Franklin D. Roosevelt

Excerpts from the Press Conference

November 24, 1942

Q. Mr. President, there have been some conflicting reports recently on wherein lies the final authority on our production program. I wonder if you could tell us whether Mr. Nelson, or the Army and Navy have the final say on production schedules, and the allocation of materials?

THE PRESIDENT: I guess the answer is that they work it out together. I will give you an example. I won't give you the figures but take the production of airplanes. Airplanes, as I suggested to you before, changed very greatly in character since last January. Each one now weighs a great deal more than its type did a year ago. Each one has more wingspread than its type had a year ago. Each one has more horsepower than its type did a year ago. Each one takes a great many more man-hours to make than it did a year ago.

All right. You can say that on the basis of workmanship, we are going to spend more workmanship on planes in the calendar year '43, a great deal more than we are doing today, or than we have done in the average of this year. In other words, we will have a constantly increasing program in terms of workmanship.

Well now, you come down to certain totals. These totals are what we have raised our sights on, not on the total number of units, but on the total workmanship that goes into planes. And there you get a problem. This man, who is a production expert, says you can do so and so. Another man, who is a production expert, says you can't do as much as that; you can only do less. And then the problem comes to the Chiefs of Staff. What are you going to do with them when you get them? Have you got the men to man them? Do we have to man all that we make, or can we turn them over to somebody else that has more men than they need, for their own production?

Now all those things have to be worked out between the staff people and the actual production people. The question of shipping comes into it. We can fly today a great many more planes, and more types of planes under their own power, to the different theaters of war, than we could a year before. Well, that means that every month that goes by almost, the transportation of planes in ships is changed. I won't say it is simplified, because there are so many more that are coming out.

And then comes the question, when we get them to the theater of war in increasing quantities, can we at the same times get in the ships the spare engines, the spare parts, the gasoline to make them fly, the ground crews, and everything else for the theater of operations? It's a constant day-by-day problem of reconciling all of these factors and all of these opinions. And the reconciliation of the new factors and the latest opinions is going on every single day; and it is getting on extremely well.

Of course now, this is not derogatory- suppose one of you fellows goes to one man who is concerned with, let us say, the training of a special ground crew, and he says that, by gosh, he doesn't think that they can get out enough ground crews. Then you go to somebody else who is a specialist on it, who disagrees personally with the other fellow. What do you do? You get those two stories. Now it's machinery that is working every day for the reconciliation of all these different points of view.

And therefore, from the point of view of truth then, about the only thing you can do is to see whether the stuff is actually coming out as well as it reasonably can be hoped. That means the material into the services of repair, spare parts, the flying personnel, and everything else. Well, on the whole, it is going along pretty well.

Q. Mr. President, almost every day we read that you plan to put one man over all these activities. Would you be able to reconcile the differences of these individuals better that way, or not?

THE PRESIDENT: No. You know what it is. I can take two blueprints of exactly the same kind of organization, and those two blueprints won't look like each other at all.

Q. Well, sir, specifically, is there anything in the works on giving one man over-all power?

THE PRESIDENT: No. It's just like sitting down and drawing—what do they call it when a fellow sits and draws a figure.

Q. (interjecting) Doodling?

THE PRESIDENT: Doodles, that's it. Now they are just engaging in doodles. Ninety percent of the time they will draw new pictures; and "doodle" is a very good word for it.

Q. Mr. President, in relation to this reported conflict over production and scheduling, has your attention been called to this question of an aircraft committee headed by Charles E. Wilson, which Mr. Nelson announced he had appointed, and which the Army and Navy have declined to countersign?

THE PRESIDENT: Not in that form. Mr. Wilson is going to have general charge of production. Well, just for example, on the production of planes there are half a dozen out of a hundred places where in individual plants, or individual parts of an airplane, the thing is not clicking—half a dozen out of a hundred. Now they have got to be eliminated.

Put it in another practical way: A plane is finished by-oh, what?—the Douglas people. The minute it's ready at the Douglas plant, the navigational instruments ought to be ready for it. Well, there are all kinds of navigational instruments. It may be one type of plane where somebody hasn't kept up to his time schedule, and there it will sit, maybe for a month before the special gadget that is to go into that special type of airplane is ready for it. Now that's another job which Mr. Wilson is to coordinate and work out kinks of that kind, on timing.

Q. Mr. President, the that timing situation, I believe, develops as a matter of scheduling, to a large extent. Of course the schedule was changed all the time. And I think the issue now is who shall have the final authority as to say whether a thing will be settled this way or that way, the Army or Mr. Wilson, who is supposed to be acting for Mr. Nelson in production?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, that is one of those theoretical things, and none of you is an expert on scheduling, any more than I am. I suppose it's a little bit like doodling. It depends who has the pencil and the piece of paper.

