Remarks by President Roosevelt on transfer of destroyer escort Senegalais to French
February 12, 1944
On behalf of the American people, I transfer to the Navy of France this warship – built by American hands in an American Navy yard. This is one of a long line of events symbolizing the ancient friendship between France and the United States. It emphasizes the determination of this nation, and of all of the United Nations, to drive from the soil of France the Nazi invaders who today swagger down the Champs-Élysées in Paris. This one transfer under the Lend-Lease Law is typical of the thousands of transfers of American-made weapons of war which have been made to our fighting allies. They are bringing closer the day of inevitable victory – victory over our enemies on all the fronts all over the world.
No day could be more appropriate for this ceremony than the anniversary we now celebrate of the birth of that illustrious American who, in his time, struck such mighty blows for the liberty and dignity of the human race – Abraham Lincoln.
In 1940, the Nazi invaders overran France. Although we were still on the sidelines, we in the United States realized the horror of that catastrophe and the grave menace it carried to all the civilized world.
The land of France fell to the enemy, but not so the ships of France. Today her fleet still proudly flies the tricolor in battle against our common enemy. At Nettuno and Anzio in Italy, French ships were among those which bombarded the German coastal installations. In a strategic sector of the Allied line now pushing toward Rome are French troops. Yes, the Nazis on the Italian front know only too well that France is not out of this war.
And the time will soon come when the Nazis in France will learn from millions of brave Frenchmen now underground that the people of France, also, are not at all out of this war.
In a sense, this transaction today can be regarded not only as Lend-Lease, it might even be regarded as reverse Lend-Lease. For in the early days of our national history this situation was reversed. At that time, instead of France receiving an American-made ship, the young nation of the United States was happy to receive a ship made in France by Frenchmen – the Bonhomme Richard – a ship made illustrious under the command of John Paul Jones, in the days of our Navy’s infancy. And it is well to remember that that ship was named in honor of our Minister to France, Benjamin Franklin – that wise old philosopher who was the father of close friendship between France and the United States.
This vessel, which today we are turning over to the people of France, will somewhere, sometime, engage the enemy. She is a part of the growing strength of the French Navy. She is a new class – a destroyer escort – speedy and dangerous. I want to tell you something else about her – that there are more where she came from. Under our Lend-Lease agreement, she is not the only ship that you will receive from us – we are building others for your sailors to man.
I hope that the Nazis and the Japs are listening to us today as this transfer is made. For it will help them better to understand the spirit and determination which bind together all of the fighting fleets and armies of the United Nations on the road to ultimate victory.
VAdm. Fenard, you are the senior officer of the French Navy, and you are the chief of the French Naval Mission here. It has been your duty to work with us in outfitting your fleet. My years of friendship with officers of the French Navy make this a particularly memorable occasion to me, personally. To you, we turn over this ship – the Senegalais. We recall with pleasure that it was a French ship which fired the first salute ever rendered to the Stars and Stripes flying from a United States Man-of-War. We remember that salute today – and symbolically we return it.
Good luck, Senegalais and good hunting.