"For these men are lately drawn from the ways of
peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest.
They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and
good will among all Thy people. "
Franklin Roosevelt's Press Conference on D-Day
June 6, 1944
PRESIDENT: (as members of the White House staff filed in) My goodness! --
all smiles -- all smiles. Look at these two coming in! (Laughter)
JONATHAN DANIELS: You don't look like you're so solemn yourself, Mr.
PRESIDENT: No, I'm not so solemn, I suppose.... All right, bring in the
EARLY: One hundred and eighty-one of them waiting to come in. (The
correspondents came in and sat in a circle around the President's desk) . .
PRESIDENT: Well, I think this is a very happy conference today. Looking at
the rows of you coming in, you have the same expressions as the anonymous
and silent people this side of the desk who came in just before you- all
very little more news that I can tell you than what you all got in your
it's all right to use this, which has not been published yet. It came in a
dispatch from Eisenhower on the progress of the operations, as of about 12
o'clock today. The American naval losses were two destroyers and one L.S.T.
And the losses incident to the air landing were relatively light -- about
the air-borne troops, sir?
PRESIDENT: Well, air losses as a whole.
course, there are a great deal of reports coming in all the time, and it's
being given out over there just as fast as it possibly can. I think the
arrangements seem to be going all right. I think that's all that I have
over here. You are getting it just as fast as we are.
President, how do you feel about the progress of the invasion?
PRESIDENT: Up to schedule. And, as the Prime Minister said, "That's a
President, could you now tell us how closely held this secret was, or how
many people were in on the actual "know"?
PRESIDENT: I don't know. You would have to ask in London. Over here, there
were relatively few. When I say relatively few, of course, a great many
people in both the War Department and the Navy Department knew that we were
sending very large forces over to the other side. A very small number knew
the actual timing.
is what I refer to.
PRESIDENT: Yes- very few.
Q. On the
fingers of your hand, sir?
PRESIDENT: No, I wouldn't say that. It must have been more than that, but
not very much more.
President, how long have you known that this was the date?
PRESIDENT: I have known since -- (pausing) -- I am trying to think back --
I would say Teheran, which was last December, that the approximate date
would be the end of May or the very first few days of June. And I have
known the exact date just within the past few days.
knew last night, when I was doing that broadcast on Rome, that the troops
were actually in the vessels, on the way across.
Q. I was
wondering if you could explain what were the elements entering into the
consideration as far back as Teheran that would lead military leaders to be
able to choose a date which seems to be quite far ahead?
PRESIDENT: Did you ever cross the English Channel?
been across the English Channel.
PRESIDENT: You're very lucky.
Is it largely a question of -
PRESIDENT: (interposing) Roughness in the English Channel, which has always
been considered by passengers one of the greatest trials of life, to have
to cross the English Channel. And, of course, they have a record of the
wind and the sea in the English Channel; and one of the greatly desirable
and absolutely essential things is to have relatively small-boat weather,
as we call it, to get people actually onto the beach. And such weather
doesn't begin much before May.
was weather the factor, sir, in delaying from the end of May until the
first week in June?
PRESIDENT: Yes, yes. After the June date was set, there was only an actual
delay of one day.
President, was it timed to come after the fall of Rome?
PRESIDENT: No, because we didn't know when Rome was going to fall.
President, you said only one day after the time- was it postponed one day?
PRESIDENT: Yes, yes.
was the weather consideration again?
PRESIDENT: That was the consideration. But, of course, you have all seen-
and you will see increasingly -- the reasons why we didn't institute, at
the behest of politicians and others, a second front a year ago when they
began clamoring for it; because their plea for an immediate second front
last year reminds me a good deal of that famous editor and statesman who
said years ago, before most of you were born, during the Wilson
administration, "I am not worried about the defense of America. If we
are threatened, a million men will spring to arms overnight." And, of
course, somebody said, "What kind of arms? If you can't arm them, then
what's the good of their springing to something that 'ain't' there?"
will be shown that the preparations for this particular operation were far
bigger and far more difficult than anybody except the military could
possibly determine beforehand. We have done it just as fast as we possibly
could. The thing came up--of course, it enters into the general, the
highest strategy of the war--oh, back the first time that we held a
conference of the combined staffs, which was in late December, 1941, and
early January, 1942. Why, we took up the question of a second front--of
course we did. And we have been taking it up at every conference in the
meantime. But there were so many other things that had to be done, and so
little in the way of trained troops and munitions to do it with, we have
had to wait to do it the very first chance we got. Well, this particular
operation goes all the way back to December, 1941, and it came to a
head--the final determination-in Cairo and Teheran. I think it is safe to
President, isn't there another factor, that in the last six months it has
given you a chance to double the invasion force?
