Page 101

                               PAPER XXVI

"The war is approaching the brink of the Western Hemisphere itself. It 
is coming very close to home." 

Address before the Governing Board of the Pan American Union, 
   the White House, May 27, 1941

I am speaking tonight from the White House in the presence of the 
Governing Board of the Pan American Union, the Canadian Minister, and 
their families. The members of this board are the ambassadors and 
ministers of the American republics in Washington. It is appropriate 
that I do this. Now, as never before, the unity of the American 
republics is of supreme importance to each and every one of us and to 
the cause of freedom throughout the world. Our future independence is 
bound up with the future independence of all of our sister republics. 

The pressing problems that confront us are military problems. We cannot 
afford to approach them from the point of view of wishful thinkers or 
sentimentalists. What we face is cold, hard fact. 

The first and fundamental fact is that what started as a European war 
has developed, as the Nazis always intended it should develop, into a 
world war for world domination. 

Adolf Hitler never considered the domination of Europe as an end in 
itself. European conquest was but a step toward ultimate goals in all 
the other continents. It is unmistakably apparent to all of us that, 
unless the advance of Hitlerism is forcibly checked now, the Western 
Hemisphere will be within range of the Nazi weapons of destruction. 

For our own defense we have accordingly undertaken certain obviously 
necessary measures: 

First, we joined in concluding a series of agreements with all the other 
American republics. This further solidified our hemisphere against the 
common danger. 

And then a year ago we launched and are successfully carrying out, the 
largest armament production program we have ever undertaken. 

We have added substantially to our splendid Navy, and we have mustered 
our manpower to build up a new Army which is already worthy of the 
highest traditions of our military service. 

We instituted a policy of aid for the democracies-the nations which have 
fought for the continuation of human liberties. 

This policy had its origin in the first month of the war, when I urged 
upon the Congress repeal of the arms embargo provisions in the 
neutrality law. In that message of September 1939, I said, "I should 
like to be able to offer the hope that the shadow over the world might 
swiftly pass. I cannot. The facts compel my stating, with candor, that 
darker periods may lie ahead." 

In the subsequent months the shadows deepened and lengthened. And the 
night spread over Poland, Denmark, Norway, Holland, Belgium, Luxemburg, 
and France.

Page 102

In June 1940 Britain stood alone, faced by the same machine of terror 
which had overwhelmed her allies. Our Government rushed arms to meet her 
desperate needs. 

In September 1940 an agreement was completed with Great Britain for the 
trade of fifty destroyers for eight important offshore bases. 

In March 1941 the Congress passed the Lend-Lease Act and an 
appropriation of $7,000,000,000 to implement it. This law realistically 
provided for material aid "for the government of any country whose 
defense the President deems vital to the defense of the United States." 

Our whole program of aid for the democracies has been based on hard-
headed concern for our own security and for the kind of safe and 
civilized world in which we wish to live. Every dollar of material we 
send helps to keep the dictators away from our own hemisphere Every day 
that they are held off gives us time to build more guns and tanks and 
planes and ships. 

We have made no pretense about our own self-interest in this aid Great 
Britain understands it, and so does Nazi Germany. 

And now-after a year-Britain still fights gallantly, on a far-flung 
battle line. We have doubled and redoubled our vast production, 
increasing month by month our material supply of tools of war for 
ourselves and Britain and China-and eventually for all the democracies. 

The supply of these tools will not fail-it will increase. 

With greatly augmented strength, the United States and the other 
American republics now chart their course in the situation of today. 

Your Government knows what terms Hitler, if victorious, would impose. 
They are, indeed, the only terms on which he would accept a so-called 
negotiated peace. 

Under those terms Germany would literally parcel out the world, hoisting 
the swastika itself over vast territories and populations, and setting 
up puppet governments of its own choosing, wholly subject to the will 
and the policy of a conqueror. 

To the people of the Americas, a triumphant Hitler would say, as he said 
after the seizure of Austria and after Munich and after the seizure of 
Czechoslovakia: "I am now completely satisfied. This is the last 
territorial readjustment I will seek." And he would, of course, add: 
"All we want is peace, friendship, and profitable trade relations with 
you in the New World." 

And were any of us in the Americas so incredibly simple and forgetful as 
to accept those honeyed words, what would then happen? Those in the New 
World who were seeking profits would be urging that all that the 
dictatorships desired was "peace." They would oppose toil and taxes for 
more American armament. Meanwhile, the dictatorships would be forcing 
the enslaved peoples of their Old World conquests into a system they are 
even now organizing-to build a naval and air force intended to gain and 
hold and be master of the Atlantic and the Pacific as well. 

