OTD in History… August 4, 1944, Anne Frank and her family are captured by the Nazis

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OTD in History… August 4, 1944, Anne Frank and her family are captured by the Nazis

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

Anne Frank in 1941. Source: Anne Frank Fonds

On this day in history August 4, 1944, the Nazi Gestapo captured Anne Frankand her family, and fellow Jews, the van Pels family and Fritz Pfeiffer all of whom were hiding at Otto Frank’s office building 263 Prinsengracht in Amsterdam in a Secret Annex above the offices. After 10 a.m. in the morning on August 4, SS-Oberscharführer Karl Silberbauer of “the Sicherheitsdienst” and some Dutch police collaborators two of which are known, Willem Grootendorst and Gezinus Gringhuis stormed into the annex directly through the bookcase that hides the entryway, they stayed two hours. It has longed been believed the Franks had been tipped off by a source informed the Nazis police there were Jews hiding there.

The Gestapo forced the Franks and vans Pels to hand over all their valuables, and the Gestapo turned over everything within the annex, including throwing out Otto Frank’s briefcase containing Anne’s diary from the time she was turned thirteen through their hiding. Additionally, they arrested two of the Christians, Victor Kugler, and Johannes Kleiman, who had been taking care of the Franks, and sent them to Amersfoort penal camp. The other two, Otto’s secretary Miep Gies and typist Bep Voskuijl, who helped the Franks were questioned but not arrested. On August 5, Gies went back to the annex, where she found Anne’s diary, the notebooks and pages she added to it and the Franks family albums, and hide them.

There started Anne’s journey through the Nazi concentration camps, that, she, her sister Margot and her mother Edith would never survive. Their mother died at Auschwitz while Anne and Margot died in Bergen-Belsen barely two months before the camp was liberated. Only her father survived. Miep Gies returned Anne’s diaries to him after the war ended, he edited Anne’s diary and had it published, he chose passages from Anne’s original and edited versions of her diaries. After his death, the Netherlands Institute for War Documentation (Rijks Instituut voor Oorlogs documentatie (RIOD) published the full version of her diaries, finally giving a complete depiction of Anne and the events of those two years in hiding through her eyes. The diary was a real-time glimpse of Jewish survival and hiding in Nazi-occupied Europe. As Soviet writer Ilya Ehrenburg said of Anne’s diary, “One voice speaks for six million — the voice not of a sage or a poet but of an ordinary little girl.” Although Anne left a trail of her life in the secret annex in her diary, questions remain as to who really betrayed the family and when she died.

Anne Frank was born Annelies Marie Frank on June 12, 1929, in Frankfurt, Germany, she had an older sister Margot Betti, four years older, the family was liberal Jews. With Adolf Hitler’s rise to power in 1933, the Franks moved Amsterdam, Netherlands, Otto first, then Edith and the children. There they established a routine, Otto worked at Opekta Works, a company that extracted pectin, and they lived in an apartment in Merwedeplein (Merwede Square) in Rivierenbuurt, Amsterdam. In 1938, Otto established a second company Pectacon, which sold “herbs, pickling salts, and mixed spices.” Both girls went to mixed schools, Margot to public schools and Anne to a Montessori school.

Life would change for the Franks again, unsettling them once more, in May 1940, when the Nazis invaded the Netherlands. They instituted “discriminatory laws” against the Jewish population, including “mandatory registration and segregation.” Anne and Margot would have to attend the Jewish school, the Jewish Lyceum, secondary school. Otto had to transfer his business to Christians to avoid the Nazis confiscating them. He transferred Pectacon to Johannes Kleiman, and then it is was liquidated with assets transferred to Gies and Company operated by Jan Gies. Otto Frank tried in vain to acquire visas for the family to immigrate first to the United States in 1938 and then Cuba in 1941, but the US consulate closed in the interim with the Nazi invasion, and the whole application was lost, while the Cuban application was granted only for Otto in December 1941.

Anne’s father bought her a small red-and-white-plaid autograph book she wanted for her thirteenth birthday on June 12, 1942, which she immediately started to use as a diary recording her last month of freedom. On July 5, the SS called up Margot then sixteen to report for a work camp. Otto Frank was planning to hide the family and he intended they go into hiding on July 16, 1942. Margot’s call up from the Zentralstelle für jüdische Auswanderung (Central Office for Jewish Emigration) forced the family to make their move quicker than anticipated.

On Monday, July 6, 1942, the family left their apartment in disarray, with a note implying they fled to Switzerland. Anne left neighbor and friend Toosje Kupers some of her prized possessions including the family cat, Moortje. They walked to the “Opekta offices on the Prinsengracht,” where they hid in a three-floor space called the Achterhuis, “Secret Annex,” which was later concealed by a heavy large bookcase. Four Christian employees Victor Kugler, Johannes Kleiman, Bep Voskuijl, and Miep Gies knew about the Franks hiding and helped them with food and supplies. In addition, Gies husband Jan knew and Voskuijl’s father Johannes Hendrik Voskuijl, who also helped.

A week later on July 13, another family joined the Franks the van Pels, which included Hermann and Auguste and their sixteen-year-old son Peter. In November a friend of the van Pels, a dentist also from Germany Fritz Pfeffer, would be the join them in the annex. After hearing that the Netherlands wanted people to write diaries recounting the war for publication after the war, Anne began editing her diary and writing with focus. Anne took it seriously because she wanted to become a writer and journalist.

In her diary, Anne recounted in detail not only her feeling and thoughts but also the daily lives and tensions of living in a small space with little food available. She gave aliases to the van Pels and Pfeffer, calling them van Daan and Alfred Dussel respectively. Anne shared a room with Pfeffer and she had the most tensions and clashes with him, portraying him the most negatively in her diary than anyone else. She recounted her difficult relationship with her mother and sister, which she became closer to in the two years, and her blossoming romance with Peter.

Although the two years were difficult in tight quarters and never seeing the outside or anyone else, their nightmare began on August 4, 1944, when the Gestapo charged into the annex. To the Nazis, the Franks were considered criminals for not replying to the notice for Margot in 1942, and for hiding. From the annex, the Franks van Pels and Pfeffer were taken to Huis van Bewaring (House of Detention), a prison on the Weteringschans. They then spent a month in Westerbork transit camp and because they were branded as criminals, the Franks were sentenced to hard labor in the Punishment Barracks.

One of the biggest mysteries surrounding the Franks’ capture was who betrayed them? The Anne Frank House and even police investigations have never been able to pinpoint who betrayed the family. Gerard Kremer recently wrote a book, The Backyard of the Secret Annex giving the latest theory. Kremer’s father, Gerard Kremer, Sr. was the janitor at a building behind the Prinsengracht building. Kremer claims Ans van Dijk, who collaborated with the Nazis after her 1943 arrest helped capture 145 Jews, was the one responsible, she was executed in 1948. Kramer claims his father said he overheard van Dijk speaking with the Nazis about the building where the Franks were hiding. A spokesperson for Anne Frank House, the museum of the building and the secret annex, claims, “Ans van Dijk was included as a potential traitor in this study. We have not been able to find evidence for this theory, nor for other betrayal theories.”

Another book published in 2015, written by Flemish journalist Jeroen de Bruyn and Joop van Wijk, the typist Bep Voskuijl’s “youngest son” claims Bep’s younger sister Nelly was the one who notified the Nazis about the Franks. The book is entitled, Bep Voskuijl, het zwijgen voorbij: een biografie van de jongste helper van het Achterhuis (Bep Voskuijl, the Silence is Over: A Biography of the Youngest Helper of the Secret Annex). Van Wijk states that Nelly did not like that Bep and her father helped the Jewish families, while older sister Diny and her fiancé Bertus Hulsman remember Nelly calling the Gestapo on the day the Franks were captured. Nelly was a known Nazi collaborator, and the SS Officer Karl Silberbauer was noted as saying, the informant had “the voice of a young woman.”

The Anne Frank House did a study in 2016 reexamining the day of the Franks arrest, looking at previously unavailable sources. The study refuted both claims; instead, concluding an investigation into ration card fraud or activities in the company was the most probable reason, which led the Gestapo to the secret annex because the police unit dealt primarily with economic crimes. The report listed some of the possibilities. Otto Frank was certain someone had betrayed his family, and he reserved his greatest suspicion for Willem van Maaren, a new warehouse worker, who replaced the trusted Johan Voskuijl, who had built the bookcase hiding the room. There was, however, no evidence implicating van Maaren, except Frank and those that helped the families were suspicious of him, he was the only one ever questioned by the police and judiciary.

Historians have different opinions. Melissa Müller, the author of Anne Frank: The Biography, believes Lena Hartog, “the wife of another warehouseman” could have been behind the betrayal. Carol Ann Lee that author of The Hidden Life of Otto Frank thought Dutch National Socialist Tonny Ahlers could have betrayed them, while David Barnouw and Gerrold van der Stroom of The Netherlands Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies do not believe Van Maaren, Hartog, or Ahlers were involved.

According to the Anne Frank House, the closest possibility was related to illegal ration cards, they used Anne’s diary as evidence. From March 10, 1944, onward, Anne wrote about a “B” and “D”, most probably salesmen Martin Brouwer and Pieter Daatzelaar, saying, “B. and D. have been caught, so we have no coupons . . .” On March 22, she wrote, “B. & D. have been let out of prison.” As the Anne Frank House concludes, “The possibility of betrayal has of course not been entirely ruled out by this, nor has any relationship between the ration coupon fraud and the arrest been proven. Further research into the day-to-day activities at Otto Frank’s company and what else was happening in and around the premises could potentially provide more information. This article is a first step in thinking more broadly about the raid on the Secret Annex. Hopefully, it will also inspire other researchers to pursue new leads. Clearly, the last word about that fateful summer day in 1944 has not yet been said.”

Luck was not with the Franks, they left Westerbork on the last train taking Jews to the concentration camps. The Franks, van Pels, and Pfeffer were sent to Auschwitz, and the Franks were separated, only Edith, Margot and Anne stayed together. In October 1944, the Frank women were supposed to be transferred to “Liebau labor camp in Upper Silesia” but Anne had scabies, her mother and sister stayed behind and their fate was sealed. On October 28, the Nazis were forced to abandon Auschwitz, as the allies were closing in, they selected Margot and Anne to go to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp but their mother had to stay behind were she died. Bergen-Belson was a death trap of disease and by February the Frank sisters were battling typhus and died either at the end of February or March, another mystery left unsolved.

With the publication of her diary, Anne Frank became immortalized forever, the teenage Jewish victim of the Holocaust. Her father commented in his memoirs, “For me, it was a revelation … I had no idea of the depth of her thoughts and feelings … She had kept all these feelings to herself.” Anne’s story was first published in the original Dutch in 1947 as Het Achterhuis, The Secret Annex and in the United States in 1952 as Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl. The book has been translated in 60 different languages all over the world selling more 30 million copies; it has been made into stage plays, a Hollywood movie, and taught in school. Melissa Müller in Anne Frank: The Biography wrote of her legacy, “Over the past sixty years, Anne Frank has become a universal symbol of the oppressed in a world of violence and tyranny.” (Mueller, 13) Holocaust survivor and author Primo Levi explained, “One single Anne Frank moves us more than the countless others who suffered just as she did but whose faces have remained in the shadows. Perhaps it is better that way; if we were capable of taking in all the suffering of all those people, we would not be able to live.”

Anne Frank’s legacy is even more important now as Holocaust survivors are dying out. Speaking to NBC News this past spring Holocaust survivor Sonia Klein, 92, pondered, “We are not here forever. Most of us are up in years, and if we’re not going to tell what happened, who will?” A recent study by “Schoen Consulting and commissioned by The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany” determined the Americans are uneducated and ignorant about the Holocaust, 11 percent of all Americans have never heard of the Holocaust, the number is more devastating among millennials, where one fifth have never heard of the worst genocide in history.

Even if Americans know about the Holocaust, Americans do not know the facts, a third of all Americans and 41 percent of millennials do not realize that 6 million Jews perished and 12 million people in total. Klein expressed, “It’s a must for people to remember, once we are gone they must not be forgotten.” She worries “Unless you know what happened, you don’t understand what never again means.” Despite what Müller wrote about Anne’s diary being considered “often, though only secondarily, as a document of the Holocaust,” it should not, it has to be remembered for what it is primarily, about the Holocaust, because in no other circumstance, would Anne Frank have lived and died as she did. We have to have to educate, remember, read and learn the stories of the Holocaust, not just Anne Frank’s to keep Holocaust victims and survivors’ memory alive and history from ever repeating itself.

SOURCES AND READ MORE

Amir, Ruth, Pnina Rosenberg, and Anne Frank. The Diary of a Young Girl.

Hackensack Salem Press Amenia, NY Grey House Publishing, 2017.

Frank, Anne, Otto Frank, and Mirjam Pressler. The Diary of a Young Girl: The Definitive Edition. London: Penguin, 2012.

Müller, Melissa, Rita Kimber, and Robert Kimber. Anne Frank: The Biography, Updated and Expanded with New Material. New York, N.Y. Picador, 2014.

Lee, Carol A. The Hidden Life of Otto Frank. 2006.

Bonnie K. Goodman has a BA and MLIS from McGill University and has done graduate work in Judaic Studies at Concordia University. She is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor, and a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

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OTD in History… August 4, 1914, President Woodrow Wilson proclaims US will remain neutral in World War I

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OTD in History… August 4, 1914, President Woodrow Wilson proclaims US will remain neutral in World War I

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

On this day in history August 4, 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signs a proclamation of American neutrality with the European countries which had just declared war days earlier on July 28. Wilson repeated that the US will remain “impartial in thought as well as in action” in his address to Congresson August 19. Americans supported Wilson’s “policy of neutrality” and keeping the country out of the European war. Neutrality, however, would become more difficult in February 1915 as Germany declared “unrestricted submarine warfare against all ships.” The US was destined to be affected by Germany’s assault by sea, as they traded the most with Great Britain and would continue to do during the so-called period of neutrality.

