Franklin D. Roosevelt

Excerpts from the Press Conference

December 17, 1943

THE PRESIDENT: I want to say in connection with the trip that I thing else, on these voyages. The Secret Service and the Army of view of the conduct of the war, but also for the discussions that I hope will have definite and very beneficial effects for the postwar period, based on the general thought that when we win the war we don't want to have another one as long as this generation is alive.

The only sad note was the news I got, on the way home, of Mac's [Marvin H. Mcintyre] death, because I think all you older people realize what that means to me, as he and I had been together practically since the earliest days in the Navy Department, back as far as 1913.
I think we will all miss him very much.
I know I will.

As soon as I got here this morning, I talked with the legislative leaders in regard to possibly going up to tell the Congress about the trip, but there's quite an accumulation of things, and I don't want to make carefully prepared addresses in too large numbers. . . .

Q. Sir, could you tell us any of your personal impressions of Marshal Stalin?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, the actual fact of meeting him lived up to my highest expectations. We had many excellent talks. And I was also extremely glad to meet the Generalissimo, Chiang Kai-shek. And on the whole, the mere fact of getting to know those two world leaders, I think, is going to make for excellent relations in the future.

Q. Mr. President, would you care to tell us how those talks were conducted? Was it an easy matter?

THE PRESIDENT: Through an interpreter, which of course is not as easy as if I spoke Russian and Chinese and they spoke English, but still we got on all right.

Q. Facile at all?


Q. Back and forth?

THE PRESIDENT: Oh my, yes. Yes, yes.

Q. Was it stodgy, or anything of that sort?

THE PRESIDENT: Not stodgy at all, except the answer sometimes came before the translation was finished. (Laughter)

Q. Did you find Stalin—all we know about him is that picture with a handle-bar mustache, which evidently is out of date.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, that is rather out of date.

Q. What type would you call him? Is he dour?

THE PRESIDENT: I would call him something like me—he is a realist.

Q. Yes, he seems to be.

THE PRESIDENT: (laughing) Yes.

MAY CRAIG: Tell us about it.

THE PRESIDENT: May, I don't write no social column. (Much laughter)

Q. Sir, does he share your view that there is hope of preventing another war in this generation?

THE PRESIDENT: Very definitely, if the people who want that objective will back it up.

Rather interesting, up at Teheran with Mr. Stalin, the Prime Minister and I—the Chinese of course didn't go to Teheran—I saw them in Cairo—we figured out that the Governments and associated Nations that were on our side represented between two-thirds and three-quarters of the entire population of the world, which I thought was rather a significant fact. In other words, world opinion if it ever does count, will count in circumstances like that. . . .

Q. Mr. President, what did you call Mr. Stalin?

THE PRESIDENT: I told him it was a beautiful day.

Q. What did you call him? How did you address him?

THE PRESIDENT: Marsha . . . .

Q. Mr. President, is there anything you can tell us about the method of your travels?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think I can put it this way, mostly that when I—well, I couldn't put it that way because it might disclose something else. (Laughter) I went to Teheran in a plane. You can't go there by water.

Q. Did you go anywhere by water, sir?

THE PRESIDENT: Oh, now you are asking questions. That's different.

Q. That's what I get paid for. (Laughter)

THE PRESIDENT: Well, one thing that irks me just as much as anything else, on these voyages. The Secret Service and the Army and the Navy are on my neck all the time for what they call security reasons; and the reason is, when you leave a place and issue a statement, it is obvious you are going away. Well, I would give the thing out right away, if I had my choice, but some places it isn't considered in the best interests of security, because then they would know that you were leaving, and throughout the whole distance, you are practically under the range of German planes. And it's like shooting a duck sitting on the water for a German pursuit plane to go after a transport plane without any guns on it.

Well, for instance, I don't put much stock in this, but when we got to Teheran I went to the American Legation, which is about a mile from the Russian compound—a high wall. And next door to them is the British Embassy.

And that night, late, I got word from Marshal Stalin that they had got word of a German plot.

Well, no use going into details. Everybody was more or less upset, Secret Service, and so forth. And he pleaded with me to go down to the Russian Embassy—they have two or three different buildings in the compound—and he offered to turn over one of them to me, and that would avoid either his, or Mr. Churchill's, or my having to take trips through the streets, in order to see each other.

So the next morning I moved out, down to the Russian compound. I was extremely comfortable there, and it was just another wall from the British place, so that none of the three of us had to go out on the streets, for example.

But of course, in a place like Teheran there are hundreds of German spies, probably, around the place, and I suppose it would make a pretty good haul if they could get all three of us going through the streets. (Laughter) And of course, if your future plans are known, or if they can guess the time because of departure from one place, they can get German pursuit planes over the transport plane very easily. . . .

Q. Mr. President, is there anything you can tell us about General Patton?

THE PRESIDENT: No. I saw him in Sicily. I saw him, and General Clark and General Eisenhower went over with me. I think probably that you may, if you want to write a piece, stick in there the story of a former President [Lincoln] who had a good deal of trouble in finding a successful commander for the armies of the United States.

And one of them turned up one day, and he was very successful.

And some very good citizens went to the President and protested: "You can't keep him. He drinks."
"It must be a good brand of liquor," was the answer.

Q. Speaking of drinking, did you attend one of those dinners where they had forty-five toasts? (Laughter)

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I can tell you this. We had one banquet where we had dinner in the Russian style. Very good dinner, too. Russian style means a number of toasts, and I counted up to three hundred and sixty-five toasts. (Laughter) And we all went away sober. It's a remarkable thing what you can do, if you try. (More laughter)

Q. How, Mr. President? (Laughter)

THE PRESIDENT: When you go up to those places like Teheran, you learn! I made one glass of vodka that big—(indicating a two-inch width with his fingers) last for about twenty toasts—just about. (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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