We Will Win the Last Battle


By LORD HALIFAX, British Ambassador to the United States

Delivered before the Minneapolis Rotary Club at the Hotel Nicollet, Minneapolis, Minn., May 9, 1941

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VII, pp. 495-497

THE pages of our newspapers during the last month or so have, I think, brought one great lesson home to all of us. And that is the lightning speed of modern warfare. The great armies of men whom we saw in the last war throwing themselves often at terrible cost against the barbed wire and concrete are already a thing of the past and the science of war itself has undergone a complete revolution.

The key men in the present war are the designers and draughtsmen, the skilled workers in the factories, and the intrepid pilots and gunners who use these products of the war industry and who must in their turn be equally skilled. Courage and endurance are still needed but by themselves they are as useless as the courage of savages against rifles and machine guns.

The introduction of the technician into every aspect of the struggle, from the tank driver and the pilot back to the worker in the factory, has changed the structure of war.

In the past the war machine was likened to a triangle with its base facing the enemy. Today that triangle has been reversed; the apex is the striking force and the wide basestands upon the mines and the factories; and in our case on the whole industrial field, both British and American. If the free countries can come to hold a greater weight of mechanized equipment and of ships to transport it to the field of battle, the war will be won.

Today it is my country's privilege to lead in the battle of resistance to Hitler, and she can do so with firm faith and increasing confidence since she is assured of America's whole-hearted support in the battle of production.

In a war so specialised as this, in which machinery is playing a decisive role, the raw materials which make and drive that machinery are playing an ever more important part. And since that is so raw materials are going to have a great deal to say.

I take three of the most essential: oil is the vital source of power for the modern army, and together the United States and the British Commonwealth of Nations dispose of some 70% of the world supply. Eighty-five per cent of the world's copper is still beyond Hitler's reach and no less than ninety-one per cent of the crude rubber.

These are the trump cards in the hands of freedom. Theseare hard and simple facts which constitute a challenge to those doubting minds which cannot see certain assurance of the ultimate collapse and defeat of Hitler.

For the last seven years Nazi Germany had increased the tempo of her industry to its maximum intensity. To do this she has whipped out of her industrial man-power an effort so tremendous that only a quick and total victory can save her. But here in the United States, that big arsenal of democracy, the growing strength arising from the mobilisation of your vast industrial power is only now beginning to be discerned.

And the answer to the question "Can Hitler be defeated" lies partly here in your great mills, shipbuilding plants, and factories, and partly in the resolution of the British people.

About the immense help you can give us there is no doubt. About our unfaltering devotion to our cause there is no doubt either. For nothing will make the British people believe that all they stand for can go down before so vile and base a thing as Nazism has proved itself to be.

Nor can I doubt that you members of the Rotary Club in this great city of Minneapolis will feel with peculiar force the reasons which finally led my country to the conclusion that there can be no compromise in the present struggle, and that death itself would be preferable to life in a world in which Hitlerism ruled.

The Rotary movement, which I believe originated in the United States of America, has laid the world under no mean debt by constantly keeping before mens' minds one of the highest ideals, that of service to one's fellow men. Still more, in the International Rotary movement you have shown how men of differing opinions and different races, content to lead their own lives and follow their own loyalties, have been able to come together and comprehend one another's problems and to work them out through better understanding.

The ideals and purposes for which your great movement was founded are the very ones for which Hitler has the greatest hatred and the most cold contempt. Small wonder that he has forbidden it to exist in Germany.

For him, as he has made abundantly clear, the lie is one of his most trusted weapons. It was by the most unscrupulous mendacity that he sought to create a general feeling of security while feverishly preparing the weapons with which to strike when the time was ripe. And when he was ready for war he lied in turn to each of Germany's neighbors until the selected moment for their destruction.

Addressing the Reichstag some eight years ago Hitler said: "Our boundless love for and loyalty to our own national traditions make us desire from the bottom of our hearts to live with other nations in peace and friendship. We have no use for the idea of Germanisation. The mentality of the past century which made our rulers believe that they could make Germans out of Poles and Frenchmen is completely foreign to us.

Let us see what Hitler has done and is doing to the Poland which he has overrun, and to whom he made such fair promises, until he was ready to destroy her. A new wave of terror is being applied by the German authorities in Poland at this very moment that I speak. We are all so preoccupied with our own lives that we are terribly apt to forget that Hitler's Germany is practising with cold, conscious, deliberate, and scientific skill a savagery not seen in the world since the days of Genghis Kahn. It is probably true to say that no less than forty thousand Poles have been murdered within the last few months. Polish villages are the daily scene of terror, reprisals, mass floggings and violence of every kind. Special concentration camps for Polish peasants have been instituted. Large numbers of the people are being moved. Schools are being closed by decree, Polish youth isbeing drafted for compulsory labour. In the daytime manhunts are organised on the streets and at night people are dragged out of their homes and killed.

