Harry S. Truman photo

Address in Chicago on Army Day.

April 06, 1946

[Broadcast nationally at 3 p.m.]

Mr. Mayor, distinguished guests, fellow Americans :

On this Army Day, freedom-loving men all over the world rise with us to salute our fighting men and devoted women of the Army. Our American soldier is respected everywhere for his courage, admired for his fighting skill, and loved for his charm and simplicity. Like his gallant brother in arms in the United States Navy, he is the symbol of our traditions and our hopes.

Our Army has written many glorious chapters in the Nation's history, but none so brilliant as the last. Its story in this war has been written in every corner of the globe--on the continent of Europe; in the wastes of the Arctic; over the vast expanse of the Pacific; in jungle and desert; on mountains and over the beaches. It is a glorious history of men against the forces of nature as well as against the forces of evil.

Our Army is a civilian army, not a professional one--either in leadership or in manpower. Of the 850,000 officers who led it in war, only 16,000 were professional soldiers. Of the ten million men and women who at some time served in it, only 300,000 were regulars.

This Army Day is a fitting day for us to look thankfully at the past and hopefully to the future.

Our Army of democracy--of every walk of life, of every faith, of every national descent--was victorious over the professional armies of the dictators who had scorned us as too soft and too cowardly to fight. The survival of a free civilization is the reward for the struggle and battles of the men of our fighting forces.

No one can think of the great American Army without thinking of those leaders of victory, those commanding officers, who now take their place in history with the immortals of the past. And the Army itself as well as the American people will always remember the inspiration, leadership, courage, and determination which came from that gallant warrior in the White House--Franklin D. Roosevelt.

The past is history. It is the future to which we must now turn our thoughts and our energies. What of the world on the Army Days to come? What of the future of mankind in this atomic age which is upon us?

Let us look clearly at today and tomorrow. The facts are plain, and I think our course is also plain.

The United States today is a strong nation; there is none stronger. This is not a boast. It is a fact, which calls for solemn thought and due humility. It means that with such strength, we have to assume the leadership and accept responsibility. It would be a tragic breach of national duty and international faith if, consciously or carelessly, we permitted ourselves ever to be unprepared to fulfill that responsibility.

We still have much to do. We are determined to remain strong.

We still have all the duties of the armies of occupation. We still have to do our share in supervising former enemy governments, enforcing the peace terms, disarming and repatriating enemy troops, taking care of hundreds of thousands of displaced persons. We still have to service and supply all our troops overseas. We still have to protect and preserve American property all over the world. We still have to destroy the materiel--war materiel and the war-making industries of our enemies.

But far and above all those things, we must remain strong because only so long as we remain strong can we ensure peace in the world. Peace has to be built on power for good. Justice and good will and good deeds are not enough. We cannot on one day proclaim our intention to prevent unjust aggression and tyranny in the world, and on the next day call for immediate scrapping of our military might.

We must remain strong, not because we plan or want to impose our views upon the world by force. We do not want to make war on any nation. We must remain strong in order to retain our leadership, and, with all our resources, exercise that leadership on behalf of a world of peace and harmony among all nations and all peoples. This is not only our moral duty; it is a firm obligation which we have undertaken as a member of the United Nations.

From the military point of view, how can we best maintain this strength and leadership? I have, during the past year, given what I consider appropriate answers to that question, to the Congress and to the Nation. Because time passes quickly, and because delay is itself a process of decay, I emphasize those answers again today.

They are: first, unification of all our armed services in a single department; second, temporary extension of the Selective Service Act; and third, universal training.

Unification does not mean subordination of any branch of the service. It does not mean loss of identity. It means just what the word says--unification. It means a concentration and cohesion of our best military thought and our best military resources, geared to maximum efficiency. It means using our experience in World War II for the peace of the world.

I hope that the second objective will very soon be achieved in the Congress--the temporary extension of the Selective Service Act. We have won the war; we must now make the victory secure. Victorious nations cannot, on the surrender of a vicious and dangerous enemy, turn their backs and go home. Wars are different from baseball games where, at the end of the game, the teams get dressed and leave the park. In wars, the victors must make sure that there will not be a recurrence of enemy aggression and tyranny. Tyranny must be rooted out from the very soul of the enemy nation before we can say that the war is really won.

The American people recognize that fact. But the process is a long and exacting one. It requires an army of many men. And that army of many men can be continuously and adequately supplied for another year only by the Selective Service Act.

