Franklin D. Roosevelt

Excerpts from the Press Conference at "Hobcaw Barony," in Georgetown, South Carolina

May 06, 1944

Q. Would you like to sort of review your vacation?

THE PRESIDENT: In one word, I have rested. I have had a very quiet time. Been out in the sun as much as possible. Done some fishing—some salt-water fishing, some in the mouth of the river, some off the inlet, and some in the ponds.

You know, the matter of a vacation hide-out for the President is really a problem. I don't know what we are going to do about it. Up until two years ago last December, I used to do a lot of cruising down the Potomac. Then there arose the danger of German subs, and of hostile planes flying over the Potomac. It has no anti-aircraft protection. There were no other ships available, and we couldn't get a lot of escort boats for the Potomac, so the Navy stopped us.

I looked around for some Government property near Washington where I could spend a holiday. I tried in vain to go to Sugar Loaf Mountain. There's a place up there not far from Frederick. It belongs to a man who doesn't like me; he's going to give it to the Government some day, but he didn't want the President going there. We found a place up on the Blue Ridge Mountains, but it was practically impossible to get to.

Then, up almost to Gettysburg, I found a place where we can put up thirty-three or thirty-four. It was built as a recreation center, as part of the W.P.A. It consists of two or three separate camps. It's up in the Catoctin Mountains, near the Pennsylvania-Maryland line. After using it last summer, toward the end of last summer, they raised the old objection, that it had no anti-aircraft protection—wanted to find a place where we could have protection from the air. When I first went up there, I found a company of O.S.S. trainees-secret commandos- up there. We used them, and also the Marines who were already up there, too, for protection.

Then last summer, a society gossip columnist broke the whole thing. She goes ahead and spills the thing. I don't know whether that would make it impossible for me to go there again or not, but they are afraid that a certain bunch of crackpots will take some planes- wouldn't take more than two or three planes- they could use training planes- and fly over and unload some bombs on the place. It is pretty well guarded on the ground, but not from the air.

Then I learned of this place here. I like it here. I have been very comfortable down here. I want to come back. Down here I can do a little fishing, and get lots of rest. I like it around Belle Isle Gardens, it's perfectly lovely. I would like to come back down here again, but if it becomes known as one of the places where the President goes, it won't hold .... One thing that strikes us all about this part of the country down here is the enormous amount of land that is vacant. I have made a number of drives about the country. I love the place—love going through the woods. But there is an enormous amount of land' vacant—no one on it. It's not being used for scientific purposes either. It's the general feeling of everybody that this part of the country will support a great many more people, room for a large number of families, and for certain industries locally ....

Q. What will be the top item on your agenda when you return to Washington?

THE PRESIDENT: I don't know. I am really well up. We have had a pouch every other day. Certain things I have sent back for further information. I have signed a number of bills, and other regular papers including an appointment of a notary public for the District of Columbia. Got a lot of things out. The things the President has to sign now have been cut in half. The only things I have to sign are courts-martial.

Speaking of courts-martial, I want to tell you a story about a Marine court-martial case at Guantanamo.

You know, a court-martial in any of the services is a very solemn affair. They had appointed down there a major general, a couple of colonels, two or three majors as members, and a judge advocate of the court. They had also assigned another officer to the defense.

The accused was a second lieutenant, a youngster who had, I think, been in the service six months or so. He had been sentenced to dismissal. It was approved by the Judge Advocate General of the Navy, the Major General Commandant, and the Secretary of the Navy.

It came on down to me. I picked it up to read it. The more I read of it, the more I laughed.

This youngster had gone out from Guantanamo—Guantanamo is a U. S. naval reservation surrounded by Cuba--he had taken a party out on patrol, to patrol around the edges of the eastern side of the reservation.

About two miles out, they ran across some cows. The cows obviously were strays. There was a good deal of question as to whether the cows were on the Cuban side or the American side. One calf was limping very badly. After a conversation, some members of the patrol felt that this calf was suffering a great deal. That was a perfectly correct assumption. The second lieutenant told the sergeant that he would take the responsibility, and that he thought the calf should be put out of its misery.

So the sergeant shot the calf.

Now, they happened to have in this patrol the company cook. The cook butchered the calf. The result was the whole company had veal for about three days- perfectly delicious veal, butchered by the company cook.

The story came to the ears of the major general, that one of his officers had shot a calf. The result was the kid got a court-martial--and all that a court-martial means in time of war. The court was held. The record built up into a pile of documents. It finally got to the Major General Commandant. They approved it. It was all lined up to ruin this kid's life--to dismiss him from the service. Maybe he did want the veal. But it was funny—the great question was about his decision as to whether or not this calf ought to be put out of its misery.

So I took the recommendation that had been prepared for my signature- reading "Approved. The sentence will be carried into effect"—and instead of signing it, I wrote thereon,

"The sentence is approved, but it is mitigated, so that in lieu of being dismissed the accused will be placed on probation for a year, subject to the pleasure of the President.

"This man must be taught not to shoot calves.


It went back to the Marine Corps Headquarters. And they were wild. They thought I was trying to be funny with the Marine Corps.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Excerpts from the Press Conference at "Hobcaw Barony," in Georgetown, South Carolina Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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