Franklin D. Roosevelt

Excerpts from the Press Conference

April 11, 1941

THE PRESIDENT: You people are becoming very popular. I am going to charge admission pretty soon. I have to pay some income tax—so I must charge admission to the audience here if they want to see and hear you all. Think that is a good idea?

Q. I think it is a swell idea. I hope you charge them enough.

Q. The question is who is on exhibit? (Laughter)

Q. Comedy, is it?

THE PRESIDENT: No, melodrama.

Q. Each might bring you a souvenir.

Q. If it's educational and charitable it's tax-free.



THE PRESIDENT: I have enough to keep you busy for three or four hours. The first is the signing of the order this morning creating the Office of Price Administration and Civilian Supply, under the Office for Emergency Management, to be headed by Mr. [Leon] Henderson. This has been worked out with the approval of O.P.M. It continues and emphasizes the protection of the consumer, and it provides for programs to allocate what we call residual supply of materials among the competing civilian demands- I would say what we call the consumer- after the military requirements are satisfied. It—among other things—it merges the existing offices under the National Defense Advisory Commission of seven- the old one—it merges two of those offices and in effect puts them together using the staffs of those two offices. One is Mr. Henderson's office of Price Stabilization, and the other is Miss [Harriet] Elliott's office of Consumer Protection—puts those two together. Well, that means essentially out of the original organization which of course was a temporary one—to get things started- out of those seven original offices, five have now been consolidated and it leaves only two out of the original seven- the Agriculture Division and the Transportation Division—which have not yet been consolidated into the larger picture; and we are now studying exactly where those two would fit in the developed picture. In other words, whether they would come in under the Office for Emergency Management, or whether they would work in through other agencies of the Government.

In this Order there are a great many statutes that are referred to. It is a technical matter, but if anything occurs to you on reading the Order—to what all these section references are—Leon will have a statement or explanation of what the older statutes are. I think that about covers it. I don't think there is any use in going into detail.

Q. Would you give us about a paragraph on what the Office for Emergency Management is, who is on it, and what its function is?

THE PRESIDENT Well, very simple—when the Reorganization Act was put through, there were authorized several organizations under the Executive Office of the President, because they did not fit in anywhere else. In other words, they referred to a good many different branches of the Government, such for example as the Bureau of the Budget. Beforehand it had been more or less under the Treasury, but of course that was not right because they have to pass on the Treasury estimates. So, they were made an independent Office in the Executive Office of the President. Secondly, there was the National Resources Planning Board, which of course again touches a great many different departments, and then there was authorized at that time an emergency office in the Office of the President, not to be set up until and unless needed, and that was called the Office for Emergency Management. Now, under the Office for Emergency Management we set up the O.P.M., and now we are setting up this new organization; and there may be others, we can't tell.

Q. Mr. President, when Mr. Henderson's organization arrives at a conclusion or determination as to a price or priority, will he have authority to enforce it? Is that made clear in the Order?

THE PRESIDENT: As far as the laws go.

Q. Is that included in these. . .

Q. (interposing) Mr. President, how far does —

THE PRESIDENT: (interposing) In other words, until you have read the Order, I don't think there is any use talking about it.

Q. Will Mr. Henderson continue on the S.E.C.?

THE PRESIDENT: As far as I know. . . .

Q. Mr. President, have you seen the sections of the proposed murals for the new War Department Building? They have been delivered here presumably. Have you?

THE PRESIDENT: No, no. I would like to see them very much. Is there any scandal about them? (Laughter)

Q. I haven't seen them either.


Q. Mr. President, a story has been printed again that Secretary Perkins has turned in her resignation. Is that true?

THE PRESIDENT: Just another story. It has been going on for eight years, so it's all right.

Q. Mr. President, is there any question of transferring more destroyers to Britain at this time?


Then, number two. Are you ready for number two? We are going to do a little jumping now.

I have signed the Act, or rather the Joint Resolution—S. J. Resolution 7, affirming and approving non-recognition of the transfer of any geographic region in this hemisphere from one non-American power to another non-American power, and providing for consultation with other American Republics, in the event that such transfers should appear likely. You are all familiar with that. It has been duly signed and is now a law.