They would fasten an economic stranglehold upon our several nations. 
Quislings would be found to subvert the government in our republics; and 
the Nazis would back their "fifth columns" with invasion, if necessary. 

I am not speculating about all this. I merely repeat what is already in 
the Nazi book of world conquest. They plan to treat the Latin

Page 103

American nations as they are now treating the Balkans. They plan then to 
strangle the United States of America and the Dominion of Canada. 

The American laborer would have to compete with slave labor in the rest 
of the world. Minimum wages, maximum hours? Nonsense! Wages and hours 
would be fixed by Hitler. The dignity and power and standard of living 
of the American worker and farmer would be gone. Trade-unions would 
become historical relics, and collective bargaining a joke. 

Farm income? What happens to all farm surpluses without any foreign 
trade? The American farmer would get for his products exactly what 
Hitler wanted to give. He would face obvious disaster and complete 

Tariff walls-Chinese walls of isolation-would be futile. Freedom to 
trade is essential to our economic life. We do not eat all the food we 
can produce; we do not burn all the oil we can pump; we do not use all 
the goods we can manufacture. It would not be an American wall to keep 
Nazi goods out; it would be a Nazi wall to keep us in. 

The whole fabric of working life as we know it-business, manufacturing, 
mining, agriculture-all would be mangled and crippled under such a 
system. Yet to maintain even that crippled independence would require 
permanent conscription of our manpower; it would curtail the funds we 
could spend on education, on housing, on public works, on flood control, 
on health. Instead, we should be permanently pouring our resources into 
armament; and, year in and year out, standing day and night watch 
against the destruction of our cities. 

Even our right to worship would be threatened. The Nazi world does not 
recognize any god except Hitler, for the Nazis are as ruthless as the 
Communists in the denial of God. What place has religion which preaches 
the dignity of the human being, of the majesty of the human soul, in a 
world where moral standards are measured by treachery and bribery and 
"fifth columnists"? Will our children, too, wander off, goose-stepping 
in search of new gods? 

We do not accept, and will not permit, this Nazi "shape of things to 
come." It will never be forced upon us, if we act in this present crisis 
with the wisdom and the courage which have distinguished our country in 
all the crises of the past. 

The Nazis have taken military possession of the greater part of Europe. 
In Africa they have occupied Tripoli and Libya, and they are threatening 
Egypt, the Suez Canal, and the Near East. But their plans do not stop 
there, for the Indian Ocean is the gateway to the east. 

They also have the armed power at any moment to occupy Spain and 
Portugal; and that threat extends not only to French North Africa and 
the western end of the Mediterranean, but also to the Atlantic fortress 
of Dakar, and to the island outposts of the New World-the Azores and 
Cape Verde Islands. 

The Cape Verde Islands are only 7 hours' distance from Brazil by bomber 
or troop-carrying planes. They dominate shipping routes to and from the 
South Atlantic. 

The war is approaching the brink of the Western Hemisphere itself. It is 
coming very close to home. 

Control or occupation by Nazi forces of any of the islands of the 
Atlantic would jeopardize the immediate safety of portions of North 

Page 104

and South America, and of the island possessions of the United States 
and of the ultimate safety of the continental United States itself. 

Hitler's plan of world domination would be near its accomplishment today 
were it not for two factors: One is the epic resistance of Britain, her 
colonies, and the great dominions, fighting not only to maintain the 
existence of the island of Britain, but also to hold the Near East and 
Africa. The other is the magnificent defense of China, which will, I 
have reason to believe, increase in strength. All of these together 
prevent the Axis from winning control of the seas by ships and aircraft. 

The Axis Powers can never achieve their objective of world domination 
unless they first obtain control of the seas. This is their supreme 
purpose today; and to achieve it, they must capture Great Britain. 

They could then have the power to dictate to the Western Hemisphere. No 
spurious argument, no appeal to sentiment, and no false pledges like 
those given by Hitler at Munich can deceive the American people into 
believing that he and his Axis partners would not, with Britain 
defeated, close in relentlessly on this hemisphere. 

But if the Axis Powers fail to gain control of the seas, they are 
certainly defeated. Their dreams of world domination will then go by the 
board; and the criminal leaders who started this war will suffer 
inevitable disaster. 