Germany increasingly attacked US ships trading with and traveling to Great Britain and those with American passengers aboard. In February 1915, Germany hit the William P. Frye, an American ship carrying grain to Britain. The most notable case, however, was the ship the Lusitania hit on May 7, 1915, off the coast Ireland, where 1,198 died including 128 Americans. The British owned ship was traveling with nearly two thousand passengers from New York to Liverpool. Germany claimed they were justified as the ship contained 173 tons of ammunition, but the outcry led to an apology and cessation of the submarine warfare.

Historian M. Ryan Floyd in his book Abandoning American Neutrality: Woodrow Wilson and the Beginning of the Great War, August 1914 — December 1915 argues neutrality was a “paradox created by Wilson’s idealistic aim to bring the belligerents to the peace table and his pragmatic goal of buttressing the US economy between August 1914 and December 1915. During this formative period, the quandary created by his effort to pursue both visionary and pragmatic objectives made his agenda untenable and convinced him to intentionally violate American neutrality.” (Floyd, 9)

Wilson won reelection in 1916, based on his neutrality policy of keeping America out of the war but that pledge did not last long. In 1917, Germany resumed submarine warfare sinking four American ships in March. Historian Robert w. Tucker notes in his book Woodrow Wilson and the Great War: Reconsidering America’s Neutrality, 1914–1917 “America’s journey from neutrality to war to a failed peace is largely the story of Woodrow Wilson’s journey from neutrality to war to a failed peace.” (Tucker, 21)

Seeing negotiating peace was impossible, Wilson finally took a stand. On April 2, 1917, Wilson asked in a Joint Address to Congress that they declare war deeming it his “constitutional duty” and they obliged, finally the US would enter the war on the side of the allies. Only with the infusion of soldiers and armaments would tip the balance in the allies favor against the Central Powers ending what the world believed then was the war to end all wars.

SOURCES AND READ MORE

Floyd, M R. Abandoning American Neutrality: Woodrow Wilson and the Beginning of the Great War, August 1914-December 1915. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013.

Tucker, Robert W. Woodrow Wilson and the Great War: Reconsidering America’s Neutrality, 1914–1917. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2007.

Bonnie K. Goodman has a BA and MLIS from McGill University and has done graduate work in religion at Concordia University. She is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor, and a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

President Wilson’s Declaration of Neutrality

Woodrow Wilson, Message to Congress, 63rd Cong., 2d Sess., Senate Doc. No. 566 (Washington, 1914), pp. 3-4.


The effect of the war upon the United States will depend upon what American citizens say and do. Every man who really loves America will act and speak in the true spirit of neutrality, which is the spirit of impartiality and fairness and friendliness to all concerned. The spirit of the nation in this critical matter will be determined largely by what individuals and society and those gathered in public meetings do and say, upon what newspapers and magazines contain, upon what ministers utter in their pulpits, and men proclaim as their opinions upon the street.

The people of the United States are drawn from many nations, and chiefly from the nations now at war. It is natural and inevitable that there should be the utmost variety of sympathy and desire among them with regard to the issues and circumstances of the conflict. Some will wish one nation, others another, to succeed in the momentous struggle. It will be easy to excite passion and difficult to allay it. Those responsible for exciting it will assume a heavy responsibility, responsibility for no less a thing than that the people of the United States, whose love of their country and whose loyalty to its government should unite them as Americans all, bound in honor and affection to think first of her and her interests, may be divided in camps of hostile opinion, hot against each other, involved in the war itself in impulse and opinion if not in action.

Such divisions amongst us would be fatal to our peace of mind and might seriously stand in the way of the proper performance of our duty as the one great nation at peace, the one people holding itself ready to play a part of impartial mediation and speak the counsels of peace and accommodation, not as a partisan, but as a friend.

I venture, therefore, my fellow countrymen, to speak a solemn word of warning to you against that deepest, most subtle, most essential breach of neutrality which may spring out of partisanship, out of passionately taking sides. The United States must be neutral in fact, as well as in name, during these days that are to try men’s souls. We must be impartial in thought, as well as action, must put a curb upon our sentiments, as well as upon every transaction that might be construed as a preference of one party to the struggle before another.

OTD in History… August 3, 1948, Whittaker Chambers accuses Alger Hiss of being a Communist

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OTD in History… August 3, 1948, Whittaker Chambers accuses Alger Hiss of being a Communist

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

Whittaker Chambers giving his HUAC testimony. Source: New York Times

On this day in history, August 3, 1948, former Communist turned FBI informant Whittaker Chambers accuses former State Department official Alger Hiss of having been a Communist in his testimony in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) and then Congressman Richard M. Nixon. Although Hiss would be convicted of perjury two-years later, he would fight the rest of his life against the accusation. After the fall of the Soviet Union, historians have been able to gain access to archives and documents and conclude that Hiss probably was a Communist spy.

At the time, however, the Chambers-Hiss accusation was one of the most notorious coming out of the HUAC anti-Communist crusade. The investigations by the FBI, Director J. Edgar Hoover, the HUAC and later Senator Joseph McCarthy amounted to the blacklist and convictions of many supposed Communists in politics and the entertainment industry amounted then to a witch-hunt. Freshman Congressman Nixon would build a name for himself in HUAC and his red hunting pursuit of Hiss, by 1952, he would on the Republican ticket as the nominee for Vice President.

In 1948, rehabilitated Communist Chambers was an editor at TIME magazine but in the 1930s he had been a member of the Communist Party, however, with the start of the House of Representatives investigations into Communists in the late 1930s, Chambers left the Communist Party and became a Communist informant. With the HUAC investigations in the late 1940s, Chambers as an informant was called as a witness after accusing Hiss of being a Communist.

Hiss was a New Deal Democrat, who worked in the Justice Department in the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration, then the Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA) legal team, an investigator and legal assistant to the Nye Committee. In 1936, hiss moved to the State Department, first as an assistant to Assistant Secretary of State Francis B. Sayre, then “an assistant to Stanley Hornbeck, a special adviser to Cordell Hull on Far Eastern affairs.” In 1944, Hiss served as Director of the Office of Special Political Affairs on post-war plans, and intentional organizations and attended the big three Yalta and Potsdam Conferences. In 1946, Hiss left government to serve as the president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

In an editorial in TIME, Chambers accused Hiss of having belonged with his in “an underground organization of the United States Communist Party,” the “Ware group,” led by agriculturalist Harold Ware, who wanted to make an agricultural uprising in the cotton industry. Chambers claimed, “The purpose of this group at that time was not primarily espionage. Its original purpose was the Communist infiltration of the American government. But espionage was certainly one of its eventual objectives.” Chambers accused eight members in total. By making it about espionage, the only illegal crime Chambers ensured it relevant to HUAC who was trying to prove the Democratic administrations of Roosevelt and then Harry Truman were soft on Communists.

Hiss was on the radar since 1939, when accusations against him started circulating. Nixon received information from former Central Intelligence Agency, CIA Director Allen Dulles and Roman Catholic Priest John Francis Cronin implicating Hiss. Cronin was the author of “The Problem Of American Communism In 1945”, where he declared, “In the State Department, the most influential Communist has been Alger Hiss.” Nixon made it his mission to go after Hiss, and the House made Nixon the chair of the HUAC subcommittee responsible for investigating Hiss, and he was figured prominently in questioning Chambers on August 3 and then Hiss on August 5 and during their subcommittee testimonies.

On August 3, Chambers gave his testimony in the Cannon Caucus Room in front of the HUAC naming Hiss a Communist. Both Chambers and Hiss alleged the other was lying, Committee Chairman J. Parnell Thomas of New Jersey told the two, “certainly one of you will be tried for perjury.” Only after Chambers declared on Meet the Press that Hiss was a Communist and Hiss filed a libel suit did Chambers accuse Hiss of being a spy as well.

On November 17, 1948, Chambers produced evidence, retyped State Department documents from the “November and December 1937 arrest and disappearance in Moscow of a Latvian-born man and his wife, an American citizen” the documents mostly dated from 1938 and included handwritten notes by Hiss. Chambers claimed Hiss wanted them sent to the Soviets. The documents became known as the Baltimore Papers. Additionally, On December 2, 1948, Chambers led investigators to his Maryland farm and “microfilmed copies of classified State Department documents” from 1938 in a hollowed out pumpkin. Collectively HUAC referred to all the documents as the “Pumpkin Papers,” they were enough evidence to charge Hiss with perjury. After two trials the first with a hung jury, Hiss was found guilty of two counts of perjury in January 1950, sentenced to five concurrent years, Hiss only served 44 months in prison.

Historian Tim Weiner writing, in his book Enemies: A History of the FBI argues the turning point was when Chambers upped his accusation from Communist to Communist spy. Weiner notes, “This was a crucial point. Infiltration and invisible political influence were immoral, but arguably not illegal. Espionage was treason, traditionally punishable by death. The distinction was not lost on the cleverest member of HUAC, Congressman Richard Nixon…. He had been studying the FBI’s files for five months, courtesy of J. Edgar Hoover. Nixon launched his political career in hot pursuit of Hiss and the alleged secret Communists of the New Deal.”

Nixon was able to make a public name for himself as a combatant of Communism, he parlayed this into being Dwight D. Eisenhower’s running mate in 1952 and then Vice President, in 1960 to the Republican Presidential nomination and finally in 1968 to win the presidency. The Hiss conviction helped fuel the anti-Communist investigations in government. Just two weeks afterward on February 9, Senator Joseph McCarthy delivered his Wheeling Speech. McCarthy famously alleged, “The State Department is infested with communists. I have here in my hand a list of 205 — a list of names that were made known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping policy in the State Department.” The speech catapulted McCarthy to head a Senate investigation in Communists infiltrating the government leading to his McCarthyism reign of terror in the early 1950s. By 1954, the Senate censured McCarthy, and the Communist hysteria finally died down.

SOURCES AND READ MORE

Summers, Anthony, and Robbyn Swan. The Arrogance of Power: The Secret World of Richard Nixon. New York: Penguin, 2001.

Tanenhaus, Sam. Whittaker Chambers: A Biography. New York: Random House, 1997.

Weiner, Tim. Enemies: A History of the FBI. New York: Random House, 2012.

Bonnie K. Goodman has a BA and MLIS from McGill University and has done graduate work in religion at Concordia University. She is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor, and a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

OTD in History… August 1–8, 1943, the Japanese attack John F. Kennedy’s PT-109 boat

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OTD in History… August 1–8, 1943, the Japanese attack John F. Kennedy’s PT-109 boat

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

On this day in history August 1–8, 1943, during World War II the Japanese attack Lieutenant John F. Kennedy’s PT-109 boat, slitting it in two. As captain of the ship, Kennedy brought the surviving crew members to safety and helped get word to the American base to save them. Kennedy’s role made him a hero back in the United States, not just because of family connections, but spite of them. Kennedy became the example of equality of classes in the military. His newfound hero status helped launch his political career after the war, where he won a seat in Congress in 1946, in less than 14 years he would rise to the Senate and then the presidency. When asked about his hero status, Kennedy would say, “It was involuntary. They sank my boat.”

Originally, in 1941, the military refused Kennedy entry into the navy because of his health problems, stemming from an old college football injury. His father former Ambassador Joseph P. Kennedy, however, used his influence “to get” his son “into the navy.” At first, Kennedy worked in the Office of Naval Intelligence. In 1942, after completing the Naval Reserve Officers Training School and Motor Torpedo Boat Squadrons Training Center, Kennedy was assigned to be a captain of a “PT (motorized torpedo) boat” in the Pacific theater of the war.

As part of The Battle of Blackett Strait the Japanese bombed the PT base at Rendova Island, while the Americans made an unsuccessful attempt to attack Tokyo Express and the Japanese Destroyers escorting it to bring supplies to Kolombangara Island. Afterward, Kennedy’s PT-109 was one of the boats left out to patrol the waters near Blackett Strait, “south of Kolombangara in the Solomon Islands.” On the moonless dark night of August 2 at around 2:30 a.m. Japan’s Amaqiri attacked Kennedy’s PT-109, in barely a minute from Kennedy first sighting the Amaqiri, the destroyer broke the PT-109 in half.

In the attack, two of the crew died, 11 survived buy was left clinging to the wreckage hull, with one badly injured, engineer Patrick McMahon. Kennedy and two others swam out to bring those thrown from the boat back to the hull. Kennedy and the 10 crewmen clung to the hull for nine hours but as it was about to sink decided they should try to swim to a small island that was visible which was either “Bird or Plum Pudding Island,” just south of Ferguson Passage, used often by the PTs. Kennedy tied the wounded to him and clenching the ties in his mouth, while “McMahon floated on his back.” The swim took five hours until they reached the Island. (Dallek)

Kennedy hoped maybe American PTs might be in the Ferguson Passage and went out almost immediately after they reached the island to scout the area. Kennedy reached there within an hour and stayed a while, the naval commanders believed that no one survived the PT-109 attack, and shifted their course to the Vella Gulf. Kennedy was sick from the swimming and lack of sleep and could not go out again on August 3 sending out another crew member to swim to the passage.

On August 4, they swam to nearby Olasana Island looking for food but found none. On August 5, Kennedy and crew member Barney Ross swam to another nearby island Nauru Island, which was close to Ferguson Passage. There they found “a one-man canoe, a fifty-five-gallon drum of freshwater, and some crackers and candy,” left by the Japanese. Kennedy took the canoe and supplies back to the crew, while Ross remained. There two native islanders found the men and were taking care of them.

