The Fireside Chats of Franklin Delano Roosevelt

In order to do this, we shall be compelled to stop workers from
moving from one war job to another as a matter of personal
preference; to stop employers from stealing labor from each other;
to use older men, and handicapped people, and more women, and even
grown boys and girls, wherever possible and reasonable, to replace
men of military age and fitness; to train new personnel for
essential war work; and to stop the wastage of labor in all non-
essential activities.

There are many other things that we can do, and do immediately, to
help meet this manpower problem.

The school authorities in all the states should work out plans to
enable our high school students to take some time from their school
year, and to use their summer vacations, to help farmers raise and
harvest their crops, or to work somewhere in the war industries.
This does not mean closing schools and stopping education. It does
mean giving older students a better opportunity to contribute their
bit to the war effort. Such work will do no harm to the students.

People should do their work as near their homes as possible. We
cannot afford to transport a single worker into an area where there
is already a worker available to do the job.

In some communities, employers dislike to employ women. In others
they are reluctant to hire Negroes. In still others, older men are
not wanted. We can no longer afford to indulge such prejudices or
practices.

Every citizen wants to know what essential war work he can do the
best. He can get the answer by applying to the nearest United
States Employment Service office. There are four thousand five
hundred of these offices throughout the nation. They form the
corner grocery stores of our manpower system. This network of
employment offices is prepared to advise every citizen where his
skills and labors are needed most, and to refer him to an employer
who can utilize them to best advantage in the war effort.

Perhaps the most difficult phase of the manpower problem is the
scarcity of farm labor in many places. I have seen evidences of the
fact, however, that the people are trying to meet it as well as
possible.

In one community that I visited a perishable crop was harvested by
turning out the whole of the high school for three or four days.

And in another community of fruit growers the usual Japanese labor
was not available; but when the fruit ripened, the banker, the
butcher, the lawyer, the garage man, the druggist, the local
editor, and in fact every able-bodied man and woman in the town,
left their occupations and went out, gathered the fruit, and sent
it to market.

Every farmer in the land must realize fully that his production is
part of war production, and that he is regarded by the nation as
essential to victory. The American people expect him to keep his
production up, and even to increase it. We will use every effort to
help him to get labor; but, at the same time, he and the people of
his community must use ingenuity and cooperative effort to produce
crops, and livestock and dairy products.

It may be that all of our volunteer effort–however well
intentioned and well administered–will not suffice wholly to solve
this problem. In that case, we shall have to adopt new legislation.
And if this is necessary, I do not believe that the American people
will shrink from it.

In a sense, every American, because of the privilege of his
citizenship, is a part of the Selective Service.

The Nation owes a debt of gratitude to the Selective Service
boards. The successful operation of the Selective Service System
and the way it has been accepted by the great mass of our citizens
give us confidence that if necessary, the same principle could be
used to solve any manpower problem.

And I want to say also a word of praise and thanks to the more than
ten million people, all over the country, who have volunteered for
the work of civilian defense–and who are working hard at it. They
are displaying unselfish devotion in the patient performance of
their often tiresome and always anonymous tasks. In doing this
important neighborly work they are helping to fortify our national
unity and our real understanding of the fact that we are all
involved in this war.

Naturally, on my trip I was most interested in watching the
training of our fighting forces.

All of our combat units that go overseas must consist of young,
strong men who have had thorough training. An Army division that
has an average age of twenty-three or twenty-four is a better
fighting unit than one which has an average age of thirty-three or
thirty-four. The more of such troops we have in the field, the
sooner the war will be won, and the smaller will be the cost in
casualties.

Therefore, I believe that it will be necessary to lower the present
minimum age limit for Selective Service from twenty years down to
eighteen. We have learned how inevitable that is–and how important
to the speeding up of victory.

I can very thoroughly understand the feelings of all parents whose
sons have entered our armed forces. I have an appreciation of that
feeling and so has my wife.

