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Correspondents knew that the Department's policy makers would soon collect on the musty second-floor officesand soon they arrived, Secretary Hull at n p.m., Jay Pierrepont Moffat (Chief of the European Division) in a dinner jacket and black tie, Assistant Secretary Berle to spend the night at his desk. Correspondents also knew that from U. S. diplomats abroad reports would come fast: ¶Dapper, high-strung, Harvard-bred Minister Gordon at The Hague (who had spent most of the two nights before telephoning Washington ) got through an early wire of warning at 2:50 a.m., reported in a later telephone conversation that he could hardly hear himself talk because of anti-aircraft and machine-gun fire.
Ambassador Cudahy got Secretary Hull at 10:50 p.m., was kept busy phoning for three and a half hours, had just signed off when Embassy maids shouted "Les Alle-mands!" and a bomb dropped on a house some 30 yards away.
Lounging in Chief of Current Information Michael McDermott's office, listening to dance music on the radio while they waited for releases, newsmen knew that soon President Roosevelt would again condemn an act of aggression (the eighth German aggression that he has deplored), would again extend the Neutrality Act to include Belgium, The Netherlands, Luxembourg (third extension in six months), would again act to freeze the credits in the U. S. of the invaded countries. They knew that the President's press conference next day would be crowded, grave, unrevealing and it was, with about 250 correspondents filing to the White House through a bright spring morning, to note in their eleven-minute interview that Franklin Roosevelt seemed imperturbable, and to hear him express his sympathy for Queen Wilhelmina's defiance of the invaders.
But one great difference marked off last week's scenes from those that had gone before. Facing the thought of an Allied defeat, pondering on the fate of Dutch possessions near U. S. shores, few U. S. citizens doubted that Europe's total war was an overwhelming U. S. concern.
Question. After his press conference the President revised his speech. That night he began with his strongest condemnation: "In some kinds of human affairs the mind of man becomes accustomed to unusual actions if these actions are often repeated.
But that is not so in the world happenings of todayand I am proud that it is not so. I am glad that we Americans are shocked, that we are angered by the tragic news that has come to us from Belgium and The Netherlands and Luxembourg." He praised the ideals of the New World ("We feel that we are building human progress by conquering disease and poverty ... removing one by one the many cruelties and crudities and barbarities of less civilized eras") and saw them menaced by a Hitler victory ("the school of destruction . . . those who seek to dominate hundreds of millions of people in vast continental areasthose who, if successful in that aim will . . . enlarge their wild dream to encompass every human being and every mile of the earth's surface").