Miller Center

Fireside Chat 26: On the Armistice in Italy (September 8, 1943)

Franklin D. Roosevelt

My Fellow Americans:
Once upon a time, a few years ago, there was a city in our Middle West which was threatened by a destructive flood in the great river. The waters had risen to the top of the banks. Every man, woman and child in that city was called upon to fill sand bags in order to defend their homes against the rising waters. For many days and nights, destruction and death stared them in the face.
As a result of the grim, determined community effort, that city still stands. Those people kept the levees above the peak of the flood. All of them joined together in the desperate job that (which) had to be done -- business men, workers, farmers, and doctors, and preachers -- people of all races.
To me, that town is a living symbol of what community cooperation can accomplish.
Today, in the same kind of community effort, only very much larger, the United Nations and their peoples have kept the levees of civilization high enough to prevent the floods of aggression and barbarism and wholesale murder from engulfing us all. The flood has been raging for four years. At last we are beginning to gain on it; but the waters have not yet receded enough for us to relax our sweating work with the sand bags. In this war bond campaign we are filling bags and placing them against the flood -- bags which are essential if we are to stand off the ugly torrent which is trying to sweep us all away.
Today, it is announced that an armistice with Italy has been concluded.
This was a great victory for the United Nations -- but it was also a great victory for the Italian people. After years of war and suffering and degradation, the Italian people are at last coming to the day of liberation from their real enemies, the Nazis.
But let us not delude ourselves that this armistice means the end of the war in the Mediterranean. We still have to (must) drive the Germans out of Italy as we have driven them out of Tunisia and Sicily; we must drive them out of France and all other captive countries; and we must strike them on their own soil from all directions.
Our ultimate objectives in this war continue to be Berlin and Tokyo.
I ask you to bear these objectives constantly in mind -- and do not forget that we still have a long way to go before we attain (attaining) them.
The great news that you have heard today from General Eisenhower does not give you license to settle back in your rocking chairs and say, "Well, that does it. We've got them ('em) on the run. Now we can start the celebration."
The time for celebration is not yet. And I have a suspicion that when this war does end, we shall not be in a very celebrating mood, a very celebrating frame of mind. I think that our main emotion will be one of grim determination that this shall not happen again.
During the past weeks, Mr. Churchill and I have been in constant conference with the leaders of our combined fighting forces. We have been in constant communication with our fighting Allies, Russian and Chinese, who are prosecuting the war with relentless determination and with conspicuous success on far distant fronts. And Mr. Churchill (he) and I are here together in Washington (here) at this crucial moment.
We have seen the satisfactory fulfillment of plans that were made in Casablanca last January and here in Washington last May. And lately we have made new, well-considered (extensive) plans for the future. But throughout these conferences we have never lost sight of the fact that this war will become bigger and tougher, rather than easier, during the long months that are to come.
This war does not and must not stop for one single instant. Your (our) fighting men know that. Those of them who are moving forward through jungles against lurking Japs -- those who are (in) landing at this moment, in barges moving through the dawn up to strange enemy coasts -- those who are diving their bombers down on the targets at roof-top level at this moment -- every one of these men knows that this war is a full-time job and that it will continue to be that until total victory is won.
And, by the same token, every responsible leader in all the United Nations knows that the fighting goes on twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, and that any day lost may have to be paid for in terms of months added to the duration of the war.
Every campaign, every single operation in all the campaigns that we plan and carry through must be figured in terms of staggering material costs. We cannot afford to be niggardly with any of our resources, for we shall need all of them to do the job that we have put our (undertaken) shoulder to.
Your fellow Americans have given a magnificent account of themselves -- on the battlefields and on the oceans and in the skies all over the world.
Now it is up to you to prove to them that you are contributing your share and more than your share. It is not sufficient to simply (to) put (money) into War Bonds money which we would normally save. We must put (money) into War Bonds money which we would not normally save. Only then have we done everything that good conscience demands. So it is up to you -- up to you, the Americans in the American homes -- the very homes which our sons and daughters are working and fighting and dying to preserve.
I know I speak for every man and woman throughout the Americas when I say that we Americans will not be satisfied to send our troops into the fire of the enemy with equipment inferior in any way. Nor will we be satisfied to send our troops with equipment only equal to that of the enemy. We are determined to provide our troops with overpowering superiority -- superiority of quantity (quality) and quality (quantity) in any and every category of arms and armaments that they may conceivably need.
And where does this our dominating power come from? Why, it can come only from you. The money you lend and the money you give in taxes buys that death-dealing, and at the same time life-saving power that we need for victory. This is an expensive war -- expensive in money; you can help it -- you can help to keep it at a minimum cost in lives.
The American people will never stop to reckon the cost of redeeming civilization. They know there never can be any economic justification for failing to save freedom.
And we can be sure that our enemies will watch this drive with the keenest interest. They know that success in this undertaking will shorten the war. They know that the more money the American people lend to their Government, the more powerful and relentless will be the American forces in the field. They know that only a united and determined America could possibly produce on a voluntary basis so huge (large) a sum of money as fifteen billion dollars.
The overwhelming success of the Second War Loan Drive last April showed that the people of this Democracy stood firm behind their troops.
This (The) Third War Loan, which we are starting tonight, will also succeed --because the American people will not permit it to fail.
I cannot tell you how much to invest in War Bonds during this Third War Loan Drive. No one can tell you. It is for you to decide under the guidance of your own conscience.
I will say this, however. Because the Nation's needs are greater than ever before, our sacrifices too must be greater than they have ever been before.
Nobody knows when total victory will come -- but we do know that the harder we fight now, the more might and power we direct at the enemy now, the shorter the war will be and the smaller the sum total of sacrifice.
Success of the Third War Loan will be the symbol that America does not propose to rest on its arms -- that we know the tough, bitter job ahead and will not stop until we have finished it.
Now it is your turn!
Every dollar that you invest in the Third War Loan is your personal message of defiance to our common enemies -- to the ruthless savages (militarists) of Germany and Japan -- and it is your personal message of faith and good cheer to our Allies and to all the men at the front. God bless them!