Message of President Roosevelt to the Congress, May 31, 1940

The almost incredible events of the past 2 weeks in the European conflict, particularly as a result of the use of aviation and mechanized equipment, together with the possible consequences of further developments, necessitate another enlargement of our military program.

No individual, no group, can clearly foretell the future. As long, however, as a possibility exists that not one continent or two continents but all continents may become involved in a world?wide war, reasonable precaution demands that American defense be made more certain.

An investigation into manufacturing resources since my message of May 16, to determine the practicability of placing additional orders with industry for special material, both to provide an early expansion of existing production facilities, and to obtain increased quantities of the special weapons concerned, has caused the War and Navy Departments to submit to me an urgent and new recommendation , that increased appropriations and authorizations for the national defense be made before the adjournment of the present Congress.

Over and beyond the acquisition of this actual material is the evident requirement for the immediate creation of additional production facilities to meet possible future emergencies as well as present deficiencies in the making of munitions, such as guns, ammunition, and fire-control equipment. These facilities require a long time to create and to reach quantity production. The increased gravity of the situation indicates that action should be taken without delay.

The problem of defending our national institutions and territorial integrity is no longer a problem for men equipped simply with an indomitable determination. Modern defense requires that this determination be supported by the highly developed machinery of our industrial productive capacity.

The expansion of our defense program makes it necessary that we undertake immediately the training and retraining of our people, and especially our young people, for employment in industry and in service in the Army and Navy.

The requirements of industry and the expanded armed forces for persons with experience in mechanical and manual fields are obviously going to be great.

We do not have such trained persons in the number that will be required for the tasks that lie ahead of us if our defense is to be assured. We have, therefore, the task of training a large number in the skills and semi-skills required by modern production in industry and by a highly mechanized defense force in the Army and Navy. A primary consideration in the training of skills must be, not the existing distribution of workers among skilled fields, but the distribution that would be required if our industrial machine and our defensive forces were fully mobilized.

In the national effort for defense upon which we are now engaged, it is imperative that we make full and effective use of the mighty capacities that lie in our population. Here as yet undeveloped lie the ability and the strength needed in the building up of our armaments to provide a sure industrial foundation for the meeting of any and all defense requirements. Without the full development of these skills, our national defense will be less than it must be in the critical days which lie ahead. Without the full contribution of our people, our defense cannot attain the invulnerability which the Nation demands and which we are determined it shall have.

The one most obvious lesson of the present war in Europe is the value of the factor of speed. There is definite danger in waiting to order the complete equipping and training of armies after a war begins.

Therefore, I suggest the speedy enlargement of the program for equipping and training in the light of our defense needs.

I have instructed the representatives of the War and Navy Departments and also the representatives of the several agencies dealing with the training of young men for noncombatant services to make available to the appropriate committees of the Congress, the plans and proposals which they have laid before me.

These plans call for immediate appropriations to carry forward congressional decisions in bills already pending, for immediate appropriations to add to the program, and for authorizations to enter into contracts which it will take some time to complete.

There is a specific recommendation I would make in concluding this message, that before adjournment this Congress grant me the authority call into active service such portion of the National Guard as may deemed necessary to maintain our position of neutrality and to safeguard the national defense, this to include authority to call into active service the necessary Reserve personnel.

The amounts involved are large-over a billion dollars-but I believe that for national safety the needs are urgent.

May 31, 1940.

Source: U.S., Department of State, Publication 1983, Peace and War: United States Foreign Policy, 1931-1941 (Washington, D.C.: U.S., Government Printing Office, 1943), pp. 542-43

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