You are familiar with the Danish agreement that was entered into. You know the reasons for it. You know the fact that Greenland is considered very definitely part of the Western Hemisphere and has the same status, both under the Monroe Doctrine and the various agreements that have been made by the American Republics, as at other places, such as Martinique, Guadeloupe, British Guiana, Trinidad, and so forth and so on. This Resolution of the Senate affirms that as the American policy.

Q. Mr. President, does that imply that there is any consultation necessary with the American Republics with respect to Greenland?

THE PRESIDENT: They all know about it.

Then, two proclamations, along the same general question of war. The first is the proclamation of a state of war between Germany and Italy on the one side and Yugoslavia on the other.

The other is the proclamation which revokes the combat area previously set forth and covering the mouth of the Red. Sea and the Gulf of Aden. At that time the original proclamation did not cover the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden in so many words, but it set up a small—what you might call a Arabian "stopper" from the eastern-most tip of Africa to the coast. In other words, you could go into the Red Sea without going through that area, and that area has now been revoked as a combat area, in effect making the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea open to commerce like any other non-combat zone.

Q. Mr. President, in that connection, may I ask will the ships be permitted to go up to the Suez Canal?

THE PRESIDENT: I just said that you have taken the "stopper" out.

Q. Yes, yes. Well, then, they can go out?

THE PRESIDENT: I have just said they have taken the "stopper"out.

Q. Is the Suez Canal now in a declared combat zone?


Q. No?

THE PRESIDENT: No. Not the Canal itself.

Q. Not the Canal itself? Could you tell us whether or not the combat zone begins at the eastern Mediterranean there, at the beginning there?

THE PRESIDENT: It covers the Mediterranean.

Q. Do you think, sir, that they could go as far as Port Said, for instance?

THE PRESIDENT: I don't know. I haven't got a large-scale map here. I don't think it is a very practical question. I think they could go.

Q. Mr. President—

THE PRESIDENT: (continuing)—through Ismailia.

Q. I am not quite clear on the law. When that combat zone is revoked American ships can carry anything into the—?

THE PRESIDENT: (interposing) What are the high seas? What are the high seas? The high seas are everything except things in the combat zone.

Q. Mr. President—

THE PRESIDENT: (interposing) In other words, the high seas. What is Buenos Aires?

Q. Mr. President, I think there has been some confusion as to whether or not an American ship, with this revocation of the former order, can carry war materials destined for a belligerent through that area.

THE PRESIDENT: No, not for a belligerent, but for a neutral power.

Q. They can take it to Egypt, for instance?


Q. Mr. President, on this combat zone—does it mean that American ships carrying goods to neutrals may traverse the Suez Canal?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I just said it isn't really a practical question. The Suez Canal, in the first place, is in Egypt, and the two ports—I will have to teach you geography, Paul [Leach]. I will have to learn some geography myself.

Port Said is, as I remember it, at the Mediterranean end, and I think it is called Ismailia that is at the other end, and I think there is a railroad along the Canal between those two places. Now, I haven't the faintest idea as to whether a ship would go through the Canal in order to discharge at Port Said, or would go alongside of Ismailia, and the stuff go across the Isthmus by rail.

Q. The Mediterranean would remain out of bounds?

THE PRESIDENT: Oh, yes. I am not fully familiar with geography to be able to tell you off hand whether the individual dock at Port Said is in the Mediterranean, or whether it is in the Canal you see. I don't know. Never been there.

Q. Ismailia is in Egypt, is that right?


Q. And that is a neutral country at which we can deliver supplies there?


Q. Under the Neutrality Act, sir, no supplies ultimately destined for any belligerent could be delivered to a neutral country for transshipment, could they?

THE PRESIDENT: I don't know. That brings up other questions of international law. I would hesitate very much to say yes or no on that. You get things like a continuous voyage- and if you will read John Bassett Moore's five volumes you will find the House has been on all four sides of that subject. . . .

Q. Would that question be explored in connection with this new proclamation opening up?

THE PRESIDENT: I don't think so—we don't buy headaches unless we have to. . . .

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

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