Franklin D. Roosevelt

Excerpts from the Press Conference

July 23, 1943

Q. Mr. President, is there any comment you can make, sir, upon establishing Rome as an open city?

THE PRESIDENT: I think the easiest thing is to tell you in general what has been happening for over a year.

We have been very anxious to have Rome declared an open city. However, the Fascists would not do it; and on the contrary, it has become—probably was then—a very important military center. That means they were making munitions, and using airports very close to Rome—actually in Rome, and the use of Rome because it's a railroad center for transportation of troops, guns, and ammunition down to the south of Rome.

And we used every argument, and pleaded that it be made an open city.

But it didn't work.

We did our best.

And we still hope that the Germans and the Fascists will make it an open city.

Then, of course, we invaded Sicily, and I had to think about American boys; and it seemed perfectly clear that the danger to all of the American troops, and the British troops, in Sicily was being made greater by the constant influx of troops, and ammunition, and guns, and planes from the north. One of the main centers of supply for all that, of course, were the airplane fields, and especially the marshaling yard in Rome.

With the primary objective of saving American and British lives, the more we could prevent that traffic from operating without interruption the better it would be for American troops; and the particular bombing was, of course, very successful.

But I still hope that Rome can be made an open city.

I am not going into the quid pro quo question, because I don't think that really is the point, in the last analysis. With the aid of Italians, the Germans had destroyed something like four thousand churches—the majority of the four thousand were churches, hospitals, and libraries—in Britain. There wasn't any compunction there. But I don't think that really is the essential of the thing. In other words, I don't believe in destruction merely for retaliation; it's the wrong basis to put it on. But destruction for the saving of the lives of our men in a great war sometimes is an inevitable necessity.

Well, I don't know that there is anything much to add to that. . . .

Q, Sir, can this be interpreted as an implementation of your remarks to us at some time in the past, when you warned in effect the Italians, that if they did not get out of the war and overthrow their Fascist masters, that they would have to take the consequences?

THE PRESIDENT: I don't think the two things should be confused. They are really separate things. One is the problem of the entire Nation, which is what you are referring to now, and the other is the problem of a city which is venerated all over the world. . . .

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Excerpts from the Press Conference Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

Simple Search of Our Archives