MARCH 30, 1944
WASHINGTON, Wednesday—Now that I am back in the United States, I would like to sum up the impressions which remain after my recent trip to the Caribbean and South America plus an excursion into the Pacific.
My principal impression is of the weariness that our men feel as they are kept waiting and watching for long, long periods, without the stimulus or even the expectation of quick action. The men want and probably need change. A rotation policy has been under discussion, which, if put in operation, would bring some of them home in regular order.
First the difficulties of transportation have to be recognized, but one does hope that some definite rotation policy may be established.
In view of the tropical climates in which all these boys exist, and in view of the fact that it is hard to remain alert on a job which is purely a waiting and watching, life becomes exhausting.
Seeing our men in the tropics has made me more conscious too of the loneliness and hardships in areas like Alaska, Newfoundland and Iceland. The men in waiting and watching zones need more recreation, more athletic activity and more work than they would in a fighting area.
So much for general impression.
Our bases in the Caribbean are well established. The men are as comfortable as they can be under existing military and climatic conditions. They have two prime obligations, one to watch so that no enemy airplane or submarine can get into the area undetected; two, to build up better relationships for the United States on the islands and on the mainland so we will have friends to help us meet our problems of the present and of the future.
In this area there are grave economic questions which have never been considered jointly in the past by all the nations interested in the Caribbean. A commission has been studying these problems and recently a meeting has been held for the purpose of discussing our joint problems. Our military groups can help or hinder the working out of these problems by their understanding and their attitude towards the people of these countries.
In places like Dutch and British Guiana and Brazil and in some other countries in South and Central America we have built up remarkable installations. Sometimes they are built in places where you wonder how the original people managed to exist.
Zandrey Field, Dutch Guiana, is bare and dreary even today when all the facilities are there and a road leads to the city twenty miles away. The bases themselves have been made healthy. Much traffic bound for faraway places passes through them. The men have the double job of guarding this traffic, of keeping up their base, of helping out when supplies and repairs are needed, and finally, the diplomatic job of building up good relationships with the country in which they find themselves.
They can never forget that they are on land which belongs to another sovereign nation which has ceded it for our joint benefit during the war. In the future, if there are to be mutual benefits from development in these countries, our soldiers can never forget that it will be the good feeling they have created which will make it possible.