Franklin D. Roosevelt

Excerpts from the Press Conference

March 24, 1944

THE PRESIDENT: I have a number of fairly interesting items.

Today is the tenth anniversary of the signing of the Tydings-McDuffie Act for Philippine independence. It seems like almost yesterday that we signed that. And in view of that anniversary, I thought that I would like to say just a few short sentences to the Filipino people.

(Reading, not literally): On this the tenth anniversary of the passage of the Tydings-McDuffie Act, I take the opportunity of conveying again a message of friendship and good will to the people of the Philippines.

"American-Filipino friendship has had a long history. The bill for Philippine independence which I signed ten years ago was a concrete manifestation of that friendship. It is a source of deep gratification today to be able to say to the brave people who are now bearing the yoke of Japanese domination, that the return of freedom to the Islands draws closer with each Allied victory. The Philippine Government temporarily residing here possesses all of the attributes of an independent Nation. And finally, America will fulfill her pledge."

I am very sorry to announce that Lowell Mellett is getting out of here. Much to my disgust he's gone and done it again, and there is nothing for me to do except to accept it.

He is going to the Washington Star, and perhaps other newspapers. I am awfully sorry he is going, but I know he will be extremely useful there. He knows how to write, which is more—some people don't—(laughter)—although his letter of resignation to me and my acceptance of it was turned over to Steve [Early], and Steve edited them both. (Laughter) However, they are very lovely letters, in spite of what Steve did to them. And you can have copies of them.

Leo Crowley resigned as Alien Property Custodian. And Steve has his letter of resignation and my acceptance thereof. Of course, it doesn't change his duties in any way in his other work. And with it I picked up an old letter that he wrote me a few days ago, about his other work—Foreign Economic Administration- which I think is worth reading a .paragraph of.

(Reading, not literally): "After the authorization and appropriation for the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration are made, if the Foreign Economic Administration is the American agency charged with the responsibility for handling the appropriation, it will, in collaboration with the War Production Board and the other American allocating agencies, weigh the requests of the U.N.R.R.A. for farm machinery as well as other supplies in the light of our war needs"-

- that is farm machinery to go abroad —

"-the needs of the American farmers or civilians for farm machinery or other supplies and other needs elsewhere. As you are well aware, the F.E.A., in their screening of farm machinery moving abroad under lend-lease, has clearly kept these, as well as other relevant considerations, in mind.

"Thus, for example, the amount of farm machinery exported under lend-lease since the beginning of the program has been less than 2 percent of the available American supplies."

I would love to have that figure used as a correction of some statements that have been made in the paper.

"This equipment has been sent in the main to countries such as Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom to assist in increasing vitally needed food production for war. As you know, these countries, under reverse lend-lease, and without payment by us, have supplied our armed forces with very substantial quantities of food."

That's a great many people. Add them up. And I think it is worth while to repeat something that I gave you a long time ago—couple of months ago—and that is by the first of July this year we will have five million men outside the United States. That's a lot of people.

"Australia and New Zealand, for instance, have supplied our forces under reverse lend-lease with approximately the same amount of beef and veal which we have exported to all lend-lease countries. In the United Kingdom more than 20 per cent of the food for our forces has been supplied under reverse lend-lease."

Now, the next thing is the work of that interdepartmental committee in regard to refugees—the War Refugee Board. I think perhaps this is an opportune time to release a statement which I prepared last week. We are keeping in close touch with the Prime Minister and Mr. Stalin in regard to this; it is done with their full knowledge and approval.

In the first place, I am making Mr. John W. Pehle, who has been acting director for the past month or two, a full director.

And the work is doing very well, actually getting refugees out.

(Reading, not literally): "The United Nations are fighting to make a world in which tyranny and aggression cannot exist; a world based upon freedom, equality, and justice; a world in which all persons regardless of race, color, or creed may live in peace, honor, and dignity."

Some of you people who are wandering around asking the bellhop whether we have a foreign policy or not, I think that's a pretty good paragraph. We have a foreign policy. Some people may not know it, but we really have.

Q. Mr. President, does this country too plan to open itself up as a haven for these refugees?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, we are taking care of all the refugees that we can get out now. We have a great many in North Africa, you know, at the present time.

Q. What I meant was, whether we plan to bring any here or not?

THE PRESIDENT: No, not yet; because there aren't enough to come, which is one reason—a pretty good one ....

Q. Mr. President, the fisherman is catching about an average of 80 thousand pounds of food a year, and do you have any plans to protect this supply of food? . . .

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I don't know. I haven't done anything about it since last spring, but the Bureau of Fisheries, you know, at that time, was working on an effort to use all fish that were brought in. It was a problem, at that time, partly of refrigeration and partly of transportation.

Q. It's a problem now of draft deferment.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, all I remember is that last year there was a lovely plan that was offered to me, in a personal letter, which took the time of twenty or thirty Government employees to run down, and that was the theory that a boy of sixteen could catch fish just as well as a boy of eighteen. And they decided unanimously that that was probably so. In other words, it's a question of letting some of the older boys do it, and some of the younger boys. I am one of the older boys that catches fish. (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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