Radio Address by President Roosevelt
August 12, 1944, 5:00 p.m. PWT
Delivered at Puget Sound Navy Yard, Bremerton, Washington
Ladies and gentlemen, officers and men of the Puget Sound Navy Yard:
I am glad to be back here in well-known surroundings, for, as you know, I have been coming here off and on ever since I was Assistant Secretary of the Navy in 1913, and that’s over thirty years ago.
It’s nearly about four weeks ago since I left Washington, but, of course, at all times I have been in close touch with the work there and also in daily communication with our forces in the European and Far Eastern theaters of war.
Since my visit here at Bremerton nearly two years ago, I have been happy at all times to know of the splendid progress that is being maintained – kept up – both here and at many other places on the coast, progress in turning out ships and planes and munitions of almost every other kind and in the training of men and women for all of the Armed Forces.
So I have thought that you would be interested in an informal summary of the trip I have just taken to Hawaii and from there to the Aleutian Islands and Alaska, from which, when I get across the Sound, I am about to step foot on the shore of the continental United States again.
When I got to San Diego three weeks ago, I spent three days before going on shipboard, and I had the opportunity at the southern end of the Pacific Coast to visit many of the patients in the large hospitals there, a large number of these patients having just come back from the fighting in the Marshall Islands and the Marianas.
And I also witnessed a large practice landing operation on the beaches of Southern California, between Los Angeles and San Diego.
It’s a kind of warfare that has been most successfully developed by us during the past two years. It’s a warfare of a wholly new type calling for all kinds of new equipment and new training.
And I think I can safely say that no other nation in the world has worked it out as successfully as we have – the way we have shown it within the past few weeks in the capture of Saipan and Tinian and the recapturing of Guam, an effort which is resulting in new threats against Japan itself and against all of their operations in the Southwest Pacific.
You know, it takes a personal observation – you’ve got to see things with your own eyes, such as I saw from a high bluff right on the coast overlooking the shore below – to understand how well the application of experience in war is being carried out.
The landing craft, a wholly new type of ship, one we didn’t dream of two years and a half ago, came to the beach from the transports that were lying offshore under cover of a fog.
They came on in waves, the Marines and the infantry getting the first toehold, followed by other waves and then by all manner of equipment, ammunition and wire and tanks, all protected by air coverage and preceded theoretically – because I wouldn’t be here today if it was real – by a devastating bombardment from heavy ships lying offshore.
When the beachhead was obtained to a depth of a mile or two, there followed the unloading of great quantities of supplies and stores of all kinds, including tanks and trucks and jeeps.
Timing – that’s why we have to practice this – timing is of the utmost importance. Any operation of this kind has to be carried out click-click-click, right on schedule, together with instantaneous communication – both the radio, the written kind, and the voice from the shore to the ships and to the planes themselves.
Here was demonstrated the perfect cooperation between all the services – Army and Navy and Marines, and to this should be added the teamwork for the immediate care of the wounded – in the case I saw it was the theoretically wounded – and the quick transfer of them back to the hospital ships.
We in our comfortable homes, I think, ought to realize more than we do that to all troops and Marines who are to conduct a new landing expedition on some far-distant island in the Pacific, as well as on the coast of France, this amphibious training is being given at a number of places in the United States before the expedition ever starts.
Hundreds of instructors are required, nearly all men who have participated in actual combat operations beforehand, and many of these instructors, most of them, indeed, will, of course, accompany the troops in the actual operation of the future landings.
The cruiser, which is on her way to another place, the cruiser on which I went from San Diego to Honolulu, is one of a number of what we call post-treaty cruisers, much larger, more powerful and faster than the prewar cruisers, which were limited by the old treaties to 10,000 tons.
This particular ship on which I voyaged joined the Pacific Fleet less than a year ago in the Western and Southwestern Pacific. Hers is a magnificent record. Her skipper and crew have brought her through all of these many offensive missions unscathed, fifteen of them, fifteen battles.
And because of the experience that she has gained and that they have gained she is an even more powerful weapon than she was the day that she joined the fleet.
