Franklin D. Roosevelt

Press Conference on the U.S.S Potomac

August 16, 1941

THE PRESIDENT: I am glad to see you. How are you?

Q. Very well, sir.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, all of you got here all right. . . .

Q. Could you tell us where this conference with Mr. Churchill was held?

THE PRESIDENT: I cannot, for obvious reasons. I had better make one or two things clear in the beginning. Names of ships are out. I suppose it has been published. The Prime Minister was there on the Prince of Wales and I was there on the Augusta, but outside of that, nothing about ships, nothing about times, dates, and nothing about locations. All those things for perfectly obvious reasons, which I don't have to explain.

Things of that kind cause trouble, if you make known the exact location on the high seas of the President and the Prime Minister. However, it was foggy between North Haven and Rockland, and while it's open season out there, no submarine fired a torpedo at us as far as we could see, and we are here safely.

You want to know certain things, I suppose. The easiest thing to do is to give you what we might call the impressions that stand out. I think the first thing in the minds of all of us was a very remarkable religious service on the quarterdeck of the Prince o[ Wales last Sunday morning. There was their own ship's complement, with three or four hundred bluejackets and marines from American ships, on the quarterdeck, completely intermingled, first one uniform and then another uniform. The service was conducted by two chaplains, one English and one American, and, as usual, the lesson was read by the captain of the British ship. They had three hymns that everybody took part in, and a little ship's altar was decked with the American flag and the British flag. The officers were all intermingled on the fantail, and I think the pictures of it have been released. The point is, I think everybody there, officers and enlisted men, felt that it was one of the great historic services. I know I did.

Q. That was on the Augusta?

THE PRESIDENT: No, on the Prince of Wales. Conferences were held between—you know who was with me, there is no reason why that shouldn't come out now: the Chief of Staff, General Marshall; Chief of Air Corps, General Arnold; General Burns, he is in charge of the Lease-Lend program; and Colonel Bundy of the Army.

Q. Who is he, sir?

THE PRESIDENT: I think he is War Plans, Army War Plans. Then from the Navy: Admiral Stark, Admiral King, Commander in Chief, Atlantic Fleet; Admiral Turner, of the War Plans Section, Navy Department; Captain Sherman, Operations; and then, of course, my own staff, General Watson, Admiral McIntire, and Captain Beardall. And two civilians, Mr. Hopkins and myself.

Q. Your two sons?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, that was just pure luck. Happened to catch them after we got there.

Q. Mr. Elliott and Franklin, Jr.?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes. Also Mr. Harriman,. and Mr. Welles from the State Department. And the British, of course, had what might be called "opposite numbers" in practically every case in that list that I have mentioned. The conferences were held between the opposite numbers in groups, but they were held partly on the Augusta and partly on the Prince of Wales. Actually the conferences between the Prime Minister and me were all held, except one, on the Augusta. It was a little bit difficult for me in getting over on the Prince of Wales.

Q. How long was Mr. Churchill actually with you?

THE PRESIDENT: That I can't tell you for obvious reasons.

Q. Can you tell us the genesis of the whole plan, who originated it?

THE PRESIDENT: The thing has been talked about since last February, and would have taken place a good deal earlier, had it not been for the campaign in Greece, and the campaign in Crete. You might say it was somewhat delayed, about three months, over the original intention.

Q. Was it your idea, sir?

THE PRESIDENT: I should say it was our joint idea.

Q. Mr. President, the announcements after the conference spoke of peace aims. The conferences themselves seemed to be conferences of possible procedure in defense Of—

THE PRESIDENT: I think that is a bit of a narrow way of looking at things. Put it this way: that the conferences were primarily an interchange of views relating to the present and the future—a swapping of information, which was eminently successful.

I think one of the subjects which perhaps all overlooked, both in the statements and comments, was the need for an exchange of what might be called views relating to what is happening to the world under the Nazi regime, as applied to other Nations. The more that is discussed and looked into, the more terrible the thought becomes of having the world as a whole dominated by the kind of influences which have been at work in the occupied or affiliated Nations. It's a thing that needs to be brought home to all of the democracies, more and more.

