Harry S. Truman photo

The President's News Conference

May 02, 1945

THE PRESIDENT. First, I want to read you a couple of letters, which will be distributed as you go out, so if I get a little too fast for you, why--

[1.] [Reading, not literally]: "My dear Mr. President: I hereby tender you my resignation as Postmaster General1 to become effective at a time that best meets with your convenience.

1Frank C. Walker served from September 11, 1940, through June 30, 1945.

"I have in the stage of preparation a report of my stewardship, together with certain suggestions concerning a reorganization of the Postal Department. This report will be completed within thirty days. If agreeable to you, Mr. President, I would like to have the resignation made effective at that time.

"The mantle of a great President has fallen upon you. Statesman and humanitarian, Franklin D. Roosevelt had a heart which beat with true compassion for all who suffered or bore heavy burdens. The Nation, so sorely bereft of his leadership, has found unity as well as strength and courage in the pledge of faith which you gave to all the world in the address to the Congress in joint session this afternoon.

"Franklin D. Roosevelt now takes his place with the great men of the ages. May his noble spirit guide and inspire you as you take up the fight for the ideals in defense of which he gave all of his strength, his very life.

"It remains for me only to add that I have full confidence in your leadership. Although I relinquish public office, I am yours to command if ever I can be of service to you in the heavy tasks which lie ahead."

And this is my reply.

[2.] [Reading, not literally]: "Dear Frank: I have learned in a very short time that the President of the United States all too often has to act in ways that please others and which are very different from the personal wishes and feelings of the President himself. Full realization of this is brought home to me very forcibly by your request that I accept your resignation as Postmaster General.

"It goes without saying that your request is reluctantly and grudgingly granted, effective as of the close of business on June 30, 1945. I must warn you, however, that I confidently expect to take advantage of your offer to return to me whenever there is need of your services in the future.

"We sever only the official ties between us. The warm friendship and close association which has been ours through many years goes on as before.

"The splendid service you have rendered your Country, and your Government, will long be remembered by a grateful people. I count myself one of them, and thank you for your statement of confidence in my Administration."

[3.] I am sending down to the Senate the nomination of Robert E. Hannegan, of Missouri, to be Postmaster General, effective July 1, 1945.

Q. Sending it down tomorrow, probably?

THE PRESIDENT. It will go to Mr. Biffle this afternoon, who will present it to the Senate tomorrow.

[4.] I nominate Mr. David E. Lilienthal, of Wisconsin, to be a member of the Board of Directors of the Tennessee Valley Authority, for the term expiring 9 years after May 18, 1945. That will go down at the same time as Mr. Hannegan's does.

[5.] I issued an Executive order today, appointing Mr. Justice Jackson to be the representative of the United States--I will just read you this, this statement which I am issuing, which you will also receive as you go out, in mimeographed form.

[Reading, not literally]: "At my request, Mr. Justice Robert H. Jackson, in addition to his duties as Justice of the Supreme Court, has accepted designation as Chief of Counsel for the United States in preparing and prosecuting charges of atrocities and war crimes against such of the leaders of the European Axis powers, and their principal agents and accessories, as the United States may agree with any of the United Nations to bring to trial before an international military tribunal.

"Pursuant to the Moscow Declaration of November 1, 1943, all war criminals, against whom there is a sufficient proof of personal participation in specific atrocities, are to be returned to the countries where their crimes were committed, to be judged and punished by those countries themselves. These cases are not involved in this assignment.

"There are left, however, the cases of other war criminals--particularly the major war criminals and their principal agents and accessories, whose offenses have no particular geographical localization.

"I hope and expect that an international military tribunal will soon be organized to try this second category of war criminals. It will be Justice Jackson's responsibility to represent the United States in preparing and presenting the case against these criminals before such military tribunal.

"Justice Jackson has assembled a staff from within the War, Navy, and other departments concerned, which has already begun work, so that there will be no delay on the part of the United States. It is desirable that preparation begin at once, even though details of the military court are not yet determined.