Both they and their people know this-and they are afraid. That is why 
they are risking everything they have conducting desperate attempts to 
break through to the command of the ocean. Once they are limited to a 
continuing land war, their cruel forces of occupation will be unable to 
keep their heel on the necks of the millions of innocent, oppressed 
peoples on the Continent of Europe; and in the end their whole structure 
will break into little pieces. And the wider the Nazi land effort, the 
greater the danger. 

We do not forget the silenced peoples. The masters of Germany-those, at 
least, who have not been assassinated or escaped to free soil-have 
marked these peoples and their children's children for slavery. But 
those people-spiritually unconquered: Austrians, Czechs, Poles, 
Norwegians, Dutch, Belgians, Frenchmen, Greeks, southern Slavs-yes; even 
those Italians and Germans who, themselves, have been enslaved-will 
prove to be a powerful force in disrupting the Nazi system. 

Yes; all freedom-meaning freedom to live and not freedom to conquer and 
subjugate other peoples-depends on freedom of the seas. All of American 
history-North, Central, and South American history--has been inevitably 
tied up with those words "freedom of the seas." 

Since 1799, when our infant Navy made the West Indies and the Caribbean 
and the Gulf of Mexico safe for American ships; since 1804 and 1805, 
when we made all peaceful commerce safe from the depredations of the 
Barbary pirates; since the War of 1812, which was fought for the 
preservation of sailors' rights; since 1867, when our sea power made it 
possible for the Mexicans to expel the French Army of Louis Napoleon, we 
have striven and fought in defense of freedom of the seas-for our own 
shipping, for the commerce of our sister republics, for the right of all 
nations to use the highways of world trade, and for our own safety.

Page 105

During the first World War we were able to escort merchant ships by the 
use of small cruisers, gunboats, and destroyers; and this type of convoy 
was effective against submarines. In this second World War, however, the 
problem is greater, because the attack on the freedom of the seas is now 
fourfold: First, the improved submarine; second, the much greater use of 
the heavily armed raiding cruiser or hit-and-run battleship; third, the 
bombing airplane, which is capable of destroying merchant ships seven or 
eight hundred miles from its nearest base; and fourth, the destruction 
of merchant ships in those ports of the world which are accessible to 
bombing attack. 

The battle of the Atlantic now extends from the icy waters of the North 
Pole to the frozen continent of the Antarctic. Throughout this huge area 
there have been sinkings of merchant ships in alarming and increasing 
numbers by Nazi raiders or submarines. There have been sinkings even of 
ships carrying neutral flags; there have been sinkings in the South 
Atlantic; off West Africa and the Cape Verde Islands; between the Azores 
and the islands off the American coast; and between Greenland and 
Iceland. Great numbers of these sinkings have been actually within the 
waters of the Western Hemisphere. 

The blunt truth is this-and I reveal this with the full knowledge of the 
British Government-the present rate of Nazi sinkings of merchant ships 
is more than three times as high as the capacity of British shipyards to 
replace them; it is more than twice the combined British and American 
output of merchant ships today. 

We can answer this peril by two simultaneous measures: First, by 
speeding up and increasing our great ship-building program; and second, 
by helping to cut down the losses on the high seas. 

Attacks on shipping off the very shores of land which we are determined 
to protect present an actual military danger to the Americas. And that 
danger has recently been heavily underlined by the presence in Western 
Hemisphere waters of Nazi battleships of great striking power. 

Most of the supplies for Britain go by a northerly route, which comes 
close to Greenland and the nearby island of Iceland. Germany's heaviest 
attack is on that route. Nazi occupation of Iceland or bases in 
Greenland would bring the war close to our continental shores; because 
they are stepping stones to Labrador, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and the 
northern United States, including the great industrial centers of the 
North, East, and the Middle West. 

Equally the Azores and the Cape Verde Islands, if occupied or controlled 
by Germany, would directly endanger the freedom of the Atlantic and our 
own physical safety. Under German domination these would become bases 
for submarines, warships, and airplanes raiding the waters which lie 
immediately off our own coasts and attacking the shipping in the south 
Atlantic. They would provide a springboard for actual attack against the 
integrity and independence of Brazil and her neighboring republics. 

I have said on many occasions that the United States is mustering its 
men and its resources only for purposes of defense-only to repel attack. 
I repeat that statement now. But we must be realistic when we use the 
word "attack"; we have to relate it to the lightning speed of modern 

Some people seem to think that we are not attacked until bombs actually 
drop on New York or San Francisco or New Orleans or 

Page 106

Chicago. But they are simply shutting their eyes to the lesson we must 
learn from the fate of every nation that the Nazis have conquered. 

