Harry S. Truman photo

The President's News Conference

April 26, 1951

THE PRESIDENT. Please be seated.

[1.] Before you start off, I think maybe I'd better remind you of a statement that I made in a speech on April 11th. 1 I want to quote one paragraph, and it covers the Far Eastern situation pretty well. This is a quotation, and the speech is available to you. I am sure all of you have it.

1 See Item 78.

[Reading]: "The Communist side must now choose its course of action. The Communist rulers may press the attack against us. They may take further action which will spread the conflict. They have that choice, and with it the awful responsibility for what may follow. The Communists also have the choice of a peaceful settlement which could lead to a general relaxation of tensions in the Far East. The decision is theirs, because the forces of the United Nations will strive to limit the conflict if possible."

I think that statement sums up the policy of the United States. And since the Senate committees are going into the thing in detail, I think the best approach to this whole situation is to let the Senate committees get the facts and come to a conclusion.

Now I am ready for questions.

[2.] Q. Mr. President, did you promise the Federal judgeship in the Eastern District of Texas to Galloway Calhoun?

THE PRESIDENT. I did not. I never promise judgeships to anybody. I try to pick the best man for those places, and I don't do it on a promise basis politically or otherwise.

Q. Yes, sir. Thank you.

[3.] Q. Do you care to express an opinion whether the congressional hearings should be opened or closed?

THE PRESIDENT. That is the business of the Senate and not mine.

[4.] Q. Mr. President, General MacArthur's spokesman said the General did not have the faintest idea of why he has been relieved. Would you care to comment on it?

THE PRESIDENT. Everybody else knows why! [Laughter]

Q. Mr. President, is General MacArthur subject to assignment, is he off duty forever, or what is his status, exactly?

THE PRESIDENT. May, 2 may I quote the law to you--that was passed at my suggestion-to create permanent, lifetime jobs for the five-star generals and admirals who have been at the top in the winning of World War II. They are on exactly the same status as General Pershing was after the First World War.

2 Mrs. May Craig of the Portland (Maine) Press Herald.

Q. Then your telling General MacArthur he could travel wherever he pleased at the time of his replacement didn't mean that he was not subject to recall by you for duty?

THE PRESIDENT. That is correct. I've recalled General Eisenhower, I've recalled Admiral Nimitz, and--

Q. Do you have anything in mind for General MacArthur?

THE PRESIDENT. Not at the present time, May. Of course I knew what you were after all the time. [Laughter] I could have told you in the first place, if you had asked the question straight out, instead of going all around. I would have answered it just the same.

Q. Well, it gave me some interesting information.

THE PRESIDENT. I didn't think you knew the law.

Q. Yes, I did.

THE PRESIDENT. What is it, Eddie? 3

3 Edward T. Folliard of the Washington Post.

[5.] Q. Mr. President, do I take it that this new offensive is the occasion for that statement you read to us at the outset, or is it something that's about to come on Capitol Hill? I would like to know what the occasion--

THE PRESIDENT. Well, it had reference particularly to the hearings in the Senate.

Q. Mr. President, may we at this time attach particular importance to the last two words of the statement you just read, "if possible"?

THE PRESIDENT. What do you mean? I don't understand the connection--

Q. There have been reports recently that General Ridgway has been informed that if necessary he may bomb in Manchuria, that United Nations countries have been informed of that decision?

THE PRESIDENT. I have no comment to make on that statement at all.

Q. May I ask you one more question?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, surely--as many as you want.

[6.] Q. Are you in a position to confirm the report in the New York Times of the conversation results of your Wake Island conference with General MacArthur? 4

THE PRESIDENT. I have no comment to make on that, either.

4 On April 21 the New York Times printed a summary of the Wake Island conversations based on what the writer described as "documented sources on the meeting." Among other things the article stated that General MacArthur had expressed doubt that Red China would intervene in Korea and was so confident of victory that he offered what he regarded as his best troops for service in Europe. The article was written by Anthony H. Leviero.

See also Item 95 [6].

Q. Mr. President, I have a question on that also.

THE PRESIDENT. Go ahead.

Q. A number of reporters have asked for the record on that Wake Island meeting, and had been told that they could not get it as the record was with you and could only be given out with your consent. And then Mr. Leviero, who is a very fine reporter, asked for it and got it. I was hoping that in the future if there was anything to be given out--scoops like that--we could all have a chance at it. [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. I remember a certain turmoil that was created by an interview I had with Arthur Krock. And some of your people wept and cried, and I finally made a statement that I would talk to anybody I pleased any time I pleased. I didn't talk to Mr. Leviero, however.

Q. Mr. President, you say you did or did not?

THE PRESIDENT. Did not!

[7.] Q. You said after that you quoted from your speech of April 11th, and you said you believed the best thing was to let the Senate committees get the facts.

THE PRESIDENT. That's right.

Q. Did you mean to imply by that, that the Joint Chiefs of Staff should declassify some of the documents in their hands?

THE PRESIDENT. We will cross that bridge when we get to it.

Q. Mr. President, I am a little concerned about that date, April 11th. Where was it you spoke then?

THE PRESIDENT. Over the radio in the White House!

[8.] Q. Mr. President, could you give us any comment on the situation in Korea as it has developed in the last few days? 5

THE PRESIDENT. I have no comment. I am not in the field, and of course I can't comment on the situation.

5 On April 24 a new offensive by Chinese Communist troops broke through the lines of the United Nations forces and carried the Communists south of the 38th parallel. The advance had moved as far south as Munsan, 20 miles northwest of Seoul, by April 26.

[9.] Q. Mr. President, will Mr. Dawson 6 comply with the new request for him to testify?

THE PRESIDENT. I will answer that question when it comes up to me. It isn't up to me as yet.

