Franklin D. Roosevelt

Excerpts from the Press Conference

August 22, 1941

Q. Good morning, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. How is everybody? Did you have a nice ride?

Q. Indeed.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think after this performance we can put the lid on. There should be no further news. I am not going to guarantee anything. I won't see Mr. Churchill over the week end, or Mr. Mackenzie King, or any other Prime Minister. You might play golf, as a suggestion. I don't think there is any news.

Oh yes there is too. I entirely forgot. I heard about and read that speech by Senator Byrd, giving figures on defense production, and I sent it to the War Department to ask for a check on the figures, and the War Department said that most unfortunately all of the figures, except on planes, are completely inaccurate, and somebody—unfortunately—has misled the Senator. But the War Department for obvious reasons can't give out the exact figures, but they gave me certain illustrations on things that they said it's all right to make public, which illustrations are examples of all of the other cases- of figures to use, except airplanes.

The Senator said that not a single tank had gone to England. Actually, we have turned over to the British hundreds of tanks of modern design produced during the last year. Some of these tanks, as we all know, are in Egypt, and the papers have had various stories on the excellence of their performance. They are with the British in Egypt.

In the case of anti-aircraft guns, the Senator said the program provides for an average monthly delivery of only four 90-mm. guns a month during the balance of this year. The program actually calls for a monthly delivery of 61 for the four remaining months of this year, and the War Department believes that they will be met. In other words, there is a certain difference between the figure 4 and the figure 61.

And another example is the 37-mm. anti-tank gun. The Senator said that these guns will be produced only at the rate of 15 a month. Actual production in July was 72. August production will be 160, September 260, and October 320.

Q. What was the Senator's figure on that, sir?

THE PRESIDENT: Fifteen. There seems to be a certain discrepancy between the figure 15 and the figures that I have just given. Even if you add a zero to 15 you would still be way below the actual numbers. Fourth, the Senator said that only fifteen 81-mm. mortars will be produced in the immediate months ahead. In July there were actually, instead of 15, there were 221 produced, and in August the figure is 340.

Q. Excuse me, Mr. President, what type of gun was that?

THE PRESIDENT: Eighty-one-mm. mortar—now you know as much as I do- and the figures for September and October will be even larger than 340, so there would seem to be somewhat of a difference between the figure 15 and the figure 340. The figures, of course, on the airplanes, are substantially correct, except that he said that the production of military planes progressively declined in the months of June and July, which is not strictly true. The number of training planes increased and the others remained steady—the military planes, because there were certain changes in design, and the testing of the new design to meet lessons that were learned this spring. . . . But the fact that remains- that statement as a whole in every single item, except planes, was full of discrepancies that ran just as high as those discrepancies which the War Department says it's all right to mention. . . .

Q. Mr. President, Congressman Fish and Dr. MacCracken of Vassar both addressed recent America First rallies, and Fish has pointed out—has gotten to the point now where he was quoted as saying that if Germany should lose, why America —America would suffer through loss of markets and buying power.

THE PRESIDENT: If Germany loses?

Q. Yes.

THE PRESIDENT: So, he thinks we wouldn't lose if Germany won. (He laughs) I don't think any comment that could be printed is necessary.

Q. Of course, Dr. MacCracken has taken the point of view that —

THE PRESIDENT: (interposing) You know, once upon a time there was a fellow—this you might use only as background—there was a fellow who had a great deal more information and was a much more reasoning person than any of the people- I won't say Fish or MacCracken—it's obvious whom I am talking about. His name is Senator Borah—in many ways a very great statesman, and certainly with experience and information that was far better than most of the speakers. And he was the gentleman who in July, 1939—the famous conference upstairs—after the Secretary of State, who had still more information than he had, said that, "From our information we really believed regretfully that a war would break out that year," turned to the Secretary of State and said, "I am sorry, Mr. Secretary, my information is better than yours. There will be no war this year." And yet he had been on the Foreign Relations Committee and everything else, and had been there for years and years—nearly forty years. In the Senate he certainly had far more information than any of these people that are going around making speeches today; and of course his error has become a classic.

Q. Walter Lippmann says that these Senators—the Foreign Relations groups—are people that got us into trouble over a long period of years.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, and a good many other people have got us in trouble over a period of years.

Q. Mr. Fish is on the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House. Maybe that qualifies him to make a few errors.

THE PRESIDENT: I think—off the record—that is probably correct. (Laughter). . .

Q. Mr. President, have you heard directly from Mr. Stalin on the proposal of the three-party conference on supplies?

THE PRESIDENT: You have all the stuff.

Q. Have you got to the point yet, sir, of naming your commission?'


Q. How soon?

THE PRESIDENT: I don't know. The time hasn't been set.

Q. Mr. President—

THE PRESIDENT: (continuing) The State Department is taking it up all the time.

Q. Mr. President, off the record, is any written reply called for on that?

THE PRESIDENT: No, no. Off the record, the reply in effect has been made, because when the—this has to be off the record—I think it has been printed. I don't know, but there is no use to bring the subject up again. It isn't news. When the message was delivered by Steinhardt [Laurence A. Steinhardt, U.S. Ambassador to Russia] and Cripps, Mr. Stalin informally thanked them very much for it and then made an oral reply which was taken down, the same thing as a written reply. You might call it a formal oral reply, and was taken down by way of what the diplomats would say, an "aidememoire." There is no difference between that and a written one. Same thing. . . .

Q. Mr. President, on this production matter, do you feel that over-all the production has been satisfactory from a military point of view?

THE PRESIDENT: It has never been satisfactory.

Q. But it has not lagged behind the program?

THE PRESIDENT: Behind estimates? In some things it is ahead of estimates, and some things behind. Of course, that is on the assumption always that the original estimates were right. There is always the human possibility that they were too low. And there is the possibility in some other cases that they were too high. But on the actual estimates the averages were up too. I don't think anybody has asked Mr. Knudsen in the last two or three months. I should think somebody ought to ask him. You remember he talked about airplanes and gave the figure of 85 percent of the estimates. Quite a long while ago. And what his present estimate is, I don't know, but pretty close to the estimate. The original estimate I think was 1,500 planes in—first of July, and they were up to 1,465 as I remember it at that time. That is a monthly production. . . .

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

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