Harry S. Truman photo

The President's News Conference Aboard the Campaign Train

October 16, 1948

THE PRESIDENT. [1.] I understand that some of you are confused and disturbed about the Executive order on the Reserves.1 That is merely a part of the military program that was inaugurated by me as soon as World War II was over. The first thing necessary to set out a military policy for the United States was a unification of the services under one man, the Secretary for Defense. In October 1945 I asked for a universal training program, and I asked every session of Congress to implement that--after they took a position. The idea of that was to have a military program that we could afford to pay for. We were spending $105 billion for military purposes in 1945.

1 Executive Order 10007 "Organization of the Reserve Units of the Armed Forces" (Oct. 15, 1948; 3 CFR, 1943-1948 Comp., p. 824).

That program was naturally cut down with demobilization, but I tried to get it down below $ 10 billion in 1946--didn't quite make it, it went 11 1/2 to 12. I tried to get it to 10 billion in 1947, but I wasn't successful--same thing for the budget now under discussion. We finally had to arrange it to events going on in the world, and finally confined it in the budget to 14 billion plus for 1949, and they were asking for 23 billion.

It has always been my plan for a professional service only large enough to keep the civilian components fairly well trained. I had hoped with universal military service, if passed by Congress, that we could arrange so that a fellow could serve a 3-year hitch in the National Guard, so that it would not be necessary for him to take universal training all at once. That would keep the National Guard filled up. Those that were in the universal service would be discharged into the Reserves on a 6-year basis, just like soldiers were discharged after World War II. In that way we would have a professional, well-trained teaching service, to keep the National Guard in reserve and in trim all the time.

We had eight or nine hundred thousand officers who were in the service and training in World War II, and at least half of those--

Q. How many, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. Eight or nine hundred thousand--I don't remember the exact figures--officers who were trained in this war, and at least half would like to keep up their information, so that in case there would be necessity for it they would be in a position to go ahead.

It was in the other war that I organized the first Reserve organization in the United States, and that Reserve organization is largely Navy--Marine--Army; and that is what I have in mind for this order. I have been trying to get this order implemented since last January. It has been rather difficult to get everybody in line to see the necessity of it.

I am particularly anxious that we have a military policy that will be one we can pay for, and one which will do the country good.

Q. Did you turn down the request for $23 billion for this year?

THE PRESIDENT. I have set the budget at 14 billion, 4.

Q. Mr. President, what is your position regarding the--[inaudible words]--National Guard as it fits into this program?

THE PRESIDENT. I haven't studied that situation. It has only been presented recently. The National Guard has been supported by the Federal Government, and the National Guard will have to be worked into the whole defense program on a basis that there will be coordination. The Navy Reserve and the Marine Reserve are implemented and going. I am trying to get the Army Reserve and the Air Reserve in the same situation. I am hoping that all who have the necessary training--

Q. Mr. President, what is the situation on our Reserve now?

THE PRESIDENT. Nothing is being done with the actual Reserve, but in the National Guard it has been implemented--not all of it--the Navy and Marine Reserve are the only ones actively at work. Nothing done about it at all.

Q. Does the order today require any additional funds?

THE PRESIDENT. No. What I am trying to do is make use of the establishment that we have without, at the present time, any additional funds--because all the additional funds were going into the regular establishment.

Q. This is all voluntary?

THE PRESIDENT. No, it is not voluntary.

Q. I mean their participation?

THE PRESIDENT. Their participation is voluntary, of course--yes, that's right.

Q. There is no significance to the fact that you issued this order on the train?

THE PRESIDENT. No. This is the White House. I have been signing my name at the same rate every day ever since we have been on here, in addition to this political program. I am still signing my name five or six hundred times a day. The pouch came in, and I transacted all the business of the Government.

[2.] Q. Does your car roll like ours?

THE PRESIDENT. It's worse.

[3.] Q. How are you feeling, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT. Never felt any better in my life. I have been very highly pleased with the trip. I was agreeably surprised in Ohio, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana. I think I was agreeably prised in one way, as some that were the other. I am very much heartened by the trip. I think it has been very successful. When you take towns like Waukesha, Wis., and Logansport, Ind., I think it means something. I was very happy over the turnout in Milwaukee, the audience we had there-very, very responsive. In fact, I don't think we have had a dud on the trip.

Q. Indianapolis?

THE PRESIDENT. That was good, though.

[4.] Q. Mr. President, getting back to the Reserve business just a moment, you said that it would not require any additional funds?

THE PRESIDENT. Not at the present time-not at the present time. Eventually, if I get it set up, and the records set up down to the point where it ought to be, we will spend maybe half as much.

Q. What about the cost of the actual training, such as summer camps?

THE PRESIDENT. When it comes around time for that, that will cost something. But the money I am proposing to save on the regular establishment will, in the long run, make final expenditures for defense, I hope, between $5 and $7 billion.

Q. Is that your peacetime--

THE PRESIDENT. That is what I hope to reach some time or other. We are spending 14 billion, 4 this time. We can't keep that up.

