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Following the 1943 Big Four meetings in Teheran and Cairo, President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivers a Christmas Eve broadcast promising the nation that they can look forward to peace, though at a high cost.
Collection Historical Note
Franklin D. Roosevelt had a mind that saw in maps. His love of maps can be traced to his childhood when he first began collecting postage stamps. Stamps from all over the world expanded FDR's knowledge and understanding of geography and the international community, a knowledge that he brought with him to the White House in 1933.
After the outbreak of the war in 1939, National Geographic provided President Roosevelt and Winston Churchill with special wall mounted map cabinets hidden by enlarged photographs. Inside the cabinets were maps on rollers organized by hemisphere, region, and theater of operation. Cartographers from National Geographic routinely updated these maps, bringing the new maps to the White House and personally installing them in the President's cabinet that hung in his private Oval Study. By simply turning in his chair and opening the cabinet, FDR could quickly check battle locations around the world.
In January 1942, FDR converted a ladies' cloakroom in the White House basement into a top secret communications center. Modeled on a similar room maintained by Winston Churchill, the Map Room was a place where the President could monitor military activities around the globe. Here reports, documents, and coded messages were received, summarized, and filed. Through the Map Room, Roosevelt communicated with Allied leaders around the globe, including Churchill, Stalin, and Chiang Kai-shek. Maps posted in the room were used to track the locations of land, sea and air forces. The drably-furnished office was staffed 24-hours a day by army and navy officers. The President could drop in at any time. Access was restricted to him, the Map Room staff, and specific individuals at the direction of the President. Even the Secret Service was barred. FDR's Map Room was the precursor to the modern day White House Situation Room.
I have recently (just) returned from extensive journeying in the region of the Mediterranean and as far as the borders of Russia. I have conferred with the leaders of Britain and Russia and China on military matters of the present --especially on plans for stepping-up our successful attack on our enemies as quickly as possible and from many different points of the compass.
On this Christmas Eve there are over ten million men in the armed forces of the United States alone. One year ago 1,700,000 were serving overseas. Today, this figure has been more than doubled to 3,800,000 on duty overseas. By next July first that number overseas will rise to over 5,000,000 men and women.
That this is truly a World War was demonstrated to me when arrangements were being made with our overseas broadcasting agencies for the time to speak today to our soldiers, and sailors, and marines and merchant seamen in every part of the world. In fixing the time for this (the) broadcast, we took into consideration that at this moment here in the United States, and in the Caribbean and on the Northeast Coast of South America, it is afternoon. In Alaska and in Hawaii and the mid-Pacific, it is still morning. In Iceland, in Great Britain, in North Africa, in Italy and the Middle East, it is now evening.
In the Southwest Pacific, in Australia, in China and Burma and India, it is already Christmas Day. So we can correctly say that at this moment, in those far eastern parts where Americans are fighting, today is tomorrow.
But everywhere throughout the world -- through(out) this war that (which) covers the world -- there is a special spirit that (which) has warmed our hearts since our earliest childhood -- a spirit that (which) brings us close to our homes, our families, our friends and neighbors -- the Christmas spirit of "peace on earth, goodwill toward men." It is an unquenchable spirit.
During the past years of international gangsterism and brutal aggression in Europe and in Asia, our Christmas celebrations have been darkened with apprehension for the future. We have said, "Merry Christmas -- a Happy New Year," but we have known in our hearts that the clouds which have hung over our world have prevented us from saying it with full sincerity and conviction.
And (But) even this year, we still have much to face in the way of further suffering, and sacrifice, and personal tragedy. Our men, who have been through the fierce battles in the Solomons, and the Gilberts, and Tunisia and Italy know, from their own experience and knowledge of modern war, that many bigger and costlier battles are still to be fought.
But -- on Christmas Eve this year -- I can say to you that at last we may look forward into the future with real , substantial confidence that, however great the cost, "peace on earth, good will toward men" can be and will be realized and ensured. This year I can say that. Last year I could not do more than express a hope. Today I express -- a certainty though the cost may be high and the time may be long.
Within the past year -- within the past few weeks -- history has been made, and it is far better history for the whole human race than any that we have known, or even dared to hope for, in these tragic times through which we pass.
A great beginning was made in the Moscow conference last (in) October by Mr. Molotov, Mr. Eden and our own Mr. Hull. There and then the way was paved for the later meetings.
