THE WHITE HOUSE
It was 1933. Far too early for Americans to experience the horrors that were taking place in Europe in preparation for an assortment of wars. But the United States was facing another kind of horror, one called The Great Depression.
The new president had just taken office and was faced with many problems and a need for clear communications with the American people. He discussed the domestic situation with his wife, who also happened to be his fifth cousin once removed, and sought her opinion about a new medium he was thinking of using to reach the people of America.
“When I was young,” Franklin Roosevelt told her, “our family would sit by the fire on a winter’s day and chat about many things, some of them very important; and somehow this setting gave our communications an extra measure of credibility. I think that with radio we can eventually reach millions of Americans in what I could call “fireside chats” and give them the reassurance they need in order to handle the problems that face us all.”
“If you’re going to have a fireside chat,” replied Eleanor Roosevelt Roosevelt, “you should have a fireside cat.”
Her husband seemed partially amused and partially shocked.
“Well our cousin Teddy had several cats,” Eleanor continued. “They came to the White House receptions and state dinners, and you have a drawing in your political cartoon scrapbook of one of his cats sitting at the entrance to the dining room and forcing the guests to walk around it to get to their places.”
The president recalled the cartoon and chuckled.
“Abe Lincoln loved cats,” Eleanor continued. “They say that when the burdens of war were too much for him he would get down on the floor and play with the kittens. He made the statement that ‘no matter how much cats fight, there always seem to be plenty of kittens.”
“And don’t forget that Calvin Coolidge was the first to use the new medium, radio, to get the public to help find his cat when it was lost.”
“It worked, too,” she added.
The president nodded and changed the subject. He was not a cat person, and his mind was on the many, many things he had to explain to Americans about the economy and reassure them that he and the rest of their government were quite mindful of the predicaments that affected everyone.
to be continued…
And so the “fireside chats” began, and, despite the fact that radio wasn’t quite perfected at this point, it seemed to work well in reaching those able to tune in.
But while Roosevelt was “trying out” on his listeners an assortment of ways he told them would improve the nation’s economy–some worked, others didn’t–the bad guys in Europe and elsewhere were very busy with their own projects, most of which revolved around conquering other people’s territory.
In the summer of 1934, Adolph Hitler carried out his “blood purge” of political and military rivals in Germany in what became known as the “Night Of The Long Knives.”
Germany and Japan entered into the Anti-Cominterm Pact, enabling axis nations to forge strategic plans of action.
Through all of this, one of Roosevelt’s biographers said, the West was “floundering” and Roosevelt was more of a “pussyfooting politician” than a political leader.
In 1936 Hitler, using the title “fuehrer,” sent troops into the Rhineland in a move that was an unquestionable threat to France.
A would-be dictator named Franco was busy grabbing Spain; and several other countries, including Germany and Italy, were ready to hail him as the new ruler of that country.
Mussolini was seizing Albania, while Franco was seizing Madrid, and FDR commented on the speed with which these things were happening in Europe. The Italian dictator had already grabbed Ethiopia.
Then came the invasion of Poland by Hitler, and within a brief time both Great Britain and France had declared war on Hitler’s Germany. Germany forced France and Britain to retreat to a place called Dunquerque, and both were calling on the United States for help.
Japan, meanwhile had come under the thumb of a warmonger named Tojo, and Pearl Harbor drew nearer, to no one’s great astonishment. The United States fully expected to be attacked by Japan on December 8th, 1941, but the attack came a day earlier. meanwhile the Germans had pushed British forces into Egypt. Europe was quite a mess.
And so was the United States.Tojo was swallowing up Guam, Wake Island and the Philippines, Malaya, Burma and the Dutch East Indies among other places.
Roosevelt need time to change America into a machine capable of fighting a war, and in the time this took American soldiers and Marines were trying to defend themselves with the weapons their fathers had used in World War I. Rifles were bolt action Springfields which were eventually replaced by a rifle called the Garand, a semi-automatic gun, firing each time the trigger was pulled. Its main claim to fame was that it could be buried in several feet of messy mud and still brought out in working condition.
Hitler’s admirals urged him to attack Atlantic supply lines over which America was sending arms and other things to Great Britain. But Hitler refused because he had set his sights on conquering Russia.
Americans responded well to Roosevelt’s call to arms. School children, even little boys, learned to knit and knitted squares from which blankets were made and sent to the British.
American factories were converted to produce war materials. A plant that had made mix masters, for instance, ended up making .45 caliber pistols. And during the two years following Pearl Harbor things began to get better for the United States. in 1942 Jimmy Doolittle led a raid from an aircraft carrier to bomb Tokyo, and by 1943 Roosevelt and others in high places were confident we would eventually win.
U.S. troops forced the Germans out of Africa, invaded Sicily and Italy and otherwise turned things around. Hitler saw his world-conquering plan coming apart. And he knew something would have to be done if the Germans were to keep on being the “master race.”
The Nazi dictator had seen the state of array American interests fell into after Pearl Harbor. He had listened to Roosevelt’s “fireside chats” and he decided something had to be done to create a “Pearl Harbor East,” something that would upset U.S. interests in Europe just as Pearl Harbor had upset them in the West, which was now experiencing strong counter-attacks by U.S. forces to recapture islands and other locations lost to the Japanese.
Yes, a “Pearl Harbor East” was on the mind of Adolf Hitler. But how to accomplish that?