Franklin D. Roosevelt

Letter Praising the United States Maritime Commission.

August 09, 1939

My dear Admiral Land:

The launching of the America gives me the greatest personal gratification. It is one of the most important events to take place in the world this year. It signifies an early return of the merchant fleet of the United States to a dominant position on the oceans of the world.

When the Maritime Commission was created in 1936 our merchant fleet had lapsed into a lamentable state. New construction of ocean going vessels had virtually ceased following the War and the average remaining economic life of the merchant fleet was less than five years. Now, that situation is changed. Contracts will have been let for approximately one hundred ships by the end of this year. Eighteen other ships have been launched.

The program of five hundred ships within ten years which has been developed by the Commission and approved by the Executive with consideration of our national defense as well as our commercial needs, is one of which the nation can fairly be proud and in which every citizen has a direct interest. It is not an extravagant program. It is a modest program which will give this country a fleet competitive, if not superior, in speed, efficiency, and safety to those of other nations. It will place 3,950,000 gross tons of new ships on the high seas.

I am particularly thankful for this good work by the Maritime Commission at the present moment. The tense state of the international situation makes it particularly desirable that we have a merchant fleet capable of carrying our commerce if and when foreign ships are withdrawn, and, should the unfortunate necessity arise, of serving as the necessary supply force for naval vessels. You and I know, from our work during the War, the disabilities of a Navy which lacks an adequate merchant fleet. With all its enormous potential combat power, such a Navy is tied to its land bases.

When the America goes into service on the North Atlantic next spring, she should be filled to capacity on every voyage. The largest ship ever to be built in an American shipyard, I am glad also to be advised that when this ship puts to sea, she will be the safest ship in the world, an attribute of which we may all justly be proud.

It is pleasing to know that the United States Lines have given the Commission such fine cooperation in the design, construction and fitting out of the America and to know that this splendid cooperation will produce the last word in efficiency and comfort.

Very sincerely yours,

Rear Admiral E. S. Land,

Chairman, United States Maritime Commission,

Washington, D. C.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Letter Praising the United States Maritime Commission. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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