Franklin D. Roosevelt photo

Excerpts from the Press Conference

February 17, 1942

Q. Mr. President, there are persistent reports that Secretary Knox's report on Pearl Harbor did not tell all. Can you comment on that, sir?

THE PRESIDENT: What do you want him to do, disclose all the military information they saw out there?

Q. No, sir. Reports that are going round have been printed that the losses were greater than he indicated.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I don't know what epithet you can use for the kind of report that you are referring to—I don't mean Secretary Knox's report—the kind you are referring to. (Spelling out): R-o-t is the best word for it. And there are an awful lot of reports going around town.

I don't know who it was asked that question. I wish he would look at the [Washington] Star cartoon this evening. It will be a very good thing if it is circulated around this country.

The millstone that Uncle Sam is holding carries out the thought in Mr. Winston Churchill's speech, that "Whoever is guilty of bringing about the crime of disunity, of him let it be said that it were better that a millstone were hung about his neck and that he were cast into the sea."

And over in the corner of the room is a poor little fellow called John Q. Public, and there is another figure, what might be called an example of people that you see more frequently in Washington than in any other community in the country.

And he is saying, "The British want to fight to the last American."

"Why help the Russians? They will turn on us later."

"We ought to pull out of the Far East. We can't win here—can't win there."

Well, I think the cartoon is a pretty good one, and it is especially applicable to Washington, D.C.—people that you see and hear around here. Washington is the worst rumor factory, and therefore the source of more lies that are spoken and printed throughout the United States than any other community. Now let that sink home about Washington. And you can prove it very easily.

Q. Mr. President, would you care to comment, in that connection, on the arguments that are made against loans to Russia, on the theory that it is dangerous to make loans to them—they will become too powerful after the war?

THE PRESIDENT: I think so. I think that argument is about on a par with other arguments that are set up by the Cliveden set of Washington.

Q. Mr. President, could you tell us something about the new loan to Russia which is now apparently in process of being made?

THE PRESIDENT: I think one of the things is that on the original loan we are getting down to the point where most of it will have been obligated. That means not paid out of the Treasury, or anything like that. But it has been obligated, so that when the stuff is made it will be paid out, and that in order to keep the stuff going and the flow continuing without interruption, we will soon have to have more lend-lease authorizations so that that flow can continue.

Q. There were reports, sir, apparently from pretty good sources here that deliveries going to Russia were running considerably below the commitments we made to the Harriman mission in Moscow. Is this connected in any respect to those reports?

THE PRESIDENT: The two things are totally different. The stuff that comes out of this loan has nearly all of it just begun to go, although in the last couple of months now, in actual deliveries, there was a promise- entirely different thing—of things which had already been completed, you see, and that we would get—this was last October—that we would send so many tons is the easiest way of putting it- put it in individual articles like planes- so much a month. And we were up to the promise of shipment on the seventh of December. And then we slowed up in December, and in January, and fell behind the schedule of shipments. And by the first of March we will have caught up again in those two weeks. . . .

Q. Mr. President, would you care to comment on the strategic value to us of the loan to Russia?

THE PRESIDENT: Put it in terms of dead Germans and smashed tanks. Isn't that a pretty good strategic sentence?

Q. Mr. President, there seems to be considerable concern in the country over the possibility of an attack this year on Alaska. Can you give us any reassurance as to the—

THE PRESIDENT: (interposing) Of course I couldn't give you any assurance on what is going to happen this summer. But a thing like that is perfectly possible from the point of view of enemy operations.

Q. I was about to ask whether in your opinion the Air Force as it stands, and the Navy as it stands in the Pacific, are sufficient to deal with anything?

THE PRESIDENT: No. Certainly not. They can come in and shell New York tomorrow night, under certain conditions. They can probably, so far as that goes, drop bombs on Detroit tomorrow night, under certain conditions.

Q. Mr. President, would you care to comment on the agitation to have General MacArthur ordered out of the Philippines and given over-all command?

THE PRESIDENT: No. I don't think so. I think that is just one of "them" things that people talk about without very much knowledge of the situation. A very polite statement. . . .

Q. Can you tell us anything about plans for the Alaskan highway—the proposed Alaskan highway?

THE PRESIDENT: No. The War Department is- I think it has just about completed working on plans. There are various routes that have been suggested, and if there is going to be anything accomplished that would be useful by January, 1943, something would have to be done in the next couple of weeks so as to get the advantage of good weather to get the materials up there.

Q. Do you think it important to get something started before then?

THE PRESIDENT: I think it is important to get better communications to Alaska.

Q. Through Ontario?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, you would have to have a map before I could talk to you. It wouldn't be intelligent—in other words, there are various things that have been suggested. It has been suggested that for the immediate needs of this war it would be more practical to build a—a light, one-track railway-easier to keep it open in the winter. Well, that is one of the things they talked about. Another suggestion is that it would be more practical to send things up on the inland passage to the end of the inland passage and then a highway from there on. And others have said it would be easier to do the whole thing by transport planes, instead of building a highway. I am speaking in terms of military needs of this year, and possibly of the beginning of next year. Well, I don't-I could not prognosticate what they will do, if anything. . . .

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

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