The Fireside Chats of Franklin Delano Roosevelt

We know also that Germany and Japan are conducting their military
and naval operations in accordance with a joint plan. That plan
considers all peoples and nations which are not helping the Axis
powers as common enemies of each and every one of the Axis powers.

That is their simple and obvious grand strategy. And that is why
the American people must realize that it can be matched only with
similar grand strategy. We must realize for example that Japanese
successes against the United States in the Pacific are helpful to
German operations in Libya; that any German success against the
Caucasus is inevitably an assistance to Japan in her operations
against the Dutch East Indies; that a German attack against Algiers
or Morocco opens the way to a German attack against South America
and the Canal.

On the other side of the picture, we must learn also to know that
guerrilla warfare against the Germans in, let us say Serbia or
Norway, helps us; that a successful Russian offensive against the
Germans helps us; and that British successes on land or sea in any
part of the world strengthen our hands.

Remember always that Germany and Italy, regardless of any formal
declaration of war, consider themselves at war with the United
States at this moment just as much as they consider themselves at
war with Britain or Russia. And Germany puts all the other
Republics of the Americas into the same category of enemies. The
people of our sister Republics of this Hemisphere can be honored by
that fact.

The true goal we seek is far above and beyond the ugly field of
battle. When we resort to force, as now we must, we are determined
that this force shall be directed toward ultimate good as well as
against immediate evil. We Americans are not destroyers–we are

We are now in the midst of a war, not for conquest, not for
vengeance, but for a world in which this nation, and all that this
nation represents, will be safe for our children. We expect to
eliminate the danger from Japan, but it would serve us ill if we
accomplished that and found that the rest of the world was
dominated by Hitler and Mussolini.

So we are going to win the war and we are going to win the peace
that follows.

And in the difficult hours of this day–through dark days that may
be yet to come–we will know that the vast majority of the members
of the human race are on our side. Many of them are fighting with
us. All of them are praying for us. But, in representing our cause,
we represent theirs as well–our hope and their hope for liberty
under God.

February 23, 1942.

My Fellow Americans:

Washington’s Birthday is a most appropriate occasion for us to talk
with each other about things as they are today and things as we
know they shall be in the future.

For eight years, General Washington and his Continental Army were
faced continually with formidable odds and recurring defeats.
Supplies and equipment were lacking. In a sense, every winter was a
Valley Forge. Throughout the thirteen states there existed fifth
columnists–and selfish men, jealous men, fearful men, who
proclaimed that Washington’s cause was hopeless, and that he should
ask for a negotiated peace.

Washington’s conduct in those hard times has provided the model for
all Americans ever since–a model of moral stamina. He held to his
course, as it had been charted in the Declaration of Independence.
He and the brave men who served with him knew that no man’s life or
fortune was secure without freedom and free institutions.

The present great struggle has taught us increasingly that freedom
of person and security of property anywhere in the world depend
upon the security of the rights and obligations of liberty and
justice everywhere in the world.

This war is a new kind of war. It is different from all other wars
of the past, not only in its methods and weapons but also in its
geography. It is warfare in terms of every continent, every island,
every sea, every air lane in the world.

That is the reason why I have asked you to take out and spread
before you a map of the whole earth, and to follow with me in the
references which I shall make to the world-encircling battle lines
of this war. Many questions will, I fear, remain unanswered
tonight; but I know you will realize that I cannot cover everything
in any one short report to the people.

The broad oceans which have been heralded in the past as our
protection from attack have become endless battlefields on which we
are constantly being challenged by our enemies.

We must all understand and face the hard fact that our job now is
to fight at distances which extend all the way around the globe.

We fight at these vast distances because that is where our enemies
are. Until our flow of supplies gives us clear superiority we must
keep on striking our enemies wherever and whenever we can meet
them, even if, for a while, we have to yield ground. Actually,
though, we are taking a heavy toll of the enemy every day that goes

We must fight at these vast distances to protect our supply lines
and our lines of communication with our allies–protect these lines
from the enemies who are bending every ounce of their strength,
striving against time, to cut them. The object of the Nazis and the
Japanese is to separate the United States, Britain, China and
Russia, and to isolate them one from another, so that each will be
surrounded and cut off from sources of supplies and reinforcements.
It is the old familiar Axis policy of “divide and conquer.”

