The War Aims Are the Peace Terms


By HONORABLE FRANK C. WALKER, Postmaster General of the United States

Delivered at the States Dinner of the annual convention of the Knights of Columbus, Memphis, Tennessee, and broadcast over the Blue Network of the National Broadcasting Company, August 18, 1942

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VIII, pp. 754-756.

I HAVE long felt an impatience with words and a fatigue with oratory as a substitute for action. I do not like to make a speech; particularly when our sons and brothers are fighting for our lives. I want to help them: I want to struggle with them: I want to share the action of combat, I want to convey to them, at least in the power of silence, the strong support of an unshakable, steel-ribbed determination to triumph.

I am sure your feelings are the same. You object, as I do, to profiteering on heroism through the power of words. You suspect, as I do, the man who champions, with eloquence, a cause that speaks for itself. You are hostile to propaganda which makes words the tools of dishonesty and the sly invaders of resolute thought. Action has become a clearer speech than words can fashion. I favor that kind of speech, and I recommend that you, Knights of Columbus and citizens of the United States, tolerate no other. "By their fruits you shall know them." By their actions, let men speak.

I. The Fullness of Our Civilian War Effort

When our young men are dying all over the world, we want to know if they are properly equipped for warfare; with good guns and well-turned bullets, with the best planes and tanks available, and with sufficient supplies for both. We want to know that they are sent to the seas and to the skies, prepared with proper firing power and protected with adequate armor. We know the courageous spirit that is theirs—we know they can fight—we know they can outfight—any of their enemies. But we want to know that every practical action has been taken by our people, and by our Government, for the gallant youth of this nation whose swords are drawn for our salvation.

We are all participants in the war, but we are not all participants in its battles. Only our soldiers, boys and brothers, fight; the rest of us work and suffer and sacrifice. We know how gloriously our men have fought; we want to know how they have been supported.

What is the answer? In the first part, the answer is that in eight months—in 243 days—after Pearl Harbor, the United States has four million soldiers properly equipped. Planes are rolling off the assembly lines faster than in any other country. These planes are strong, speedy, well-armored, and effective. Tanks are being manufactured in great numbers—ships are being launched at the rate of more than two a day—ammunition is being delivered in vast volume—factories, railroads, utilities are operating on 24-hour schedules. In the main much has been accomplished, but we have not nearly attained our capacities—we have not nearly approached our best effort.

We have not yet met the need victoriously; we have not yet generated and put forth an overwhelming and crushing power. That fact is the second part of the answer; and it is a part that speechmakers like to avoid. But I will not avoid it.

There have been selfish stoppages of work, confusions caused by personal ambitions, interruptions caused by rivalries, insufficiencies caused by pressure-groups seeking political advantage. I do not refer to criticisms based on frank and patriotic differences of judgment. Quite the contrary. I refer to the utterly unpatriotic ambitions of persons or of groups, who, with mincing words about national interests, foster their own designs while our people engage in a death-struggle with foreign enemies.

We do not ask, and we shall not permit, that the laboring man should be underpaid—a man must live if he is to work and work if he is to live. We do not ask that business should operate at a loss—business cannot survive without profit, nor can wages be paid. We do not intend to encourage totalitarianism at home while we fight it abroad; we do not want the monstrosity of an all-powerful state to grow here while we strive to pull it down elsewhere. We do not want to save democracy for the decent, responsible people of the world and lose it for ourselves. There are some who desire to see us do such things; there are some who pretend we already do. But such persons are really striving to hide, from the clear light, their own undemocratic, selfish designs.

It is not democracy that causes the confusions and stoppages which slow the onward rush of our overwhelming triumph. Such things are caused by the contemptible spirit of personal and group dictatorships: an imperialism of domination that would steal for itself the fruits of the sacrifice of our magnificent people. You know as well as I do that this is so. And you know who those persons are: you read the news of the day. Watch their actions and disregard their wordy explanations. Does the activity of a man or of a group contribute to the war effort, or does it contribute to their own personal advantage? The people of this nation, and its Government, ask them one question— "Are you giving your best effort to win the war?"

Are they giving their best effort to win the war when their activities delay the victorious liberation of human beings from the grip of Hitler?

Are they giving their best effort to win the war when their activities postpone the day when we shall break the wicked hand that reaches for mastery over the Americas?

Let us examine deeds and close our ears to patriotic protestations. "By their fruits you shall know them." By their action, let men speak.

We must not be deceived as to the magnitude of the struggle and the gravity of the existing situation. Last May, speaking before the graduates of Georgetown University, I reviewed the reverses we had suffered up to that time, and directed attention to the geographic and otheradvantages the enemy possessed. I said then: "We are in critical danger. The oceans and the skies that were shields against harm have become the smooth pathways of encircling peril. We must meet this peril with all our force." That was almost three months ago. I need not tell you that the developments abroad, in the intervening period, have not lessened my apprehensions. Let me repeat: We are in critical danger. We must meet that peril with all our force. We must not expect that, overnight, by some mysterious alchemy, we shall win this war. Not by miracles, but by blood, by sacrifice, by suffering and privation, by concerted action and infinite endurance will we go on to victory. We have need of the last ounce of effort in the citizens ranks, as well as in the armed forces, to plant our flag on the ramparts of Victory.

II. The Fullness of the International War Effort

Not all of us yet understand the Total War for Human Rights in which we are mortally engaged. I doubt that anyone fully understands it. The magnitude of this eruption of humanity is too great to be now comprehended. Only the perspective of future years will discern the complete character and trace the historic direction of its forces. If the scope were less, we could grasp it with a more concentrated conviction; if the disturbance were limited to a spot, we could attack with the focused intensity of our armed might.

