My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

Text Size: Small Text Normal Text Large Text Larger Text

SAN DIEGO, Wednesday—We arrived in Los Angeles in the rain yesterday morning. The Governor of California and the mayor of Los Angeles met us. The Governor drove off with Director LaGuardia. Gilbert Harrison and I followed with the mayor. I was astonished to find that, even now, some people can't believe our shores are actually a possible target for attack.

We went straight to the State Building, and in a very few minutes the State Council of Defense met in open session. All the seats in the room were filled and people stood in the aisles as the morning wore on.

I felt extremely virtuous, because I had not gone to the hotel to dress. I usually feel that this is essential after a night trip. I patted myself on the back and felt that since this was not entirely comfortable, this was my first real job for civilian defense.

It is remarkable how a real threat will change the whole aspect of a situation overnight. The State Defense Council met, found an executive secretary, decided to establish a central office in the State Capitol in Sacramento and two branch offices in San Francisco and Los Angeles. The local council of defense was setting up its volunteer office also.

Guards had already been placed on watch at all strategic places such as bridges in the state. The need for money was already being canvassed and the Governor was making necessary preparations to meet the requirements.

Director LaGuardia made an excellent speech and it was splendid to see the response to concrete suggestions. In the afternoon, the meeting was divided and Mayor LaGuardia went to a meeting of the section on health and welfare.

I found that there were many very excellent plans on paper, but actual assignment of people to specific posts and their training in what they should do on those posts had not yet been undertaken. It seems to me that, with real danger hanging over our heads, when we discuss the actual work that has to be done, we discover that the protective measures are really very closely allied to the voluntary participation.

You cannot, for instance, be a good air warden without knowing exactly how all the people in your section live and what their needs are. Yet the air raid wardens are trained under the Army and the community services, which they have to invoke to do their job well, are all on my side of defense.

PNews, SHJ, 11 December 1941