Franklin D. Roosevelt

Excerpts from the Press Conference

June 09, 1942

Q. Mr. President, is there anything that you can say about the general progress of war production?

THE PRESIDENT: No. I don't think so. I might have something to say about it if I had time to work it up for you. I mean it's all right. I can say that on the whole it is getting on very well, but that is not terribly exciting.

Q. I was wondering, sir, if it might have reached the point where information would not be so hurtful to the enemy?

THE PRESIDENT: I would think that period is coming, and that we are getting to the point where probably we can give a few more details. . . .

Q. Mr. President, is there anything you could say or add to the picture possibly of the [Combined] Food Board, such as when you spoke of the lend-lease you spoke of the man next door with the garden hose. This might be this piling up of food in the United Kingdom, and each outfit take what was required, or that we shift it back and forth? Is there anything you could explain about that?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes. I would say that on the question of food that will take in production of all of the United Nations, and see where there are certain shortages. Well, those shortages, of course, will have an effect on the other side of the food problem, which is the going without—the rationing of food, or the sending of surpluses from one place to another. It will take up the problems of transportation practically all over the world. And by pooling all of our information, and getting totals for all our needs, I am inclined to think that it will give a more correct picture on allocation of food, thereby perhaps in many cases avoiding unnecessary hardships and rationing.

Q. Think we could break some of our own surpluses, for instance?


I always think of a story a great many years ago, in 1918. I was staying at a country house in England, to which a number of the British Cabinet had been invited. And they spent all Saturday evening indoctrinating me on all of the terrible hardships that people in England had gone through. They hadn't had this to eat or that to drink, and so forth, for a long, long time. They hadn't had any butter, and they hadn't had any bacon, and so forth. They had to really tighten their belts enormously. And I was being indoctrinated because I was the first "near" Cabinet member to go to the other side in the war.

And the next morning I was late for breakfast, and sat down, and suddenly realized that all the food was on the sideboard, like most British breakfasts. And I went over to it, and the first hot dish I took the cover off was just piled high with bacon. (Laughter) So I filled my plate with bacon and sat down. And the hostess said, "What! Only bacon?" I said, "Yes." I said, "You know, at home I have gone without bacon for a year and a half, in order that you good people might have it." (Laughter)

There are all kinds of things of that kind where we can get, I think, a more even distribution. We may have to give up some things to other United Nations, and by a general process of distribution on a fair basis with everybody that is concerned in this war. I think everybody will be happier. I think this thing is going to help. . . .

Q. Is there anything on the rubber situation, or shall we wait for a few months on that?

THE PRESIDENT: No. I am trying to get facts on that.

Q. Are you making a Fireside Chat on that?

THE PRESIDENT: I have no idea. I suppose there are four or five ways in which I can get certain things to the American public: through the press, through the radio, somebody else's voice, or my own voice. I don't know.

Q. The rubber situation ties in with gasoline rationing, of course, does it not?

THE PRESIDENT: In order that there won't be any more pure guesswork, the reason I am asking for a little time to turn around is that no two accounts are identical.

And I think there is one thing that can be said for background, if you like, and that is that the principal problem that is national in its scope—every part of the country—is the rubber problem. That is a problem that involves the whole country.

And one of the first things that I am trying to get hold of—I think we may get something on it in a few days—is the question about how much scrap rubber there is in the United States. And there no two people agree.

Well, it makes an awful lot of difference in the long run as to whether this country has got, in the form of old tires and old rubber lying around, the lowest estimate of the experts, in which case the situation is very serious, or whether the country has got lying around the highest of the experts' estimates, in which case the situation confronting the country, for military purposes, is not so grave.

Now I suppose I have had as much information on what that scrap rubber is as anybody in the world- anybody, in Congress or out, in a column or out. (Laughter) And I don't know. I don't know who is right. (Then pointing to himself) Now here is the greatest expert on it in the United States, and he doesn't know! (More laughter)

And I want to find out. And the only way I think that I can find out is to start a "Pick-Up-the-Rubber" campaign. And that is what I am working on now: a short, quick, snappy campaign to bring in all the scrap rubber that there is in the United States. And when you get through with it, we will all know. And I can't hazard a guess. Now when that thing is over, we will have complete and answered one of the statistical figures that nobody knows what is right and what is wrong.

Q. How long will that take, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT: Oh, I would like to do it in two weeks.

Q. Will it be compulsory?


Q. Will it be compulsory or voluntary?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, it will be—I don't know. I suppose it will be voluntary, in the sense that if you don't do it—(here the President paused) in effect it will be compulsory. (Laughter)

Well now, the other part of the story is this. The use of gasoline is, at the present time, only—taken in itself, and only in itself—a problem of the eastern seaboard, because there isn't enough gasoline to go around. That's all. Plenty of gasoline in nearly every other part of the country. So I don't think that we should confuse the rubber problem with the gasoline problem at this time. We know we have to ration gasoline east of the Alleghenies, because there isn't enough to go around.

And then the third thing I think that we can say is that no matter what the circumstance is, no matter whether this "Pick-Up-the-Rubber" campaign brings in the highest estimated amount or not, even then we are going to have a rubber shortage which is going to be so serious all over the country that there won't be enough tires to go around.

And here is just a little piece of advice from the President, and that is: if you have got just four tires on your car, try to make them last just as long as you possibly can, no matter whether you live next to an oil well or not. And there are two ways of doing that, and that is to cut your mileage—I don't mean essential mileage to get you to work- cut the rest of your mileage at least in half. And second, don't drive fast. That is just a bit of advice. Now I hope we won't have to implement that any other way. That is a hope.

Q. Mr. President, can't we use that? You stated it for background —

THE PRESIDENT: (interposing) What?

Q. You stated that originally for background. Couldn't we use that?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes. It isn't of[ the record. You can put that into your own words.

Q. Can we attribute it to you?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes. I think it's all right. . . .

Q. Mr. President, is there an implication that if this voluntary campaign produces enough rubber there will not be Nationwide gas rationing?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, that is an "if" question. It depends on a lot of things- just one factor, but it is to try to get to the bottom of a very much disputed factor.

Q. Mr. President, will the scrap rubber go to civilian use, or will the Army take it?

THE PRESIDENT: The Government will take it.

Q. Well, it won't help the civilians any if the Army takes it.

THE PRESIDENT: I haven't the foggiest idea. I will take it right there—(pointing to his heart) this dreadful person sitting here—dictator, all those other things. I don't know where it is going. . . .

Q. Mr. President, how soon do you think this "Pick-Up-the-Rubber" campaign might get under way?THE PRESIDENT: I don't know. Pretty soon, I think. I think it is a pretty good idea to strike while the iron's hot, and the Lord knows it's hot now.

Q. Mr. President, are we justified in assuming, based on your plea for saving rubber and tires, that there will be no compulsion in that respect until—

THE PRESIDENT: (interposing) I wouldn't assume. I haven't got quite to that point. I am still reading "Chapter One."

Q. (interposing) I was just thinking —

THE PRESIDENT: (continuing) I don't know how the detective story ends.

Q. (continuing) I was just thinking of the reassuring effect that would have on the people down in Texas. (Laughter)

voices: Thank you, Mr. President. (More laughter)

THE PRESIDENT: You did get a story, didn't you?

Q. The girls named your cottage "Shangri-La."


Q. You wouldn't tell us where it was.

THE PRESIDENT: I might have several. One might be called

"Shangri," and the other might be called "La."

(After this press conference, Mr. Early told the press that the gasoline shortage applied not only to the Atlantic coast but also to the Pacific Northwest and certain other geographical areas in the country.)

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

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