Did Eleanor Roosevelt say the Marines have “the purest bodies, the dirtiest minds”?
In May 2021, readers asked Snopes to look at a popular and colorful quote, widely attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt, in which the former first lady is said to have said that the US Marines have “ the cleanest bodies, the cleanest minds the dirtiest, the highest and the lowest morale. moralities of all groups of animals that I have ever seen.
Over the years, the joke has appeared in various important places: in countless memes and in books about the story of the US Marine Corps (USMC). In many cases, the quote was dated 1945, including a widely shared 2013 Publish via the official USMC Facebook page:
“The Marines I have seen in the world have the cleanest bodies, the dirtiest minds, the highest morale, and the lowest morals of any animal group I have ever seen. Thank God for the United States Marine Corps! “
—Eleanor Roosevelt, 1945
Despite its prevalence, and despite what might be considered an official endorsement by the USMC itself, it remains uncertain whether Roosevelt actually wrote or uttered these words, and we have found a few pointers that the old-fashioned attribution first lady could well be wrong. . Until or unless definitive evidence is available, we will rate “Not Proven”.
Snopes asked the USMC and the FDR Presidential Library and Museum to investigate the provenance of the citation. Despite what appeared to be considerable research efforts, neither could locate the original source, nor find any evidence to support the attribution to Roosevelt.
Kirsten Carter, supervising archivist at the FDR library, told Snopes the quote was “irrelevant” but couldn’t necessarily be dismissed as something Roosevelt might have said:
We have been repeatedly asked to verify this quote, but after reviewing several of his writings, we have yet to identify a direct source for the attribution. That’s not to say Ms. Roosevelt never said those words, as they may have been overheard in a conversation, paraphrased, or recorded in some other way. We just cannot confirm this with a trackable quote.
Generally speaking, while this particular quote seems irrelevant to Eleanor Roosevelt and bears no similarity to other statements she has made publicly about the Marines (for which one of her sons served), we do not can neither confirm nor refute it.
I wondered what she thought about joining the navy. Did she have the same contempt for me that so much of society held for the American sailor? Perhaps she had heard the comment President Roosevelt’s wife Eleanor had made about sailors: “The cleanest bodies and dirtiest minds in the world.”
The existence of this naval variant on Roosevelt’s quote doesn’t mean she never said it, or never said it about the Marines, but it does raise the possibility of an anonymous, popular old adage. among sailors and Marines, later attributed to a prominent public figure.
And finally, we found definitive proof that the quote existed before 1945. In October 1942, a group of Navy sergeants and corporals commissioned during World War II wrote a colorful letter to the editor of the Wisconsin State Journal. In it, they included the following observation:
It has been said that “the Marines have the neatest uniforms, the cleanest bodies, the dirtiest minds and are the best fighters in the world.” This is what we are trying to experience.
Given that most of the examples of Roosevelt’s quote were dated 1945, and we know for sure that she did not say it for the first time, this gives rise to doubt as to the veracity of other aspects of this quote, including attribution to Roosevelt. .
Several possibilities exist. It could be that Roosevelt found the phrase, first said it before 1942, and the date 1945 is the only inaccurate part of the quote that has become popular in recent years. Likewise, Roosevelt may have used the saying in a speech or letter, but she didn’t make it up and was simply repeating an already popular Marines joke, only to get the quote incorrectly attributed to her. Alternatively, it can be a popular and humorous saying about the Marines and / or the Navy, which was later attributed to Roosevelt in order to give him credibility and notoriety.
At the moment, we do not have enough evidence to come to a conclusion on which scenario is true. Until then, our rating remains “unproven”.