Since 1870, the United States has officially celebrated Christmas as a nation and as a result has declared as a nation the belief in the coming of the Savior to earth. Just as the official Thanksgiving proclamations of the Presidents declare that our nation depends upon the grace and mercy of the LORD God to exist, the celebration of Christmas declares the nation’s faith in the manifestation of that grace and mercy in the birth of the Messiah.
Franklin D. Roosevelt
A Christmas Greeting to the Nation.
December 24, 1933
WE in the Nation’s capital are gathered around this symbolic tree celebrating the coming of Christmas; in spirit we join with millions of others, men and women and children, throughout our own land and in other countries and continents, in happy and reverent observance of the spirit of Christmas.
For me and for my family it is the happiest of Christmases.
To the many thousands of you who have thought of me and have sent me greetings, and I hope all of you are hearing my voice, I want to tell you how profoundly grateful I am. If it were within my power so to do I would personally thank each and every one of you for your remembrance of me, but there are so many thousands of you that that happy task is impossible.
Even more greatly, my happiness springs from the deep conviction that this year marks a greater national understanding of the significance in our modern lives of the teachings of Him whose birth we celebrate. To more and more of us the words “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” have taken on a meaning that is showing itself and proving itself in our purposes and daily lives.
May the practice of that high ideal grow in us all in the year to come.
I give you and send you one and all, old and young, a Merry Christmas and a truly Happy New Year.
And so, for now and for always “God Bless Us Every One.”
Christmas Greeting to the Nation.
December 24, 1934
This is the second year that I have joined with you on this happy occasion. Then, as now, with millions of others we celebrate the happy observance of Christmas.
The year toward which we looked then with anticipation and hope has passed. We have seen fulfilled many things that a year ago were only hopes. Our human life thus goes on from anticipation and hope to fulfillment. This year again we are entitled to new hopes and new anticipations.
For all those who can hear but not see this gathering, let me explain that here before us in the park in front of the White House is the monument of a man who will live forever as the embodiment of courage—Andrew Jackson. His was a long, long life in the public service, distinguished at all times by a chivalrous meeting of problems and difficulties that attended that service, a fast belief in people and a profound love for them. His patriotism was unstained and unafraid. Carved into that monument is his expression of the necessity for union. That message grows in importance with the years.
In these days it means to me a union not only of the States but a union of the hearts and minds of the people in all the States and their many interests and purposes, devoted with unity to the human welfare of our country.
Just across the street is the house he occupied one hundred years ago, the house the people of the country have built for their Presidents. From its windows I see this monument to this man of courage. It is an inspiration to me, as it should be to all Americans.
And so let us make the spirit of Christmas of 1934 that of courage and unity. It is the way to greater happiness and wellbeing. That is, I believe, an important part of what the Maker of Christmas would have it mean.
In this sense, the Scriptures admonish us to be strong and of good courage, to fear not, to dwell together in Unity.
I wish you one and all, here and everywhere, a very, very Merry Christmas.
Christmas Greeting to the Nation.
December 24, 1935
Once more the most joyous of all days draws near and again it is my great privilege on this blessed Eve of the Nativity to wish the American people everywhere a Merry Christmas.
This is the third time that I have joined in these Christmas Eve festivities. We are gathered together in a typical American setting in the park here in front of the White House. Before me and around me is an American assemblage—men and women of all ages, youths and maidens, young children who know nothing about the cares of life—all jubilant with joyous expectation.
The night is falling and the spirit of other days, too, broods over the scene. Andrew Jackson looks down upon us from his prancing steed; and the four corners of the square in which we are gathered around a gaily lit Christmas tree are guarded by the figures of intrepid leaders in the Revolutionary War—Von Steuben, the German; Kosciusko, the Pole; and Lafayette and Rochambeau from the shores of France.
This is in keeping with the universal spirit of the festival we are celebrating; for we who stand here among our guardians out of the past and from far shores are, I suppose, as diverse in blood and origin as are the uncounted millions throughout the land to whom these words go out tonight. But around the Manger of the Babe of Bethlehem “all Nations and kindreds and tongues” find unity. For the spirit of Christmas knows no race, no creed, no clime, no limitation of time or space.
The spirit of Christmas breathes an eternal message of peace and good-will to all men. We pause therefore on this Holy Night and, laying down the burdens and the cares of life and casting aside the anxieties of the common day, rejoice that nineteen hundred years ago, heralded by angels, there came into the world One whose message was of peace, who gave to all mankind a new commandment of love. In that message of love and of peace we find the true meaning of Christmas.
And so I greet you with the greeting of the Angels on that first Christmas at Bethlehem which, resounding through centuries, still rings out with its eternal message: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good-will to men.”