If that act is not extended beyond the next month, when it will otherwise expire, we face these alternatives: Either we shall have to keep our men in foreign lands who, by reason of long service, are justly entitled to come home to their families; or we shall turn our backs upon the enemy before victory is finally assured.

Justice to the men still in the Armed Forces, justice to all our people and to civilization itself, forbids the choice of either of these alternatives. The Congress, I am sure, will not choose either one of them.

The third essential of a strong America is a program of universal training. Let us understand this clearly. Universal training is not conscription. It does not mean that our young men would have to serve in the army or navy for any period during peacetime. They remain citizens and civilians unless the Congress declares an emergency and calls upon them to serve in the Armed Forces with other citizens.

What is proposed is that each individual be trained and fitted by his Nation to take his place if war unhappily should ever come again.

It is no answer to say that we do not need a large army in this atomic age. No one knows yet precisely what we shall need--in terms of infantry, artillery, pilots, paratroopers, ships, radar, planes, rockets, or bombs.

We do know this: modern war calls for the total mobilization of all men and all energies. We know, too, that we are not likely again to be given 2 years or more by heroic allies to get ready. Next time--if there must be a next time--we are likely to be the first target.

And so on short notice, each man must be ready to take his place and go forward-not at the end of a few months, or a few years, but immediately. Otherwise it may be too late.

There is only one way that each man can be ready, and that way is by training ahead of time. He will not be trained to do things which are obsolete. He will be trained to do only whatever is required in modern warfare. A nation like ours, whose responsibility is leadership against tyranny and oppression, surely cannot expect less of its people than that they be made ready to fight or to work to preserve the Nation.

Unification of the Armed Forces, temporary extension of the Selective Service Act, and a universal training program-those are the foundation stones which hold the promise of a strong nation. They are essential if we are to maintain our leadership on the road to peace and freedom.

Now, even in an election year like this, nobody should play politics with the national safety.

The desire for peace and freedom is the very root of our foreign policy. I stated the fundamental foreign policy of the United States in New York City on Navy Day last October, and in my message to the Congress January 21, 1946. That policy remains the same today. It is based squarely upon the pursuit of peace and justice; and it definitely rejects any selfish advantage for ourselves.

The immediate goal of our foreign policy is to support the United Nations to the utmost.

It is my conviction that the Security Council of the United Nations, now meeting in New York City, is fully capable of reaching agreements between the peoples of the world--however different their traditions and philosophies, and however divergent their interests. The essential requirements to that end are that its member nations follow the dictates of justice, that they consider and respect the legitimate aspirations and needs of their fellow members.

All citizens of the United States worthy of the honor of that citizenship are determined to preserve our democratic form of government. They will not, on the other hand, interfere in any way with the governments of other peace-loving people.

Peace is not a reward that comes automatically to those who cherish it. It must be pursued, unceasingly and unwaveringly, by every means at our command.

In the pursuit of peace, there is no single path. We must have a policy to guide our relations with every country in every part of the world. No country is so remote from us that it may not some day be involved in a matter which threatens the peace. Remember that the First World War began in Serbia; that the peace of Versailles was first broken in Manchuria; and that the Second World War began in Poland. Who knows what may happen in the future? Our foreign policy must be universal.

In the Far East our program for peace is designed to combat and remedy the conditions that made it possible for Japan to turn upon her neighbors. We have disarmed Japan, and we are promoting reforms which we hope will bring into being a democratic and peaceful nation. But the control and reform of Japan is only a beginning. In the Far East, as elsewhere, we shall encourage the growth and spread of democracy and civil liberties.

In Korea we are even now working with our Soviet Allies and with the Korean leaders to create a provisional democratic government. Our aim is to speed the day when Korea will again take her place as an independent and democratic nation.

In China we are supporting a free and democratic government. Through the wise counsel of General Marshall the Chinese leaders are on the road to achieve political unity by peaceful and democratic processes.

The Philippine Commonwealth, on July fourth next, will become a fully sovereign and independent nation. We hope for the peaceful settlement of the differences which have arisen between Colonial peoples and Colonial sovereigns in all areas.

The roots of democracy, however, will not draw much nourishment in any nation from a soil of poverty and economic distress. It is a part of our strategy of peace, therefore, to assist in the rehabilitation and development of the Far Eastern countries. We seek to encourage a quick revival of economic activity and international trade in the Far East. To do that we stand ready to extend credits and technical assistance to help build the peace.

