My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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GUADALCANAL, Solomon Islands, Sept. 16, (Delayed)—There is an island in the Pacific which symbolizes for many people the type of living and working and, above all, the fighting our boys have done in this field of war. It is first associated with the Marines and their feats and the achievements of the Army units which followed and supported them. When history is written, it will rank with the greatest and proudest battles and victories from the past. That island is Guadalcanal.

On the island there is a cemetery and, as you look at the crosses row on row, you think of the women's hearts buried here as well and are grateful for signs everywhere that show the boys are surrounded by affection. On their mess kits their buddies engrave inscriptions, such as "A swell pal, a good guy, rest in peace." Then they have made drawings which, with the rough tools at hand, represent hours of work done so that the particular boy should lie there with all the love and respect one could give him.

I have seen many a boy hospitalized because he went back for a buddy who was wounded. When you try to tell them of your admiration for their courage, they seem embarrassed. One boy said, "Shucks, you would do the same, wouldn't you?" All you can say is, "I hope so."

On Guadalcanal many boys are not yet buried in that cemetery and perhaps never will be, since the fighting was in swamps and jungles such as few of us at home know anything about. They were buried when the fighting was on and where they fell. The grave was marked, but then the fight had to go forward. Though they still search constantly, they are not sure all the temporary graves can be found. Wherever they lie, however, is consecrated ground since they gave their lives so others might live in peace and freedom.

The natives of Guadalcanal completed a week ago the chapel which stands near the graves and it is a labor of love. The design of the matting on the sides and roof is intricate and beautiful. They have made candlesticks for the altar from young bamboo stalks, the cross carved of wood inlaid with mother of pearl is reversible, in order to be useable for Protestants or Catholics, since all faiths use this chapel. Many Jewish boys lie side by side with those of other faiths. As you read what their buddies have written, it brings home forcibly that the important thing is neither your nationality nor the religion you professed, but how your faith translated itself in your life.

A flag waves over the cemetery. Someday grass will grow, palms will wave in the breeze and cast their shade over the white crosses and it will be peaceful here. I think, however, the real memorial to show the love we bore for those who lie here, must be built where we live by the way in which we make our lives count. We must build up the kind of world for which these men died. They may never have put it into words, but I think they wanted a world where no one is hungry or in want for the necessities of life as they saw them.

I am sure they wanted freedom and opportunity, but I question whether for many of them the results of opportunity would have been measured only by the success in acquiring this world's goods. Too many soldiers have discovered that the things which bring them happiness cannot always be bought with money. Long ago a man told me the big thing men got out of a war was the sense of shared comradeship and loyalty to each other. Perhaps that is what we must develop at home to build the world for which our men are dying.


(Copyright, 1943, by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)

Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • Guadalcanal (Solomon Islands) [ index ]

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, September 23, 1943

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
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Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project The George Washington University 312 Academic Building 2100 Foxhall Road, NW Washington, DC 20007

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Digital edition published 2008, 2017 by
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Transcription created from a photocopy of a UFS wire copy of a My Day column instance archived at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library.