I want every father and every mother who has a son in the service
to know–again, from what I have seen with my own eyes–that the
men in the Army, Navy and Marine Corps are receiving today the best
possible training, equipment and medical care. And we will never
fail to provide for the spiritual needs of our officers and men
under the Chaplains of our armed services.

Good training will save many, many lives in battle. The highest
rate of casualties is always suffered by units comprised of
inadequately trained men.

We can be sure that the combat units of our Army and Navy are well
manned, well equipped, and well trained. Their effectiveness in
action will depend upon the quality of their leadership, and upon
the wisdom of the strategic plans on which all military operations
are based.

I can say one thing about these plans of ours: They are not being
decided by the typewriter strategists who expound their views on
the radio or in the press.

One of the greatest of American soldiers, Robert E. Lee, once
remarked on the tragic fact that in the war of his day all of the
best generals were apparently working on newspapers instead of in
the Army. And that seems to be true in all wars.

The trouble with the typewriter strategists is that while they may
be full of bright ideas, they are not in possession of much
information about the facts or problems of military operations.

We, therefore, will continue to leave the plans for this war to the
military leaders.

The military and naval plans of the United States are made by the
Joint Staff of the Army and Navy which is constantly in session in
Washington. The Chiefs of this Staff are Admiral Leahy, General
Marshall, Admiral King and General Arnold. They meet and confer
regularly with representatives of the British Joint Staff, and with
representatives of Russia, China, the Netherlands, Poland, Norway,
the British Dominions and other nations working in the common
cause.

Since this unity of operations was put into effect last January,
there has been a very substantial agreement between these planners,
all of whom are trained in the profession of arms–air, sea and
land–from their early years. As Commander-in-Chief I have at all
times also been in substantial agreement.

As I have said before, many major decisions of strategy have been
made. One of them–on which we have all agreed–relates to the
necessity of diverting enemy forces from Russia and China to other
theaters of war by new offensives against Germany and Japan. An
announcement of how these offensives are to be launched, and when,
and where, cannot be broadcast over the radio at this time.

We are celebrating today the exploit of a bold and adventurous
Italian–Christopher Columbus–who with the aid of Spain opened up
a new world where freedom and tolerance and respect for human
rights and dignity provided an asylum for the oppressed of the Old
World.

Today, the sons of the New World are fighting in lands far distant
from their own America. They are fighting to save for all mankind,
including ourselves, the principles which have flourished in this
new world of freedom.

We are mindful of the countless millions of people whose future
liberty and whose very lives depend upon permanent victory for the
United Nations.

There are a few people in this country who, when the collapse of
the Axis begins, will tell our people that we are safe once more;
that we can tell the rest of the world to “stew in its own juice”;
that never again will we help to pull “the other fellow’s chestnuts
from the fire”; that the future of civilization can jolly well take
care of itself insofar as we are concerned.

But it is useless to win battles if the cause for which we fight
these battles is lost. It is useless to win a war unless it stays
won.

We, therefore, fight for the restoration and perpetuation of faith
and hope and peace throughout the world.

The objective of today is clear and realistic. It is to destroy
completely the military power of Germany, Italy and Japan to such
good purpose that their threat against us and all the other United
Nations cannot be revived a generation hence.

We are united in seeking the kind of victory that will guarantee
that our grandchildren can grow and, under God, may live their
lives, free from the constant threat of invasion, destruction,
slavery and violent death.

May 2, 1943.

My Fellow Americans:

I am speaking tonight to the American people, and in particular to
those of our citizens who are coal miners.

Tonight this country faces a serious crisis. We are engaged in a
war on the successful outcome of which will depend the whole future
of our country.

This war has reached a new critical phase. After the years that we
have spent in preparation, we have moved into active and continuing
battle with our enemies. We are pouring into the world-wide
conflict everything that we have–our young men, and the vast
resources of our nation.

