What the Leaders Were Saying
The following are quotations from important World War II Allied leaders. Each reveals a bit more about what they were thinking and how they presented the war to the public. Some of these remarks were made even before the United States entered World War II, and show reflection on the war after its end.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt
“Freedom to learn is the first necessity of guaranteeing that man himself shall be self-reliant enough to be free. … If the fires of freedom and civil liberties burn low in other lands they must be made brighter in our own. If in other lands the press and books and literature of all kinds are censored, we must redouble our efforts here to keep them free. If in other lands the eternal truths of the past are threatened by intolerance we must provide a safe place for their perpetuation.”
- Address to the National Education Association
- Fireside Chat on National Security, Washington, D.C.
“As a nation, we may take pride in the fact that we are softhearted; but we cannot afford to be soft-headed.”
- Eighth State of the Union Address
“Yesterday, December 7, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy — the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.”
- Address to Congress after the attack on Pearl Harbor
“Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory and our interests are in grave danger. With confidence in our armed forces, with the unbounding determination of our people, we will gain the inevitable triumph, so help us God.”
General Dwight D. Eisenhower
“This is a long tough road we have to travel. The men that can do things are going to be sought out just as surely as the sun rises in the morning. Fake reputations, habits of glib and clever speech, and glittering surface performance are going to be discovered.”
“Kinship among nations is not determined in such measurements as proximity of size and age. Rather we should turn to those inner things — call them what you will — I mean those intangibles that are the real treasures free men possess.”
- London Guild Hall Address
“I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its stupidity.”
- Speech in Ottawa
General George S. Patton
“It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived.”
- Speech at the Copley Plaza Hotel, Boston Massachusetts
“Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do, and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.”
- War As I Knew It (1947) by George S. Patton, "Reflections and Suggestions"
General Douglas MacArthur
“It was close; but that's the way it is in war. You win or lose, live or die — and the difference is just an eyelash.”
- To Gen. Richard Sutherland after their flight over Japanese held territory to reach Australia
“We have known the bitterness of defeat and the exultation of triumph, and from both we have learned there can be no turning back. We must go forward to preserve in peace what we won in war.”
- Radio broadcast after the surrender of the Japan on the battleship USS Missouri officially ending World War II
Prime Minister Winston Churchill
"I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma."
- BBC broadcast (“The Russian Enigma”), London, October 1, 1939
- Speech in the House of Commons, after taking office as Prime Minister
"What is our policy? ... to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime."
“Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, 'This was their finest hour.'”
- Speech in the House of Commons, "War Situation"
- Speech in the House of Commons, also known as "The Few", famous as the origin of the popular phrase "never was so much owed by so many to so few", complimenting the pilots in the Royal Air Force during the Battle of Britain