Harry S Truman
State of the Union Address
January 8, 1951
Mr. President, Mr. Speaker, Members of the Congress:
82d Congress faces as grave a task as any Congress in the history of our
Republic. The actions you take will be watched by the whole world. These
actions will measure the ability of a free people, acting through their
chosen representatives and their free institutions, to meet a deadly challenge
to their way of life.
We can meet this challenge foolishly or wisely. We can meet it timidly
or bravely, shamefully or honorably.
I know that the 82d Congress will meet this challenge in a way worthy
of our great heritage. I know that your debates will be earnest, responsible,
constructive, and to the point. I know that from these debates there will
come the great decisions needed to carry us forward.
At this critical time, I am glad to say that our country is in a healthy
condition. Our democratic institutions are sound and strong. We have more
men and women at work than ever before. We are able to produce more than
ever before--in fact, far more than any country ever produced in the history
of the world.
I am confident that we can succeed in the great task that lies before
We will succeed, but we must all do our part. We must all act together
as citizens of this great Republic.
As we meet here today, American soldiers are fighting a bitter campaign
in Korea. We pay tribute to their courage, devotion, and gallantry.
Our men are fighting, alongside their United Nations allies, because
they know, as we do, that the aggression in Korea is part of the attempt
of the Russian Communist dictatorship to take over the world, step by step.
Our men are fighting a long way from home, but they are fighting for
our lives and our liberties. They are fighting to protect our right to
meet here today--our right to govern ourselves as a free nation.
The threat of world conquest by Soviet Russia endangers our liberty
and endangers the kind of world in which the free spirit of man can survive.
This threat is aimed at all peoples who strive to win or defend their own
freedom and national independence.
Indeed, the state of our Nation is in great part the state of our friends
and allies throughout the world. The gun that points at them points at
us, also. The threat is a total threat and the danger is a common danger.
All free nations are exposed and all are in peril. Their only security
lies in banding together. No one nation can find protection in a selfish
search for a safe haven from the storm.
The free nations do not have any aggressive purpose. We want only peace
in the world--peace for all countries. No threat to the security of any
nation is concealed in our plans and programs.
We had hoped that the Soviet Union, with its security assured by the
Charter of the United Nations, would be willing to live and let live. But
I am sorry to say that has not been the case.
The imperialism of the czars has been replaced by the even more ambitious,
more crafty, and more menacing imperialism of the rulers of the Soviet
This new imperialism has powerful military forces. It is keeping millions
of men under arms. It has a large air force and a strong submarine force.
It has complete control of the men and equipment of its satellites. It
has kept its subject peoples and its economy in a state of perpetual mobilization.
The present rulers of the Soviet Union have shown that they are willing
to use this power to destroy the free nations and win domination over the
The Soviet imperialists have two ways of going about their destructive
work. They use the method of subversion and internal revolution, and they
use the method of external aggression. In preparation for either of these
methods of attack, they stir up class strife and disorder. They encourage
sabotage. They put out poisonous propaganda. They deliberately try to prevent
If their efforts are successful, they foment a revolution, as they did
in Czechoslovakia and China, and as they tried, unsuccessfully, to do in
Greece. If their methods of subversion are blocked, and if they think they
can get away with outright warfare, they resort to external aggression.
This is what they did when they loosed the armies of their puppet states
against the Republic of Korea, in an evil war by proxy.
We of the free world must be ready to meet both of these methods of
Soviet action. We must not neglect one or the other.
The free world has power and resources to meet these two forms of aggression--resources
that are far greater than those of the Soviet dictatorship. We have skilled
and vigorous peoples, great industrial strength, and abundant sources of
raw materials. And above all, we cherish liberty. Our common ideals are
a great part of our strength. These ideals are the driving force of human
The free nations believe in the dignity and the worth of man.
We believe in independence for all nations.
We believe that free and independent nations can band together into
a world order based on law. We have laid the cornerstone of such a peaceful
world in the United Nations.
We believe that such a world order can and should spread the benefits
of modern science and industry, better health and education, more food
and rising standards of living--throughout the world.
These ideals give our cause a power and vitality that Russian communism
can never command.
The free nations, however, are bound together by more than ideals. They
are a real community bound together also by the ties of self-interest and
self-preservation. If they should fall apart, the results would be fatal
to human freedom.
Our own national security is deeply involved with that of the other
free nations. While they need our support, we equally need theirs. Our
national safety would be gravely prejudiced if the Soviet Union were to
succeed in harnessing to its war machine the resources and the manpower
of the free nations on the borders of its empire.
