Franklin D. Roosevelt

Address at Shibe Park, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

October 27, 1944

My friends:

I am glad to come back to Philadelphia. Today is the anniversary of the birth of a great fighting American—Theodore Roosevelt.

This day—his birthday—is celebrated every year as Navy Day—and I think that Theodore Roosevelt would be happy and proud to know that our American fleet today is greater than all the navies of the world put together.

And when I say all the navies, I am including what was until three days ago—the Japanese fleet.

Since Navy Day a year ago, our armed forces- Army, Navy, and Air forces—have participated in no fewer than twenty-seven different D-Days- twenty-seven different landings in force on enemy-held soil.

Every one of those landings has been an incredibly complicated, and hazardous undertaking, as you realize, requiring months of most careful planning, flawless coordination, and literally split-second timing in execution. The larger operations have required hundreds of warships, thousands of smaller craft, thousands of airplanes, and hundreds of thousands of men.

And every one of these twenty-seven D-Days has been a triumphant success.

I think it is a remarkable achievement that within less than five months we have been able to carry out major offensive operations in both Europe and the Philippines—thirteen thousand miles apart from each other.

And speaking of the glorious operations in the Philippines, I wonder—whatever became of the suggestion made a few weeks ago, that I had failed for political reasons to send enough forces or supplies to General MacArthur?

Now of course, I realize that in this political campaign it is considered by some to be very impolite to mention the fact that there is a war on.

But, the war is still on and eleven million American fighting men know it- and so do their families. And in that war I bear a responsibility that I can never shirk and never, for one instant, forget.

For the Constitution of the United States says—and I hope you will pardon me if I quote it correctly- "The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States."

And I am not supposed to mention that, either.

But somehow or other, it seems to me that this is a matter of considerable importance to the people of the United States.

You know, it was due to no accident and no oversight that the framers of our Constitution—in this City—put the command of our armed forces under civilian authority.

And as a result it is the duty of the Commander in Chief to appoint the Secretaries of War and Navy and the Chiefs of Staff—and I feel called upon to offer no apologies for my selection of Henry Stimson, the late Frank Knox, and Jim Forrestal, or of Admiral Leahy, General Marshall, Admiral King, and General Arnold.

Furthermore, the Commander in Chief has final responsibility for determining how our resources shall be distributed as between our land forces, our sea forces, and our air forces, and as among the different theaters of operation, and also what portion of' these great resources of ours .shall be turned over to our allies.

Our teamwork with our allies in this war has involved innumerable intricate problems that could be settled only around the conference table by those who had final authority.

The other day, I am told, a prominent Republican orator stated that: "There are not five civilians in the entire national Government who have the confidence and respect of the American people."

In fact, he went on to describe your present Administration as "the most spectacular collection of incompetent people who ever held public office."

Well, you know, that is pretty serious, because the only conclusion to be drawn from that is that we are losing this war. If so, that will be news to most of us—and it will certainly be news to the Nazis and the Japs.

Now, I like a thing called the record, and the record will show that from almost the first minute of this Administration—twelve years ago, nearly—I started to rebuild the United States Navy which had been whittled down during previous Administrations. What the Navy suffered from conspicuously during three Republican administrations was a drastic false economy, which not only scrapped ships but even prevented adequate target practice, adequate maneuvers, enough oil, or adequate supplies. Indeed, it reached the point that on some vessels the crews—who at least were patriotic—chipped in out of their own pockets to buy their own brass polish to keep the bright work shining.

The record will show that when we were attacked in December, 1941, we had already made tremendous progress toward building the greatest war machine the world has ever known.

Take, for example, just the other day, the ships of Admiral Halsey's powerful Third Fleet that helped to give the Japanese Navy the worst licking in its history.

Every battleship in his Fleet was authorized between 1933 and 1938. Construction had begun on all of those battleships by September, 1940—well over a year before Pearl Harbor.

All but two of the great force of cruisers in Admiral Halsey's Fleet were authorized between 1933 and 1940; and construction on all but one of them had begun before Pearl Harbor.

All of the aircraft carriers in that Fleet had been authorized by the present Administration before Pearl Harbor, and half of them were actually under construction before Pearl Harbor.

There is the answer- just a little part of it- once and for all —to a Republican candidate who said that this Administration had made, "absolutely no military preparation for the events that it now claims it foresaw."

Why, less than three months before Hitler launched his murderous assault against Poland, the Republicans in the House of Representatives voted 144-8 in favor of cutting the appropriations for the Army Air Corps.

I often think how Hitler and Hirohito must have laughed in those days.

But they are not laughing now.

And in the spring of 1940, before we were attacked, I called for the production of fifty thousand airplanes- and that same Republican candidate spoke scornfully of such a proposition, calling it a "publicity stunt," and saying it would take four years to reach such a goal.