PRESIDENT: I would hate to say that categorically, because I haven't got
the exact figures; but, of course, it has made a great deal of difference.
We know that it has meant that a great many more divisions, and a great
many more of everything, especially landing craft, have been made possible.
We couldn't have done it six months ago, because we didn't have enough
landing craft ....
President, at Teheran you took this subject up, and as you know, there were
constant cries demanding a second front. Can you say whether or not Marshal
Stalin was aware of what was going on? Marshal Stalin, for instance, was
demanding a second front.
PRESIDENT: Not after Teheran.
PRESIDENT: Absolutely. Mr. Stalin's mind was entirely cleared up at
Teheran, when he understood the problem of going across the Channel; and
when this particular time was arrived at and agreed on at Teheran, he was
President, when you said that the time was fixed at Teheran approximately,
was the point of attack also fixed at the same time?
PRESIDENT: Oh, no. Oh, no.
did that develop?
PRESIDENT: That was a matter which was -- well, I can't tell you the exact
date, but it was always open to change. In other words, it may have been
half a dozen different places.
was a matter of strategy?
PRESIDENT: A matter of strategy, yes.
President, may there still be a half-dozen different places?
PRESIDENT: Gosh! What an awful question! You know they are all improper,
highly improper. (Laughter)
President, on this date and point of attack then, as I understand it, that
was all left up to the high command?
PRESIDENT: Oh, yes.
has been decided comparatively recently?
PRESIDENT: Decided by General Eisenhower.
PRESIDENT: Oh, yes- yes. It's a long, long coast from Spain to Norway, you
President, have there been any reports of cooperation by the French
underground in the invasion of-
PRESIDENT: (interposing) With the underground? No.
PRESIDENT: Nothing yet.
(interposing) Mr. President
PRESIDENT: (continuing) It seems probable--don't quote me in any way on
this, but in an area where there is fighting going on, the chances are
there are very few civilians in that area. We know, for example, that the
Germans have been pushing the French population further and further to the
rear. Whenever they got a chance they moved them out. So you can't get
cooperation out of stones and dirt. I don't believe there are many people
in there -- French people.
that off the record, Mr. President?
PRESIDENT: No, as long as you don't attribute it to me ....
President, some reports that have come in on the progress of operations did
say that the Germans were taken by surprise tactically.
PRESIDENT: I don't know -- I don't know. Perfectly frankly, I have no idea.
knew about the time and tide too, didn't they, Mr. President?
PRESIDENT: They must have known whether it was raining or not. (Laughter)
President, can you tell us anything about the impact of this invasion on
the home front -- the population here?
PRESIDENT: No. It has all been coming across the ocean. I haven't heard
anything except that the whole country is tremendously thrilled; and I
would say on that that I think that it is a very reasonable thrill, but
that I hope very much that there will not be again too much overconfidence,
because overconfidence destroys the war effort.
came in some time ago whom I have known for quite a while -- near home --
and he had come -- oh, this was several months ago, at the time we took
Sicily- and he had had a mighty good job out on the Pacific coast. I don't
know what he was -- a welder or something like that.
"What are you doing back home?"
"Oh," he said, "the war's over. I am going to
try and get a permanent job before everybody quits working on
walked out, quit his job -- and he was a good man, he was a munitions
worker -- because when we took Sicily he said to himself the war's over.
that's the thing we have got to avoid in this country. The war isn't over
by any means. This operation isn't over. You don't just land on a beach and
walk through--if you land successfully without breaking your leg -- walk
through to Berlin. And the quicker this country understands it the better.
Again, a question of learning a little geography.
President, could you tell us something of your hopes for the future on this
PRESIDENT: Well, you know what it is, it's win the war and win it a hundred
last question, Mr. President. How are you feeling?
PRESIDENT: I'm feeling fine. I'm a little sleepy. (Laughter)
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