Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

The President's News Conference

May 18, 1955

[This is a complete transcript of the news conference of this date. All of the President's replies were released for broadcasting or direct quotation at that time.]

THE PRESIDENT. I have no statement, ladies and gentlemen. We will proceed to questions.

Q. Marvin L. Arrowsmith, Associated Press: Mr. President, Senator Morse yesterday accused Mrs. Hobby of gross incompetency and said she should be removed from office. That was criticism in connection with the handling of the Salk vaccine program.

Do you have any comment on those remarks or do you care to say how you feel Mrs. Hobby has been handling the program?

THE PRESIDENT. I will take the second part of your suggestion and talk about that. I don't think I would waste my time on the first part.

Mrs. Hobby, in my opinion, has proved in her office that all of the good opinion built up about her in her work during the war as head of the WAC corps was fully justified. She has been highly efficient. Her counsel in the places of Government has been eagerly sought--a person of great character.

In this whole Salk vaccine business, I think America is forgetting one thing: the thanks we owe to tremendous groups of scientists, devoted doctors, people that have worked night and day, including the people in the Public Health Service, 20 hours a day, to bring to us this great boon for the protection of our children and grandchildren.

Now, she herself has been, when you come down to it, merely the agent of these great scientists and doctors, to work out the plans through which they thought that their findings, and this vaccine, could be brought to our people in the earliest possible point of time, and so directed that those people who need it most, the children, would get it first.

In this great anxiety to do the thing rapidly and broadly, there were certain scientific facts that weren't quite, let's say, wholly satisfactory to these scientists themselves. They were not sure that their test methods were as accurate as they should like. When they found certain evidence appearing, they went back to the job of testing again, and temporarily held up the distribution and administering of this vaccine.

Now, the vaccine, I believe, of two companies--Parke, Davis and Lilly, I believe, are the names--have been released; and they are going ahead with this process so as to get it in full flow again.

Mrs. Hobby has been at the center of this whole business of agreeing with the advisory committee how was the way to do it, how we can speed it up. But they always have held up this standard, safety, making certain that they are not doing something that would work against the life of the child, but to protect the life of that child.

So I think that we really ought to remember at times the debt we owe all of those people for the devoted work they have put into this thing.

Q. Merriman Smith, United Press: Mr. President, Senator Symington wants to know whether this country has lost control of the air to Russia. Do you think so, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, that is a very generalized statement "lost control of the air."

As anybody who is experienced in warfare knows, control of the air is a relative thing, and anybody with a certain amount of air force in action can gain control over a place where he chooses to concentrate his air, for a temporary space of time, even in the face of quite great general superiority on the other side.

The Germans did it to us as late as January 1, 1945. Those of you who were in the European theater on that day will remember what a drenching our airfields got even though we later destroyed a great deal of that attacking force.

Now, as of today, most of you people are rather familiar with the character of our Air Force, including its scientific character.

Back in about 1948-49, we began to build heavily these B-36, well knowing it was a transition aircraft. It was an aircraft that did give us a big intercontinental bomber at the same time that we knew that the day of the big jet bomber was coming along.

But you have to standardize at different periods on particular types. Now, those B-36 planes were good planes for their day, and they are now being phased out as others will come along.

So in the very new ones, since with this possession of this intermediate bomber we had a chance to work for a really fine type in the B-52 and its successors which will certainly come along, we may not have as many B-52's as we should like at this moment. I don't know the exact number, but to say that we have lost in a twinkling all of this great technical development and technical excellence as well as the numbers in our total aircraft is just not true.

Q. Charles E. Shutt, Telenews: Mr. President, in his report to the Nation last night, Secretary Dulles favored a cautious approach on the Big Four meeting. Some observers on Capitol Hill feel that that might be too timid an approach. Would you comment, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, no, because I can't--I don't quite understand the--I can't understand the question, really.

Of course you are going to be cautious. "Cautious" means to proceed at something no matter how hopefully, with caution for your own, let's say, safety, security, or other interests.

Now, as I say, and, as Secretary Dulles said, we are approaching this thing now from a greater position of strength than we ever had before.

