Harry S. Truman photo

The President's News Conference

September 25, 1947

THE PRESIDENT. I have some rather lengthy statements to make to you this morning, and I have just asked Mr. Merriman Smith not to say "Thank you, Mr. President," too quickly. I didn't want anyone to think that I want to avoid any questions you want to ask.

[1.] The first announcement I have to make is Arthur S. Barrows of Illinois to be Under Secretary for Air. Eugene M. Zuckert of Connecticut and Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney of New York to be Assistant Secretaries for Air. Gen. Carl Spaatz will be Chief of Staff.

Dr. Vannevar Bush has been appointed Chairman of the Research and Development Board. And there is a letter--mimeographed letter from me that will be available for you when you go out.

[2.] I am calling a meeting of the Commission on Organization of the Executive Branch of the Government for 11 o'clock on Monday the 29th.

[3.] And now I have got a couple of rather long statements here, which I hope you will bear with me while I read them: one on food and one on the Marshall plan.

Q. Mimeographed, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. All mimeographed. Everything is available in mimeographed form so that you can get it all written down, but I want you to hear it because it's right important.

[Reading]. "I am making public today a report from the Cabinet Committee on World Food Programs which emphasizes a critical situation calling for immediate action by every American.1 The report stresses the extremely grave food situation abroad and the relationship between our ability to help meet urgent foreign food needs and the price situation in the United States.

1 The 5-page mimeographed report dated September 22, with letter of transmittal of the same date, was released by the White House later in the day. Also released was the text of a letter, dated September 24, summarizing the Committee's recommendations.

"The Committee states that adverse crop developments, including those of recent weeks, both in North America and in Europe, make apparent a food shortage even worse than a year ago. The losses from heavy frosts in northwestern Europe last winter have been increased by a general European drought this spring and summer. Any significant cut in the already low rations in those countries will have most serious consequences for their rehabilitation.

"In the face of this situation, the report shows that, without further action, we would be able to carry through a large export program; but, as a result of sharply reduced corn production and continued high domestic demand for grain, exports would not equal last year's total shipments--even though world needs are greater.

"The United States cannot rest on this export prospect. To ship more abroad without adjustments in domestic demand, however, would aggravate our own price situation.

"In presenting their report, the Cabinet Committee stressed the urgency of doing everything possible to meet the problem at home and abroad. It recommended further emphasis on shipments of food other than grain in rounding out our export program, and on arrangements for the fullest participation by other nations in the combined effort to increase available supplies and to channel them to points of greatest need.

"The Committee made it clear, however, that definite steps to conserve on use of foodstuffs at home and reduce the feeding of grain to livestock will be essential if we are to make our fullest contribution towards meeting minimum foreign needs and at the same time relieve the upward pressure on prices at home.

"As a primary step, I am therefore appointing a Citizens Food Committee to advise on ways and means of carrying out the necessary conservation effort. Charles Luckman of Cambridge, Mass., will serve as chairman of this nonpartisan committee. I am asking the Citizens Food Committee to meet at the earliest possible moment to develop plans for bringing the vital problem of food conservation to the attention of every American for action.1

1 The President's telegram to those invited to serve on the Committee announced that the first meeting would be held at the White House on October 1 at 10 a.m. (see Item 198). The telegram, dated September 25, was released by the White House on September 26.

"At the same time, I am establishing a working organization which will mobilize the resources of the Government in support of the overall program. I will also confer with the congressional leaders of both parties regarding legislative action which may be necessary.

"While waiting for detailed recommendations from the Citizens Committee, there is one immediate and personal thing each of us can do. We can start now to conserve by being more selective in foods we buy, particularly livestock products whose production requires large quantities of grain. Such action on our part will do two things. We will save on our family budget and we will help others who are in desperate need. I am confident that the American people, realizing the extreme seriousness of the situation, will fully cooperate."

Here is a list of the committee:

Charles Luckman, President of Lever Brothers, Cambridge, Mass., is chairman. These other people have been asked to serve. Mr. Luckman has accepted, and the others, I am sure, will accept as soon as the word reaches them.

Mrs. J. L. Blair-Buck, President, General Federation of Women's Clubs, Richmond, Va.

Harry A. Bullis, President, General Mills, Inc., Minneapolis, Minn.

Chester C. Davis, President, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, St. Louis, Mo.

Albert S. Goss, Master of the National Grange, Washington, D.C.

Lester B. Granger, Executive Secretary, National Urban League of New York City.

William Green, President, American Federation of Labor.

James S. Knowlson, Chairman of the Board and President, Stewart-Warner Corporation of Chicago.

Herbert H. Lehman, Lehman Brothers, New York.

