Remarks to United States Soldiers at Humes, France
Gen. Pershing and Fellow Countrymen:
I wish that I could give to each one of you the message that I know you are longing to receive from those at home who love you. I can not do that, but I can tell you how everybody at home is proud of you; how everybody at home has followed every movement of this great Army with confidence and affection; and how the whole people of the United States are now waiting to welcome you home with an acclaim which probably has never greeted any other army. Because this is a war into which our country, like these countries we have been so proud to stand by, has put its whole heart, and the reason that we are proud of you is that you have put your heart into it; you have done your duty, and something more, you have done your duty and done it with a spirit which gave it distinction and glory.
And now we are to have the fruits of victory. You knew when you came over what you came over for, and you have done what it was appointed you to do. I know what you expect of me. Some time ago a gentleman from one of the countries with which we are associated was discussing with me the moral aspects of this war, and I said that if we did not insist upon the high purposes for which this war was entered by the United States I could never look those gallant fellows across the seas in the face again. You knew what we expected of you and you did it. I know what you and the people at home expect of me; and I am happy to say, my fellow countrymen, that I do not find in the hearts of the great leaders with whom it is my privilege now to cooperate any difference of principle or of fundamental purpose. It happened that it was the privilege of America to present the chart for peace, and now the process of settlement has been rendered comparatively simple by the fact that all the nations concerned have accepted that chart and that the application of those principles laid down there will be their explication. The world will now know that the nations that fought this war, as well as the soldiers who represented them, are ready to make good— make good not merely in the assertion of their own interests, but make good in the establishment of peace upon the permanent foundations of right and of justice. Because this is not a war in which the soldiers of the free nations have obeyed masters. You have commanders, but you have no masters. Your very commanders represent you in representing the Nation of which you constitute so distinguished a part, and this being a people's war, everybody concerned in the settlement knows that it must be a people's peace, that nothing must be done in the settlement of the issues of the war which is not as handsome as the great achievements of the armies of the United States and the allies.
It is difficult, very difficult, men, in a formal speech like this to show you my real heart. You men probably do not realize with what anxious attention and care we have followed every step you have advanced, and how proud we are that every step was in advance and not in retreat; that every time you set your faces in any direction, you kept your faces in that direction. A thrill has gone through my heart, as it has gone through the heart of every American, with almost every gun that was fired and every stroke that was struck in the gallant fighting that you have done; and there has been only one regret in America, and that was the regret that every man there felt that he was not here in France, too. It has been a hard thing to perform civil tasks in the United States. It has been a hard thing to take part in directing what you did without coming over and helping you do it. It has taken a lot of moral courage to stay at home, but we were proud to back you up in every way that was possible to back you up, and now I am happy to find what splendid names you have made for yourselves among the civilian population of France as well as among your comrades in arms of the French Army. It is a fine testimony to you men that these people like you and love you and trust you, and the finest part of it all is that you deserve their trust.
I feel a comradeship with you to-day which is delightful as I look about upon these undisturbed fields and think of the terrible scenes through which you have gone and realize now that the quiet peace, the tranquillity of settled hope, has descended upon us all; and while it is hard so far away from home confidently to bid you a Merry Christmas, I can, I think, confidently promise you a Happy New Year, and I can from the bottom of my heart say, God bless you.
Woodrow Wilson, Remarks to United States Soldiers at Humes, France Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/317415