The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers, Digital Edition > My Day
My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt


HYDE PARK, Friday—I have just been reading the Army and Navy reports on Pearl Harbor, as well as the innumerable newspaper comments. It all seems to me rather futile. Perhaps the simplest thing for us all to do would be to say that, in varying degrees, every one of us has been to blame. Our joint feelings, beliefs and actions had an effect on some of those in places of authority, and the division of blame is an extremely difficult thing to assess.

How often, for instance, was Congress asked for more appropriations to fortify Wake and Guam? Do we blame Congress for not listening to these requests? They were deaf because they did not think their constituents would consider that money wisely spent.

* * *

Are we going to censure General Marshall today even if he didn't send explicit enough directions to General Short in Pearl Harbor in 1941, and forget the magnificent record which he has made during the past four years? Are we going to take away the credit for the achievements of General Gerow and Admiral Stark even if they did fall short in some specific way in the Pearl Harbor situation?

If we had been clamoring for preparedness as a nation, we would not have allowed certain writers and papers and radio speakers to hurl the epithet of "warmonger" at the many people who warned us in the years before Pearl Harbor that war might be coming. Secretary Stimson's diary shows that President Roosevelt warned that the Japanese might attack on a certain day. Yet that wasn't the first warning he had given that we should prepare for war—and some of you may remember what certain newspapers in this country said about those warnings.

Is Secretary Hull, after his years of patient, wise leadership, now to be censured because he decided the time had come to take certain diplomatic steps as regards Japan? He was exercising his best judgment, and it would be well if we remembered how easy it is to be wise when you look back after events have occurred and how extremely difficult it sometimes is to gauge what those events will be.

* * *

It is very human to do little straight thinking about our own shortcomings. We want to accuse and punish our good and loyal public servants who have worked themselves to the point of ill health, and some of them even to death. Instead of marveling at the few mistakes they made, we harp upon those mistakes and give scant praise for all the years where they worked successfully and well. Yet we do not turn on our real enemies—the propagandists, writers and speakers who kept us unaware of danger, who tried to divide us and weaken us, and who are in our midst today, untouched and as dangerous to our peace efforts as they were to our war efforts.

Recriminations will not bring back our dead. Instead of recriminations, it would be safer and wiser if we determined in the future never again to be a flabby and ill-prepared people.

E. R.


Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • Hyde Park (Dutchess County, N.Y., United States) [ index ]
Other Terms and Topics
  • Mass media
         [ LC | FAST ]
  • War--Causes
         [ LC | FAST ]
  • War--Lessons of
  • World War (1939-1945)
         [ LC | Wikidata | FAST ]

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, September 1, 1945

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

  • Brick, Christopher (Editor)
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  • Regenhardt, Christy (Associate Editor)
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  • Black, Allida M. (Editor)
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  • Binker, Mary Jo (Associate Editor)
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  • Alhambra, Christopher C. (Electronic Text Editor)
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Digital edition published 2008, 2017 by
The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project

Available under licence from the Estate of Anna Eleanor Roosevelt.

Published with permission from the Estate of Anna Eleanor Roosevelt.

MEP edition publlished on June 30, 2008.

TEI-P5 edition published on April 28, 2017.

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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.