Harry S. Truman photo

The President's News Conference

January 07, 1949

THE PRESIDENT. I have some announcements to make to you this morning, that is the reason I called the meeting.

[1.] Secretary Marshall and Under Secretary Lovett are resigning, effective the 20th of January.

And I am appointing Dean Acheson as Secretary of State, and James E. Webb as Under Secretary of State--who is now the Director of the Budget.

I am appointing Frank Pace, Jr., of Arkansas, Director of the Budget, to replace Webb.

And Frederick J. Lawton as Assistant Director of the Budget--

Q. Mr. President, you are going a little fast for me. After Webb? [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. Frank Pace of Arkansas, to be Director of the Budget. He is now Assistant Director; and Frederick J. Lawton, to be Assistant Director of the Budget. He is a career man in the Budget.

Q. Is that L-a-u-g-h-t-o-n?

THE PRESIDENT. L-a-w-t-o-n--Frederick J. Lawton. He has been in the Budget for a long time--very able fellow.

I have this letter from General Marshall, and you will get mimeographed copies of this letter--dated January the 3d:

[Reading] "I regret that it is necessary for me to submit my resignation as Secretary of State.

"Please accept my thanks for the extraordinary consideration and complete support you have given me these past three years. I shall never forget your kindness and I submit this resignation with affectionate regard and great respect. Faithfully yours, George C. Marshall."

[Reading] "Your letter of January third emphasizes to me that considerations of health compel your decision to return to private life, which I had hoped in your country's interest could be long deferred.

"Those of us who have had extensive experience in public affairs know full well that there are very few indispensable men. Happily for the continuity of government, there appears from time to time a man of outstanding ability whose service in one post of responsibility gives him exceptional qualification to discharge other duties of equal moment in a quite different field of activity. You are the exemplification of the type of public servant I have in mind.

"As Chief of Staff of the United States Army you were the guide and counselor of two Commanders in Chief. You brought to the performance of your task abilities and qualifications which inspired the armies of the democratic nations to victory in a war unparalleled in magnitude and in the vastness of the issues involved."

I have said it many a time--as an interpolation-that I think General Marshall is the outstanding man of that war period.

[Continuing reading] "When the great office of Secretary of State became vacant it seemed to me fortunate that you were available for the position, although you had richly earned retirement. As it turned out, your previous training and experience were a preparation for the onerous duties which befell you in directing our foreign affairs-particularly in the formulation and execution of the Marshall Plan.

"I had hoped that with medical treatment and rest and recuperation you could continue in office. I am, however, unwilling to assume the responsibility of further jeopardizing your health. I accept, therefore, effective on January 20, 1949, your resignation as Secretary of State. In taking this action reluctantly and with deep regret, I heartily reciprocate your sentiments of affection and respect. Very sincerely yours." 1

1General Marshall served as Secretary of State from January 7, 1947, through January 20, 1949, and as Chief of Staff of the United States Army from September 1, 1939, through November 20, 1945.

And I have this letter from Mr. Lovett:

[Reading] "For personal reasons with which you are familiar, I respectfully submit my resignation as Under Secretary of State.

"I thank you most sincerely for the confidence you have reposed in me, and for your unfailing consideration and kindness.

"With great respect and deep appreciation, I am."

[Reading] "I have received with heartfelt regret your letter of January third. Because of my familiarity with the personal considerations which prompt it, I have no recourse but to comply with its terms and accept your resignation as the Under Secretary of State, effective January 20, 1949.

"In taking this action, I need hardly assure you as you return to private pursuits, that I heartily reciprocate the personal sentiments of friendship and respect which you express.

"You have earned the gratitude of the Nation for outstanding service. As Special Assistant to the Secretary of War and as Assistant Secretary of War for Air, you had gained invaluable experience before I called you to assume the intricate responsibilities of the Office of the Under Secretary of State.

"The country has been fortunate in having the benefit of your expert abilities in peace as well as in war. You have been guided and inspired through all of your varied service by the highest intellectual integrity, and you have brought to each task untiring industry, outstanding ability, and selfless devotion to the public interest.

"Although you must now relinquish public office, I shall like to think that we can call upon you from time to time for the advice and counsel which you can give out of your rich experience. With every good wish, very sincerely yours."2

2 Mr. Lovett served as Under Secretary of State from May 28, 1947, through January 20, 1949.

Q. Mr. President, in your interpolation, did you say General Marshall is the outstanding man of the World War II period?

THE PRESIDENT. In my opinion I said General Marshall is the outstanding man of World War II.

Q. Mr. President, what prompted your selection of Mr. Webb for Under Secretary?

THE PRESIDENT. Because he is a good man, and a good administrator; and that is what we need in that position. Mr. Lovett was that sort of man.

Q. Mr. President, may we quote that interpolation?


[2.] Q. Does your selection of Dean Acheson presage any change or formulation along the lines indicated by Jay Franklin in Life magazine?

THE PRESIDENT. It does not. And that article to which you refer 3 is absolutely without foundation in fact, in nearly every instance, in every paragraph; and that's all I have to say about it. [Laughter]

3 "Inside Strategy of the Campaign: One of the advisory board tells how Truman felt, acted and planned during his winning drive," by Jay Franklin, pen name of John Franklin Carter. Life magazine, November 15, 1948.

