Harry S. Truman photo

Radio and Television Report to the American People on the National Emergency.

December 15, 1950

[Broadcast from the White House at 10:30 p.m.]

My fellow citizens:

I am talking to you tonight about what our country is up against, and what we are going to do about it.

Our homes, our Nation, all the things we believe in, are in great danger. This danger has been created by the rulers of the Soviet Union.

For 5 years we have been working for peace and justice among nations. We have helped to bring the free nations of the world together in a great movement to establish a lasting peace. Against this movement for peace, the rulers of the Soviet Union have been waging a relentless attack. They have tried to undermine or overwhelm the free nations one by one. They have used threats and treachery and violence.

In June the forces of Communist imperialism burst out into open warfare in Korea. The United Nations moved to put down this act of aggression, and by October had all but succeeded.

Then, in November, the Communists threw their Chinese armies into the battle against the free nations.

By this act they have shown that they are now willing to push the world to the brink of a general war to get what they want. This is the real meaning of the events that have been taking place in Korea.

That is why we are in such grave danger.

The future of civilization depends on what we do-on what we do now, and in the months ahead.

We have the strength and we have the courage to overcome the danger that threatens our country. We must act calmly and wisely and resolutely.

Here are the things we must do:

First, we will continue to uphold, and if necessary to defend with arms, the principles of the United Nations--the principles of freedom and justice.

Second, we will continue to work with the other free nations to strengthen our combined defenses.

Third, we will build up our own Army, Navy, and Air Force, and make more weapons for ourselves and our allies.

Fourth, we will expand our economy and keep it on an even keel.

Now, I want to talk to you about each one of these things.

First: we will continue to uphold the principles of the United Nations.

We have no aggressive purpose. We will not use our strength for aggression. We are a tolerant and restrained people, deeply aware of our moral responsibilities and deeply aware of the horrors of war.

We believe in settling differences by peaceful means, and we have made honest efforts to bring about disarmament. We will continue those efforts, but we cannot yield to aggression.

Though the present situation is highly dangerous, we do not believe that war is inevitable. There is no conflict between the legitimate interests of the free world and those of the Soviet Union that cannot be settled by peaceful means. We will continue to take every honorable step we can to avoid general war.

But we will not engage in appeasement.

The world learned from Munich that security cannot be bought by appeasement.

We are ready, as we always have been, to take part in efforts to reach a peaceful solution of the conflict in Korea. In fact, our representatives at Lake Success are taking part in just such efforts today.

We do not yet know whether the Chinese Communists are willing to enter into honest negotiations to settle the conflict in Korea. If negotiations are possible, we shall strive for a settlement that will make Korea a united, independent, and democratic country. That is what the Korean people want, and that is what the United Nations has decided they are entitled to have.

Meanwhile, our troops in Korea are continuing to do their best to uphold the United Nations.

General Collins, Chief of Staff of the Army, who returned a few days ago from Korea, reported that our military forces are well organized and well equipped. I am confident that our military forces, together with their comrades in arms from many nations, will continue to give a good account of themselves. They know they are fighting for the freedom and security of their own homes and families.

The danger we face exists not only in Korea. Therefore, the second thing we are going to do is to increase our efforts, with other free nations, to build up defenses against aggression in other parts of the world. In dealing with the Korean crisis, we are not going to ignore the danger of aggression elsewhere.

There is actual warfare in the Far East, but Europe and the rest of the world are also in very great danger. The same menace-the menace of Communist aggression-threatens Europe as well as Asia.

To combat this menace, other free nations need our help, and we need theirs. We must work with a sense of real partnership and common purpose with these nations. We must stand firm with our allies, who have shown their courage and their love of freedom.

The United States, Canada, and the 10 nations of Western Europe who are united with us in the North Atlantic Treaty have already begun to create combined military defenses- Secretary of State Acheson is flying to Europe on Sunday. He and representatives of these nations will complete the arrangements for setting up a joint army, navy, and air force to defend Europe. The defense of Europe is of the utmost importance to the security of the United States.

We will continue to provide assistance to European countries, and to other free countries in other parts of the world, because their defense is also important to our defense.

The Communist rulers are trying their best to split the free nations apart. If they should succeed, they would do staggering damage to the cause of freedom. Unity with our allies is now, and must continue to be, the foundation of our effort.

Working together, the free nations can create military forces strong enough to convince the Communist rulers that they cannot gain by aggression.

