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Eleanor Roosevelt Speeches
Speech at United States Chamber of Commerce
April 14, 1944
Treasury Secretary Morgenthau introduces ER and discusses a new war loan drive. ER discusses the conditions of US soldiers in the Caribbean
From the auditorium of the United States Chamber of Commerce in Washington, where a large group of government employees are planning their activities in the Fifth War Loan Drive, the National Broadcasting Company presents a talk by Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt. Mrs. Roosevelt has just completed a tour of our bases in the Caribbean area and she brings us a report on her tour. The First Lady will be introduced by the honorable Henry Morgenthau, Jr., Secretary of the Treasury. Mr. Morgenthau.
Mrs. Roosevelt, I am happy to be here at this meeting of government employees for this group represents two million government workers who are investing 11% of their pay in war bonds through the payroll savings plan. I am confident that during the Fifth War Loan, which starts June 12th, that government employees will do even better than before in buying bonds and backing the attack. We all must do better for the financial needs of the war are still increasing. Right now, the war is costing us more than 7 billion dollars a month. The men who know the most about the war, the men who are actually fighting it, are those who are stationed in isolated spots and know the war for its loneliness and discomfort. These men do not require much urging to buy bonds. Our armed forces are investing 41 million dollars a month in war bonds and this participation is steadily rising. The explanation is simple: these men on the war fronts have had a good chance to appreciate the United States and all it stands for and they are ready to invest all they can to protect their homes, their families, and their future security. These men know that the war must be fought to a finish, to a knockout, not to a decision. And it's up to us back home to keep producing the materials of war, to keep-to keep financing the huge cost of war, and to fortify their spirit and their morale. And the army tells me that one of the best ways we have of convincing our soldiers overseas that we are backing the attack and that we are going to keep right on and increase our bond buying. (2:26) Tonight Mrs. Roosevelt is here to talk about some of our men who are stationed in the Caribbean. Only recently she has seen them and talked with them. The success of our Fifth War Loan is largely dependent on the people here on the home front having a clear understanding of the nature of the war and the sort of life our men on duty are living. What Mrs. Roosevelt has to say, coming firsthand from these men away from home, is vitally important. I am happy to introduce, Mrs. Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Mr. Secretary, our guests, ladies and gentlemen, we are preparing again to meet the call of investing in our country's future. The Fifth War Loan Drive starts on June 12th and I saw an announcement that for government workers to meet their quota it would mean an investment of 41% of one month's salary. That is pretty high but they've always done wonderfully well in meeting their quotas and, of course, it can be paid in two monthly installments. We here at home think of these calls in terms of what we can do without and where we can save in comparison with peace time. I have begun to think in different terms, by that I mean that instead of thinking of the comparison of the home front at war and the home front at peace, I think of the home front and the fronts overseas and the men who are actually fighting the war. I have recently come back from a trip through the Car-Caribbean and the South Atlantic with a short trip into the Pacific area. I went on this trip knowing well that there would not be the hospitals to visit such as are dotted all over the United States or such as I visited in the Pacific last summer. But I felt sure there were camps where men were lonely and [unclear term] the mainstream of the war. By and large I found what I had expected to find. In hospitals, the usual number of men with minor ailments: colds, flu, an occasional case of malaria, [clears throat] an occasional operation. There were so few really serious cases that they stand out in my mind. One, the case of an RAF boy whose plane had crashed and who had been badly burned. He is gradually being nursed back to health and will be transferred to this country for plastic surgery. So I was able to write his mother in England that his care is excellent and his recovery slow but sure. There was the case of another boy which exemplified one of those peculiar coincidences which keep surprising one in life. On going into the hospital I was told, there was only one serious case. This was the result of an accidental shooting and the boy was still in a critical condition. He was a member of a naval gun crew on a merchant ship, I believe, and fortunately could be brought ashore. I leaned over his bed and asked where he came from. In a weak voice he said, "Clarksburg, West Virginia." I had been there only a short time before and said so to which he responded, "Yes, I saw you there." I asked for a report on him to be sent to me later and I was gratified to learn that he is improving. I hope by now he is out of danger. I saw a few men who were being sent home for medical reasons but by and large I was impressed by the good health of our troops. That is not, however, because they are in exceptionally healthy climates. For conditions are tropical with heat, dry seasons, and rainy seasons, therefore dust and mud. Throughout this area we have built instillations in jungles where once upon a time malaria was rampant but sanitary engineers do wonderful things and good discipline among the service men themselves keeps many a man from contracting a tropical disease. Sometimes, men are brought in from ships with an aggravated