Mrs. Roosevelt Hits Mme. Chiang Says She Could Talk About Democracy but Didn't Know How to Live It Cites Hotel Incidents

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"Mrs. Roosevelt Hits Mme. Chiang Says She Could Talk About Democracy but Didn't Know How to Live It Cites Hotel Incidents"

The Boston Post 5 December 1945

fort devens, Dec. 4—Declaring that Mme. Chiang Kai-shek,1 wife of the generalissimo,2 a guest at the White House during her American visit, could talk very convincingly of democracy but did not know how to live it, Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, widow of the President, told wounded GIs at Lovell General Hospital, Fort Devens,3 today, that wherever she went Mme. Chiang was in fear of her life and was flanked by a retinue of 40 persons.

Talking to a recreation hall filled with wounded veterans of the Pacific and European theatres, Mrs. Roosevelt gave her astonishingly frank criticism of Mme. Chiang during a question period when a veteran asked her how the civil war in China differed from the civil war in Spain.4

"China has never been a united nation," Mrs. Roosevelt said. "The Chinese people have still to learn how to live with one another as a unified people. I noticed this particularly in my talks with Mme. Chiang. She is two different people. She could talk very convincingly about democracy and its aims and ideals and be perfectly charming, but she hasn't any idea how to live it."

Mrs. Roosevelt whose visit to Lovell General Hospital was for the purpose of talking and meeting wounded GIs, declared that wherever Mme. Chiang went she traveled with a retinue of 40 people. "She couldn't understand how I dared to travel around with only my secretary as a companion. She wanted to know who answered the telephone for us, who packed our bags and who bought our tickets and was amazed when I told her that we did those things for ourselves. I visited her once in a hospital in New York and when she learned I had traveled to the hospital by subway she said, 'How do you dare do that? You are the President's wife.' I told her that I was just a private citizen and that no one would harm me or molest me."

She also described how Mme. Chiang had hotel lobbies cleared before she would pass through because she feared harm. "She told me that communists were very dangerous people, and she couldn't comprehend how I dared to go around unattended when there were communists in this country. It told her that communists here are a very small minority and that there is not the slightest danger from them so long as a democratic form of government meets the needs of the people."

Mentioned as a possible candidate for the United States Senate from New York, Mrs. Roosevelt declared that she has no desire to enter political life, and said, "I had heard that story, and I have no intention of entering politics."5

In behalf of the wounded GIs Mrs. Roosevelt was greeted by PFC Hong O. Wong of 158 Huntington ave., Boston, who was seriously wounded by a mortar shell on Okinawa with the 96th Division, and PFC Vincent F. Noe of 39 Wall st., West End, who was seriously wounded in the Saar Basin, where he was captured by the Germans while fighting with the 94th Division. Wong, born in Canton, China, and Noe, born in Syracuse, Sicily, told Mrs. Roosevelt of their birthplace and she said, "Well, you are both fine American boys."

The wounded men, many of whom had to be assisted to the recreation hall to see Mrs. Roosevelt, put some pointed questions to her when she invited questions from the floor. One GI asked her if the United States need fear the Soviet Union as a future aggressor.

"Has it ever occurred to you," said Mrs. Roosevelt, "that Russia might reasonably be afraid of us? She has never started a war, but has always gone to war to defend herself from invasion. Actually, Russia is at the same period of economic development that we passed through 100 years ago, and the Russians want to have peace in which to develop their nation and obtain the good things of life which we now have."

After talking to the wounded men at the recreation hall, Mrs. Roosevelt visited a ward where seriously injured men are immobilized in traction splints and casts, and talked with each man.


1. See n2, Document 38.

2. Chiang Kai-shek. See n13 Document 61.

3. Beginning in 1941, Lovell General Hospital provided "general hospital care for troops stationed in New England, Northern New York, and patients evacuated by the Port of Boston or by air transport" at its newly constructed facilities, near the northwest border of Fort Devens in Shirley, Massachusetts (C. David Gordon, "Fort Devens hospital named for Army's first surgeon general,", accessed 22 September 2005).

4. Spain, unlike China, united under one government from 1931 to 1936, after the Second Republic deposed the monarchy. From 1936 to mid-1939, a civil war raged in Spain between those loyal to the newly established republican government (the Republicans) and those who favored a conservative, militaristic system (the Nationalists). Efforts for a negotiated peace failed in early 1939, and on April 1, 1939, General Francisco Franco's victorious Nationalists entered the final Republican stronghold of Madrid where he received the unconditional surrender of the Republican army (OTCWH).

5. See Document 2, Document 10, and Document 11.

On the United Auto Workers Strike

After the White House labor-management conference deadlocked and the UAW strike entered its third week, Truman, without consulting either labor or management, asked Congress to apply the Railway Labor Act to the automobile industry, appointed a fact-finding commission, and imposed a mandatory thirty-day "cooling-off" period. December 6, the day following Truman's actions, GM and UAW agreed to return to the negotiation table. Negotiations crumbled, however, when GM made no concessions and insisted on its prestrike offer of a 10 percent wage increase with no guarantee against price increases.1

ER tried to remain optimistic that the negotiations would succeed. In the following column, ER lent her support to the UAW proposal and to embattled OPA director Chester Bowles.