Working together, the free nations can present the common front, backed by strength, which is necessary if we are to be in a position to negotiate successfully with the Kremlin for peaceful settlements.

Working together, we hope we can prevent another world war.

In order to succeed, we in our country have a big job ahead of us.

That is why the third thing we must do to meet the present danger is to step up our defense program.

We are expanding our Armed Forces very rapidly.

We are speeding up the production of military equipment for our Armed Forces and for our allies.

We have a large Navy. We have a powerful Air Force. We have units around which a strong Army can be built. But measured against the danger that confronts us, our forces are not adequate.

On June 25, when the Communists invaded- the Republic of Korea, we had less than 1 ½ million men and women in our Army, Navy, and Air Force. Today, the military strength has reached about 2 1/2 million. Our next step is to increase the number of men and women on active duty to nearly 3 1/2 million.

I have directed the Armed Forces to accomplish this as soon as possible. The Army and the Navy will be able to do this within a few months. It will take the Air Force somewhat longer. In addition to these men and women on active duty, we have about 2 million more in the National Guard and the Reserves who are subject to call.

As a part of the process of achieving a speedier buildup, the number of men to be called up under the Selective Service System has been raised, and two additional National Guard divisions are being ordered to active duty in January.

At the same time we will have a very rapid speedup in the production of military equipment. Within 1 year we will be turning out planes at five times the present rate of production. Within 1 year combat vehicles will be coming off the production line at four times today's rate. Within 1 year the rate of production of electronics equipment for defense will have multiplied 4 1/2 times.

These will not be weapons for our own Armed Forces alone. They will constitute an arsenal for the defense of freedom. Out of this arsenal we will be able to send weapons to other free nations, to add to what they can produce for their own defenses. And in this same arsenal we will provide a large reserve of weapons to equip additional units in our Armed Forces whenever that may be necessary.

Furthermore, while we are working toward these immediate goals in manpower and equipment, we will also expand our training and production facilities so as to make possible a very rapid expansion to full mobilization if that becomes necessary.

We can handle this production program, but it will require hard work.

It will require us to make a lot of changes in our ordinary ways of doing things.

And this brings me to the fourth big job. In order to build the military strength we need, we will have to expand our production greatly. We must also prevent inflation, and stabilize the cost of living.

If we are to make the weapons we need soon enough, we shall have to cut back on many lines of civilian production. But we cannot build up and maintain our armed might, and the industrial strength underlying it, simply by cutting back civilian production. We must produce more--more steel, more copper, more aluminum, more electric power, more food, more cotton, more of many other things.

We must set very high targets, and be willing to make an all-out effort to reach them. Workers will be called upon to work more hours. More women, and more young people and older workers, will be needed in our plants and factories. Farmers will have to set higher goals of production. Businessmen will have to put all their know-how to work to increase production.

A defense effort of the size we must now undertake will inevitably push up prices, unless we take positive action to hold them down.

We have already taken a number of steps in that direction. We have put restrictions on credit buying. We have increased taxes. And I hope that the Congress will enact an excess profits tax at this session. Still further taxes will be needed. We cannot escape paying the cost of our military program. The more we pay by taxes now, the better we can hold prices down. I have directed that recommendations be prepared, for early submission to the Congress, to put the increased cost of the defense as nearly as possible on a "pay-as-you-go" basis.

I have also instructed the Director of the Budget to reduce the nonmilitary expenditures in the new Federal budget to the minimum required to give effective support to the defense effort.

The measures I have just mentioned-credit control, higher taxes, and reduced nonmilitary expenditures--are essential. They are our primary defense against inflation, because they strike at the sources of inflation. But as we move into a greatly increased defense effort, we must also take direct measures to keep. prices in line.

The Government is starting at once to impose price controls upon a number of materials and products. These will be mainly items important to defense production and the cost of living.

In those fields where price control is imposed, the Government will also undertake to stabilize wages, as the law requires.

In the immediate future a series of control orders will be announced by the Economic Stabilization Agency.

In addition, the Agency will announce fair standards for prices and wages in those cases where mandatory controls are not imposed. I ask everyone concerned not to set prices and wages higher than these standards will allow. If these standards are violated, it will speed up the imposition of mandatory controls, including rollbacks where needed. The chiselers will not be allowed to get by.

