Harry S. Truman photo

The President's News Conference at Key West

November 29, 1951

THE PRESIDENT. [1.] I am going to read you a statement on a matter about which you are very much interested.

[Reading] "I hope everyone understands now that there has been no cease-fire in Korea, and that there can be none until an armistice has been signed.

"It is our duty to continue our efforts until the United Nations objectives have been achieved."

Get that now.

[Continuing reading] "It is our duty to continue our efforts until the United Nations objectives are achieved. Only then will the future safety of the United Nations forces, including those who are prisoners in the hands of the enemy, only then can their safety be assured. We cannot allow our men to be caught off balance by the enemy, in case we cannot reach a satisfactory armistice agreement. The continued pressure of our forces on the enemy constitutes the strongest incentive for the latter to agree to a just armistice.

"Any premature slackening of our effort would cost us more casualties in the long run than need be lost."

I want to give you a lecture on fake stories about cease-fires and armistices, and things of that kind.

I was marching down the road in France on October 27, 1918, with a battery--my battery. The other batteries in the regiment were strung out along the road, one behind the other, and here came a French paper with block headlines as big as the French can make them, saying that an armistice had been signed. And just as I read that headline, a 150 mm. shell burst about a hundred yards away from me on that side, and another one on this side. And that story was put out by Roy Howard. It was a fake. 1

1 According to the New York Times of November 30, 1951, the White House Press Office issued a clarifying statement 90 minutes after the close of the President's news conference, as follows:

"After refreshing his memory about his experience of reading a false armistice report in a French newspaper on October 27, 1918, the President is not sure that this report originated with Mr. Roy Howard. However, it is well known that Mr. Howard was responsible for a false armistice report which reached the United States on November 7, 1918, and the President wanted it known how much harm such false reports created."

This A.P. story that has been put out on a cease-fire is parallel with it. It doesn't do the peace of the world one bit of good for things like that to be put out, and they should not be. You have the responsibility for the welfare of this country just the same as I have, and I'm talking to the press associations and the independent newspaper representatives who are here, not you gentlemen individually because I get along with you all right, but you must be careful in this very dangerous time to stick to the truth.

Now, I understand that this story came out because of intense competition. Well, it seems to me that the welfare of the United States and of the United Nations and of the world is much more important than any competitive situation which may exist among news hounds.

Now, go ahead with your questions.

Q. Mr. President, would it be possible for you to release what you just said for quotation, so that we can use the recorded tape that has been made on it?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, wait until it is transcribed and then I will give you the answer. I want to see what it looks like.

Q. Mr. President, one question--what was that date, 18?

THE PRESIDENT. October 27th, 1918.

Q. What kind of shell was that?

THE PRESIDENT. A 150 mm. German shell on each side of me.

Q. That means what?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, that is about a six-inch shell.

Q. October 17th, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. October 27th. It created a riot over here, and the people had a terrible letdown when they found out it wasn't so.

Q. As I understand it, the direct quotation stops just before you start what you called your lecture on the story?

THE PRESIDENT. It stops with the sentence, "Any premature slackening of our effort would cost us more casualties in the long run than need be." That will be mimeographed, so you will have a copy, Joe 2 tells me. We'll look this other tape over, and if it's in proper shape, why we'll let you have it.

2 Joseph H. Short, Secretary to the President.

Q. We would sure like to have it.

THE PRESIDENT. All right, I think we will be able to release it.

[2.] Q. Mr. President, would you care to comment on the assertions by Senator Taft before the Senate committee on Monday, that the campaign to defeat him in Ohio was a sinister conspiracy blueprinted by a Communist and directed from the White House ?

THE PRESIDENT. There was no conspiracy that I know anything about. Of course, all the Democrats wanted a Democratic Sena tor from Ohio, and I'll admit that I was very anxious to see a Democratic Senator from Ohio, but we didn't succeed in getting one. I think the conspiracy was probably in the slush fund on the Republican side of the campaign.

[3.] Q. Mr. President, have you been informed that Senator Kefauver has given the people permission to enter his name in the presidential primary in California?

THE PRESIDENT. I didn't know about that, but I saw where he was perfectly willing to let the lightning strike him if it felt that way. Everybody has a right to run for President if he wants to.

[4.] Q. Mr. President, are you planning to do anything about the Chief Counsel of the Internal Revenue Bureau, Mr. Oliphant, who has been brought into the Caudle case because he took some free plane rides ? 3

THE PRESIDENT. I have no facts to justify any action as yet.

