"Eyes for the Navy"

A Franklin D. Roosevelt Letter

Original content by: Emily Russell

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About This Document

Franklin Delano Roosevelt is best known for guiding our country through the Great Depression and World War II as the 32nd president of the United States. This letter, however, was written much earlier in his career when he served as the Assistant Secretary of the Navy under President Wilson from 1913 until 1920 – A job that he was appointed to due to his love of the water and the Navy, as well as his political prominence. When the United States entered into World War I in 1917, it was FDR who conducted much of the day-to-day business of the Navy’s role in “The Great War”. Part of this responsibility included oversight of the “Eyes for the Navy” campaign, which asked U.S. citizens to donate their binoculars, telescopes and spy-glasses. This letter is one of many that Roosevelt sent (and personally signed) to thank a donor for lending their equipment to the Navy for the course of the war.

Read by Ryan Chalifour.

Historical Context

The public was informed of the Navy’s campaign for optical equipment using posters and brief speeches made at theatres by the Four Minute Men. Willing donors were asked to send their binoculars, spyglasses, and other useful navigational equipment to the Naval Observatory in Washington D.C. where it would be tagged with the owner’s name and address and tested to make sure it was suitable for naval use. More...

Questions for Further Thought

  1. Would a campaign that asked American civilians to contribute to a military effort be successful today? What might we be asked to contribute?
  2. How have advances in technology changed the face of warfare throughout time? Is there a modern-day equivalent to the submarine in terms of a technology that has changed the way that war is fought?
  3. Was the use of unrestricted submarine warfare a "fair" tactic for the German's to use?