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On June 6, 1944, the United States and its allies launched the greatest amphibious invasion in history on the shores of France. Over 150,000 soldiers, sailors, and airmen stormed the beaches of Normandy beginning a campaign that would end with the unconditional surrender of Germany in May 1945.
Franklin D. Roosevelt, as Commander in Chief of the United States Armed Forces during World War II, played an active and decisive role in determining strategy. In his ongoing discussions with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and with the American Joint Chiefs of Staff, he steadily promoted the invasion of the European continent to liberate it from Hitler’s Germany that finally began on D-Day.
On the night of June 6, 1944, President Roosevelt went on national radio to address the American people for the first time about the Normandy invasion. His speech took the form of a prayer.
The date and timing of the Normandy invasion had been top secret. During a national radio broadcast on June 5 about the Allied liberation of Rome, President Roosevelt had made no mention of the Normandy operation, already underway at that time. When he spoke to the country on June 6, the President felt the need to explain his earlier silence. Shortly before he went on the air, he added several handwritten lines to the opening of his speech that addressed that point. They read: “Last night, when I spoke to you about the fall of Rome, I knew at that moment that troops of the United States and our allies were crossing the Channel in another and greater operation. It has come to pass with success thus far.”
D-Day Prayer Audio Recording: (http://www.fdrlibrary.marist.edu/archives/collections/avclips.html)
Find more documents and photos from the FDR Library collections: (http://docs.fdrlibrary.marist.edu/04DDHOME.HTML)
I am one of the most recent additions to the staff of the FDR Library, having started work as the assistant to Director Lynn Bassanese in May, 2011. After graduating with a B.A. degree in English Lit from Marist College in 1998, I enlisted in the U.S. Army to become a Linguist (98G) and went through Basic Training at Fort Jackson, SC. Since I’d studied Russian for eight years, I was surprised to find I was to learn Arabic at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, CA.
After over a year of intensive study, I graduated from the language portion of training (الحمد لله) but was held back from completing the second half of my AIT while Army physicians tried to diagnose and treat the anemia which resulted from what would years later be discovered to be Celiac Disease. In the end, I was given an honorable medical discharge from the Army.
I moved back to NY and was hired as a civilian Army employee in the Protocol Office at the United States Military Academy. In working with the Protocol team to plan and execute meetings of USMA staff with some of the most influential people in the world (including foreign heads of state, Cabinet members and Senators) I had the opportunity to catch a glimpse into how world events transpire and to become curious about how the United States has historically fit into this puzzle.
In 2006, I moved to mid-coast Maine to marry, buy a home and settle into a small, rural town that would be a good environment in which to raise a child. I worked with veterans at the oldest veterans’ facility in the country, the Togus VA. Due to a family situation, it became necessary to move back to NY in 2011 and I jumped at the opportunity to be part of the legacy of one of this country’s most admirable leaders.
I’m so happy to be working here; I feel connections to the House and Library going back quite a while. I remember as a little girl standing out in the cold celebrating FDR’s birthday along with Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. and attending ceremonies in the Rose Garden on Memorial Day, once meeting Hamilton Fish, Jr. FDR’s sons were sometimes present. When I was a teenager, I babysat one of FDR’s great-granddaughters.
I look forward to working with one of the most dedicated and enthusiastic teams I’ve ever known to facilitate the renovation and continue FDR’s legacy.
This is the first post for our new monthly feature on “Staff Perspectives.” Every month we will be introducing you to a member of the staff here at the FDR Library and giving a look into who we are and what we do.
I first began working for the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library during the summer of 2004 when I spent ten weeks working as a public programs intern. After graduating from St. John Fisher College with a B.A. in history in 2005, I was hired by the Library as an Archives Technician.
I earned an Advanced Certificate in Archives and Records Management from Queens College in 2010, and was promoted to an Archives Specialist that same year. In June 2011 I became a full-fledged Archivist. My responsibilities include answering research queries submitted to the Roosevelt Library by researchers unable to make a personal visit, supervising researchers working in the research room, photograph and audiovisual reproduction orders, and leading a team working to create a database of projects around the country built by the New Deal agencies.