I have just returned from a two weeks’ tour of inspection on which
I saw our men being trained and our war materials made. My trip
took me through twenty states. I saw thousands of workers on the
production line, making airplanes, and guns and ammunition.

Everywhere I found great eagerness to get on with the war. Men and
women are working long hours at difficult jobs and living under
difficult conditions without complaint.

Along thousands of miles of track I saw countless acres of newly
ploughed fields. The farmers of this country are planting the crops
that are needed to feed our armed forces, our civilian population
and our Allies. Those crops will be harvested.

On my trip, I saw hundreds of thousands of soldiers. Young men who
were green recruits last autumn have matured into self-assured and
hardened fighting men. They are in splendid physical condition.
They are mastering the superior weapons that we are pouring out of
our factories.

The American people have accomplished a miracle.

However, all of our massed effort is none too great to meet the
demands of this war. We shall need everything that we have and
everything that our Allies have to defeat the Nazis and the
Fascists in the coming battles on the continent of Europe, and the
Japanese on the continent of Asia and in the islands of the
Pacific.

This tremendous forward movement of the United States and the
United Nations cannot be stopped by our enemies.

And equally, it must not be hampered by any one individual or by
the leaders of any one group here back home.

I want to make it clear that every American coal miner who has
stopped mining coal–no matter how sincere his motives, no matter
how legitimate he may believe his grievances to be–every idle
miner directly and individually is obstructing our war effort. We
have not yet won this war. We will win this war only as we produce
and deliver our total American effort on the high seas and on the
battle fronts. And that requires unrelenting, uninterrupted effort
here on the home front.

A stopping of the coal supply, even for a short time, would involve
a gamble with the lives of American soldiers and sailors and the
future security of our whole people. It would involve an
unwarranted, unnecessary and terribly dangerous gamble with our
chances for victory.

Therefore, I say to all miners–and to all Americans everywhere, at
home and abroad–the production of coal will not be stopped.

Tonight, I am speaking to the essential patriotism of the miners,
and to the patriotism of their wives and children. And I am going
to state the true facts of this case as simply and as plainly as I
know how.

After the attack at Pearl Harbor, the three great labor
organizations–the American Federation of Labor, the Congress of
Industrial Organizations, and the Railroad Brotherhoods–gave the
positive assurance that there would be no strikes as long as the
war lasted. And the President of the United Mine workers of America
was a party to that assurance.

That pledge was applauded throughout the country. It was a forcible
means of telling the world that we Americans–135,000,000 of us–
are united in our determination to fight this total war with our
total will and our total power.

At the request of employers and of organized labor–including the
United Mine Workers–the War Labor Board was set up for settling
any disputes which could not be adjusted through collective
bargaining. The War Labor Board is a tribunal on which workers,
employers and the general public are equally represented.

In the present coal crisis, conciliation and mediation were tried
unsuccessfully.

In accordance with the law, the case was then certified to the War
Labor Board, the agency created for this express purpose with the
approval of organized labor. The members of the Board followed the
usual practice which has proved successful in other disputes.
Acting promptly, they undertook to get all the facts of this case
from both the miners and the operators.

The national officers of the United Mine Workers, however, declined
to have anything to do with the fact-finding of the War Labor
Board. The only excuse that they offer is that the War Labor Board
is prejudiced.

The War Labor Board has been and is ready to give this case a fair
and impartial hearing. And I have given my assurance that if any
adjustment of wages is made by the Board, it will be made
retroactive to April first. But the national officers of the United
Mine Workers refused to participate in the hearing, when asked to
do so last Monday.

On Wednesday of this past week, while the Board was proceeding with
the case, stoppages began to occur in some mines. On Thursday
morning I telegraphed to the officers of the United Mine Workers
asking that the miners continue mining coal on Saturday morning.
However, a general strike throughout the industry became effective
on Friday night.

The responsibility for the crisis that we now face rests squarely
on these national officers of the United Mine Workers, and not on
the government of the United States. But the consequences of this
arbitrary action threaten all of us everywhere.

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