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Franklin D. Roosevelt: Excerpts from the Press Conference Aboard the U.S.S. Quincy En Route From Yalta
Franklin D. Roosevelt
14 - Excerpts from the Press Conference Aboard the U.S.S. Quincy En Route From Yalta
February 23, 1945
Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin D. Roosevelt<br>1944-45
Franklin D. Roosevelt
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THE PRESIDENT: The conference hours at Yalta were not bad. We met in the afternoons, sometimes at four, sometimes at five, and continued through until eight or eight-thirty. It was tiring—a bit of a strain presiding over a thing like that. You have to keep awake all the time.

On the general run of the picture, I think the public was quite right; also the press at home- virtually unanimously good—saying it was a great achievement. You get that not only from the first reading but from subsequent readings. It's an extraordinary thing that there was so much unanimity in the whole of the Conference.

Q. Is there any one accomplishment of the Conference that stands out in your mind above the others?

THE PRESIDENT: I was going to mention that. Speaking in terms of years, it has been nearly four years that we have been in the war, six years the war itself has been going on, and there was absolutely nothing to hang your hat on in those early days. Then every few months since, we have made progress along one line or other.

This war is global from the geographical point of view. It involves every Nation in the world; you can see the number of subjects that are involved. There has not been a period of six months going by without some marked step toward a better world. The first few months were devoted to seeing that you would not get licked. The military were doing very well.

This United Nations thing goes back a long way—goes back to just about the time we got in the war, and was based on the very simple theory that we could not have that happen again. And more and more Nations have been coming to that idea. We have moved definitely forward without much loss of time. That is why I say there is not any one thing in the Conference that stands out. They are all tied up together.

Q. Do you conscientiously believe that the Conference can be the foundation of world peace for more than the generation of the men who are building that peace?

THE PRESIDENT: I can answer that question if you can tell me who your descendants will be in the year 2057.

Q. Can we look forward?

THE PRESIDENT: We can look as far ahead as humanity believes in this sort of thing. The United Nations will evolve into the best method ever devised for stopping war, and it will also be the beginning of something else to go with it.

Last year I flew to Teheran- across Persia. Persia probably is the poorest country in the world. In the early days, Persia was a pretty well-wooded country. The Turks cut down all the woods. It has been a woodless country since. Ninety seven percent of the people of Persia are tenants. Only one or two percent of the whole Nation owns land or property. The only part where they live in Persia is in river bottoms.

Really, the people of Persia have no money. They can barely get enough to eat. The soil is all eroded—boulders where there should be fields. There's no rainfall, because it has absolutely no moisture; the sun can't draw any out of the land, and the moisture in the land runs off in a few hours' time. Persia has no purchasing power in the world except for certain things God gave it, like oil. It is neither sustaining nor has it any money to buy things.

Of course, the obvious thing for Persia to do is to improve its own country. Reforestation is the best hope, and the Nation then might sustain itself, its whole standard of civilization would be a great deal higher. It could make more things than it could sell, buy many things it could not make.

The same thing is true about Iraq, Arabia, Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, and Turkey. They've got no purchasing power to do anything with. Their only purchasing instrument is oil. Their people are not educated, do not get enough to eat, cannot cope with health problems. We talked quite a lot about this at the Conference.

Now, of course, all that is tied up more or less with peace. A country that isn't moving forward with civilization is always more of a potential war danger than a country that is making progress.

I even talked to Ibn Saud about that—mentioned the fact that I was a tree farmer.

One of his sons was very much impressed, expressed his amazement. He said, "I am a farmer too."

Ibn Saud said, "I am too old to be a farmer. I would be much interested to try it, if I wasn't too old to take it up."

Take the Arabian, for instance. If you want to start a farm, you might build a dam, or start a pond or lake, but it would all evaporate overnight, the air is so dry. But there is plenty of water lying fifty or sixty feet below the ground. Now, if you can keep it below the ground to prevent evaporation, and put in pumps run by oil, you can get it out of the ground and do your irrigating at a very low cost.

This is just an example of how to do the same thing from a different angle.

Q. Wouldn't that be a long-time proposition?

THE PRESIDENT: Growing trees is a long-time proposition.

Q. Do you mean that the Conference looked ahead over a great many years?

THE PRESIDENT: Sure, we are looking at the human race, which we hope won't end in fifty years.

