740.00119 European War 1939/2113

Memorandum by President Roosevelt to the Secretary of State 46

Frankly, I do not like the idea of conversation to define the term “unconditional surrender”. Russia, Britain and the United States [Page 494]have agreed not to make any peace without consultation with each other. I think each case should stand on its own merits in that way.

The German people can have dinned into their ears what I said in my Christmas Eve speech48—in effect, that we have no thought of destroying the German people and that we want them to live through the generations like other European peoples on condition, of course, that they get rid of their present philosophy of conquest. I forget my exact words but you can have them looked up.

Secondly, the German people and Russia should also be told the best definition of what “unconditional surrender” really means. The story of Lee’s surrender to Grant is the best illustration. Lee wanted to talk about all kinds of conditions. Grant said that Lee must put his confidence in his (Grant’s) fairness. Then Lee surrendered. Immediately Lee brought up the question of the Confederate officers’ horses, which belonged to them personally in most cases, and Grant settled that item by telling Lee that they should take their horses home as they would be needed in the Spring plowing.

A few little incidents like the above will have more effect on the Germans than lots of conversations between the Russians, British and ourselves trying to define “unconditional surrender”. Whatever words we might agree on would probably have to be modified or changed the first time some nation wanted to surrender.

F[ranklin] D. R[oosevelt]
  1. The substance of this memorandum was transmitted to Moscow in telegram 144, January 25, 2 p.m., p. 582.
  2. For text, see Department of State Bulletin, January 1, 1944, p. 3.