"I have just signed an Executive order designating Justice Jackson to this post. He and his staff will examine the evidence already gathered and being gathered by the United Nations War Crimes Commission in London and by the various allied armies and other agencies; he will arrange for assembling the necessary additional evidence. He will begin preparation for the trial.

"It is our objective to establish as soon as possible an international military tribunal; to provide a trial procedure which will be expeditious in nature and which will permit no evasion or delay--but one which is in keeping with our tradition of fairness towards those accused of crime. Steps to carry this out are actively under way.

"Arguments in the Supreme Court for the current term will conclude this week, and the Court has ordered adjournment on May 28th. It is hoped .that the trial of these war crimes cases will have been completed next October when the Court reconvenes."

I am ready for questions! [Laughter]

[6.] Q. Mr. President, have the negotiations which the State Department just told us about, being carried on by the Swedish Government and the German Government--have they broken down completely?

THE PRESIDENT. I can't answer that.

[7.] Q. Mr. President, with reference here to Mr. Hannegan, your understanding is he will continue as chairman of--National Chairman?


[8.] Q. Mr. President, when you were Vice President, a CIO delegation asked you to help in revising the Little Steel formula. You told them, somewhat firmly, that you were against upsetting any formula that would put us into a spiral of inflation. Can you elaborate on that ?

THE PRESIDENT. My position on that hasn't changed a bit. Well, after all, the reason for all these war agencies which have been established-that is, price control and wage control--and agreements which we have had with industry and with union labor have been with the one object in view: to prevent wild inflation. I am just as strong for that now as I was when I was Vice President.

[9.] Q. Mr. President, we heard today that you might go up to address a joint session of Congress on V-E Day. Is there anything to that?

THE PRESIDENT. I haven't made any program of that nature. Haven't had it in mind.

[10.] Q. Mr. President, have you sent a new message to Mr. Stalin regarding the Polish problem?

THE PRESIDENT. No, not any new one.

Q. Well, in the last--since Mr. Molotov came here, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. I have been in communication with Mr. Stalin since Mr. Molotov came here.1

1 A White House release of April 23 announced that the President had twice received V. M. Molotov, Vice Chairman, Council of People's Commissars and People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs, USSR, during his short stay in Washington. The release also stated that the Secretary of State had conferred with Mr. Moletoy and with Anthony Eden, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs of the United Kingdom, on the Polish situation and on matters connected with the San Francisco Conference. The release further stated that discussion of the Polish situation would be continued by the three foreign secretaries at San Francisco.

[11.] Q. Mr. President, do you favor the Morgenthau plan designed to use Germany as an agricultural country?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't know anything about the Morgenthau plan. I haven't studied it at all, so I can't answer you.

[12.] Q. Mr. President, did you mean to put a period at the end of that sentence, or were you hoping for a question--

THE PRESIDENT. No, I Wasn't hoping for a question.

Q.--referring to your communication with Mr. Stalin?

THE PRESIDENT. I had a period at the end of the sentence--intended to have.

[13.] Q. Mr. President, did you have lunch today with the new Ambassador from the Argentine ?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, I did. I had a very pleasant visit with him, and he and his wife are coming to call on us tomorrow or the next day.

[14.] Q. Mr. President, it may not be a part of the addenda--whatever it's called--in connection with Justice Jackson, but there is before Congress--before the people--the question of war criminals who may evade or try to evade by escaping to neutral countries, or some other form. Have you anything particular to say about policy, in that respect ?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, most of the neutral countries, I think, are on record as against protecting any war criminals, and I think we will succeed in getting all of the rest of the neutral countries into the same frame of mind. At least I hope so.

Q. Mr. President, that would be your desire?


Q. Mr. President, can you tell us whether Admiral Doenitz is on the list of war criminals?

THE PRESIDENT. No, sir, I can't.