FDR, December 24th, 1935
Around the Manger of the Babe of Bethlehem “all Nations and kindreds and tongues” [Revelation 7:9] find unity. . . . The spirit of Christmas breathes an eternal message of peace and good-will to all men. We pause, therefore, on this Holy Night and . . . rejoice that nineteen hundred years ago, heralded by angels, there came into the world One whose message was of peace, who gave to all mankind a new commandment of love. In that message of love and of peace we find the true meaning of Christmas. And so I greet you with the greeting of the Angels on that first Christmas at Bethlehem which, resounding through centuries, still rings out with its eternal message: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good-will to men.”
Christmas Greeting to the Nation.
December 24, 1936
I have been reading the Christmas Carol to my family, in accordance with our old custom. On this eve of Christmas I want to quote to you the pledge of old Scrooge when, after many vicissitudes, he had come to understand in his heart the great lesson and the great opportunity of Christmastide.
“I will honor Christmas in my heart and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach.”
And at the end of the story is this glorious passage:
“Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did NOT die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master and as good a man as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town or borough in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset. His own heart laughed; and that was good enough for him.”
The teaching of the Sermon on the Mount is as adequate to the needs of men and of Nations today as when it was first proclaimed among the hills above the Sea of Galilee. In such measure as its spirit is accepted men and nations may lay claim to be seekers after peace on earth.
We of the Western Hemisphere have this year rendered special tribute to the spirit of Christmas, for we have pledged anew our faith in the arbitrament of reason and the practice of friendship. To that faith we bear witness tonight. May that faith make us happy today and tomorrow and through all the coming year.
Christmas Greeting to the Nation.
December 24, 1937
Last night before I went to sleep I chanced to read in an evening paper a story by a columnist which appeals to me so much as a Christmas sermon that this afternoon, on the occasion of lighting the National Christmas Tree in Lafayette Square in front of the White House, I am going to read to you from it. Here is his parable:
We were sitting in a high room above the chapel, and although it was Christmas Eve, my good friend the dominie seemed curiously troubled. And that was strange, for he was a man extremely sensitive to the festivities of his faith.
The joys and sorrows of Jesus were not to him events of a remote past but more current and living happenings than the headlines in the newspapers. At Christmas he seems actually to hear the voice of the herald angels.
My friend is an old man, and I have known him for many years, but this was the first time the Nativity had failed to rouse him to an ecstasy. He admitted that something was wrong. “Tomorrow,” he said, “I must go down into that chapel and preach a Christmas sermon. And I must speak of peace and good will toward men. I know you think of me as a man too cloistered to be of any use to my community. And I know that our world is one of war and hate and enmity.
“And you, my young friend, and others keep insisting that before there can be brotherhood there must be the bashing of heads. You are all for good will to men, but you want to note very many exceptions. And I am still hoping and praying that in the great love of God the final seal of interdiction must not be put on even one. You may laugh at me, but right now I am worrying about how Christmas came to Judas Iscariot.”
It is the habit of my friend when he is troubled by doubts to reach for the Book, and he did so now. He smiled and said, “Will you assist me in a little experiment?”
I will close my eyes and you hold out the Bible to me. I will open it at random and run my fingers down a page. You read me the text which I blindly select.”
I did as he told me, and he happened on the twenty-sixth chapter of St. Matthew and the twenty-fifth verse. I felt sorry for him, for this was no part of the story of the birth of Christ but instead an account of the great betrayal.
“Read what it says,” commanded the dominie. And I read, “Then Judas, which betrayed him, answered and said, ‘Master, is it I?’ He ‘ said unto him, ‘Thou hast said.'”
My friend frowned, but then he looked at me in triumph. “Now I remember. My hand is not as steady as it used to be. You should have taken the lower part of my finger and not the top. Read the twenty-seventh verse. It is not an eighth of an inch away. Read what it says.”
And I read, “And He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink ye all of it.'”
“Mark that!” cried the old man exultantly. “Not even to Judas, the betrayer, was the wine of life denied. I can preach my Christmas sermon now, and my text will be, ‘Drink ye all of it.’ Good will toward men means good will to every last son of God. Peace on earth means peace to Pilate, peace to the thieves on the cross and peace to poor Iscariot.”
I was glad, for he had found Christmas, and I saw by his face that once more he heard the voice of the herald angels.
Christmas Greetings to Disabled Veterans.
December 19, 1938
To you, who in time of national peril, have defended your country with courage, fortitude and heroic self-sacrifice, I extend my heartfelt holiday greetings. It is my earnest wish and that of an ever grateful nation that for you and those dear to you this Christmas season will be one of happiness and hope, and that the New Year will see your restoration to comfort and health in a happy nation long destined, in the Providence of God, to remain at peace.
