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Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 39th Visit to Georgia

Thirty-ninth Visit

November 29, 1941

Roosevelt arrived in Warm Springs hoping for a few days of complete relaxation. The previous day his advisors had expressed no hope in negotiations with the Japanese – and had even suggested arming merchant ships in the Pacific in anticipation of a Japanese attack.

The annual Thanksgiving dinner had already been postponed twice because Roosevelt could not be there, but they finally were able to celebrate it on Nov. 29, though the mood was not very celebratory. Roosevelt gave an informal speech at the dinner, in which he mentioned having listened to the radio broadcasts of two football games – Georgia-Georgia Tech and Army-Navy:

“They were great games, run in the spirit of peace. And the right kind of national spirit of peace is necessary for the right conduct of either the Georgia game or the Army-Navy game. How many other countries in the world could have things like that going on? … In days like these, our Thanksgiving next year may remind us of a peaceful past; it is always possible that our boys in the military and naval academies may be fighting for the defense of these American institutions of ours.” Source: Columbus Ledger, November 30, p. 6

Roosevelt had to cut his visit short after Japanese Premier Tojo issued a statement threatening to “purge with a vengeance” all U.S. and British influence in the Far East.

December 7, 1941 - Japanese airplanes launched a surprise attack on the American naval base at Pearl Harbor. While the attack itself was certainly not a surprise – conflict between the two nations seemed inevitable – the site of the attack was a surprise. Roosevelt expected the first blow to fall on the Philippines (they too were attacked on this day); most of the Japanese forces were in Indochina. But the Japanese hoped to knock out the United States Pacific Fleet in one stroke. They very nearly succeeded. Eight battleships, nine cruisers, and many destroyers were sunk or damaged beyond repair. In addition many U.S. planes were caught and destroyed on the ground. Fortunately, the American aircraft carriers were out on maneuvers that fateful morning.

December 8, 1941 - Roosevelt delivered his famous “day of infamy” speech to Congress [text]. The United States and Great Britain declared war on Japan.

December 11, 1941 - United States and Germany declared war on each other. The United States’ entry into World War II was now official and complete.

Leading the war effort prevented Roosevelt from visiting Warm Springs in 1942, and for all but two days of 1943. Yet his “second home” was never far from his heart; he still continued efforts to raise money for the Georgia Warm Springs Foundation and the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis. And he also kept acquainted with even the smallest details of what was happening at Warm Springs. The Navy added a new building for treating paralyzed servicemen. Roosevelt also interceded when bureaucratic red tape delayed food and supply shipments to Warm Springs. In March of 1943 he received a letter signed only by the “Warm Springs Kids.” The letter asked that the Foundation’s pool be kept open; it was to be closed as a cost saving measure. Roosevelt wrote the head of the Foundation:

“… [A]s you know I am a crank on keeping the pool open. I wonder if we could do it on a concession basis… .” Source: Theo Lippman, Jr., The Squire of Warm Springs: F.D.R. in Georgia 1924-1945, (Playboy Press, Chicago, 1977), p. 11.

April 10, 1942 - The Bataan Death March began, when the Japanese forced 76,000 Allied prisoners captured on the Philippines forced to march 60 miles under brutally hot conditions through the jungle to a prison camp. Along the way, 5,000 prisoners died.

May 7-8, 1942 - The Battle of Coral Sea – the first battle fought soley with airplanes from aircraft carriers – ended with an American victory.

June 4-5, 1942 - The Battle of Midway proved the turning point in the Pacific theater of the war. Japan hoped to wipe out what remained of the U.S. Navy. The Japanese sent 160 ships, including 5 aircraft carriers to assault Midway Island. Meeting them were only 60 American ships, with three aircraft carriers – one already damaged. But in a remarkable feat of strategic planning and sheer courage, the Americans won a resounding victory, losing only the previously damaged carrier, while American planes sunk four of the five Japanese carriers.

November 8, 1942 - Operation Torch began - the Allied invasion of North Africa.

The year 1943 saw the United States reach new heights of industrial productivity. For all it horror, World War II put to rest any vestiges of the Great Depression. A Japanese leader had commented after the attack on Pearl Harbor that he hoped they had not wakened a sleeping a giant. They had. American factories immediately gearing for war production after Pearl Harbor, and in 1943 alone produced more armaments than in all previous years combined! The United States, as Roosevelt had predicted in 1940, truly became the “arsenal of democracy.”

January 14-23, 1943 - Roosevelt and Churchill met at Casablanca.

January 27, 1943 - Massive bombing of Germany began, with the United States bombing during the daylight hours, and the British by night.

February 2, 1943 - In what many military historians believe to be the turning point in the European theater of World War II, the Russian Army soundly defeated the German Sixth Army at Stalingrad.

February 9, 1943 - Guadalcanal fell to American troops.