The attack on Czechoslovakia began with the conquest of Austria. The 
attack on Norway began with the occupation of Denmark. The attack on 
Greece began with occupation of Albania and Bulgaria. The attack on the 
Suez Canal began with the invasion of the Balkans and North Africa. The 
attack on the United States can begin with the domination of any base 
which menaces our security-north or south. 

Nobody can foretell tonight just when the acts of the dictators will 
ripen into attack on this hemisphere and us. But we know enough by now 
to realize that it would be suicide to wait until they are in our front 

When your enemy comes at you in a tank or a bombing plane if you hold 
your fire until you see the whites of his eyes, you will never know what 
hit you. Our Bunker Hill of tomorrow may be several thousand miles from 

Anyone with an atlas and a reasonable knowledge of the sudden striking 
force of modern war knows that it is stupid to wait until a probable 
enemy has gained a foothold from which to attack. Old-fashioned common 
sense calls for the use of a strategy which will prevent such an enemy 
from gaining a foothold in the first place. 

We have, accordingly, extended our patrol in North and South Atlantic 
waters. We are steadily adding more and more ships and planes to that 
patrol. It is well known that the strength of the Atlantic fleet has 
been greatly increased during the past year, and is constantly being 
built up. 

These ships and planes warn of the presence of attacking raiders, on the 
sea, under the sea, and above the sea. The danger from these raiders is 
greatly lessened if their location is definitely known. We are thus 
being forewarned; and we shall be on our guard against efforts to 
establish Nazi bases closer to our hemisphere. 

The deadly facts of war compel nations, for simple self-preservation to 
make stern choices. It does not make sense, for instance, to say, "I 
believe in the defense of all the Western Hemisphere," and in the next 
breath to say, "I will not fight for that defense until the enemy has 
landed on our shores." And if we believe in the independence and 
integrity of the Americas, we must be willing to fight to defend them 
just as much as we would to fight for the safety of our own homes. 

It is time for us to realize that the safety of American homes even in 
the center of our country has a definite relationship to the continued 
safety of homes in Nova Scotia or Trinidad or Brazil. 

Our national policy today, therefore, is this: 

First, we shall actively resist wherever necessary, and with all our 
resources, every attempt by Hitler to extend his Nazi domination to the 
Western Hemisphere, or to threaten it. We shall actively resist his 
every attempt to gain control of the seas. We insist upon the vital I 
importance of keeping Hitlerism away from any point in the world which 
could be used and would be used as a base of attack against the 

Second, from the point of view of strict naval and military necessity, 
we shall give every possible assistance to Britain and to all who,

Page 107

with Britain, are resisting Hitlerism or its equivalent with force of 
arms. Our patrols are helping now to insure delivery of the needed 
supplies to Britain. All additional measures necessary to deliver the 
goods will be taken. Any and all further methods or combination of 
methods, which can or should be utilized, are being devised by our 
military and naval technicians, who, with me, will work out and put into 
effect such new and additional safeguards as may be needed. 

The delivery of needed supplies to Britain is imperative. This can be 
done; it must be done; it will be done. 

To the other American nations-20 republics and the Dominion of Canada-I 
say this: The United States does not merely propose these purposes, but 
is actively engaged today in carrying them out. 

I say to them further, you may disregard those few citizens of the 
United States who contend that we are disunited and cannot act. 

There are some timid ones among us who say that we must preserve peace 
at any price-lest we lose our liberties forever. To them I say: Never in 
the history of the world has a nation lost its democracy by a successful 
struggle to defend its democracy. We must not be defeated by the fear of 
the very danger which we are preparing to resist. Our freedom has shown 
its ability to survive war, but it would never survive surrender. "The 
only thing we have to fear is fear itself." 

There is, of course, a small group of sincere, patriotic men and women 
whose real passion for peace has shut their eyes to the ugly realities 
of international banditry and to the need to resist it at all costs. I 
am sure they are embarrassed by the sinister support they are receiving 
from the enemies of democracy in our midst-the Bundists, and Fascists, 
and Communists, and every group devoted to bigotry and racial and 
religious intolerance. It is no mere coincidence that all the arguments 
put forward by these enemies of democracy-all their attempts to confuse 
and divide our people and to destroy public confidence in our 
Government-all their defeatist forebodings that Britain and democracy 
are already beaten-all their selfish promises that we can "do business" 
with Hitler-all of these are but echoes of the words that have been 
poured out from the Axis bureaus of propaganda. Those same words have 
been used before in other countries-to scare them, to divide them, to 
soften them up. Invariably, those same words have formed the advance 
guard of physical attack. 

