"It means a sacrifice for everybody and, while the plans we make for the future may not materialize, it is well for all of us to concentrate now on the job at hand and gain a victory that will make it possible to live a happy and normal life after this is all over..."
HAUNTINGLY ELOQUENT LETTER BY AMERICAN ICON ELEANOR ROOSEVELT ON THE SACRIFICES OF WAR.
This letter, typed and signed by revered First Lady and humanitarian Eleanor Roosevelt on White House letterhead and dated April 1, 1942 (World War II), is addressed to Mr. Porter, and reads in full:
The White House
April 1, 1942
Dear Mr. Porter:
I am glad to know that you have enlisted and my very best wishes go to you into the service. I am sure that you will gain much from it and our main job right now is to win the war, no matter at what cost. It means a sacrifice for everybody and, while the plans we make for the future may not materialize, it is well for all of us to concentrate now on the job at hand and gain a victory that will make it possible to live a happy and normal life after this is all over.
Good luck, and I shall be glad to hear from you from time to time.
Very sincerely yours,
[signed] Eleanor Roosevelt
“America's isolation from war ended on December 7, 1941, when Japan staged a surprise attack on American military installations in the Pacific. The most devastating strike came at Pearl Harbor, the Hawaiian naval base where much of the US Pacific Fleet was moored. In a two-hour attack, Japanese warplanes sank or damaged 18 warships and destroyed 164 aircraft. Over 2,400 servicemen and civilians lost their lives [...] In the months after Pearl Harbor, the nation swiftly mobilized its human and material resources for war. The opportunities and sacrifices of wartime would change America in profound, and sometimes unexpected, ways” (The National World War II Museum).
And change it did. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt recognized the necessity not only for change, but also for sacrifice. In a radio broadcast the night of the Pearl Harbor attack, she reflected:
“In the meantime, we the people are already prepared for action. For months now the knowledge that something of this kind might happen has been hanging over our heads and yet it seemed impossible to believe, impossible to drop the everyday things of life and feel that there was only one thing which was important - preparation to meet an enemy no matter where he struck [...] We know what we have to face and we know that we are ready to face it…. To the young people of the nation, I must speak a word tonight [...] I have faith in you. I feel as though I was standing upon a rock and that rock is my faith in my fellow citizens” (Eleanor Roosevelt’s radio broadcast the evening after the Pearl Harbor attack, December 7, 1941).
April 1942 marked a tumultuous time for the United States and for the Roosevelts, as recent intervention in World War II had reaped disastrous results, with Japan continuing its string of military successes in the Pacific Theater. However, these trying times imbued the First Lady with a sense of duty:
“Consequently, Eleanor Roosevelt increased her already daunting pace to one that amazed reporters, admirals, defense workers, and soldiers. Eleanor Roosevelt believed that promoting democracy at home and keeping up people's spirits was a vital part of the war effort. Eleanor Roosevelt did this in many ways. She strongly supported women working outside the home and urged their employment in defense industries... She played a key role in convincing FDR to establish the Fair Employment Practices Commission, which outlawed racial discrimination in industries that received federal contracts, urged equal treatment for blacks in the military, and helped to ensure that black units, such as the Tuskegee Airmen, had the opportunity to engage in combat. Finally, She urged citizens to accept volunteer assignments and tried to make those assignments useful” (George Washington University).
Not only a hero in the United States, Eleanor Roosevelt also made several trips to decimated war zones, including the British Isles and Guadalcanal. Aptly, she reflected in her syndicated newspaper column “My Day”, “if the generation that fights today is to lay the foundations of which a peaceful world can be built, all of us who have seen the war close range must remember what we see and carry a crusading spirit into all of our work.”
This letter, in addition to being composed in a year of escalating tensions in the Pacific and heightened domestic anxiety, is significant as it reflects the kind of empathetic pragmatism that characterized the groundbreaking and generous wartime work of Eleanor Roosevelt.
Washington, D.C.: April 1, 1942. Quarto, one page. Signed in ink at the end of the letter. Usual folds, otherwise in fine condition. A rare and poignant letter by one of America’s most cherished first ladies.
Price: $5,000 .