Kennedy returned to Nauru Island on August 6, he carved into a coconut shell the message, “Nauru Is. Native knows posit. He can pilot. 11 alive need small boat. Kennedy.” Kennedy gave it to the two natives, that night him and Ross went out to the passage again looking for help. On August 7, eight natives returned to Nauru Island giving Kennedy and Ross a letter from a New Zealand Infantry Lieutenant Allied coastwatcher, Lt. A. Reginald Evans, who was working with the US military on New Georgia. The letter read; “I strongly advise you to come with these natives to me. Meanwhile, I shall be in radio communication with your authorities at Rendova and we can finalize plan to collect balance of your party.” (Dallek) Late evening they took Kennedy to Gomu, Evan’s camp. Instead, of directly saving the crew, they picked up Kennedy at his request to guide PT 157 and PT 171 to the surviving crew on Olasana, where the rescued were taken to Renova early morning on August 8.

At home, Kennedy was hailed as a hero, John Hersey told Kennedy and the PT-109 story to the public in the New York Times and Reader’s Digest, it was front page on the Boston Globe. Kennedy was given the option to go home, instead, he chose to remain and fight for those he lost. Kennedy took a week off for fatigue and to heal the wounds to his feet and he returned to active duty on August 16. Later he would be awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal and a Purple Heart. For all the press that the incident brought Kennedy, including a Hollywood take on PT-109, Kennedy never saw himself as a hero. According to Robert Dallek in his biography An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917–1963, “Jack himself viewed his emergence as an American hero with wry humor and becoming modesty.” (Dallek) The combination of the modest hero, however, only added to the Kennedy mystique that became Camelot.

SOURCES AND READ MORE

Dallek, Robert. An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917–1963. Boston, Mass: Little, Brown and Co, 2003.

Doyle, William. PT 109: An American Epic of War, Survival, and the Destiny of John F. Kennedy. New York, NY: William Morrow, 2015.

Bonnie K. Goodman has a BA and MLIS from McGill University and has done graduate work in religion at Concordia University. She is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor, and a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

OTD in History… July 24, 1959, VP Richard Nixon engages with Soviet leader Khrushchev in the Kitchen Debate

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OTD in History… July 24, 1959, VP Richard Nixon engages with Soviet leader Khrushchev in the Kitchen Debate

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

Source: Wikimedia Commons

On this day in history July 24, 1959, Vice President Richard Nixon on a mission to the Soviet Union engaged in the Kitchen Debate with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev at the opening of the American National Exhibition at Sokolniki Park in Moscow. The exhibit featured an American home with modern conveniences that the average worker could afford. In their third meeting of the trip, Nixon and Khrushchev debated through translators over capitalism, communism and the technological race over a model American home and kitchen and its advanced appliances. The three television networks captured the vivid and headline-making exchange and they aired it on July 25. The debate was one of the most significant summits in the early Cold War era and the televised and much-publicized debate help catapult Nixon to the 1960 Republican presidential nomination.

The exhibition was the second of two the United States and the Soviet Union agreed upon in 1958, as part of a cultural exchange. The Soviets hosted their exhibition in New York in June.

President Dwight Eisenhower sent his Vice President Nixon to the exhibition’s opening in Moscow and his younger brother Milton S. Eisenhower. The exhibit featured products from 450 companies, while the exhibit’s “centerpiece” was a 30,000 square foot geodesic dome featuring “scientific and technical experiments.” Afterward, the Soviet’s would buy the laboratory.

Nixon met Khruschev four times during his mission. At the first meeting as Nixon showed him around, Khrushchev argued about the Congress’ recently passed Captive Nations Resolution calling those living under Soviet rule captives, who needed the nation’s prayers. The second debate was at the exhibit’s opening in a televised studio, there Khrushchev and Nixon debated the superiority of each country’s technology, rather than “compete” over weapons, military or politics. There Khrushchev quipped, “We haven’t quite reached 42 years, but in another 7 years, we’ll be at the level of America, and after that, we’ll go farther.” Nixon told Khrushchev “not be afraid of ideas. After all, you don’t know everything.” To which he shot back, “You don’t know anything about communism–except fear of it.” The Soviet leader also made Nixon promise their exchanges would be translated into English, to which Nixon responded, “Certainly it will, and everything I say is to be translated into Russian and broadcast across the Soviet Union. That’s a fair bargain.”

The third meeting took place near the famed Kitchen exhibit part of a model home than any American worker could afford. Nixon explained about the model, saying, “This house can be bought for $14,000 (about $92,000 in current dollars), and most American [World War II veterans] can buy a home in the bracket of $10,000 to $15,000. Let me give you an example that you can appreciate. Our steelworkers, as you know, are now on strike. But any steelworker could buy this house. They earn $3 an hour. This house costs about $100 a month to buy on a contract running 25 to 30 years.” Khrushchev responded, saying, “We have steelworkers and peasants who can afford to spend $14,000 for a house. Your American houses are built to last only 20 years, so builders could sell new houses at the end. We build firmly. We build for our children and grandchildren.” Nixon and Khrushchev’s third meeting was a five-hour closed-door session at Khrushchev’s dacha.

Their debate centered on luxury versus substance. The exchange, however, became heated over the differences between Communism with a dictator at the held and Capitalism and a democracy with the people making the decision. Nixon told Khrushchev, “I appreciate that you are very articulate and energetic.” To which, he responded, “Energetic is different from wise.” Nixon took advantage of the opening telling the Soviet leader, “If you were in our Senate, we would call you a filibusterer. You do all the talking and don’t let anyone else talk … To us, diversity, the right to choose, the fact that we have 1,000 builders building 1,000 different houses is the most important thing. We don’t have one decision made at the top by one government official.” Khrushchev became sarcastic and mocked American technology, asking Nixon, “Don’t you have a machine that puts food in your mouth and pushes it down?”

The debate, however, descended into Nixon claiming Khrushchev’s threats over nuclear weapons “could to war,” Khrushchev seeing this as threat retorted, warning of “very bad consequences.” The Soviet leader, however, backed off saying, “We want peace with all other nations, especially America.” Nixon agreed, “We also want peace.” Nixon somewhat apologized admitting, “I’m afraid I haven’t been a good host.”

The heated exchange had the press and television cameras following Nixon and Khrushchev as they argued through the exhibition. William Satire, who was working as a press agent for the house exhibit battled future Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev to obtain a photo of the exchange at the model kitchen. Safire would serve as Nixon’s speechwriter during his presidency and then a New York Times columnist. Safire commented on the exchange, “The shrewd Khrushchev came away from his personal duel of words with Nixon persuaded that the advocate of capitalism was not just tough-minded but strong-willed.”

The newspaper and three major television networks had a field day with the debate, airing the exchange the next day on July 25. Just airing the exchange caused a diplomatic skirmish as the Soviet claimed it was agreed the American and Soviet television would air the exchange on the same day. The Soviets would air it on late night television two days later on July 27. Unlike Nixon who kept his promise to air the debate with English translation for all of Khrushchev’s words, the Soviet only aired a partial translation of Nixon’s remarks.

The newspapers were divisive in their coverage, the New York Times called the debate, a political stunt, and “an exchange that emphasized the gulf between east and west but had little bearing on the substantive issue.” TIME, however, praised Nixon, saying he “managed in a unique way to personify a national character proud of a peaceful accomplishment, sure of its way of life, confident of its power under threat.” Unfortunately, despite the attention, the press paid to the event, historians have not been as kind.

Historian Irwin F. Gellman observed in A Companion to Richard M. Nixon in 2011 that few historians “have published anything on the genesis of Nixon’s evolution during the vice-presidency. No historian has written any study on how deeply involved the Vice President was in the administration’s foreign policies.” Even less attention was paid to his trip to the Soviet Union in the summer of 1959, with Gellman noting, “No scholar has evaluated the significance of that mission to Russia and Poland.”

Gellman would go on to write the book The President and the Apprentice: Eisenhower and Nixon, 1952–1961 in 2015, arguing although never a partner, Eisenhower relied on and trusted Nixon, giving him much responsibility. Gellman notes, “Nixon’s trips to Asia, Latin America, Africa, Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union were never ceremonial goodwill journeys; he conducted delicate business and sometimes tense negotiations with foreign leaders, and he gave Eisenhower detailed reports on what he saw, heard, and did.” (Gellman, 11)

The exchange and its subsequent press coverage increased Nixon’s profile to the public and allowed him to demonstrate to the country his foreign policy chops, the newfound credibility elevated him to the 1960 Republican presidential nomination. Nixon would lose the 1960 election, but would go to win in 1968; during his time in office, he instituted a détente with the Soviet Union that opened the door to the eventual end of the Cold War. As Gellman indicates, “This immersion in foreign affairs as vice president gave Nixon the background, when he became president, to conduct a foreign policy that included winding down the war in Vietnam, détente with the Soviet Union, and a historic opening of relations with China.” (Gellman, 11)

SOURCES AND READ MORE

Gellman, Irwin F. The President and the Apprentice: Eisenhower and Nixon, 1952–1961. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2017.

Small, Melvin. A Companion to Richard M. Nixon. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011.

Bonnie K. Goodman has a BA and MLIS from McGill University and has done graduate work in religion at Concordia University. She is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor, and a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

OTD in History Tisha B’Av the most tragic day in Jewish history

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OTD in History Tisha B’Av the most tragic day in Jewish history

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

On this day in history, some of the most disastrous and sorrowful events in Jewish History occurred coincidently on the Hebrew date of Tishah B’Av, where the Holy Temples were destroyed not once but twice. On Tishah B’Av we mourn the destruction of the First and Second Temples, Beit HaMikdash, they are considered but two of the five historical events the Mishnah, the books of Jewish oral laws names as reasons to fast on this day. Throughout history, calamity after calamity alternating between mass deaths and expulsions befalling the Jewish people on this specific calendar date in a span of over 3000 years.

The first historical event and the one that set this day as a tragic day for thousands of years occurred in the Bible, the Torah in the book of Numbers, Bamidbar Chapter 13 and 14. In 1312 BCE (2448), Moses sent 12 representatives from each of the tribes to go over the mountain and scout the land of Israel before entering. In the forty days, the 12 spies examined Israel and they took back with them “a branch with a cluster of grapes” and “some pomegranates and figs.” When they returned they told Moses, “We came to the land to which you sent us, and it is flowing with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. However, the people who inhabit the land are mighty, and the cities are extremely huge and fortified, and there we saw even the offspring of the giant… We are unable to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we.”

Only Caleb from the tribe of Judah and Joshua spoke positively about Israel. The other spies told the Israelites, “The land we passed through to explore is a land that consumes its inhabitants, and all the people we saw in it are men of stature.” Afterward, “The entire community raised their voices and shouted, and the people wept on that night.” They complained to Moses, “If only we had died in the land of Egypt, or if only we had died in this desert,” and they wanted to return to Egypt. Caleb and Joshua spoke up and defended the land of Israel telling them “If the Lord desires us, He will bring us to this land and give it to us, a land flowing with milk and honey…. the Lord is with us; do not fear them.”

Hashem / God responded and promised not to let in those over age 20 to Israel because of their doubt, leading to the Israelites wandering 40 years in the desert, “In this very wilderness shall your carcasses drop. Of all of you who were recorded in your various lists from the age of twenty years up, you who have muttered against Me, not one shall enter the land in which I swore to settle you — save Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun.” All of this happened on Tisha B’Av and The Israelites response led to the string of tragedies that have plagued Jewry for thousands of years. According to the Midrash, “The Holy One said to them ‘You cried for no reason? For future generations, I am fixing this night as a night for crying [for good reason].” (Numbers Rabbah 16:20, Rubin, 118)

In 586 B.C.E. (3340), Zedekiah, a King of Judea installed by King of Babylonia Nebuchadnezzar, rebelled and joined into an alliance with Egypt. Nebuchadnezzar’s response was a Siege on Jerusalem lasting months, the city was captured and Babylonian general Nebuzaraddan’s mission was to destroy the whole city including the First Holy Temple built by King Solomon. Afterward, most of the Jewish population was exiled to Babylonia with only a few left in Judah.

In 70 C.E. (3830), the Jews fought back against the Roman aggressors, the Siege of Jerusalem was the climax of the First Jewish–Roman War. The Roman Army under future Emperor Titus commenced his siege of Jerusalem during Pesach, by Av, he looked to capture the temple for Rome, however, fighting at the temple fortress led to a Roman soldier to throw a burning stick at the temple’s wall in no time the temple was destroyed by the 10th of Av, late July. Jerusalem would fall by September 8, after the fall of Herod’s Palace.

In 125 C.E (3892), Simon bar Kokhba led a revolt against the Romans in The Third Jewish–Roman War or Second Revolt of Judea over their Romanizing Judah, rebuilding Jerusalem as Aelia Capitolina and building a Roman temple Jupiter on the site of the Temple ruins. The early revolt was successful enough that in 132, the Jews regained control of much of Judah and installed bar Kokhba as the leader with the title prince. The success led many Jews to consider him the Messiah.

By 134, the Roman fought backs under General Sextus Julius Severus. Bar Kokhba fought his final battle on August 4, 135 CE at Betar. The Romans disseminated the Jewish population, with 580,000 killed, and more deaths from harsh conditions including starvation and disease additionally 50 “fortified towns and 985 villages were razed,” including Betar. The Romans left the Jews living at the periphery of Judah but attempted to wipe out the Jewish connection to Israel, with Roman commander Turnus Rufus plowing the Temple ruins. The Roman banned the Jews from entering Jerusalem except for Tisha B’Av.

Throughout history, the date continued to bring despair to the exiled Jewish community:

On August 15, 1096 (4856), the First Crusade began, sanctioned by the Catholic Church, their aim was to conquer the Holy Land from the Muslims. In 1095, Pope Urban II gave a sermon at the Council of Clermont advocating for the crusade to help Byzantine Empire Emperor Alexios I in his fight against the Muslim Turks and guaranteeing Christian access. In the first month, as German Christian soldiers headed towards the Holy Land, they pillaged and destroyed European Jewish communities in their path including killing 10,000 in France and the Rhineland in the persecutions of 1096 or Gzerot Tatenu, “Edicts of 856.” In “Hurban Shum” (Destruction of Shum), the soldiers decimated the Jewish communities in Speyer, Worms, and Mainz. The pogroms were the first instance of anti-Semitism in Europe. On July 14, 1099, the soldiers captured Jerusalem.

