Our Home Front
"WE ALL HAVE OUR OWN PRIVATE PEARL HARBOR"
By THOMAS E. DEWEY, Ex-District Attorney of New York County
At the 139th dinner of the Economic Club of New York, at the Hotel Astor, New York, January 27, 1942
Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VII, pp. 267-269.
I AM deeply honored by this most unusual presentation—I am sure that some of the flattering words will probably rise to haunt the writer so I shall let you wonder, I shan't let you in on what they say. And I am deeply appreciative of the privilege of being with you tonight in these critical days.
When Dr. Ely, your incredible sparkplug started to come to see me about a year or a year and a half ago, I always saw him and was always charmed,—he could charm the birds off the trees, I almost yielded but at each time some lingering sense of modesty which ultimately leaves all of us in public life, and perhaps a bit of self understanding, led me always to the conclusion that I was required to say that I had no pearls of wisdom to lay before the feet of the distinguished guests and members of the Economic Club—so, finally, when he came on this mission, I said, "Yes, I would be deeply honored but I still had no pearls of wisdom."
He said, "You will be expected to say nothing." So, when
the announcements were safely out he then said, "Of course,
we expect you to respond to the presentation at some length." He reminded me of an advertisement in the morning paper
which I saw today—the advertisement read, "Chevrolet for
sale—$20; with tires, $600."
So the increase from merely standing up and saying how do you do to a speech, is on the head of Dr. Ely and your funeral, and not mine—it is not my fault.
Accordingly, if I say, with almost complete extemporaneousness, except for some struggle to write some notes, some of the frank things which are on my mind, you will perhaps forgive them, because they were not written in the language of statecraft and pored over before I came here tonight—and perhaps you will excuse a frankness that may seem to you almost brutal—with the idea in mind that some day we are going to come to the stage in which our great ally, Great Britain, has always been—where the opposition and the members of the government are expected as a matter of public duty to say the things which are honestly on their mind and soul and in their capacity to deliver. And, in that frame of mind I will say the few things I had on my mind.
It is hard to believe we are in the war. Here are a thousand or thereabouts of New York's citizens in dinner clothes, eating a dinner which is unrationed, with the usual excellent food. The hotel is adequately heated; we even had sugar and they didn't tell us how many lumps we should take. It is hard to believe we are in the war, and yet, within the last two days we have had before us two sharp reminders of some of the realities which we recognize in speeches and
as we read the press, but not in our thinking, or, I regret to say, in the conduct of most of the American nation.
Twenty-four years ago, yesterday, we had been in the war 8 months and things which no one of us yet contemplate nor believe is possible, were then introduced. Wheatless bread became the order of the day and within a reasonably short time bread consisted of a small portion of wheat and a substantial portion of other cereals. We think of ourselves as the Granary of the World, with colossal wealth and grain surpluses generally, and the market being glutted with hogs and cattle. Those things are of yesterday, because we today have allies to feed who are hungry all over the globe.
It was twenty-four years ago today that the meatless Wednesdays were instituted; yet it is hard to think of the meatless Wednesdays here. And at that time heatless Mondays were instituted and lawyers and bankers and brokers were expected to live in unheated offices on Mondays.
The second item of which I speak is the onslaught on Pearl Harbor. We have two ideas as a people, as regards that report. We may accept it in a common spirit; we may make two scapegoats in the matter of Kimmel and Short, and say "We have found the villains in the plot"—and go about our business, and meanwhile building up ourselves a hero on the other side so that we may sleep peacefully at night and not see Japs crawling under the bed.
On the other hand we may read that report a second time, understanding the implications, and awake to what it means to all of us. We may awake to the sense of responsibility which the implications of that report bring home to every man and woman over the age of 16, shall I say—and their own personal responsibility for all of the implications of that report.
Personally, I choose the latter course, and I urge that we as a nation learn the lesson of that report and take it as applying to ourselves as well as to the rest of the people in this country. It is a picture of two commanders, unaware of danger. Neglect of duty, if you will; but more than that: It is a picture of the world of routine where the Navy high-hatted the Army and the Army "brass-hatted" the Navy. It is a picture of days in which men thought by passing the buck and writing reports and following the routine practices of a sleepy pre-war day they could discharge their sense of responsibility.
