Franklin D. Roosevelt

Excerpts from the Joint Press Conference with Churchill and Mackenzie King in Quebec, Canada

September 16, 1944

PRIME MINISTER MACKENZIE KING: The President will proceed to address you.

THE PRESIDENT: The Prime Minister of Canada asked me to address you in a formal manner, but we have never done a thing like that before in a press conference yet, and I hope I won't have to begin in Quebec.

This is a press conference, I am told, in the usual manner —limited as usual in Quebec, to the principal speakers, not to the correspondents. In other words, no questions will be asked of us, which I think we are all agreed is rather nice for us. (Laughter)

The outstanding fact is that this conference has taken less time, less argument, and a complete unanimity, faster and more easily, than any conference that we have had yet, and this I think is the tenth or the eleventh.

We have been very happy to come back to Quebec, and to be the guests of the Governor General—in this most delightful of spots—and the Prime Minister, and I think to a large degree the people of Canada. We have been very happy these past few days. I wish I did not have to go away, but we both have to—very soon.

We have taken up all manner of things, east and west. We have reached not only a complete unanimity, but we have made plans as far as any persons can make plans today. You know how fast things are moving, over on the German front, and also what good progress we have made in the Pacific. On these matters we have had many talks about the next major operation. We are not giving a date to the time when they will begin, because we are not willing, yet, to put a specific date on the surrender of Germany. We hope it will come. The quicker the better.

When that ends, the Allies are going to start in to do as fast a job as they possibly can in the war against Japan. The Prime Minister and ourselves are in accord to work it together—our armies, our navies, and our air forces—in bringing the war against Japan to a quick conclusion.

And in that I may say that we are all looking forward to having the Dominion take part in that war. We are making plans already for that particular operation. We in the United States have been fighting alongside of the Canadians, and we are going to keep on fighting alongside of them all the way across the Pacific, until the empire of Japan surrenders. In other words, we are going to see this thing through together. We are going to make certain of ending barbarism in the Pacific.

On those operations, we have to remember a simple thing, and that is at a distance not of three thousand miles but of nearly six thousand miles, a new element enters into the conduct of that war, the element of what we call in the staff circles logistics. We cannot order a navy or any part thereof to a sector of the Pacific, or a landing, or an army, or an air force to a given point, without taking care of them when they get there. In other words, we have to provide fuel and food and ammunition of all kinds to maintain the campaign once we have crossed the ocean. That means endless planning, as you know.

I note that there has been some discussion of individuals, of who will command in the Pacific. I go back to certain occasions in Washington when I pleaded with people to look at their maps.

There are three major commands in the Pacific today. One is the command under Lord Mountbatten, who was here last year; another is the extreme southern one under General MacArthur; and the third is the command of the floating part of the operations under Admiral Nimitz, whose headquarters are in Hawaii. You will recognize, of course, that because of the distances involved all the way to Ceylon, all the way to Australia and New Zealand, and all the way north to the Aleutians, and all the territory in between, it isn't a question of one person running the whole show. Human beings are not capable of transferring themselves mentally to the conduct of large operations over that whole distance.

And, therefore, I might say that the impressions some people have got, that we talked about the problem of command of the Pacific, unfortunately arose purely from the imagination. We haven't talked about the problems of command once. I think this is the first time that anybody has ever mentioned it. And that is worth the searching thought, that geography is still a major science ....

On this question of logistics, we have been confronted primarily with the problem of finding room and opportunity for marshalling all the Allied forces against Japan. It isn't a question of numbers. We have got plenty of numbers of people, we have plenty of materials located all over the world. The difficulty is to bring together the men and the materials at the point of contact with the enemy. All of us want to be engaged, and it is a very small front- so much sea space, so much land space—that we find it difficult to use all of the opportunities of men and munitions that we have.

I don't think that there is anything else that I can say, except to repeat that there has been an extraordinary unanimity. We planned as far as people can plan for the future in days like these, when new things are happening every day, and every week.

We are awfully glad to have been here again. It is becoming a little like home to us, and I think that Prime Minister Churchill and I believe that Quebec is the ideal spot for one of these conferences, especially when we have Prime Minister King and the Governor General as our hosts.