At Cairo and Teheran we devoted ourselves not only to military matters, we devoted ourselves also to consideration of the future -- to plans for the kind of world which alone can justify all the sacrifices of this war.
Of course, as you all know, Mr. Churchill and I have happily met many times before, and we know and understand each other very well. Indeed, Mr. Churchill has become known and beloved by many millions of Americans, and the heartfelt prayers of all of us have been with this great citizen of the world in his recent serious illness.
The Cairo and Teheran conferences, however, gave me my first opportunity to meet the Generalissimo, Chiang Kai-shek, and Marshal Stalin -- and to sit down at the table with these unconquerable men and talk with them face to face. We had planned to talk to each other across the table at Cairo and Teheran but we soon found that we were all on the same side of the table. We came to the conferences with faith in each other. But we needed the personal contact. And now we have supplemented faith with definite knowledge.
It was well worth traveling thousands of miles over land and sea to bring about this personal meeting, and to gain the heartening assurance that we are absolutely agreed with one another on all the major objectives -- and on the military means of obtaining them.
At Cairo, Prime Minister Churchill and I spent four days with the Generalissimo, Chiang Kai-shek. It was the first time that we had (had) an opportunity to go over the complex situation in the Far East with him personally. We were able not only to settle upon definite military strategy, but also to discuss certain long-range principles which we believe can assure peace in the Far East for many generations to come.
Those principles are as simple as they are fundamental. They involve the restoration of stolen property to its rightful owners, and the recognition of the rights of millions of people in the Far East to build up their own forms of self-government without molestation. Essential to all peace and security in the Pacific and in the rest of the world is the permanent elimination of the Empire of Japan as a potential force of aggression. Never again must our soldiers and sailors and marines -- and other soldiers, sailors and marines -- be compelled to fight from island to island as they are fighting so gallantly and so successfully today.
Increasingly powerful forces are now hammering at the Japanese at many points over an enormous arc which curves down through the Pacific from the Aleutians to the Jungles of Burma. Our own Army and Navy, our Air Forces, the Australians and New Zealanders, the Dutch, and the British land, air and sea forces are all forming a band of steel which is slowly but surely closing in on Japan.
And (On) the mainland of Asia, under the Generalissimo's leadership, the Chinese ground and air forces augmented by American air forces are playing a vital part in starting the drive which will push the invaders into the sea.
Following out the military decisions at Cairo, General Marshall has just flown around the world and has had conferences with General MacArthur and Admiral Nimitz -- conferences which will spell plenty of bad news for the Japs in the not too far distant future.
I met in the Generalissimo a man of great vision, (and) great courage, and a remarkably keen understanding of the problems of today and tomorrow. We discussed all the manifold military plans for striking at Japan with decisive force from many directions, and I believe I can say that he returned to Chungking with the positive assurance of total victory over our common enemy. Today we and the Republic of China are closer together than ever before in deep friendship and in unity of purpose.
After the Cairo conference, Mr. Churchill and I went by airplane to Teheran. There we met with Marshal Stalin. We talked with complete frankness on every conceivable subject connected with the winning of the war and the establishment of a durable peace after the war.
Within three days of intense and consistently amicable discussions, we agreed on every point concerned with the launching of a gigantic attack upon Germany.
The Russian army will continue its stern offensives on Germany's Eastern front, the allied armies in Italy and Africa will bring relentless pressure on Germany from the south, and now the encirclement will be complete as great American and British forces attack from other points of the compass.
The Commander selected to lead the combined attack from these other points is General Dwight D. Eisenhower. His performances in Africa, in Sicily and in Italy have been brilliant. He knows by practical and successful experience the way to coordinate air, sea and land power. All of these will be under his control. Lieutenant General Carl (D.) Spaatz will command the entire American strategic bombing force operating against Germany.
General Eisenhower gives up his command in the Mediterranean to a British officer whose name is being announced by Mr. Churchill. We now pledge that new Commander that our powerful ground, sea and air forces in the vital Mediterranean area will stand by his side until every objective in that bitter theatre is attained.
Both of these new Commanders will have American and British subordinate Commanders whose names will be announced to the world in a few days.
During the last two days in (at) Teheran, Marshal Stalin, Mr. Churchill and I looked ahead -- ahead to the days and months and years that (which) will follow Germany's defeat. We were united in determination that Germany must be stripped of her military might and be given no opportunity within the foreseeable future to regain that might.
