DECEMBER 28, 1944
HYDE PARK, Wednesday—For the first time since the early days of the war, the people in this country are being tested by the war news. It is harder to bear today, because in the early days we could say that we had not been a war-like nation, that we had not wanted to make war, that we had not prepared for it and that our Allies would therefore have to hold the fort until we were ready. No one could help us in the Pacific, and we took some pretty humiliating defeats. Yet the men we had in that area did a holding job which was magnificent, for it is harder to retreat and give way and keep morale high than it is to go forward.
Gradually, as we came into greater production, the picture in the Pacific changed. We have regained some of what we lost, and we have taken many more islands which the Japanese had occupied. We have inflicted blows from the air on their homeland. But all the time we have known that we had to do most of the aggressive work. China, after many years of war, was doing a magnificent defensive job, but we knew that we had to come to her assistance, important as she was to us because of her resistance.
I think we are probably better prepared in our minds for the long war in the Pacific than we at first were for the slow, hard fighting on the Italian peninsula. Very few people in this country remembered the mountainous terrain our men would have to fight through. Sunny Italy was all we thought about, not snow and ice, cold and rain and mountains, with the enemy on top, which had to be crossed. That has been a long, hard, mile-by-mile campaign.
Then we landed in France, and romped across that country with a liberated people cheering us on. The enemy fell back, but in pretty good order, shortening their supply lines with every day's retreat as we lengthened ours. When they reached a point where they decided to stand and counterattack, it was a surprise to us at home. Probably our generals knew that someday this point would have to be reached. Just when it would come they knew possibly no better than anyone else, since we cannot read other people's minds. But I imagine that our men hoped they would advance into Germany as fast as they had crossed France, and the loss of the territory which they fought so hard to gain must be a bitter disappointment to them.
There may be people here who would say—Why do we have to fight our way across Germany? But those are the people who have forgotten what happened in the last war. They do not remember the German army's boast that it was never beaten—that only the German people at home let the army down—or they would not suggest that we run the same risk again.
This is total war, and we fight in spirit with our men overseas. We know that we have to produce more if they need more; that there have to be nurses for the wounded and supplies of food for our men, as well as for the liberated peoples who are hungry and cannot help in their weakened condition. We civilians at home have so far been annoyed by the war, but still on the whole we are comfortable at home. Our great suffering has been in the loss of our dear ones. Now we may have to face some of the physical hardships of a nation making a really great war effort. No hardships will equal those endured by our men at the battlefronts.