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The President's News Conference

June 22, 1932


THE PRESIDENT. Copies of this statement will be given you at 10:30 this a.m.

The delegations at the World Conference on Disarmament at Geneva are engaged in discussions as to methods by which a more comprehensive effort can be made toward disarmament.

The following is the substance of instructions which I have given to the American delegation for guidance in the discussions. I have said:

"The time has come when we should cut through the brush and adopt some broad and definite method of reducing the overwhelming burden of armament which now lies upon the toilers of the world. This would be the most important step that could be taken to expedite economic recovery. We must make headway against the mutual fear and friction arising out of war armament. We can still remain practical in maintaining an adequate self-defense among all nations; we can add to the assurances of peace and yet save the people of the world from 10 to 15 billions of wasted dollars during the next 10 years.

"I propose that the following principles should be our guide:

"First: The Kellogg-Briand Pact, to which we are all signatories, can only mean that the nations of the world have agreed that they will use their arms solely for defense.

"Second: This reduction should be carried out not only by broad general cuts in armaments but by increasing the comparative power of defense through decreases in the power of the attack.

"Third: The armaments of the world have grown up in general mutual relation to each other. And, speaking generally, such relativity should be preserved in making reductions.

"Fourth: The reductions must be real and positive. They must bring actual economic relief.

"Fifth: There are three problems to deal with--land forces, air forces, and naval forces. They are all interconnected. No part of the proposals which I make can be disassociated one from the other.

"Based on these principles, I propose that the arms of the world should be reduced by nearly one-third.

"Land forces: In order to reduce the offensive character of all land forces as distinguished from their defensive character, I propose the adoption of the presentation already made at the Geneva Conference for the abolition of all tanks, all chemical warfare, and all large mobile guns. This would not prevent the establishment or increase of fixed fortifications of any character for the defense of frontiers and seacoasts. It would give an increased relative strength to such defenses as compared with the attack.

"I propose furthermore that there should be a reduction of one-third in strength of all land armies over and above the so-called police component.

"The land armaments of many nations are considered to have two functions. One is the maintenance of internal order in connection with the regular peace forces of the country. The strength required for this purpose has been called the 'police component.' The other function is defense against foreign attack. The additional strength required for this purpose has been called the 'defense component.' While it is not suggested that these different components should be separated, it is necessary to consider this contention as to functions in proposing a practical plan of reduction in land forces. Under the Treaty of Versailles and the other peace treaties, the armies of Germany, Austria, Hungary, and Bulgaria were reduced to a size deemed appropriate for the maintenance of internal order, Germany being assigned 100,000 troops for a population of approximately 65 million people. I propose that we should accept for all nations a basic police component of soldiers proportionate to the average which was thus allowed Germany. This formula, with necessary corrections for powers having colonial possessions, should be sufficient to provide for the maintenance of internal order by the nations of the world. Having analyzed these two components in this fashion, I propose as stated above that there should be a reduction of one-third in the strength of all land armies over and above the police component.

"Air forces: All bombing planes to be abolished. This will do away with the military possessions of types of planes capable of attacks upon civil populations and should be coupled with the total prohibition of all bombardment from the air.

"Naval forces: I propose that the treaty number and tonnage of battleships shall be reduced by one-third; that the treaty tonnage of aircraft carriers, cruisers, and destroyers shall be reduced by one-fourth; that the treaty tonnage of submarines shall be reduced by one-third, and that no nation shall retain a submarine tonnage greater than 35,000.

"The relative strength of naval arms in battleships and aircraft carriers, as between the five leading naval powers, was fixed by the Treaty of Washington. The relative strength in cruisers, destroyers, and submarines was fixed, as between the United States, Great Britain, and Japan, by the Treaty of London. For the purposes of this proposal, it is suggested that the French and Italian strength in cruisers and destroyers be calculated as though they had joined in the Treaty of London on a basis approximating the so-called accord of March 1, 1931. There are various technical considerations connected with these naval discussions which will be presented by the delegation.

"General: The effect of this plan would be to effect an enormous saving in cost of new construction and replacements of naval vessels. It would also save large amounts in the operating expense in all nations of land, sea, and air forces. It would greatly reduce offensive strength compared to defensive strength in all nations.

"These proposals are simple and direct. They call upon all nations to contribute something. The contribution here proposed will be relative and mutual. I know of nothing that would give more hope for humanity today than the acceptance of such a program with such minor changes as might be necessary. It is folly for the world to go on breaking its back over military expenditure, and the United States is willing to take its share of responsibility by making definite proposals that will relieve the world."

Note: President Hoover's two hundred and fifty-second news conference was held in the White House on Wednesday, June 22, 1932.

On the same day, the White House issued a text of the President's statement on instructions to the United States delegation to the General Disarmament Conference (see Item 205).

Herbert Hoover, The President's News Conference Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/207096

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