appendix or some kind of kidney trouble which for one reason or another is rather prevalent through these areas. I [cough] imagine that the smaller hospitals seem inadequate or dreary. But in the bigger places the hospitals are more cheerful and even in the smaller places they are really good and well-equipped. There is nearly always provision for moving men by air who require better facilities and more care. But on the whole, there is everywhere, an operating room which would meet high medical standards in any civilian hospital. On this trip the thing which really impressed me was the fact that in places where loneliness, monotony, boredom are the order of the day, it is hard to keep ones sense of values. The men were seeing planes constantly coming and going out to places where they longed to be. And they remained in one spot for one year, two years, and even longer sometimes. Eventually they come to feel as far away as if they were stationed at a battle front. And the excitement of an advanced base is not present to buoy them up. The monotony, the discomfort of daily living in uncomfortable climates, with health restrictions ever present, with food, which though it is plentiful and healthy, cannot be very appetizing. All those things are hard to bear for long periods of time. We had on an average of two meals a day in the mess with the enlisted men. Sometimes, they would fix up a special table for us. Sometimes they would let us take a metal tray and go through the line like an enlisted man. So I think we have a fairly good idea of what lunch and supper and even breakfast is like for our men. (9:14) In many places, the lack of fresh milk is a real hardship to many boys. Even a mechanical cow cannot turn dried milk into the real thing and mechanical cows are none too plentiful. In almost all of the camps they had ice cream which was very popular. It was made from a powder but was very good. I will long remember one place in which my washcloth turned brown and remained brown for the rest of my trip because the water was constantly that color. I imagine only boiling after we got home ever turned it white again. On the whole, however, the camps on this trip have been so much longer in operation that the essentials were there. Not only for health but to some extent for comfort and a limited amount of recreation. In many places there was the interest for the men of being among new people who spoke a different language, which they might learn if they were curious enough, and people whose customs they might come to understand as acquaintance grew. In places like Brazil there might be the added interest of sensing the possibilities of development in a new and great country. For some of the men there is still some fascination, I think, in contact with something that they know must be pioneered. All of the men want to come home, of course, but I am not sure that some of them would not be willing to return for limited periods of time to some of the countries where they recognize the fact that development will undoubtedly come and with it will come the excitement of seeing new creation. In countries which are developing rapidly, one is in touch with new opportunities and perhaps the men come to understand that they may strengthen their own country by helping to develop new and friendly strength in the same hemisphere. Never before have so many people, particularly young people, lived in countries outside of their own and for such long periods of time. Those with imagination will certainly come home with better understanding of the possibilities for a good neighbor policy. Surely we may be very useful to the countries that lay to the south of us and their strength and development may also be useful to us. It must be hard for these young people, however, to remember that there is no question of just bearing what seems to them a dull and uninteresting assignment. Resignation is not enough, for they must be constantly alert. In addition, they must never take a plane that flies overhead for granted. They must never forget to watch for the submarine below the surface. They guard the Panama Canal, through which so much valuable material for the Pacific must pass. They guard the lines of traffic that go to Africa, Italy, and the Far East, this is a difficult daily task. To keep alert and vigilant, to keep the submarines below the surface and powerless to do harm, just to keep any danger away from our coast, and yet to want to be home or to be near the more active fighting fronts; that is hard. The men who are the hardest hit are the men who occasionally hear from their wives or sweethearts that the ladies can no longer get along at home alone. The loneliness is too great and they are looking to others for consolation. [clears throat] These men often feel that if they could be spared to go home only for a day, that day might clear the whole situation. The refusal is bitter. But how can one man be allowed to go home when perhaps hundreds of others who haven't said anything about it are going through the same difficulty? The longer I live the more I think that there is no such thing in this world as absolute justice. I hear of cases where I think, 'Why surely for that man this must be done,' and then I find there are hundreds of others in a like situation and how are you to know just what is real justice?
- Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
Morgenthau, Henry, 1891-1967
About this document
Speech at United States Chamber of Commerce
April 14, 1944
- National Endowment for the Humanities
Eleanor Roosevelt Speeches is a project and publication of The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project, The George Washington University, Academic Building, Post Hall, Room 312, 2100 Foxhall Road, NW, Washington, DC 20007
Transcribed and published by the Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project, 2019-11-27
Transcription created from holdings at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library