June 18, 1945
New York Times.
MR. PRESIDENT, MR. SPEAKER, MEMBERS OF CONGRESS, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN:
There is a message that I should like to bring to you from the fighting front this morning. There is so much I would like to say, so many subjects I should like to cover that as the only way of saving an unconscionable trespass upon your time I have tried to reduce my thoughts and notes and therefore I ask your permission for me to break my invariable custom and for once to use notes in addressing an audience such as this.
My imagination cannot picture a more dramatic moment than this in the life of an American. I stand before the elected Federal lawmakers of our great Republic, the very core of our political life and a symbol of those things we call the American heritage. To preserve that heritage, three million American citizens, at your behest, have faced resolutely every terror the ruthless Nazi could devise. I come before you as the representative of those three million people-their commander-because to them you wish this morning to pay the tribute of a grateful America for military victory. In humble realization that they, who earned your commendation, should properly be here to receive it, I am nevertheless proud and honored to be your agent in conveying it to them.
This does not seem to be the moment in which to describe the great campaigns by which the victory in Europe was won. They will become the substance of history, and great accounts they will be! But I think you would want from me some brief estimate of the quality of the sons, the relatives and friends that you-all America-have sent to war.
I have seen the American proved on battlegrounds of Africa and Europe over which armies have been fighting for more than two thousand years of recorded history. None of those battlefields has seen a more worthy soldier than the trained American.
Willingly, he has suffered hardships; without a whimper he has made heavy sacrifices. He has endured much, but he has never faltered. His aggressiveness-his readiness to close with the enemy-has become a by-word in the embattled armies of Europe. You have read many reports of his individual exploits, but not one-tenth of them ever has been or ever will be told. Any one of them is sufficient to fill a true American with emotion-with an intense pride of his countryman.
Never have soldiers been called upon to endure longer sustained periods of contact with a vicious enemy nor greater punishment from weather and terrain. The American has been harassed by fire and automatic weapons, pounded by hand grenades, by artillery and rocket shells, attacked by tanks and airplane bombs! He has faced the hazards of countless mines and booby traps and every form of static obstacle. He has conquered them all!
The tempo of battle has increased tremendously during the span of this conflict. When the Germans launched their blitzkriegs through Poland, the Low Countries and France, featuring tactical use of airpower with mechanized units on the ground, it seemed to a fearful world that at last there had been achieved the ultimate in destructive force-that nothing could stand against the German armies.
When America entered the war arena the Nazi machine was at the zenith of its power. In 1940 it had overrun practically the whole of western Europe, while, a year later, in the East, it had hammered back the great Red Army into the far reaches of its own territory.
The Allies met this challenge with vision, determination, and a full comprehension of the enormity of the task ahead. America brought forth her effort from every conceivable source. New techniques of war were developed. Of these the most outstanding was the completely coordinated use of ground, air and sea forces. To his dismay the German found that far from having achieved perfection in the combined employment of all types of destructive power, his skills and methods were daily outmoded and surpassed by the Allies.
Through tactical and strategic unification the Allies successfully undertook the greatest amphibious landings yet attempted in warfare. Following each of these, forces were swiftly built up on the beaches, and sustained by our naval strength. The next step was always a speedy advance, applying to the astonished enemy an air-ground teamwork that inflicted upon him defeat after defeat.
The services of supply, by their devotion to duty, performed real miracles in supporting the battle lines. America, and her Allies, sent finally into Europe such an avalanche of aggressive power by land, by sea, by air, as to make the campaigns of 1939 and 1940 seem puny in contrast. The result was the unconditional surrender of an arrogant enemy.
All this America and her Allies have done.
The real beginning, for us, was in December, 1941, when our late great war leader, President Roosevelt, met with his friend Prime Minister Churchill and forged a definition of Allied organizational and directional method for the prosecution of this war.
During most of my three years in Europe these two God-given men were my joint Commanders in Chief. Their insistence on making common cause the key to victory established the pattern of the war in Europe.
To those two all of us recognize our lasting obligation. Because no word of mine could add to your appreciation of the man who, until his tragic death, led America in war, I will say nothing other than that from his strength and indomitable spirit I drew constant support and confidence in the solution of my own problems.
