JUNE 25, 1943
HYDE PARK, Thursday—I am printing a letter today which has come to me and reads as follows:
"Long Beach, California.
"Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt.
"Could you spare me a few lines in your column for the youth of America? After all, they are as important as teas, victory gardens, etc.
"My son, who is a private in the Army, is home on furlough. Today we went down to get his transportation back to camp, which happens to be in Mississippi, a long trip.
"We were told that, because of his being a private, we could not buy him a pullman ticket. They were reserved for officers. The only way to procure a berth for him would be on a troop train. I am asking you, Mrs. Roosevelt, is this a democratic way of doing things? Is he still not a citizen of the U.S.A. and shouldn't the soldiers be accorded some consideration?
"He came out of the ticket office and made one remark—a remark I have heard often of late—what are we fighting for, mother? Will you please give this your consideration, and I thank you."
I think there must be some mistake about this, because, unless a train is already overcrowded, I am quite sure that a private, as well as a civilian, can get a berth or any accommodation that he is willing to pay for. What many people do not realize is the volume of travel today and the fact that they should make reservations far in advance.
I know, for instance, of a case not long ago where a civilian waited in the station master's office for accommodations, in company with soldiers, sailors, and officers of every grade. Some of the officers were willing to sit up all the way to California, even though it was a three-day trip, because they did not want to delay in getting to their destinations and accommodations simply did not exist. Gradually the patient and very understanding officials of the railroad had everyone stowed away, but it took them over twelve hours.
Now I realize that many a boy in the services cannot make his plans very far ahead, but he must take his chances with the others and not feel that because he is a private he is discriminated against. In the last war, my husband was assistant secretary of the Navy, but that didn't give me any special consideration. I can remember trips when I stood up for five hours, or sat on the arms of seats in crowded cars, so do not let your boy get the idea that he isn't fighting for a real democracy.