September 27, 2017

1942. Eleanor Roosevelt Visits Wartime England

Eleanor Roosevelt Visits Britain
"Eleanor Roosevelt and the Chief Commander of the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) inspecting ATS troops somewhere in England. October 26, 1942" (source)
Bill Downs

CBS London

October 23, 1942

The RAF's full-moon attack on northern Italy last night was the twenty-sixth time that British bombs have been carried from England and dropped on Mussolini's most important shipbuilding and industrial area. Besides the port of Genoa, British bombers also have put their bombs into armaments factories and aircraft plants in Turin, Milan, San Giovanni, and the Venice area.

Because of the distance, the RAF has been forced to ration the export of its bombs to Italy. A 1,500 mile round-trip flight over the Alps would be an achievement under perfect conditions in peacetime. For the RAF to do it with almost no losses in wartime is something of a military miracle.

There are many people in Britain who have felt that Italy was not getting a fair share of the Allied bombing. These people maintain that a sustained offensive might force a political crisis which would kick Mussolini and Italy clear out of the war.

The military leaders here pay little attention to such talk. They bomb an objective with the intent of doing as much military damage as possible. However, they are watching with interest the reaction of the Italian press and the statements of the Fascist communiqués. It has been fairly well confirmed that there is unrest in Italy. How widespread is uncertain. But such reaction can only be good for the Allied cause.

You remember it was in Genoa that Christopher Columbus lived before he set out to discover a new world. Perhaps it is significant that this New World must destroy what is worst in the Old World to keep alive the spirit of Columbus.

Eleanor Roosevelt held her first British press conference this morning. She made a statement which caused American reporters—who have tried to keep up with the president's wife on other occasions—to say, "Well, boys, here we go again." Mrs. Roosevelt said her objective in Britain was to go and see everything. And she'll do it too.

The English journalists were interested in America's internal affairs and asked such questions as whether Prohibition was going to return to the United States and if the conscription of women was anticipated.

Mrs. Roosevelt said the Prohibition movement in America was growing but that she did not believe it would become a national issue very soon. She said the question of conscripting women into war industries, such as has been done in Britain, was a problem for future consideration.

As yet Mrs. Roosevelt has not been issued a civilian gas mask. She already has her ration books and will eat just what the rest of Britain eats under the national food rationing program.

But the outstanding development of her visit thus far is that the British, and everyone else, are genuinely glad to see her.