Message of President Roosevelt to the Congress, January 28, 1938

The Congress knows that for many years this Government has sought in many capitals with the leaders of many Governments to find a way to limit and reduce armaments and to establish at least the probability of world peace.

The Congress is aware also that while these efforts, supported by the hopes of the American people, continue and will continue they have nevertheless failed up to the present time.

We, as a peaceful Nation, cannot and will not abandon active search for an agreement among the nations to limit armaments and end aggression. But it is clear that until such agreement is reached-and I have not given up hope of it-we are compelled to think of our own national safety.

It is with the deepest regret that I report to you that armaments increase today at an unprecedented and alarming rate. It is an ominous fact that at least one-fourth of the world's population is involved in merciless devastating conflict in spite of the fact that most people in most countries, including those where conflict rages, wish to live at peace. Armies are fighting in the Far East and in Europe; thousands of civilians are being driven from their homes and bombed from the air. Tension throughout the world is high.

As Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States it is my constitutional duty to report to the Congress that our national defense is, in the light of the increasing armaments of other nations, inadequate for purposes of national security and requires in crease for that reason.

In spite of the well-known fact that the American standard of living makes our ships, our guns, and our planes cost more for construction than in any other nation and that the maintenance of them and of our Army and Navy personnel is more expensive than in an other nation, it is also true that the proportion of the cost of our military and naval forces to the total income of our citizens or to the total cost of our Government is far lower than in the case of an other great nation.

Specifically and solely because of the piling up of additional land and sea armaments in other countries, in such manner as to involve threat to world peace and security, I make the following recommendations to the Congress:

(1) That there be authorized for the Army of the United States additions to antiaircraft materiel in the sum of $8,800,000 and that of this sum $6,800,000 be appropriated for the fiscal year 1939.

(2) That there be authorized and appropriated for the better establishment of an enlisted reserve for the Army the sum o $450,000.

(3) That there be authorized the expenditure of $6,080,000 for the manufacture of gauges, dies, and other aids to manufacture Army materiel, the sum of $5,000,000 thereof to be expended during the fiscal year 1939.

(4) That the sum of $2,000,000 be authorized and appropriated toward the making up of deficiencies in ammunition for the Army.

(5) That the existing authorized building program for in creases and replacements in the Navy be increased by 20 percent.

(6) That this Congress authorize and appropriate for the laying down of two additional battleships and two additional cruiser during the calendar year 1938. This will call for the expenditure of a very small amount of Government funds during the fiscal year 1939.

(7) That the Congress authorize and appropriate a sum not to exceed $15,000,000 for the construction of a number of new type of small vessels, such construction to be regarded as experimental in the light of new developments among navies; and to include the preparation of plans for other types of ships in the event the it may be necessary to construct such ships in the future.

I believe also that the time has come for the Congress to enact legislation aimed at the prevention of profiteering in time of war and the equalization of the burdens of possible war. Such legislation has been the subject for many years of full study in this and previous Congresses.

It is necessary for all of us to realize that the unfortunate world conditions of today have resulted too often in the discarding of those principles and treaties which underlie international law and order, and in the entrance of many new factors into the actual conduct of war.

Adequate defense means that for the protection not only of our coasts but also of our communities far removed from the coast, we must keep any potential enemy many hundred miles away from our continental limits.

We cannot assume that our defense would be limited to one ocean and one coast and that the other ocean and the other coast would with certainty be safe. We cannot be certain that the connecting link-the Panama Canal-would be safe. Adequate defense affects therefore the simultaneous defense of every part of the United States of America.

It is our clear duty to further every effort toward peace but at the same time to protect our Nation, That is the purpose of these recommendations. Such protection is and will be based not on aggression but on defense.


January 28, 1938.

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. 403-05

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