In Mr. Churchill he had a worthy partner, who had led his country through the blackest hour, in 1940. The Prime Minister's rugged determination, his fighting spirit and his singleness of purpose were always a spur to action. Never once did he give less than full cooperation in any endeavor necessary to our military objectives. And never did he hesitate to use his magnetic and powerful personality to win cheerful acceptance from his countrymen of the great demands he was forced to make upon them.
It was no small test of the hospitality and generous understanding of the British people to have 2,000,000 strangers moved among their already limited and crowded facilities. The added confusion imposed by the extensive gear of a great army was accepted with a cheerfulness that won the admiration of us Americans.
In critical moments Mr. Churchill did not hesitate to cut Britain's already reduced rations to provide more shipping for war purposes. Their overburdened railways had to absorb additional loads until practically all passenger traffic was suspended and even essential goods could be moved only on an emergency basis. For the hospitality the British offered us, for the discomforts they endured on our behalf, and for the sacrifices they made for the success of operations, every American acquainted with the facts will always carry for them a warm and grateful place deep within his heart.
Under these two great war leaders were the combined British American Chiefs of Staff who were my direct military superiors and the channel through whom I received all my orders. Their unwavering support, their expressed and implied confidence, their wise direction, and their friendliness in contact, were things to which I am happy to bear witness. They devised the machinery by which huge Allied forces were put together as a single unit, and through them were implemented the great military purposes that America and Great Britain agreed upon to further the political objectives of the war.
The spirit of unison that they developed was absorbed by the forces in the field.
In no place was this vital unity more strikingly evidenced than among the individuals that served as my principal commanders and on my staff. British and Americans forgot differences in customs and methods-even national prejudice-in their devotion to a common cause. Often have I thanked a kind Providence for these stanch Allies, from highest commander to the newest recruit, and for their readiness to serve within the team.
From our first battle associations with the British air forces in England, with her Navy in the African invasion, and with the British armies in North Africa, we have measured their quality through many months of war. We well know and respect the fighting heart of the British, Canadian and French soldiers and their leaders.
This teamwork was equally strong among the several services, air, ground, Navy and supply. The Navy's task in gaining our first European footholds was a staggering one. Without wearying you with tactical details I ask you to take my word for the truth that in all the brilliant achievements of the American Navy, and of her sister service in Great Britain, there is none to excel the record that was written in the great and successful invasions of Africa, Sicily, Italy and France. With the Navy was always the Merchant Marine, in which Americans have served with a devotion to duty and a disregard for danger and hardship that defy any attempts to describe.
To the air forces, without whose services all else would have been futile, all of us-owe similar debts of gratitude. Perhaps it is best for me merely to say that in every ship, on every plane, in every regiment, was a readiness to give life itself for the common good. And in this statement I must include the men that have been responsible for the tactics of the battle itself.
As an Allied commander, I have tried in London and in Paris to record something of the debt the United Nations owe to the fighting leaders of the British Empire and of France. Today as an American I would like to give you the names of our own officers that will always rank high in any list of those noted for service to their country. But any enumeration would necessarily be incomplete, so I must content myself by saying that, in great numbers, these battle leaders of the Army, the Navy and the air have served loyally, devotedly and brilliantly in my commands in Europe and Africa. Particularly I think you would like to know that, without exception, their first concern, their first care, has been the welfare-spiritual and physical-of their men-your sons, relatives and friends. You have as much right to swell with pride in the quality of the battle commanders you have sent to Europe and Africa as you have in the conduct of the millions they have led so skillfully and devotedly.
I have spoken mostly of Americans and British, because troops from this country and the British Empire always formed the bulk of my own command. But the campaigns of the Red Army, crushing all resistance in the East, played a decisive part in the defeat of Germany.
The abilities of the Soviet leaders and the courage and fortitude of their fighting men-and women-stir the emotions of anyone who admires soldierly virtues. The Soviet people have been called upon for terrible sacrifices in their own land, ravished by the bestial excesses of the German. Driven back to Stalingrad, their calm refusal to acknowledge the possibility of any other outcome than victory will be honored in history for all time to come. Finally when the Russian armies and ourselves started the great drives that met on the Elbe, the end was merely a matter of days the Allies, east and west, linked up and Nazi Germany was no more.
Here at home you played a very special part in the Soviet victory. Large quantities of American equipment, sent over the Arctic route to Murmansk and up from the Persian Gulf, furnished vital material of war to assist the Russians in mounting their great drives. The production of our people has won high praise from the Soviet leaders, as it has from other leaders in the Allied nations. There is not a battlefront in Europe where it has not been of decisive importance.
