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Excerpts From FDR's World War I Diary
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TitleExcerpts From FDR's World War I Diary
CreatorFranklin Delano Roosevelt
DescriptionAssistant Secretary of the Navy Roosevelt records his meetings with Helen and Vincent Astor while touring France during World War I.
NotesFranklin Roosevelt, then Assistant Secretary of the Navy, toured England and France in the summer of 1918. While there he met with both Vincent and Helen Astor. Helen Astor had volunteered to work at a YMCA Canteen in France at Roosevelt's suggestion. FDR also aided Helen by providing letters of recommendation.
Subject.lcshRoosevelt, Franklin D. (Franklin Delano), 1882-1945
Astor, Vincent, 1891-1959
Personal NameFranklin D. Roosevelt
Vincent Astor
Helen Huntington Astor
HRVH TopicsPresidents & Politicians
Resource TypeText
SourceFranklin D. Roosevelt Papers as Assistant Secretary of the 1913-1920. Box: 33. Diary 1918
Resource IdentifierC-AstsecnavB33Fdiary1918_fdrinfrance.pdf
Publisher.DigitalFranklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum
Holding InstitutionFranklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum
Contact Information4079 Albany Post Road
Hyde Park, NY 12538
Rights Items selected from the Roosevelt Library collections for posting on the HRVH website are in the public domain. Please credit the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum.
Transcript Ce, malier, and Capt. Cr~ven, second to Ceptain Cone in our Favs.1 _ \.viation. Hednesday, ·1.ugust 14 : 1Ve arrived at Bordeaux ea1"ly and started off on a long motor run to 1.Toutchic and Pauillac. Houtchic is southwest of Bordeaux on a ±·ine little lake not far from the ocean. This is where our naval aviators get their physical instruction in bomb drop-ping and machine gun practice. The camp has about 600 men and has been put up almost ~7holly by Blue j aclrnt labor in a chc.rming grove of pines beside the lake. They gave u.s an e:;..hibition of bomb ropping on a fake submarine out in the lake and machine gun fire on a floating target. This visit was a sample of many --;bich are to come. Onl~~ one b.oUJ." could be spared as we h d man;y more miles to cover, but I saw everything and tbrouGh the stafI. 1.".·e, s able to gather much information ~nd tha points OI vie7 of many officers. 1.'Je lost our '\'my in the I'lat nine cou:1try and di c not get to ?auillac unti;t. nearly lunch tin:e. Ly old friend Taylor Evans met me i;vi th the entire personnel of nearly 5000 men tu:::ned out. This Pauills.c !J:tt is a i:rnnderful location. _, _ It is Oil the sou th baru: of the Gironde, not fe.r from the mouth, nd J.11 it had to commend it uas a long dock ana. rail com:::mnication. 3v'ery building, every hangar, and ev3ry r:or:t:shop ho.s been put up by u.s -rri th.Americen material. ~he nevr mess h::, 11, r:here v:e lunched v1i th 3000 enlisted men, is -}_9- built almost entirely out of seaplane packing cases. I saic1 a few v1ords to the men and splendid entGrtainment was furnished by a jazz band, quartette and others. There is, of course, any amount of t~tlent among the enlisted men, especially nmrr, - :3.ctors, musicians, professional ball players , etc. etc. The first lfavy p.9.per to be :publishecl in Europe has been startecl una.i:;r the name of the l! J?aui11ac Pilot. H The first number was :published by min1eogra:i;lh , but now it has become a dignified., illustr9.ted, regularly printed ne-"7spaper. Captain Evn.ns took me all over the camp and I s1)ent a good deal of time with J, ieut. Commander Briscoe goinn· throuch the shops ana_ checking up certain matters on vrhich our lTavy Dept. has fallen down rather 1)8, dly. This base receives and assembles all airp19..Iles and material from the U.S. Part of the material, such as the J, i berty Hotors, has arrived in bad condition, showing faulty insp ··;ction at home ancl necrnsitating much w·orlc here; for instance, one motor which was pessed as ready to run was found. to contain tv10 pounds o±' sand in the cylinc1ers. Then, also, many parts la.cki:ag entirely· for inst.';e, we have in France over a hundred seaplane8 but only tuo self-sts.rters. As a result of :J.11 this I sent a telegram to the Secretary of the navy setting :t"orth i:r:1. aet, .il t:he l ack ot· c·~ :t tain p8.rtr.~ and the l of inor;r~ction. I made the telegram somewhat vigorous. on purpose. It :rould the office of aviation and the difterent Buresus hopping rnJ.d, but th8y '.'ill be so mad thr.