Opportunity to Win War in 1942
A SECOND FRONT IN EUROPE TO AID RUSSIA
By LORD BEAVERBROOK, Britain's Lease-Lend Coordinator in Washington
Delivered before the Bureau of Advertising of the American Newspaper Publishers Association, April 23, 1942
Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VII, pp. 459-461.
NEVER, never, has any race fought so hard, so furiously as the British people in the last two years. Now I know this view is not generally held in the United States. And I ask you to hear me, a citizen of the empire, and just as free to criticize Britain in the past as any other man in this room.
It was just two years ago that we lost everything we possessed, save only our soldiers. We had to begin all over again. Nothing left to us but a portion of our army. All the weapons gone. The cupboard was bare. Not even a rifle.
Guns we lost in thousands, vehicles by the fifty thousand. Almost all our tanks, and many airplanes.
And remember too that many valuable and essential raw materials were cut off when our sources of supply fell under the power of Germany. Three-quarters of our imports of iron and steel, all the raw materials of our aluminum output, most of our wood products, including newsprint raw materials. This vast disturbance made necessary the most bold and vigorous plans of reorganization. You can have no idea of the expedients we were compelled to adopt at that time to make good these losses.
Now this was a harsh misfortune. But just the same the loss of the raw materials was not fatal to us. For we diverted our demands to other sources of supply. We retrieved the situation at some considerable expense to ourselves in the reorganization of our shipping lines.
But the biggest disaster was our naval losses. Forty-seven warships were sunk in the operations off Norway and Dunkerque. And when the evacuation was over half our destroyer fleet lay awaiting repairs in our shipyards.
Only 5 Fighter Aircraft
Hardly had we emerged from this peril when we were called upon to fight the Battle of Britain. And I must tellyou that when that struggle began we had in reserve only five fighter aircraft in the storage units.
What did this mean? That if an airplane was lost, but the pilot reached safety, still he could not be used again, for we did not have another mount for him. By improvisation, by invention, by every form of makeshift, we managed to keep the fighting front supplied with aircraft. Every human being worked all out. There was no need for clocks or other timekeepers during the Battle of Britain.
Two big years for Britain, 1940 and 1941. Victory or defeat? Victory certainly. The German plan of campaign was destroyed. Hard fighting, brave deeds, and vast powers of endurance was the record of the British Army in two years of battle.
Then came the Japs. They caught us unawares in Malaya and Singapore. We have little to say in defense of our errors. We cannot explain our failures. We can only resolve to profit by our punishment and strive after higher efficiency and greater resource in the days to come.
But that is the story of the past. Now the day has come when in almost every quarter in Britain the cry goes up, "Attack!" "Attack in support of Russia!" For the passion to set up a Western Fighting Front in aid of the Russians is deep in the hearts of all our people.
We know that the Russians kill more Germans every day than all the Allies put together. We know they destroy more enemy tanks, bring down more enemy planes than any of us or all of us. Russia is the fighting front. That is the opportunity, the chance to bring the Germans to battle.
Ever since a journey to Russia in October last I have been in favor of a second front. The British and American Supply Missions at that time provided our Ally with aircraft and tanks, and anti-aircraft guns, and with anti-tank guns.
And some short-sighted people complained that we did wrong to put weapons in the hands of Communists.
I don't understand the complaint. Communism under Stalin has produced the most valiant fighting army in Europe. Communism under Stalin has provided us with examples of patriotism equal to the finest annals of history. Communism under Stalin has won the applause and admiration of all the Western nations. Communism under Stalin has produced the best generals in this war. I was always impressed by Lincoln's answer when Grant was charged with taking too much drink.
Persecution of Christianity? Not so. There is no religious persecution. The church doors are open. And there is complete freedom to practice religion, just as there is complete freedom to reject it.
Racial persecution? Not at all. Jews live like other men. There are many races in the Soviet Union and not even a color bar.
Political purges? Of course. But it is now clear that the men who were shot down would have betrayed Russia to her German enemy.