There are those who still think, however, in terms of the days of
sailing-ships. They advise us to pull our warships and our planes
and our merchant ships into our own home waters and concentrate
solely on last ditch defense. But let me illustrate what would
happen if we followed such foolish advice.

Look at your map. Look at the vast area of China, with its millions
of fighting men. Look at the vast area of Russia, with its powerful
armies and proven military might. Look at the British Isles,
Australia, New Zealand, the Dutch Indies, India, the Near East and
the Continent of Africa, with their resources of raw materials, and
of peoples determined to resist Axis domination. Look too at North
America, Central America and South America.

It is obvious what would happen if all of these great reservoirs of
power were cut off from each other either by enemy action or by
self-imposed isolation:

First, in such a case, we could no longer send aid of any kind to
China–to the brave people who, for nearly five years, have
withstood Japanese assault, destroyed hundreds of thousands of
Japanese soldiers and vast quantities of Japanese war munitions. It
is essential that we help China in her magnificent defense and in
her inevitable counteroffensive–for that is one important element
in the ultimate defeat of Japan.

Second, if we lost communication with the southwest Pacific, all of
that area, including Australia and New Zealand and the Dutch
Indies, would fall under Japanese domination. Japan in such a case
could release great numbers of ships and men to launch attacks on a
large scale against the coasts of the Western Hemisphere–South
America and Central America, and North America–including Alaska.
At the same time, she could immediately extend her conquests in the
other direction toward India, and through the Indian Ocean to
Africa, to the Near East, and try to join forces with Germany and

Third, if we were to stop sending munitions to the British and the
Russians in the Mediterranean, in the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea,
we would be helping the Nazis to overrun Turkey, Syria, Iraq,
Persia, Egypt and the Suez Canal, the whole coast of North Africa
itself, and with that inevitably the whole coast of West Africa–
putting Germany within easy striking distance of South America–
fifteen hundred miles away.

Fourth, if by such a fatuous policy we ceased to protect the North
Atlantic supply line to Britain and to Russia, we would help to
cripple the splendid counter-offensive by Russia against the Nazis,
and we would help to deprive Britain of essential food supplies and

Those Americans who believed that we could live under the illusion
of isolationism wanted the American eagle to imitate the tactics of
the ostrich. Now, many of those same people, afraid that we may be
sticking our necks out, want our national bird to be turned into a
turtle. But we prefer to retain the eagle as it is–flying high and
striking hard.

I know that I speak for the mass of the American people when I say
that we reject the turtle policy and will continue increasingly the
policy of carrying the war to the enemy in distant lands and
distant waters–as far away as possible from our own home grounds.

There are four main lines of communication now being travelled by
our ships: the North Atlantic, the South Atlantic, the Indian Ocean
and the South Pacific. These routes are not one-way streets, for
the ships that carry our troops and munitions outbound bring back
essential raw materials which we require for our own use.

The maintenance of these vital lines is a very tough job. It is a
job which requires tremendous daring, tremendous resourcefulness,
and, above all, tremendous production of planes and tanks and guns
and also of the ships to carry them. And I speak again for the
American people when I say that we can and will do that job.

The defense of the world-wide lines of communication demands
relatively safe use by us of the sea and of the air along the
various routes; and this, in turn, depends upon control by the
United Nations of many strategic bases along those routes.

Control of the air involves the simultaneous use of two types of
planes–first, the long-range heavy bomber; and, second, the light
bombers, dive bombers, torpedo planes, and short-range pursuit
planes, all of which are essential to the protection of the bases
and of the bombers themselves.

Heavy bombers can fly under their own power from here to the
southwest Pacific, but the smaller planes cannot. Therefore, these
lighter planes have to be packed in crates and sent on board cargo
ships. Look at your map again; and you will see that the route is
long–and at many places perilous–either across the South Atlantic
all the way around South Africa and the Cape of Good Hope, or from
California to the East Indies direct. A vessel can make a round
trip by either route in about four months, or only three round
trips in a whole year.