On July 18, 1290 (5050), King Edward I signed the Edict of Expulsion evicting the Jewish community in England, the community would have to leave by November 1, All Saints day. The Jewish community in England was as old as William the Conqueror’s reign starting in 1066. Jews mostly served as merchants and then moneylenders and in the Feudal society were “direct subjects of the King,” where the King always had to renew a charter. Their economic roles led to an increase in anti-Semitism, and in 1190, 100 Jews were killed in the Massacre of York. In the thirteenth century, the Jewish situation deteriorated and King Henry III required them to wear a badge with the 1253 Statute of Jewry and imposed high taxes.

In the 1260s, there were pogroms during the Second Barons War attacking Jews in London, Worchester, and Canterbury. In 1275, King Edward banned Jews from usury, lending money with interest and decided in exchange levying high taxes to expel the Jews for not complying with the statute. The edict was enforced until 1657. In 1655, Menasseh ben Israel, the leader of Amsterdam’s Jewish community petitioned British Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell to allow the Jews to return citing the economic benefits to England.

On July 22, 1306, (10 Av, 5066), King Philip IV mass arrests France’s Jews then notified them of their eviction. King Phillip was referred to as “the Fair,” and he ruled from 1285 to 1314. King Philip’s expulsion of the Jews was related to his desire to make France “most Christian realm” and funding his military. In the years leading up to the expulsion, King Phillip demanded Jews wear a badge and pay a fine for doing so, he restricted where Jews could live and restricted their contact with Christians. King Phillip wanted to outdo his cousin King Edward and refused to let the Jews expelled from England into France. He also believed himself more spiritual than Pope Boniface VIII. Most importantly, however, where the financial benefits, the King would not allow Jews to take any of their belongings and property, and all debts owed would be paid to the King. By 1311, all Jews were out of the country but within a few years, Louis X readmitted the Jews in 1315.

On July 31, 1492, (7 Av, 5252) King Fernando and Queen Isabella executed their expulsion of Spain Jewry after the Spanish Inquisition. Three months earlier on March 31, they issued the Alhambra Decree, the Edict of Expulsion requiring all Jews to leave the Kingdoms of Castile and Aragon. The main reason was to prevent influence on the conversos, formerly half the Jewish population, who converted by force to Christianity in 1391 after persecution. By 1415, 50,000 more converted and by the time of the decree, “200,000 Jews converted to Catholicism.” King Fernando and Queen Isabella feared the conversos might go back to Judaism, which many in fact were secretly practicing. Only 40,000 to 100,000 Jews left with the decree. Jews only started to return to Spain in the late nineteenth century and the Second Vatican Council formally revoked the decree in 1968.

More recently major historical events on this date lead to the Holocaust and destruction of European Jewry. On August 1–2, 1914 (9–10 Av, 5674) Germany declared war commencing World War I. Several incidences in World War II led to the Holocaust and Nazi Germany extermination of European Jewry. On August 2, 1941 (9 Av, 5701), the Nazi Party approved and informed SS commander Heinrich Himmler of “The Final Solution” formally beginning the Holocaust. A year later on July 23, 1942 (9Av, 5702), the Nazis began transporting Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto to Treblinka concentration camp, six million Jews would be killed during the Holocaust once the war finished in 1945.

The tragic events kept on coming, with no stop up to recent history. On July 18, 1994, 10 Av, 5754, an attack on the Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina (AMIA; Argentine Israelite Mutual Association) building killed 85 and injured 300, it is suspected that Hamas and Iran are behind the attack, Ansar Allah, a Hamas front claimed responsibility. On August 15, 2005, 10 Av, 5765, Israel begins their disengagement from Gaza dismantling all the Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip. In a month, Israel evicted 8,000 Israelis from 21 settlements, and 4 additional settlements in the northern West Bank.

Despite the continual sorrowful events, the Jews continued on, with a spirit of survival and a will to thrive. As Chabad points out, “To date, Jewish history spans over 3,300 years. To be born a Jew today is not an accident of birth but the sum total of over 3,300 years of ancestral self-sacrifice, of heroes who at times gave their very lives for their beliefs. Greeks, Romans, Crusaders, Nazis, and Communists all tried to obliterate Jewish practice and faith but failed. The indomitable Jewish spirit survived and clung to its traditions despite all odds.”

Bonnie K. Goodman has a BA and MLIS from McGill University and has done graduate work in religion at Concordia University. She is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor, and a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

OTD in History… July 18, 1940, Democrats nominate Franklin D. Roosevelt for a record third term as president

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OTD in History… July 18, 1940, Democrats nominate Franklin D. Roosevelt for a record third term as president

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

On this day in history July 18, 1940, the Democratic Party nominatesPresident Franklin Delano Roosevelt for a record third term as president, making Roosevelt the first president to go beyond President George Washington’s precedent of only two-terms for a president. With the world plunged into another world war in Europe and Nazi German gaining and the Fall of France, Roosevelt decided he would run again and break the long-held unwritten rule. Roosevelt, however, looked to be drafted to the Democratic nomination, to make it appear as he was doing a duty and not ambitiously pursuing a third term.

Throughout the primaries, Roosevelt remained evasiveness as to whether he would run for an unprecedented third term. He ignored reporters’ questions and political endorsements. His name was placed on several ballots and beat his leading opponent, Vice President John Nance Garner in the primaries. Despite Roosevelt’s pre-convention statement that he had “no desire or purpose to continue in the office,” orchestrated support capitulated Roosevelt to the nomination for an unprecedented 3rd time. Harry Hopkins was in charge of the Roosevelt “draft” at the Democratic National Convention, in Chicago, Illinois, where he maintained direct contact with the president at the White House. Thomas F. Garry, the city’s Superintendent of Sewers was placed in front of a microphone in a room under the auditorium and ready to scream pro Roosevelt chants to drum up support for the draft movement.

Kentucky Senator Alben Barkley, the permanent chairman’s gave his speech on the second day, when he mentioned Roosevelt, Chicago Mayor Ed Kelly gave the sign to Garry to commence. He yelled, “We want Roosevelt! The world wants Roosevelt!” and other pro-Roosevelt slogans over the speech’s remaining 22 minutes. After his speech, Barkley announced the President’s decision on the nomination: “The President has never had and has not today any desire or purpose to continue in the office of the President, to be a candidate for that office, or to be nominated by the convention for that office. He wishes in all earnestness and sincerity to make it clear that all delegates to this convention are free to vote for any candidate. This is the message I bear to you from the President of the United States.”

The majority of delegates, 86 percent then nominated Roosevelt for a third term on the first ballot, however, not by acclamation, which was Roosevelt’s desire. Roosevelt did not accept the nomination in person this time; instead, he delivered a radio address. He stated he did not want to run again, but the world war called for personal sacrifice. Roosevelt expressed, “These plans, like so many other plans, had been made in a world which now seems as distant as another planet… Those, my friends, are the reasons why I have had to admit to myself, and now to state to you, that my conscience will not let me turn my back upon a call to service. The right to make that call rests with the people through the American method of a free election. Only the people themselves can draft a President. If such a draft should be made upon me, I say to you, in the utmost simplicity, I will, with God’s help, continue to serve with the best of my ability and with the fullness of my strength.”

Historian Richard Moe argues in his book Roosevelt’s Second Act: The Election of 1940 and the Politics of War, “There has been an inclination by many to conclude that the decision was inevitable, that he had decided long before July 1940 to break the two-term tradition established by Washington and Jefferson and regarded as inviolable for a century and a half. Several presidents, among them FDR’s boyhood hero and distant cousin Theodore, had tried to breach the tradition, but none had succeeded. There was nothing inevitable about Franklin Roosevelt’s decision. He made it as he made all of his major decisions — virtually alone and not before the last possible moment, which is to say not until he had to.” (Moe, xiv)

Roosevelt would go on to win the election in a decisive victory against Republican Wendell Willkie, becoming the first president elected to a third term. In 1944, with World War II still in the balance, and American involvement, Roosevelt again ran for his fourth and last term, winning against New York governor Thomas Dewey. Roosevelt made history but early in his fourth term on he died April 12, 1945. Vice President Harry S. Truman took over. Republicans in Congress made sure no president would ever run for more than two terms passing the 22nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution on March 21, 1947, and ratified in 1951.

SOURCES AND READ MORE

Boller, Paul F. Presidential Campaigns: From George Washington to George W. Bush. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2004.

Jeffries, John W. A Third Term for FDR The Election of 1940. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2017.

Moe, Richard. Roosevelt’s Second Act: The Election of 1940 and the Politics of War. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013.

Bonnie K. Goodman has a BA and MLIS from McGill University and has done graduate work in religion at Concordia University. She is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor, and a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

Radio Address to the Democratic National Convention Accepting the Nomination

July 19, 1940

Members of the Convention—my friends:

It is very late; but I have felt that you would rather that I speak to you now than wait until tomorrow.

It is with a very full heart that I speak tonight. I must confess that I do so with mixed feelings—because I find myself, as almost everyone does sooner or later in his lifetime, in a conflict between deep personal desire for retirement on the one hand, and that quiet, invisible thing called “conscience” on the other.

Because there are self-appointed commentators and interpreters who will seek to misinterpret or question motives, I speak in a somewhat personal vein; and I must trust to the good faith and common sense of the American people to accept my own good faith—and to do their own interpreting.

When, in 1936, I was chosen by the voters for a second time as President, it was my firm intention to turn over the responsibilities of Government to other hands at the end of my term. That conviction remained with me. Eight years in the Presidency, following a period of bleak depression, and covering one world crisis after another, would normally entitle any man to the relaxation that comes from honorable retirement.

During the spring of 1939, world events made it clear to all but the blind or the partisan that a great war in Europe had become not merely a possibility but a probability, and that such a war would of necessity deeply affect the future of this nation.

When the conflict first broke out last September, it was still my intention to announce clearly and simply, at an early date, that under no conditions would I accept reelection. This fact was well known to my friends, and I think was understood by many citizens.

It soon became evident, however, that such a public statement on my part would be unwise from the point of view of sheer public duty. As President of the United States, it was my clear duty, with the aid of the Congress, to preserve our neutrality, to shape our program of defense, to meet rapid changes, to keep our domestic affairs adjusted to shifting world conditions, and to sustain the policy of the Good Neighbor.

It was also my obvious duty to maintain to the utmost the influence of this mighty nation in our effort to prevent the spread of war, and to sustain by all legal means those governments threatened by other governments which had rejected the principles of democracy.

Swiftly moving foreign events made necessary swift action at home and beyond the seas. Plans for national defense had to be expanded and adjusted to meet new forms of warfare. American citizens and their welfare had to be safeguarded in many foreign zones of danger. National unity in the United States became a crying essential in the face of the development of unbelievable types of espionage and international treachery.

Every day that passed called for the postponement of personal plans and partisan debate until the latest possible moment. The normal conditions under which I would have made public declaration of my personal desires were wholly gone.

And so, thinking solely of the national good and of the international scene, I came to the reluctant conclusion that such declaration should not be made before the national Convention. It was accordingly made to you within an hour after the permanent organization of this Convention.

Like any other man, I am complimented by the honor you have done me. But I know you will understand the spirit in which I say that no call of Party alone would prevail upon me to accept reelection to the Presidency.

The real decision to be made in these circumstances is not the acceptance of a nomination, but rather an ultimate willingness to serve if chosen by the electorate of the United States. Many considerations enter into this decision.

During the past few months, with due Congressional approval, we in the United States have been taking steps to implement the total defense of America. I cannot forget that in carrying out this program I have drafted into the service of the nation many men and women, taking them away from important private affairs, calling them suddenly from their homes and their businesses. I have asked them to leave their own work, and to contribute their skill and experience to the cause of their nation.

I, as the head of their Government, have asked them to do this. Regardless of party, regardless of personal convenience, they came—they answered the call. Every single one of them, with one exception, has come to the nation’s Capital to serve the nation.

These people, who have placed patriotism above all else, represent those who have made their way to what might be called the top of their professions or industries through their proven skill and experience.

But they alone could not be enough to meet the needs of the times.

Just as a system of national defense based on man power alone, without the mechanized equipment of modern warfare, is totally insufficient for adequate national defense, so also planes and guns and tanks are wholly insufficient unless they are implemented by the power of men trained to use them.

Such man power consists not only of pilots and gunners and infantry and those who operate tanks. For every individual in actual combat service, it is necessary for adequate defense that we have ready at hand at least four or five other trained individuals organized for non-combat services.

Because of the millions of citizens involved in the conduct of defense, most right thinking persons are agreed that some form of selection by draft is as necessary and fair today as it was in 1917 and 1918.

Nearly every American is willing to do his share or her share to defend the United States. It is neither just nor efficient to permit that task to fall upon any one section or any one group. For every section and every group depend for their existence upon the survival of the nation as a whole.

Lying awake, as I have, on many nights, I have asked myself whether I have the right, as Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy, to call on men and women to serve their country or to train themselves to serve and, at the same time, decline to serve my country in my own personal capacity, if I am called upon to do so by the people of my country.

In times like these—in times of great tension, of great crisis-the compass of the world narrows to a single fact. The fact which dominates our world is the fact of armed aggression, the fact of successful armed aggression, aimed at the form of Government, the kind of society that we in the United States have chosen and established for ourselves. It is a fact which no one longer doubts -which no one is longer able to ignore.

It is not an ordinary war. It is a revolution imposed by force of arms, which threatens all men everywhere. It is a revolution which proposes not to set men free but to reduce them to slavery—to reduce them to slavery in the interest of a dictatorship which has already shown the nature and the extent of the advantage which it hopes to obtain.