But, we have since then produced more than two hundred and forty thousand airplanes. Fifty thousand, and laughed at! But today we have attained a production rate of more than nine thousand per month—more than a hundred thousand a year.

And we have trained eight hundred and fifty thousand American boys to be the pilots, the navigators, the bombardiers, aerial gunners, and other members of their crews.

I admit that the figures seem fantastic—but the results were not impossible to those who had real faith in America.

I won't go on very long with these figures, but they ought to be known. In 1940, we had a regular Army of approximately two hundred and fifty thousand, and a reserve, including the National Guard, of three hundred and fifty thousand.

Today, there's a bit of a difference. We have eight million in our Army, including a hundred and twenty-six thousand women. And here's a piece of news: More than half of our Army is overseas.

Now the Navy. In 1940 we had three hundred and sixty-nine combat ships. We had one hundred and eighty-nine thousand men.

Today, we have more than fifteen hundred combat vessels, supported by an armada of fifty thousand other ships, including landing craft. As you know, a lot of those landing craft have been built not very far away from here, on the Delaware River. And we have more than three and a half million men in our Navy, and over one hundred thousand women.

Never before in history—at least, in our history—have the soldiers and sailors of any Nation gone into battle so thoroughly trained, so thoroughly equipped, so well fed, so thoroughly supported as the American soldiers and sailors fighting today in Europe, Asia, and the Pacific.

In his report to the Secretary of War, in 1943, General Marshall wrote, "In matters of personnel, military intelligence, training, supply and preparation of war plans, sound principles and policies had been established in the preparation for just such an emergency as arose."

After we were attacked by the Japanese, and Hitler and Mussolini had declared war on us, some people in this country urged that we go on the defensive- that we pull in our fleet to guard this continent—that we send no forces overseas.

That policy was rejected. In my first war message to the Congress, less than a month after Pearl Harbor, I said this:

"We cannot wage this war in a defensive spirit. As our power and our resources are fully mobilized, we shall carry the attack against the enemy —we shall hit him and hit him again wherever and whenever we can reach him. We must keep him far from our shores, for we intend to bring this battle to him on his own home grounds."

And that, my friends, is the policy that we have successfully followed.

In our over-all strategy, we planned our war effort in three phases:

The first phase could be called "plugging the line"—that meant stopping the Germans, and stopping the Japs from expanding their conquests to such key points as Australia and the British Isles- for England then was still very vulnerable to invasion.

Within a month after Pearl Harbor, American expeditionary forces were moving across the Pacific many thousands of miles to Australia, and across the Atlantic more thousands of miles to northern Ireland and England. Our air forces went to the Southwest Pacific, to India, to China, the Middle East, and Great Britain.

In this first phase we furnished arms to the British that helped them to stop the Germans in Egypt—and arms to the Russians that helped them to stop the Germans at Stalingrad.

And our own growing forces stopped the Japanese in the Coral Sea and at Midway.

The second phase was the shattering of the enemy's outer defenses- establishing bases from which to launch our major attacks.

That phase began with the operations in New Guinea, in the Solomons, and in North Africa. It continued through all the operations—the Marshalls, the Gilberts, the Marianas, the Carolines, the Aleutians, and now the Philippines. And it went on in Europe with the landings in Sicily and Italy and finally in France itself.

The war in Europe has now reached the final, decisive phase, the attack on Germany itself.

It is true, we will have much longer and much farther to go in the war against Japan. But every day that goes by speeds it up.

All of these operations had to be planned far in advance. You can't imagine how tired I sometimes get when I am told that something that looks simple is going to take three months- six months to do. Well, that is part of the job of a Commander in -Chief. Sometimes I have to be disappointed, sometimes I have . to go along with the estimates of the professionals. That does not mean merely drawing arrows on maps- planning. It has meant planning in terms of precisely how many men will be needed, and how many ships- warships, cargo ships, landing craft-how many bombers, how many fighter planes—how much equipment—food—what types of equipment down to the last cartridge. And, it has meant getting all of them to the right place at the right time.

It has meant establishing for our Army and Navy supply lines extending over fifty-six thousand miles- more than twice the circumference of this earth. It has meant establishing the lines of the Air Transport Command—a hundred and fifty thousand miles of air-supply systems running on the clock.

It has meant moving supplies along these lines at the rate of almost three million long tons a month—requiring five hundred and seventy-six cargo ships to leave our ports with supplies every month. It has meant moving more than fourteen million barrels of gasoline and oil a month, requiring a hundred and fifty-six tanker sailings a month. And all those ships and all those tankers were built in American shipyards.

So, to sum it up, I think we can say that the production necessary to equip and maintain our vast force of fighting men on global battlefronts is without parallel.

I need not repeat the figures. The facts speak for themselves. They speak with the thunder of tens of thousands of guns on battlefields all over the world. They speak with the roar of more than a million tons of bombs dropped by our air forces.