And, in another sense, it is a picture of a whole country—130,000,000 people—many saw the danger but no one acted on it to the limit, and no one to an adequate degree. No one of us can claim exemption from that.
I notice, and took considerable pride from it, that back in 1940 I made two speeches on a national radio hook-up on two days two weeks apart calling for a single head of production in view of the emergency of the nation, and I am sure at least 10,000 others in the intervening 18 months did the same. And yet, that Pearl Harbor state of mind resulted in 18 months of delay before we could get the rudimentary necessities of a national production in the way of an order from the President for a single united command for production for this war.
It is a picture of Washington, this report. It is a picture of a Washington working hard. Everybody, you know, down there is working 8, 9 and 10 hours a day, and with a considerable sense of responsibility; and most of us know many people who are down there with a great sense of responsibility. But it is still a picture of a Washington which is living on reports, which is doing a routine and unimaginative routine, while we are opposed to the most imaginative creators of war machines the world has ever seen.
There are some uglier sides. The report shows that
there were reports by these two officers, the General and the Admiral, as to exactly what they were doing pursuant to the instructions from Washington, and the reports were well before December 7th, and no criticism came from the high command.
There is, and I think it is a public duty to express it, an uneasy feeling in the minds of many wondering whether there is a whitewash of ultimate responsibility for failure to command more adequate action than the reports showed was actually taking place. It is an amazing picture of espionage, of failure of counter-espionage, of 200 Japanese spies operating out of a Consulate sending thousands of messages over the American system of communications to their head office in Tokio, in which they were able to display the entire situation for the benefit of their own high command and without one ounce of interference or even of the interception so far as the report shows of a single message.
Again, the report gives a picture of those idyllic days when people thought only in terms of their own views about the way a country should be run without any effort to face reality. It recalls the fight in Congress on a bill to attempt to correct what I conceive to have been a judicial misinterpretation of the Communications Act to say that no federal agent, for the protection of the domestic safety of the United States, or of its country, in time of war might intercept any message on any communications system whatsoever for any purpose; and Congress failed to pass the bill permitting that even in felony or espionage cases.
The report is reminiscent of our own State, where in 1938 there was a determined effort by idealistic, well-meaning but grossly misinformed people, led by the Governor of the State, to write a prohibition against such interception of messages into the Constitution of the State of New York; and it was one of the toughest battles I ever saw. And, finally, we succeeded in getting a proper provision written in that such protection for the domestic safety of the State and for the national safety should not be barred, but should be permitted under judicial order. And I am proud to say that at least the State of New York did not make the same blunder that the Federal Government did in that field.
The report leads to many conclusions, but in general it is only fair to say that in all brutal frankness, the Roberts report is a mirror of the entire United States of America on December 7, 1941. It names a General and an Admiral, and it could name every single one of us. I know of no exception, either in public office or in private life, Democrat or Republican, any one of you or me. There can be no exceptions.
Where do we go from here? The real question is: Are we still in a pre-Pearl Harbor state of mind as we sit here in our dinner clothes eating a nice dinner? Is the nation as a whole in that frame of mind? I regret to say that I think the American nation as a whole is still in a pre-Pearl Harbor condition.
The beginning of August last year it was already apparent to every thinking person that we were going to have a radical rise in prices, and for six uninterrupted months the Congress of the United States, Republicans and Democrats alike, have been struggling with every bit of influence and power at their command over a price control bill which is still not enacted into law. More than that, a draft has finally been turned out which is wholly unacceptable both to the proponents and to the opponents. No member of Congress would have the effrontery to claim that it is worth the paper it is written on. So far, Congress promises no respectable price control bill.
Meanwhile, the costs of this war and of living are skyrocketing and there seems to be no basic approach to it.
Secondly, yesterday in the papers of the United States there was broadcast a resolution by a dominant labor group in the United States calling upon all component parts of that organization to demand a consistently higher wage rate throughout the year upon the theory that the standard of living would have to continue to rise for those of us who stay home and do not fight.
At the same time, we find minority blocks in the Congress demanding a hundred and twenty per cent of parity for agriculture, which is what no farm leader ever asked. It is an illusion and a fraud, because parity means a relationship between all prices. It is a special privilege which is not desired either by the farmer nor his legitimate leaders. And yet, it has been passed tentatively.