G. R. LeSauvage, National Restaurant Advisory Committee of New York City.

John A. Logan, President, National Association of Food Chains, Washington.

John Holmes, President of Swift and Company, Chicago.

James H. McGraw, Jr., McGraw-Hill Publishing Co., Inc., New York.

Eugene Meyer, Washington Post, Washington, D.C.

Justin Miller, President, National Association of Broadcasters, Pacific Palisades, Calif.

Philip Murray, President, Congress of Industrial Organizations.

Dr. William I. Myers, Dean of Agriculture, Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y.

Edward A. O'Neal, President, American Farm Bureau Federation, Chicago.

James G. Patton, President, Farmers Union, Denver.

T. S. Repplier, President, Advertising Council, Washington.

Quentin Reynolds, President, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, West Springfield, Mass.

Spyros Skouras, President, 20th Century Fox Film Corporation, New York.

A. E. Staley, Jr., President, A. E. Staley Manufacturing Co., Decatur, Ill.

Miss Anna Lord Strauss, President, League of Women Voters, Washington.

Paul S. Willis, Executive Secretary, Grocery Manufacturers of America, Inc., New York.

And Harry W. Zinsmaster, Chairman, American Bakers Association, Duluth, Minn.

[4.] [Reading]. "The Secretary of State has transmitted to me the official report of the Committee of European Economic Cooperation"--that's it right there [indicating on his desk] for anybody who wants to read it--"prepared by the representatives of the 16 nations who have been meeting in Paris since early July.1 At my request, Secretary Marshall is sending a message to the Chairman of the Committee, Foreign Minister Bevin, acknowledging receipt of the report by the United States Government.

1 The report dated September 21, 1947, is printed in two volumes "General Report," 138 pp., and "Technical Reports," 552 pp. (Government Printing Office).

"As the document itself states, it is an 'initial report,' and is subject to review and revision. Nonetheless, it reflects an unprecedented effort at economic cooperation by the 16 countries participating in the Paris Conference. In the light of the political tensions and the economic instability in Europe, it is an important and encouraging first step that these nations had the initiative and the determination to meet together and produce this report.

"The problem to which this report is addressed not only underlies the political and economic well-being of Europe but is also of key importance to a stable peace in the world. The people of the United States recognize, as do the people of the European nations, that the earliest practicable achievement of economic health, and consequent political stability in Europe, is of utmost importance for the peace and well-being of the world.

"I note that the program presented in the report is based on the 4 following lines of action by the 16 European nations: (1) a strong productive effort on their part; (2) creation of internal financial stability; (3) maximum cooperation among the participating countries; and (4) a solution to the trading deficit with the American Continent, particularly by exports. These are sound principles and will appeal to the commonsense of the American people. Their effective translation into practice is vital both to European recovery and to worldwide economic health.

"While the 16-nation committee has been meeting in Paris, the United States Government has been proceeding with complementary studies on this side of the Atlantic.

"Last June I appointed three committees to study the relationship between aid which may be extended to foreign countries and the interests of our domestic economy. One of these, headed by the Secretary of the Interior, has been making a study of the state of our natural resources. Another of these studies, relating to the impact on our national economy of aid to other countries, is being conducted by the Council of Economic Advisers. The third group, a nonpartisan committee of distinguished citizens under the chairmanship of the Secretary of Commerce, was requested to determine the character and quantities of United States resources available for assistance to foreign countries and to advise the President on the limits within which the United States may safely and wisely plan to extend such assistance."

Each one of these agencies will receive a copy of the European Report.

"Other agencies of the executive branch of the Government have also been considering the role which should be played by the United States in European recovery.

"The great interest of the Congress in this subject has been demonstrated by the number of its Members whom it has sent abroad to study prevailing conditions at first hand.

"We shall need to consult with representatives of the European Committee to obtain clarification and amplification of the initial report and to obtain further information, as it becomes available, as to the specific measures to be adopted by the participating countries in carrying out the principles set forth in the report.

"I am requesting the special committees which I appointed and other Government agencies to appraise the information received from the European Committee in the light of the studies they have conducted. The results of this appraisal will be made available to the appropriate congressional committees.

"On the basis of these studies, which will go forward without delay, the facts will be presented and recommendations will be formulated so that the American people through their representatives in Congress can determine to what extent and in what manner the resources of the United States may be brought to the support of the renewed European efforts to achieve sustained economic recovery. When the American people are satisfied as to the scope of the necessary program and the sufficiency of measures of self-help and mutual help being taken by the European countries, and when we can determine what resources we should and can wisely make available, I am sure that we shall respond as quickly as possible.

"Meanwhile, certain problems have arisen in connection with the economic situation in Europe that are of such an urgent nature that their solution cannot await the careful study required for the overall decisions which will be based on the reports. These problems are of an emergency nature which demand immediate attention.

