Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

The President's News Conference

November 10, 1954

THE PRESIDENT. Please be seated. I understand, ladies and gentlemen, that there are present this morning two groups of additional reporters, one from NATO countries, and one who came with the Premier from Japan. For my part, I heartily welcome them here in this company.

I have no announcements to make, so we will go right to questions.

Q. Robert E. Clark, International News Service: Mr. President, the shooting down of one of our B-29's recently by Russian fighters is the latest in a series of incidents in which the Soviet has both rejected our claim for reparations and brushed aside our protest notes. Is there anything we can do to guard against such incidents and force reparations, aside from filing formal protests?

THE PRESIDENT. You raise a very complicated, in some ways tricky, problem.

The world, enjoying what we call a peace, is nevertheless very watchful of its own borders.

Now, with respect to this last incident, let me show you some of the cloudy features of it.

I believe it is the Habomai Islands, right off the coast of Hokkaido--range from two miles, the closest one, on out to several miles. Now, back in the World War, the Kuriles were turned over by agreement to the Russians. No matter what you think of the wisdom or unwisdom of that agreement, there was the further complication itself that the southern boundary of the Kuriles was apparently not definitely defined; and since then the Soviets have claimed that the little islands right off of Hokkaido were part of the Kuriles.

This incident took place right in that area. Naturally, since it is a disputed area, they are very jealous in keeping hold of it--I guess they are going on the theory that possession is nine points; I don't know. But in any event, this isn't one of those clear-cut things where you can just say this, this, this, this must be so, and that is that.

Now, on the other hand, when we do have this type of incident, we believe we are the aggrieved party, I think that we are entitled to courteous answers and examination into the matter. In this latest incident there was, I would say, a very considerably different attitude shown on the part of the others than there has been in the past.

Just exactly what will come out of this one, I cannot say.

I do want to point out, though, that these things are not always so completely clean-cut as they might look on the surface. But we think we are aggrieved, we believe that the plane had a right to be where it was; and so, therefore, our protest--which was, of course, done at my direction and my approval. That is where the case stands.

Q. Edward T. Folliard, Washington Post and Times Herald: This question, Mr. President, is related to Mr. Clark's question. Chip Bohlen, our Ambassador to Russia, attended an anniversary party in Moscow the other night. Now, he has been criticized for that because of this plane incident. Do you see anything unbecoming in his conduct?

THE PRESIDENT. Of course, decisions about such things are usually made as much by the emotions and the sentiments as they are by calm, logical thought.

As I understand it, Mr. Bohlen got this news some 30 minutes before he was going to a party that was a very formal affair in the capital. He obviously could not have known anything of the details; he couldn't even make up his mind, possibly, as to whether this was an accident where one of our planes had gotten lost or what had happened. He had to make up his mind on the spur of the moment. And I believe this: I believe we have a good group of foreign officers, as I have repeated time and again. I believe they can be trusted to act with good judgment so far as the facts present with them at any time will permit them to act; and I am not going to sit here this far off and say this man was wrong for going to that meeting. He had to make up his own mind, and that's that.

Q. Robert W. Richards, Copley Press: Whatever possessed us to give away the Kuriles?

THE PRESIDENT. I really haven't the slightest notion. It happens that I did not attend any of the conferences during the war when our people were conferring with what has turned out to be the opposite side, with the Soviets. So I don't know what the influences were, and it is one thing concerning which I have never talked to any of the principals. So except for the papers that have been published on these things, I know nothing about it.

Q. Sarah McClendon, El Paso Times: Sir, I believe it was in 1950 that President Truman, in an effort to achieve more bipartisan foreign policy, appointed John Foster Dulles and John Sherman Cooper as consultants for the State Department, their main mission being, I believe, to contact Senators and Congressmen on Capitol Hill. I wonder if you plan to do the same thing?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't know exactly what method will be pursued in this thing. But I think, as I explained before, as far as personal contacts and friendships are concerned, I have many personal friends among the leaders of the other party. I personally anticipate no difficulty in meeting with these leaders and talking to them about our mutual problems. Now, just exactly how we will do it, I don't know.

Q. Charles S. von Fremd, CBS News: Mr. President, there have been several stories during the past week--I don't know whether or not they are strictly speculative or not--reporting that Chiang Kai-shek and the Chinese Nationalists have been ordered by this country not to attack the Chinese Communist mainland, and that their forces are to be used-land, sea, and air forces--are to be used only as a defensive device. Can you tell us whether or not that is true?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, now, first of all, we try to deal with out partners as such; we do not give orders. We do make agreements about the possible and proper use of certain of the materials we furnish; those are made in advance.

Now, with Nationalist China, there are constant talks going on as to what is wisdom at the moment, what is wisdom for the future, what should be our relationships. Those go on all the time. But I would say that there is no atom of truth in the statement that we have issued orders to Chiang Kai-shek. We just don't do that.

Q. William M. Blair, New York Times: Mr. President, Mr. Thomas Murray, a member of the Atomic Energy Commission, testified before the Joint Committee this week that the top level management of the Atomic Energy Commission was being diverted from its primary mission by what he described as a political controversy over the Dixon-Yates contract. Would you agree with this conclusion and discuss with us, sir, your views on whether the Atomic Energy Commission should be a nonpolitical or a political body?