PRIME MINISTER CHURCHILL: Mr. President and gentlemen, I have been pressing the President for several weeks to let us have another meeting. Our affairs are so intermingled, our troops are fighting in the line together, and our plans for the future are so interwoven that it is not possible to conduct these great affairs and to fulfill these large, combined plans without frequent meetings between the principals, between the heads of the Governments, and also between the high officers on each side. It is nearly nine months since we were together in Cairo, and I felt that a further conference was much overdue.

It is a year since we met here. Well, no one can say that the conference last year was simply of an idle and agreeable character. (Laughter) Out of it came decisions which are now engraved upon the monuments of history. Out of it came arrangements by which the vast armies were hurled across the sea, forced their way on shore in the teeth of the enemy's fire and fortification, broke up his armed strength and liberated, almost as if by enchantment, the dear and beautiful land of France, so long held under the corroding heel of the Hun.

All this took its being in our meeting last year, and was carried to a higher and finer point by the subsequent conversations at Teheran, in which our Russian ally took part.

This conference has met under happier auspices than any other we have had. We cannot but feel that one large part of our tasks is steadily and surely approaching completion. The completion of that task leads to other problems of a military and quasi-military character, which have to be understood in common by the two great western powers, in order that the events which will follow the suppression of all resistance by Germany may seem to wear the same aspect of design as have the military operations themselves.

But that is not the whole nor even the main part of our work. We have had to consider the extraordinarily complicated processes by which, after the downfall and unconditional surrender of the Nazi power, the enormous forces now gathered in Europe can be applied in as large a degree as possible, with as much shrewdness as possible, and as soon as possible, to the reduction of the fighting capacity of Japan, and to bend that evil and barbarous Nation to the will of those they have outraged, and at whose feet they will presently be suppliant.

A curious feature in this conference has struck me. I read some of the papers when I am over here, these great big papers about an inch thick—(laughter)—very different from the little sheets with which we get on in Great Britain. I read these papers, and I see from time to time suggestions that the British wish to shirk their obligations in the Japanese war, and to throw the whole burden onto the United States.

And that astonished me very much, because as a matter of fact, the Conference has been marked by exactly the opposite tendency. If there was any point of difference which had to be adjusted, it was that we undoubtedly felt that the United States meant to keep too much of it to themselves—(laughter)— and some of them did— some of the representatives.

But I am glad to say we have arrived at thoroughly amicable agreement, and that Great Britain with her fleet and her air forces and, according to whatever plans are made, her military forces, all that can be carried by the shipping of the world to the scene of action will be represented in the main struggle with Japan.

And we shall go on to the end.

You can't have all the good things to yourselves. You must share. (Laughter)

And of course, Mr. Mackenzie King and the Dominion of Canada came up and said that they insisted on having their part assigned to them too. And that is the feeling. It isn't a question of people shirking an awkward and painful job. It was a question of a stern resolve of all parties to assert their right to be in at the death, with forces proportionate to their national strength.

So that, I think, may be given full publicity.

As to the plans we have made, we didn't tell you about them from day to day as we were making them, because we thought you would rather hear from us, at the press conference at the end of our meetings, than that we wouldn't be able to tell you about them at all. I sympathize very much, as an old former journalist and war correspondent, with the many able representatives of the press who waited here from day to day, but I know they understood; and this time they were left in no doubt. All these matters have to be secret, and there cannot be any detailed information given here from day to day, or even at the end of the proceedings.

The enemy will learn soon enough, in due course, all that we have decided here. I think we said this last year, now I come to think of it- almost these very words. Well, they have learned. What was then secret is now public. What was then concealed is now apparent. What was then in the egg is now afoot. (Laughter) What was then a tender sprout has become a gigantic forest tree. What was then design has become a blow, a mortal blow to the greatest of military powers which have ranged themselves up against civilization and the progress of the world.

So let it be with this Conference, and let it carry with it the seeds of a future victory, a victory which I earnestly trust may be achieved within the shortest limit of time. But, as to that, no one can tell.

This is a struggle not only against the Japanese but over the vast distances of the Pacific Ocean and the continent of Asia. But just in the same way as we worked out all the details with our able staffs, all the details of the liberating invasion of Europe, so that it worked like a piece of clockwork, I cannot doubt that our planning resources and our material and mechanical resources will be capable of confronting Japan with problems even more painful and even more difficult than those which Hitler and his lieutenant Rommel failed so conspicuously to solve.