As we move ahead with this mobilization effort, there will be increased need for central control over the many Government activities in this field. Accordingly, I am establishing an Office of Defense Mobilization. I am appointing Mr. Charles E. Wilson to be Director of this Office. Mr. Wilson is resigning as president of the General Electric Co. to take this job. In his new position, he will be responsible for directing all mobilization activities of the Government, including production, procurement, manpower, transportation, and economic stabilization.

The Government is also moving forward with preparations for civil defense. I have appointed former Governor Millard Caldwell of Florida to be Federal Civilian Defense Administrator.

In addition, I have recommended legislation to the Congress which will authorize the Federal Government to help the States and cities in their civil defense preparations. I hope the Congress will enact this legislation soon, so that the civil defense work which has already started can be greatly speeded up.

These are our plans for making our country stronger.

As we go forward we must keep clearly in mind the meaning of what we are doing. Our freedom is in danger.

Sometimes we may forget just what freedom means to us. It is as close to us, as important to us, as the air we breathe. Freedom is in our homes, in our schools, in our churches. It is in our work and our Government and the right to vote as we please. Those are the things that would be taken from us if communism should win.

Because our freedom is in danger we are united in its defense. Let no aggressor think we are divided. Our great strength is the loyalty and fellowship of a free people. We pull together when we are in trouble, and we do it by our own choice, not out of fear, but out of love for the great values of our American life, that we all have a share in.

In this great defense effort that we are undertaking, things may not always go as smoothly as we would wish, either in Washington or in your hometown. But remember that we are building our defenses in the democratic way, and not by the iron rule of dictatorship.

Those of us who work in the Government will do our best. But the outcome depends, as it always has depended, on the spirit and energy of our people.

The job of building a stronger America must be done on our farms, in our factories, and in our homes. It must be done by every one of us, wherever we are, and whatever our jobs may be.

In this time of danger each of us must accept an individual responsibility for the good of the country.

Unfortunately, at this moment a railway union and a large number of its members are out on an unlawful strike that has partially paralyzed our railroad system.

This action has already begun to slow down our industry. It is interfering with the movement of troops; it is holding up equipment for our fighting forces; and our civilian population has begun to suffer.

This strike is a danger to the security of our Nation.

As Commander in Chief, therefore, I call upon the union and its striking members to return to work immediately.

I ask you men who are on strike to realize, that no matter how serious you believe your grievances are, nothing can excuse the fact that you are adding to your country's danger. I ask you, in the name of our country, to return immediately to your posts of duty.

Our fighting men in Korea have set an example that should inspire all of us, including this railroad union. Attacked by superior numbers, and in the bitterest of winter weather, they were resolute, steady, and determined. Their steadfast courage in the face of reverses is one of the most heroic stories of our country's history.

In the days ahead, each of us should measure his own efforts, his own sacrifices, by the standard of our heroic men in Korea.

Many of you who are young people will serve in the Armed Forces of the country. Nothing you will do later in life will be of greater benefit to your homes, your communities, or your friends.

Many others of you will have to work longer hours in factories or mines or mills. Think of this not as longer hours, but as more planes, more tanks, more ships, more of all the things that are needed for the defense of your homes and your way of life.

All of us will have to pay more taxes and do without things we like. Think of this, not as a sacrifice, but as an opportunity, an opportunity to defend the best kind of life that men have ever devised on this earth.

As I speak to you tonight, aggression has won a military advantage in Korea. We should not try to hide or explain away that fact.

By the same token, we should draw renewed courage and faith from the response of the free world to that aggression. What the free nations have done in Korea is right, and men all over the world know that it is right. Whatever temporary setbacks there may be, the right will prevail in the end.

Because of all these things I have been talking with you about, I will issue a proclamation tomorrow morning declaring that a national emergency exists. This will call upon every citizen to put aside his personal interests for the good of the country. All our energies must be devoted to the tasks ahead of us.

No nation has ever had a greater responsibility than ours has at this moment. We must remember that we are the leaders of the free world. We must understand that we cannot achieve peace by ourselves, but only by cooperating with other free nations and with the men and women who love freedom everywhere.

We must remember that our goal is not war but peace. Throughout the world our name stands for international justice and for a world based on the principles of law and order. We must keep it that way. We are willing to negotiate differences, but we will not yield to aggression. Appeasement of evil is not the road to peace.

The American people have always met danger with courage and determination. I am confident we will do that now, and with God's help we shall keep our freedom.

Harry S Truman, Radio and Television Report to the American People on the National Emergency. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/230539

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