Harry S. Truman photo

Address in Kansas City at the 35th Division Reunion Memorial Service

June 07, 1947

Mr. President of the 35th Division; Admiral Leahy; General Eisenhower; distinguished guests; members of the 35th Division and their guests:

This has been a great convention of the veterans of two wars. I was deeply touched by the turnout of my World War I Battery D of the 129th Field Artillery. A man can have no higher honor paid to him. I appreciate it.

We are honored by the presence of our highest ranking naval officer, Admiral William D. Leahy, and our highest ranking Army officer, General Eisenhower. We are also very highly honored by the presence of His Excellency the Ambassador to the United States of America from the great Republic of France, and by the presence of his lovely wife, and by the presence also of His Honor the Mayor of St. Lo. Those are distinguished honors to us veterans, and we appreciate it.

We come together tonight to honor the memory of the men of the 35th Division who died in the defense of their country and, in honoring them, we pay tribute also to the memory of all those who have lost their lives in the wars in which our Nation has been engaged.

Men of the 35th Division have twice rub filled the obligation of every American citizen to serve in the defense of his homeland. More than 300 years ago the first settlers of North American colonies established a tradition of military training and service. Service through defense of the new colonies was, to them, an essential and unquestioned duty of citizenship. We owe our existence as a Nation to the tradition of service by our citizens, for it was an army of citizen soldiers which George Washington led to victory in the American Revolution. At the end of that war, the Congress asked General Washington to give his views on what the military policy of the new nation should be. This is what Washington replied:

"It may be laid down as a primary position, and the basis of our system, that every Citizen who enjoys the protection of a free Government, owes not only a portion of his property, but even of his personal services to the defense of it . . ."

The responsibility, described by Washington, of the citizens of the new Nation to maintain the security of their homes has become, in our time, responsibility to serve in the cause of world security. The only security for the United States, or for any other nation, when the alternative to peace is death and destruction, lies in the abolition of war.

Our obligation, as citizens of the strongest nation in the world, is to lead the peoples of the earth toward the goal of lasting peace.

Our hopes for peace based on justice and international cooperation are embodied in the United Nations. We shall continue every effort to attain the ideal of a United Nations which can banish war for all time.

In supporting the United Nations, we must always sustain the principle on which world peace must rest. That principle is that all people should have the right to live free from fear of aggression under institutions of their own free choice. Our responsibility to lead the peoples of the world in the search for peace takes the form of helping less fortunate peoples who are earnestly striving to improve or reconstruct the institutions of free and independent nations.

We can fulfill our obligation of service in the cause of peace only by maintaining our strength.

The will for peace without the strength for peace is of no avail.

The disintegration of our military forces since the surrender of Germany and Japan is an encouragement to nations who regard weakness on the part of peace-loving nations as an invitation to aggression. And the countries whose people share our ideals, and who look to us for leadership, but who are weak in resources or manpower, lose faith in our ability to support the principles for which we stand.

Hitler's dream of controlling the world was spurred by his belief that the Western nations were weak and lacked the will to resist. Hitler's eagerness for war increased as his estimate of the strength of the democracies decreased. Unpreparedness on the part of his opponents precipitated his decision to march into Poland in 1939. Japan struck at Pearl Harbor because she thought the United States was too weak to fight back. What a mistake she made! And I can say that for any other nation that gets that notion.

We must maintain our Army, our Navy, and our Air Force in effective readiness for any emergency. They should be organized in an efficient single military establishment and they should be supported by reserves of well-trained citizens.

Maintaining strong military forces is not the only requirement that exists in the cause of peace. We must also have a sound and prosperous economy, thriving agriculture, natural resources wisely conserved and adequately developed, and vigorous citizens conscious of our duty and confident of our destiny.

A healthy citizenry is the most important element in our national strength. We must develop a national health program which will furnish adequate public health services, and ample medical care and facilities for all areas of the country and all groups of our people.

We must also raise the level of minimum wages, broaden our social security benefits, provide decent housing, equalize educational opportunities, and in every way inn sure that the welfare and standards of living of our citizens improve steadily. The strength that derives from a people confident of their personal security, and aware of world needs, is an overwhelming power for peace.

We must work earnestly to insure that our economy stays in high gear, that we have maximum production, maximum employment, and maximum purchasing power. We must have an economic system that provides opportunities for all men willing and able to work. This will take much effort. Some necessary steps are long overdue. Prudent fiscal and tax policies, certain price and wage adjustments, labor management harmony, and a carefully planned program of essential public works will go far toward insuring that the present level of productivity--the highest in our history--will continue.

To a greater extent than ever before, our prosperity and security depend upon our natural resources. We are fast becoming a "have not" nation with respect to many important minerals. We are short of some basic materials essential to an economy of full production and full employment. We are short of copper, of steel, of lead, and of many other critical materials. We are faced with the danger of a shortage of petroleum products. The United States is now using more oil each day than the entire world used before the war. Shortages of fuel oil have already appeared in parts of the Middle West. A nation is only as strong as its productive capacity, and our capacity is now limited by our shortages.

We have laws designed to conserve and develop our natural resources and these laws, if wisely administered, would largely eliminate our shortages. However, we are now in grave danger that these protecting laws will be made ineffective by the failure of the Congress to provide the money necessary for their administration.

We have a long-standing policy that public power resources should be developed for the benefit of the people. As a result of this policy, our country had the means of rapidly expanding our supply of electric power in the early days of the war. These supplies of low-cost hydroelectric power, particularly in the Tennessee Valley and the Pacific Northwest, provided the means by which we were able speedily to increase our production of aluminum and other light metals and to supply the huge amounts of power required for our atomic energy plants.