"It is for this reason that I have requested a group. of congressional leaders to meet with me on Monday, September 29th, to discuss plans for determining the action to be taken by the United States to aid in preserving the stability and promoting the recovery of the nations which participated in the Paris Conference."

I am sorry that those things have to be so long, and that they had to be read, too, but they had to be specifically--state specifically what is meant. Those statements tell exactly what they mean, and the copies I have got show.

Now if you want to ask any questions, I will try to answer them.

[5.] Q. Mr. President, on your food statement, do we understand it correctly that you are asking the American people to eat less for the time being?

THE PRESIDENT. I am asking the American people to waste less for the time being. I was informed by one of the biggest restaurant men in the United States, just the other night, that one slice of bread would meet this wheat shortage.

Q. Mr. President, have you had any special offer of cooperation from the baking industry?

THE PRESIDENT. We expect to get it. They have promised it.

Q. Mr. President, is there any prospect of a return to so-called gray bread?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't know. That is what I have called this committee in for, to find out just how we stand to meet the situation.

Q. Is there any prospect of a return to rationing or price control?

THE PRESIDENT. Well now, you had better ask the Congress that. I can't answer that question.

[6.] Q. Does this plan of yours--what you said there--does that throw out the window a special or extra session of Congress, or reconvening of Congress?

THE PRESIDENT. The question was whether this threw out the possibility of an extra session of Congress. The meeting with the congressional leaders on Monday morning is to discuss the situation. Then I will make the announcement after we have had the conversations with them.

[7.] Q. Mr. President, you said one slice of bread would lick the wheat problem. Do you mean if everyone in the country would eat one slice less ?

THE PRESIDENT. If they would save the bread that they throw away--this is what this restaurant man told me--we would have, I think, 70 million more bushels of wheat available for food.

Q. 70 million, did you say?

THE PRESIDENT. That's what the head of the packing mill industry told me, also.

Q. 17 or 70?


[8.] Q. Mr. President, does this stopgap relief you are talking about fall in the same category as more permanent relief?

THE PRESIDENT. NO it does not.

Q. In other words, you might conceivably work it out without a special session of Congress ?

THE PRESIDENT. That is exactly what we are trying to do. I don't know whether we can or not. That is the reason I have called this committee in, to see just exactly what we can do.

Q. Do you know how many millions of dollars are involved in this stopgap relief ?

THE PRESIDENT. I can't say. I can't say.

Q. But you said you are trying to work out the stopgap relief problem without a special session ?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes. That's right.

Q. Have you had any indication yet as to about how many congressional leaders will be able to come on Monday?

THE PRESIDENT. The customary number. The ones that have always been asked--the Big Six and the heads of the minorities and the ranking members of the Appropriations and the Foreign Relations Committees.

I will give you the list of those that have accepted as soon as we have heard from them.

Q, Mr. President, would that stopgap aid be on the Marshall plan or the food situation?

THE PRESIDENT. It is the food situation. It is the food situation. There are certain countries in Europe that are scraping the bottom of the barrel on food and fuel. And nobody is going to let people starve to death or freeze to death, if we can possibly stop that from happening.

Q. Mr. President, you said rationing was up to Congress. Will you recommend rationing?

THE PRESIDENT. I will wait and see whether it is necessary or not. I have to get the stuff myself yet. That is what I called this committee in for.

[9.] Q. Mr. President, have you any reflections on where the responsibility or origination of the present high cost of living lies?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I am not going to get into controversial questions this morning. I will answer that when I make any political speeches, which won't be very soon. You can work that out just as well as I can. [Laughter]

[10.] Q. Mr. President, do you have any inclination yourself, one way or the other, regarding a special session of Congress?

THE PRESIDENT. NO I haven't. As I told you before this, I can be convinced if it is necessary--open mind on the subject.

[11.] Q. Mr. President, what is the nature of the legislative action you refer to in your statement on food?

THE PRESIDENT. The money that is necessary to get it with.

Q. Is there any consideration of reenactment of wartime controls which permit you to set aside

THE PRESIDENT. That is a matter that we are going to discuss. I don't think there is any possibility of its being done, but it may be necessary. I don't know.

What is Mr. Wright's question? You have been trying to ask me a question for a half hour.

James L. Wright, Buffalo Evening News: Yes, and now I have forgotten what it was. [Laughter]


[12.] Q. Mr. President, there is the suggestion that there be two meatless days a week, something of that sort. Have you any recommendations on that?

THE PRESIDENT. That is a matter I am going to discuss with this special committee that I am calling, for the purpose of looking into the whole situation, to see what is necessary to be done. What is necessary to be done I will tell you about it frankly.