Address on Lighting the Community Christmas Tree, Washington, D.C.
December 24, 1938
Tonight is Christmas Eve. We are gathered again around our Community Tree here in Lafayette Park, across the street from the White House. Darkness has fallen over the Capital but all about us shine a myriad of brilliant lights. All our hearts, warmed by the eternal fire of Christmas rejoice, because new life, new hope, new happiness are in them.
In this setting I wish my fellow countrymen everywhere a Merry Christmas with peace, content and friendly cheer to all. I wish also to thank the thousands who have remembered me and my family this Christmas with individual greetings. We shall always treasure these friendly messages.
At this time let us hope that the boon of peace which we in this country and in the whole Western Hemisphere enjoy under the Providence of God may likewise be vouchsafed to all nations and all peoples. We desire peace. We shall work for peace. We covet neither the lands nor the possessions of any other nation or people.
We of the Western World who have borne witness by works as well as words to our devotion to the cause of peace, ought to take heart tonight from the atmosphere of hope and promise in which representatives of twenty-one free republics are now assembled in the Pan-American Conference at Lima, Peru. I consider it a happy circumstance that these deliberations will be successfully concluded soon after the birthday of the Prince of Peace. It is indeed a holy season in which to work for good will among men. We derive new strength, new courage for our work from the spirit of Christmas.
We do not expect a new Heaven and a new Earth overnight, but in our own land, and other lands—wherever men of good will listen to our appeal—we shall work as best we can with the instruments at hand to banish hatred, greed and covetousness from the heart of mankind.
And so the pledge I have so often given to my own countrymen I renew before all the world on this glad Christmas Eve, that I shall do whatever lies within my own power to hasten the day foretold by Isaiah, when men “shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”
Radio Christmas Greeting to the Nation.
December 24, 1939
The old year draws to a close. It began with dread of evil things to come and it ends with the horror of another war adding its toll of anguish to a world already bowed under the burden of suffering laid upon it by man’s inhumanity to man.
But, thank God for the interlude of Christmas. This night is a night of joy and hope and happiness and promise of better things to come. And so in the happiness of this Eve of the most blessed day in the year I give to all of my countrymen the old, old greeting-“Merry Christmas- Happy Christmas.”
A Christmas rite for me is always to re-read that immortal little story by Charles Dickens, “A Christmas Carol.” Reading between the lines and thinking as I always do of Bob Cratchit’s humble home as a counterpart of millions of our own American homes, the story takes on a stirring significance to me. Old Scrooge found that Christmas wasn’t a humbug. He took to himself the spirit of neighborliness. But today neighborliness no longer can be confined to one’s little neighborhood. Life has become too complex for that. In our country neighborliness has gradually spread its boundaries—from town, to county, to State and now at last to the whole Nation.
For instance, who a generation ago would have thought that a week from tomorrow-January 1, 1940—tens of thousands of ‘elderly men and women in every State and every county and every city of the Nation would begin to receive checks every month for old age retirement insurance—and not only that but that there would be also insurance benefits for the wife, the widow, the orphan children and even dependent parents? Who would have thought a generation ago that people who lost their jobs would, for an appreciable period, receive unemployment insurance—that the needy, the blind and the crippled children would receive some measure of protection which will reach down to the millions of Bob Cratchit’s, the Marthas and the Tiny Tims of our own “four-room homes.”
In these days of strife and sadness in many other lands, let us in the nations which still live at peace forbear to give thanks only for our good fortune in our peace.
Let us rather pray that we may be given strength to live for others-to live more closely to the words of the Sermon on the Mount and to pray that peoples in the nations which are at war may also read, learn and inwardly digest these deathless words.
May their import reach into the hearts of all men and of all nations.
I offer them as my Christmas message:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
“Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
“Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
“Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Christmas Greeting to the Nation.
December 24, 1940
AT THIS Christmastide of 1940 it is well for all humanity to remind itself that while this is in its name a Christian celebration, it is participated in reverently and happily by hundreds of millions of people who are members of other religions, or belong actively to no church at all.
The reason is not far to seek. It is because the spirit of unselfish service personified by the life and the teachings of Christ makes appeal to the inner conscience and hope of every man and every woman in every part of the earth. It transcends in the ultimate all lines of race, of habitat, of nation. It lives in the midst of war, of slavery, of conquest. It survives prohibitions and decrees and force. It is an unquenchable Spring of Promise to humanity.
Sometimes we who have lived through the strifes and the hates of a quarter century wonder if this old world of ours has abandoned the ideals of the Brotherhood of Man. Sometimes we ask if contention and anger in our own midst in America are a portent of disunion and disaster. Sometimes we fear that the selfishness of the individual is more and more controlling in our lives.
