Harry S. Truman photo

The President's News Conference

May 03, 1951

THE PRESIDENT. Please be seated.

I have no special announcements to make today. I will listen to questions and try to answer them.

[1.] Q. Mr. President, the Prime Minister of Israel 1 arrived here today, to see you tomorrow and launch a half-billion-dollar bond drive for his country. Would you comment on his trip ?

THE PRESIDENT. He is going to have lunch with me tomorrow.

1 Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion of Israel.

Q. Could you say anything about--

THE PRESIDENT. That's all the comment I have to make. I will carry on the conversations with him, and not in the press.

[2.] Q. Mr. President, as you probably know, on the Hill today, General MacArthur said that--

THE PRESIDENT. No, I don't know--only what I have seen in the papers--

Q. I beg your pardon.

THE PRESIDENT. --but go ahead.

Q. I will revise my question. General MacArthur said on the Hill today that on January 12 the Joint Chiefs of Staff approved completely his war plans, and he assumed that either you or General Marshall must have overridden the Chiefs on that?

THE PRESIDENT. Don't you think you had better wait until the evidence is all in, before you come to a conclusion on such things as that? There are plenty of things that will come up on this line on which you ought to wait until you have all the facts, before you come to a conclusion. I can't answer the question.

Q. Mr. President, in that connection, in the light of recent developments and utterances, would you agree that "old soldiers just fade away"?

THE PRESIDENT. What do you think? [Laughter]

[3.] Q. Mr. President, in view of the report of the Senate Crime Investigating Committee Tuesday, do you think Ambassador O'Dwyer 2 is properly qualified to be an Ambassador of the United States ?

THE PRESIDENT. I still have confidence in Ambassador O'Dwyer.

2 William O'Dwyer, U.S. Ambassador to Mexico and former Mayor of New York City.

Q. Do you think the average American thinks he is properly qualified?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't know what the average American thinks, but I don't think that a man can be tried in public and convicted without knowing all the evidence.

Q. Have you any other comment on the work of the committee ?

THE PRESIDENT, No comment. What committee are you talking about?

Q. The crime committee.

THE PRESIDENT. Oh--oh--I didn't think about that! Too many of them--that's right.

[4.] Q. Mr. President, speaking of the other committee, General MacArthur said that he considers invalid your reasons for dismissing him. He said he not only carried out every directive but that it can be said he was not in opposition to policy which he was not aware of, and that he does not know what the policy is ?

THE PRESIDENT. Did you hear my answer to the gentleman over here? That's the same answer.

[5.] Q. Mr. President, coming back to the Kefauver Committee, sir, do you care to comment on their findings that Costello had considerable influence in the Democratic organization in New York?


Q. That Frank Costello exerted considerable influence in the Democratic organizations in New York?

THE PRESIDENT. I can't answer that became I don't know. [Pause]

What's the matter with you boys? [Laughter]

[6.] Q. Mr. President, in other words, getting back to General MacArthur--in other words, you are confident when the entire case is in, that the country will feel that you were justified in the action taken ?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, when the facts are all known, there will be but one answer, and I have given that answer already.

Q. Well sir, I meant by that--by my question-that with the hero's welcome that he got and everything, that a lot of people are still in doubt.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I say, if you will just wait until all the evidence is in, you can then draw your own contusions, and I think they will be the correct ones.

Q. Mr. President, in the publication of the Wake Island conference, 3 there was no reference to the time when you and MacArthur met alone. Have you any intention of issuing any kind of memorandum on what went on between the two of you ?

THE PRESIDENT. I do not. There was nobody present there but the general and myself. It was a purely personal conference, and there was no record kept of it whatever, although I know what took place there. I do not intend to comment on it.

3 On May 2 the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees released the administration's documents on the Wake Island conference preliminary to their hearings, beginning May 3, on the dismissal of General MacArthur. See also Item 90 [6].