If Western Europe were to fall to Soviet Russia, it would double the
Soviet supply of coal and triple the Soviet supply of steel. If the free
countries of Asia and Africa should fall to Soviet Russia, we would lose
the sources of many of our most vital raw materials, including uranium,
which is the basis of our atomic power. And Soviet command of the manpower
of the free nations of Europe and Asia would confront us with military
forces which we could never hope to equal.
In such a situation, the Soviet Union could impose its demands on the
world, without resort to conflict, simply through the preponderance of
its economic and military power. The Soviet Union does not have to attack
the United States to secure domination of the world. It can achieve its
ends by isolating us and swallowing up all our allies. Therefore, even
if we were craven enough I do not believe we could be--but, I say, even
if we were craven enough to abandon our ideals, it would be disastrous
for us to withdraw from the community of free nations.
We are the most powerful single member of this community, and we have
a special responsibility. We must take the leadership in meeting the challenge
to freedom and in helping to protect the rights of independent nations.
This country has a practical, realistic program of action for meeting
First, we shall have to extend economic assistance, where it can be
effective. The best way to stop subversion by the Kremlin is to strike
at the roots of social injustice and economic disorder. People who have
jobs, homes, and hopes for the future will defend themselves against the
underground agents of the Kremlin. Our programs of economic aid have done
much to turn back Communism,
In Europe the Marshall plan has had an electrifying result. As European
recovery progressed, the strikes led by the Kremlin's agents in Italy and
France failed. All over Western Europe the Communist Party took worse and
worse beatings at the polls.
The countries which have received Marshall plan aid have been able,
through hard work, to expand their productive strength-in many cases, to
levels higher than ever before in their history. Without this strength
they would be completely incapable of defending themselves today. They
are now ready to use this strength in helping to build a strong combined
defense against aggression.
We shall need to continue some economic aid to European countries. This
aid should now be specifically related to the building of their defenses.
In other parts of the world our economic assistance will need to be
more broadly directed toward economic development. In the Near East, in
Africa, in Asia, we must do what we can to help people who are striving
to advance from misery, poverty, and hunger. We must also continue to help
the economic growth of our good neighbors in this hemisphere. These actions
will bring greater strength for the free world. They will give many people
a real stake in the future and reason to defend their freedom. They will
mean increased production of goods they need and materials we need.
Second, we shall need to continue our military assistance to countries
which want to defend themselves.
The heart of our common defense effort is the North Atlantic community.
The defense of Europe is the basis for the defense of the whole free world--ourselves
included. Next to the United States, Europe is the largest workshop in
the world. It is also a homeland of the great religious beliefs shared
by many of our citizens beliefs which are now threatened by the tide of
Strategically, economically, and morally, the defense of Europe is a
part of our own defense. That is why we have joined with the countries
of Europe in the North Atlantic Treaty, pledging ourselves to work with
There has been much discussion recently over whether the European countries
are willing to defend themselves. Their actions are answering this question.
Our North Atlantic Treaty partners have strict systems of universal
military training. Several have recently increased the term of service.
All have taken measures to improve the quality of training. Forces are
being trained and expanded as rapidly as the necessary arms and equipment
can be supplied from their factories and ours. Our North Atlantic Treaty
partners, together, are building armies bigger than our own.
None of the North Atlantic Treaty countries, including our own country,
has done enough yet. But real progress is being made. Together, we have
worked out defense 'plans. The military leaders of our own country took
part in working out these plans, and are agreed that they are sound and
within our capabilities.
To put these plans into action, we sent to Europe last week one of our
greatest military commanders, General Dwight D. Eisenhower.
General Eisenhower went to Europe to assume command of the united forces
of the North Atlantic Treaty countries, including our own forces in Germany.
The people of Europe have confidence in General Eisenhower. They know
his ability to put together a fighting force of allies. His mission is
vital to our security. We should all stand behind him, and give him every
bit of help we can.
Part of our job will be to reinforce the military strength of our European
partners by sending them weapons and equipment as our military production
Our program of military assistance extends to the nations in the Near
East and the Far East which are trying to defend their freedom. Soviet
communism is trying to make these nations into colonies, and to use their
people as cannon fodder in new wars of conquest. We want their people to
be free men and to enjoy peace.
Our country has always stood for freedom for the peoples of Asia. Long,
long ago it stood for the freedom of the peoples of Asia. Our history shows
this. We have demonstrated it in the Philippines. We have demonstrated
it in our relations with Indonesia, India, and with China. We hope to join
in restoring the people of Japan to membership in the community of free
It is in the Far East that we have taken up arms, under the United Nations,
to preserve the principle of independence for free nations. We are fighting
to keep the forces of Communist aggression from making a slave state out
Korea has tremendous significance for the world. It means that free
nations, acting through the United Nations, are fighting together against
We will understand the importance of this best if we look back into
history. If the democracies had stood up against the invasion of Manchuria
in 1931, or the attack on Ethiopia in 1935, or the seizure of Austria in
1938, if they had stood together against aggression on those occasions
as the United Nations has done in Korea, the whole history of our time
would have been different.