When we are in those moods it is hard for us to keep from putting our tongues in our cheeks when we say “Merry Christmas”—for we think in thoughts of futility and not of hope. A few people are cynics all of the time; some people are cynics part of the time; but most people keep their faith most of the time.
That is why we must keep on striving for a better and a more happy world.
It is unintelligent to be defeatist. Crisis may beget crisis but ‘the progress underneath does not wholly halt—it does go forward.
In a century we have gained much. Aside from great areas stricken by actual warfare in the present moment, the lives of human beings are safer than they were in the olden days. Great and Spreading plagues take smaller toll; starvation of millions is less; the forces of nature are better controlled. There is in the civilization we recognize a greater security for the young, for the worker, for the aged. Charity in the narrower sense of the word helps the needy more usefully.
Compared with the days when Charles Dickens wrote the Christmas Carol, we see a definite betterment. We do not claim attainment, and we recognize that there is much—oh, so much-to do.
Most of all we ask a chance to do it—yes, a peaceful chance to do it.
We want to do it the voluntary way—and most human beings in all the world want to do it the voluntary way. We do not want to have the way imposed on the world by the conquest of the world by the sword.
That would not follow in the footsteps of Christ. That would not make for happier Christmases in the future of any nation. Mankind is all one—and what happens in distant lands tomorrow will leave its mark on the happiness of our Christmases to come.
Let us make this Christmas a merry one for the little children in our midst. For us of maturer years it cannot be merry.
But for most of us it can be a Happy Christmas if by happiness we mean that we have done with doubts, that we have set our hearts against fear, that we still believe in the Golden Rule for all mankind, that we intend to live more purely in the spirit of Christ, and that by our works, as well as our words, we will strive forward in Faith and in Hope and in Love.
In that spirit I wish a Happy Christmas to all, and happier Christmases yet to come.
Christmas Eve Message to the Nation.
December 24, 1941
Fellow workers for freedom:
There are many men and women in America- sincere and faithful men and women—who are asking themselves this Christmas:
How can we light our trees? How can we give our gifts?
How can we meet and worship with love and with uplifted spirit and heart in a world at war, a world of fighting and suffering and death?
How can we pause, even for a day, even for Christmas Day, in our urgent labor of arming a decent humanity against the enemies which beset it?
How can we put the world aside, as men and women put the world aside in peaceful years, to rejoice in the birth of Christ?
These are natural—inevitable—questions in every part of the world which is resisting the evil thing.
And even as we ask these questions, we know the answer. There is another preparation demanded of this Nation beyond and beside the preparation of weapons and materials of war. There is demanded also of us the preparation of our hearts; the arming of our hearts. And when we make ready our hearts for the labor and the suffering and the ultimate victory which lie ahead, then we observe Christmas Day—with all of its memories and all of its meanings—as we should.
Looking into the days to come, I have set aside a day of prayer, and in that Proclamation I have said:
“The year 1941 has brought upon our Nation a war of aggression by powers dominated by arrogant rulers whose selfish purpose is to destroy free institutions. They would thereby take from the freedom-loving peoples of the earth the hard-won liberties gained over many centuries.
“The new year of 1942 calls for the courage and the resolution of old and young to help to win a world struggle in order that we may preserve all we hold dear.
“We are confident in our devotion to country, in our love of freedom, in our inheritance of courage. But our strength, as the strength of all men everywhere, is of greater avail as God upholds us.
“Therefore, I… do hereby appoint the first day of the year 1942 as a day of prayer, of asking forgiveness for our shortcomings of the past, of consecration to the tasks of the present, of asking God’s help in days to come.
“We need His guidance that this people may be humble in spirit but strong in the conviction of the right; steadfast to endure sacrifice, and brave to achieve a victory of liberty and peace.”
Our strongest weapon in this war is that conviction of the dignity and brotherhood of man which Christmas Day signifies-more than any other day or any other symbol.
Against enemies who preach the principles of hate and practice them, we set our faith in human love and in God’s care for us and all men everywhere.
It is in that spirit, and with particular thoughtfulness of those, our sons and brothers, who serve in our armed forces on land and sea, near and far- those who serve for us and endure for us that we light our Christmas candles now across the continent from one coast to the other on this Christmas Eve.
We have joined with many other Nations and peoples in a very great cause. Millions of them have been engaged in the task of defending good with their life-blood for months and for years.
One of their great leaders stands beside me. He and his people in many parts of the world are having their Christmas trees with their little children around them, just as we do here. He and his people have pointed the way in courage and in sacrifice for the sake of little children everywhere.
And so I am asking my associate, my old and good friend, to say a word to the people of America, old and young, tonight Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of Great Britain.
Message on Christmas Eve.
