Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

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Harry S. Truman
1945-1953


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Provided courtesy of The American Presidency Project.  John Woolley and Gerhard Peters. University of California, Santa Barbara.
  177. Address in New York City at the Commissioning of the U.S.S. Franklin D. Roosevelt  
October 27, 1945

Admiral Daubin, Captain Soucek, Mrs. Roosevelt, ladies and gentlemen:

One of the pleasant duties in the exacting life of a President is to award honors to our fighting men for courage and valor in war. In the commissioning of this ship, the American people are honoring a stalwart hero of this war who gave his life in the service of his country. His name is engraved on this great carrier, as it is in the hearts of men and women of good will the world over--Franklin D. Roosevelt.

If anyone can be called the father of the new American Navy which is typified by this magnificent vessel, it is he. From his first day as President he started to build that Navy.

Even as he started to build the Navy, he began to work for world peace. By his realistic good-neighbor policy, by reciprocal trade agreements, by constant appeal to international arbitration instead of force, he worked valiantly in the cause of peace. By his constant battle for the forgotten man he sought to remove the social and economic inequalities which have so often been at the root of conflict at home and abroad. And when he saw the clouds of aggression forming across the seas to the East and to the West, he issued warning after warning which, had they been heeded in time, might have staved off this tragic conflict.

But through it all, he never faltered in his work to build up the American Navy. For he understood, as few men did, the importance to the survival of this country of the mission of its Navy--the control of the sea. The Axis powers understood. That is why Germany sought to drive us from the sea by her submarines. That is why Japan tried to destroy our Navy. They knew that if they succeeded, they might conquer all the nations of the earth one by one, while the Allies were helpless to reach each other across the oceans of the world.

We won the Battle of the Oceans. By that victory the United Nations were knitted into a fighting whole, and the Axis powers doomed to defeat everywhere.

That victory we owe to the men and women in the shipyards of Nation who in the last five and one-half years built carriers like this one, and over a hundred thousand other ships. We owe it to the workers in our factories who built 85,000 naval planes such as those which will soon take their places on the flight deck of this ship. We owe that victory to the fighting men who took those ships across the seas, running them right up to the home shores of the enemy; to the men who flew those planes against the enemy and dropped destruction on his fleet and aircraft and war industries.

We owe it to that great leader whose name this mighty carrier bears, who understood the importance of overwhelming naval power, and who rolled up his sleeves and got it.

Building this Navy was only a part of a still larger program of war production with which the workers and industries of this Nation amazed the whole world, friend and foe alike. It showed the abundant richness of our Nation in natural resources. But it also showed the skill and energy and power and devotion of our free American people.

Having done all this for war, can we do any less for peace ? Certainly we should not. The same riches, the same skill and energy of America must now be used so that all our people are better fed, better clothed, better housed; so that they can get work at good wages, adequate care for their health, decent homes for their families, security for their old age, and more of the good things of life.

When we set these goals before ourselves we know that we are carrying on the work and vision, and the aims of the man whose name is on this ship. And no man in our generation, or in any generation, has done more to enable this Nation to move forward toward those objectives.

Commissioning this ship symbolizes another objective toward which Franklin D. Roosevelt started this Nation and the other nations of the world--the objective of world cooperation and peace. He who helped to formulate the Atlantic Charter, to organize the United Nations, he who pointed the way in cooperation among nations at Casablanca, Cairo, Quebec, Teheran, Dumbarton Oaks, and Yalta, and who Planned the Conference at San Francisco-he knows as he looks down upon us today that the power of America as expressed in this mighty mass of steel is a power dedicated to the cause of peace.

For fourteen years, ever since Japan first invaded Manchuria, men and women have lived in a world ruled or threatened by force intended for aggression and conquest. Until El Alamein, Stalingrad, and Midway, the powers of evil were stronger than the powers of good-threatening to spread their rule across the world. We will not run that risk again.

This ship is a symbol of our commitment to the United Nations Organization to reach out anywhere in the world and to help the peace-loving nations of the world stop any international gangster. A hundred hours after leaving New York this ship could be off the coast of Africa. In five days she could cross the western Pacific from Pearl Harbor to the Philippines. This vessel alone could put more than one hundred fighting planes over a target.

We all look forward to the day when law rather than force will be the arbiter of international relations. We shall strive to make that day come soon. Until it does come, let us make sure that no possible aggressor is going to be tempted by any weakness on the part of the United States.

These, then, are the two huge tasks before us: realizing for our own people the full life which our resources make possible; and helping to achieve for people everywhere an era of peace. Franklin D. Roosevelt gave his life in search for the fulfillment of these tasks. And now, the American people are determined to carry on after him.

He did not find either of these tasks easy. Neither shall we. But we approach them in the spirit of Franklin D. Roosevelt whose words are inscribed in bronze on this vessel: "We can, we will, we must!"

NOTE: The President spoke shortly after 11 a.m. at the New York Navy Yard from a platform erected on the island of the U.S.S. Franklin D. Roosevelt. His opening words referred to Rear Adm. Freeland A. Daubin, commandant of the New York Navy Yard, Capt. Apollo Soucek, captain of the carrier, and Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt.
 
Provided courtesy of The American Presidency Project.  John Woolley and Gerhard Peters. University of California, Santa Barbara.