Q. Is there anything you could say in the way of what new aspirations you have for lasting peace, as a result of this Conference?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I don't think there is anything to add to Dumbarton Oaks. What I am trying to do is add to the machinery which could protect all people, and give the people in the many little Nations a chance to be heard, as well as the large Nations. I hope in time all Nations will be members of the Assembly. Arabia is small in extent of population and territory. They ought to have a chance to tell other Nations what they need. But it is awfully difficult to handle things of moment that come up through the large body.

All the little Nations who haven't got it want this, that, or the other thing. They would constitute a part of the security council available all the time, constantly meeting for three purposes: to work out many things, like pumping water out of the ground. That would encourage a larger number of people to discuss matters like that between themselves-put them in touch with the right people- financial men—from other Nations.

The second point would be to eliminate causes of friction referred by them through the various channels which are provided in the covenant.

The third thing would be to prevent war, step on war before it got started. That causes a need for force enough to save them from war, and is a project for those best able to carry on war: the five big Nations with the greatest possibilities along those lines of prevention, who are to be the permanent members of the security council.

Q. You said you hope that in time all Nations would be members?


Q. Do you look forward to the time when Germany and Japan would purge themselves sufficiently to become members?


Q. On that line, do you think Germany and Japan in the foreseeable future should ever be permitted to rearm?

THE PRESIDENT: No. I hope for armament to be decreased all along the line, including even the Big Five.

Q. How soon?

THE PRESIDENT: I am not a crystal gazer.

Q. But as to Germany and Japan, other than in the foreseeable future, do you think they should be kept disarmed?

THE PRESIDENT: I went to school in Germany under the old Emperor William I. The railroad employees were not in uniform. The school children were not in uniform, did not march all the time. It was not a military-minded Nation then. That was way back in 1888 or '89. I was in school off and on until 1896.

The young Kaiser came in in 1889. At the time I left Germany, the railroad employees all over Germany were in uniform. The school children were in uniform. They were taught to march. And if you were living in a boarding house and needed more coal you would call up Darmstadt, the provincial capital. By the time I left, you were calling up Berlin if you needed more coal. That made all the difference in the world. The Government was more centralized. German family life was a decent family life. Gradually they got militaristic.

Now, if a Nation can do that in fifty years, why couldn't you move in the opposite direction? Why can't you move in a non-militaristic method?

Q. Until they definitely move in the other direction, do you think the United Nations will see to it they don't arm in the meantime?

THE PRESIDENT: I agree absolutely. That is part of the agreement.

Q. How about Japan, on the same question?

THE PRESIDENT: I have no personal experience in Japan. I cannot answer it by observation. But after all, Japan until 1856 was closed to any outsider, closed for many centuries. But if they could militarize and become a great modern military Nation by 1903—the year of the War with Russia—if they could do that from 1856 to 1903, then they can go the other way, too. It largely depends on what leadership they have and what their objective is.

Q. Have you got any idea that you can tell us, about the occupation of Germany? Do you favor a long-term occupation by American troops?

THE PRESIDENT: I suggest that the first thing for us to do is to win the war. We cannot crystal-gaze. We have not won the war yet.

There hasn't been any announcement of the different zones that the various forces will occupy. I don't know whether the original zoning plan was announced yet or not.

The original zoning plan, roughly—this is old, not true now—was that Russia would occupy eastern Germany, England would occupy western and northwestern Germany, and that we would occupy the area from the turn of the Rhine at Mainz, south to and including Baden, Bavaria, and Wurttemberg with a supply corridor to the sea at Bremen. But that was complicated, and has not yet been settled.

We talked about having the French come in for a zone. The delineation of this zone would change either our zone or the British. The French will be consulted before it is finally settled.

Q. I wondered if you were looking forward to a meeting with Chiang and the Prime Minister later in the year?

THE PRESIDENT: Not yet. I will probably go out to San Francisco on the 25th of April, or at the end of the conference. Just to say "howdy do," that is all.

Q. Do you think there is any chance the Prime Minister will come?

THE PRESIDENT: No. I will only be acting as host. I do not want to project myself into that conference. It is a United Nations conference. . ..

Q. Can you say anything about the importance of the Pacific War? The American people have been wholly preoccupied with the war in Europe—the Russian drive, and the Western Front. Do you think the country realizes they face a long, hard war in the Pacific?

