War & Defense

"Humility must always be the portion of any man who receives acclaim earned in blood of his followers and sacrifices of his friends."

  - Guildhall Address, London, June 12, 1945

"War is a grim, cruel business, a business justified only as a means of sustaining the forces of good against those of evil."

  - Transcription made for National War Fund at request of Col. Luther L. Hill, September 11, 1945

"I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity."

  - Address before the Canadian Club, Ottawa, Canada, January 10, 1946

"Guns and tanks and planes are nothing unless there is a solid spirit, a solid heart, and great productiveness behind it."

  - Address to Economic Club of New York, Hotel Astor, November 20, 1946

"War is mankind's most tragic and stupid folly; to seek or advise its deliberate provocation is a black crime against all men. Though you follow the trade of the warrior, you do so in the spirit of Washington - not of Genghis Khan. For Americans, only threat to our way of life justifies resort to conflict."

  - Graduation Exercises at the United States Military Academy, June 3, 1947

"Possibly my hatred of war blinds me so that I cannot comprehend the arguments they adduce. But, in my opinion, there is no such thing as a preventive war. Although this suggestion is repeatedly made, none has yet explained how war prevents war. Worse than this, no one has been able to explain away the fact that war creates the conditions that beget war."

  - Remarks at Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, October 19, 1950 [DDE's Pre-Presidential Papers, Principal File, Box 196, Carnegie Institute]

"Because, therefore, we are defending a way of life, we must be respectful of that way of life as we proceed to the solution of our problem. We must not violate its principles and its precepts, and we must not destroy from within what we are trying to defend from without."

  - Speech before NATO Council, November 26, 1951 [DDE's Pre-Pres. Papers, Box 197]

"Americans, indeed, all free men, remember that in the final choice a soldier's pack is not so heavy a burden as a prisoner's chains."

  - Inaugural Address, January 20, 1953

"Each and all of us must summon to mind the words of Him whom we honor this Easter time: 'When a strong man, armed, keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace'."

  - Statement on the Fourth Anniversary of the Signing of the North Atlantic Treaty, April 4, 1953

"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some 50 miles of concrete highway. We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people. This, I repeat, is the best way of life to be found on the road. The world has been taking. This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron."

  - Address "The Chance for Peace" Delivered Before the American Society of Newspaper Editors, April 16, 1953

"We do not keep security establishments merely to defend property or territory or rights abroad or at sea. We keep the security forces to defend a way of life."

  - Remarks to the Committee for Economic Development, May 20, 1954

"A preventive war, to my mind, is an impossibility today. How could you have one if one of its features would be several cities lying in ruins, several cities where many, many thousands of people would be dead and injured and mangled, the transportation systems destroyed, sanitation implements and systems all gone? That isn't preventive war; that is war."

  - The President's News Conference of August 11, 1954

"And the next thing is that every war is going to astonish you in the way it occurred, and in the way it is carried out."

  - The President's News Conference of March 23, 1955

"I have spent my life in the study of military strength as a deterrent to war, and in the character of military armaments necessary to win a war. The study of the first of these questions is still profitable, but we are rapidly getting to the point that no war can be won."

 - Letter, DDE to Richard L. Simon, Simon and Schuster, Inc., April 4, 1956 [DDE's Papers as President, DDE Diaries Series, Box 14, April 1956 5]

"When we get to the point, as we one day will, that both sides know that in any outbreak of general hostilities, regardless of the element of surprise, destruction will be both reciprocal and complete, possibly we will have sense enough to meet at the conference table with the understanding that the era of armaments has ended and the human race must conform its actions to this truth or die."

  - Letter, DDE to Richard L. Simon, Simon and Schuster, Inc., April 4, 1956 [DDE's Papers as President, DDE Diaries Series, Box 14, April 1956 5]

"Arms alone can give the world no permanent peace, no confident security. Arms are solely for defense - to protect from violent assault what we already have. They are only a costly insurance. They cannot add to human progress."


  - Address before the American Society of Newspaper Editors, Statler Hotel, Washington, DC, April 21, 1956

"We know something of the cost of that war. We were in it from December seventh, '41, till August of '45. Ever since that time, we have been waging peace. It has had its ups and downs just as the war did."

  - The President's News Conference of June 6, 1956

"The only way to win the next world war is to prevent it."

  - Address at a Rally in the Civic Auditorium, Seattle, Washington, October 17, 1956

"We must be strong at home if we are going to be strong abroad. We understand that. So we want to be strong at home in our morale or in our spirit, we want to be strong intellectually, in our education, in our economy and, where necessary, militarily."

  - Radio and Television Broadcast: "The Women Ask the President," October 24, 1956

"The hope of the world is that wisdom can arrest conflict between brothers. I believe that war is the deadly harvest of arrogant and unreasoning minds. And I find grounds for this belief in the wisdom literature of Proverbs. It says in effect this: Panic strikes like a storm and calamity comes like a whirlwind to those who hate knowledge and ignore their God."

  - Address at the Centennial Celebration Banquet of the National Education Association, April 4, 1957

"First, separate ground, sea and air warfare is gone forever. If ever again we should be involved in war, we will fight it in all elements, with all services, as one single concentrated effort."


  - Special Message to the Congress on Reorganization of the Defense Establishment, April 3, 1958

"Now this brings me to my main topic - our military strength - more specifically, how to stay strong against threat from outside, without undermining the economic health that supports our security."

  - Address to the American Society of Newspaper Editors and the International Press Institute, April 17, 1958

"First, separate ground, sea and air warfare is gone forever. This lesson we learned in World War II. I lived that lesson in Europe. Others lived it in the Pacific. Millions of American veterans learned it well."

  - Address to the American Society of Newspaper Editors and the International Press Institute, April 17, 1958

"Now all of us deplore this vast military spending. Yet, in the face of the Soviet attitude, we realize its necessity. Whatever the cost, America will keep itself secure. But in the process we must not, by our own hand, destroy or distort the American system. This we could do by useless overspending. I know one sure way to overspend. That is by overindulging sentimental attachments to outmoded military machines and concepts."

  - Address to the American Society of Newspaper Editors and the International Press Institute, April 17, 1958

"I know something about that war, and I never want to see that history repeated. But, my fellow Americans, it certainly can be repeated if the peace-loving democratic nations again fearfully practice a policy of standing idly by while big aggressors use armed force to conquer the small and weak."

  - Radio and Television Report to the American People Regarding the Situation in the Formosa Straits, September 11, 1958

"Any survey of the free world's defense structure cannot fail to impart a feeling of regret that so much of our effort and resources must be devoted to armaments."


  - Annual Message to the Congress on the State of the Union, January 9, 1959

"But all history has taught us the grim lesson that no nation has ever been successful in avoiding the terrors of war by refusing to defend its rights - by attempting to placate aggression."

  - Radio and Television Report to the American People: Security in the Free World, March 16, 1959

"In this hope, among the things we teach to the young are such truths as the transcendent value of the individual and the dignity of all people, the futility and stupidity of war, its destructiveness of life and its degradation of human values."

  - Address at the Opening Session of the White House Conference on Children and Youth, College Park, Maryland, March 27, 1960

"In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist."


  - Farewell Radio and Television Address to the American People, January 17, 1961

"Morale is the greatest single factor in successful war."


  - Crusade in Europe, page 210

"Nothing is easy in war. Mistakes are always paid for in casualties and troops are quick to sense any blunder made by their commanders."

  - Crusade in Europe, page 450

"We need an adequate defense, but every arms dollar we spend above adequacy has a long-term weakening effect upon the nation and its security."

  - Waging Peace, page 622