Despite the wartime expansion, however, we face critical shortages in our national supply of power in the next few years. We need more and more electric power to expand old industries, to build new ones, extract minerals from low-grade ores, 'produce atomic materials for peacetime use, and to expand the electrification of our farms.

Our public power program must be carried forward. We must continue to build the multiple-purpose projects that conserve our precious resources and develop low-cost energy. We must build transmission lines and substations and bring power to markets. The hydroelectric power program is vital to the economic welfare of the Nation, and in some western States hydroelectric power is almost the sole resource of available energy. All the great industries of the West--lumbering, agriculture, mining--will be retarded for want of electric power. Nothing must prevent the full development and use of public power in these areas where it is needed most.

The great dams which harness the power of our western rivers also store the water and make it available to reclaim lands that once were barren deserts.

Reclamation projects are providing the country with additional acreage to grow food which is needed at home and abroad in this time of world food shortages. The utilization of water resources of the West for power and reclamation is the key to the development of economic opportunities in this vast part of our country. It will ultimately provide the millions of jobs for our citizens in areas which are now sparsely settled.

Our veterans are hungry for these opportunities. They want land on which to settle so that they can become a constructive part of the Nation's economic life. We must provide our veterans with the land they need. It is my hope that the reclamation projects so essential to the development of this part of our economy will not be curtailed.

Money spent for water control, reclamation, and power projects cannot be regarded in the same light as expenses for other construction programs. Appropriations for reclamation and power are investments which are repaid by the water and power consumers. To curtail construction on projects already begun because construction costs are high is to waste vast amounts of public capital already invested by postponing the time when repayment begins.

Our national strength requires that we think in terms of our 1947 needs and responsibilities, and not in terms of the past. I earnestly hope that the Senate will not follow the House of Representatives in cutting our conservation, reclamation, and power programs back to the level of a decade ago. We must go forward with the development of the natural resources upon which depend our economic strength and our position of world leadership.

One of the great lessons of history is that no nation can be stronger than its agriculture. Hungry and ill-nourished people cannot practice the arts of democratic government and peaceful commerce. Peace cannot be built on a foundation of human want.

We in this country some years ago wisely adopted a national policy which declared that all of us must share with the farmer the responsibility for maintaining our agricultural resources. We said that the farmer must be protected against low prices and low income, against some of the hazards of weather, and against the danger of inadequate credit. We decided to keep reserves of basic crops from the fat years for use in the lean years.

Because we had adopted that policy, American agriculture was able to set new production records during every year of the war. Because of its reserves, in the granary and in the soil, because of its basic strength, agriculture increased its production fully one-third even though many people left farms to join the armed forces and to work in industry.

The most remarkable aspect of our production records was that the increases were in the crops for which the Government asked increases. We were able to supply our armed forces the kind of food they needed in the amount they needed. We had the best fed fighting forces the world has ever seen--and we supplied our allies with the kinds of food they especially required.

When the fighting ended, there was a worldwide food emergency. Grain was the most needed commodity. During the war the United States had not specialized in grain production. But as a result of our farm policy our agriculture was so adaptable that we were able, almost at once, to set new world records in grain exports. We have saved millions of lives of persons abroad. Our grain shipments have helped us to meet the test as the world proponent of democracy, freedom, and peace.

We face a new challenge now. Our entire farm program is endangered by recent legislative action. I would be gravely concerned if any effort to undermine our farm policy were successful.

A year ago our Government made a pledge to our farmers to carry on the program of soil conservation which is so vital to prosperous, productive farming. The farmers have a right to expect that this pledge will be kept. We should guard against all efforts to destroy the program designed to carry out soil conservation practices on our farms.

The farmer-committee system, a basic part of the program for balanced farm production and soil conservation, has worked successfully. Under it, farmers elect committeemen from among their neighbors to run the agricultural conservation program, to handle commodity loans, to maintain the ever-normal granary, and to carry out emergency marketing programs in time of extreme surplus. The farmer-committee system should be continued.

We must always bear in mind the effect on our national strength and welfare of our people when restrictions or curtailments in our farm program are proposed. We cannot afford to deprive veterans and farm tenants of the opportunity to buy farms of their own.

If American agriculture is to continue its rapid progress, we must maintain our important research projects in natural science and economics, and we must continue with our work of rural electrification, forest protection, and aid to locally organized soil conservation districts.

I sincerely hope that on careful reflection and consideration, the Congress will provide the appropriations necessary for those projects and services which are designed to provide a better, fuller life for our people and a more stable, productive economy for our Nation.

By renewing the wellsprings of our strength, by enlarging our capacities for growth, we shall be able to fulfill the obligation of service which is our heritage.

I have commented at length on some of the facts that are necessary elements in our leadership toward the goal of enduring peace.

But more important than any of these is the need for divine guidance to direct our steps. When the peoples of the world shall accept the principle that it is the will of God that there be peace--there will be peace.

And it is our obligation to be strong and to have faith in order that we may do our share toward carrying out the will of God.

The inspiration which we receive from the heroic men whom we honor here tonight will make more resolute our determination to put into practice the teachings of the great Disciple of Peace.

Note: The President spoke at the Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City, Mo., at 9 p.m. During his remarks he referred to Fleet Adm. William D. Leahy, Chief of Staff to the Commander in Chief of the U.S. Army and Navy; General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower, Chief of Staff, U.S. Army; Ambassador Henri Bonnet and Madame Bonnet; and Mayor Georges Pierre Lavalley of St. Lo, France. The commander of the 35th Division in Europe during World War II, Maj. Gen. Paul W. Baade, also attended the reunion. The address was carried on a nationwide radio broadcast.

Harry S Truman, Address in Kansas City at the 35th Division Reunion Memorial Service Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/231884

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