THE PRESIDENT: That's a hard thing to say. They blow hot and then cold. A certain element, particularly the Hearst press, for example, are still yelling about our using the wrong strategy, that we should take the American troops out of Germany and put them in the Pacific.

But our strategy is clear: first clean up Germany, and then go after Japan just as hard as we and the British can possibly do so.

We are either hot or cold. I think it is important to emphasize that industrially at home. Yes, a lot of people will feel that the war is won when Germany collapses. Of course, it's not true.

Q. De Gaulle has announced that French Indo-China is to be soon liberated. By whom, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT: For two whole years I have been terribly worried about Indo-China. I talked to Chiang Kai-shek in Cairo, Stalin in Teheran. They both agreed with me. The French have been in there some hundred years. The Indo-Chinese are not like the Chinese.

The first thing I asked Chiang was, "Do you want Indo-China?"

He said, "It's no help to us. We don't want it. They are not Chinese. They would not assimilate into the Chinese people."

I said, "What are you going to advocate? It will take a long time to educate them for self-government."

He said they should not go back to the French, that they have been there over a hundred years and have done nothing about educating them, that for every dollar they have put in, they have taken out ten, and that the situation there is a good deal like the Philippines were in 1898.

With the Indo-Chinese, there is a feeling they ought to be independent but are not ready for it. I suggested at the time, to Chiang, that Indo-China be set up under a trusteeship-have a Frenchman, one or two Indo-Chinese, and a Chinese and a Russian because they are on the coast, and maybe a Filipino and an American— to educate them for self-government. It took fifty years for us to do it in the Philippines. Stalin liked the idea. China liked the idea. The British don't like it. It might bust up their empire, because if the Indo-Chinese were to work together and eventually get their independence, the Burmese might do the same thing to England. The French have talked about how they expect to recapture Indo-China, but they haven't got any shipping to do it with. It would only get the British mad. Chiang would go along. Stalin would go along. As for the British, it would only make the British mad. Better to keep quiet just now.

Q. Is that Churchill's idea on all territory out there, he wants them all back just the way they were?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, he is mid-Victorian on all things like that.

Q. You would think some of that would be knocked out of him by now.

THE PRESIDENT: I read something Queen Wilhelmina said about the Dutch East Indies. She's got a very interesting point of view. I think it was a public statement concerning the plans about her islands; they differ so from the British plans. The Javanese are not quite ready for self-government, but very nearly. Java, with a little help by other Nations, can probably be ready for independence in a few years. The Javanese are good people—pretty civilized country. The Dutch marry the Javanese, and the Javanese are permitted to join the clubs. The British would not permit the Malayans to join their clubs.

The Queen's idea for some of the Dutch possessions is eventually to give them their independence. When Java is ready for independence, give her help and make her a member of a federation. Sumatra the same.

I asked her, "What about Borneo?"

She said, "We don't talk about that very much. They are still head-hunters. It might be one hundred years before we could educate and civilize the Borneo head-hunter."I said, "What about New Guinea?"

She threw up both hands and said New Guinea has the lowest form of human life in the world, their skulls have least developed, and they understand civilization probably less than any part of the world. British New Guinea and Papua are probably two hundred years behind the rest of the world.

Q. This idea of Churchill's seems inconsistent with the policy of self-determination?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, that is true.

Q. He seems to undercut the Atlantic Charter. He made a statement the other day that it was not a rule, just a guide.

THE PRESIDENT: The Atlantic Charter is a beautiful idea. When it was drawn up, the situation was that England was about to lose the war. They needed hope, and it gave it to them. We have improved the military situation since then at every chance, so that really you might say we have a much better chance of winning the war now than ever before.

And when I get back to Washington, I suppose people like Krock will write nasty articles about how I always get scooped. That is perfectly true. But I think it is much better to get scooped than to talk all the time. Then there's the time element. The Prime Minister goes before Commons the day he gets home- breaks loads of stuff. People like Krock don't like it.

Do you remember the speech the Prime Minister made about the fact that he was not made the Prime Minister of Great Britain to see the empire fall apart?

THE PRESIDENT: Dear old Winston will never learn on that point. He has made his specialty on that point. This is, of course, off the record.

Citation: Franklin D. Roosevelt: "Excerpts from the Press Conference Aboard the U.S.S. Quincy En Route From Yalta," February 23, 1945. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=16589.
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