We recognize that the Soviet Union, and the British Commonwealth, and other nations have important interests in the Far East. In return we expect recognition by them that we also have an interest in maintaining peace and security in that area. We expect understanding on their part that our objectives are dedicated to the pursuit of peace; and we shall expect them to pursue the same objectives.

Turning to the Near East and the Middle East, we find an area which presents grave problems. This area contains vast natural resources. It lies across the most convenient routes of land, air, and water communications. It is consequently an area of great economic and strategic importance, the nations of which are not strong enough individually or collectively to withstand powerful aggression.

It is easy to see, therefore, how the Near and Middle East might become an arena of intense rivalry between outside powers, and how such rivalry might suddenly erupt into conflict.

No country, great or small, has legitimate interests in the Near and Middle East which cannot be reconciled with the interests of other nations through the United Nations. The United Nations have a right to insist that the sovereignty and integrity of the countries of the Near and Middle East must not be threatened by coercion or penetration.

If peace is to be preserved and strengthened in this important section of the world, however, we cannot be content merely to assure self-government and independence. The people of the Near and Middle East want to develop their resources, widen their educational opportunities, and raise their standards of living. The United States will do its part in helping to bring this about.

Turning to Europe, we find her suffering from terrible pangs of hunger and privation. Economic reconstruction is first of all a task for the people and the governments of Europe. Help from the outside, however, will quicken the pace of reconstruction and reduce the cost in human misery. The United States is in a position to help; we are helping now; and we shall continue to help.

We shall help because we know that we ourselves cannot enjoy prosperity in a world of economic stagnation. We shall help because economic distress, anywhere in the world, is a fertile breeding ground for violent political upheaval. And we shall help because we feel it is right to lend a hand to our friends and allies who are recovering from wounds inflicted by our common enemy.

Food is Europe's most critical need. It is not enough to share our surpluses, for to share surpluses is not really to share at all. No worthy American will hesitate to reduce his own consumption of food when the food so released will avert starvation abroad.

Next to food, Europe's greatest need is for machinery and raw materials to rehabilitate her transportation system, her mines, and her factories. We have been supplying these products to Europe on long-term credit and we shall continue to do so. Billions of dollars for reconstruction have been made available by the Congress through the Export-Import Bank and through the International Bank.

We seek to lay the groundwork of a world trading system which will strengthen and safeguard the peace. We want no return to the kind of narrow economic nationalism which poisoned international relations and undermined living standards between the two World Wars.

The Congress is now considering, and I hope will soon approve, the financial agreements with Great Britain. These arrangements have not been made merely to support a faithful ally. They are of vital importance of our own country as a means of opening channels of world trade to American enterprise.

We shall work to achieve equal opportunity in world trade, because closed economic blocs in Europe or any place else in the world can only lead to impoverishment and isolation of the people who inhabit it.

We shall press for the elimination of artificial barriers to international navigation, in order that no nation, by accident of geographic location, shall be denied unrestricted access to seaports and international waterways.

The American Republics propose to settle differences between the nations of the Western Hemisphere as good neighbors and by consultation in the common cause of peace and national well-being--consultation in which all of them will have equal representation. The United States intends to join with other sovereign Republics of America in a regional pact to provide a common defense against attack.

Perhaps the greatest challenge which the war has given to us is the control of atomic energy, so that this vast new force may not destroy, but may serve mankind. Our country has joined with all the United Nations in a determined effort to devise international action to obtain these ends. We are pressing on steadfastly in this task. We realize that we must bring to it political imagination as great as the scientific genius which discovered this new force. The same unswerving determination and effort which produced the release of atomic energy can and will enable mankind to live without terror, and to reap untold benefits from this new product of man's genius.

I am not pessimistic about the future. I have confidence that there is no international problem which cannot be solved, if there are; the will and the strength to solve it through the United Nations which we have created.

We attained everlasting, overwhelming victory in close union with the free and peaceful nations of the world. In the same' kind of union with them, and with the help of the same heroic men and women who fought the war and whom we honor today, we can attain a lasting peace.

Note: The President spoke at Soldiers' Field. His opening words "Mr. Mayor" referred to Edward J. Kelly, mayor of Chicago.

Harry S Truman, Address in Chicago on Army Day. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/232750

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