That is the fact which dominates our world and which dominates the lives of all of us, each and every one of us. In the face of the danger which confronts our time, no individual retains or can hope to retain, the right of personal choice which free men enjoy in times of peace. He has a first obligation to serve in the defense of our institutions of freedom—a first obligation to serve his country in whatever capacity his country finds him useful.

Like most men of my age, I had made plans for myself, plans for a private life of my own choice and for my own satisfaction, a life of that kind to begin in January, 1941. These plans, like so many other plans, had been made in a world which now seems as distant as another planet. Today all private plans, all private lives, have been in a sense repealed by an overriding public danger. In the face of that public danger all those who can be of service to the Republic have no choice but to offer themselves for service in those capacities for which they may be fitted.

Those, my friends, are the reasons why I have had to admit to myself, and now to state to you, that my conscience will not let me turn my back upon a call to service.

The right to make that call rests with the people through the American method of a free election. Only the people themselves can draft a President. If such a draft should be made upon me, I say to you, in the utmost simplicity, I will, with God’s help, continue to serve with the best of my ability and with the fullness of my strength.

To you, the delegates of this Convention, I express my gratitude for the selection of Henry Wallace for the high office of Vice President of the United States. His first-hand knowledge of the problems of Government in every sphere of life and in every single part of the nation—and indeed of the whole world—qualifies him without reservation. His practical idealism will be of great service to me individually and to the nation as a whole.

And to the Chairman of the National Committee, the Postmaster General of the United States—my old friend Jim Farley-I send, as I have often before and shall many times again, my most affectionate greetings. All of us are sure that he will continue to give all the leadership and support that he possibly can to the cause of American democracy.

In some respects, as I think my good wife suggested an hour or so ago—the next few months will be different from the usual national campaigns of recent years.

Most of you know how important it is that the President of the United States in these days remain close to the seat of Government. Since last Summer I have been compelled to abandon proposed journeys to inspect many of our great national projects from the Alleghenies to the Pacific Coast.

Events move so fast in other parts of the world that it has be come my duty to remain either in the White House itself or at some near-by point where I can reach Washington and even Europe and Asia by direct telephone—where, if need be, I can be back at my desk in the space of a very few hours. And in addition, the splendid work of the new defense machinery will require me to spend vastly more time in conference with the responsible administration heads under me. Finally, the added task which the present crisis has imposed also upon the Congress, compelling them to forego their usual adjournment, calls for constant cooperation between the Executive and Legislative branches, to the efficiency of which I am glad indeed now to pay tribute.

I do expect, of course, during the coming months to make my usual periodic reports to the country through the medium of press conferences and radio talks. I shall not have the time or the inclination to engage in purely political debate. But I shall never be loath to call the attention of the nation to deliberate or unwitting falsifications of fact, which are sometimes made by political candidates.

I have spoken to you in a very informal and personal way. The exigencies of the day require, however, that I also talk with you about things which transcend any personality and go very deeply to the roots of American civilization.

Our lives have been based on those fundamental freedoms and liberties which we Americans have cherished for a century and a half. The establishment of them and the preservation of them in each succeeding generation have been accomplished through the processes of free elective Government—the democratic-republican form, based on the representative system and the coordination of the executive, the legislative and the judicial branches.

The task of safeguarding our institutions seems to me to be twofold. One must be accomplished, if it becomes necessary, by the armed defense forces of the nation. The other, by the united effort of the men and women of the country to make our Federal and State and local Governments responsive to the growing requirements of modern democracy.

There have been occasions, as we remember, when reactions in the march of democracy have set in, and forward-looking progress has seemed to stop.

But such periods have been followed by liberal and progressive times which have enabled the nation to catch up with new developments in fulfilling new human needs. Such a time has been the past seven years. Because we had seemed to lag in previous years, we have had to develop, speedily and efficiently, the answers to aspirations which had come from every State and every family in the land.

We have sometimes called it social legislation; we have sometimes called it legislation to end the abuses of the past; we have sometimes called it legislation for human security; and we have sometimes called it legislation to better the condition of life of the many millions of our fellow citizens, who could not have the essentials of life or hope for an American standard of living.

Some of us have labeled it a wider and more equitable distribution of wealth in our land. It has included among its aims, to liberalize and broaden the control of vast industries—lodged today in the hands of a relatively small group of individuals of very great financial power.

But all of these definitions and labels are essentially the expression of one consistent thought. They represent a constantly growing sense of human decency, human decency throughout our nation.

This sense of human decency is happily confined to no group or class. You find it in the humblest home. You find it among those who toil, and among the shopkeepers and the farmers of the nation. You find it, to a growing degree, even among those who are listed in that top group which has so much control over the industrial and financial structure of the nation. Therefore, this urge of humanity can by no means be labeled a war of class against class. It is rather a war against poverty and suffering and ill-health and insecurity, a war in which all classes are joining in the interest of a sound and enduring democracy.

I do not believe for a moment, and I know that you do not believe either, that we have fully answered all the needs of human security. But we have covered much of the road. I need not catalogue the milestones of seven years. For every individual and every family in the whole land know that the average of their personal lives has been made safer and sounder and happier than it has ever been before. I do not think they want the gains in these directions to be repealed or even to be placed in the charge of those who would give them mere lip-service with no heart service.

Yes, very much more remains to be done, and I think the voters want the task entrusted to those who believe that the words “human betterment” apply to poor and rich alike.

And I have a sneaking suspicion too, that voters will smile at charges of inefficiency against a Government which has boldly met the enormous problems of banking, and finance and industry which the great efficient bankers and industrialists of the Republican Party left in such hopeless chaos in the famous year 1933.

But we all know that our progress at home and in the other American nations toward this realization of a better human decency—progress along free lines— is gravely endangered by what is happening on other continents. In Europe, many nations, through dictatorships or invasions, have been compelled to abandon normal democratic processes. They have been compelled to adopt forms of government which some call “new and efficient.”

They are not new, my friends, they are only a relapse—a relapse into ancient history. The omnipotent rulers of the greater part of modern Europe have guaranteed efficiency, and work, and a type of security.

But the slaves who built the pyramids for the glory of the dictator Pharaohs of Egypt had that kind of security, that kind of efficiency, that kind of corporative state.

So did the inhabitants of that world which extended from Britain to Persia under the undisputed rule of the proconsuls sent out from Rome.

So did the henchmen, the tradesmen, the mercenaries and the slaves of the feudal system which dominated Europe a thousand years ago.

So did the people of those nations of Europe who received their kings and their government at the whim of the conquering Napoleon.

Whatever its new trappings and new slogans, tyranny is the oldest and most discredited rule known to history. And whenever tyranny has replaced a more human form of Government it has been due more to internal causes than external. Democracy can thrive only when it enlists the devotion of those whom Lincoln called the common people. Democracy can hold that devotion only when it adequately respects their dignity by so ordering society as to assure to the masses of men and women reasonable security and hope for themselves and for their children.

We in our democracy, and those who live in still unconquered democracies, will never willingly descend to any form of this so-called security of efficiency which calls for the abandonment of other securities more vital to the dignity of man. It is our credo-unshakable to the end—that we must live under the liberties that were first heralded by Magna Carta and placed into glorious operation through the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States and the Bill of Rights.

The Government of the United States for the past seven years has had the courage openly to oppose by every peaceful means the spread of the dictator form of Government. If our Government should pass to other hands next January-untried hands, inexperienced hands—we can merely hope and pray that they will not substitute appeasement and compromise with those who seek to destroy all democracies everywhere, including here.

I would not undo, if I could, the efforts I made to prevent war from the moment it was threatened and to restrict the area of carnage, down to the last minute. I do not now soften the condemnation expressed by Secretary Hull and myself from time to time for the acts of aggression that have wiped out ancient liberty-loving, peace-pursuing countries which had scrupulously maintained neutrality. I do not recant the sentiments of sympathy with all free peoples resisting such aggression, or begrudge the material aid that we have given to them. I do not regret my consistent endeavor to awaken this country to the menace for us and for all we hold dear.

· I have pursued these efforts in the face of appeaser fifth columnists who charged me with hysteria and war-mongering. But I felt it my duty, my simple, plain, inescapable duty, to arouse my countrymen to the danger of the new forces let loose in the world.

So long as I am President, I will do all I can to insure that that foreign policy remain our foreign policy.

All that I have done to maintain the peace of this country and to prepare it morally, as well as physically, for whatever contingencies may be in store, I submit to the judgment of my countrymen. We face one of the great choices of history.

It is not alone a choice of Government by the people versus dictatorship.

It is not alone a choice of freedom versus slavery.

It is not alone a choice between moving forward or falling back. It is all of these rolled into one.

It is the continuance of civilization as we know it versus the ultimate destruction of all that we have held dear—religion against godlessness; the ideal of justice against the practice of force; moral decency versus the firing squad; courage to speak out, and to act, versus the false lullaby of appeasement.

But it has been well said that a selfish and greedy people cannot be free.

The American people must decide whether these things are worth making sacrifices of money, of energy, and of self. They will not decide by listening to mere words or by reading mere pledges, interpretations and claims. They will decide on the record—the record as it has been made—the record of things as they are.

The American people will sustain the progress of a representative democracy, asking the Divine Blessing as they face the future with courage and with faith.

Citation: Franklin D. Roosevelt: “Radio Address to the Democratic National Convention Accepting the Nomination.,” July 19, 1940. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=15980.

OTD in History… June 27, 1950, President Truman orders American troops to fight in the Korean War

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OTD in History… June 27, 1950, President Truman orders American troops to fight in the Korean War

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

Source: Communities Digital News

On this day in history, June 27, 1950, President Harry S. Truman gives a statement and orders the United States air and naval military troops to Democratic South Korea to defend them as part of a United Nations military effort after Communist North Korea invaded it two days prior on June 25, 1950, Korean time. After World War II Korea had been divided between North and South by the 38th parallel. Truman sent American troops under Gen. Douglas MacArthur, who would be Commander of the U.N. forces, 15 nations fighting against North Korea. Truman’s decision came after United Nations Security Council condemned North Korea’s invasion with a 9–0 vote on June 26 and supported the Democratic Republic of Korea. On June 28, the UN voted to use force against North Korea and June 30, Truman committed ground troops to the conflict. Congress did not pass a war resolution but did extend the draft and allowed the president to call up reservists.

Truman’s decision was the first time the American history a president would send troops to a foreign conflict without Congress passing a declaration of war. Truman noted he did not need to because speaking of Congress he said, “They are all with me.” As historian Larry Blomstedt indicates in his book, Truman, Congress, and Korea: The Politics of America’s First Undeclared War, explains the Koran War is “historically crucial. Korea began a trend of American presidents deploying significant numbers of troops overseas without obtaining a declaration of war from Congress.” The conflict increased the power of the president.

Sending troops was also part of the post-World War II strategy of “Containment” containing the spread of Communism in the world, and part of the 1947 Truman Doctrine of foreign policy having the US intervening in foreign conflicts that do not directly involve the country. As Truman stated to the public on June 27, “Communism has passed beyond the use of subversion to conquer independent nations and will now use armed invasion and war.” The front line of fighting Communism shifted from Europe to Asia. Truman declared that the spread of Communism in the strategic Korean peninsula was a threat to national security. The Korean War would last three years and for most veterans considered as the “forgotten war.” It was the first American conflict with no clear-cut victory or peace, only an armistice signed July 27, 1953, with 36,516 American troops killed in the war. The boundary line altered slightly with both sides gaining territory but a continued military presence was necessary.

Recently, nuclear tensions between North Korea and the US increased under President Donald Trump and North Korea leader Kim Jong-un. A result of the escalation and Trump’s bully diplomacy, North and Korea had a rapprochement and signed an agreement with the intention to make finally a peace agreement, 65 years after the armistice was signed. The US and North Korea are also making historic headway, with Trump becoming the first American president to meet with a North Korean leader. At their Singapore summit on June 12, the two leaders signed an agreement to denuclearize North Korea, a giant step towards finally ending the Korean War.

READ MORE

Blomstedt, Larry. Truman, Congress, and Korea: The Politics of America’s First Undeclared War. Lexington, Kentucky The University Press of Kentucky, 2016.

Brands, H W. The General Vs. the President: Macarthur and Truman at the Brink of Nuclear War. New York : Anchor Books, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, 2017.

Wainstock, Dennis. Truman, Macarthur, and the Korean War. New York, NY: Enigma Books, 2011.

Bonnie K. Goodman has a BA and MLIS from McGill University and has done graduate work in religion at Concordia University. She is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor, and a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

 

Statement by the President on the Situation in Korea
June 27, 1950

IN KOREA the Government forces, which were armed to prevent border raids and to preserve internal security, were attacked by invading forces from North Korea. The Security Council of the United Nations called upon the invading troops to cease hostilities and to withdraw to the 38th parallel. This they have not done, but on the contrary have pressed the attack. The Security Council called upon all members of the United Nations to render every assistance to the United Nations in the execution of this resolution. In these circumstances I have ordered United States air and sea forces to give the Korean Government troops cover and support.

The attack upon Korea makes it plain beyond all doubt that communism has passed beyond the use of subversion to conquer independent nations and will now use armed invasion and war. It has defied the orders of the Security Council of the United Nations issued to preserve international peace and security. In these circumstances the occupation of Formosa by Communist forces would be a direct threat to the security of the Pacific area and to United States forces performing their lawful and necessary functions in that area.

Accordingly I have ordered the 7th Fleet to prevent any attack on Formosa. As a corollary of this action I am calling upon the Chinese Government on Formosa to cease all air and sea operations against the mainland. The 7th Fleet will see that this is done. The determination of the future status of Formosa must await the restoration of security in the Pacific, a peace settlement with Japan, or consideration by the United Nations.

I have also directed that United States Forces in the Philippines be strengthened and that military assistance to the Philippine Government be accelerated.

