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Letter to Committee Chairmen on the Situation in Western Europe.

October 01, 1947

[Released October 1, 1947. Dated September 30, 1947]

My dear Mr. Chairman:

The situation in western Europe has, in the last few months, become critical. This is especially true in the cases of France and Italy, where slow recovery of productivity, particularly of goods for export, combined with the increasing drain on their dollar resources, has produced acute distress.

The unusually bad harvests in western Europe, together with rising costs of imports, the unfortunate results of the temporary cessation of sterling convertibility and the near exhaustion of gold and dollar reserves, have placed these two countries in a position where they are without adequate food and fuel supplies for the fall and winter, and without sufficient dollars with which to purchase these essentials. They cannot, by their own efforts, meet this major crisis which is already upon them.

Political groups that hope to profit by unrest and distress are now attempting to capitalize on the grave fears of the French and Italian people that they will not have enough food and fuel to survive the coming winter.

The prospect of a successful general economic recovery program for Europe is one of the major hopes for peace and economic security in the world. The Congress will soon be called upon to consider the part which the United States should play in aiding this program. But the program will have no chance of success if economic collapse occurs in Europe before the program can be put into operation. Prompt and effective aid to meet the urgent needs of the present is essential, lest the strains become too great and result in an expanding economic depression which would engulf western Europe and, eventually, spread over much of the rest of the world.

I have examined with great care the means now available to the executive branch of the Government to provide the necessary assistance. They may meet the urgent needs of the next few weeks, but it is clear that they cannot provide the necessary assistance beyond December, if as long as that. Requirements beyond that time can be met only if further authority is granted by the Congress.

The problems arising out of these circumstances are of such importance that they should be considered by the Congress at the earliest practicable time. The early convening of your committee, together with other appropriate Congressional committees, is a necessary first step in this consideration.

I am requesting, therefore, that you call your committee together at the earliest possible date to consider these problems. I appreciate the fact that some of the members of your committee are investigating, or are planning to investigate, conditions in Europe at first hand. Time is of critical importance in this matter, however, and I earnestly hope that arrangements can be made for convening your committee at an early date.

The appropriate departments and agencies of the executive branch of the Government are prepared to provide information and make recommendations to your committee when its meetings begin.

Very sincerely yours,


Note: This is the text of identical letters addressed to the Honorable Arthur H. Vandenberg, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations; the Honorable Charles A. Eaton, Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs; the Honorable Styles Bridges, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations; and the Honorable John Taber, Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations.

Harry S Truman, Letter to Committee Chairmen on the Situation in Western Europe. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/232350

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