The liberated countries of Europe have played a part in fashioning the victory.
Following upon our invasion of Normandy, the break-through last summer permitted the swift liberation of most of France and gave that people an opportunity to begin resumption of normal conduct of their own lives. France's own resistance forces, and some of her own divisions, took a notable part in driving out the enemy.
Every American soldier has seen the toll that war has exacted from France. Towns have been destroyed. Broken bridges make difficult road and river transport. The destruction of rolling stock or its allocation to military needs has denied its use to carry needed civilian goods, particularly food and fuel. Even now, although the guns are silent, the urgent necessities of our redeployment to the Pacific make it impossible to do all that we would wish toward improving the trying conditions in which the French people live.
This feeling extends also to Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg, which endured four years of German tyranny, and which supported effective resistance movements in the Netherlands, during the last few months of conflict, real starvation prevailed in certain sections, where the German garrisons refused assistance. Our sympathy was aroused and tons of food were dropped by parachute to alleviate their suffering. Those countries still need, and deserve, our help.
And, now, because this meeting typifies, for me, the spiritual unity of the American home and battlefronts, I address a word to that relationship.
The American fighting man has never failed to recognize his dependence upon you at home. I am grateful for this opportunity to stand before the Congress and express my own and the thanks of every soldier, sailor and airman to the countrymen who have remained devoted to their tasks.
This feeling goes beyond the tangible things-guns, ammunition, tanks and planes, although in these things you have sent us the most and the best. It extends to such intangibles as the confidence and sympathetic understanding which have filled the letters written by families and friends to the men up front. For a few moments, simple words of affection and cheer blot out the danger and loneliness and hardship which are the soldier's life. They send him back with renewed vigor and courage to his inexorable task of crushing the enemy.
I hope you realize that all you have done for the soldier has been truly appreciated. Never have they felt absent from your anxious care and warm affections. The Red Cross-to name just one outstanding organization-stands high in their admiration. The Red Cross, with its clubs for recreation, its coffee and doughnuts in the forward areas, its readiness to meet the needs of the well and help minister to the wounded-even more important, the devotion and warm-hearted sympathy of the Red Cross girl! The Red Cross has often seemed to be the friendly hand of this nation, reaching across the sea to sustain its fighting men.
The battlefront and the home front; together we have found the victory! But even the banners of triumph cannot hide from our sight the sacrifices in which victory has been bought. The hard task of a commander is to send men into battle knowing some of them-often many-must be killed or wounded in order that necessary missions may be achieved.
It is a soul-killing task! My sorrow is not only for the fine young lives lost or broken, but it is equally for the parents, the wives and the friends who have been bereaved. The price they pay is possibly the greatest. The blackness of their grief can be relieved only by the faith that all this shall not happen again! Because I feel this so deeply I hope you will let me attempt to express a thought that I believe is today imbedded deep in the hearts of all fighting men.
It is this. The soldier knows how grim and black was the outlook for the Allies in 1941 and '42. He is fully aware of the magnificent way the United Nations responded to the threat. To his mind the problems of peace can be no more difficult than the one you had to solve more than three years ago, and which, in one battle area, has been brought to a successful conclusion. He knows that in war the threat of separate annihilation tends to hold Allies together; he hopes we can find in peace a nobler incentive to produce the same unity.
He passionately believes that, with the same determination, the same optimistic resolution and the same mutual consideration among Allies that marshalled in Europe forces capable of crushing what had been the greatest war machine of history, the problems of peace can and must be met. He sees the United Nations strong but considerate; humane and understanding leaders in the world to preserve the peace he is winning.
The genius and power of America have, with her Allies, eliminated one menace to our country's freedom-even her very existence. Still another remains to be crushed in the Pacific before peace will be restored. The American men and women I have been so honored to command, would, I know, say this to you today:
In our minds and hearts there is no slightest doubt that our people's spirit of determination which has buoyed us up and driven us forward in Europe, will continue to fire this nation through the ordeals of battle yet to come. Though we dream of return to our loved ones, we are ready, as we have always been, to do our duty to our country, no matter what it may be. In this spirit we renew our pledge of service to Commander-in-Chief President Truman, under whose strong leadership we know that final victory is certain.