In Warsaw, the capital city, Poles are not allowed to walk upon the pavements and have to salute all Germans in uniform. All the leaders of the nation, all men who might once more raise the Polish nation from the dust are being destroyed.

Every outward sign of Polish nationalism, all that was most sacred to the nation and which served to remind it of its past glories is being systematically polluted and blotted out.

Hardly less piteous, and certainly not less outrageous, have been the sufferings of the Scandinavian peoples who have fallen for the time being under Hitler's domination. Norway had long been a model of democracy for the whole world. No nation was more profoundly pacific just as no nation has done more to keep alive its national consciousness during its bitter trial.

Here there was no bone of contention, there was no vestige of a grievance which Hitler could create. No people were better governed, no people were more anxious to cooperate for the good of all nations. Norwegians had a particular claim on German gratitude, for in the last war they had cared for large numbers of German children, when the blockade made their home conditions difficult. But the virtues, which we have learnt most to value, are to Hitler only an insult and a provocation, and that is why the British Commonwealth of Nations are determined as they have never been determined before to make an end of this man and his abominations once and for all.

Let us be assured of this. A victory for Hitler would mean the triumph not only of a corruption and cruelty worse than the human race has yet experienced, but also the triumph of a ruthless industrial system that no nation that values free enterprise could survive. That system of free enterprise and free cooperation is now on trial, and I believe that those nations still free are becoming daily more aware of the challenge to their existence.

Today fortunately there are signs that the time is approaching when every unit of totalitarianism production will be met by two units of free production, and here I mean not only industrial output but raw materials and foodstuffs as well.

And the day must soon come when the Nazis will be no longer able to find fresh loot as they have found it in France, Holland, Denmark, and other ravaged countries, and will be forced to draw still deeper on their reserves. Gradually the deluded people of Germany will discover that the essential reserves of supply for which they have slaved and starved and foregone their liberty are exhausted and that they are left to face the crushing strength of the forces of freedom, armed, fed, supplied and inspired by the limitless resources of America's gigantic wealth and help. When the history of that day is written it will be clear that the genius of industrial coordination will have played an equal part with the genius of military strategy.

Already the Battle of the Atlantic is raging. It will be determined by sea power in the form of our navy with such help as you feel able to allow your navy to give us, and by our capacity to defeat the destructive attacks on our shipping of the submarine and aeroplane and by your and our power to replace the ships which are sunk. The link between production and combat, the sea lanes by which the tools pass on their way to the job is vital and its strength can be ensured by the joint action of both the United States and Great Britain. Already you have established a base in Newfoundland and you are taking action in regard to Greenland. We have the Faroe Islands and Iceland in our hands, and these strategic land points form the buttresses of the northern bridge of the Atlantic.

With the great assistance which you are giving us by your watchful naval patrols outside the combat zone it will be possible for us more and more to strengthen our defenses in the most dangerous areas.

If with your aid we can win the battles of production and transportation we in Britain are confident, and we believe you share our confidence, that we can win the last battle of all which will rid the world of this evil thing.

But when we have weighed the material factors let us not forget that which is the most vital factor of all. The spirit and resolution of peoples moving together because of their own free will and decision. Let me tell you of what an American has recently said as he visited two of our devastated cities.

"There wasn't any Easter parade in Bristol today," he says: "This wounded city is still brushing the dust out of its eyes. They came on the night of Good Friday, bringing man's oldest weapon, fire, and the newest of man's machines.

"Those walking home from Easter service stopped to peer into the craters and the rubble of the places they once knew. Bristol is proud of its association with America. They believe their boys discovered it. So it comes hard for them to see the ruins of a hall where Cabot, in 1497, said his last prayers before he set sail with 18 men of Bristol to discoverthe mainland of North America. He called it Newfoundland."

And speaking of Plymouth, the same American says: "This paster I returned to look at Plymouth, with amaze. Its soft greenness can never be erased. But its weathered gray houses, they've been burnt and blasted.

"Plymouth is cleaning up. They haven't had time yet for the Mayflower Rock. It's still covered with glass and debris, but the inscription is undefaced; Mayflower 1620. The small yellow house where the Pilgrims spent their last night is blasted. Little gray camp fires and burnt out bombs cover the lawn where Sir Francis Drake once bowled. They wiped the mud off the face of his statue and today Sir Francis still stares defiantly towards the channel whence another Armada may come."

The enemy seems bent on destroying landmarks which held as honoured a place in the history of your country as they did in mine.

We shall mourn the loss of these ancient buildings, since they are irreplaceable. But in comparison with the spiritual things which they represented and for which we fight, they are nothing.

And we are jointly resolved that the free spirit of man, which drove Cabot and the Pilgrim Fathers to leave Bristol and Plymouth more than 300 years ago, shall not be extinguished. We are determined if need be to give our lives in its defence.