Q. You will reduce it?

THE PRESIDENT. I hope to reduce the cost of the whole program.

Q. Do you intend a reduction in the standing forces now?

THE PRESIDENT. A reduction in the cost of the regular establishment. It is not possible to maintain it at $15 or $20 billion. If we get peace in the world and disarmament comes on all at once, I am very much afraid that we will do like we have always done-go to sleep; and in order for that to continue to work, that will be the nucleus of a police force that will maintain peace in the world.

Q. Fiscal year 1949?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes. The 14.4 is for the fiscal year 1950. The budget this year is a little over 13.

Q. Do you contemplate any reduction in the regular forces until you do reach some sort--

THE PRESIDENT. No, that's the point we are trying to get pretty well set out so that we can make the professional service just a nucleus for construction whenever we reach the goal on the National Guard Reserve.

[5.] Q. Back on politics, Dewey called his engineer a lunatic, and made a veiled reference to you yesterday, and I--

THE PRESIDENT. No comment.

Q. Do you reconcile the problem--

THE PRESIDENT. I don't reconcile it.

[6.] Q. Mr. President, do you think that your stock has gone up as a result of this trip, against your opponent--

THE PRESIDENT. Well now, that's what you're along for. That's your job. I am the candidate. The candidate is not going to comment. He's optimistic!

Q. You expect to show an adjustment in the polls, do you not?

THE PRESIDENT. I think it's a little late. These polls were all taken before the real "war" started. I don't think they will do much revision of the polls. Mr. Roper 1 says another poll is rather unnecessary. He is in the poll business. I am the candidate.

1Elmo B. Roper, Jr. Director of International Public Opinion Research, Inc.

[7.] Q. With the increasing costs of our present rearming that has been necessitated by this world situation, do you feel that you will be able to reduce the budget in the foreseeable future?

THE PRESIDENT. That all depends on the establishment of a world peace on the basis that will give confidence to every nation in the world. And I am looking forward to getting that done some day.

Q. At the present time, however, can you say how long it looks like our increasing rearmament costs will go?

THE PRESIDENT. I can't prophesy. When the United Nations is over, in Paris

[8.] Q. On the reports from Paris,2 how do you think the situation looks abroad?

THE PRESIDENT. I think there has been some improvement.

2 United Nations General Assembly meeting in Paris.

Q. Any possibility of getting any agreement?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't want to make any prophecies. I would rather not comment on it at this time. When the time comes I will let you know.

[9.] Q. Do you consider that you have succeeded to some degree in smoking out Governor Dewey?

THE PRESIDENT. I think I have succeeded entirely in informing the public what the issues are in this campaign; and I think that is what I started out to do.

[10.] Q. Can you say specifically what things have occurred to make you say that you think there has been some improvement in the world situation?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, the debates in the United Nations conference are going forward just as the legislatures of the democratic countries are carried on; and that gives me some optimism that they are willing to talk things over. Eventually, that will be made for the welfare of the world.

Q. Has there been any change in the attitude of Soviet Russia?

THE PRESIDENT. I can't answer that.

Q. Have they been any better about talking things over in recent weeks?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, yes, yes, there has been an improvement.

Q. Improvement in their approach?

THE PRESIDENT. In the approach. I refer to the whole United Nations, and Russia is part of it.

[11.] Now Tony1 wants to know if I am going to stay in the White House before I start out again. Yes, Tony, I am.

1 Ernest B. Vaccaro of the Associated Press.

Q. Have you got some extra beds?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, I have a lot of beds. I can put you in the Lincoln bed. [Laughter]

[12.] Q. What is the situation in regard to that Southern vote?

THE PRESIDENT. have made no estimate of it. I will have an estimate when I get back from down South.

Q. How do you feel about going down there?

THE PRESIDENT. I am very happy about it. I am going to have a good time down there, as I hope all of you will have.

Q. Is this a political or Presidential trip?

THE PRESIDENT. Presidential. I am the chairman of the Missouri delegation that goes to Miami, and I am going down there as President of the United States.

Q. Is it going to be a nonpolitical speech?

THE PRESIDENT. I am going down there as President of the United States, the Democratic candidate will be left in Washington. But the Democratic candidate will back us up at Raleigh.

[13.] Q. May I clarify one thing? I understood you to say there has been an improvement in Russia's--

THE PRESIDENT. I said I thought there had been an improvement in the whole world problem--and some improvement in the Russian attitude.

Q. Would you permit us to quote "I think there has been some improvement in the Russian attitude"?

THE PRESIDENT. No, no, that is not for quotation. I am saying that to you for background, and how I feel.

It is nice to talk to you.

Reporter: Thank you, Mr. President.

Note: President Truman's one hundred and fifty-seventh news conference was held on the train en route to Washington, D.C., at 2:40 p.m. on Saturday, October 16, 1948.

Harry S Truman, The President's News Conference Aboard the Campaign Train Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/233679

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