Well, the voyage was uneventful and we arrived at Pearl Harbor on July 26. At this moment may I just add a word of appreciation to the press and the radio of our country. You know we have a voluntary censorship, purely voluntary. I want to thank them for the protection and the security which they gave to me and to my party at a time on this trip when nearly all the time I was within easy reach of enemy action.
The press associations and some of the newspapers actually refused to publish the facts which they got from local friends who had heard of my arrival and my trip around the Hawaiian Islands – or from local friends whose sons out there had written home about it – and the newspapers didn’t print it. That is a modern marvel.
Well, I got there on July 26 and what an amazing change since my visit there ten years ago: as big and bigger a change than a comparison between the Puget Sound Navy Yard of today with what this was ten years ago.
But out there – the change! At that time Pearl Harbor had maintained a steady growth as this yard has, so that today it is capable of making repairs to the heaviest ships, and employs a force nearly ten times as great as it did then. And, incidentally, very many of that force came straight there during the past two years and a half from the West Coast.
All of the battleships and smaller craft that were sunk or damaged in the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, have been raised with the exception of the Arizona. In her case, because of the explosion in her forward magazine, salvage was impossible. But again, in her case, her main battery of heavy guns was removed and remounted and now forms a part of the coastal defenses on the island of Oahu.
All of the other ships are afloat, most of them having been put back into commission here at Puget Sound, and nobody will ever forget that.
And, incidentally, the ships that you put back into commission, what you did to them in the process, has made of them vastly more powerful ships, better ships, with more gun power than they had before they were sunk.
And that’s one thing that I’ll never forget, the way that sunken fleet was set afloat again and has gone over the world in actually carrying out the plans of this war.
They’ve been in service, they’ve been in action, in the Pacific and elsewhere. Indeed, one of them, I think it is the Nevada, took part in the bombardment of the coast of Normandy during and after the landing operations there on June 6 this year.
I spent three days on the island of Oahu, and everywhere, as at the Navy Yard, the war activities have multiplied almost beyond belief.
On the afternoon of my arrival my old friend Gen. Douglas MacArthur arrived by air from New Guinea and we began a series of extremely interesting and useful conferences, accompanied by Adm. Nimitz and by my own Chief of Staff, Adm. Leahy, who stands beside me now, and Gen. Richardson, the commanding general of the Army forces in the Hawaiian area, and Adm. Halsey, commander of the Third Fleet.
In the three days we were there we talked about Pacific problems and the best methods of conducting the Pacific campaign in the days to come. These discussions developed complete accord both in the understanding of the problem that confronts us and in the opinion as to the best methods for its solution.
All of us must bear in mind the enormous size of the Pacific Ocean, the Pacific area, keeping a mental map of the world constantly in mind. The distances are greater there than anywhere else on earth.
In the old days the Hawaiian Islands used to be considered an outpost. We were not allowed to fortify Guam, nor did we fortify Wake, or Midway or Samoa.
Today the Hawaiian Islands are no longer a mere outpost. They constitute a major base from which, and from the Pacific Coast, frontline operations are being conducted twice as far away as the distance between the coast and Hawaii itself.
The Hawaiian Islands have helped to make possible the victories at Guadalcanal and New Guinea and the Marshalls and the Marianas. The Islands will make possible future operations in China – will make possible the recapture and independence of the Philippines and make possible the carrying of war into the home islands of Japan itself and their capital city of Tokyo.
In a few minutes I think it will interest you if you will let me say a few additional words about the future of the Pacific.
But first, during the rest of my stay in Hawaii, I visited the many activities, including the great airfields, the hospitals, and an ambulance plane at Hickam Field which had just flown in with wounded men from Saipan. I reviewed the 7th Division, which has made such a splendid record.
I saw a large Army group that was going through a complete course in jungle warfare – they have to do it there because we haven’t got any jungles around here – jungle warfare, an art which we have developed so expertly that our troops are more than a match in the jungle for any Japanese whom we have met yet. And I am proud of all of this basic training and the final training of our sons – all that they’re getting both at home and when they get near the front.
After rejoining our ship, we headed for the Aleutian Islands. I had read about them – heard about them – but I’d never been there before.
