FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT
December 29, 1940
My friends: This is not a fireside chat on war. It is
a talk on national security; because the nub of the whole
purpose of your President is to keep you now, and your
children later, and your grandchildren much later, out
of a last-ditch war for the preservation of American independence
and all of the things that American independence means
to you and to me and to ours.
Tonight, in the presence of a world crisis, my mind goes
back eight years to a night in the midst of a domestic
crisis. It was a time when the wheels of American industry
were grinding to a full stop, when the whole banking system
of our country had ceased to function.
I well remember that while I sat in my study in the White
House, preparing to talk with the people of the United
States, I had before my eyes the picture of all those Americans
with whom I was talking. I saw the workmen in the mills,
the mines, the factories; the girl behind the counter the
small shopkeeper; the farmer doing his Spring plowing;
the widows and the old men wondering about their life's
savings. I tried to convey to the great mass of American
people what the banking crisis meant to them in their daily
Tonight I want to do the same thing, with the same people,
in this new crisis which faces America.
We met the issue of 1933 with courage and realism. We
face this new crisis- this new threat to the security of
our nation-with the same courage and realism. Never before
since Jamestown and Plymouth Rock has our American civilization
been in such danger as now.
For on September 27, 1940-this year-by an agreement signed
in Berlin. three powerful nations, two in Europe and one
in Asia, joined themselves together in the threat that
if the United States of America interfered with or blocked
the expansion program of these three nations-a program
aimed at world control-they would unite in ultimate action
against the United States.
The Nazi masters of
Germany have made it clear that they intend not only
to dominate all life and thought in their own country,
but also to enslave the whole of Europe, and then to
use the resources of Europe to dominate the rest of the
world. It was only three weeks ago that their leader
stated this: "There are two worlds that stand opposed
to each other." And then in defiant reply to his opponents
he said this: "Others are correct when they say: 'With
this world we cannot ever reconcile ourselves.' . . . I
can beat any other power in the world." So said the
leader of the Nazis.
In other words, the Axis not merely admits but the Axis
proclaims that there can be no ultimate peace between their
philosophy-their philosophy of government- and our philosophy
In view of the nature of this undeniable threat, it can
be asserted, properly and categorically, that the United
States has no right or reason to encourage talk of peace
until the day shall come when there is a clear intention
on the part of the aggressor nations to abandon all thought
of dominating or conquering the world.
At this moment the forces of the States that are leagued
against all peoples who live in freedom are being held
away from our shores. The Germans and the Italians are
being blocked on the other side of the Atlantic by the
British and by the Greeks, and by thousands of soldiers
and sailors who were able to escape from subjugated countries.
In Asia the Japanese are being engaged by the Chinese nation
in another great defense.
In the Pacific Ocean is our fleet.
Some of our people like to believe that wars in Europe
and in Asia are of no concern to us. But it is a matter
of most vital concern to us that European and Asiatic war-makers
should not gain control of the oceans which lead to this
One hundred and seventeen
years ago the Monroe Doctrine was conceived by our government
as a measure of defense in the face of a threat against
this hemisphere by an alliance in Continental Europe.
Thereafter, we stood guard in the Atlantic, with the
British as neighbors. There was no treaty. There was
no "unwritten agreement."
And yet there was the feeling, proven correct by history,
that we as neighbors could settle any disputes in peaceful
fashion. And the fact is that during the whole of this
time the Western Hemisphere has remained free from aggression
from Europe or from Asia.
Does any one seriously believe that we need to fear attack
anywhere in the Americas while a free Britain remains our
most powerful naval neighbor in the Atlantic? And does
any one seriously believe, on the other hand, that we could
rest easy if the Axis powers were our neighbors there?
If Great Britain goes down, the Axis powers will control
the Continents of Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, and
the high seas-and they will be in a position to bring enormous
military and naval resources against this hemisphere. It
is no exaggeration to say that all of us in all the Americas
would be living at the point of a gun-a gun loaded with
explosive bullets, economic as well as military.
We should enter upon a new and terrible era in which the
whole world, our hemisphere included, would be run by threats
of brute force. And to survive in such a world, we would
have to convert ourselves permanently into a militaristic
power on the basis of war economy.
Some of us like to believe that even if Britain falls,
we are still safe, because of the broad expanse of the
Atlantic and of the Pacific.