The whole story of our vast effort in this war has been the story of incredible achievement—the story of the job that has been done by an Administration which, I am told, is "old, and tired and quarrelsome."

And while we have been doing that job, we have constantly investigated and publicized our whole management of the war effort. I call particular attention to the thorough and painstaking and completely non-partisan work of that committee of the Senate that was organized and presided over by Harry Truman.

I am very certain that the Truman Committee has done a job that will live in history as an example of honest, efficient government at work.

But there is one thing I want to say, and it cannot be told in figures.

I want to express the conviction that the greatest of our past American heroes—the heroes of Bunker Hill and Gettysburg-and San Juan Hill and Manila Bay and the Argonne- would consider themselves honored to be associated with our fighting men of today.

Those boys hated, and these boys hate, war.

The average American citizen is not a soldier by choice.

But our boys have proved that they can take on the best of our militaristic enemies, the best that they can put forward- they can take them on and beat them. And we must never forget that our allies, by resisting the aggressors to the last ditch, gave us time to train our men and prepare their equipment before they went into battle.

The quality of our American fighting men is not all a matter of training or equipment, or organization. It is essentially a matter of spirit. That spirit is expressive of their faith in America.

The most important fact in our national life today is the essential fact of eleven million young Americans in our armed forces—more than half of them overseas.

When you multiply that eleven million by their families and their friends, you have the whole American people personally involved in this war- a war that was forced upon us, a war which we did our utmost to avoid, a war that came upon us as inevitably as an earthquake..

I think particularly of the mothers and wives and sisters and sweethearts of the men in service. There are great numbers of these gallant women who do not have the satisfaction or the distraction of jobs in war plants. But they have the quiet, essential job of keeping the homes going, caring for the children or the old folks.

Mrs. Roosevelt and I hear very often from a great many of these women who live in loneliness and anxiety while their men are far away.

I can speak as one who knows something of the feelings of a parent with sons who are in the battle line overseas. I know that, regardless of the outcome of this election, our sons must and will go on fighting for whatever length of time is necessary for victory.

And when this great job in winning the war is done, the men of our armed forces will be demobilized, they will be returned to their homes just as rapidly as possible. The War Department and the Navy Department are pledged to that. I am pledged to that. The very law of the land, enacted by the Congress, is pledged to that. And there are no strings attached to the pledge.

While this agony of the war lasts, the families of our fighting men can be certain that their boys are being given and always will be given the best equipment, the best arms, the best food, the best medical care that the resources of the Nation and the genius of the Nation can provide. And I am not engaging in undue boasting when I say that that is the best in the world.

Take health, as an example. The health of our Army and Navy and Marines and Coast Guard is now better than it was in peacetime. Although our forces have been fighting in all kinds of climates, exposed to all the diseases, the death rate from disease has shrunk to one twentieth of one percent—in other words, less than one seventh of the death rate from disease for men in the same age group in civilian life. That is something to think over and repeat to your neighbor. And the mortality rate among the people who have been wounded is less than three percent, as compared with over eight percent in the last world war.

I have chosen Navy Day, today, to talk about the eleven million Americans in uniform, who with all their strength are engaged in giving us a chance to achieve peace through victory in war.

These men could not have been armed, and they could not be equipped as they are, had it not been for the miracle of our production here back home.

The production that has flowed from this country to all the battlefronts of the world has been due to the efforts of American business, and American labor, and American farmers- working together as a patriotic team.

And the businessmen of America have had a vital part in this war. They have displayed the highest type of patriotism by their devotion, their industry, their ingenuity, and their cooperation with their Government.

I am proud of the fact that in this Administration today there are a great many Republican businessmen who have placed patriotism above party.

But, unfortunately, there are some Republican politicians—in and out of the Congress—who are introducing a very ugly implication into this campaign- an implication of profound concern to all Americans, regardless of party, who believe that this war must be followed by a just and lasting peace.

These politicians are stating that the Republicans in the Congress would cooperate with a Republican President in establishing a world organization for peace while at the same time they are clearly intimating that they would not cooperate toward the same end in the event of a Democratic victory.

That, coming in the closing days of the campaign, it seems to me, is a deliberate and indefensible effort to place political advantage not only above devotion to country but also above our very deep desire to avoid the death and destruction that would be caused by future wars.

I do not think that the American people will take kindly to this policy of "Vote my way or I won't play."

May this country never forget that its power in this war has come from the efforts of its citizens, living in freedom and equality.

May this country hold in piety and steadfast faith those who have battled and died to give it new opportunities for service and growth.

May it reserve its contempt for those who see in it only an . instrument for their own selfish interests.

May it marshal its righteous wrath against those who would divide it by racial struggles. May it lavish its scorn upon the faint-hearted.

Finally, may this country always give its support to those who have engaged with us in the war against oppression and who will continue with us in the struggle for a vital, creative peace.

God Bless the United States of America.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Address at Shibe Park, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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