they are returned as follows: 1—the men are returned first who are wounded, ill, and in need of extensive hospitalization in the States; 2—those who have been longest overseas.


Even though you are a grandmother, do you still feel responsible for the behavior of your children?

No. I feel that when one's children are grown they must assume responsibility for their own actions. The parents have done all they could by precept and example. They may suffer if they do not agree with their children, or they may recognize with pride if the children go beyond what they felt their own capacities might have led them to do, but I think all human beings have a right to assume their own responsibilities and make their own decisions, and we have no right, as elders, to interfere in their lives.


Do you see any dangers in our diminishing population? Do you think that the Planned Parenthood League has encouraged the middle class to have fewer children?

In the first place, our population is not diminishing, but still increasing. We have had 9,000,000 babies born in the three war years, a net increase over deaths of more than 4,000,000. When our young men now overseas return home and are released from service, another upsurge in birth rate is predicted.

It is quite possible, however, that in twenty to thirty years our population will reach a static level. Long before we reach that point we shall have to decide whether that will be a desirable situation or not, and if not, what we should do about encouraging large families.

Because the desire to have a family is a basic instinct, I believe we will always have enough babies to replenish our population if we can provide the right economic and social climate. That means making it possible for every mother to have a family of reasonable size, with some assurance that each child can be born well, can grow up healthy, receive a good education and have an opportunity to lead a useful and productive life.

In every country where there has been large-scale industrialization and urbanization there has always been the parallel trend to smaller families. This has been more noticeable among middle-income families in cities who lack the means and living space to rear the same number of children their grandmothers did, living on farms on which there was an abundance of food and room to grow. On farms, too, child labor was needed.

The emphasis of the planned-parenthood movement, as far as I know, has never been on having fewer children, but on planning for the birth of every child so that it will be born when the mother is well and strong and the family able to provide for it adequately.


Do you approve of women smoking on the street?

I am old-fashioned enough not to like the looks of a woman smoking on the street, but I realize this is purely and old-fashioned prejudice.


Will the wives of soldiers in the Army of Occupation be allowed to join their husbands? If so, will traveling expenses be provided?

No decision has been reached as yet on this matter.


Have you developed any unconscious mannerisms about which your family has always joked, such as twisting your rings, tapping your teeth, pulling an earlobe, punching your chin, poking at your hair, rubbing your nose?

No. There is, however, one family habit. If we are working very hard on something requiring concentration, many of us quite unconsciously chew our tongues, but we cannot tease one another about it because we almost all do it.


Our boys didn't go into this war to help countries add to their boundaries. Must this be a war of conquest?

No. I do not think this is a war of conquest. Our boys went into this war to save their own country from invasion and because we were attacked by an enemy. They have done just that, and will continue to do just that.


At what age do you think a girl should be allowed to have dates with boys her own age?

I think children should naturally play with other children their own age of both sexes; and as they grow older, naturally, most of them will go skating or dancing or to the movies together. I think it is better if they can be kept in groups as long as possible, and I would hope that there would not be too much going off as individual couples before they were eighteen.


As a graduate registered nurse, I am wondering why only 300 of the 9000 Negro nurses in the country have been called to the Army, and none to the Navy if nurses are needed so desperately. You have visited our fighting men overseas and I wonder if your contact with them has led you to believe that the American soldier really cares about the color of the hands that serve him.

I personally do not think there would be any objection on the part of the soldiers to being cared for by colored nurses, if the nurses were equally well trained.

In contacting the Red Cross I find that "the American Red Cross certifies to the Army every nurse who is qualified according to the Army professional standards regardless of race. . . . In his testimony to the House Committee on Military Affairs on Friday, January 19, 1945, General Kirk stated that the Army is now taking every Negro nurse who applies and who meets the necessary physical and professional qualifications."

As to the Navy, I imagine they haven't needed to expand so much; but if the need should come, I feel sure that they will follow the same pattern as the Army has followed.


Lately war plants have been laying off a lot of women who have been working since the war began. Is this to make room for returning servicemen, or for the men who are trying to dodge the draft?

It may be that in certain localities women are being laid off in war plants. If so, the reason must be purely local, because the War Manpower Commission reports that there are more women in war industries now than at any other time since the war began. The proportion of women has increased until today it is at its highest level, which would indicate that there have been no serious layoffs.

There is so much work to be done at present that returning servicemen who are able to do the kind of work that is available will find no difficulty in getting jobs. I think it is rather unfair to think that there are many men who are trying to dodge the draft. I think probably there are some men who have remained in nonessential industries who are now changing over into war industries, but the need for them is so great they would not affect the employment of women.

< Previous Column 1945 Next Column >

About this document

If You Ask Me, April 1945

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
[ ERPP bio | VIAF | WorldCat | DPLA | SNAC ]

Ladies' Home Journal, volume 62, April 1945

Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project

Digital edition published 2014, 2016 by
The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project
The George Washington University
Old Main Building, Suite 406
1951 F Street, NW
Washington, DC