Q. That's the question. Does Mr. Wilson have the pencil?

THE PRESIDENT: No. I would say they all do mutually, and they are supposed to agree. And if they don't agree, then I'll put them in a room and I'll say, "No food until you come out in agreement." (Laughter)

It's a practical thing. It isn't a thing to write a story about. None of us knows. Not one of us here in this room knows how to do a thing like that the best way, because there are half a dozen ways. You people who were with me on the 'trip know that we went through four different aviation plants; and all four of those plants had different methods of putting an airplane together. Well, there had been an awful lot of "touting" of one particular method. From the layman's point of view it sounds awfully attractive: Start something on a belt, and as the belt moves on, the plane takes form like a little old Ford car. Well, it sounds awfully attractive to all of us, but you take these engineers; they are specialists. They think, some of them, that Mr. A's way isn't as good as Mr. B's way, which is not the continuous belt but is some other kind of belt that goes by fits and starts. And another fellow says no; you ought to do only half the operations by belt. And still another fellow says the belt method is silly; start your automobile on a place on the floor, and finish it right there. Now who is there among you, or myself, that knows which is the best?

The point is in actual production they are all working-these different methods. Some are working better than others. It doesn't mean that it is the fault of their method. It may be the fault of some other factor that enters into production. We are all children. You are all children. I am a child when it comes to engineering.

But on the whole it is going along pretty well. There are one or two plants that still have got bad kinks in them ....

Q. Mr. President, is there anything you can tell us about your discussion with President Carlos Alberto Arroyo Del Rio of Ecuador last night?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, we had an awfully interesting discussion, as I have had with a number of other heads of American Governments. We talked about two things.

The first, of course, was the immediate and present problem of the war, and the general solidarity of the 21 Nations, which is a very high percentage of solidarity.

And second, about the future, about trying to get an economy for the North and South Americas and Central America which will raise their standards- the standards and the wealth of the poorer Nations, and the smaller Nations, without hurting our economy or the economy of the larger or richer Nations as they exist at the present time.

I may have something to say, later on, in regard to that subject, on the part of certain elements of thinking in this country: that we are trying to debase our economy merely to build up other people's.

I can give you an illustration right here at home. Back in the old days, when I went South —the deep South- twenty years ago- the whole standard of earnings was so low that those people down there couldn't buy anything at the store. And a great many northern and southern people failed to realize that if their purchasing power down there in the South was higher, increased relatively faster, let us say, than the northern manufacturing districts, those people down there would acquire purchasing power for the purchase of things that were made in the North, and therefore would put a whole lot of people to work in the North, and thereby increase the purchasing power of the North too.

Well, it sounds awfully simple the way I say it, but nobody ever acted on it until we began to act—this is not political, it's merely historical—it did happen after 1933; the purchasing power of the South began to go up by leaps and bounds.

In rural Georgia, for example, back there, there was hardly a local store that was solvent, quite aside from the banks. They didn't turn their stock over. There were no buyers on Saturday afternoons in the country districts in the South, and there the stock remained.

Well, I don't know, maybe one or two are still here that accompanied me down to Georgia in those days. But if you remember the local stores down there, if you went in to buy a hat, you would find it was an eight-year-old vintage; there was no turnover. That meant that the fellow was losing so much interest on the money he had borrowed to buy his stock with, and each year he was going deeper into the red.

Now since then, in the whole of the agricultural South, they have had a greater turnover, because they have had more buying power. Now it certainly hasn't hurt the North. It has given the North, and the manufacturing districts, the opportunity to make things and sell in the South that they had never done before; just for example, before this war.

Now the same thing can be worked out in those Nations -we are working at it- which today have practically no purchasing power. It is going to help them enormously, but it is going to help us too. It's a perfectly obvious thing; and yet there are a lot of people in this country who can't see the value of putting other people on their feet.

Now you will begin to find in the United States quite a group of people that will say, in regard to the recent appointment of Governor Lehman as Director of Foreign Relief and Rehabilitation Operations, "Is the United States going to shell out our food and our clothing? Are we going to spend our good money to rehabilitate other Nations? What's the big idea?" Now you will find that an increasing—from now on—slogan. It will be put out all over the United States.

Q. Are we going to, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT: What? Sure, we are going to rehabilitate them. Why? All right. Not only from the humanitarian point of view—you needn't stress that unless you want to- there's something in it- but from the point of view of our own pocketbooks, and our own safety from future war ....

Q. Mr. President, would you tell us a little bit about what you said about Ecuador last night, and your remarks at the dinner?

THE PRESIDENT: I was talking about the general thought that —irrespective of politics or party—that what we sneer at, some of us, as a Good Neighbor Policy is becoming ingrained in all of the Americas. The people are beginning to believe that if we continue through another ten years or twenty years to maintain it as a continental policy, that it will work. And I mentioned the illustration that they have got the idea, the democratic form of government- democracy- all through there.

What happened at the end of 1936, when I went down to Rio de Janeiro, and Buenos Aires, and Montevideo? Great crowds were in the streets, and the crowds were yelling; but I was interested in what they were saying. There were some of them saying, "Viva Roosevelt." But the great bulk of them were saying, "Viva la Dernocracia." Now that meant something. They were talking about democracy as they saw it. And it's something that was worth living for and worth fighting for.

And I don't think there is much question that the policy is part of the national policy here, regardless of what the political complexion of the Administration is here. Same way down there. In all the other Republics, whoever the President the next time, whoever is the Government in different places, they will go along with the idea of "democracia," and the thought of the Good Neighbor.

Q. Mr. President, is there any comment you would care to make, sir, on the current Russian offensive?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think all I can say is that I got an intimation of it several days ago, and that I am delighted that it is going so well. You can say dee-lighted, if you want to. (Laughter)

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

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