The United Nations have no intention to enslave the German people. We wish them to have a normal chance to develop, in peace, as useful and respectable members of the European family. But we most certainly emphasize that word "respectable" -- for we intend to rid them once and for all of Nazism and Prussian militarism and the fantastic and disastrous notion that they constitute the "Master Race."
We did discuss international relationships from the point of view of big, broad objectives, rather than details. But on the basis of what we did discuss, I can say even today that I do not think any insoluble differences will arise among Russia, Great Britain and the United States.
In these conferences we were concerned with basic principles -- principles which involve the security and the welfare and the standard of living or human beings in countries large and small.
To use an American and somewhat ungrammatical colloquialism, I may say that I "got along fine" with Marshal Stalin. He is a man who combines a tremendous, relentless determination with a stalwart good humor. I believe he is truly representative of the heart and soul of Russia and I believe that we are going to get along very well with him and the Russian people -- very well indeed.
Britain, Russia, China and the United States and their Allies represent more than three-quarters of the total population of the earth. As long as these four nations with great military power stick together in determination to keep the peace there will be no possibility of an aggressor nation arising to start another world war.
But those four powers must be united with and cooperate with (all) the freedom-loving peoples of Europe, and Asia, and Africa and the Americas. The rights of every nation, large or small, must be respected and guarded as jealously as are the rights of every individual within our own republic.
The doctrine that the strong shall dominate the weak is the doctrine of our enemies -- and we reject it.
But, at the same time, we are agreed that if force is necessary to keep international peace, international force will be applied -- for as long as it may be necessary.
It has been our steady policy -- and it is certainly a common sense policy -- that the right of each nation to freedom must be measured by the willingness of that nation to fight for freedom. And today we salute our unseen Allies in occupied countries -- the underground resistance groups and the armies of liberation. They will provide potent forces against our enemies, when the day of the counter-invasion comes.
Through the development of science the world has become so much smaller that we have had to discard the geographical yardsticks of the past. For instance, through our early history the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans were believed to be walls of safety for the United States. Time and distance made it physically possible, for example, for us and for the other American Republics to obtain and maintain (our) independence against infinitely stronger powers. Until recently very few people, even military experts, thought that the day would ever come when we might have to defend our Pacific Coast against Japanese threats of invasion.
At the outbreak of the first World War relatively few people thought that our ships and shipping would be menaced by German submarines on the high seas or that the German militarists would ever attempt to dominate any nation outside of central Europe.
After the Armistice in 1918, we thought and hoped that the militaristic philosophy of Germany had been crushed and being full of the milk of human kindness we spent the next twenty (fifteen) years disarming, while the Germans whined so pathetically that the other nations permitted them -- and even helped them -- to rearm.
For too many years we lived on pious hopes that aggressor and warlike nations would learn and understand and carry out the doctrine of purely voluntary peace.
The well-intentioned but ill-fated experiments of former years did not work. It is my hope that we will not try them again. No -- that is putting it too weakly -- it is my intention to do all that I humanly can as President and Commander-in-Chief to see to it that these tragic mistakes shall not be made again.
There have always been cheerful idiots in this country who believed that there would be no more war for us, if everybody in America would only return into their homes and lock their front doors behind them. Assuming that their motives were of the highest, events have shown how unwilling they were to face the facts.
The overwhelming majority of all the people in the world want peace. Most of them are fighting for the attainment of peace -- not just a truce, not just an armistice -- but peace that is as strongly enforced and as durable as mortal man can make it. If we are willing to fight for peace now, is it not good logic that we should use force if necessary, in the future, to keep the peace?
I believe, and I think I can say, that the other three great nations who are fighting so magnificently to gain peace are in complete agreement that we must be prepared to keep the peace by force. If the people of Germany and Japan are made to realize thoroughly that the world is not going to let them break out again, it is possible, and, I hope, probable, that they will abandon the philosophy of aggression -- the belief that they can gain the whole world even at the risk of losing their own souls.
I shall have more to say about the Cairo and Teheran conferences when I make my report to the Congress in about two weeks' time. And, on that occasion, I shall also have a great deal to say about certain conditions here at home.
But today I wish to say that in all my travels, at home and abroad, it is the sight of our soldiers and sailors and their magnificent achievements which have given me the greatest inspiration and the greatest encouragement for the future.