December 24, 1942
This year I am speaking on Christmas Eve not to this gathering at the White House only but to all of the citizens of our Nation, to the men and women serving in our American armed forces and also to those who wear the uniforms of the other United Nations.
I give you a message of cheer. I cannot say “Merry Christmas”-for I think constantly of those thousands of soldiers and sailors who are in actual combat throughout the world—but I can express to you my thought that this is a happier Christmas than last year in the sense that the forces of darkness stand against us with less confidence in the success of their evil ways.
To you who toil in industry for the common cause of helping to win the war, I send a message of cheer- that you can well continue to sacrifice without recrimination and with a look of Christmas cheer—a kindly spirit toward your fellow men.
To you who serve in uniform I also send a message of cheer that you are in the thoughts of your families and friends at home, and that Christmas prayers follow you wherever you may be.
To all Americans I say that loving our neighbor as we love ourselves is not enough—that we as a Nation and as individuals will please God best by showing regard for the laws of God. There is no better way of fostering good will toward man than by first fostering good will toward God. If we love Him we will keep His Commandments.
In sending Christmas greetings to the armed forces and merchant sailors of the United Nations we include therein our pride in their bravery on the fighting fronts and on all the seas. But we remember in our greetings and in our pride those other men who guard remote islands and bases and will, in all probability, never come into active combat with the common enemy. They are stationed in distant places far from home. They have few contacts with the outside world, and I want them to know that their work is essential to the conduct of the war- essential to the ultimate victory—and that we have not forgotten them.
It is significant that tomorrow- Christmas Day- our plants and factories will be stilled. That is not true of the other holidays we have long been accustomed to celebrate. On all other holidays work goes on—gladly—for the winning of the war. So Christmas becomes the only holiday in all the year.
I like to think that this is so because Christmas is a holy day. May all it stands for live and grow throughout the years.
December 24, 1943
I have recently returned from extensive journeyings in the region of the Mediterranean and as far as the borders of Russia. I have conferred with the leaders of Britain and Russia and China on military matters of the present—especially on plans for stepping up our successful attack on our enemies as quickly as possible and from many different points of the compass.
On this Christmas Eve there are over 10,000,000 men in the armed forces of the United States alone. One year ago 1,700,000 were serving overseas. Today, this figure has been more than doubled to 3,800,000 on duty overseas. By next July 1 that number overseas will rise to over 5,000,000 men and women.
That this is truly a world war was demonstrated to me when arrangements were being made with our overseas broadcasting agencies for the time to speak today to our soldiers, sailors, marines, and merchant seamen in every part of the world. In fixing the time for this broadcast, we took into consideration that at this moment here in the United States, and in the Caribbean and on the northeast coast of South America, it is afternoon. In Alaska and in Hawaii and the mid-Pacific, it is still morning. In Iceland, in Great Britain, in North Africa, in Italy and the Middle East, it is now evening.
In the Southwest Pacific, in Australia, in China and Burma and India, it is already Christmas Day. So we can correctly say that at this moment, in those Far Eastern parts where Americans are fighting, today is tomorrow.
But everywhere throughout the world- throughout this war that covers the world—there is a special spirit that has warmed our hearts since our earliest childhood- a spirit that brings us close to our homes, our families, our friends and neighbors the Christmas spirit of “peace on earth, good will toward men.” It is an unquenchable spirit.
During the past years of international gangsterism and brutal aggression in Europe and in Asia, our Christmas celebrations have been darkened with apprehension for the future. We have said, “Merry Christmas—Happy New Year,” but we have known in our hearts that the clouds which have hung over our world have prevented us from saying it with full sincerity and conviction.
And even this year, we still have much to face in the way of further suffering, and sacrifice, and personal tragedy. Our men, who have been through the fierce battles in the Solomons, the Gilberts, Tunisia, and Italy know, from their own experience and knowledge of modern war, that many bigger and costlier battles are still to be fought.
But—on Christmas Eve this year—I can say to you that at last we may look forward into the future with real, substantial confidence that, however great the cost, “peace on earth, good will toward men” can be and will be realized and insured. This year I can say that. Last year I could not do more than express a hope. Today I express a certainty—though the cost may be high and the time may be long.
Within the past year—within the past few weeks—history has been made, and it is far better history for the whole human race than any that we have known, or even dared to hope for, in these tragic times through which we pass.
A great beginning was made in the Moscow Conference last October by Mr. Molotov, Mr. Eden, and our own Mr. Hull. There and then the way was paved for the later meetings.
At Cairo and Teheran we devoted ourselves not only to military matters; we devoted ourselves also to consideration of the future- to plans for the kind of world which alone can justify all the sacrifices of this war.
