Franklin D. Roosevelt

Excerpts from the Press Conference in Honolulu

July 29, 1944

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I just want to say what a pipe dream this has been. Greatest sight in the world. Think of the people who would like to change places with you.

Q. What can you tell us of your visit here, your trip, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT: I have had quite a full three days. Accomplished a great deal. . . . By coincidence, I think it was exactly ten years to the day since my previous visit.

Of course, I find many changes here on the military and naval front. I never imagined any place could change as much as the Island of Oahu has. Today, city-occupied land extends right up to the military and naval areas. The city has gone to the military and naval areas, where a few years ago the military and navy had to go to the city. There are small communities all over the island. Land is scarce, instead of being plentiful.

One other thing I noticed. Two and one-half years ago-December, 1941—I got a whole great flood of telegrams from the Islands asking me to please send food right away. They thought everybody in the Islands was going to starve. They were asking for food. I said, "I am frightfully sorry. I haven't got any food to send you. Haven't got any ships to send it in if I had it."

So I made the very simple recommendation: grow more. And the Islands have grown more. As for the necessities of life, they have been forced to solve their own problem. They have solved it, and they have helped, too, by not demanding everything from the continent. And I don't notice that anybody has starved. They've done a good job, and done it out here.

Q. Mr. President, could you to help our stories, describe the purpose of your visit to the Hawaiian Islands?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, as I remember, one of the objects of the trip was to look this place over. This is no longer the outpost of our defense. A few years ago it was. We weren't allowed to fortify Guam. Today the outermost points of our defense line are thousands of miles to the westward. Hawaii is still the main distributing point, but not the outpost. It is our main depot nearest to where we are meeting the enemy in the Pacific.

The other thing that we have talked about, of course, is the strategic question. I have had two very successful days with Nimitz, MacArthur, and Leahy, talking about future plans. It's perfectly obvious that any operation has to be planned ahead. You've seen that about a particular operation. And you'll remember that that particular operation was talked about, and the logistics of it talked about, for many, many months before. We've had several conferences on different questions. Of course, I cannot go into more details than that.

Q. Within the limits of security, can you tell if these conferences involved any new offensives against Japan?


Q. Soon, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT: They have been continuing in fairly regular progress in the last year, and now that we have the offensive we shall keep it. . . .

Q. At your conference at Casablanca, you gave us a very fine phrase about unconditional surrender. Are we going to make that our goal out here in the Pacific? I wonder if you could tell us anything about that from your talks here?

THE PRESIDENT: There is nothing I can tell you, except that at Casablanca I made no differentiation between our European enemy and our Far Eastern enemy. The same thing applies to Japan.

Q. And the goal with Japan is still unconditional surrender?

THE PRESIDENT: Still is with everybody. There has been a good deal of complaint among some of the nice, high-minded people about unconditional surrender, that if we changed the term "unconditional surrender," Germany might surrender more quickly.

Mr. Churchill and I have made no modification of the terms of unconditional surrender.

They complain that it is too tough and too rough. I will explain it a little this way.

Back in 1865, Lee was driven into a corner back of Richmond, at Appomattox Court House. His army was practically starving, had had no sleep for two or three days, his arms were practically expended.

So he went, under a flag of truce, to Grant. Lee had come to Grant thinking about his men. He asked Grant for his terms of surrender.

Grant said, "Unconditional surrender."

Lee said he couldn't do that, he had to get some things. Just for example, he had no food for more than one meal for his army.

Grant said, "That is pretty tough."

Lee then said, "My cavalry horses don't belong to us, they belong to our officers and they need them back home."

Grant said, "Unconditional surrender."

Lee then said, "All right. I surrender," and tendered his sword to Grant.

Grant said, "Bob, put it back. Now, do you unconditionally surrender?"

Lee said, "Yes."

Then Grant said, "You are my prisoners now. Do you need food for your men?"

Lee said, "Yes. I haven't got more than enough for one meal more."

Then Grant said, "Now, about those horses that belong to the Confederate officers. Why do you want them?"

Lee said, "We need them for the spring plowing."

Grant said, "Tell your officers to take the animals home and do the spring plowing."

There you have unconditional surrender. I have given you no new term. We are human beings—normal, thinking human beings. That is what we mean by unconditional surrender.

Q. The fact is that unconditional surrender still stands?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes. Practically all Germans deny the fact they surrendered in the last war, but this time they are going to know it. And so are the Japs.

Q. Is that to demonstrate the fact that eventually we may have to feed the liberated in all these countries?

THE PRESIDENT: We will help them get back on their feet physically. We don't believe in wholesale starvation. But it doesn't mean that we will send the first spare food that we have into Germany. We will take care of our own and our allies first. . . .

Q. When General MacArthur was about to leave the Philippines, I recall he said something to the general effect that "I will return." In view of the setting of this meeting with him, is there anything that you could tell us? Is that true now?

THE PRESIDENT: The only thing I could say in answer to that question, in answer to any direct question, would be such as to possibly give the enemy an inkling as to which way we are going. We are going to get the Philippines back, and without question General MacArthur will take a part in it. Whether he goes direct or not, I can't say.

Q. Can we say that General MacArthur will return to the Philippines?

THE PRESIDENT: He was correct the day he left Corregidor, and I told him he was correct. Remember, I came out and said it then?

Q. When I say General MacArthur, I mean that we shall return to the Philippines.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, and General MacArthur shall take part.

Q. Mr. President, from your conferences here, will there be any emphasis or speedup in the conduct of the war?

THE PRESIDENT: Neither one nor the other.

Q. Were you reviewing or reestablishing strategy?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, you review or reestablish strategy about once a week as you go along, it's just normal procedure. But it was very useful, this particular conference. I think it was one of the most important we have held in some time. I found it was awfully hard to get along without it, because I haven't talked in person with General MacArthur in the past seven years—have not seen him for seven years. He was then my Chief of Staff in Washington. . . .

Q. Why do you think that United States soldiers have been able to beat the Japanese at their own game of atoll and jungle fighting?

THE PRESIDENT: Perhaps it sounds like a little bit of boasting, but it is the difference between our type of civilization and our type of fellow, and their type of civilization and fellow. We will take them on at any game, war or pleasure, and beat them at it. . . .

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

Filed Under




Simple Search of Our Archives