Then again, it is said by one of my neighbors: "Don't give any more supplies to the Russians lest they use their weapons against us the next time they change sides."
That is not possible. There is no crossing that river of martyrs' blood. Maybe more than a million men and women have died to save Russia. The peace will come, not from negotiation, but from subjugation. Russia or Germany must be destroyed.
Besides, Stalin has pledged his word to make war and peace with Great Britain and America. He will respect his promise. Stalin accepts the Atlantic Charter. The President has given us this momentous declaration, and for my part I shall strive for it always, with faith and confidence in his leadership. He will bring us to the fulfillment of the Charter. Be sure of it. And fulfillment provides that all nations shall dwell in security.
Calls Red Ruler "Curious Man"
Stalin accepted the Atlantic Charter. He did so in my presence. He expressed no dissent, but entire agreement. He asked many questions, but then, he is a curious man. He wants to know all about public men and national aspirations. He asked about our women too, or rather, I should say, your women. He asked about Lady Astor. She had called on him at the Kremlin a few years ago. So I asked Stalin what did Lady Astor talk about? And he said, "the Bible." "What did you talk about?" said I. "Churchill," Stalin replied. I knew the re was no chance for agreement on either subject on either side.
I believe in the Russian system which holds to the faith that the best form of defense is attack. And I believe that Britain should adopt it by setting up somewhere along the two thousand miles of coastline now held by the Germans, a second front in Western Europe.
Now you may ask what is the reason for my advocacy of help to Russia. Is it due to confidence in a brave people or to the desire to help a hard-pressed comrade? Not at all.
It is the knowledge that Russia may settle the war for us in 1942. By holding the Germans in check, possibly even by defeating them, the Russians may be the means of bringing the whole Axis structure down.
This is a chance, an opportunity to bring the war to an end here and now. But if the Russians are defeated and driven out of the war, never will such a chance come to us again.
Strike out to help Russia! Strike out violently! Strike even recklessly! But in any event such blows that reallyhelp will be our share and contribution to the Russian battle-front.
Britain Well Equipped Now
How admirably Britain is now equipped in weapons of war for directing such an attack on Germany, I well know.
The story of the production of arms and weapons of every description during the last two years is a high tribute to the British genius for war.
The task of equipping our army has far exceeded any. thing that was contemplated when war began. Each division now carries a thousand tons of ammunition, and consumes two tons of petrol for every mile it travels. A single anti-aircraft battery requires three tons of ammunition in one minute's action. Five tons of shipping are needed to keep one soldier overseas.
Our tank production has been doubled in the last six months. And our output of guns of two-pounder caliber and over exceeds thirty-five thousand a year.
Our cruisers have been on duty three hundred days in the year. Our submarines have sunk or damaged 326 enemy ships, sixty-four of them warships. And our attacks from sea and air have destroyed five and a quarter million tons of merchant shipping, three capital ships, thirteen cruisers, fifty-three destroyers and many submarines.
The national output of food and the general mobilization of manpower gives every Briton the right to stand before his neighbors with quiet confidence in work well done.
Our plowmen have turned up six million acres that were not under cultivation before the war. Our dairymen have kept up the milk yield from their farms. And our stockmen have sustained the pre-war herds of beasts and sheep.
There are 33,000,000 people in Great Britain between the ages of 14 and 64. Twenty million have been mobilized for the forces and for vital war work. Women, unless they have young children, are conscripted for industry up to the age of 41. Unmarried women under 30 may be called up for the services. There are already three times as many women in munitions as there were in 1918. Twenty-five thousand women have joined the Women's Land Army.
The people of Britain have made many sacrifices, and without any complaint save only the ancient right to criticize and find fault with their government.
They have adopted black bread for white. They have given up eggs. There is no more beef. Oranges and lemons have been forbidden. There is not even an apple in this "other Eden, demi-paradise." They have accepted a system of food rationing thorough and complete. They have sacrificed sugar to the Russians, whisky to the Americans, corn to the Egyptians, railway engines to the Persians and railings to the tank factories. They have abandoned turn-ups on their trousers and buttons on their cuffs. And don't ask the poor man for a match or the rich man for a dime, because they have neither.