Of course, as you all know, Mr. Churchill and I have happily met many times before, and we know and understand each other very well. Indeed, Mr. Churchill has become known and beloved by many millions of Americans, and the heartfelt prayers of all of us have been with this great citizen of the world in his recent serious illness.
The Cairo and Teheran Conferences, however, gave me my first opportunity to meet the Generalissimo, Chiang Kai-shek, and Marshal Stalin—and to sit down at the table with these unconquerable men and talk with them face to face. We had planned to talk to each other across the table at Cairo and Teheran; but we soon found that we were all on the same side of the table. We came to the Conferences with faith in each other. But we needed the personal contact. And now we have supplemented faith with definite knowledge.
It was well worth traveling thousands of miles over land and sea to bring about this personal meeting, and to gain the heartening assurance that we are absolutely agreed with one another on all the major objectives—and on the military means of attaining them.
At Cairo, Prime Minister Churchill and I spent four days with the Generalissimo, Chiang Kai-shek. It was the first time that we had an opportunity to go over the complex situation in the Far East with him personally. We were able not only to settle upon definite military strategy, but also to discuss certain long-range principles which we believe can assure peace in the Far East for many generations to come.
Those principles are as simple as they are fundamental. They involve the restoration of stolen property to its rightful owners, and the recognition of the rights of millions of people in the Far East to build up their own forms of self-government without molestation. Essential to all peace and security in the Pacific and in the rest of the world is the permanent elimination of the Empire of Japan as a potential force of aggression. Never again must our soldiers and sailors and marines- and other soldiers, sailors, and marines—be compelled to fight from island to island as they are fighting so gallantly and so successfully today.
Increasingly powerful forces are now hammering at the Japanese at many points over an enormous arc which curves down through the Pacific from the Aleutians to the jungles of Burma. Our own Army and Navy, our Air Forces, the Australians and New Zealanders, the Dutch, and the British land, air, and sea forces are all forming a band of steel which is slowly but surely closing in on Japan.
On the mainland of Asia, under the Generalissimo’s leadership, the Chinese ground and air forces augmented by American air forces are playing a vital part in starting the drive which will push the invaders into the sea.
Following out the military decisions at Cairo, General Marshall has just flown around the world and has had conferences with General MacArthur and Admiral Nimitz—conferences which will spell plenty of bad news for the Japs in the not too far distant future.
I met in the Generalissimo a man of great vision, great courage, and a remarkably keen understanding of the problems of today and tomorrow. We discussed all the manifold military plans for striking at Japan with decisive force from many directions, and I believe I can say that he returned to Chungking with the positive assurance of total victory over our common enemy. Today we and the Republic of China are closer together than ever before in deep friendship and in unity of purpose.
After the Cairo Conference, Mr. Churchill and I went by airplane to Teheran. There we met with Marshal Stalin. We talked with complete frankness on every conceivable subject connected with the winning of the war and the establishment of a durable peace after the war.
Within three days of intense and consistently amicable discussions, we agreed on every point concerned with the launching of a gigantic attack upon Germany.
The Russian Army will continue its stern offensives on Germany’s eastern front, the Allied armies in Italy and Africa will bring relentless pressure on Germany from the south, and now the encirclement will be complete as great American and British forces attack from other points of the compass.
The Commander selected to lead the combined attack from these other points is General Dwight D. Eisenhower. His performances in Africa, in Sicily, and in Italy have been brilliant. He knows by practical and successful experience the way to coordinate air, sea, and land power. All of these will be under his control. Lieutenant General Carl D. Spaatz will command the entire American strategic bombing force operating against Germany.
General Eisenhower gives up his command in the Mediterranean to a British officer whose name is being announced by Mr. Churchill. We now pledge that new Commander that our powerful ground, sea, and air forces in the vital Mediterranean area will stand by his side until every objective in that bitter theater is attained.
Both of these new Commanders will have American and British subordinate Commanders whose names will be announced in a few days.
During the last two days at Teheran, Marshal Stalin, Mr. Churchill, and I looked ahead to the days and months and years that will follow Germany’s defeat. We were united in determination that Germany must be stripped of her military might and be given no opportunity within the foreseeable future to regain that might.
The United Nations have no intention to enslave the German people. We wish them to have a normal chance to develop, in peace, as useful and respectable members of the European family. But we most certainly emphasize that word “respectable”for we intend to rid them once and for all of Nazism and Prussian militarism and the fantastic and disastrous notion that they constitute the “master race.”
We did discuss international relationships from the point of view of big, broad objectives, rather than details. But on the basis of what we did discuss, I can say even today that I do not think any insoluble differences will arise among Russia, Great Britain, and the United States.
In these conferences we were concerned with basic principles —principles which involve the security and the welfare and the standard of living of human beings in countries large and small.