Q. In our house we are already having two meatless days.

THE PRESIDENT. I appreciate it.

[13.] Q. Mr. President, you specifically said that this immediate critical problem is one of food and fuel.

THE PRESIDENT. That's right.

Q. The dollar shortage is not concerned in any way ?

THE PRESIDENT. Of course the dollar shortage has caused the shortage of food and fuel. They haven't got the money to buy it with.

Q. Then have you any estimate, sir, on how much

THE PRESIDENT. I have not.

[14.] Mr. Wright: Mr. President, my inquiry comes back to me.

Q. On the Latin American contribution

THE PRESIDENT. I am going to get Mr. Wright's question, and then I will answer yours.

Mr. Wright: All right. There has been quite a bit of point made by various Republicans-Martin, for example, and Vandenberg, to a certain extent--that they haven't the information that convinces you that this is an emergency proposition.

THE PRESIDENT. I am giving them the information just as quickly as I get it myself. I began receiving administrative--the reports on the battleship Missouri, and it was finally handed to me last Saturday, Monday, Tuesday, and up to now. And this--[indicating reports before him I--is the last thing in connection with it, which just came in this morning. I haven't had a chance to read it yet. As soon as all that information is coordinated, every one of those fellows will be informed, just the same as I am.

Q. I see.

THE PRESIDENT. That is what the Secretary of State is getting up for me now.

Q. The Speaker made the point that private sources of information were that there is not a desperate situation now, that they can wait over until the first of January.

THE PRESIDENT, I remember Senator Borah made a speech like that once. What was your question there?

[15.] Q. I wonder if you could comment on the Latin American contribution of approximately ....

THE PRESIDENT. We hope the Latin American countries will come in. It is necessary that they do come in, if we are going to meet this situation as it should be met.

Q. Would this program rule out the possibility of tax reduction next year?

THE PRESIDENT. I will answer that the first of January in the Message on the State of the Union.

[16.] Q. Yesterday, sir, Senator Flanders telegraphed you asking that you use your administrative powers to curb grain speculation.

THE PRESIDENT. I only saw the telegram in the paper. I haven't received any such telegram. What was your question?

[17.] Q. Would you care to comment on the trend of events in U.N., specifically the trend indicated by Mr. Vishinsky's speech?

THE PRESIDENT. Mr. Vishinsky's speech speaks for itself, and I have no comment to make on it.

[18.] Q. Mr. President, is any conference planned with the Latin American countries regarding what part they can take in the Marshall plan?

THE PRESIDENT. There will be.

Q. There will be?


[19.] Q. Mr. President, does the Spaatz announcement infer that Bradley will go back to the Veterans Bureau?

THE PRESIDENT. I will answer that question a little later.

[20.] Q. Mr. President, pardon me, sir, is it--is this conference already scheduled with the Latin American countries regarding

THE PRESIDENT. NO, but they will be consulted right along with the rest of the world. Everybody that has anything that is surplus, that will feed and keep people from starving, we are going to try to get it.

Q. You don't mean a formal conference like Rio or -

THE PRESIDENT. No, no. No. Consultation is what it amounts to.

[21.] Q. Stopgap relief be in addition to the Marshall plan?


[22.] Q. Mr. President, you didn't mean Spaatz is going to be Chief of Staff of the Army?


[23.] Q. Mr. President, are you going to the world series?


Q. You are not.

THE PRESIDENT. I would like very much to go, but I have got too much to do right here on this desk. I have got to stay here whether I want to or not.

Q. Watch it by television, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT. I will, if they do have television over here, try to see one or two of the games, if it doesn't take me too long away from the desk.

[24.] Q. If the program means voluntary rationing, doesn't that mean that people with money and without conscience get all the food ?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't know, I hope that that isn't the case. I certainly hope that that isn't the case. I don't like to think that there are Americans with all the money who would want to see people starve for their benefit. I don't believe there are any such people in this country.

Q. We had a black market here during rationing.

THE PRESIDENT. I know that, but that was a very small minority. I think I have told you before that I think at least 95 percent of the people want to do the fight thing, and all our troubles are caused by the 5 percent. That is true here, too! [Laughter]

Q. Mr. President, do you conclude that you have proposed a program of voluntary rationing?

THE PRESIDENT, I will answer that question when I have had the meeting with the committee.

Q. Your proposal this morning

THE PRESIDENT. The proposal is to waste less, and see if we can't meet this situation. That is the beginning of the problem. Then we are going to work it out on a practical basis, which will be handled right here from this office.

Reporter: Thank you, Mr. President.

Note: President Truman's one hundred and nineteenth news conference was held in his office at the White House at 10:35 a.m. on Thursday, September 25, 1947.

Harry S Truman, The President's News Conference Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/232305

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