JULY 21, 1955
HYDE PARK—Continuing our discussion of yesterday on prisoners of war, I have read in the Saturday Evening Post that Rear Admiral D.V. Gallery said "(we should tell) our men....they may sign any document the Communists want them to, or appear on TV and deliver any script the Reds hand them." In saying that he probably felt that if this was understood beforehand what the Reds might have to say would have no effect and, therefore, there would be little use in the Reds trying to make them do these particular things.
On the other hand, General Lemuel C. Shepherd said "the P.W. stockade is only an extension of the battlefield where they must be taught to carry on the struggle with the only weapons remaining—faith and courage."
From my point of view General Shepherd's program is the better one, but men can't be expected to learn what he suggests while they are being given army training. They must have a background of real understanding as to why being a citizen of the United States is something to be cherished, something for which we are willing to live and die, something which has given each one of us a heritage that we know about and understand and that we would not change for anything else that can be offered to us in the world.
Before leaving for the summit meetings in Geneva President Eisenhower asked this nation to pray for success. And in every church, I am sure, regardless of denomination, prayers were offered for success last Sunday.
But what is it we hope will come out of these meetings? A decision on the part of all powers that war is suicidal and, therefore, can no longer be indulged in?
Yes, but beyond that we are hopeful that there will be an acceptance at this meeting of the right of every individual to choose his way of life, his government and to do so without fear of punishment. There are many details that have to be worked out and it will be a continuing process but without the acceptance of these basic rights the details cannot be worked out.
And the President asked us to pray. I wonder whether we should not also pray that we will make our way of life so good that no youngster will go into the Army without having a background which will give him the faith and courage that General Shepherd says he must have.
Real religion will be a factor but a sense that his government takes an interest in him as an individual, that all that is done is done to increase the well-being of the people of our country, will give an assurance and an incentive which will help to create faith and courage.
The basic qualities develop from early youth; without having those qualities and the understanding that must back them, taking the Army oath can have little meaning.
The Army is right that men who lack decency and loyalty to their country and their fellow compatriots deserve punishment, but I wish it could be constructive punishment, with the hope held out for rehabilitation along the way. It is essential to have consideration of each case, as an individual case, including an understanding of the background, of physical and mental conditions, and where there is punishment a careful appraisal from time to time as to what the accomplishments are toward improvement in character and ability.
(Copyright, 1955, by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)
About this document
My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, July 21, 1955
Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project The George Washington University Old Main Building, Suite 406 1951 F Street, NW Washington, DC 20052
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