To use an American and somewhat ungrammatical colloquialism, I may say that I “got along fine” with Marshal Stalin. He is a man who combines a tremendous, relentless determination with a stalwart good humor. I believe he is truly representative of the heart and soul of Russia; and I believe that we are going to get along very well with him and the Russian people- very well indeed.
Britain, Russia, China, and the United States and their allies represent more than three-quarters of the total population of the earth. As long as these four Nations with great military power stick together in determination to keep the peace there will be no possibility of an aggressor Nation arising to start another world war.
But those four powers must be united with and cooperate with all the freedom-loving peoples of Europe, and Asia, and Africa, and the Americas. The rights of every Nation, large or small, must be respected and guarded as jealously as are the rights of every individual within our own Republic.
The doctrine that the strong shall dominate the weak is the doctrine of our enemies—and we reject it.
But, at the same time, we are agreed that if force is necessary to keep international peace, international force will be applied for as long as it may be necessary.
It has been our steady policy—and it is certainly a common sense policy—that the right of each Nation to freedom must be measured by the willingness of that Nation to fight for freedom. And today we salute our unseen allies in occupied countries the underground resistance groups and the armies of liberation. They will provide potent forces against our enemies, when the day of the counter-invasion comes.
Through the development of science the world has become so much smaller that we have had to discard the geographical yardsticks of the past. For instance, through our early history the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans were believed to be walls of safety for the United States. Time and distance made it physically possible, for example, for us and for the other American Republics to obtain and maintain our independence against infinitely stronger powers. Until recently very few people, even military experts, thought that the day would ever come when we might have to defend our Pacific coast against Japanese threats of invasion.
At the outbreak of the first World War relatively few people thought that our ships and shipping would be menaced by German submarines on the high seas or that the German militarists would ever attempt to dominate any Nation outside of central Europe.
After the Armistice in 1918, we thought and hoped that the militaristic philosophy of Germany had been crushed; and being full of the milk of human kindness we spent the next twenty years disarming, while the Germans whined so pathetically that the other Nations permitted them—and even helped them—to rearm.
For too many years we lived on pious hopes that aggressor and warlike Nations would learn and understand and carry out the doctrine of purely voluntary peace.
The well-intentioned but ill-fated experiments of former years did not work. It is nay hope that we will not try them again. No -that is putting it too weakly—it is my intention to do all that I humanly can as President and Commander in Chief to see to it that these tragic mistakes shall not be made again.
There have always been cheerful idiots in this country who believed that there would be no more war for us if everybody in America would only return into their homes and lock their front doors behind them. Assuming that their motives were of the highest, events have shown how unwilling they were to face the facts.
The overwhelming majority of all the people in the world want peace. Most of them are fighting for the attainment of peace- not just a truce, not just an armistice- but peace that is as strongly enforced and as durable as mortal man can make it. If we are willing to fight for peace now, is it not good logic that we should use force if necessary, in the future, to keep the peace?
I believe, and I think I can say, that the other three great Nations who are fighting so magnificently to gain peace are in complete agreement that we must be prepared to keep the peace by force. If the people of Germany and Japan are made to realize thoroughly that the world is not going to let them break out again, it is possible, and, I hope, probable, that they will abandon the philosophy of aggression- the belief that they can gain the whole world even at the risk of losing their own souls.
I shall have more to say about the Cairo and Teheran Conferences when I make my report to the Congress in about two weeks’ time. And, on that occasion, I shall also have a great deal to say about certain conditions here at home.
But today I wish to say that in all my travels, at home and abroad, it is the sight of our soldiers and sailors and their magnificent achievements which have given me the greatest inspiration and the greatest encouragement for the future.
To the members of our armed forces, to their wives, mothers, and fathers, I want to affirm the great faith and confidence that we have in General Marshall and in Admiral King, who direct all of our armed might throughout the world. Upon them falls the great responsibility of planning the strategy of determining where and when we shall fight. Both of these men have already gained high places in American history, which will record many evidences of their military genius that cannot be published today.
Some of our men overseas are now spending their third Christmas far from home. To them and to all others overseas or soon to go overseas, I can give assurance that it is the purpose of their Government to win this war and to bring them home at the earliest possible time.
We here in the United States had better be sure that when our soldiers and sailors do come home they will find an America in which they are given full opportunities for education, and rehabilitation, social security, and employment and business enterprise under the free American system—and that they will find a Government which, by their votes as American citizens, they have had a full share in electing.
The American people have had every reason to know that this is a tough and destructive war. On my trip abroad, I talked with many military men who had faced our enemies in the field. These hardheaded realists testify to the strength and skill and resourcefulness of the enemy generals and men whom we must beat before final victory is won. The war is now reaching the stage where we shall all have to look forward to large casualty lists—dead, wounded, and missing.