We have the unity of Western Europe more nearly assured than before. We are now, by treaty, going to have German forces. We have the Austrian Treaty completed. We are in a better position than ever before. We are stronger. But that does not mean we will be less vigilant.

Now, I don't mean to say that the search for evidences of good faith and the chances to, let's say, lower the burden of armaments and to bring about some progress in peace, they won't be any the less intensive. Of course, they will. But it does not mean, caution, that you are not going to hunt for peace, it means you are going to look out for yourself.

Q. Martin S. Hayden, Detroit News: Mr. President, going back to this airpower question, apparently Senator Symington was aroused because of a report that in Moscow they had seen a flight of new intercontinental bombers or something of the sort.

I would like to ask you, sir, has there been any Russian air development reported that has thrown off your previous planning as to Russian air strength? In other words, have you been greatly startled by any of this.

THE PRESIDENT. I believe this: that from time to time, in several lines of scientific endeavor, aircraft and others, there has come in evidence that exceeded predictions of where they would be at any particular moment.

I remember approving the statement that was issued on that aircraft. I have forgotten the details of it, so I want to be a little bit guarded in my speech. But we do know that they flew past-they didn't fly past on May Day, you know, it was bad weather-but in practice for the May Day they flew past several times, a number of airplanes, among which were a few items which, by the size of their engines, the size of the airframe, would certainly be capable of long-distance flight, carrying heavy loads.

Now, what their condition is inside, what their readiness of technical perfection and all the things that we know go into one of these things, nobody knows.

Q. James B. Reston, New York Times: Sir, you told us 2 weeks ago, I believe, that you were proceeding, or the Government was proceeding, with direct conversations with Communist China about the situation in the Formosa Straits.

Where do we stand on that now?

THE PRESIDENT. Proceeding, did you say?

Q. Mr. Reston: Well, I thought, I got the impression that the Government was looking into the possibility of direct negotiations.

THE PRESIDENT. I think the Secretary of State announced shortly after he came back from Asia, as I recall, that if there seemed to be profitable chances for talking on the one subject that he said, the cease-fire in the Straits, he would be quite ready to do it.

I think there is nothing additional to add since then. I know of nothing that has occurred that would change his readiness or his receptiveness to that idea for that one purpose only. But I do not know of anything else on this day.

Q. Robert E. Clark, International News Service: Mr. President, this is a double Big Four question: do you think you might visit any other European city, as London or Paris, en route to or from a Big Four conference; and if it were possible, would you like to have Marshal Zhukov present at the Big Four conference?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I hadn't given any thought, Mr. Clark, to either question.

As you know, I have a tremendous number of friends in both those cities, and on a friendly basis I would like to drop in. But there might be a lot of protocol questions that would make such a visit a very difficult affair.

I couldn't say, to answer your second question, who the Soviets should choose as the personnel of their delegation. But if Marshal Zhukov were there, he and I at least would have a chance to talk personally and, I think, to talk over events since 1945 among ourselves. We might just get some item of value out of it; I am not sure.

Q. Pat Munroe, Salt Lake City Deseret News: Mr. President, we hear reports on Capitol Hill that both Russia and Great Britain will steal the show from American businessmen at the United Nations Atoms for Peace Conference in Geneva in August.

Some say that our Atomic Energy Commission is actually discouraging industry in this country from putting its best foot forward.

I wonder if you have any comment, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I should say someone is very badly mistaken in two ways.

First, as to our purpose in going to this meeting, we are not going to this meeting to conduct a contest. As long ago as December 9, 1953, I asked publicly other nations of the globe to cooperate with us in placing before the entire world the knowledge concerning the possible peaceful uses of atomic energy.

If anybody comes there ready to follow up along that line, and to show concretely and constructively that they are ready to devote the atomic science to the betterment of man and not to his destruction, I will applaud just as loudly as I know how, and particularly if that is an effective thing.

Now, when it comes down to the discouragement by the AEC, the AEC then must be doing two things, because they are the ones that come to me and hold out in front of me the great opportunity we have here.

The reactor that we are to put there--while it is a simple one, and one of the relatively less expensive--it is an actual operating reactor that we are putting in there, in cooperation with the Swiss Government and the Secretary General of the United Nations.

