Knox: U.S. warships to convoy Lend-Lease supply ships (9-15-41)

The Pittsburgh Press (September 15, 1941)

Knox announces –
Navy to provide new protection on Iceland route

Fighting for vital principle of sea freedom, Secretary tell Legionnaires

By William R. Smith, United Press staff writer

Milwaukee, Sept. 15 –
Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox announced today that U.S. naval forces, beginning tomorrow, “will provide protection as adequate as we can make it” for ships carrying Lend-lease supplies between the United States and the waters around Iceland.

Mr. Knox told the national convention of the American Legion:

From its beginnings, the American Navy has fought for freedom of the seas.

It is fighting for that vital principle now, and the officers and men who are making this gallant fight to uphold this principle in the far reaches of the North Atlantic and elsewhere have the unquestioned and loyal support of a substantially unanimous American public.

Mr. Knox said President Roosevelt’s address Thursday night was America’s answer to Germany’s attempt to torpedo the destroyer Greer in the North Atlantic last week.

Mr. Roosevelt said the “shoot-on-sight” policy was effective immediately; Col. Knox did not comment in his speech on the delay but he said informally:

…it takes a little time to arrange such things.

The President, Mr. Knox said:

…announced to the world that come what may, American aid to Britain was to be delivered where it could be used to help in the fight against Hitler in maximum degree.

He said:

Beginning tomorrow, the American Navy will provide protection as adequate as we can make it for ships of every flag carrying Lend-aid supplies between the American continent and the waters adjacent to Iceland.

These ships are ordered to capture or destroy by every means at their disposal, Axis-controlled submarines or surface raiders encountered in these waters. That is our answer to Mr. Hitler’s declaration that he will try to sink every ship his vessels encounter on the routes leading from the United States to British ports.

Mr. Knox said President Roosevelt had exercised the same constitutional power that previously had been used by President John Adams to protect shipping in the Caribbean Sea, by President Thomas Jefferson to destroy the corsairs in the Mediterranean and by President Andrew Jackson to protect American ships from Malayan pirates.

Discussing the nation’s defense production program, Secretary Knox said no nation in history:

…has ever equalled the record in productivity that we have made in the last year.

Despite the harping of all-informed critics and the demagoguery of those who seek to make political capital out of our weaknesses and our shortcomings, a tremendous job has been done in an unbelievably short time.

Mr. Knox called on the Legion to combat two tendencies which he said had brought disaster to other nations. Those were, he said, a refusal to believe in the reality of danger and the belief that the Axis sweep could be limited by a policy of appeasement.

He said no nation could endure if uit regarded the avoidance of war as “the highest good” whatever the price.

He said:

This does not mean that wwe must not exhaust every honorable means to foster and promote peace, but we must be sure that we seek and enjoy and righteous peace for those who put peace before righteousness and justice and liberty, do infinite harm and always fail of the purpose ultimately.

We must remember that it is only the strong who can promote and preserve a righteous peace.

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