War entails just that. There is no easy road to victory. And the end is not yet in sight.
I have been back only for a week. It is fair that I should tell you my impression. I think I see a tendency in some of our people here to assume a quick ending of the war- that we have already gained the victory. And, perhaps as a result of this false reasoning, I think I discern an effort to resume or even encourage an outbreak of partisan thinking and talking. I hope I am wrong. For, surely, our first and most foremost tasks are all concerned with winning the war and winning a just peace that will last for generations.
The massive offensives which are in the making—both in Europe and the Far East—will require every ounce of energy and fortitude that we and our allies can summon on the fighting fronts and in all the workshops at home. As I have said before, you cannot order up a great attack on a Monday and demand that it be delivered on Saturday.
Less than a month ago I flew in a big Army transport plane over the little town of Bethlehem, in Palestine.
Tonight, on Christmas Eve, all men and women everywhere who love Christmas are thinking of that ancient town and of the star of faith that shone there more than nineteen centuries ago.
American boys are fighting today in snow-covered mountains, in malarial jungles, on blazing deserts; they are fighting on the far stretches of the sea and above the clouds, and fighting for the thing for which they struggle. I think it is best symbolized by the message that came out of Bethlehem.
On behalf of the American people—your own people—I send this Christmas message to you who are in our armed forces:
In our hearts are prayers for you and for all your comrades in arms who fight to rid the world of evil.
We ask God’s blessing upon you—upon your fathers, mothers, wives and children—all your loved ones at home.
We ask that the comfort of God’s grace shall be granted to those who are sick and wounded, and to those who are prisoners of war in the hands of the enemy, waiting for the day when they will again be free.
And we ask that God receive and cherish those who have given their lives, and that He keep them in honor and in the grateful memory of their countrymen forever.
God bless all of you who fight our battles on this Christmas Eve.
God bless us all. Keep us strong in our faith that we fight for a better day for humankind- here and everywhere.__
Address to the Nation.
December 24, 1944
It is not easy to say “Merry Christmas” to you, my fellow Americans, in this time of destructive war. Nor can I say “Merry Christmas” lightly tonight to our armed forces at their battle stations all over the world- or to our allies who fight by their side.
Here, at home, we will celebrate this Christmas Day in our traditional American way- because of its deep spiritual meaning to us; because the teachings of Christ are fundamental in our lives; and because we want our youngest generation to grow up knowing the significance of this tradition and the story of the coming of the immortal Prince of Peace and Good Will. But, in perhaps every home in the United States, sad and anxious thoughts will be continually with the millions of our loved ones who are suffering hardships and misery, and who are risking their very lives to preserve for us and for all mankind the fruits of His teachings and the foundations of civilization itself.
The Christmas spirit lives tonight in the bitter cold of the front lines in Europe and in the heat of the jungles and swamps of Burma and the Pacific islands. Even the roar of our bombers and fighters in the air and the guns of our ships at sea will not drown out the messages of Christmas which come to the hearts of our fighting men. The thoughts of these men tonight will turn to us here at home around our Christmas trees, surrounded by our children and grandchildren and their Christmas stockings and gifts—just as our own thoughts go out to them, tonight and every night, in their distant places.
We all know how anxious they are to be home with us, and they know how anxious we are to have them- and how determined every one of us is to make their day of home-coming as early as possible. And- above all- they know the determination of all right-thinking people and Nations, that Christmases such as those that we have known in these years of world tragedy shall not come again to beset the souls of the children of God.
This generation has passed through many recent years of deep darkness, watching the spread of the poison of Hitlerism and Fascism in Europe—the growth of imperialism and militarism in Japan- and the final clash of war all over the world. Then came the dark days of the fall of France, and the ruthless bombing of England, and the desperate battle of the Atlantic, and of Pearl Harbor and Corregidor and Singapore.
Since then the prayers of good men and women and children the world over have been answered. The tide of battle has turned, slowly but inexorably, against those who sought to destroy civilization.
On this Christmas day, we cannot yet say when our victory will come. Our enemies still fight fanatically. They still have reserves of men and military power. But, they themselves know that they and their evil works are doomed. We may hasten the day of their doom if we here at home continue to do our full share.
And we pray that that day may come soon. We pray that until then, God will protect our gallant men and women in the uniforms of the United Nations- that He will receive into His infinite grace those who make their supreme sacrifice in the cause of righteousness, in the cause of love of Him and His teachings.
We pray that with victory will come a new day of peace on earth in which all the Nations of the earth will join together for all time. That is the spirit of Christmas, the holy day. May that spirit live and grow throughout the world in all the years to come.