The reasons why I love working at the Roosevelt Library are many. First, answering research queries provides me with the opportunity to research a wide variety of topics. In a single day I might get to search through records on Allied aircraft production during World War II, read letters to the Roosevelts from people rescued from destitution by the New Deal relief agencies, and watch film footage of the shenanigans on board a Navy ship during a “crossing the line” ceremony.
Another reason that I love working at the Roosevelt Library is that the materials in our collections are evidence of some of the most significant events in the history of the United States, and even the world. The Einstein Letter, for example, led to the creation of the Manhattan Project and the birth of the Atomic Age. The promise of nuclear energy and the threat of nuclear war both exist in the world today because of that letter.
Finally, I love working at the Roosevelt Library because of the people here with whom I have the pleasure and privilege to interact on a daily basis. The Library staff is helpful and supportive, and has embraced me as one of their own. The researchers are enthusiastic about their topics, and I learn as much from them as they do from me. Some are devoted admirers of the Roosevelts, others are fierce critics, but all appreciate the impact that Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt had on the world around them.
The Thanksgiving Before War, 1941
It was Franklin Roosevelt’s yearly tradition to go back to Warm Springs, Georgia, and celebrate Thanksgiving with the patients and staff at the polio rehabilitation center he had founded there. The patients would always prepare a little program with skits and songs, and FDR would carve the turkeys himself.
Thanksgiving 1941, though, had been much postponed. FDR’s original plans to travel to Warm Springs had been interrupted by urgent matters in Washington–the tensions with Japan were reaching a critical stage. He had delayed his visit by a week, but FDR finally arrived in time for a rescheduled Thanksgiving dinner on Saturday, November 29th.
This is a transcript of President Roosevelt’s extemporaneous remarks made at Thanksgiving dinner following the skit. A somber FDR reflects on how the rehabilitation center has grown and evolved through the years and on the simple pleasures of an American Thanksgiving and traditional football games. But the war clouds looming on the Pacific horizon weigh heavily on him, and he expresses his fears that the boys playing football that day may be defending American liberties the next year.
FDR’s comments were prescient. The President had hoped to stay in Warm Springs for several more days, but he was urgently called back to Washington by his Secretary of State. He left Warm Springs the very next day, on Sunday, November 30th–exactly a week before the attack at Pearl Harbor. As he said goodbye to his Warm Springs family, FDR declared “This may be the last time I talk to you for a long time.” He would not return to his beloved Warm Springs until 1943.
“Let’s Talk Turkey” Poster (MO 2005.13.34.252)
During World War II, the U.S. Government created a wide range of posters aimed at inspiring Americans to contribute to the war effort. Many concentrated on increasing defense production. As the war progressed, new initiatives and methods for improving production were embraced. Ideas were collected from all sources, including civilian employees.
This poster was one in a series of Suggestion Posters created by the War Department to encourage civilian employees to make suggestions on how to increase productivity. It was displayed in the offices of civilian employees to thank them for their contributions. This poster is part of a large collection of posters donated to the FDR Library by the Adriance Memorial Library, Poughkeepsie, New York in the 1960s.
FDR’s Bedside Note
In the early morning hours of September 1, 1939, President Roosevelt was awakened in his bedroom at the White House by a telephone call from his Ambassador in Paris, William C. Bullitt, who advised the President that Germany had invaded Poland and that several Polish cities were being bombed. After FDR gave orders that all Army commands and Navy ships be notified at once, the President wrote this unique “bedside note” documenting for posterity how and when he had received the news of the outbreak of World War II.
This document is also part of our Significant Documents Collection – a selection of documents from across the holdings of the FDR Library that contains some of the most historically significant documents in our collection. This collection of documents is now available on our website as well! You can find more about the collection as well as links to the finding aid and the documents here: http://www.fdrlibrary.marist.edu/archives/collections/documents.html.
September 18, 1946
“NEW YORK, Tuesday—I have just finished reading a novel called “Mr. Adam” by Pat Frank. It is inspired by our new ability to destroy, and deals with the numerous things that may develop from the power that we can now unleash. It is pure imagination, but there is just enough possibility that it might come true to make one read it with interest—and with the hope that it may make us realize what fearful responsibilities now rest upon us and what a very great people we must be if we are going to face up to these responsibilities.
