On this day, 77 years ago, President Roosevelt addressed a gathering of Correspondents for their annual dinner in Washington. FDR chose this setting to announce that the U.S. would be stepping up its pledge to aid Britain during this time of crisis in 1941.
FDR: “Loyalty cannot be bought. Dollars alone will not win this war. Let us not delude ourselves as to that.
Today, nearly a million and a half American citizens are hard at work in our armed forces. The spirit—the determination of these men of our Army and Navy are worthy of the highest traditions of our country. No better men ever served under Washington or John Paul Jones or Grant or Lee or Pershing. That is a boast, I admit—but it is not an idle one.
Upon the national will to sacrifice and to work depends the output of our industry and our agriculture.
Upon that will depends the survival of the vital bridge across the ocean—the bridge of ships that carry the arms and the food for those who are fighting the good fight.
Upon that will depends our ability to aid other Nations which may determine to offer resistance.
Upon that will may depend practical assistance to people now living in Nations that have been overrun, should they find the opportunity to strike back in an effort to regain their liberties and may that day come soon!
This will of the American people will not be frustrated, either by threats from powerful enemies abroad or by small, selfish groups or individuals at home.
The determination of America must not and will not be obstructed by war profiteering.
It must not be obstructed by unnecessary strikes of workers, by shortsighted management, or by the third danger—deliberate sabotage.
For, unless we win there will be no freedom for either management or labor.
Wise labor leaders and wise business managers will realize how necessary it is to their own existence to make common sacrifice for this great common cause.
There is no longer the slightest question or doubt that the American people recognize the extreme seriousness of the present situation. That is why they have demanded, and got, a policy of unqualified, immediate, all-out aid for Britain, for Greece, for China, and for all the Governments in exile whose homelands are temporarily occupied by the aggressors.
And from now on that aid will be increased—and yet again increased—until total victory has been won.
The British are stronger than ever in the magnificent morale that has enabled them to endure all the dark days and the shattered nights of the past ten months. They have the full support and help of Canada, of the other Dominions, of the rest of their Empire, and the full aid and support of non-British people throughout the world who still think in terms of the great freedoms.
The British people are braced for invasion whenever such attempt may come—tomorrow—next week—next month.
In this historic crisis, Britain is blessed with a brilliant and great leader in Winston Churchill. But, knowing him, no one knows better than Mr. Churchill himself that it is not alone his stirring words and valiant deeds that give the British their superb morale. The essence of that morale is in the masses of plain people who are completely clear in their minds about the one essential fact- that they would rather die as free men than live as slaves.
These plain people- civilians as well as soldiers and sailors and airmen,—women and girls as well as men and boys- they are fighting in the front line of civilization at this moment, and they are holding that line with a fortitude that will forever be the pride and the inspiration of all free men on every continent, on every isle of the sea.
The British people and their Grecian allies need ships. From America, they will get ships.
They need planes. From America, they will get planes.
From America they need food. From America, they will get food.
They need tanks and guns and ammunition and supplies of all kinds. From America, they will get tanks and guns and ammunition and supplies of all kinds.
China likewise expresses the magnificent will of millions of plain people to resist the dismemberment of their historic Nation. China, through the Generalissimo, Chiang Kai-shek, asks our help. America has said that China shall have our help.
And so our country is going to be what our people have proclaimed it must be—the arsenal of democracy.
Our country is going to play its full part.”
Here is that complete address, as it was given live on the evening of March 15, 1941.