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Letter Accepting Resignation of Louis Johnson as Secretary of Defense.

September 12, 1950

My Dear Lou:

I have just read your letter.

It is clear to me that in writing it you have been actuated by motives of the highest patriotism, and I salute you. In the terribly regrettable circumstances which have arisen, I feel that I must concur in your judgment and accept your proffered resignation as Secretary of Defense, effective at the close of business on September 19, 1950.

The manner in which you have carried out the purposes of the National Security Act testifies to your high administrative skill and your devotion to the public welfare. The success of your efforts toward the unification of our armed services should be an abiding satisfaction to you, as it is to me. The country is in debt to you for your pioneering achievement in a field fraught with the greatest difficulties. Thanks in great part to your efforts, we build our national defense of the future on a solid foundation.

Your recommendation of General Marshall as your successor betokens the same spirit of patriotism as the rest of your letter. I shall propose at once the legislation necessary to make it effective.

I shall feel free to continue to call upon you for advice.

With my warm personal regards, my thanks again for your distinguished services, and my best wishes, I am

Very sincerely yours,


[The Honorable Louis Johnson, The Secretary of Defense, Washington, D.C.]

Note: Mr. Johnson served as Secretary of Defense from March 23, 1949, through September 19, 1950. His letter of resignation, dated September 12, follows:

My dear Mr. President:

I have today presented to you the unanimous recommendations of the Joint Secretaries, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and myself for the rearmament of the United States in concert with the rearmament programs of the other free nations. The completion of these unanimous recommendations marks a milestone in our work for the security of the United States and the peace of the world.

When I undertook to serve as Secretary of Defense, at your request and that of Secretary Forrestal, I remarked to you privately and also remarked publicly that it was inevitable, in the conscientious performance of my duties as Secretary of Defense, that I would make more enemies than friends. Somewhat ruefully, I now admit, I was right.

The unification of the armed forces has been accomplished in great degree. If it had not been accomplished we would not have been able to deploy our forces on a fighting front more than 5000 miles from our homeland as speedily as the three services have accomplished that unexpected task.

I am grateful to you for the support you have always given me, in my attempts to bring about unification of the services and in my work to establish alertness without waste or duplication in the Department of Defense.

Under normal conditions, the fact that I have made so many enemies would not concern me too greatly, for I could take comfort in the thought that I have made them in a good cause. But today, when American boys are laying down their lives in the cause of our national security and world peace, it seems to me that the country should have a Secretary of Defense who does not suffer under the handicap of the enemies I have acquired during the eighteen months I have served as a member of your Cabinet.

Accordingly, it is my recommendation that, at your earliest convenience, you accept the resignation which I tender herewith, and name as my successor a man of such stature that the very act of naming him to be Secretary of Defense will promote national and international unity. Such a man, in my opinion, is General George Marshall--and I recommend his name to your thoughtful attention.

I recognize, of course, that many will argue that one of our great Generals should not be Secretary of Defense. I do not believe that this argument has validity in the case of General Marshall, who has already rendered distinguished service to his country, in a civilian capacity, as Secretary of State. I recognize also that an amendment to the National Security Act will be necessary, in order to make it legally permissible for General Marshall to serve as Secretary of Defense--but I believe that Congress will speedily amend the law in General Marshall's case, if you should so recommend.

General Marshall, more than any other individual I can think of, would be an inspiration to the people of the United States and to our allies. Moreover, he is a man who would assure that we would mobilize our forces speedily and that in doing so we would get a dollar's worth of defense for every dollar we spend. I know that you agree with me as to the continuing importance of this latter consideration. In my judgment, it is more essential today than ever before that the program for eliminating waste in the Defense Department be continued, as we proceed to build up our strength.

I want to express to you once more my deep appreciation for the understanding, cooperation, and support you have always given me. I am and shall always be grateful.

Sincerely yours,


Harry S Truman, Letter Accepting Resignation of Louis Johnson as Secretary of Defense. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/230236

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