To the members of our armed forces, to their wives, mothers and fathers, I want to affirm the great faith and confidence that we have in General Marshall and in Admiral King who direct all of our armed might throughout the world. Upon them falls the (great) responsibility of planning the strategy of determining (when and) where and when we shall fight. Both of these men have already gained high places in American history, places which will record in that history many evidences of their military genius that cannot be published today.
Some of our men overseas are now spending their third Christmas far from home. To them and to all others overseas or soon to go overseas, I can give assurance that it is the purpose of their Government to win this war and to bring them home at the earliest possible time (date).
(And) We here in the United States had better be sure that when our soldiers and sailors do come home they will find an America in which they are given full opportunities for education, and rehabilitation, social security, and employment and business enterprise under the free American system -- and that they will find a Government which, by their votes as American citizens, they have had a full share in electing.
The American people have had every reason to know that this is a tough and destructive war. On my trip abroad, I talked with many military men who had faced our enemies in the field. These hard-headed realists testify to the strength and skill and resourcefulness of the enemy generals and men whom we must beat before final victory is won. The war is now reaching the stage where we shall all have to look forward to large casualty lists -- dead, wounded and missing.
War entails just that. There is no easy road to victory. And the end is not yet in sight.
I have been back only for a week. It is fair that I should tell you my impression. I think I see a tendency in some of our people here to assume a quick ending of the war -- that we have already gained the victory. And, perhaps as a result of this false reasoning, I think I discern an effort to resume or even encourage an outbreak of partisan thinking and talking. I hope I am wrong. For, surely, our first and most foremost tasks are all concerned with winning the war and winning a just peace that will last for generations.
The massive offensives which are in the making both in Europe and the Far East -- will require every ounce of energy and fortitude that we and our Allies can summon on the fighting fronts and in all the workshops at home. As I have said before, you cannot order up a great attack on a Monday and demand that it be delivered on Saturday.
Less than a month ago I flew in a big Army transport plane over the little town of Bethlehem, in Palestine.
Tonight, on Christmas Eve, all men and women everywhere who love Christmas are thinking of that ancient town and of the star of faith that shone there more than nineteen centuries ago.
American boys are fighting today in snow-covered mountains, in malarial jungles, (and) on blazing deserts, they are fighting on the far stretches of the sea and above the clouds, and fighting for the thing for which they struggle.(,) I think it is best symbolized by the message that came out of Bethlehem.
On behalf of the American people -- your own people - I send this Christmas message to you, to you who are in our armed forces:
In our hearts are prayers for you and for all your comrades in arms who fight to rid the world of evil.
We ask God's blessing upon you -- upon your fathers, (and) mothers, and wives and children -- all your loved ones at home.
We ask that the comfort of God's grace shall be granted to those who are sick and wounded, and to those who are prisoners of war in the hands of the enemy, waiting for the day when they will again be free.
And we ask that God receive and cherish those who have given their lives, and that He keep them in honor and in the grateful memory of their countrymen forever.
God bless all of you who fight our battles on this Christmas Eve.
God bless us all. (God) Keep us strong in our faith that we fight for a better day for human kind -- here and everywhere.
Franklin D. Roosevelt Reports on Teheran and Cairo Conferences - HISTORY
Personal and confidential from Premier J. V. Stalin to President Franklin D. Roosevelt
Mr. Hull has transmitted to me on October 25, your latest message 2 and I had a chance to talk with him regarding it. 3 My reply has been delayed because I was sure that Mr. Hull had transmitted to you the contents of the eventuated talk and my views regarding my meeting with you and Mr. Churchill .
I cannot but give consideration to the arguments you gave regarding the circumstances hindering you from travelling to Teheran. Of course, the decision of w[h]ether you are able to travel to Teheran remains entirely with yourself.
On my part, I have to say that I do not see any other more suitable place for a meeting, than the aforementioned city.
I have been charged with the duties of Supreme Commander of the Soviet troops and this obliges me to carry out daily direction of military operations at our front. This is especially important at the present time, when the uninterrupted four-months summer campaign is overgrowing into a winter campaign and the military operations are continuing to develop on nearly all the fronts, stretching along 2600 kilometers.
Under such conditions for myself as Supreme Commander the possibility of travelling farther than Teheran is excluded. My colleagues in the Government consider, in general, that my travelling beyond the borders of the U. S. S. R. at the present time is impossible due to great complexity of the situation at the front.
