Franklin D. Roosevelt

Excerpts from the Press Conference

April 21, 1942

Q. Do we get all those? (Indicating the large pile of papers in front of the President)

THE PRESIDENT: You may need them—those are pardons! (Laughter) You stepped right into it. (More laughter). . .

I have one that I talked to Leo Crowley about yesterday, in regard to alien enemy-owned patents. And the Alien Property Custodian says that already a great many of them have come into his possession, especially in the chemical and the pharmaceutical field, and several thousand more will be acquired by them in the course of the next few months.

We talked it over, and I asked him to take the necessary steps to make available for war production and national needs all patents that are controlled either directly or indirectly by our enemies, and that these patents should be made freely available for war purposes and national needs, and that there should be a continuation or new research started in connection with their maintenance and expansion. So he is starting in to do that, and to make an exhaustive survey of every known kind of enemy-controlled patent. We think that a great many of them, actually owned or controlled by enemies, are ostensibly in the hands of neutrals, or allies, or American citizens. . . .

Q. In that same situation there has been brought out before one of the Senate committees—indicating that some of these patent agreements between German and American firms have clauses which would provide for their resumption after the war and it seems to be a moot question as to whether action by the Alien Property Custodian now will affect postwar use. Do you intend to take them and keep them for us?

THE PRESIDENT: I think so, in view of the past experience of this Government. During the World War we took over alien enemy-owned patents, and after the war was over we took no steps to keep them from sliding back one way or the other into alien hands. And I think that a recurrence of that should be prevented at the end of this war.

Q. Mr. President, what about bona fide American patents that are pooled with enemy alien patents, and are needed for the production of the materials?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, my idea is we take everything we need, no matter what the technicalities are. The first thing to do is to win the war. . . .

Q. Mr. President, have you any comment on Pierre Laval?

THE PRESIDENT: I think I had better not.

Q. One of his complaints is that the British are bombing French territory. Is he likely to have any complaint of that sort against the United States?

THE PRESIDENT: I don't know.

Q. How about the story about the bombing of Tokyo?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, the only thing I can think of on that is this: you know occasionally I have a few people in to dinner, and generally in the middle of dinner some—it isn't an individual, it's just a generic term—some "sweet young thing" says, "Mr. President, couldn't you tell us about so and so?"

Well, the other night this "sweet young thing" in the middle of supper said, "Mr. President, couldn't you tell us about that bombing? Where did those planes start from and go to?"

And I said, "Yes. I think the time has now come to tell you. They came from our new secret base at Shangri-La!" (Laughter)And she believed it! (More laughter)

Q. Mr. President, is this the same young lady you talked about —(loud laughter interrupted)

THE PRESIDENT: No. This is a generic term. It happens to be a woman.

Q. Is it always feminine? (Laughter)

THE PRESIDENT: I call it a "sweet young thing." Now when I talk about manpower that includes the women, and when I talk about a "sweet young thing," that includes young men. . . .

Q. Would you care to go so far, Mr. President, as to admit that this Japanese —

THE PRESIDENT: (interposing) Wait a minute- wait a minute."The President Admits"—there's the headline. (Laughter) Go ahead now.

Q. Would you care to go so far as to confirm the truth of the Japanese reports that Tokyo was bombed?

THE PRESIDENT: No. I couldn't even do that. I am depending on Japanese reports very largely. (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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