Franklin D. Roosevelt

Excerpts from the Press Conference

November 17, 1942

THE PRESIDENT: I think I have only got one thing here. It's a memorandum to all departments and agencies.

(Reading): "I am most anxious to make sure that no man should be deferred from military service by reason of his employment in any Federal department or agency, either in Washington or in any other place.

"If any such deferment has been given to anyone within your respective jurisdiction, would you please arrange for cancellation thereof as soon as possible, and notify the Selective Service Board having jurisdiction. No further requests for deferment by reason of such employment should be made, either by the agency or by the employee.

"I am sure that in the overwhelming number of cases this action will be welcomed by the young men themselves who are involved.

"I know that in certain technical or highly scientific or specialized branches of the service, there are a few employees who by reason of unique experience are really irreplaceable by women or older men. If there are any which in your opinion fall within this category, please write to me the full details of them, so that their cases may be passed on individually."

In other words, no blanket exemptions, which I think goes for all the departments ....

Q. Mr. President, have you any figures as to the number of people who will be affected by this?

THE PRESIDENT: No. I guess it will be quite a lot ....

Q. Does this include civilian employees of the War and Navy Departments?

THE PRESIDENT: Oh, yes. Oh my, yes.

Q. What about the young officers that are still around here?

THE PRESIDENT: I think most of them have gone too, haven't they? Well, I got a report on them about a month ago, and directed that they be moved to happier climes, and I am sure that they would be. You say they haven't, but I will check up on it again.

Q. Does it include W.P.B. men?

THE PRESIDENT: Absolutely. There is no discrimination in favor of brains. (Laughter). . .

Q. Is there anything you would care to say, Mr. President, about the U.S. Pacific Fleet's defeat of the Japanese Navy in the Solomons?

THE PRESIDENT: No, except, of course, you can imagine I was very much upset hearing about the death of poor Dan Callaghan [Rear Admiral Daniel J. Callaghan, onetime Naval Aide to the President], who certainly did a glorious act taking a ten-thousand-ton cruiser up against a twenty-five—or thirty-thousand-ton battleship at point-blank range.

The primary objective of the Southwest Pacific operations is to hold the present line, which runs roughly through New Guinea and Guadalcanal. And that is why I said it wasn't a decisive engagement, for the reason that if we had to fall back to the next line, we could stop them there; but I hope we can hold the present line. Now this action has stopped the latest Japanese offensive against that line. The last we know is what appeared in the papers, that Japan's ships, when last seen, were proceeding in the opposite direction. Therefore, it can be called a major victory. . . .

Q. Mr. President, is any effort being made to change or modify the anti-Jewish laws and regulations now in effect in North Africa?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes. That is included in this statement which I have for you. (After reading) I am afraid I am cutting a lot of good stuff from under the feet of people who don't think things through. It's all words of one syllable stuff—but it's powerful. Now this is in reply to your question:

(Continuing reading): "I have requested the liberation of all persons in North Africa who have been imprisoned because they opposed the efforts of the Nazis to dominate the world; and I have asked for the abrogation of all laws and decrees inspired by Nazi Governments or Nazi ideologists. Reports indicate the French of North Africa are subordinating all political questions to the formation of a common front against the common enemy."

Q.E.D! (Laughter)

Q. Mr. President, is there anything to be said at this time about the position of General de Gaulle?

THE PRESIDENT: No. No. I wouldn't worry about it. It's all right.

Q. Mr. President, can you tell us what bearing this has on the application of Vichy diplomatic representatives in the United States to become accredited to Darlan?

THE PRESIDENT: Never heard of it. Are they still here?

Q. I understand so.

THE PRESIDENT: I thought of putting in there, but I didn't, an old Balkan proverb, which I cannot have even attributed to me, because at the present time I don't like to call names any more than I have to. It's rather a nice old proverb of the Balkans that has, as I understand it, the full sanction of the Orthodox Church.

This is off the record — completement — (Laughter) look it up in an encyclopedia of Balkan proverbs if you want to -it runs something like this. Mind you, this is okayed by the Church.

It says, "My children, you are permitted in time of great danger to walk with the Devil until you have crossed the bridge." (Laughter)

Rather nice!

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

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