We asked, I believe, 1100 scientists to prepare papers on this-no, we asked American scientists, I believe 1100 American scientists responded with papers that could be presented there on this business of peaceful uses.

I forget the number of American industries that are cooperating. I expect it really to be a very splendid exhibition of what America, an aroused America, in this line can do.

And, therefore, I can say this: I sincerely hope that others put their best foot forward because ours is going to be something that no one can laugh off. [Confers with Mr. Hagerty]

Seventy-five industrial firms, I am given to understand.

Q. William H. Lawrence, New York Times: I wonder, sir, as a military man yourself, and as Commander in Chief, if you could give us your opinion as to the effect on both morale and the re-enlistment rate in the military forces, if all the commissaries and PX's were to be shut down as the Hoover Commission now suggests?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I am sorry you added the last two or three words, because--

Q. Mr. Lawrence: I will withdraw them, sir. [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. The reason being this, Mr. Lawrence: I have not read that report, and they may put in some qualifications.

I have never believed in the uncontrolled spread of the Post Exchanges of the United States Army. But I believe that to take away the commissary privileges and the Post Exchange privileges from military, uniformed personnel, wherever they may be, when those are really needful things in order to give them the normal business of living, and give it to them at a decent price, I believe it would be a terrible injustice to those people.

On the other hand, it is one of those things in which just judgment must come in, in order that a privilege is not abused and becomes something that is intolerable.

Q. Edward J. Milne, Providence Journal: Mr. President, in connection with the NATO Council visit--some of us were at Norfolk the other day--Admiral Wright was not himself doing any griping, but there was some suggestion that, perhaps, the forces assigned to SACLANT are not adequate for the mission.

I wonder if you, in connection with the visit, would care to comment on your views on the adequacy of this strength.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, no, I can't because I have not heard the complaint, and the Navy Department has not brought up to me lately detailed reports of the strength of SACLANT.

Q. Mr. Milne: Would you feel from what you do know, sir, in general, that we are relatively better off in terms of a new battle of the Atlantic than we were during the opening of World War II?

THE PRESIDENT. I think so, by all odds.

Q. Robert J. Donovan, New York Herald Tribune: Mr. President, I wonder if I could ask these two questions: it was reported last week that Mrs. Hobby, for purely personal reasons and not because of the Salk controversy, would leave the Government in a few months. One, I wondered if you had heard of that and, two, I wondered, sir, if you could comment on the supply of this vaccine. It seems to be shorter than we had expected; and I wondered if you had had any report and knew how much was available or whether you are going to ask for

THE PRESIDENT. Mr. Donovan, I will do my best to answer both questions. But you must realize that as much as I do my homework to keep up with the business of this Government, there are details that really could be best answered in some of the departments rather than to come to me.

First, Mrs. Hobby placed me on notice some many months ago that conditions might arise that would compel her to leave Government.

Now, the only thing I will say about it is this: if she has to go, I will be very, very disappointed. I think she has not only proved her own worth, but I think she is a symbol of something in which I very deeply believe: that properly trained women of this country are just as capable of carrying heavy executive jobs as are the men. And I think she has done a mighty magnificent job.

Now, as to supply, the report I had this morning was that-what time was it? [Confers with Mr. Hagerty]

Yes. They have enough in their hands for the first go-around, that is, the first shot of all the people that they had calculated on, that is, the first and second grades.

If some of those shots are not given by the time that school is out, particularly in the South, their plan is to set up days for meeting either at the schoolhouses or other places where these shots will be given. So the only estimate I was given this morning on amounts was that they had enough on hand and in sight to do that.

Q. Ray L. Scherer, National Broadcasting Company: Mr. President, can you shed any light on the report that there is a plan for Mr. Nixon to make a good will trip to Europe, including a possible stop-off in Moscow?

THE PRESIDENT. No such plan has been mentioned to me.

Q. Andrew F. Tully, Jr., Scripps-Howard: Mr. President, have you had any correspondence lately with Marshal Zhukov?


Q. Mr. Tully: Do you plan it, sir?


Q. Mr. Tully: Do you plan to?

THE PRESIDENT. Not at the moment.

