March 12, 1944
WARM SPRINGS (Routers) A Minnesota woman whose son was killed in the recent Anzio offensive has demanded a private audience with President Roosevelt, and has taken up residence outside his Georgia retreat until she gets one.
Mrs. Etta Mae Hanberg, of Fergus Falls, had a son, Lawrence, who died after stepping on a land mine near the Italian village of Aprilia on January 25th. Overcome with grief, she now questions the war, and laments the apparent purposelessness of her son’s sacrifice. She has set up camp outside the president’s vacation retreat here, and refuses to leave until the president agrees to meet with her. Her plight has attracted many who are equally unhappy with the war, and they’ve established a tent city nearby.
Following a rousing speech to the assembled by Father Coughlin, in his first public appearance in many months, she was interviewed.
“I just want answers,” she says, in her soft-spoken, upper Midwest manner. “Why are our helpless babies dying in Italy when it was Japan that attacked us? And I think that the president knew that the Japanese were going to attack, but let it happen so he could get rich off this war in Europe.”
She is just warming up.
“The president says that Germany declared war on us, but I haven’t seen any declaration of war, and I don’t believe that there are any Germans in Italy. And even if there were any Germans there, who can blame them, with all of our support for Britain? If it weren’t for that nasty little island, always interfering with the rights of German lebensraum and Vichy self determination, and their desire to get rid of all those Jews that are occupying their land and stealing all their money, there wouldn’t be any trouble in Europe. And the way we treat our war prisoners is just a disgrace.”
“I don’t blame whoever planted that land mine. This president is the murderer of my son. With all due respect to the office, I think that this is all just an imperialist grab for olive oil to benefit him and the rest of his crooked business cronies. I think that Franklin Delanodamngood Roosevelt and everyone in his corrupt and bloodthirsty administration ought to be impeached, all the way down to his little dog Fala.”
Sympathetic demonstrators who have gathered from all around to support her cheer at the words, with shouts of “Roosevelt lied, Larry died!” and “No blood for pesto!”
When it was pointed out that she was just one mother of many, and asked how the president could possibly meet with all of the mothers of the hundreds of thousands of American men killed in this war to date, she replied, “My child died. I’ll never see him again. I have absolute moral authority here. And anyway, it’s not hundreds of thousands. I think that there have been hundreds of millions of our children killed and that this lying administration is just covering it all up.”
Roosevelt administration officials have pointed out that the president regrets the loss of Mrs. Hanberg’s son, as he does the losses of all of the families of casualties of this war, but that he can’t meet with just one mother without slighting the thousands of others who are in similar pain. But this, appropriately, doesn’t assuage the grief-stricken woman.
“I have a right to see the president,” she responded. “Are they trying to silence me? Are you? I have a right to be heard. I have a right to have my words broadcast across this nation, and printed in every newspaper. I have a right to this press attention. Why are you trying to deny me my rights?”
(Copyright 2005 by Rand Simberg)