~t - 20- they v1ill get busy and correct the trouble in future (all of which they have since done). I saw !Jed Lane and he , like most of the others here , feels very much out of the fight­ing; but as I told the men at lunch it is just :..i.s important to clo this work as it is to be on the actual firing line, and they must always realize thr:lt hundrecls of thousanc.1.s of other men in uniform at home would give anything ii1 the vrorld to change pJ.a ces with them. I vrent up for a TTho:/r in one of thA seaplanes , flying up and dovm the Gironde, and getting an excellent idea of the geography in this region. On our vray back to Bordeaux we ran south i.ibout 15 miles to the wonderful nev1 raa_io station w ·lich our Havy is putting up for the French Government at Croix d 1 1:rins. Liet1t. Commander Sweet , my old. :triend of' the Pg, cific trip , is in charge. Done of the steel for the 8 great towers is up , but the material is rapidly arriving , and when comi:.ilet-ea. this st.9, t i on will be exceeded only by the new radio station at Annapolis. 1tfe got to Bordeaux at r;: '30, very clusty and. mo ~3t of the :p!-1, rty thoroue:;hly q...hausted. McCauley J.nc1 I vrnnt to the house to.ken by Helen Astor , who is running the YlICA canteen an cl hut here. Ethel Harriman Rusuell is with her, and we found cornt·ortable rooms ana_ a real bath avmi ting us. '°T'3 ~ c.lined. ~y ouietly. ~ Thu.Tsday. Au~ust 15: Met Je-ffia Connor after breakfast and crossed the river to the docks , which have been taken over by the army. The length of the docks is being doubled and - 21- 11hen the work is completed ten ships ce.n un1.og, d at the same time. Temporary storehousas and aa.ditional trackage facil­ities have been put in along the docks, but it is not in­tended that any army supplies should remain here more than ovor night. After the Jnormous storage b;i, se , about 6 miles away , is completea_ and filled, and after railro'ia. equipment becomes suf~icient, it is the intention to move all the in-comin~ cargoes direct on to the fl~t cars and thence by rail up to the SU:?l)ly bases back of the front. Thus the big SUJ?- J.Jly base outside of Bordeaux will become a huge reserve to be used only in case of emergency, as , for instance, in case heavy German ships shoula. get out of the north , ')ea and tem­porarily stop the flow acrosr.:J the transAtlg, ntic lane. Ey shipping the cargoes in normal times direct from the ship to the front one process of handling will be avoi(1ed.. The bulk of the unloading is being ha11a.1e by :neg:r.o troops, o.nd General Connor told me that he is now getting out an average of about 700 tons per ship per day. This is a splendid achievem8nt , even 1hcn compared to the b'3st commer-ci~ l practice, but Connor is not satisfied and hopes eventually to get out over 800 tons per ship per d8.y. It should be borne in mind th~t according to the plans Bordeaux and St. Nazaire are to handle the greater part o±' the arm~, r stores. Some will come in through sml ler i)o:cts, anc1 the pri:O.cipal troop debarlt!J.­tion port will continue to be Erest. w~ commandeered a locomotive and flat car and moved -22- out over a new line of traclr to the big storage bq, se, 6 miles north. Its layout is excellent. All incoming freight comes I in on the Bordeaux side, and the plint itself is divided into four mllin sections for different kinds of stores. The store-houses themselves are one stor' CS;: sheds, but of sufficiently durable chnracter to last agreat mqny years.The outgoing end at the farther side connects vv.i. th the main line o:t' rail1rray to the north. German prisonas are at work on the grading and seem well taken ca1~e OI'. After a hurried lunch at the hotel in Bordeaux: \le 111 le±·t ·by motor , crossed the river and1~t dmrn the right bank of the Gironde, arriving at Royon. Vincent ~otor met us. He is the Port Officer and has charge of the reporting of all vessels entering ~nd leaving the G1ronde. Captain l'!IcCull~, who is in charge of this district, seemed pleased with Vincent's work and especi. i.lly with his success in laying a cable across from Royon to l'aUillac. Royon is jammed with peo];fu, many of them those vrho have left Paris because of the "Bertha. TT T:fe had a delicious swim, dined with Vincent, _ma. went to an G:pen air Friday, Au1ust_l6: L9ft Royon after an early breakfa8t, crossed the River in a ~car~om a highrr bridge and arrived at Rochefort, Captain I.Ice. , uJttY' s headquarters. There is a French Havy Yard 9-t this point, ai1d I visited it with the French Admiral and my staff. It serves !}, S a base for -23- --------------- our convertea. yachts and other small craft operating in this district. -24-
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