THE PRESIDENT. I think, of course, that any business organization working for the Government should be nonpolitical, and I deplore any thought that there had been an effort to make this matter political. On the contrary, this contract--to which has been raised some objection-there was no effort to keep that under cover until after the elections. It was laid out and spread out on the record as fast as it could be--first, the negotiations, and after the contract was once in the hands of the Congress, then the country.

Possibly I had better straighten out once again my attitude toward this whole business.

It was represented to me that there was going to be an acute power shortage in the TVA area by 1957. Now we have an area in which the Federal Government has not only fully developed the waterpower, has then built the steamplants to firm up that waterpower, then has built additional steamplants, and is still enlarging some of them.

The question becomes how long does this go along at Federal expense unless we do it in the Smoky Hill Valley and in the Penobscot Valley, and in the Hudson Valley, and all the rest of the world. It would look like it was time to take a look at this. So, consequently, I said, "How can we supply that need without putting the Government in position that in perpetuity it is going to continue to build steamplants anywhere anyone wants them?"

Now, one way to do it was to take the needs of the AEC and to see whether they could be supplied and, therefore, provide this extra 600,000 watts it was then predicted they were going to need in 1957; then you wouldn't damage the people of the area, and you would go ahead and give everybody time to take a good look at this and study it out.

There is nothing in this contract that can raise by a single cent the prices that TVA charges its customers for power. And the contract was gone over, as I told you before, by the Federal Power Commission, by TVA and, I believe, the General Accounting Office, all of whom found it a satisfactory contract.

So if there is anything political in it, someone is making it that way; it is nothing political from my viewpoint.

I appointed a man to head the TVA who, as far as I know, has never had a political affiliation in his life, who has got a long professional career, competent in this field of hydroelectric engineering. He has got one order: to find out the facts and advise the President and the Congress as to what he believes to be right. So if there is any politics in this thing, it is not by my choosing.

Q. John M. Hightower, Associated Press: Mr. President, could you tell us anything about the possible use of fighter escorts under the present policy or whether the policy might be changed with respect to these aircraft?

THE PRESIDENT. You are bringing up again this B-29?

Q. Mr. Hightower: Yes, sir.

THE PRESIDENT. My own feeling is that when we use planes for any necessary or desirable purpose in areas that are risky, they ought to be planes that fit that particular specification; we shouldn't use them as just sitting ducks.

So if a fighter escort is necessary where we know we have got a right to go, then we ought to use them.

For example, you will remember some time back there was a plane downed at sea, a British plane. We knew there were Americans aboard, and we wanted to pursue rescue operations. The forces going in there were directed to protect themselves because they were in an area we knew they had a right to be. I think we should--we must do that.

Q. Robert L. Riggs, Louisville Courier-Journal: Mr. President, this week, one of your strong supporters journalistically, the Scripps-Howard Papers, called on you to let go of the Dixon-Yates contract. They said it was a dangerous thing politically and would hurt you. Have you changed your mind any on supporting the Dixon-Yates contract, or are we to understand that it is going to go?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I haven't changed my mind for this simple reason: no better contract has been offered. If we are going to get power in that region, and if we are going to get it in this amount, I know of no better way to get it. No better way has been offered, so until there is some better way offered, I have got to stick with this one.

Q. Raymond P. Brandt, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Mr. President, on that point, why were not the specifications laid down for this, and competitive bids asked?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't want to be quoted here too exactly that I can't change my mind; but, as I remember it, I was informed that they put this matter up before a number of utilities and there were only two offers received. One was, they thought, completely unacceptable, because there was no risk whatsoever.

You remember, in contracts of the past where the AEC has made contracts, they have been strictly cost-plus. I rejected those; I thought they weren't good for the Government. I thought we ought to have a contract where there is some risk shared by the building companies, so I insisted on that.

The other plan, as I understand it, that was submitted, was again one which the building companies took no risk on.

Q. Mr. Brandt: As I understand, the specifications were very general, and there was only one other company made a bid. And I also understand that TVA was not consulted in the initial steps.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, you would have to check that up with AEC and with the Bureau of the Budget. I can't be expected to recall every detail, but I do know they came and sat in front of me often enough, and I assume TVA knew about it.

Q. Mr. Brandt: The previous Chairman of TVA testified that he was not called in on the initial proceedings to give the expert advice.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I do believe this: I believe that the prior Chairman's whole attitude toward this particular matter was well-known; but I don't recall, and I think that you have got good places to find out that detail.

Q. Mr. Brandt: May I ask one more question, please?


Q. Mr. Brandt: Are you adamant against TVA expanding further?

THE PRESIDENT. You say "adamant." I hope that I am old enough that I don't think there is anything particularly sacrosanct about my decisions and conclusions.

I do believe this: that if we continue to expand there, what are we going to do about the other sections of this country. I think there has got to be a policy deliberately adopted by the United States before we make things so lopsided; because, let me tell you, for every argument I have had for TVA, there are many, many people, political leaders, business leaders, come to my office and say: "Why do you continue to give them cheap power and take away our industries, and then we pay taxes to support them?"