Q. Sarah McClendon, El Paso Times: Sir, the military reserve manpower bill was changed somewhat, as you know, by the House Armed Services Committee, and there was quite a talk yesterday in the House by Congressman Brooks of Louisiana about the buildup of the Red Forces, in addition to other reports on the airpower we have been getting.

I wonder if you still think, in view of these changes, that this bill will be sufficient to give this country, if passed, the protection it needs?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, this bill, of course, I would not claim is perfection in the sense of getting our military manpower trained and prepared as I should like to see it, but it represents a very great step forward. Consequently, I support it not only passively, I support it very actively, and urgently hope that it will be passed; although later, unquestionably, we will find features in which we will want to improve it even more.

Q. Garnett D. Horner, Washington Star: Mr. President, can you tell us yet your views about the postal pay raise bill which Republican leaders in Congress predict you will veto?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I haven't been studying more earnestly for a long time than I am studying on that bill. As a matter of fact, I have studied a couple of hours this morning. I am still studying that bill.

Q. Alan S. Emory, Watertown Times: Mr. President, on Monday Secretary Hobby told the Senate Labor Committee that no one could have foreseen the public demand for the anti-polio vaccine.

What do you think was the difficulty in foreseeing the great public demand for the vaccine?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't know to what she is referring. You have to go and ask her the question.

Q. Lawrence Fernsworth, Concord (New Hampshire ) Monitor: Mr. President, the plight of the American Indians has recently been discussed in a certain sector of the press, Look magazine, and a church publication. One of these articles talks of the Indians from South Dakota as being obliged to haul water in rusty barrels from 30 to 100 miles; talks of disease, poverty, and high infant mortality. It describes the plight of the average American Indian as being little better than was the plight of the refugees in Korea.

One of the proposals suggested in one of these articles is a 4-point program for the American Indian. Another is a relocation program.

Now, it has been noted that one of the pledges during the Republican campaign was that this matter, the welfare of the American Indians, would receive attention. Could the President tell us whether any progress has been made in that direction?

THE PRESIDENT. I note that there has been progress made with the Indians in the progressive granting of citizenship, where this has been applicable, and so on.

The particular case you bring up, I don't know about. I will look it up, because I agree with your implicit criticism, if such conditions exist, it is high time they were stopped. I think it can be stopped.

Q. Walter Kerr, New York Herald Tribune: Mr. President, in its recent note--

THE PRESIDENT. Would you identify yourself?

Q. Mr. Kerr: I beg your pardon, sir, Walter Kerr of the Herald Tribune.


Q. Mr. Kerr: In its recent note to the Soviet Government proposing Four Power talks, the United States, like Britain and France, has suggested an exchange of views on the great problems of the day.

I wonder if you would care, either today or perhaps at an early conference to come, if you would care to discus what you regard as what great problems you had in mind when you approved the text of that note.

THE PRESIDENT. I think that Mr. Dulles pointed out last evening that the purpose of this one conference would be to try to discover directions or paths for searching for solutions to these great problems. I think he enumerated some of them, such as the problem of the satellite states, the unification of Germany, the--I forget the adjective he used, but at least the penetration of so many nations supported by the Cominform, the international communistic organization. He named a few of that kind, and that is the kind of thing, I think, that would probably be mentioned as you search for ways that these should be approached.

Would you set up special groups? Would you turn it over to ordinary diplomatic exchanges, or what could you do? That is the kind of thing I think would be talked about.

Q. Chalmers M. Roberts, Washington Post and Times Herald: Mr. President, last night you used the phrase that you felt there was a greater maturity among the American people now than some time ago when you were discussing the possible--

THE PRESIDENT. If I used the word "maturity," I probably meant knowledge or understanding, in that sense.

Some years back, I was struck by the fact that we were probably going to extremes in this thing. It was either black or white. You either had a war right now, or peace that was wonderful, and you would get it.

I believe that people have learned through a dozen attempts, through rebuffs, through the reading in the newspapers and hearing on the television and the radio about the process and progress of these conferences, that you don't expect too much.