6 Donald S. Dawson, Administrative Assistant to the President.

[10.] Q. Mr. President, will you favor decentralizing Government agencies, now that the dispersal plan has been discarded?

THE PRESIDENT. It is my understanding that the Senate Committee on Public Works went very carefully into the situation and voted almost unanimously. There was only one vote in the Committee against the reporting of the bill which was before the Congress. That was a good bill, and one that was in the public interest. Senator Holland made a good fight to get it over. I think eventually something along the lines as reported by the Public Works Committee will be put into effect for the welfare of the country, as it should be.

[11.] Q. Mr. President, would you have any objection to the publication of that Wake Island document now?

THE PRESIDENT. I am not in a position to answer that question, Smitty. 7

7 Merriman Smith of the United Press Associations.

[12.] Q. Mr. President, have you talked with Paul Hoffman about his becoming Secretary of State?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I haven't. He isn't going to become Secretary of State--I can say that to you. I have a Secretary of State with whom I am very well satisfied.

[13.] Q. Mr. President, Governor Scott of North Carolina came up here a couple of days ago, trying to line up a Democratic presidential candidate for a speech down in North Carolina next year. Do you think he would be able to come?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think that any Democratic candidate would be glad to speak in North Carolina. [Long pause ]

What is the matter, boys and ladies? Are you out of questions ?

[14.] Q. Mr. President, General Whitney, 8 who is General MacArthur's aide, said yesterday that all of the top level military commanders in Korea were in agreement with General MacArthur's policies. Can you say anything about that.

THE PRESIDENT. I have no way of knowing whether that is true or not, so I cannot comment on it. When I came back from Wake Island, at the request of General MacArthur I made Whitney a major general.

8 Maj. Gen. Courtney Whitney.

Q. Mr. President, what is General Whitney's status now?

THE PRESIDENT. He seems to be the press secretary and secretary for General MacArthur. All I know is what I see in the newspapers. [Laughter]

Q. As to the military?

THE PRESIDENT. I know nothing about that at the present time. I think the best thing for you to do would be to take it up with the Secretary of Defense. He probably would tell you straight from the shoulder just what his status is.

Q. Mr. President, apart from his appearances before Congress, are there any restrictions on General MacArthur's utterances on foreign or military policy?

THE PRESIDENT. Oh no. He is in the United States now, and he can say what he pleases and go where he pleases and do whatever he likes. I have no strings on him. I do have strings on him, but I don't intend to pull them.

Q. Mr. President, is General Whitney allowed to say anything he wants to--

THE PRESIDENT. It seems to be the case.

Q. Do you have any strings on General Whitney?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, but I am not going to pull them. I am glad to have him talk. He's telling a lot of things that ought to be said.

[15.] Q. Mr. President, are you sending an economic message to Congress today?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, at noon. 9

9 See Item 91.

Q. Can you tell us anything about it?

THE PRESIDENT. I think the best plan would be for you to read the message when it goes down to Congress. It will be there at 12 o'clock, and then be open for publication. I don't like to give out a message before the Congress has a chance to hear it read.

[16.] Q. Mr. President, could I ask you this one thing about Wake Island?

THE PRESIDENT. Ask anything you like, May.

Q. Thank you. Tony's story said it was documented. I thought that during the time you were alone with General MacArthur there was no record. I don't know where I got that impression.

THE PRESIDENT. I think probably your impression is correct.

Q. How could it be documented?

THE PRESIDENT. I might have documented it myself, you can't tell, May. I say I might have. That doesn't give you anything at all, does it ?

Q. No, sir. [Laughter]

Q. At that Wake Island conference, sir, did General MacArthur apologize to you?

THE PRESIDENT. I can't answer questions like that, Smitty; you know it.

I think a great deal of information will come out at the Senate hearings that will interest you. And I don't want to comment on that because that is up to the Senate committees. I wish you would read history. It is most interesting. There was a Senate committee called "The Committee on the Conduct of the War." After the Battle of Gettysburg they got General Meade down before that Committee, and abused him like a pickpocket. It is a most interesting document. There are several other instances of the same sort. History seems to repeat itself as we go along through the world. This is not anything new or original, what's happened in the last few weeks. If you will study history, you will find a most easy and simple answer to everything in which you are interested.

Q. Could you tell us where to look, Mr. President? [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I will tell you one place that you can look that will be most interesting, Sandburg's "Life of Lincoln"--there are only six volumes of it, about that thick--[indicating]. And then "Lincoln Finds a General," which recently came out. And if you will read the memoirs of General Grant, you'll find something most interesting in that. And I could cite you two or three other instances. I think if you will read President Polk's diary, you will find something most interesting about Winfield Scott that will amuse you very much. You might also read Washington's diary on his troubles with the Conway cabal and Charles Lee. They are most interesting.

Q. Mr. President, could you give us about a three-paragraph summary? [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. No, I'm going to make you do a little work on your own. [More laughter] You will have to do a little work on your own. I think the Library of Congress would fix you up, if you asked them. They have a Legislative Reference Service there that will give you anything you want. They abused General Meade like a pickpocket--you read that.

Q. I think you said, Mr. President, that history repeats itself. Now do you infer, sir, that General MacArthur is about to be--

THE PRESIDENT. I make no inferences--I ask you to read history and draw your own inferences. I'm making none for you. I'm just referring you to some very interesting things that have happened in the past.

Q. Mr. President, General Scott ran for President after he was fired.

THE PRESIDENT. Yes he did. So did General McClellan, if I remember correctly.

Q. Do you care to comment on that?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I have no comment at all. [Laughter]

Q. Thank you, Mr. President.

Note: President Truman's two hundred and sixty-first news conference was held in the Indian Treaty Room (Room 474) in the Executive Office Building at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, April 26, 1951.

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/230452

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