But the War for Human Rights is everywhere; it is wherever human hearts are found! It is the conflict between good and evil in the soul of humanity. It is a civil war of the human race whose battleground is the continents of the globe, the seas that divide them and the skies that cover them. This much we do understand: this much we know most surely. Regardless of its beginnings, this is no longer a war between nations. It is a war for human, rather than political, independence. No individual or nation can be safely neutral any longer.

Yet, reasons out of the past and considerations for the safety of their own tomorrow, have disposed some to still stand aside. They remember the harsh inequalities inflicted on their forefathers and they do not wish their young to be the victims of an alien's ambition.

But our own memories are no less vivid, no less prudent, than theirs; and our own determination that our youth shall not die in vain is no less adamant. Everything that they have fought for, their hope of justice, the security which they were denied, the liberty of honest action, the freedom of religious learning and worship, the equality of representation, the right of ownership in the land of their birth— all that they sought, and still seek, to find, we fight that they, as well as we, may have. Our call to "cease fire" will not sound over the battlefields until we have won victory and until the people of the world, who deserve democracy, have heard the trumpets of their own triumph.

We have been attacked; but not because we were ambitious. We were attacked because we were a bulwark of liberty and democracy for all mankind. The attack upon us was an attack upon free men everywhere; the attack upon us murdered the last hope of neutrality. Accordingly, the radical conflict for the liberty of humankind without distinction of nation, race or creed must be fought by humankind without distinction of nation, race or creed.

But, whether all join or a few in mistaken conscience stand aside, we are determined to win—with our Allies, or, should catastrophe befall, without them. We are not partisans to another's cause; the enemy has thrust a common cause upon us. Though we are joined with others, the war fare is our own. We share with others the burdens of the strife and shall share, no less, the victory. The tactic of the war is determined with mutual trust and with realistic appraisal of the relative capacities of our Allies. But, facing the enemy, there is only one army, and, plotting his downfall, there is only one general staff,—the army and staff of the United Nations. There is only one front—which is not a straight line but a circle. The Axis cannot be overcome by separated and spasmodic efforts; the Axis will be overcome by the united action of the United Nations and peoples.

III. The Fullness of the War Aims

In a world divided against itself; among nations strong and weak, favored and ill-favored, distant in space and different in culture; among governments more or less representative of their people, it will prove impossible to fashion a constructive peace—unless we fight for it now.

We must make clear to ourselves, and to the world, that our war aims are identically the same as our peace terms. This fact is not yet well enough known; or, if known, not yet thoroughly accepted.

We do not intend to fight the war and have someone else make the peace. We do not intend to sacrifice our noble youth and give over their victory to any group of ambitious schemers. We must be vigilant lest we wage a War for Human Rights and then abandon these, when won, to the power-politics of any group. As we are honest in our actions, we can be plain in our speech.

We know that corrupt governments and military usurpers can create war: twice in one generation they have forced war upon the United States. We were wrong when we thought they could not do so. But we will not make the same mistake again. We are fighting to throw the forces of evil out of the world and we are also fighting to keep them out in the future. We have not the slightest intention of remaining again indifferent to militaristic corruption that may grow up in foreign lands and spread later to infect us.

To the old diplomacy of nations, a peace table was a chess-board at which only experts could play. When taps had sounded over the graves of the multitudinous dead, the auction of the spoils became a new and lively contest. The blood and sweat and tears of battle were mocked by the polite and meticulous formalities that took careful account of the sensibilities of ambitious politicians. In former days, a war could be won by the valorous, and lost, in the peace, to the adroit. We shall not make that mistake again.

Some persons seem to believe that a peace conference makes the peace. That is a foolish notion, and a dangerous one. Battles make the peace; and peace is won before the conference is called. Our soldiers, our sailors, our marines, will make the peace or there will be no peace.

If we are not now fighting to make a just peace, what are we fighting for? We are not striving for colonial possessions, for new territory, for the enslavement of others or for the economic overlordship of the world. Our enemies are bent upon such gains and the only kind of peace those malefactors could make would be a division of the spoils. Here lies the heart of the conflict. Shall we fight to keep the enemy now from doing what, later on, we may do, or permit to be done, at a peace conference? To do such would be to break faith with the dead.

We cannot permit any peace conference to decide the terms of peace. We have already decided that the aims of war are the terms of peace. They are the banners beneath which our soldiers march. The peacemakers will convene under no others.

Into the body of our war aims, all disputes and all claims should be fitted, after the war. That, and that alone should be the business of the peace conference. Boundaries, tariffs, population distributions, political claims, the apportionment of natural resources and all the other circumstantial problems of a growing world must be settled, finally or progressively, in accordance with those fixed principles which are the war aims of the United Nations. The terms are simple and clear.

Nations, as well as individuals, should obey the Divine Commandments. Nations, as well as individuals, shall be governed by the Bill of Rights. That is the message of the Atlantic Charter. We need to keep it clear if we are to win the peace as well as the war. We need to fight for it now if we are to win the war as well as the peace.

Knights of Columbus and citizens of the United States! If ever cause were just—this cause is just. If ever war were necessary—this war is necessary. If ever a victory could be placed, as an offering, at the Altars of Almighty God, our victory, when it comes, can be placed there in a spirit of humility and dedication that the cause of justice and liberty may be sanctified as a lasting heritage of mankind. Meanwhile, as we travel through the night of struggle toward the dawn of triumph, our war effort and our war aims must be inspired by all our strength, with the full working-power of our nation and the unadulterated honesty of our purposes. So, God helping us, we shall triumph; so, God sustaining us, we shall carry on to a better future,—a future in which we shall keep faith with our dead.