Harry S. Truman photo

The President's News Conference

February 07, 1946

THE PRESIDENT. [1.] I have a most interesting letter which I would like to read to you this morning, from the famous Dean of Canterbury, Mr. Hewlett Johnson. He says:

"My dear Mr. President:"--

This is dated 31st of January, 1946•

--"May I categorically deny a statement, which I understand has appeared in the American press, that I regarded America as 100 years behind in everything save religion and 150 years behind in that." [Laughter] "That statement, which is of course ridiculous, was made in a jocular mood by my predecessor." [More laughter]

"I neither endorsed such a statement, nor do I think it is true.

"I believe and constantly affirm that America leads the world in industrial adventure, activity and achievement. Indeed, I am accused in England of over-enthusiasm for America's achievement.

"I am convinced that we in Europe have rich lessons to learn from America, especially in enterprise and the arts of production.

"I believe also that America may learn in the future from some European experiments in distribution and planned economy.

"I only write because had such a statement really been made by me, it would have shown the most gross ingratitude for the over-abundant kindness I received from you and your countrymen."

If anybody wants a copy of that letter, we will furnish it.

[2.] Now to get down to serious things, I am particularly interested in this food situation.

In most of the wheat-producing countries of the world, outside of the United States and Canada, there has been almost a total crop failure in wheat. Australia's crop is a failure. South Africa had a drought. All Europe suffered from a drought, so far as the wheat situation is concerned. And in the far East, the production of rice in India is from 12 to 15 percent short of the usual crop, and they are always an importing country on that part of their food, and they import from Burma and Siam and Indochina. Those countries' rice crops are, of course, a total failure on account of the fact that they have--were in this war situation, and they also have had adverse weather conditions along with the war situation. The Japanese crop, I am informed, is 15 percent short of normal, and they import usually 15 percent of their rice for food.

It is proposed under this program which we have inaugurated, that we hope to be able to ship 6 million tons of wheat in the first half of 1946. Now, if anybody needs a lesson in arithmetic, that is about 200 million bushels. The measures ordered should make it possible for us to come closer to what we want to do by about 500,000 or a million tons.

Wheat and other food products which we plan to export during the first 6 months of this year will provide 50 million people with a diet of 2,000 calories a day, or 100 million with 1,000 calories a day for a 6 months' period.

Now, some of the people in the devastated countries of Europe are living on much less than 1,500 calories a day. We eat about 3,300 here in the United States. The situation is so serious that we felt it was absolutely essential to take every measure possible to help keep the people in these countries from starving; because in those countries which are our friends and allies, they are not to blame for the situation.

And in enemy countries we can't afford to see our enemies starve, even if they did bring this situation on themselves. We can't do that and live according to our own ideals.

We have asked Canada and Australia, and all the countries which are supposed to have surplus foods, to join us in this program; and I think every one of them will.

If you want a copy of these figures and things, Mr. Ayers will be able to furnish them to you after the conference.

Q. Mr. President, is it possible we may have meat rationing as a--may we have to come to that eventually?

THE PRESIDENT. I hope not. If the packing plants can run at full blast, it will not be necessary. If it becomes necessary, in order to keep 10 or 15 million people from starving to death, I think we ought to do it.

Q. Mr. President, can you throw any light, in that connection on that same story, in your meeting with the Cabinet?

THE PRESIDENT. That is substantially the statement that was issued yesterday as adopted by the Cabinet as a whole.

Q. Mr. President, under the Potsdam Declaration, the rations of the Germans should be no higher than the European average?

THE PRESIDENT. That's right.

Q. Does this worldwide shortage, particularly as it affects Europe, indicate there will have to be a cut in German rations?

THE PRESIDENT. There will probably have to be a cut in the whole European ration. There is a cut in the whole European ration now. That is what we are trying to meet. We are trying our best to meet the thing on as equitable a basis as we possibly can.

Q. But this thousand calories would be less than the Germans are getting. Are we going to feed the enemy better than our allies?

THE PRESIDENT. No, we are not. That is what we are trying to prevent. We are not going to do that. We are going to take care of our allies first. That figure is in Poland and Germany, principally.

Q. I was thinking of Poland, that is what I mean.

THE PRESIDENT. Poland and Germany. But we certainly are not going to treat our allies worse than our enemies, you can be assured of that.

Q. Mr. President, are there any mechanical difficulties in milling the flour?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't know. I don't know enough about the milling business to answer the question.

Q. Mr. President, can you say whether there is any problem of hoarding wheat in other countries at the present time?

THE PRESIDENT. I am not familiar with it, if there is.

Q. Mr. President, in connection with the extraction order, there are some rough spots in the milling industry, and I take it that the objection to that order is to get the wheat and the order--you would not object to the order being workable or flexible, so long as you got the wheat?

THE PRESIDENT. That's the point exactly. And I think we will get their cooperation-I don't think there will be anybody who isn't anxious to keep people from starving to death. It's un-American, I think, to have the idea to let people starve.

Q. Mr. President, when you were discussing this with the experts--with the agricultural people particularly--did they bring up details of this wheat shortage--grain shortage--in certain areas where farmers would be anxious to keep the wheat right with them, and you have to get it out? Is that part of the problem?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes. I think every phase has been gone into by the agricultural experts.