In spite of the length, and in spite of the difficulties of this
transportation, I can tell you that in two and a half months we
already have a large number of bombers and pursuit planes, manned
by American pilots and crews, which are now in daily contact with
the enemy in the Southwest Pacific. And thousands of American
troops are today in that area engaged in operations not only in the
air but on the ground as well.

In this battle area, Japan has had an obvious initial advantage.
For she could fly even her short-range planes to the points of
attack by using many stepping stones open to her–bases in a
multitude of Pacific islands and also bases on the China coast,
Indo-China coast, and in Thailand and Malaya coasts. Japanese troop
transports could go south from Japan and from China through the
narrow China Sea, which can be protected by Japanese planes
throughout its whole length.

I ask you to look at your maps again, particularly at that portion
of the Pacific Ocean lying west of Hawaii. Before this war even
started, the Philippine Islands were already surrounded on three
sides by Japanese power. On the west, the China side, the Japanese
were in possession of the coast of China and the coast of
Indo-China which had been yielded to them by the Vichy French. On
the North are the islands of Japan themselves, reaching down almost
to northern Luzon. On the east are the Mandated Islands–which
Japan had occupied exclusively, and had fortified in absolute
violation of her written word.

The islands that lie between Hawaii and the Philippines–these
islands, hundreds of them, appear only as small dots on most maps.
But they cover a large strategic area. Guam lies in the middle of
them–a lone outpost which we have never fortified.

Under the Washington Treaty of 1921 we had solemnly agreed not to
add to the fortification of the Philippines. We had no safe naval
bases there, so we could not use the islands for extensive naval

Immediately after this war started, the Japanese forces moved down
on either side of the Philippines to numerous points south of
them–thereby completely encircling the Philippines from north,
south, east and west.

It is that complete encirclement, with control of the air by
Japanese land-based aircraft, which has prevented us from sending
substantial reinforcements of men and material to the gallant
defenders of the Philippines. For forty years it has always been
our strategy–a strategy born of necessity–that in the event of a
full-scale attack on the Islands by Japan, we should fight a
delaying action, attempting to retire slowly into Bataan Peninsula
and Corregidor.

We knew that the war as a whole would have to be fought and won by
a process of attrition against Japan itself. We knew all along
that, with our greater resources, we could ultimately out-build
Japan and ultimately overwhelm her on sea, and on land and in the
air. We knew that, to obtain our objective, many varieties of
operations would be necessary in areas other than the Philippines.

Now nothing that has occurred in the past two months has caused us
to revise this basic strategy of necessity–except that the defense
put up by General MacArthur has magnificently exceeded the previous
estimates of endurance, and he and his men are gaining eternal
glory therefore.

MacArthur’s army of Filipinos and Americans, and the forces of the
United Nations in China, in Burma and the Netherlands East Indies,
are all together fulfilling the same essential task. They are
making Japan pay an increasingly terrible price for her ambitious
attempts to seize control of the whole Asiatic world. Every
Japanese transport sunk off Java is one less transport that they
can use to carry reinforcements to their army opposing General
MacArthur in Luzon.

It has been said that Japanese gains in the Philippines were made
possible only by the success of their surprise attack on Pearl
Harbor. I tell you that this is not so.

Even if the attack had not been made your map will show that it
would have been a hopeless operation for us to send the Fleet to
the Philippines through thousands of miles of ocean, while all
those island bases were under the sole control of the Japanese.

The consequences of the attack on Pearl Harbor–serious as they
were–have been wildly exaggerated in other ways. And these
exaggerations come originally from Axis propagandists; but they
have been repeated, I regret to say, by Americans in and out of
public life.

You and I have the utmost contempt for Americans who, since Pearl
Harbor, have whispered or announced “off the record” that there was
no longer any Pacific Fleet–that the Fleet was all sunk or
destroyed on December 7th–that more than a thousand of our planes
were destroyed on the ground. They have suggested slyly that the
government has withheld the truth about casualties–that eleven or
twelve thousand men were killed at Pearl Harbor instead of the
figures as officially announced. They have even served the enemy
propagandists by spreading the incredible story that ship-loads of
bodies of our honored American dead were about to arrive in New
York harbor to be put into a common grave.

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