Arriving four days later at Adak, which is one of the more westerly islands of the group, there again I found intense activity at what might be called a nearly completed advance base. It was from there that a great part of the expeditions for the recapture of Attu and Kiska started. Adak two years ago was a bleak and practically uninhabited spot which with the other Aleutian Islands seemed relatively unimportant in the plans for the security of our own continent.
You here can well realize the commotion that followed the Japanese occupation of Attu and Kiska. You’ve dreamt of Japanese marching up the streets of Bremerton or Seattle tomorrow morning. You may have thought that the Chiefs of Staff in Washington were not paying enough attention to the threat against Alaska and the coast. We realized, of course, that such a Japanese threat could become serious if it was unopposed. But we knew also that Japan did not have the naval and air power to carry the threat into effect without greater resources and a longer time. to carry it out.
Preparation to throw the Japanese from their toehold, very skimpy toehold, had been laid even before the Japs got there, and the rest of the story you know.
It took great preparations and heavy fighting to eject them from Attu and by the time the great expedition to recapture Kiska got there the Japanese had decided that discretion was the better part of valor. They decided that retirement and retreat was better for them than hari-kari, and so they abandoned the Aleutians.
The climate at Adak is not the most inviting in the world, but I want to say a word of appreciation to the thousands of officers and men of all the services who have built up this base and other bases, many other bases, in the extreme northwest of the American continent, built them up in such a short time to a point where the people of our Pacific Coast, the people of British Columbia and of Alaska, can feel certain that we are safe against Japanese invasion on any large scale.
We were delayed by fog and rain as almost everybody is up in those parts; we had to give up putting in at Dutch Harbor but we did stop at Kodiak, a large island off the end of the Alaskan Peninsula. Here, also, the three services completed a very excellent, though smaller, base. That was the first little town really that we built in those parts, and there’s actually a small community there, the first that we saw in Alaskan waters and the first trees that we saw, because the outer Aleutians just don’t have trees. That town and those trees made me think of the coasts of Maine and Newfoundland.
We were told that a number of officers and men at this place and other posts are considering settling in Alaska after the war is over. I do hope that this is so because the development of Alaska has only been scratched and it is still the country of the pioneers, and in one sense every American is a descendant of pioneers.
Only a small part of Alaska’s resources have been explored and there is, of course, an abundance of fish and game and timber, together with great possibilities for agriculture. I could not help remembering that the climate and the crops and other resources are not essentially different from northern Europe-Norway, Sweden, Finland – for the people of these countries in spite of the cold and in winter darkness have brought their civilizations to a very high and very prosperous level. On my return to Washington, I am going to set up a study of Alaska and the Aleutian Islands as a place to which many veterans of this war, especially those who do not have strong home roots, can go to become pioneers. Alaska is a land with a very small population, but I am convinced that it has great opportunities for those who are willing to work and to help build up all kinds of new things in new lands.
So this trip has given me a chance to talk over the social and economic future of the Hawaiian group with Governor Stainback and the future of the people of Alaska with Governor Gruening. By the way, he asked me to assure you that the tan which I have acquired in Alaska in a week has come from the bright sunlight of Alaska. Near Juneau one afternoon, when we were nearly fogged out, I played hooky for three hours. I went fishing and I caught one halibut and one flounder.
Speaking again of the future, of the future of the defense of the Pacific and the use of its strong points in order to prevent attacks against us:
You who live in the Pacific Northwest have realized that a line for sea and air navigation following the Great Circle course from Puget Sound to Siberia and China passes very close to the Alaskan coast and thence westward along the line of the Aleutian Islands.
From the point of view of national defense, therefore, it is essential that our control of this route shall be undisputed. Everybody in Siberia and China knows that we have no ambition to acquire land on the Asiatic continent.
We as a people are utterly opposed to aggression and sneak attacks. But we as a people are insistent that other nations must not under any circumstances through the foreseeable future commit such attacks against the United States. Therefore, it is essential that we be fully prepared to prevent them for all time to come.
The word and the honor of Japan cannot be trusted. That is a simple statement from the military and naval and air point of view. But with the end of a Japanese threat, soon we hope, there is an excellent outlook for a permanent peace in the whole of the Pacific area.
It is therefore natural and proper for us to think of the economic and the commercial future. It is logical that we should foresee a great interchange of commerce between our shores and those of Siberia and China.