[15.] Q. Mr. President, do you have any views on tax reductions after V-E Day?

THE PRESIDENT. I am discussing tax problems with the Secretary of the Treasury now, and I would prefer to discuss that in the press conference particularly devoted to taxes.

[16.] Q. Mr. President, this morning you made public a number of cuts that you are recommending in general. Would you give us any sort of figure on how much you expect to lop off altogether?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I didn't total it. It is somewhere in the neighborhood of 7 or 8 billion.1

1On May 2 the White House announced that the President had sent letters to Congress recommending (1) a reduction in ship construction funds of more than $7 billion, and (2) a reduction of more than $80 million in the 1946 budget estimates for eight war agencies. A third release stated that the President had informed Congress that the Office of Civilian Defense would be terminated and that he had withdrawn its proposed budget of $369,000 for the next fiscal year.

Q. It is now, and I thought maybe there are additional cuts.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, there will be additional cuts, but they are still under consideration, and that will be done circumspectly, so I don't want now to prophesy.

[17.] Q. Mr. President, is there any change in Army operation of Montgomery Ward contemplated?

THE PRESIDENT. None whatever. The policy on Montgomery Ward will be followed as it has been started.

[18.] Q. Mr. President, can you say anything on your attitude toward the full employment bill of Senator Murray?

THE PRESIDENT. I would--I am not familiar with Senator Murray's full employment bill, but I am for full employment, and shall do everything in my power to create full employment as soon as hostilities end and we start back on the civil program.

[19.] Q. Mr. President, in this 7 or 8 billion reduction in budget, has that been in any way translated into the numbers of civilian employees of the Government who will be dropped?

THE PRESIDENT. No. These are anticipated expenditures--on ship construction, and things of that sort.

Q. It does imply, sir

THE PRESIDENT. It does imply, of course--

Q.--obvious reductions?

THE PRESIDENT.--it will imply some reductions. Studies are being made to meet that situation.

[20.] Q. The State Department recapitulation of the peace negotiations ends on the note that the Swedish Count Bernadotte came back from Germany yesterday, after having delivered the last message to Himmler and had no reply. Has there been a reply since yesterday ?

THE PRESIDENT. There has not been a reply. The release of the State Department stands just as it is.

[21.] Q. Mr. President, would you care to comment on the death of Adolf Hitler reported, or Mussolini?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, of course, the two principal war criminals will not have to come to trial; and I am very happy they are out of the way.

Q. Well, does that mean, sir, that we know officially that Hitler is dead?


Q. Do we know how he died, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT. No, we do not.

Q. Mr. President, I didn't quite get that. Is it official? This is confirmation that Hitler is dead?

THE PRESIDENT. We have the best--on the best authority possible to obtain at this time that Hitler is dead. But how he died we are not-we are not familiar with the details as yet.

Q. Could you name the authority, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT. I would rather not.

Q. Mr. President, do you mean that the--you are convinced that authority you give is the best possible, but it is--but that it is true?


[22.] Q. Mr. President, do you care to comment at all on the situation in Germany today; that is, would you care to make any extension of your remarks on the surrender of the German army in Italy?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I would not.

Q. Mr. President, do you contemplate a radio broadcast imminently?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I do not.

Q. Mr. President, there have been reports late--later today, following the Italian announcement, that other groups of Germans are on the point of surrendering in the Dutch pockets?

THE PRESIDENT. I hope that is true. I don't know that it is.

[23.] Q. Mr. President, is there anything you can give us in the way of background, regarding last Saturday's situation and announcement?

THE PRESIDENT. What was that? [Laughter]

Q. I think that was the one

THE PRESIDENT. I can't give you anything further on it, I am sorry to say.

Reporter: Thank you, Mr. President.

Note: President Truman's fifth news conference was held in his office at the White House at 4:02 p.m. on Wednesday, May 2, 1945.

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/229792

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