President Franklin D. Roosevelt Remembers the Start of World War I
ROOSEVELT PRESIDENTIAL PRESS CONFERENCES
Number 358 (April 6, 1937)
Q: I hope it won’t run afoul of the previous answer, but today is the twentieth century [i.e., anniversary] of our entry in the World War. Have you any reflections on the general situation today, in contrast?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I was thinking today how much more peaceful I am than I was on the 6th of April, 1917. As I remember it, I got to bed that particular might about four o’clock in the morning. I spent most of the day in sending telegrams to every ship and every naval station on every ocean and in putting into effect the contracts that we had made in the Navy for various war materials.
I always remember on particular episode: The Navy, at first under Paymaster General Cowie and then under Paymaster General McGowan had started in the previous fall, because they through that things looked like War, and they had made contracts with every known company for supplies and materials of all kinds from steel down to potatoes that we would need in case of war in the Navy.
About four days after the declaration of War, about the tenth of April, I was sent for by Joe Tumulty to come over here to the White House. I came and there was the President, Barney Baruch, the Secretary of War, and the Chief of Staff. The President said, “Roosevelt, I am very sorry but you, in your zeal, you have cornered the market in a great many essential supplies and you have got to give up 50% of it to the Army.” (Laughter)
The Navy did a great job because actually on the 2nd of April, when the President determined on his message to the Congress, and within a few minutes of the time that we got the flash that he was going to Congress to ask for a declaration of war, we had sent a code telegram to all of these contractors which meant, “Go ahead with that order.”
So today I am feeling very peaceful compared with twenty years ago.