And in this commercial development Alaska and the Aleutian Islands become automatic stepping stones for trade, both by water and by cargo planes. And this means the automatic development of transportation on the way there, including the Puget Sound area.
It is as long as ten years, I think, that I talked with Mr. Mackenzie King, Prime Minister of Canada, in regard to the development of highways, in regard to air routes and even a railroad via the Northwest and British Columbia and the Yukon. Great interest in both nations was aroused but it took the war to get quick action.
Today the Alcan Highway is practically completed and an air route to Fairbanks enables us to deliver thousands of planes to our ally Russia by way of Alaska and Bering Straits and Siberia. These planes are an important factor in the brilliant and brave advance of the Russian armies on their march to Berlin. And I might observe also that our close relations, our true friendship with Canada during these years has proved to be an illustrious example of working hand in hand with your neighbor for the general good.
South of this northern route, Alaska and the Aleutians, the use of other island groups must also be thought of for defense and for commerce in getting to and from the Asiatic and the American continents. We understand at last the importance of the Hawaiian Islands. It is important that we have other bases, forward bases nearer to Japan than Hawaii lies.
The same thing, we have to remember, holds true in regard to the defense of all the other American Republics, twenty others, from Mexico down past the Panama Canal and all the way down to Chile. There are hundreds of islands in the South Pacific that bear the same relation to South America and Central America and the Panama Canal as Hawaii bears to North America.
These islands are mostly in the possession of the British Empire and the French. They are important commercially just as they are from the defense point of view because they lead to New Zealand, and Australia, and the Dutch islands, and the Southern Philippines. With all these places we undoubtedly are going to have a growing trade.
We have no desire to ask for any possessions of the United Nations. But the United Nations who are working so well with us in the winning of the war will, I am confident, be glad to join us in protection against aggression and in machinery to prevent aggression. With them and with their help I am sure that we can agree completely so that Central and South America will be as safe against attack – attack from the South Pacific – as North America is going to be very soon from the North Pacific as well.
The self-interest of our allies is going to be affected by fair and friendly collaboration with us. They too will gain in national security. They will gain economically. The destinies of the peoples of the whole Pacific will for many years be entwined with our own destiny. Already there is stirring among hundreds of millions of them a desire for the right to work out their own destinies and they show no evidence in this Pacific area to overrun the earth – with one exception.
That exception is and has been for many, many years that of Japan and the Japanese people-because whether or not the people of Japan itself know and approve of what their war lords and their home lords have done for nearly a century, the fact remains that they seem to be giving hearty approval to the Japanese policy of acquisition of their neighbors and their neighbors’ lands and a military and economic control of as many other nations as they can lay their hands on.
It is an unfortunate fact that other nations cannot trust Japan. It is an unfortunate fact that years of proof must pass by before we can trust Japan and before we can classify Japan as a member of the society of Nations which seeks permanent peace and whose word we can take.
In removing the future menace of Japan to us and to our continent we are holding out the hope that other people in the Far East can be freed from the same threat.
The people of the Philippines never have wished and never will wish to be slaves of Japan. Of the people of Korea, that ancient kingdom which was overrun by the Japanese half a century ago, the same is true. The peoples of Manchuria and all the rest of China feel the same.
The same thing is true of the peoples of Indochina and Siam, the peoples of Java, and even the most primitive peoples of New Guinea and the so-called mandated islands from which I am glad to say we are in the splendid process of throwing the Japs out.
I am glad to have the opportunity of taking this short trip, first, for the conferences with Gen. MacArthur and Adm. Nimitz and, second, for the first-hand view of certain bases that are of vital importance to the ending of the war and to the prevention in the future of any similar attack.
More than a million of our troops are today overseas in the Pacific. The war is well in hand in this vast area, but I cannot tell you, if I knew, when the war will be over, either in Europe or in the Far East or the war against Japan itself.
It will be over sooner if the people of this country will maintain the making of the necessary supplies of ships and planes and all the things that go with them. By so doing we shall hasten the day of the peace. By so doing we will save our own pocketbooks and those of our children. And by so doing we will stand a better chance of substantial unity not only at home but among the United Nations in laying so securely what we all want, the foundation of a lasting peace.