I have similarly directed acceleration in the furnishing of military assistance to the forces of France and the Associated States in Indochina and the dispatch of a military mission to provide dose working relations with those forces.

I know that all members of the United Nations will consider carefully the consequences of this latest aggression in Korea in defiance of the Charter of the United Nations. A return to the rule of force in international affairs would have far-reaching effects. The United States will continue to uphold the rule of law.

I have instructed Ambassador Austin, as the representative of the United States to the Security Council, to report these steps to the Council.

OTD in History… June 26, 1963, President Kennedy delivers his Berlin Speech declares solidarity “Ich bin ein Berliner”

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OTD in History… June 26, 1963, President Kennedy delivers his Berlin Speech declares solidarity “Ich bin ein Berliner”

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

On this day in history June 26, 1963, President John F. Kennedy delivers his Berlin Speech, where he expressed solidarity and hope with the citizens of West Berlin declaring “Ich bin ein Berliner” I am a Berliner, in what is considered Kennedy’s best speech and one of the best speeches in American history. Kennedy delivered his speech in front of the Berlin Wall on the steps of the Rathaus Schöneberg, the city hall, in front of an audience of 450,000 filling Rudolph Wilde Platz; the speech was the climax of Kennedy’s four-day trip to Germany. The Soviet Union built the wall barely two years earlier to separate the eastern Communist bloc with the western democratic half of the city and prevent their citizens from escaping to freedom. The citizens of West Berlin were an island of democracy surrounded by the Communist regime, Kennedy’s anti-Communist speech aimed at showing American and western support for the city. Three other presidents after Kennedy aimed at making history at the wall, only twenty-four years later Ronald Reagan made an impact asking Soviet Leader Mikhail Gorbachev to “Tear down this wall.”

The people of West Berlin and West Germany needed Kennedy’s assurances of support from the west as they sat in the middle of Soviet-controlled East Germany. After World War II, Berlin was divided into four blocs, the east controlled by the Soviets, and the western part of the city controlled by the American, British, and French. In June 1948, the Soviets blocked land access to West Berlin, in response President Harry Truman and the Allied Military Air Transport Service airlifted food, energy, medical supplies into the western part of the city, the blockade would last until May 1949, and the US delivered 2.3 million tons of supplies. On August 13, 1961, the East German government started the wall between the east and west, first built with barbwire and then a more permanent with cement blocks, the Berlin Wall, called the antifaschistischer Schutzwall.

Kennedy faced the continuing aggressive threats from the Soviet Union. Kennedy first met Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev in a June 1961 summit, where Kennedy was warned it was “…up to the U.S. to decide whether there will be war or peace” and if not “Force will be met by force.” Tensions remain high throughout Kennedy’s term. Kennedy delivered another speech before his Berlin one about the Cold War and nuclear two weeks earlier on June 10 at American University in Washington, which was conciliatory to the Soviets where the president talked of “improving relations with the Soviet Union”, while in Berlin Kennedy took a hard-line approach. Kennedy arrived in West Germany on June 23 for his four-day trip.

The most famous phrase of Kennedy’s speech was a late add-on by the president. Kennedy was revising his speech up even during his trip and his “Ich bin ein Berliner” was not of the typed cards of the speech written by speechwriter Ted Sorensen, but scribbled by Kennedy phonetically among some German phrases he was considering. Kennedy would use the phrase twice at the beginning and conclusion of his address.

Kennedy started his speech declaring, “Two thousand years ago, the proudest boast was civis romanus sum [“I am a Roman citizen”]. Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is “Ich bin ein Berliner!”… All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words ‘Ich bin ein Berliner!’” Historian Andreas W. Daum writing his book Kennedy in Berlin believes after President Kennedy saw the Berlin Wall he was inspired and “fell back on the most memorable passage of his New Orleans speech given the year before, changing pride in being an American in being a Berliner.” (Daum, 153)

Kennedy harshly criticized the Soviets and communism and praised the citizens of West Berlin in his nine-minute speech. Kennedy condemned Communism, saying, “There are some who say that communism is the wave of the future. Let them come to Berlin. And there are some who say in Europe and elsewhere we can work with the Communists. Let them come to Berlin. And there are even a few who say that it is true that communism is an evil system, but it permits us to make economic progress. Lass’ sie nach Berlin kommen. Let them come to Berlin.”

To contrast with Communism and refer to the wall, Kennedy pointed out, “Freedom has many difficulties and democracy is not perfect, but we have never had to put a wall up to keep our people in.” In conclusion, Kennedy again uttered his soon to be famous line, “All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and, therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words “Ich bin ein Berliner!’” The cheering from crowds lasted long after Kennedy completed his speech, he later said, “We’ll never have another day like this one, as long as we live.”

After his speech, Kennedy’s National Security Advisor McGeorge Bundy took the president aside and warned him, telling him, “Mr. President, I believe you have gone too far,” concerned

he was risking negotiations for the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty they would sign with the Soviets later that year. Later that afternoon, Kennedy would give a toned down version of the speech at the Freie Universität Berlin before concluding the trip in Germany and moving on to Ireland.

Kennedy had not gone too far, the public and historians remember the speech as Kennedy’s best and one of the defining moments in the Cold War. Historian Alan Brinkley writing in his book John F. Kennedy: The 35th President, 1961–1963 indicates the Berlin “speech was a rhetorical triumph and a contrast to his tempered call for peace two weeks earlier at American University. There were few hints of conciliation in his words in Berlin as Kennedy rolled out the failures of the East and the triumphs of the West.” (Brinkley, 131) While Daum states, “It is one of the most successful trips of Kennedy’s presidency. This success can be attributed above all to the enormous demonstration of enthusiasm Kennedy experienced in Berlin, which will remain in the memory of generations thanks to his own declaration ‘“Ich bin ein Berliner.’” (Daum, 163)

During the Cold War, two other presidents would speak in Berlin near the wall, President Jimmy Carter and more famously Ronald Reagan in June 1987, where he challenged Soviet leader Gorbachev in front of the Brandenburg Gate to “tear down this wall.” Two years later in October 1989, the people of Berlin would tear down the wall with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Nearing the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s speech President Barack Obama would invoke Kennedy in his speech on June 19, 2013, in front of the Brandenburg Gate, expressing “His words are timeless because they call upon us to care more about things than just our own self-comfort.” Obama was right, as journalist and Kennedy biographer Andrew Cohen writes, “Fifty years later, Mr. Kennedy in Berlin remains one of the spectacles of the Cold War. Here was an exquisite meeting of man, moment and momentum, creating a dazzling piece of theatre. Presidents have come to Berlin since to declaim and decry, but none like this.”

SOURCES AND READ MORE

Brinkley, Alan. John F. Kennedy: The 35th President, 1961–1963. New York: Times Books, 2012.

Daum, Andreas W. Kennedy in Berlin. Washington, D.C: German Historical Institute, 2008.

Bonnie K. Goodman has a BA and MLIS from McGill University and has done graduate work in religion at Concordia University. She is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor, and a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

 

Remarks at the Rudolph Wilde Platz, Berlin

 

I am proud to come to this city as the guest of your distinguished Mayor, who has symbolized throughout the world the fighting spirit of West Berlin. And I am proud to visit the Federal Republic with your distinguished Chancellor who for so many years has committed Germany to democracy and freedom and progress, and to come here in the company of my fellow American, General Clay, who has been in this city during its great moments of crisis and will come again if ever needed.

Two thousand years ago the proudest boast was “civis Romanus sum.” Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is “Ich bin ein Berliner.”

I appreciate my interpreter translating my German!

There are many people in the world who really don’t understand, or say they don’t, what is the great issue between the free world and the Communist world. Let them come to Berlin. There are some who say that communism is the wave of the future. Let them come to Berlin. And there are some who say in Europe and elsewhere we can work with the Communists. Let them come to Berlin. And there are even a few who say that it is true that communism is an evil system, but it permits us to make economic progress. Lass’ sie nach Berlin kommen. Let them come to Berlin.

Freedom has many difficulties and democracy is not perfect, but we have never had to put a wall up to keep our people in, to prevent them from leaving us. I want to say, on behalf of my countrymen, who live many miles away on the other side of the Atlantic, who are far distant from you, that they take the greatest pride that they have been able to share with you, even from a distance, the story of the last 18 years. I know of no town, no city, that has been besieged for 18 years that still lives with the vitality and the force, and the hope and the determination of the city of West Berlin. While the wall is the most obvious and vivid demonstration of the failures of the Communist system, for all the world to see, we take no satisfaction in it, for it is, as your Mayor has said, an offense not only against history but an offense against humanity, separating families, dividing husbands and wives and brothers and sisters, and dividing a people who wish to be joined together.

What is true of this city is true of Germany–real, lasting peace in Europe can never be assured as long as one German out of four is denied the elementary right of free men, and that is to make a free choice. In 18 years of peace and good faith, this generation of Germans has earned the right to be free, including the right to unite their families and their nation in lasting peace, with good will to all people. You live in a defended island of freedom, but your life is part of the main. So let me ask you as I close, to lift your eyes beyond the dangers of today, to the hopes of tomorrow, beyond the freedom merely of this city of Berlin, or your country of Germany, to the advance of freedom everywhere, beyond the wall to the day of peace with justice, beyond yourselves and ourselves to all mankind.

Freedom is indivisible, and when one man is enslaved, all are not free. When all are free, then we can look forward to that day when this city will be joined as one and this country and this great Continent of Europe in a peaceful and hopeful globe. When that day finally comes, as it will, the people of West Berlin can take sober satisfaction in the fact that they were in the front lines for almost two decades.

All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and, therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words “Ich bin ein Berliner.”

OTD in History… June 20, 1963, President Kennedy establishes direct hotline to the Soviet Union

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OTD in History… June 20, 1963, President Kennedy establishes direct hotline to the Soviet Union

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

On this day in history, June 20, 1963, the United States and the Soviet Union signed an agreement creating a direct hotline between the two countries, which President John F. Kennedy had negotiated after the slow exchange of messages during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis put the countries at the precipice of nuclear war. The hotline still exists between the United States and Russia; however, the technology has been updated three times since the agreement was signed in 1963.

During the Cuban Missile Crisis the previous October 16–28, 1962, the US and Soviet Union had a confrontation over each other’s nuclear weapons. The Americans had weapons stored in Italy and Turkey and the Soviets were planning to transport nuclear weapons to Cuba, in order to deter another American invasion like the failed 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion. After a U-2 spy plane discovered the missile facilities in Cuba, President Kennedy ordered a blockade to deter any further ballistic missiles reaching Cuba and demanding the Soviets dismantle those already in Cuba and return them to the Soviet Union. The negotiations between the two nations were long and tense. It took 12 hours for the Kennedy Administration to “receive and decode” Soviet leader Nikita Khruschev’s 3,000-word settlement. The administration drafted a reply and in the interim, the Soviets sent another message demanding the US to remove their missiles in Turkey.

Quicker communications between the US and Russia might have resolved the crisis more swiftly and with less threat of a nuclear war. The nations decided to establish a “hotline” for faster and direct communications to avert further crises. In June 1963, the United States and the Soviet Union signed hotline agreement formally called the “Memorandum of Understanding Between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics Regarding the Establishment of a Direct Communications Link.” The agreement outlined, “For use in time of emergency the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics have agreed to establish as soon as technically feasible a direct communications link between the two Governments.”

On June 20, President Kennedy released a statement about the hotline, saying, “This age of fast-moving events requires quick, dependable communications for use in time of emergency…. both Governments have taken a first step to help reduce the risk of war occurring by accident or miscalculation. This agreement on a communications link is a limited but practical step forward in arms control and disarmament.” August 30, 1963, was the first time the system was used. The phrase the US sent was “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog’s back 1234567890,” because it utilized the entire alphabet and numerals.

The hotline was not a “red telephone” but encrypted messages sent through telegraph wires and using teletype machines. The system consisted of “two terminal points with teletype equipment, a full-time duplex wire telegraph circuit and a full-time radiotelegraph circuit.” Kennedy would send a telephone message to the Pentagon, where they would encrypt the message and then send it through a transmitter. The US first used the hotline to notify the Soviet of Kennedy’s assassination. President Lyndon Johnson, however, was the first president to use the hotline. In 1967, he responded then-Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin during the Six Day War in the Middle East. Johnson warned the Soviet leader who was supporting the Arab nations that he was considering sending the Air Force to aid Israel.

In 1984, the hotline changed over to fax machines, while since 2008 it has been through secure emails on a computer network. The system has worked, and never has the two countries ever been at the precipice of nuclear war as they had been in 1962. In 2010, President Barack Obama joked that social media was replacing the hotline, “We may be able to finally throw away those red phones that have been sitting around for so long.” Recently American relations with Russia have turned frosty under Russian President Vladimir Putin, and the US should not consider retiring those phones just yet.

Bonnie K. Goodman BA, MLIS (McGill University), is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor. She is a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

OTD in History… June 12, 1987, President Reagan calls on Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall

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OTD in History… June 12, 1987, President Reagan calls on Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

On this day in history June 12, 1987, President Ronald Reagan delivered a speech at the Brandenburg Gate and called upon the Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev to “Tear down this wall!” in what became known as Berlin Wall Speech. The speech challenged Gorbachev but was controversial in Berlin and among his speech writing team. Reagan had made two previous references to the Berlin Wall in 1982 and 1986, but this was the boldest of his references. The speech is one of Reagan’s most famous anti-Communist speeches and a symbol of the start of ending the Cold War.

Berliner’s protested Reagan’s arrival in West Germany, with 50,000 opposing his visit to the country. Earlier most of his speechwriters opposed the controversial line, concerned that it might heighten tensions with the Soviet Union, however, junior speechwriter Peter Robinson researched the mood in Germany and believed they wanted the wall down. Soviets erected the Berlin Wall in 1961 to prevent East Berliners in the Soviet bloc escaping to the Western-controlled half of the city.