We have the secret of the atom bomb. How long we alone will have it, nobody knows. But while we have it, the responsibility of what happens in the world is in our hands. Soon we may share it with others, and then we will have the uncomfortable feeling that, unless the other people of the world have goodwill and face up to their responsibilities toward humanity in general, we may have very little time left upon this planet.
One of the characteristics of human beings in the past has been never to face disagreeable realities until they were actually forced to do so. Fundamentally, that is the reason why we did not, after World War I, do much to prevent World War II. Sometimes I wonder if we intend to be so blind again!”
September 2, 1940
“HYDE PARK, Sunday—To me and to every citizen of the United States, Labor Day must be one of the most significant days on our calendar. On this day we should think with pride of the growing place which the worker is taking in this country. In every walk of life, the man who actually does the work is gaining in influence and respect. That is as it should be in a democracy, and it is the surest way of proving that we intend to preserve democracy.
I was talking to a Frenchwoman the other day who, though married to a citizen of Venezuela, has lived many years of her married life in France and left there only last June. One thought she expressed has been echoing and re-echoing in my mind. It ran approximately like this:
“I wish I could tell the people in America what happened to the spirit of France. There were too many people there who had either a little money or a great deal, who cared more about what they had than about France, and who believed the Hitler propaganda that communism was something imminent and threatening because of demands being made by the workers. They were therefore almost willing to invite Mr. Hitler to control their country, in the hope that by doing so they would continue to retain all that they had without making any concessions to the workers.
“They never realized that these workers in their country had a right to share some of the things controlled by the little and big employer in shop or factory, mine or field. Now these employers have learned to their sorrow that Mr. Hitler has taken everything.”
She told me the story of a woman whose father was a self-made man, owner of a fairly big business, and who slept with her jewels under her pillow every night because she was afraid that the workers would come and burn the factory when they heard of the French army’s collapse. The workers did nothing of the kind, but Mr. Hitler has taken over the factory—and no doubt her jewels, though that was not mentioned in the tale. But all that went to make the factory a success is gone, and her country is gone too.
There is a lesson for us in this tragedy. Our people must be one. On Labor Day we must remember that this nation is founded to do away with classes and special privilege; that employer and worker have the same interest, which is to see that everyone in this nation has a life worth living. Only thus can we be sure that Labor Day will continue to be celebrated.”
Found in the Archives: Victory Gardens and Shared Sacrifice
As we go about our daily business at the FDR Library, we often come across documents that really hit home and have an unexpected emotional impact. Take this one, for example.
Last week we were visited by a group of state nutritionists. As we were identifying some documents on the subject of food that might interest them, we found this item in the President’s Official File on Victory Gardens. It is a draft of a statement that was released by the White House on January 22, 1945, just two days after FDR’s fourth inauguration and the same day that the President left Washington for the Yalta Conference. It was drafted by the Office of Price Administration and the War Food Administration in preparation for 1945′s food information programs. This simple document recalls just how unified the American people were during the war, and how everyone shared in the sacrifices that would lead to victory just a few months later.
The residents of the White House were not immune from shared sacrifice. Mrs. Nesbitt, the White House cook and housekeeper, used ration stamps to buy food for the Roosevelts and their guests. In 1942, the White House lawn was found to be unsuitable for vegetables, and a Victory Garden could not be planted that year. Mrs. Roosevelt stated at a press conference that “It will grow nothing but grass. The Agriculture Department experts who checked on the plot reported the subsoil full of rubble. Any dirt farmer will know what that means.” But the White House flower beds proved more fruitful, and in 1943 a small Victory Garden was planted.
One last point about this document: note the little scribbling at the bottom of the second page. That is FDR’s famous method of approving documents, a simple “OK FDR”. But this one is poignant in that it is small, shaky and cramped–a reflection of the great burden he had carried for 12 years. He would make the ultimate sacrifice just three months later, dying at Warm Springs on April 12, 1945.