That is why an idea occurred to me about which I already talked to Mr. Hull . I could be successfully substituted at this meeting by Mr. V. M. Molotov , my first deputy in the Government, who at negotiations will enjoy, according to our Constitution, all powers of the head of the Soviet Government. In this case the difficulties regarding the choice of the place of meeting would drop off. I hope that this suggestion could be acceptable to us 4 at the present time.
Franklin D. Roosevelt Reports on Teheran and Cairo Conferences - HISTORY
At the first Cairo Conference, held Nov. 22–26, 1943, in Cairo, Egypt, Roosevelt met with China’s President Chiang Kai-shek and Britain’s Prime Minister Winston Churchill to outline the Allied position against Japan and plan for a postwar Asia.
The countries agreed that territories taken from China by Japan, including Manchuria, Taiwan and the Pescadores, would be returned to the Republic of China after the war. In exchange, Chiang agreed not to expand across the continent or control decolonizing nations. Roosevelt had been concerned that China might pull away from Allied efforts and fall to the Japanese, and thus wanted to solidify China’s commitment.
In the Cairo Declaration, jointly released by the United States, Republic of China and Great Britain on Dec. 1, 1943, the countries vowed to continue fighting Japan and to strip Japan of all the territories it had conquered since 1914, including Chinese territories and Korea.
After the first Cairo Conference, Churchill and Roosevelt headed to Iran for the Tehran Conference with Joseph Stalin, Premier of the Soviet Union. The three leaders agreed to meet on Nov. 28, 1943, to discuss D-Day war strategy and how to defeat Japan.
Although the three leaders had different objectives, the main thing they agreed upon was opening a second front against Germany. This would come to fruition as Operation Overlord, the Allied invasion of Normandy in June 1944.
All three leaders reaffirmed that only unconditional surrender would be accepted from the Axis countries. They also agreed to respect the independence of Iran and to support Turkey if it was attacked by Axis troops.
At the end of the Tehran Conference on Dec. 1, 1943, Roosevelt and Churchill returned to Cairo for the second Cairo Conference, on Dec. 2–7, 1943. They unsuccessfully tried to persuade Turkey’s President İsmet İnönü to join the Allies in the war. Roosevelt also told Churchill that General Dwight D. Eisenhower would become supreme commander of the Normandy Invasion.
Franklin D. Roosevelt Reports on Teheran and Cairo Conferences - HISTORY
Dear Brendan : Since my return to Washington, I have received a more complete report of the confusions over publicity which arose at Cairo and Teheran.
Whatever the causes, I am greatly disturbed at the results. Not only did the newspapers, news services, and broadcasters of the United States suffer a heavy penalty because they kept confidence and observed the designated release dates, but non-observance elsewhere has engendered bitter reproaches and many charges of bad faith. Such a condition is distinctly damaging to that unity of purpose and action which the conferences at Cairo and Teheran were designed to promote.
I am resolved that we will not risk a repetition. Consequently, I have decided that hereafter no news having a security value will be issued by the Government for future release, but that all such news will be given out instead at the earliest moment consistent with safety, for immediate publication and broadcast. I have issued instructions to that effect to the various departments and agencies. 1
Document for November 30th: Franklin D. Roosevelt, Stalin, and Churchill in Teheran, Iran, 11/29/1943
Franklin D. Roosevelt, Stalin, and Churchill in Teheran, Iran, 11/29/1943 (National Archives Identifier: 197062) FDR-PHOCO: Franklin D. Roosevelt Library Public Domain Photographs, 1882 - 1962 Franklin D. Roosevelt Library (NLFDR) National Archives and Records Administration
From November 28 to December 1, 1943, the "Big Three"&mdashFranklin D. Roosevelt, Joseph Stalin, and Winston Churchill&mdashmet at Teheran, Iran to discuss the progress of the war and plans for what would become the D-day invasion of June 6, 1944.
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Today's Document June 26th: Charter of the United Nations
D-Day: President Roosevelt's Press Conference on D-Day
THE PRESIDENT: (as members of the White House staff filed in) My goodness! -- all smiles -- all smiles. Look at these two coming in! (Laughter)
MR. JONATHAN DANIELS: You don't look like you're so solemn yourself, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: No, I'm not so solemn, I suppose. All right, bring in the "wolves." (Laughter)
MR. 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) . . .
THE 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 smiles!
I have very little more news that I can tell you than what you all got in your offices.
I think 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 one percent.
Q. That's the air-borne troops, sir?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, air losses as a whole.
And, of 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.