Now, I don't know that there is any justice to that argument. And, as I told you again and again, I have put a man down there from whom I believe we can all expect absolutely objective and complete reporting on the thing. I hope we get it, because I would like to know what the answer is.

Q. Robert L. Riggs, Louisville Courier-Journal: Mr. President, could I ask one more?


Q. Mr. Riggs: There are two kinds of expansions, sir: one is geographical and the other one is expanding power production--

THE PRESIDENT. That is right.

Q. Mr. Riggs: --inside TVA's area. Now, do you oppose expansion both ways?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, again, I say, I don't know too much about it. Look--if the Federal Government is committed just to building power in the TVA and giving them 100 percent of all they will ever want in their estimates for the next 5 years, why don't I do it in the Mississippi Valley? That is what I want to know, and no one answers for me. I ask them-the TVA people come in my office and stand around and argue, and I say, "Well, now, are you ready to support, before you get any more, are you ready to support this kind of development for the upper Mississippi?" And they just look at me and say, "That is outside the question." But it isn't to me; I believe that the United States should be treated fairly all the way through.

Q. Mr. Riggs: Their argument down there is that the Federal Government is their power monopoly in that area. Any expansion they get in that region must come from the Federal Government.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, to my mind, I would hate to be admitting that I am completely and absolutely dependent upon the vagaries of the Federal Government that might do anything at any moment. I don't believe any section of this country has to be completely dependent upon the Federal Government unless it is the District here.

Q. Paul Scott Rankine, Reuters: Mr. President, could I ask another question?


Q. Mr. Rankine: About the plane incident, you said that this was not one of those clear-cut things. Now, could you tell us what it is that isn't clear-cut? Is it the issues, the territory, or the facts?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I said--I thought I explained it very carefully--that the Soviets are claiming title to this little group of islands well to the south of the Kuriles, and one of which is only a matter of 2 or 3 miles off Hokkaido.

Now, that has never been accepted by the United States, and never been accepted by Japan. I believe that line came about because it was an occupational line agreed upon by the Supreme Commander right after the war, and so it is now called a part of the Soviet territory by them, but we don't admit that. So that is where you have--it isn't one of these cases where a plane has come out in the middle toward Hawaii and shot you down.

Q. Robert E. Clark, International News Service: Mr. President, one more question on this: you also said that there has been a very considerable difference of attitude shown in this case than in previous instances. Do you mean the Russians have been more receptive to our protests this time?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I am saying this: the general attitude here seemed to be more conciliatory than it has been in some former instances. Actually, I can say no more than that at the moment, because I don't know whether the note itself was released or not; I have forgotten.

Q. John Herling, Editors Syndicate: Mr. President, this being American Education Week, and so designated by you, I wonder whether, as President of the United States and as former president of a great university, you would care to comment on the anti-intellectual trend in our country which expresses itself in hostility to new ideas or different ideas or even traditional ideas?

THE PRESIDENT. I think I have made speeches on this subject, and I would have thought that my attitude would be clearly understood.

I believe that when people get so frightened of new ideas that they can't tolerate them, they are getting frightened of themselves.

I want to make it very clear, I do not and would not tolerate anyone anywhere that was openly preaching the destruction of the United States form of government by violence. That, to my mind, is not mere idea, that is one type of war.

But anyone who wants to talk a philosophy, a philosophy of life, of an economy, of a government, or of a social order, I think if we don't examine them and look at them, we are confessing a fear which I, for one, do not feel.

I believe the United States system can stand on its own feet. I believe it will be upheld by our people in the face of really open and exhaustive discussion. And I deplore any idea that you can shut off thoughts, ideas, and grow strong; I just don't.

Q. George E. Herman, CBS News: Mr. President, George Herman, CBS--I have been rehearsing it all week. [Laughter]

Sir, along those same lines of education, there has been a survey or series of surveys lately that said that the Soviet Union's output of science students has been vastly increasing in quality and in quantity, and that our own output of students who are interested in science seems to. be on a dangerous downtrend, continually decreasing. Have you any thoughts on the part of the Government in that sense?

THE PRESIDENT. I believe that here is one place where people in Government should be very alert, and if we find anything like that, there are numbers of ways open to us that can correct the situation without waiting for the economic influences to do it.

We know this: if you get few enough scientists, they can command prices that you will have a rush to the scientific colleges. But we can't wait for that, so I believe the Federal Government could establish scholarships. I would not want the Federal Government to go in and support a particular college or university, and then say, "Now, go there." But you could support scholarships which could be used at any outstanding university, and in a number of ways could encourage this kind of education.

I haven't talked lately to any of my scientific friends on this subject; I am just saying what could be done and, possibly, will have to be done. I don't know.

John L. Cutter, United Press: Thank you, Mr. President.

Note: President Eisenhower's fifty-second news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 10:30 to 10:53 o'clock on Wednesday morning, November 10, 1954. In attendance: 169.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, The President's News Conference Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/233280

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