Q. In almost every instance--did you say in nearly every instance?

THE PRESIDENT. I said in nearly every instance, and in every paragraph.

Q. Mr. President, did you have any personal association with Mr. Franklin?

THE PRESIDENT. Mr. Franklin was one of the assistants in preparing speeches during the campaign, but I never had one private interview with him at all, on any subject.

[3.] Q. Mr. President, could you say anything on the speculation that there has been a Forrestal--Marshal--Lovett foreign policy as distinguished from a Truman foreign policy?

THE PRESIDENT. I understand that you are now quoting Mr. Franklin, and I told you awhile ago that was without foundation in fact. The foreign policy has been inaugurated by the President of the United States, and carried out by the Secretary of State, and nobody else. And he has carried out the foreign policy that I stand behind, as I said to him in my letter, and as he said to me. I think that's about as clear as I can make it.

Q. Mr. President, did Mr. Franklin do a better job for you than he did in the Life article?

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

Q. Mr. President, did you say you had never had any private conferences with him?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I never had a private conference with him in his life. He has been in here to see me about a job, a time or two, that's about all.

Q. By the way, who put him on, do you know?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't know. Some of the staff called him in for consultations.

Q. Was he authorized, Mr. President, in that capacity, to have access to any inside information?

THE PRESIDENT. None whatever. He never saw a top secret message since I have been President.

Q. Did he ever write any of the campaign speeches?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't know. I can't answer that question.

[4.] Q. Mr. President, to go to another subject, could you enlarge your recommendations in the State of the Union Message, that the Government might find it necessary to construct manufacturing plants to make up for material in short supply?

THE PRESIDENT. I think that if you will read that section 8, that was a recommendation for a study of the situation, and if it was found that there was a shortage not only of steel but in other lines, the Government should prepare to make loans for the purpose of overcoming that shortage, and that then, if private industry didn't feel like going ahead with it, recommendations would be made that the Government itself do it.

Q. Well, it was a progressive matter--

THE PRESIDENT. That's right.

Q.--being prepared for study?

THE PRESIDENT. If you read that section very carefully, it's very clear.

Q. Will the first legislative step on that be the study or authorization for the loan?

THE PRESIDENT. I can't--I don't know what the first legislative step will be. I made that recommendation to the Congress. It is up to them to decide on how they want to proceed.

Q. Mr. President, did you have in mind that after the Government had built the plants that would be leased to people who were willing to make steel, or the Government would make the steel?

THE PRESIDENT. It has been customary all during the war--if you remember, the Defense Plant Corporation built $20 million worth of plants, most of them integrated with private industry plants.

Q. Are you thinking this will be in terms of civilian consumption, or for future national security purposes?

THE PRESIDENT. I am thinking of the shortage of steel in civilian consumption, right now. That is the bottleneck, and the reason we can't get most of the goods that we want.

[5.] Q. Mr. President, do you still favor the excess profits tax?

THE PRESIDENT. I made it very clear in my message what I favor for tax purposes. That is up to the Congress, anyway. Tax matters must originate in the House of Representatives.

Q. Mr. President, in your previous message to Congress, though, you specifically asked for an excess profits tax?

THE PRESIDENT. That is correct. I did ask for it.

Q. This time you did not?

THE PRESIDENT. The message speaks for itself.

[6.] Q. Is it your belief that the steel and power industries are deliberately refraining from necessary expansion?

THE PRESIDENT. I wouldn't say so. I think they are not expanding as much as they should.

Q. Why, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT. I can't answer that question. You had better talk to the head of the steel industry. It's maybe something like the aluminum industry was. I remember having a hearing, when I was chairman of a certain committee in the Senate, and I recall the Aluminum Company of North America informed me that 300 million pounds was all that the country or the world would use, as far as their company was concerned. We finally succeeded in getting the industry to expand, so that they are now making 3,600 million pounds of aluminum a year, and we are still short.

[7.] Q. Mr. President, in your previous State of the Union Message you have asked for statehood for Hawaii and Alaska. Have you changed your mind?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I have not. I asked for it in this message, by implication. I told you that in my message on civil rights,4 which was implemented as a part of this message, and Alaska and Hawaii are both part of that message.

4 See 1948 volume, this series, Item 20.

[8.] Q. Mr. President, there seems to be two schools of thought as to exactly what is meant in the change in the Federal labor laws, whether the President favors what they term the "single package deal," or whether he favors the repeal, first, of the Taft-Hartley law?

THE PRESIDENT. I made my position perfectly clear in the message, and the whole legislative end of the thing is with the Congress. I don't write legislation. I only prove it, or disapprove it. I answered your question, and made it perfectly clear in the message exactly what I want. Just read the message.

Reporter: Thank you, Mr. President.

Note: President Truman's one hundred and sixty-third news conference was held in his office at the White House at 10:35 a.m. on Friday, January 7, 1949.

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/229931

Filed Under



Washington, DC

Simple Search of Our Archives