740.00116 European War 1939/925

The Secretary of State to President Roosevelt

My Dear Mr. President: In accordance with your request I enclose a draft statement which you may wish to make with respect to the use of poison gas by any of our enemies.

Faithfully yours,

Cordell Hull

Statement by the President on Gas Warfare11

From time to time since the present war began there have been reports that one or more of the Axis powers were seriously contemplating use of poisonous or noxious gases or other inhumane devices of warfare.

I have been loath to believe that any nation, even our present enemies, could or would be willing to loose upon mankind such terrible and inhumane weapons. However, evidence that the Axis powers are making significant preparations indicative of such an intention is being reported with increasing frequency from a variety of sources.

Use of such weapons has been outlawed by the general opinion of civilized mankind. This country has not used them, and I hope that [Page 407] we never will be compelled to use them. I state categorically that we shall under no circumstances resort to the use of such weapons unless they are first used by our enemies.

As President of the United States and as Commander-in-Chief of the American Armed Forces, I want to make clear beyond all doubt to any of our enemies contemplating a resort to such desperate and barbarous methods that acts of this nature committed against any one of the United Nations will be regarded as having been committed against the United States itself and will be treated accordingly. We promise to any perpetrators of such crimes full and swift retaliation in kind, and I feel obliged now to warn the Axis armies and the Axis peoples, in Europe and in Asia, that the terrible consequences of any use of these inhumane methods on their part will be brought down swiftly and surely upon their own heads. Any use of gas by any Axis power, therefore, will immediately be followed by the fullest possible retaliation upon munition centers, seaports and other military objectives throughout the whole extent of the territory of such Axis country.

  1. Issued to the press by the President on June 8.