But the width of those oceans is not what it was in the
days of clipper ships. At one point between Africa and
Brazil the distance is less than it is from Washington
to Denver, Colorado, five hours for the latest type of
bomber. And at the north end of the Pacific Ocean, America
and Asia almost touch each other. Why, even today we have
planes that could fly from the British Isles to New England
and back again without refueling. And remember that the
range of the modern bomber is ever being increased.
During the past week
many people in all parts of the nation have told me what
they wanted me to say tonight. Almost all of them expressed
a courageous desire to hear the plain truth about the
gravity of the situation. One telegram, however, expressed
the attitude of the small minority who want to see no
evil and hear no evil, even though they know in their
hearts that evil exists. That telegram begged me not
to tell again of the ease with which our American cities
could be bombed by any hostile power which had gained
bases in this Western Hemisphere. The gist of that telegram
was: "Please, Mr. President, don't frighten us by
telling us the facts." Frankly and definitely there
is danger ahead-danger against which we must prepare. But
we well know that we cannot escape danger, or the fear
of danger, by crawling into bed and pulling the covers
over our heads.
Some nations of Europe were bound by solemn nonintervention
pacts with Germany. Other nations were assured by Germany
that they need never fear invasion. Nonintervention pact
or not, the fact remains that they were attacked, overrun,
thrown into modern slavery at an hour's notice or even
without any notice at all.
As an exiled leader
of one of these nations said to me the other day, "the notice was a minus quantity. It
was given to my government two hours after German troops
had poured into my country in a hundred places." The
fate of these nations tells us what it means to live at
the point of a Nazi gun.
The Nazis have justified
such actions by various pious frauds. One of these frauds
is the claim that they are occupying a nation for the
purpose of "restoring order." Another
is that they are occupying or controlling a nation on the
excuse that they are "protecting it" against
the aggression of somebody else.
For example, Germany
has said that she was occupying Belgium to save the Belgians
from the British. Would she then hesitate to say to any
South American country: "We are occupying
you to protect you from aggression by the United States"?
Belgium today is being used as an invasion base against
Britain, now fighting for its life. And any South American
country, in Nazi hands, would always constitute a jumping
off place for German attack on any one of the other republics
of this hemisphere.
Analyze for yourselves the future of two other places
even nearer to Germany if the Nazis won. Could Ireland
hold out? Would Irish freedom be permitted as an amazing
pet exception in an unfree world? Or the islands of the
Azores, which still fly the flag of Portugal after five
centuries? You and I think of Hawaii as an outpost of defense
in the Pacific. And yet the Azores are closer to our shores
in the Atlantic than Hawaii is on the other side.
There are those who say that the Axis powers would never
have any desire to attack the Western Hemisphere. That
is the same dangerous form of wishful thinking which has
destroyed the powers of resistance of so many conquered
peoples. The plain facts are that the Nazis have proclaimed,
time and again, that all other races are their inferiors
and therefore subject to their orders. And most important
of all, the vast resources and wealth of this American
hemisphere constitute the most tempting loot in all of
the round world.
Let us no longer blind ourselves to the undeniable fact
that the evil forces which have crushed and undermined
and corrupted so many others are already within our own
gates. Your government knows much about them and every
day is ferreting them out.
Their secret emissaries are active in our own and in neighboring
countries. They seek to stir up suspicion and dissension,
to cause internal strife. They try to turn capital against
labor, and vice versa. They try to reawaken long slumbering
racial and religious enmities which should have no place
in this country. They are active in every group that promotes
intolerance. They exploit for their own ends our own natural
abhorrence of war.
These trouble-breeders have but one purpose. It is to
divide our people, to divide them into hostile groups and
to destroy our unity and shatter our will to defend ourselves.
There are also American citizens, many of them in high
places, who, unwittingly in most cases, are aiding and
abetting the work of these agents. I do not charge these
American citizens with being foreign agents. But I do charge
them with doing exactly the kind of work that the dictators
want done in the United States. These people not only believe
that we can save our own skins by shutting our eyes to
the fate of other nations. Some of them go much further
than that. They say that we can and should become the friends
and even the partners of the Axis powers. Some of them
even suggest that we should imitate the methods of the
dictatorships. But Americans never can and never will do
The experience of the past two years has proven beyond
doubt that no nation can appease the Nazis. No man can
tame a tiger into a kitten by stroking it. There can be
no appeasement with ruthlessness. There can be no reasoning
with an incendiary bomb. We know now that a nation can
have peace with the Nazis only at the price of total surrender.