In a May 18, meeting with his speechwriters, the line had fierce opposition from White House Chief of Staff Howard Baker and National Security Advisor Colin Powell, while Reagan was noted as saying, the speech was a “good solid draft” and said about the line, “I think we’ll leave it in.” Robinson claims to have gotten his inspiration from Ingeborg Elz of West Berlin at a dinner, who had said, “If this man Gorbachev is serious with his talk of Glasnost and perestroika he can prove it by getting rid of this wall.” Chief speechwriter Anthony Dolan counters Robinson’s recollection and insists Reagan thought of the line, not Robinson.

Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan arrived in West Berlin on June 12, to protests. They first visited the Reichstag, where they stood on the gallery observing the wall, before heading to the Brandenburg Gate for the speech at 2 p.m. Reagan chose the gate because both President John F. Kennedy and Jimmy Carter delivered speeches in the same spot. Kennedy’s “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech in 1963 was the better-known coming just months after the wall was erected and is considered “one of Kennedy’s best.”

Reagan’s speech “emphasiz[ed] freedom and reunification,” and challenged Gorbachev to show good faith in negotiations and challenged him to get rid of the wall, calling on him to do so twice in the speech.

The first time with the famous line:

“We welcome change and openness; for we believe that freedom and security go together, that the advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of world peace. There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace. General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization, come here to this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

The second, Reagan stated he foresees the inevitability of the wall falling:

“As I looked out a moment ago from the Reichstag, that embodiment of German unity, I noticed words crudely spray-painted upon the wall, perhaps by a young Berliner, ‘This wall will fall. Beliefs become reality.’ Yes, across Europe, this wall will fall. For it cannot withstand faith; it cannot withstand truth. The wall cannot withstand freedom.”

The speech’s focus, however, was to get Gorbachev at the negotiating table to reduce nuclear arms, particularly SS-20 weapons. As Reagan brought up, saying, “Not merely of limiting the growth of arms, but of eliminating, for the first time, an entire class of nuclear weapons from the face of the Earth.”

The speech was not given the weight at the time as it does in historical context. When the wall fell on November 9, 1989, and Berlin reunified on October 3, 1990, Reagan’s call and foreshadowing had greater significance. Some journalists have been critical of the speech’s impact, however, New York Times best-selling author James Mann, believes it did have an impact on ending the Cold War. Mann argued in his 2007 New York Times article “Tear Down That Myth,” Reagan “wasn’t trying to land a knockout blow on the Soviet regime, nor was he engaging in mere political theater. He was instead doing something else on that damp day in Berlin… — he was helping to set the terms for the end of the cold war.”

READ MORE

Matlock, Jack F. Reagan and Gorbachev: How the Cold War Ended. New York: Random House, 2004.

Ratnesar, Romesh. Tear Down This Wall: A City, a President, and the Speech That Ended the Cold War. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2009.

Bonnie K. Goodman BA, MLIS (McGill University), is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor. She is a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

 

Remarks on East-West Relations at the Brandenburg Gate in West Berlin
June 12, 1987

Thank you very much. Chancellor Kohl, Governing Mayor Diepgen, ladies and gentlemen:

Twenty four years ago, President John F. Kennedy visited Berlin, speaking to the people of this city and the world at the city hall. Well, since then two other presidents have come, each in his turn, to Berlin. And today I, myself, make my second visit to your city.

We come to Berlin, we American Presidents, because it’s our duty to speak, in this place, of freedom. But I must confess, we’re drawn here by other things as well: by the feeling of history in this city, more than 500 years older than our own nation; by the beauty of the Grunewald and the Tiergarten; most of all, by your courage and determination. Perhaps the composer, Paul Lincke, understood something about American Presidents. You see, like so many Presidents before me, I come here today because wherever I go, whatever I do: “Ich hab noch einen koffer in Berlin.” [I still have a suitcase in Berlin.]

Our gathering today is being broadcast throughout Western Europe and North America. I understand that it is being seen and heard as well in the East. To those listening throughout Eastern Europe, I extend my warmest greetings and the good will of the American people. To those listening in East Berlin, a special word: Although I cannot be with you, I address my remarks to you just as surely as to those standing here before me. For I join you, as I join your fellow countrymen in the West, in this firm, this unalterable belief: Es gibt nur ein Berlin. [There is only one Berlin.]

Behind me stands a wall that encircles the free sectors of this city, part of a vast system of barriers that divides the entire continent of Europe. From the Baltic, south, those barriers cut across Germany in a gash of barbed wire, concrete, dog runs, and guardtowers. Farther south, there may be no visible, no obvious wall. But there remain armed guards and checkpoints all the same–still a restriction on the right to travel, still an instrument to impose upon ordinary men and women the will of a totalitarian state. Yet it is here in Berlin where the wall emerges most clearly; here, cutting across your city, where the news photo and the television screen have imprinted this brutal division of a continent upon the mind of the world. Standing before the Brandenburg Gate, every man is a German, separated from his fellow men. Every man is a Berliner, forced to look upon a scar.

President von Weizsacker has said: “The German question is open as long as the Brandenburg Gate is closed.” Today I say: As long as this gate is closed, as long as this scar of a wall is permitted to stand, it is not the German question alone that remains open, but the question of freedom for all mankind. Yet I do not come here to lament. For I find in Berlin a message of hope, even in the shadow of this wall, a message of triumph.

In this season of spring in 1945, the people of Berlin emerged from their air raid shelters to find devastation. Thousands of miles away, the people of the United States reached out to help. And in 1947 Secretary of State–as you’ve been told–George Marshall announced the creation of what would become known as the Marshall plan. Speaking precisely 40 years ago this month, he said: “Our policy is directed not against any country or doctrine, but against hunger, poverty, desperation, and chaos.”

In the Reichstag a few moments ago, I saw a display commemorating this 40th anniversary of the Marshall plan. I was struck by the sign on a burnt-out, gutted structure that was being rebuilt. I understand that Berliners of my own generation can remember seeing signs like it dotted throughout the Western sectors of the city. The sign read simply: “The Marshall plan is helping here to strengthen the free world.” A strong, free world in the West, that dream became real. Japan rose from ruin to become an economic giant. Italy, France, Belgium–virtually every nation in Western Europe saw political and economic rebirth; the European Community was founded.

In West Germany and here in Berlin, there took place an economic miracle, the Wirtschaftswunder. Adenauer, Erhard, Reuter, and other leaders understood the practical importance of liberty–that just as truth can flourish only when the journalist is given freedom of speech, so prosperity can come about only when the farmer and businessman enjoy economic freedom. The German leaders reduced tariffs, expanded free trade, lowered taxes. From 1950 to 1960 alone, the standard of living in West Germany and Berlin doubled.

Where four decades ago there was rubble, today in West Berlin there is the greatest industrial output of any city in Germany-busy office blocks, fine homes and apartments, proud avenues, and the spreading lawns of park land. Where a city’s culture seemed to have been destroyed, today there are two great universities, orchestras and an opera, countless theaters, and museums. Where there was want, today there’s abundance–food, clothing, automobiles-the wonderful goods of the Ku’damm. From devastation, from utter ruin, you Berliners have, in freedom, rebuilt a city that once again ranks as one of the greatest on Earth. The Soviets may have had other plans. But, my friends, there were a few things the Soviets didn’t count on Berliner herz, Berliner humor, ja, und Berliner schnauze. [Berliner heart, Berliner humor, yes, and a Berliner schnauze.] [Laughter]

In the 1950’s, Khrushchev predicted: “We will bury you.” But in the West today, we see a free world that has achieved a level of prosperity and well-being unprecedented in all human history. In the Communist world, we see failure, technological backwardness, declining standards of health, even want of the most basic kind-too little food. Even today, the Soviet Union still cannot feed itself. After these four decades, then, there stands before the entire world one great and inescapable conclusion: Freedom leads to prosperity. Freedom replaces the ancient hatreds among the nations with comity and peace. Freedom is the victor.

And now the Soviets themselves may, in a limited way, be coming to understand the importance of freedom. We hear much from Moscow about a new policy of reform and openness. Some political prisoners have been released. Certain foreign news broadcasts are no longer being jammed. Some economic enterprises have been permitted to operate with greater freedom from state control. Are these the beginnings of profound changes in the Soviet state? Or are they token gestures, intended to raise false hopes in the West, or to strengthen the Soviet system without changing it? We welcome change and openness; for we believe that freedom and security go together, that the advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of world peace.

There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace. General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!

I understand the fear of war and the pain of division that afflict this continent–and I pledge to you my country’s efforts to help overcome these burdens. To be sure, we in the West must resist Soviet expansion. So we must maintain defenses of unassailable strength. Yet we seek peace; so we must strive to reduce arms on both sides. Beginning 10 years ago, the Soviets challenged the Western alliance with a grave new threat, hundreds of new and more deadly SS-20 nuclear missiles, capable of-striking every capital in Europe. The Western alliance responded by committing itself to a counterdeployment unless the Soviets agreed to negotiate a better solution; namely, the elimination of such weapons on both sides. For many months, the Soviets refused to bargain in earnestness. As the alliance, in turn, prepared to go forward with its counterdeployment, there were difficult days–days of protests like those during my 1982 visit to this city–and the Soviets later walked away from the table.

But through it all, the alliance held firm. And I invite those who protested then–I invite those who protest today–to mark this fact: Because we remained strong, the Soviets came back to the table. And because we remained strong, today we have within reach the possibility, not merely of limiting the growth of arms, but of eliminating, for the first time, an entire class of nuclear weapons from the face of the Earth. As I speak, NATO ministers are meeting in Iceland to review the progress of our proposals for eliminating these weapons. At the talks in Geneva, we have also proposed deep cuts in strategic offensive weapons. And the Western allies have likewise made far-reaching proposals to reduce the danger of conventional war and to place a total ban on chemical weapons.

While we pursue these arms reductions, I pledge to you that we will maintain the capacity to deter Soviet aggression at any level at which it might occur. And in cooperation with many of our allies, the United States is pursuing the Strategic Defense Initiative-research to base deterrence not on the threat of offensive retaliation, but on defenses that truly defend; on systems, in short, that will not target populations, but shield them. By these means we seek to increase the safety of Europe and all the world. But we must remember a crucial fact: East and West do not mistrust each other because we are armed; we are armed because we mistrust each other. And our differences are not about weapons but about liberty. When President Kennedy spoke at the City Hall those 24 years ago, freedom was encircled, Berlin was under siege. And today, despite all the pressures upon this city, Berlin stands secure in its liberty. And freedom itself is transforming the globe.

In the Philippines, in South and Central America, democracy has been given a rebirth. Throughout the Pacific, free markets are working miracle after miracle of economic growth. In the industrialized nations, a technological revolution is taking place–a revolution marked by rapid, dramatic advances in computers and telecommunications.

In Europe, only one nation and those it controls refuse to join the community of freedom. Yet in this age of redoubled economic growth, of information and innovation, the Soviet Union faces a choice: It must make fundamental changes, or it will become obsolete. Today thus represents a moment of hope. We in the West stand ready to cooperate with the East to promote true openness, to break down barriers that separate people, to create a safer, freer world.

And surely there is no better place than Berlin, the meeting place of East and West, to make a start. Free people of Berlin: Today, as in the past, the United States stands for the strict observance and full implementation of all parts of the Four Power Agreement of 1971. Let us use this occasion, the 750th anniversary of this city, to usher in a new era, to seek a still fuller, richer life for the Berlin of the future. Together, let us maintain and develop the ties between the Federal Republic and the Western sectors of Berlin, which is permitted by the 1971 agreement.

And I invite Mr. Gorbachev: Let us work to bring the Eastern and Western parts of the city closer together, so that all the inhabitants of all Berlin can enjoy the benefits that come with life in one of the great cities of the world. To open Berlin still further to all Europe, East and West, let us expand the vital air access to this city, finding ways of making commercial air service to Berlin more convenient, more comfortable, and more economical. We look to the day when West Berlin can become one of the chief aviation hubs in all central Europe.

With our French and British partners, the United States is prepared to help bring international meetings to Berlin. It would be only fitting for Berlin to serve as the site of United Nations meetings, or world conferences on human rights and arms control or other issues that call for international cooperation. There is no better way to establish hope for the future than to enlighten young minds, and we would be honored to sponsor summer youth exchanges, cultural events, and other programs for young Berliners from the East. Our French and British friends, I’m certain, will do the same. And it’s my hope that an authority can be found in East Berlin to sponsor visits from young people of the Western sectors.

One final proposal, one close to my heart: Sport represents a source of enjoyment and ennoblement, and you many have noted that the Republic of Korea–South Korea–has offered to permit certain events of the 1988 Olympics to take place in the North. International sports competitions of all kinds could take place in both parts of this city. And what better way to demonstrate to the world the openness of this city than to offer in some future year to hold the Olympic games here in Berlin, East and West?

In these four decades, as I have said, you Berliners have built a great city. You’ve done so in spite of threats–the Soviet attempts to impose the East-mark, the blockade. Today the city thrives in spite of the challenges implicit in the very presence of this wall. What keeps you here? Certainly there’s a great deal to be said for your fortitude, for your defiant courage. But I believe there’s something deeper, something that involves Berlin’s whole look and feel and way of life–not mere sentiment. No one could live long in Berlin without being completely disabused of illusions. Something instead, that has seen the difficulties of life in Berlin but chose to accept them, that continues to build this good and proud city in contrast to a surrounding totalitarian presence that refuses to release human energies or aspirations. Something that speaks with a powerful voice of affirmation, that says yes to this city, yes to the future, yes to freedom. In a word, I would submit that what keeps you in Berlin is love–love both profound and abiding.