But, on the other hand, you don't ignore any chance to reach some agreement that may represent one tiny step toward this great aspiration of men.

Now, I should possibly not have used the word "maturity," but I do mean knowledge and understanding of these facts.

Q. Mr. Roberts: I was wondering, sir, whether that phrase or thought covered this aspect: there have been some people in Congress, including members of your own party, who appear to take the position that even to go to such a conference is an act of appeasement. And I wondered if you felt that that attitude was really not expressive of the American people today.

THE PRESIDENT. I don't believe it for a minute. May I be personal? I have met with these people through months, and there is no appeasement in my heart that I know about.

As I understand, appeasement is selling out fights or other people to gain some fancied immediate end of your own. I just can't believe that America in general either wants it or that they suspect their government in general is apt to fall into that trap.

Q. Edward P. Morgan, American Broadcasting Company: Following up Mr. Roberts' question, and referring somewhat to both your and Mr. Dulles' observations last night about maturity and sophistication of American thinking, as reflected in your mail, and so forth, do you think, sir, that we may have to make a rather deep adjustment in our thinking under the light of present developments abroad on such things as East-West trade, and what neutrality for Germany means in both Russian and other terms?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think this: certain sectors of our population unquestionably will have to make adjustments, because they have not thought these things through.

You can say one thing: trade is the greatest weapon in the hands of the diplomat.

Now, how he uses it, whether it is in negative fashion or in positive fashion, to gain the legitimate ends of his government, that is great statesmanship and, particularly, international statesmanship.

So, just to adopt a policy and say, "We won't trade," and think that only good will come out of that is, I think, false.

We have to say "When does trade in what things benefit us most and our friends."

Remember, we have got friends in this world; this business of trade is a very complicated business. So I would say as long as we are not helping the war-making powers directly of other people, we should study the question objectively and what it

means to us, and not just go by preconception.

Q. Mr. Morgan: Could you just

THE PRESIDENT. I am trying to get around as far as I can.

Q. George H. Hall, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: There have been some suggestions that the Hoover Commission wants to make some changes or rather the Hoover Commission task force wants to make some changes in the setup of the TVA. Would you like to see any change whatever in the setup as it is now constituted?

THE PRESIDENT. Well now, that is a question I couldn't say, because as much as I have been in this TVA in question-and-answer periods, I certainly don't know all the details of its organization.

I think that the Hoover Commission has served a very great purpose for this country. And this time, you remember, the second time, it not only had strictly organizational problems, it had organizational and functional problems to take up.

In other words, was the Government in business it shouldn't be in, or should it get into something that it wasn't in, or was it doing it in the right way or in the right places? It has had a very broad charter under which to operate.

As its subcommittee reports come up to the committee itself, they will be studied by the combined brains of some very great Americans. Finally, they come to the executive department and to the Congress simultaneously. Some answers are reached.

Now, just exactly what they proposed here, I don't know. But I would say this: as you will recall, we will never wreck the TVA. It is a going historical concern. It's served a useful purpose. It was put up for particular purposes and, actually, if you go back to the original bill, I don't think many people can quarrel about the purposes for which it was originally set up.

Q. Henri Pierre, LeMonde (Paris): Mr. President, would you care to comment about the next visit of the Soviet leaders in Yugoslavia and, generally speaking, about the idea of a neutrality belt of states between the two worlds?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, no, I cannot even say what is behind this visit, except, obviously, there is hope of rapprochement of some kind, that we don't know the details about at all.

And I do say this: that there seems to be developing the thought that there might be built up a series of neutralized states from north to south through Europe.

Now, remember this: in the agreement of the neutralization of Austria, it does not mean a disarmed Austria. It is not a blank, it is not a military blank. It is on the order of Switzerland.

Switzerland is committed to the sustaining of its own neutrality and, I believe, would fight to the death for it.

All right. That kind of a neutrality is a far different thing from just a military vacuum.

Merriman Smith, United Press: Thank you, Mr. President.

Note: President Eisenhower's sixty-ninth news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 10:32 to 11:02 o'clock on Wednesday morning, May 18, 1955. In attendance: 202.

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/233897

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