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Letter to the President of the Senate and to the Speaker of the House Urging Prompt Action on the Emergency Powers Continuation Act.

April 07, 1952


I ask the Congress as a matter of the utmost urgency to act, before it commences its Easter recess, to extend for a period of sixty days emergency powers which otherwise will terminate when the treaty of peace with Japan becomes effective.

On February 19, acting on the recommendation of the Secretary of Defense, the Attorney General, the Chairman of the National Security Resources Board and the Director of the Bureau of the Budget, I transmitted to the Congress a proposed Emergency Powers Continuation Act and recommended favorable action thereon.

This measure would continue specific enumerated powers until six months after the termination of the national emergency proclaimed by the President on December 16, 1950, or until earlier dates fixed by concurrent resolution of the Congress or by the President.

There was a single, simple reason for this measure, namely, the impending termination of the state of war with Japan through the coming into force of the Treaty of Peace with Japan. As I explained in my message, the still-existing state of war with Japan-which is the last existing state of war between this country and others--provides the legal foundation for many important statutory powers which this Government is now exercising in carrying out the national defense program. I pointed out that unless the Congress acts to continue these powers they will end when the state of war with Japan ends (or, in some cases, within a fixed time thereafter), with very serious consequences for the national security.

The Congress has been considering my request, but has not yet passed the required legislation. In the meantime, the Senate has given its advice and consent to the ratification of the Japanese Peace Treaty, and the required number of other countries have ratified the Treaty so that it is anticipated that it can be brought into effect as soon as the ratification by the United States is deposited.

There are important reasons why the Japanese Peace Treaty must be put into force very promptly. Failure to do so will be a reflection on responsible government in the United States, which will be very damaging and impossible to explain to the rest of the world. However, in the absence of action by the Congress the coming into force of the Treaty would result in the termination of certain emergency powers which are now being exercised and which are very important.

I therefore urge the Congress to act immediately to provide at least a temporary extension of the emergency powers in order to prevent a lapse when the Japanese Peace Treaty is put into effect.

I would like to set forth some of the compelling reasons why bringing the Japanese Peace Treaty into force cannot be delayed.

Advance planning has been going on many months for the necessary steps involved in turning authority back to the Japanese Government when the Treaty comes into force. This planning has been done not only by the Department of State, the Department of Defense, the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers, and the Government of Japan, but also on the part of other powers concerned. These plans have been made on the basis that the present Treaty will come into force by the first half of April. Any significant delay beyond that time would seriously interfere with Japan's orderly transition from the status of an occupied country to that of a free and independent country. Furthermore, because of the complexity of the plans and the number of governments involved, the date finally established for bringing the Treaty into force must be announced ten days in advance. This is why action by the Congress before Easter is imperative.

The United States cannot be put in the position of delaying the bringing into force of the Treaty. The Treaty was signed in the United States--at San Francisco--on September 8, 1951• Long before that the United States had urged that peace be reestablished with Japan as promptly as possible, and the United States took the lead in negotiating the Treaty. Because of the special position of the United States as the principal occupying power in Japan, the Treaty provides that, regardless of other ramifications, it shall not come into force without the deposit of the ratification of the United States. This deposit has not been made. If now the United States were to delay the Treaty's coming into force, for avoidable reasons of a domestic nature, when other countries are ready to act, no credit would be brought either to this country or to our democratic processes. We would be widely misunderstood even among our friends, and we would open the way for hostile propaganda by those in Japan who would turn their backs on the democratic way of life.

It is likewise of the utmost importance to the security of the country to continue in effect without any lapse the emergency powers dealt with in the proposed measure I have recommended. Among these are the authorizations under which the Government is now operating the railroads to insure the movement of troops and war materials; is controlling the entry into and the departure from the United States of aliens and citizens whose movements would be dangerous to the national security; is continuing the commissions of a large number of reserve officers on active duty in our armed forces the loss of whom would create a serious problem; and is making full use of trained aviation officers who would be lost by the reinstatement of peacetime limitations. Furthermore, there are a number of provisions which furnish protection and benefits to civilians engaged in defense activities, to members of the armed forces, to veterans, and to the members of their families.

As is apparent, these powers are such that even a brief lapse would have the most serious consequences.

Consequently, the problem which confronts us can be solved only by very prompt Congressional action; and I earnestly ask that such action by taken.

Very sincerely yours,


Note: This is the text of identical letters addressed to the Honorable Alben W. Barkley, President of the Senate, and to the Honorable Sam Rayburn, Speaker of the House of Representatives.

On April 14, 1952, the President approved a joint resolution, entitled "Emergency Powers Interim Continuation Act" (66 Stat. 54), which continued the effectiveness of certain statutory provisions until June 1, 1952. Later resolutions extended the provisions to July 3, 1952, on which date the President approved a bill "to continue the effectiveness of certain statutory provisions for the duration of the national emergency proclaimed December 16, 1950, and six months thereafter, but not beyond April 1, 1953" (66 Stat. 330).

For the President's statement upon signing the Treaty of Peace with Japan, see Item 95.

Harry S Truman, Letter to the President of the Senate and to the Speaker of the House Urging Prompt Action on the Emergency Powers Continuation Act. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/231620

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