Q. Any particular answer to that situation ?

THE PRESIDENT. I can't give you an answer to that. We hope that this situation will work out. The reports that have been made indicate that everybody seems to think it answers the purpose.

Q. Mr. President, if there will be no rationing here, are the mechanics such that we will cut down, just not buy so much; that is, the American people--

THE PRESIDENT. Yes. Make contributions, just like they would clothing and everything else. I think they will do that. I think they will be pleased to do that.

Q. Mr. President, who will handle the equitable distribution of these food supplies in the various countries?

THE PRESIDENT. UNRRA will handle most of it.

Q. It will continue under UNRRA?


Q. Mr. President, does this 6 million tons represent an increase in our commitments, or a decrease in our commitments?

THE PRESIDENT. No. There is, I think, a slight decrease in our first commitments. You will have to get those figures categorically from the Secretary of Agriculture, who has been the conferee with our allies in this setup.

Q. Mr. President, can you tell us what estimate you have on wheat saving from the livestock reduction program?

THE PRESIDENT. About--between 25 and 50 million bushels.

Q. Well, do you believe that this saving is justified in the light of the danger of short liquidation of livestock?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't think there will be any short liquidation of livestock. Livestock will be slaughtered at a lighter weight than they ordinarily would. And 225-pound hogs will, I think, make just as good eating as 300-pound ones; and I used to raise them.

Q. [Aside] Better.

[3.] Q. Mr. President, about Mr. Pauley. Are you going to withdraw his nomination?

THE PRESIDENT. I am not. I am backing Mr. Pauley. I think Mr. Pauley is an honest man, and I don't think he is the only honest man in Washington or in the oil business.

Q. Have you any comment?

THE PRESIDENT. I think he is a very capable administrator, because he was the Reparations Director up until just recently and did a magnificent job in that, and I have the utmost confidence in him.

Q. Did Secretary Ickes advise you of his testimony before?

THE PRESIDENT. No, he did not. I didn't discuss it with him.

Q. Do you intend to now?


Q. Mr. President, did Ed Flynn confide in you yesterday, when he was going to leave your office, that he was going to criticize Mr. Ickes?

THE PRESIDENT. No, he did not. I didn't discuss Mr. Ickes with Mr. Flynn. He was discussing other matters.

Q. Can you tell us what you were discussing, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. It was political matters in the State of New York. [Laughter]

Q. Mr. President, you don't consider that this situation involves anything at all, any change in your relations with Mr. Ickes?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't think so. Mr. Ickes can very well be mistaken the same as the rest of us.

[4.] Q. Mr. President, how is the price-what is the situation on the wage-price balance?

THE PRESIDENT. I hope to be able to make a complete statement on that in a day or two. I can't do it now.

Q. Will it come today possibly?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't think so.

Q. Do you anticipate, sir, that that would bring on an early settlement of the steel and other big strikes?


Q. Mr. President, has the administration made any suggestions on that wage-price formula that may be under consideration by U.S. Steel and Labor in their current sessions?

THE PRESIDENT. I haven't discussed the matter with either one, up to the present time.

Q. I was wondering whether Mr. Snyder may have passed it along for some suggestions for a formula?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't think so. They are working on it. That's what they are working--it will all be worked out.

Q. Is it a materially new wage-price stabilization policy, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT. No, it isn't. It's a working out of the situation we are faced with now, and I think it will be worked out in a very satisfactory manner.

Q. Can you say when, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. I hope in the next day or two.

Q. There has been some speculation, Mr. President, that this will be called "the big steel formula"?

THE PRESIDENT [laughing]. I haven't heard that one.

Q. Does that mean it will be temporary, Mr. President, in meeting the present situation?

THE PRESIDENT. Here is the situation that we are trying to meet: We are all aware of the fact that what we need is production. We know that if we get production--mass production--on the basis that we are capable of putting out here in this country, that the situation will adjust itself; and whenever that situation comes about there will be no reason for a wage-price formula, for that will adjust itself.

And that is exactly what we have been working for, ever since V-J Day. That was the reason for the first directive on a wage price formula. It was my hope that we would, as soon as possible, begin working just as hard as we could to create production to meet the demand that has now piled up as a result of the war.

We have had some stumbling blocks. We are trying to meet those stumbling blocks now. The first wage-price formula would have worked, if we had been able to arrive at the production we were hoping we were going to get.

[5.] Q. If the steel and other strikes are not settled, will there still be a Florida trip?

THE PRESIDENT. I am still going to Florida.

Q. [Aside] Good!

THE PRESIDENT. I can still do business by telephone.

[6.] Q. Has the committee from the House Territories Committee reported to you on their investigation of statehood for Hawaii?

THE PRESIDENT. That's right. They recommended

Q. Can you report your views?

THE PRESIDENT. They recommended that Hawaii ought to have statehood.

Q. As you made in your annual Message for immediate statehood?

THE PRESIDENT. That's right. I think they were--they are in favor of that very thing.

Reporter: Thank you, Mr. President.


Note: President Truman's forty-seventh news conference was held in his office at the White House at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, February 7, 1946.

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/232413

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