Q. Mr. President, how do you feel about the progress of the invasion?
THE PRESIDENT: Up to schedule. And, as the Prime Minister said, "That's a mouthful." (Laughter)
Q. Mr. President, could you now tell us how closely held this secret was, or how many people were in on the actual "know"?
THE 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.
Q. That is what I refer to.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes- very few.
Q. On the fingers of your hand, sir?
THE PRESIDENT: No, I wouldn't say that. It must have been more than that, but not very much more.
Q. Mr. President, how long have you known that this was the date?
THE 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.
And I 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?
THE PRESIDENT: Did you ever cross the English Channel?
Q. Never been across the English Channel.
THE PRESIDENT: You're very lucky.
Q. Tide? Is it largely a question of -
THE 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.
Q. Well, was weather the factor, sir, in delaying from the end of May until the first week in June?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, yes. After the June date was set, there was only an actual delay of one day.
Q. Mr. President, was it timed to come after the fall of Rome?
THE PRESIDENT: No, because we didn't know when Rome was going to fall.
Q. Mr. President, you said only one day after the time- was it postponed one day?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, yes.
Q. That was the weather consideration again?
THE 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?"
Well, it 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 say that.
Q. Mr. President, isn't there another factor, that in the last six months it has given you a chance to double the invasion force?
THE 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 .
Q. Mr. 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.
THE PRESIDENT: Not after Teheran.
Q. He understood thoroughly?
THE 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 entirely satisfied.
Q. Mr. President, when you said that the time was fixed at Teheran approximately, was the point of attack also fixed at the same time?
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, no. Oh, no.
Q. When did that develop?
THE 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.
Q. That was a matter of strategy?
THE PRESIDENT: A matter of strategy, yes.
Q. Mr. President, may there still be a half-dozen different places?
THE PRESIDENT: Gosh! What an awful question! You know they are all improper, highly improper. (Laughter)
Q. Mr. President, on this date and point of attack then, as I understand it, that was all left up to the high command?
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, yes.
Q. And has been decided comparatively recently?
THE PRESIDENT: Decided by General Eisenhower.
Q. Comparatively recently?
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, yes- yes. It's a long, long coast from Spain to Norway, you know.
Q. Mr. President, have there been any reports of cooperation by the French underground in the invasion of-
THE PRESIDENT: (interposing) With the underground? No.
Q. Nothing yet?
THE PRESIDENT: Nothing yet.
Q. (interposing) Mr. President
THE 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.
Q. Is that off the record, Mr. President?
THE PRESIDENT: No, as long as you don't attribute it to me .
Q. Mr. President, some reports that have come in on the progress of operations did say that the Germans were taken by surprise tactically.
THE PRESIDENT: I don't know -- I don't know. Perfectly frankly, I have no idea.
Q. They knew about the time and tide too, didn't they, Mr. President?
THE PRESIDENT: They must have known whether it was raining or not. (Laughter)
Q. Mr. President, can you tell us anything about the impact of this invasion on the home front -- the population here?
THE 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.
A fellow 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.
I said, "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 munitions."
He just 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.
Now, 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.
Q. Mr. President, could you tell us something of your hopes for the future on this great day?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, you know what it is, it's win the war and win it a hundred percent.
Q. One last question, Mr. President. How are you feeling?
THE PRESIDENT: I'm feeling fine. I'm a little sleepy. (Laughter)
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The declaration issued by the three leaders on conclusion of the conference on December 1, 1943, recorded the following military conclusions:
- The Yugoslav Partisans should be supported by supplies and equipment and also by commando operations.
- It would be desirable for Turkey to enter war on the side of the Allies before the end of the year.
- The leaders took note of Stalin’s statement that if Turkey found herself at war with Germany and as a result Bulgaria declared war on Turkey or attacked her, the Soviet Union would immediately be at war with Bulgaria. The Conference further noted that this could be mentioned in the forthcoming negotiations to bring Turkey into the war.
- The cross-channel invasion of France (Operation Overlord) would be launched during May 1944 in conjunction with an operation against southern France. The latter operation would be as strong as availability of landing-craft permitted. The Conference further noted Joseph Stalin’s statement that the Soviet forces would launch an offensive at about the same time with the object of preventing the German forces from transferring from the Eastern to the Western Front.
- The leaders agreed that the military staffs of the Three Powers should keep in close touch with each other in regard to the impending operations in Europe. In particular, it was agreed that a cover plan to mislead the enemy about these operations should be concerted between the staffs concerned.