Q. You made no memorandum of it?


[7.] Q. Mr. President, some of the Congressmen on the Hill are reporting around about that Mr. Ed Flynn of New York 4 came to the White House opposed to the St. Lawrence Seaway, and after he talked with you he went away in favor of it. And that after that Mr. Buckley, 5 the Chairman of the Public Works Committee, said he couldn't go against his good friend Mr. Flynn and that perhaps there had been other conversations at the White House lately, with various members of the House Public Works Committee, regarding deals on the St. Lawrence Seaway? Would you say that there have been?

4 Edward J. Flynn, Democratic national committeeman from New York State.

5 Representative Charles A. Buckley of New York.

THE PRESIDENT. Well now, you are making a lot of implications that are founded absolutely on false premises.

There is not a word of truth in anything you have asked me. When this St. Lawrence Seaway came up, I called the Committee itself in toto--every member of it--down, and had it thoroughly and completely explained to them by everybody who knew what the implications of the St. Lawrence Seaway are. After that conference the Committee was in favor of the St. Lawrence Seaway and that included the Chairman. Ed Flynn never said a word to me about the St. Lawrence Seaway. In fact, I think he may be against it. I have never talked to him about it.

Q. I see, sir. Then there have been no deals made to--

THE PRESIDENT, Not that I know of. I don't make deals on legislation. I put the legislation up to the Congress, and then it is up to the Congress to act on it. There couldn't be any deals made on that piece of legislation.

[8.] Q. Mr. President, did you approve the price control order on meat?


Q. I didn't know whether it had come up to you direct ?

THE PRESIDENT. It was put up to me and I approved it.

[9.] Q. Mr. President, in that part of the Wake Island conference that was attended by other people, were you aware personally that there was a woman in the other room taking down what--

THE PRESIDENT. No, I was not.

Q. Mr. President, General MacArthur has expressed an opinion on the question of whether or not Russia might intervene?

THE PRESIDENT. He is entitled to that opinion--he is entitled to any opinion he chooses.

Q. You have the benefit of the information gathered by the Central Intelligence Agency--

THE PRESIDENT. -- which he didn't have because he wouldn't let the Central Intelligence Agency work in Japan until just recently.

Q. And you were surrounded by men who have had experience in Moscow. I wonder if you had any opinion about what Russia might or might not do?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I have no opinion to express. My opinions have been in action.

Q. Why wouldn't he let the CIA work there ?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't know. You will have to ask him. He'll answer you, I expect.

Q. Mr. President, today there were--even though he wouldn't let the CIA work there, I think that he said that the CIA last November had given the opinion that the Chinese Communists wouldn't come in?

THE PRESIDENT. I didn't know that. The CIA usually reports to me. If they made any such report to him, they didn't make it to me.

Q. Isn't it true, sir, that they made a report to you on November 21?

THE PRESIDENT. They make a report to me every day, so they must have made a report to me on November 21, but I don't know what was in it. That has been quite a while ago.

Q. It was my idea that it was quite contrary to what he said today.

THE PRESIDENT. If it's a secret document, I don't know how you found out about it.

Q. Mr. President, when was the CIA--

THE PRESIDENT. I don't remember the exact date. If you will talk to Gen. Bedell Smith, 6 he can tell you.

6 Gen. Walter Bedell Smith, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Q. I am not sure he will, Mr. President.


Q. I am not sure he will.

THE PRESIDENT. He's the right kind of an intelligence man, isn't he! [Laughter]

Q. Not unless you were to call him up and say that he could.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I won't do that, but I am telling you the truth and the facts.

Q. There was a report -

THE PRESIDENT. I don't need to be checked up on it, but go ahead.

Q. There was a report made to you by CIA in advance of the November 24, 25, 26 intervention by the Chinese, pointing out the danger of Chinese intervention, is that not correct, sir ?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't know. I will have to look it up. I say I get those reports every day and they are that thick [Indicating]. I read them every day, too, but I can't tell you the exact date or what was in any special report, without going back and looking it up.

Q. I don't mean--

THE PRESIDENT. I understand.

Q.--the date, I mean in advance of the actual Chinese--

THE PRESIDENT. I can't answer that, without looking it up.

Q. I don't want to belabor this--

THE PRESIDENT. All right. Go ahead.

Q.--but were you surprised, from your knowledge of CIA and the other reports that came to you, when the Chinese Communists did come in, sir ?