Your Government has the right to expect of all citizens that they take 
loyal part in the common work of our common defense-take loyal part from 
this moment forward. 

I have recently set up the machinery for civilian defense. It will 
rapidly organize, locality by locality. It will depend on the organized 
effort of men and women everywhere. All will have responsibilities to 

Defense today means more than merely fighting. It means morale, civilian 
as well as military; it means using every available resource; it means 
enlarging every useful plant. It means the use of a greater American 
common sense in discarding rumor and distorted statement. It means 
recognizing, for what they are, racketeers and "fifth columnists," who 
are the incendiary bombs of the moment. 

Page 108

All of us know that we have made very great social progress in recent 
years. We propose to maintain that progress and strengthen it. When the 
Nation is threatened from without, however, as it is today, the actual 
production and transportation of the machinery of defense must not be 
interrupted by disputes between capital and capital, labor and labor, or 
capital arid labor. The future of all free enterprise-of capital and 
labor alike-is at stake. 

This is no time for capital to make, or be allowed to retain, excess 
profits. Articles of defense must have undisputed right-of-way in every 
industrial plant in the country. 

A Nation-wide machinery for conciliation and mediation of industrial 
disputes has been set up. That machinery must be used promptly-and 
without stoppage of work. Collective bargaining will be retained, but 
the American people expect that impartial recommendations of our 
Government services will be followed both by capital and by labor. 

The overwhelming majority of our citizens expect their Government to see 
that the tools of defense are built; and for the very purpose of 
preserving the democratic safeguards of both labor and management, this 
Government is determined to use all of its power to express the will of 
its people, and to prevent interference with the production of materials 
essential to our Nation's security. 

Today the whole world is divided between human slavery and human 
freedom-between pagan brutality and the Christian ideal. 

We choose human freedom which is the Christian ideal. 

No one of us can waver for a moment in his courage or his faith. 

We will not accept a Hitler-dominated world. And we will not accept a 
world, like the post-war world of the 1920's, in which the seeds of 
Hitlerism can again be planted and allowed to grow. 

We will accept only a world consecrated to freedom of speech and 
expression-freedom of every person to worship God in his own way-freedom 
from want-and freedom from terrorism. 

Is such a world impossible of attainment? 

Magna Carta, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the 
United States, the Emancipation Proclamation, and every other milestone 
in human progress-all were ideals which seemed impossible of attainment-
yet they were attained. 

As a military force, we were weak when we established our independence, 
but we successfully stood off tyrants, powerful in their day, who are 
now lost in the dust of history. 

Odds meant nothing to us then. Shall we now, with all our potential 
strength, hesitate to take every single measure necessary to maintain 
our American liberties? 

Our people and our Government will not hesitate to meet that challenge. 

As the President of a united and determined people I say solemnly:

We reassert the ancient American doctrine of freedom of the seas.

We reassert the solidarity of the 21 American Republics and the Dominion 
of Canada in the preservation of the independence of the hemisphere. 

We have pledged material support to the other democracies of the world-
and we will fulfill that pledge. 

Page 109

We in the Americas will decide for ourselves whether, and when, and 
where, our American interests are attacked or our security threatened. 

We are placing our armed forces in strategic military position. 

We will not hesitate to use our armed forces to repel attack. 

We reassert our abiding faith in the vitality of our constitutional 
Republic as a perpetual home of freedom, of tolerance, and of devotion 
to the word of God. 

Therefore, with profound consciousness of my responsibilities to my 
countrymen and to my country's cause, I have tonight issued a 
proclamation that an unlimited national emergency exists and requires 
the strengthening of our defense to the extreme limit of our national 
power and authority. 

The Nation will expect all individuals and all groups to play their full 
parts without stint, and without selfishness, and without doubt that our 
democracy will triumphantly survive. 

I repeat the words of the signers of the Declaration of Independence 
that little band of patriots, fighting long ago against overwhelming 
odds, but certain, as are we, of ultimate victory: "With a firm reliance 
on the protection of divine providence, we mutually pledge to each other 
our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor " 


See Papers I VI, IX, XIII, and XV of this series for additional 
references to Hemisphere Solidarity.