Even the people of Italy have been forced to become accomplices
of the Nazis; but at this moment they do not know how soon
they will be embraced to death by their allies.
The American appeasers ignore the warning to be found
in the fate of Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Norway,
Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark and France. They tell
you that the Axis powers are going to win anyway; that
all of this bloodshed in the world could be saved, that
the United States might just as well throw its influence
into the scale of a dictated peace and get the best out
of it that we can.
They call it a "negotiated peace." Nonsense!
Is it a negotiated peace if a gang of outlaws surrounds
your community and on threat of extermination makes you
pay tribute to save your own skins?
Such a dictated peace would be no peace at all. It would
be only another armistice, leading to the most gigantic
armament race and the most devastating trade wars in all
history. And in these contests the Americas would offer
the only real resistance to the Axis powers. With all their
vaunted efficiency, with all their parade of pious purpose
in this war, there are still in their background the concentration
camp and the servants of God in chains.
The history of recent
years proves that the shootings and the chains and the
concentration camps are not simply the transient tools
but the very altars of modern dictatorships. They may
talk of a "new order" in the world,
but What they have in mind is only a revival of the oldest
and worst tyranny. In that there is no liberty, no religion,
The proposed "new order" is
the very opposite of a United States of Europe or a United
States of Asia. It is not a government based upon the
consent of the governed. It is not a union of ordinary,
self-respecting men and women to protect themselves and
their freedom and their dignity from oppression. It is
an unholy alliance of power and pelf to dominate and
to enslave the human race.
The British people and
their allies today are conducting an active war against
this unholy alliance. Our own future security is greatly
dependent on the outcome of that fight. Our ability to "keep out of war" is
going to be affected by that outcome.
Thinking in terms of today and tomorrow, I make the direct
statement to the American people that there is far less
chance of the United States getting into war if we do all
we can now to support the nations defending themselves
against attack by the Axis than if we acquiesce in their
defeat, submit tamely to an Axis victory, and wait our
turn to be the object of attack in another war later on.
If we are to be completely honest with ourselves, we must
admit that there is risk in any course we may take. But
I deeply believe that the great majority of our people
agree that the course that I advocate involves the least
risk now and the greatest hope for world peace in the future.
The people of Europe who are defending themselves do not
ask where to do their fighting. They ask us for the implements
of war, the planes, the tanks, the guns, the freighters
which will enable them to fight for their liberty and for
Emphatically we must get these weapons to them, get them
to them in sufficient volume and quickly enough so that
we and our children will be saved the agony and suffering
of war which others have had to endure.
Let not the defeatists tell us that it is too late. It
will never be earlier. Tomorrow will be later than today.
Certain facts are self-evident.
In a military sense Great Britain and the British Empire
are today the spearhead of resistance to world conquest.
And they are putting up a fight which will live forever
in the story of human gallantry.
There is no demand for sending an American expeditionary
force outside our own borders. There is no intention by
any member of your government to send such a force. You
can therefore, nail, nail any talk about sending armies
to Europe as deliberate untruth.
Our national policy is not directed toward war. Its sole
purpose is to keep war away from our country and away from
Democracy's fight against world conquest is being greatly
aided, and must be more greatly aided, by the rearmament
of the United States and by sending every ounce and every
ton of munitions and supplies that we can possibly spare
to help the defenders who are in the front lines. And it
is no more unneutral for us to do that than it is for Sweden,
Russia and other nations near Germany to send steel and
ore and oil and other war materials into Germany every
day in the week.
We are planning our own defense with the utmost urgency,
and in its vast scale we must integrate the war needs of
Britain and the other free nations which are resisting
This is not a matter of sentiment or of controversial
personal opinion. It is a matter of realistic, practical
military policy, based on the advice of our military experts
who are in close touch with existing warfare. These military
and naval experts and the members of the Congress and the
Administration have a single-minded purpose-the defense
of the United States.
This nation is making a great effort to produce everything
that is necessary in this emergency-and with all possible
speed. And this great effort requires great sacrifice.
I would ask no one to defend a democracy which in turn
would not defend every one in the nation against want and
privation. The strength of this nation shall not be diluted
by the failure of the government to protect the economic
well-being of its citizens.