THE PRESIDENT. I think everybody was not exactly surprised; they were sorry to see it happen.

Q. Well, General MacArthur seems to have been surprised.

THE PRESIDENT. He was very much surprised. [Laughter]

Q. Mr. President, who persuaded General MacArthur to let the CIA operate?

THE PRESIDENT. General Smith--General Smith.

Q. I didn't catch the question, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. He wanted to know who persuaded General MacArthur to let CIA intelligence get into his office, and I said General Smith did that. He made a trip over there for the purpose.

Q. Mr. President, could you tell us what the opinion of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the CIA was, prior to the Chinese intervention, on whether they would or would not come in ?

THE PRESIDENT. That is a matter of record and will probably be answered in the Committee by the Chiefs of Staff themselves. That is the best place to get it.

Q. Mr. President, I am not dear on something there. Do I understand that for a time General MacArthur would not let the Central Intelligence Agency work under his command or in his office?

THE PRESIDENT. That is correct.

Q. And there came a time when General Smith persuaded him to let the CIA in?

THE PRESIDENT. That is correct.

Q. Sir, could you say was that this year, or--

THE PRESIDENT. I don't remember the date. It can be looked up. I will have Joe Short 7 look it up and give it to you.

7 Joseph H. Short, Secretary to the President.

Q. After the Chinese intervention ?

THE PRESIDENT. I can't answer that, because I don't know.

Q. Mr. President, would you care to express an opinion as to whether you believe it was unwise for General MacArthur not to have let the CIA come in?

THE PRESIDENT. I am expressing no opinion at the present time. I will give you my opinion when the time is right for it.

Q. Well, Mr. President, General Smith made one trip to Tokyo in January. Has he made more than one trip, or is that the one?

THE PRESIDENT. I think he made only one trip. I don't know the date. I can't confirm that date.

Q. Mr. President, by what authority or how could a general refuse to let the Central Intelligence Agency come in?

THE PRESIDENT. That is for you to guess at. I can't tell you.

Q. Mr. President, I recall that at Wake Island, when the conference broke up, around noon I think, and the statement was issued that--on the basis of the statement that we received, there was an air of optimism about closing out the conflict in Korea. Could you say whether General MacArthur persuaded those present at the conference that the Chinese would not come in, and that--

THE PRESIDENT. I don't know what effect it had on the other members of the conference, but he persuaded me that they would not come in.

Q. Well, could you say where the order originated which permitted the United Nations forces, then, to go up to the Yalu River?

THE PRESIDENT. That is a matter of tactics in the field, and is the responsibility of the field commander. I never interfere with the field commanders in any of their maneuvers.

[10.] Q. Mr. President, you said in the early part of the conference that you had complete confidence in Ambassador O'Dwyer. I take it it would naturally follow, then, that you have no intention of recalling him ?

THE PRESIDENT. You are correct.

Q. Thank you. [Pause]

THE PRESIDENT. What's the matter? [Laughter]

Q. Will you accept his resignation, sir, if he were to--

THE PRESIDENT. Now, Duke, 8 what do you want to ask a loaded question like that for? [Laughter] You know I am not going to answer that. I don't look for any such procedure. He's a fighter, just like I am.

8 Duke Shoop of the Kansas City Star.

[11.] Q. Mr. President, on Wake Island there was something said about you and General MacArthur being in agreement on the matter of Formosa. Since then, there seems to be quite a divergence of opinion on--

THE PRESIDENT. No comment--I can't answer that question.

Q. Mr. President, General MacArthur said today, "I do not believe that it will be within the capacity of the Soviet to mass any great additional increment of force to launch any predatory attack from the Asiatic continent." Has that opinion been expressed before?

THE PRESIDENT. Not that I know of. All I have seen about opinions like that have been in the press, and I like to have them from the source before I comment on them.

Q. Is there anything else that you would like to tell us, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT. Not a thing.

Reporter: Thank you, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT. Thank you very much.

Note: President Truman's two hundred and sixty-second news conference was held in the Indian Treaty Room (Room 474) in the Executive Office Building at 4 p.m. on Thursday, May 3, 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/230488

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