Franklin D. Roosevelt

Press Conference

September 01, 1939

THE PRESIDENT: [Addressing Earl Godwin] What time did you get up?

Q. [Mr. Godwin] About 3.00 or 3.15, right after you aroused the Nation. Felt like I belonged to the village fire department.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes; you were not the only one.

Q. [Mr. Godwin] I know it. I wonder if anybody got Borah up.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes. Where is he?

Q. He went to Poland Springs, Maine. [Inaudible]


Q. Poland Springs, Maine.

THE PRESIDENT: Oh, I thought you said Poland. That would have been news.

[It was announced that the Press were all in.]

THE PRESIDENT: I think a good many of us had a somewhat sleepless night. Bill Hassett has told you of what happened at the White House and State Department, beginning at 2.50 A.M. I think that a word of praise should be said for our Diplomatic Service because, without much question, we were advised of the beginning of the invasion here in Washington as early as any other outside nation. Ambassador Biddle got through by telephone to Bullitt about 2.35 our time. It was a very poor connection; and it is a question as to whether any further telephoning is possible between Paris and Warsaw. That we don't know. Bullitt began getting through to us at 2.40, and actually did get through at 2.50.

As Bill, I think., has told you, the first thing I did was, of course, to call up the Secretary of State, and the Under Secretary, and the Secretaries of War and Navy, Then Bill [Mr. Hassett] got through to the Press Associations within about a minute after that—I do not think he even stopped to dress—and was on the radio within another minute and a half after that.

I do not believe at this particular time of this very critical period in the world's history, that there is anything which I can say, except to ask for full cooperation of the Press throughout the country in sticking as closely as possible to facts. Of course that will be the best thing for our own Nation, and, I think, for civilization.

There is nothing that can be said at the present time on some of the things that almost might be called "local." I would include within the term "local" for the present time such questions as: when Congress will be called; the proclamation of neutrality, etc. All of those things must await developments, obviously. Things are happening on the other side today, and probably will tomorrow, which will be important factors in the consideration of these local things—I would say these items of American action.

I hope particularly that there won't be unsubstantiated rumors put out, whether they originate here or elsewhere, without checking. It is a very simple thing to check either with the State Department, or any other department concerned, or with the White House. I will cite a very simple example: The Secretary of State called me up about fifteen minutes ago, before I came over here, and said there was a report out—I do not know whether it was printed or not, but if it was printed it would be a pity—that we had sent out a general order for all American merchant ships to return to American ports. Now, that kind of thing is confusing to the public mind, and what I hope is that the American public will stick pretty closely to facts. I think they will, and, in the long run, they will get the facts anyway. As you know, I believe pretty strongly in the common sense American opinion as a whole—the mass opinion of America.

I do not think there is anything else I can tell you about that you do not know already. If you want to ask any questions that can be asked about at this time, it is perfectly all right.

Q. [Mr. Phelps Adams] I think probably what is uppermost in the minds of all the American people today is, "Can we stay out?" Would you like to make any comment at this time on that situation?

THE PRESIDENT: Only this, that I not only sincerely hope so, but I believe we can; and that every effort will be made by the Administration so to do.

Q. May we make that a direct quote?


Q. May we have it again?[The stenographer read the President's statement, to wit, "Only this, that I not only sincerely hope so, but I believe we can; and that every effort will be made by the Administration so to do."]

Q. Mr. President, I suppose it is somewhat a matter of routine to ask if you have anything to say about Secretary Hull's visit with you before the Conference?

THE PRESIDENT: Just this usual batch of dispatches; and they are coming in now at the rate of one every ten minutes-in fact, they are coming in at the rate of one every five minutes.

Q. From all over?


Q. Mr. President, are you considering any changes in the Bloom neutrality law?

THE PRESIDENT: I have not considered anything in the last few hours. That follows what I said before.

Q. Did you see Ambassador Wilson?

THE PRESIDENT: Ambassador Wilson presented his resignation as Ambassador to Germany, and it was accepted; and he has been assigned to special duty in the State Department.

Q. Presented today?

THE PRESIDENT: Today, yes.

Q. Has anyone been named to fill that place?

THE PRESIDENT: I cannot answer questions like that.

Q. Mr. President, would you indicate what those duties are that he was assigned to?

THE PRESIDENT: I do not think we are ready to announce that yet.

Q. Mr. President, did you say a while ago when Congress is called or whether Congress is called?

THE PRESIDENT: I said, "When."

Q. Will you say whether that means definitely Congress will be called, Mr. President? (Laughter)

THE PRESIDENT: Well, it means between September first and January second.

Q. [Mr. Godwin] That's right.

THE PRESIDENT: There you are; you asked for it. (Laughter)

MR. GODWIN: I will say, "Thank you, Mr. President," if the rest of the gentlemen are willing to agree.

THE PRESIDENT: I really cannot give you anything more.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Press Conference Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

Simple Search of Our Archives