And still, we find in industry some groups, who are fortunately very small, who believe the war is a means by which they can get rich off the government.
Basically, there is a total lack of realization, first of all, that we are in a situation where however much money you can lay your hands on won't do you one dime's worth of good. Fifty per cent of all the production of the United States is going to be for war goods, which means that only half of it can be for consumption goods. And yet, they talk about increasing the standard of living. The standard of living in the United States, aside from food and a home, is made up of better clothing, of automobiles, radios, electric refrigerators, the lamps and the rugs and the furniture in your home, and the luxuries of life. Those luxuries aren't going to be manufactured. And this great basic misconception of economics, which lies throughout leadership in group after group of this country, leads them to proclaim that they can raise a living standard by having money to buy goods that don't exist. Millions of Americans are being led down the road of demagoguery to believe that they can grasp after a non-existent thing, the consumption of goods which cannot be manufactured because the manufacturing capacity is engaged in winning a war. We need not only education but a facing of the truth. More money can't buy more goods. All it can do is increase the cost of the war, tend to national bankruptcy, and ultimately burden every one of us infinitely worse after the war.
I came today, just before I got here, from a meeting of the Trustees of a hospital of which I am a trustee, and in that hospital they are learning that we are in a war. Twenty of the critical items, without which a hospital cannot effectively operate, are today not only unbuyable but unobtain-
able in the United States for any purpose whatsoever, and that includes medical supplies, gauze, and many drugs. Moreover, within 3 months there will be such a nursing shortage in the City of New York that I venture to prophesy that the private nursing of any patient in any hospital will soon become prohibited as a matter of national emergency.
Moreover, in servicing units for the army and the navy we are going to strip ourselves of doctors, so that every hospital in the country is going to be short-handed. And yet, throughout the nation we are talking about conducting our affairs as if there were no war.
The Pearl Harbor report, in short, can smother our real defects by creating a couple of scapegoats for us. Or, we can realize that every single person in this country in public life or in private life has a little private Pearl Harbor in his own life.
More than that, the failure to realize our own problems is evidenced in every act of the Congress, because the people have not yet come to face realities and demand it. Sugar rationing is to come, and there is complaining. Whatever the incompetence, we can fight it out, but then learn to like it. We have got to be prepared to support real price fixing. We have got to be prepared to support real rationing, and I am prepared now to advocate that every single item that goes into consumption in this country be rationed because if it isn't the man with the larger income can buy extra suits of clothes, however much the prices be fixed and create an unwholesome atmosphere of favoritism which though not real will undermine national morale. We must be prepared to rebuke selfishness firmly, to educate the people of this country on the real economics of war-time so that they shan't be led down blind alleys, to live in our kitchen, in our home, in our office, and in our daily lives as if we really were at war.
If we have the courage to face reality and to give up gladly the things that we have to give up, if we have the courage to speak the truth, to criticize where it be necessary, to support however much it hurts, we can win this war. We haven't won it yet. It can be lost. We are a long, long way from winning it now. And until every citizen in this country recognizes that he is just as much responsible for Pearl Harbor as those in high office, and they have plenty of responsibility to answer for, we will all have our own private Pearl Harbor, we will all have our own sense of guilt, and if we have the courage to recognize it and to mean it, America will come through this crisis as it always has in the past.
No Room for Complacency in Domestic Expenditures
GIVE CONGRESSMEN MORAL AND REALISTIC SUPPORT
By MORTON BODFISH, Executive Vice President, United States Savings and Loan League
Address before 49th Annual Convention of the League, Miami, Florida, December 5, 1941
Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VII, pp. 269-
policies, particularly the domestic expenditures, of our government.
We all have a great responsibility to take an intelligent interest in national affairs. The need for unity should not blind us or confuse us about the pressing need for an honest and critical attitude toward inefficiency, extravagance, or
THE national crisis in which we find ourselves should give us one determined stand among many others, viz. to face the facts. With the tragic example of France before us, we should realize that, as businessmen, as custodians of the savings of middle-income America, we cannot afford to be indifferent or complacent about the domestic