The main object of this Conference has been the focussing, with the utmost rapidity, of all the resources of the grand alliance of the western democracies upon Japan. That guilty and greedy Nation must be stripped of the power to molest and disturb the peace of the world, and must be forced to take a place where neither their virtues nor their vices can inflict miseries upon their fellowmen.

I asked my right honorable friend Mr. Eden, the Foreign Secretary, to come out and see me, and I see a lot of speculation has arisen upon that point, but I don't know why there should.

People have said, "Oh, we thought it was going to be a purely military conference, and here the President brings up the Secretary of the Treasury, and the Prime Minister asks the Foreign Secretary to fly out to see him. What is all this?"

But the business of government, in these times, is all one, and when I have the rare and fortunate chance to meet the President of the United States, we are not limited in our discussions by any sphere. We talk over the whole position in every aspect- the military, economic, diplomatic, financial. All is examined. And obviously that should be so. And the fact that we have worked so long together, and the fact that we have got to know each other so well under the hard stresses of war, makes the solution of problems so much simpler, so swift and so easy it is.

What an ineffectual method of conveying human thought correspondence is- telegraphed with all its rapidity, all the facilities of modern intercommunication. They are simply dead, blank walls compared to personal contacts. And that applies not only to the President and the Prime Minister of Great Britain, it applies to our principal officers who at every stage enter in the closest association, and have established friendships which have greatly aided the tasks and the toil of our fighting troops.

Now I cannot pretend to be talking to you in an humble frame of mind. Thank God, we have been blessed with so much good fortune, far more than we deserve; but the fact remains we have conducted successful war, beginning from small beginnings and at great disadvantage, against the most powerful embattled forces. We have conducted successful war on a scale- and I cannot refrain from saying with a measure of success—which certainly you will go far to match, and further still to surpass.

Do not fear about the future. The same processes that have led us from the dark days of Dunkirk, and the Americans from the dark days of Pearl Harbor, to our present situation when the skies are clearing and when the remaining objectives are becoming singularly plainly isolated and defined, the same processes can be applied and will bring the toiling millions of the world the quicker out of this burden of trial. Then, indeed, there will be happiness, when the long strain of the heavy burden of war is ended, and when we turn also with provision and preparation to the task of rebuilding, and when the human heart—relieved from the burdens of anxiety, from the exceptional toil, from the anxieties of the loss of dear ones- will have a resurgence of hope which cannot but repay the toil and sacrifices we have undergone.

I have enjoyed this Conference very much. It has been conducted in a blaze of friendship. I never have seen more close and complete unity, apart from this little friction about our having our proper share. (Laughter) Apart from that, which is very satisfactorily adjusted, it has been the most agreeable of all the conferences which I have ever attended. And may I say that I hope that if we should meet here again in another year, we shall be able to tell you more about the plans we have made than it is open to us to do on the present occasion. (Applause)

PRIME MINISTER MACKENZIE KING: Mr. President, Mr. Churchill, ladies and gentlemen. May I say, first, one word before the afternoon conference breaks up. I should like, on behalf of the Government of Canada, to express to the members of the press our very warm appreciation of the manner in which you have all cooperated with the Government and its officials here, in helping to make this Conference as expeditious and as efficient in its progress as it has proven to be. We have all been anxious, knowing the demands of the time- the moments today—to do whatever would facilitate these proceedings as rapidly as possible. As you have seen, the week has gone by very, very quickly ....

It has been an added pleasure to us that Mrs. Roosevelt and Mrs. Churchill have both found it possible to be in Canada at the same time, and I would like to express our pleasure at that.

May I also say, Mr. President and Mr. Prime Minister, how honored the people of Canada feel that Quebec has again been chosen as the center for the Conference. At any time that Canada can afford to be host at a conference for those who are seeking to bring together the Nations of the world in bonds of friendship and peace, we shall be able to afford, I imagine, some ideal spot in Canada, Quebec, or elsewhere, and will do so with the greatest pride and pleasure ....

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Excerpts from the Joint Press Conference with Churchill and Mackenzie King in Quebec, Canada Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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