If our capacity to produce is limited by machines, it
must ever be remembered that these machines are operated
by the skill and the stamina of the workers. As the government
is determined to protect the rights of the workers, so
the nation has a right to expect that the men who man the
machines will discharge their full responsibilities to
the urgent needs of defense.
The worker possesses the same human dignity and is entitled
to the same security of position as the engineer or the
manager or the owner. For the workers provide the human
power that turns out the destroyers, and the planes and
The nation expects our defense industries to continue
operation without interruption by strikes or lockouts.
It expects and insists that management and workers will
reconcile their differences by voluntary or legal means,
to continue to produce the supplies that are so sorely
And on the economic side of our great defense program,
we are, as you know, bending every effort to maintain stability
of prices and with that the stability of the cost of living.
Nine days ago I announced the setting up of a more effective
organization to direct our gigantic efforts to increase
the production of munitions. The appropriation of vast
sums of money and a well-coordinated executive direction
of our defense efforts are not in themselves enough. Guns,
planes ships and many other things have to be built in
the factories and the arsenals of America. They have to
be produced by workers and managers and engineers with
the aid of machines which in turn have to be built by hundreds
of thousands of workers throughout the land.
In this great work there has been splendid cooperation
between the government and industry and labor. And I am
American industrial genius, unmatched throughout all the
world in the solution of production problems, has been
called upon to bring its resources and its talents into
action. Manufacturers of watches, of farm implements, of
Linotypes and cash registers and automobiles, and sewing
machines and lawn mowers and locomotives, are now making
fuses and bomb packing crates and telescope mounts and
shells and pistols and tanks.
But all of our present
efforts are not enough. We must have more ships, more
guns, more planes-more of everything. And this can be
accomplished only if we discard the notion of "business as usual." This
job cannot be done merely by superimposing on the existing
productive facilities the added requirements of the nation
Our defense efforts must not be blocked by those who fear
the future consequences of surplus plant capacity. The
possible consequences of failure of our defense efforts
now are much more to be feared.
And after the present needs of our defense are past, a
proper handling of the country's peacetime needs will require
all of the new productive capacity, if not still more.
No pessimistic policy about the future of America shall
delay the immediate expansion of those industries essential
to defense. We need them.
I want to make it clear that it is the purpose of the
nation to build now with all possible speed every machine,
every arsenal, every factory that we need to manufacture
our defense material. We have the men-the skill-the wealth-and
above all, the will.
I am confident that if and when production of consumer
or luxury goods in certain industries requires the use
of machines and raw materials that are essential for defense
purposes, then such production must yield, and will gladly
yield, to our primary and compelling purpose.
So I appeal to the owners of plants-to the managers-to
the workers- to our own government employees-to put every
ounce of effort into producing these munitions swiftly
and without stint. With this appeal I give you the pledge
that all of us who are officers of your government will
devote ourselves to the same whole-hearted extent to the
great task that lies ahead.
As planes and ships and guns and shells are produced,
your government. with its defense experts, can then determine
how best to use them to defend this hemisphere. The decision
as to how much shall be sent abroad and how much shall
remain at home must be made on the basis of our overall
We must be the great arsenal of democracy. For us this
is an emergency as serious as war itself. We must apply
ourselves to our task with the same resolution, the same
sense of urgency, the same spirit of patriotism and sacrifice
as we would show were we at war.
We have furnished the British great material support and
we will furnish far more in the future.
There will be no "bottlenecks" in
our determination to aid Great Britain. No dictator,
no combination of dictators, will weaken that determination
by threats of how they will construe that determination.
The British have received invaluable military support
from the heroic Greek Army and from the forces of all the
governments in exile. Their strength is growing. It is
the strength of men and women who value their freedom more
highly than they value their lives.
I believe that the Axis powers are not going to win this
war. I base that belief on the latest and the best of information.
We have no excuse for defeatism. We have every good reason
for hope- hope for peace, yes, and hope for the defense
of our civilization and for the building of a better civilization
in the future.
I have the profound conviction that the American people
are now determined to put forth a mightier effort than
they have ever yet made to increase our production of all
the implements of defense, to meet the threat to our democratic
As President of the United States, I call for that national
effort. I call for it in the name of this nation which
we love and honor and which we are privileged and proud
to serve. I call upon our people with absolute confidence
that our common cause will greatly succeed.