Perhaps this gets to the root of the matter, to the most fundamental distinction of all between East and West. The totalitarian world produces backwardness because it does such violence to the spirit, thwarting the human impulse to create, to enjoy, to worship. The totalitarian world finds even symbols of love and of worship an affront. Years ago, before the East Germans began rebuilding their churches, they erected a secular structure: the television tower at Alexander Platz. Virtually ever since, the authorities have been working to correct what they view as the tower’s one major flaw, treating the glass sphere at the top with paints and chemicals of every kind. Yet even today when the Sun strikes that sphere–that sphere that towers over all Berlin–the light makes the sign of the cross. There in Berlin, like the city itself, symbols of love, symbols of worship, cannot be suppressed.

As I looked out a moment ago from the Reichstag, that embodiment of German unity, I noticed words crudely spray-painted upon the wall, perhaps by a young Berliner, “This wall will fall. Beliefs become reality.” Yes, across Europe, this wall will fall. For it cannot withstand faith; it cannot withstand truth. The wall cannot withstand freedom.

And I would like, before I close, to say one word. I have read, and I have been questioned since I’ve been here about certain demonstrations against my coming. And I would like to say just one thing, and to those who demonstrate so. I wonder if they have ever asked themselves that if they should have the kind of government they apparently seek, no one would ever be able to do what they’re doing again.
Thank you and God bless you all.

Full Text Obama Presidency June 6, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech at the 70th Anniversary of D-Day — Omaha Beach, Normandy

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by President Obama at the 70th Anniversary of D-Day — Omaha Beach, Normandy

Source: WH, 6-6-14

Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial
Omaha Beach
Normandy, France

11:16 A.M. CET

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  President Hollande; to the people of France; friends; the family; our veterans:

If prayer were made of sound, the skies over England that night would have deafened the world.

Captains paced their decks.  Pilots tapped their gauges.  Commanders pored over maps, fully aware that for all the months of meticulous planning, everything could go wrong — the winds, the tides, the element of surprise — and above all, the audacious bet that what waited on the other side of the Channel would compel men not to shrink away, but to charge ahead.

Fresh-faced GIs rubbed trinkets, kissed pictures of sweethearts, checked and re-checked their equipment. “God,” asked one, “give me guts.”  And in the pre-dawn hours, planes rumbled down runways; gliders and paratroopers slipped through the sky; giant screws began to turn on an armada that looked like more ships than sea.  And more than 150,000 souls set off towards this tiny sliver of sand upon which hung more than the fate of a war, but rather the course of human history.

President Hollande, distinguished guests, I’m honored to return here today to pay tribute to the men and women of a generation who defied every danger — among them, our veterans of D-Day.  And, gentlemen, we are truly humbled by your presence here today.  (Applause.)

Just last week, I received a letter from a French citizen.  “Dear Mr. President, and the American people,” he wrote, “[we are] honored to welcome you… to thank you again for all the pain and efforts of [the] American people and others in our common struggle for freedom.”

Today, we say the same to the people of France.  Thank you, especially, for the generosity that you’ve shown the Americans who’ve come here over the generations — to these beaches, and to this sacred place of rest for 9,387 Americans.  At the end of the war, when our ships set off for America, filled with our fallen, tens of thousands of liberated Europeans turned out to say farewell, and they pledged to take care of the more than 60,000 Americans who would remain in cemeteries on this continent.  In the words of one man, we will take care of the fallen “as if their tombs were our children’s.”  And the people of France, you have kept your word like the true friends you are.  We are forever grateful.  (Applause.)

Here, we don’t just commemorate victory, as proud of that victory as we are.  We don’t just honor sacrifice, as grateful as the world is.  We come to remember why America and our allies gave so much for the survival of liberty at its moment of maximum peril.  We come to tell the story of the men and women who did it so that it remains seared into the memory of a future world.

We tell this story for the old soldiers who pull themselves a little straighter today to salute brothers who never made it home.  We tell the story for the daughter who clutches a faded photo of her father, forever young; for the child who runs his fingers over colorful ribbons he knows signify something of great consequence, even if he doesn’t yet fully understand why.  We tell this story to bear what witness we can to what happened when the boys from America reached Omaha Beach.

By daybreak, blood soaked the water, bombs broke the sky.  Thousands of paratroopers had dropped into the wrong landing sites; thousands of rounds bit into flesh and sand.  Entire companies’ worth of men fell in minutes.  “Hell’s Beach” had earned its name.

By 8:30 a.m., General Omar Bradley expected our troops to be a mile inland.  “Six hours after the landings,” he wrote, “we held only ten yards of beach.”  In this age of instant commentary, the invasion would have swiftly and roundly been declared, as it was by one officer, “a debacle.”

But such a race to judgment would not have taken into account the courage of free men.  “Success may not come with rushing speed,” President Roosevelt would say that night, “but we shall return again and again.”  And paratroopers fought through the countryside to find one another.  Rangers pulled themselves over those cliffs to silence Nazi guns.  To the west, Americans took Utah Beach with relative ease.  To the east, the British tore through the coast, fueled by the fury of five years of bombs over London and a solemn vow to “fight them on the beaches.”  The Canadians, whose shores had not been touched by war, drove far into France.  And here, at Omaha, troops who finally made it to the seawall used it as shelter — where a general barked, “If you’re Rangers… lead the way!”

By the end of that longest day, this beach had been fought, lost, refought, and won — a piece of Europe once again liberated and free.  Hitler’s Wall was breached, letting loose Patton’s Army to pour into France.  Within a week, the world’s bloodiest beach had become the world’s busiest port.  Within a month, one million Allied troops thundered through Normandy into Europe, and as our armies marched across the continent, one pilot said it looked “as if the very crust of the Earth had shaken loose.”  The Arc de Triomphe lit up for the first time in years, and Paris was punctuated by shouts of “Vive la France!” and “Vive les États-Unis!”  (Applause.)

Of course, even as we gather here at Normandy, we remember that freedom’s victory was also made possible by so many others who wore America’s uniform.  Two years before he commanded armies, Eisenhower’s troops sliced through North Africa.  Three times before D-Day, our GIs stormed the beaches at Sicily, Salerno, Anzio.  Divisions like the Fighting 36th brawled their way through Italy, fighting through the mud for months, marching through towns past waving children before opening the gates to Rome.  As the “dogfaces” marched to victory in Europe, the Devil Dogs — the Marines — clawed their way from island to island in the Pacific, in some of the war’s fiercest fighting.  And back home, an army of women — including my grandmother — rolled up their sleeves to help build a mighty arsenal of democracy.

But it was here, on these shores, that the tide was turned in that common struggle for freedom.  What more powerful manifestation of America’s commitment to human freedom than the sight of wave after wave after wave of young men boarding those boats to liberate people they had never met?

We say it now as if it couldn’t be any other way.  But in the annals of history, the world had never seen anything like it.  And when the war was won, we claimed no spoils of victory — we helped Europe rebuild.  We claimed no land other than the earth where we buried those who gave their lives under our flag and where we station those who still serve under it.  But America’s claim — our commitment — to liberty, our claim to equality, our claim to freedom and to the inherent dignity of every human being — that claim is written in the blood on these beaches, and it will endure for eternity.

Omaha — Normandy — this was democracy’s beachhead.  And our victory in that war decided not just a century, but shaped the security and well-being of all posterity.  We worked to turn old adversaries into new allies.  We built new prosperity.  We stood once more with the people of this continent through a long twilight struggle until finally a wall tumbled down, and an Iron Curtain, too.  And from Western Europe to East, from South America to Southeast Asia — 70 years of democratic movement spread.  And nations that once knew only the blinders of fear began to taste the blessings of freedom.

None of that would have happened without the men who were willing to lay down their lives for people they’d never met and ideals they couldn’t live without.

None of it would have happened without the troops President Roosevelt called “the life-blood of America… the hope of the world.”

They left home barely more than boys and returned home heroes.  But to their great credit, that is not how this generation carried itself.  After the war, some put away their medals, were quiet about their service, moved on.  Some, carrying shrapnel and scars, found that moving on was much harder.  Many, like my grandfather, who served in Patton’s Army, lived a quiet life, trading one uniform and set of responsibilities for another — as a teacher, or a salesman, or a doctor, or an engineer, a dad, a grandpa.

Our country made sure millions of them earned a college education, opening up opportunity on an unprecedented scale.  And they married those sweethearts and bought new homes and raised families and built businesses, lifting up the greatest middle class the world has ever known.  And through it all, they were inspired, I suspect, by memories of their fallen brothers — memories that drove them to live their lives each day as best they possibly could.

Whenever the world makes you cynical, stop and think of these men.  Whenever you lose hope, stop and think of these men.

Think of Wilson Colwell, who was told he couldn’t pilot a plane without a high school degree, so he decided to jump out of a plane instead.  And he did, here on D-Day, with the 101st Airborne when he was just 16 years old.

Think of Harry Kulkowitz, the Jewish son of Russian immigrants, who fudged his age at enlistment so he could join his friends in the fight.  And don’t worry, Harry, the statute of limitations has expired.  (Laughter.)  Harry came ashore at Utah Beach on D-Day.  And now that he’s come back, we said he could have anything he wants for lunch today — he helped liberate this coast, after all.  But he said a hamburger would do fine.  (Laughter.)  What’s more American than that?

Think of “Rock” Merritt, who saw a recruitment poster asking him if he was man enough to be a paratrooper — so he signed up on the spot.  And that decision landed him here on D-Day with the 508th regiment, a unit that would suffer heavy casualties.  And 70 years later, it’s said that all across Fort Bragg, they know Rock — not just for his exploits on D-Day, or his 35 years in the Army, but because 91-year-old Rock Merritt still spends his time speaking to the young men and women of today’s Army and still bleeds “O.D. Green” for his 82nd Airborne.

Whenever the world makes you cynical, whenever you doubt that courage and goodness is possible — stop and think of these men.

Wilson and Harry and Rock, they are here today, and although I know we already gave them a rousing round of applause, along with all our veterans of D-Day — if you can stand, please stand; if not, please raise your hand.  Let us recognize your service once more.  (Applause.)  These men waged war so that we might know peace.  They sacrificed so that we might be free.  They fought in hopes of a day when we’d no longer need to fight.  We are grateful to them.  (Applause.)

And, gentlemen, I want each of you to know that your legacy is in good hands.  For in a time when it has never been more tempting to pursue narrow self-interest, to slough off common endeavor, this generation of Americans, a new generation — our men and women of war — have chosen to do their part as well.

Rock, I want you to know that Staff Sergeant Melvin Cedillo-Martin, who’s here today, is following in your footsteps.  He just had to become an American first — because Melvin was born in Honduras, moved to the United States, joined the Army.  After tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, he was reassigned to the 82nd Airborne.  And Sunday, he’ll parachute into Normandy.  (Applause.)  “I became part of a family of real American heroes,” he said.  “The Paratroopers of the 82nd.”

Wilson, you should know that Specialist Jannise Rodriguez joined the Army not even two years ago, was assigned to the 101st Airborne, and just last month earned the title of the 101st Airborne Division Air Assault Soldier of the Year.  And that’s inspiring but not surprising, when the women of today’s military have taken on responsibilities, including combat, like never before.  (Applause.)

I want each of you to know that their commitment to their fellow servicemembers and veterans endures.  Sergeant First Class Brian Hawthorne’s grandfather served under General Patton and General MacArthur.  Brian himself served two tours in Iraq, earned the Bronze Star in Baghdad for saving the life of his best friend, and today, he and his wife use their experience to help other veterans and military families navigate theirs.  And Brian is here in Normandy to participate in Sunday’s jump, and here, just yesterday, he reenlisted in the Army Reserve.

And this generation — this 9/11 Generation of servicemembers — they, too, felt something.  They answered some call; they said “I will go.”  They, too, chose to serve a cause that’s greater than self — many even after they knew they’d be sent into harm’s way.  And for more than a decade, they have endured tour after tour.

Sergeant First Class Cory Remsburg has served ten.  And I’ve told Cory’s incredible story before, most recently when he sat with my wife, Michelle, at the State of the Union address.  It was here, at Omaha Beach, on the 65th anniversary of D-Day, where I first met Cory and his fellow Army Rangers, right after they made their own jump into Normandy.  The next time I saw him, he was in the hospital, unable to speak or walk after an IED nearly killed him in Afghanistan.  But over the past five years, Cory has grown stronger, learning to speak again and stand again and walk again.  And earlier this year, he jumped out of a plane again.  The first words Cory said to me after his accident echoed those words first shouted all those years ago on this beach:  “Rangers lead the way.”  (Applause.)

So Cory has come back today, along with Melvin and Jannise and Brian, and many of their fellow active-duty servicemembers.  We thank them for their service.  They are a reminder that the tradition represented by these gentlemen continues.

We are on this Earth for only a moment in time.  And fewer of us have parents and grandparents to tell us about what the veterans of D-Day did here 70 years ago.  As I was landing on Marine One, I told my staff, I don’t think there’s a time where I miss my grandfather more, where I’d be more happy to have him here, than this day.  So we have to tell their stories for them.  We have to do our best to uphold in our own lives the values that they were prepared to die for.  We have to honor those who carry forward that legacy, recognizing that people cannot live in freedom unless free people are prepared to die for it.

And as today’s wars come to an end, this generation of servicemen and women will step out of uniform, and they, too, will build families and lives of their own.  They, too, will become leaders in their communities, in commerce, in industry, and perhaps politics — the leaders we need for the beachheads of our time.  And, God willing, they, too, will grow old in the land they helped to keep free.  And someday, future generations, whether 70 or 700 years hence, will gather at places like this to honor them and to say that these were generations of men and women who proved once again that the United States of America is and will remain the greatest force for freedom the world has ever known.  (Applause.)

May God bless our veterans and all who served with them, including those who rest here in eternal peace.  And may God bless all who serve today for the peace and security of the world.  May God bless the people of France.  And may God bless our United States of America.  (Applause.)

END
11:43 A.M. CET

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