Has Met All Emergencies
Britain has arisen at every call to all emergencies. In 1940 the need was for aircraft. And Britain made good. In 1941 it was for tanks. And Britain made good with interest. Now, in 1942, it is for shipbuilding.
We should be able to double our output of ships this year. And certainly nothing short of such an increase will satisfy the British public.
Seaborne traffic is now the bottleneck. And the need for more ships is greater far than any other requirement.
But don't be misled. Just as the shortage of airplanes was the crisis of 1940, and the crisis of 1941 was shortage in tanks; just as the crisis today is shortage of ships, so there isstill to be faced a final trial, a last test. The shortage of raw materials which followed the Japanese conquests.
The Japs have already seized our sources of supply in the Far East. Now India is threatened and with it the supply routes through the Indian Ocean. Oil and tin and rubber, jute and iron, this is the real objective, the main purpose of the Japanese attack.
Be sure, too, that the strategy of Germany and Japan is directly pointed at other sources of raw materials—the Caucasus, Persia and Iraq, all oil producers. Thus above all do they hope to subdue the rest of the world to their will.
And unless we can protect these raw materials, and restore our lost treasures, then the struggle for victory becomes a struggle for survival.
Alternative sources of supply must be developed forthwith. And something more must be done, in Britain and elsewhere. We must look to the programs of substitutes for the raw materials lost to us. The heaviest burdens must rest on your shoulders.
You have seen, for instance, the programs of Mr. Jesse Jones for the manufacture of synthetic rubber. These projects involve a disposition of labor and plant which interferes directly with the production of munitions of war, and in a very big way.
But these plans must be pushed forward. And other programs of a similar nature must be developed here and in Britain.
Here let me say that I do not know how much crude rubber there is in this country today. But this I do know. That there would have been a great deal less if it had not been for Jesse Jones.
Whatever may be the stock pile now, it is a monument to the persistence, tenacity and determination of Jesse Jones, who scooped up every available ton of crude rubber in the Far East. So far as my knowledge goes there was no rubber left when the crash came in any of the ports which the Japanese now occupy. Jesse got it.
We stood aside at the request of Mr. Jones. We cleared out of the market to make way for him. This was something new, but it is easy for us to make concessions to America.
Expresses Debt of Gratitude
For we owe the United States a deep debt of gratitude. We have relied on you greatly and we have not been disappointed. You have been generous in our times of difficulty. You have been sympathetic when we were greatly troubled. You helped us over the hill.
Of course, I know there is criticism of us and our public men. There is nothing new on that account. Besides, public men should be subjected to criticism. I have drunk deeply of that hemlock cup myself on occasion. Nor do I complain of a system that finds fault and sometimes affixes blame.
But in war we must praise our leaders too. We must give them our faith. We must tell them that Britons and Americans love those who give themselves to their country. And we must assure them that we do not believe they fail us.
Of our own great leader, Mr. Churchill, I read in all the newspapers and I am told here and there, wherever I go, that he will fall before the Summer is out. You must help me to kill that bad rumor. Such a disaster we cannot contemplate in Great Britain.
We owe the British Prime Minister so much. We are grateful to him for all that he had done in the past. And of course we can pay him off in coins of gratitude.
But in truth we are not capable of such folly. For it is his service in days to come that we count on.
This man has a heart steeled against all disappointments, proof against all setbacks and disasters. He has the greatness that is born of the spirit. He burns with the flame of passionate conviction.
Churchill is the embodiment of the spirit of Britain today. And if we deny him we deny our very selves. Dogged, grim, undaunted, he summons his people to fresh efforts, to renewed resolutions. And, make no mistake about it, they will answer the summons in the mood in which he makes it.
We give our confidence to Churchill. We place our faith in him. The hour is dark, the way is long. Peace may be far off. But we are sure, we are certain, we are filled with absolute conviction that victory awaits us at the end of our journey.