Q. Mr. President, can you tell us anything about the actual implementation of those broad declarations, now?

THE PRESIDENT: Interchange of views, that's all. Nothing else.

Q. We might assume that you have complete understanding with Mr. Churchill on all aspects of the world situation, including the Far East?

THE PRESIDENT: When you come down to localities, I don't suppose there is a single section or a single continent that was not discussed at one time or another, in all the conferences you ever heard of.

Q. Are we any closer to entering the war, actually?

THE PRESIDENT: I should say, no.

Q. May we quote directly?

THE PRESIDENT: No, you can quote indirectly.

Q. Mr. President, is Russia bound to subscribe to this eight point program?


Q. Will she be?

THE PRESIDENT: Nobody ever suggested it until you did.

Q. Can you tell us anything about aid to Russia?

THE PRESIDENT: You know just as much about it as I do, or Mr. Churchill, for discussion. Last year two commentators entirely overlooked two factors—one was geography, and the other was goods and munitions.

We did discuss the fitting in of Russian needs to the existing production program, and we also discussed what might be called the fact that the Russian needs might be divided into two categories. The first is material which is immediately available, to get there during this summer's campaign, and on the assumption that winter will bring at least a partial halt to campaigns in Russia. The other part is the materials and munitions which can be got to Russia by the time the spring campaign opens, and the fitting in of all of that to our own domestic needs and other lease-lend orders.

Q. You have no doubt the Russian resistance will continue into winter?

THE PRESIDENT: I guess from that there is a sort of an assumption in there. . . .

Q. May I ask whether another lend-lease appropriation is in sight?

THE PRESIDENT: The answer is just what it has been for the last month. We are still studying it. And regarding the place where we will ask for more money, there is a certain amount of the present fund which we cannot allocate at this particular time. Certain sums have been set aside by act of Congress for things like food, and of course food supplies don't have to be—like wheat for instance—don't have to be manufactured months ahead of time. A certain amount of money is being withheld from the first lend-lease appropriation to take care of agricultural needs during the next few months. We haven't got up any list of things. They have been working on it. . . .

Q. One thing, Mr. President, were any steps taken to document this meeting for history, from the American point of view?

THE PRESIDENT: I will have to talk off the record- not for use, literally, not for use. There is no reason why you fellows shouldn't know. The reason I can't use it is that it would be discourteous. The whole point of the original arrangement was, as you know, secrecy, for perfectly obvious naval reasons, and I didn't take any newspapermen. Neither did I take any cameramen. But when we got there we found that there was a moving-picture man who goes around with Mr. Churchill, and he says he is very different from ours. Mr. Churchill travels with no newspapermen whatsoever, but he does travel with a regular Ministry of Information motion-picture man, which is the regular British custom, and I think he is a Government employee and not a press association, and nearly all the moving pictures that you see of Mr. Churchill were taken by Government men and then given to the press. We found that he had this man who customarily travels with him, and I was able to find, from Navy personnel, one or two people who took some pictures which were sent down to Steve [Early] and have been released.

On the question of writing, why, I never assumed for a minute that there would be an official historian, and the Ministry of Information in England, at the last minute, had sent two gentlemen who they insisted were not newspapermen, they were people who wrote books. I said, "Good God, I've got a whole lot of people who are not only newspapermen, but have written books too!" If I had known, I would have done it too. So they are two gentlemen who were literary gentlemen. They were told very definitely by me, and they acceded to it, if these two literary gentlemen ever wrote anything over there inside of a year, about this conference, that they were to give it to the three American press associations, in London, free of charge. That was about the best I could do. If they do write anything, the three press associations will get their stuff. That is the agreement, whether they are going to write for publication or British Naval Archives. I have protected you as best I could, having been taken by surprise.

I think on the three press associations, there is no particular reason why you shouldn't let your London offices know that you are aware of the fact that there were two literary gentlemen who were put on board by the British Ministry of Information, and that they have agreed with me that any release from the pens of either of those gentlemen goes to our three press associations. I couldn't think of any better way to cover it. I can't say, "Mea culpa," because it was the other fellow's "culpa."

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Press Conference on the U.S.S Potomac Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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