3Charles Oliphant, Assistant General Counsel, Bureau of Internal Revenue, and T. Lamar Caudle, former Assistant Attorney General, Tax Division, Department of Justice, whose names figured prominently in the congressional investigation of the Bureau of Internal Revenue. See also Item 300.

Q. Mr. President, Senator Nixon made a suggestion today, that you guarantee the employees of the Internal Revenue Bureau freedom from any reprisal, if they will report cases of wrongdoing which he says they know about and haven't reported?

THE PRESIDENT. That isn't true. They have always had immunity on that subject. Whenever a man knows of any malfeasance in office and doesn't report it, he is particeps - criminis in connection with it.

Q. Would you give us that again, please sir? [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. He is a party to the crime, if that will suit you better.

Q. When he doesn't report it?

THE PRESIDENT. That's right.

[5.] Q. Mr. President, what do you think of the Russians shooting down one of our planes off Vladivostok ?

THE PRESIDENT. Of course I don't like it. I don't know whether it is true or not. I haven't had the official report as yet.

[6.] Q. Mr. President, do you agree with the Senate Preparedness Subcommittee, that military production is dangerously behind schedule because guns are not getting priority over--

THE PRESIDENT. I think that question is rather loaded. I think the very best effort is being put forth to meet the different requirements. If it isn't, I'll soon find out about it, and we will do something about it. I have had experience along that line, as you know.

Q. Is there a plan, sir, to revise our production schedule somewhat, to bring along some small arms faster ahead of the long lead items, so to speak, to speed up the--

THE PRESIDENT. Whatever is necessary in that line will be done. It is being surveyed all the time. It is in constant condition of being looked into by the National Security Council, by Mr. Wilson,4 and by the Cabinet.

4Charles E. Wilson, Director, Office of Defense Mobilization.

[7.] Q. Mr. President, were you advised of the death of Senator Wherry? 5

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, and I was very sorry to hear it. Senator Wherry and I were very good personal friends. We had a lot of political dogfights, but personally he and I were always very friendly. I sent a telegram of sympathy to his wife today, immediately, as soon as I heard it.

5Senator Kenneth S. Wherry of Nebraska died at the George Washington University Hospital in Washington on November 29.

[8.] Q. Mr. President, if the CIO breaks through wage ceilings in the negotiations about to start, do you think that that will affect the fight against inflation in any great degree?

THE PRESIDENT. That's a hypothetical question--starts with if and ends with the prospective something that hasn't happened yet. When the time comes, I will answer it. I don't mean to step on you, but then you can't answer questions like that.

[9.] Q. In regard to Mr. Oliphant, you said you have no facts to justify any action as yet. Do you--

THE PRESIDENT. Whenever the facts come to me to justify action, I'll take the action, as I always do; but you can't convict a man until you have the evidence. That has been the policy of some of our committees in Congress, and I don't want to follow that policy.

Q. Mr. President, do you expect any other dismissals and firings in this inquiry?

THE PRESIDENT. I'm making no anticipatory remarks on that. It's like this other question down here, it is hypothetical.

[10.] Q. Mr. President, the question in which we all have quite a personal interest-when are we going home?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, sir, I don't care. The longer we stay the better I'll be pleased. As soon as I know the answer, I'll give it to you. I'll have a lot of trouble when I get back to Washington. I do an immense amount of work around here without interruption. That's not possible in the White House.

Q. Do you expect to spend Christmas somewhere besides Key West?

THE PRESIDENT. That's another hypothetical question. I expect to spend it in Independence, Mo.

[11.] Q. Mr. President, have you ever received a letter from this mayor of Ithaca, N.Y., who wanted a million-dollar Government loan to raise city employee's salaries up there?

THE PRESIDENT. Never heard of it. Didn't reach me. Joe says it was just a publicity stunt. I guess that's right.

Q. Well, Mr. President, have we overlooked anything?

THE PRESIDENT. I can't remember anything you have overlooked. Seems to me you have covered the waterfront pretty thoroughly.

Reporter: Thank you, Mr. President.

Note: President Truman's two hundred and eighty-sixth news conference was held in the lobby of Bachelor Officers Quarters No. 128 at the United States Naval Base, Key West, Fla., at 4 p.m. on Thursday, November 29, 1951.

Harry S. Truman, The President's News Conference at Key West Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/231305

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