The principles for which we are fighting in Korea are right and just.
They are the foundations of collective security and of the future of free
nations. Korea is not only a country undergoing the torment of aggression;
it is also a symbol. It stands for right and justice in the world against
oppression and slavery. The free world must always stand for these principles--and
we will stand with the free world.
As the third part of our program, we will continue to work for peaceful
settlements in international disputes. We will support the United Nations
and remain loyal to the great principles of international cooperation laid
down in its charter.
We are willing, as we have always been, to negotiate honorable settlements
with the Soviet Union. But we will not engage in appeasement.
The Soviet rulers have made it clear that we must have strength as well
as right on our side. If we build our strength--and we are building it--the
Soviet rulers may face the facts and lay aside their plans to take over
That is what we hope will happen, and that is what we are trying to
bring about. That is the only realistic road to peace.
These are the main elements of the course our Nation must follow as
a member of the community of free nations. These are the things we must
do to preserve our security and help create a peaceful world. But they
will be successful only if we increase the strength of our own country.
Here at home we have some very big jobs to do. We are building much
stronger military forces--and we are building them fast. We are preparing
for full wartime mobilization, if that should be necessary. And we are
continuing to build a strong and growing economy, able to maintain whatever
effort may be required for as long as necessary.
We are building our own Army, Navy, and Air Force to an active strength
of nearly 3 1/2 million men and women. We are stepping up the training
of the reserve forces, and establishing more training facilities, so that
we can rapidly increase our active forces far more on short notice.
We are going to produce all the weapons and equipment that such an armed
force will need. Furthermore, we will make weapons for our allies, and
weapons for our own reserve supplies. On top of this, we will build the
capacity to turn out on short notice arms and supplies that may be needed
for a full-scale war.
Fortunately, we have a good start on this because of our enormous plant
capacity and because of the equipment on hand from the last war. For example,
many combat ships are being returned to active duty from the "mothball
fleet" and many others can be put into service on very short notice. We
have large reserves of arms and ammunition and thousands of workers skilled
in arms production.
In many cases, however, our stocks of weapons are low. In other cases,
those on hand are not the most modern. We have made remarkable technical
advances. We have developed new types of jet planes and powerful new tanks.
We are concentrating on producing the newest types of weapons and producing
them as fast as we can.
This production drive is more selective than the one we had during World
War II, but it is just as urgent and intense. It is a big program and it
is a costly one.
Let me give you two concrete examples. Our present program calls for
expanding the aircraft industry so that it will have the capacity to produce
50,000 modern military planes a year. We are preparing the capacity to
produce 35,000 tanks a year. We are not now ordering that many planes or
that many tanks, and we hope that we never have to, but we mean to be able
to turn them out if we need them.
The planes we are producing now are much bigger, much better, and much
more expensive than the planes we had during the last war.
We used to think that the B-17 was a huge plane, and the blockbuster
it carried a huge load. But the B-36 can carry five of these blockbusters
in its belly, and it can carry them five times as far. Of course, the B-36
is much more complicated to build than the B-17, and far more expensive.
One B-17 costs $275,000, while now one B-36 costs $3 ? million.
I ask you to remember that what we are doing is to provide the best
and most modern military equipment in the world for our fighting forces.
This kind of defense production program has two parts.
The first part is to get our defense production going as fast as possible.
We have to convert plants and channel materials to defense production.
This means heavy cuts in civilian uses of copper, aluminum, rubber, and
other essential materials. It means shortages in various consumer goods.
The second part is to increase our capacity to produce and to keep our
economy strong for the long pull. We do not know how long Communist aggression
will threaten the world.
Only by increasing our output can we carry the burden of preparedness
for an indefinite period in the future. This means that we will have to
build more power plants and more steel mills, grow more cotton, mine more
copper, and expand our capacity in many other ways.
The Congress will need to consider legislation, at this session, affecting
all the aspects of our mobilization job. The main subjects on which legislation
will be needed are:
First, appropriations for our military buildup.
Second, extension and revision of the Selective Service Act.
Third, military and economic aid to help build up the strength of the
Fourth, revision and extension of the authority to expand production
and to stabilize prices, wages, and rents.
Fifth, improvement of our agricultural laws to help obtain the kinds
of farm products we need for the defense effort.
Sixth, improvement of our labor laws to help provide stable labor-management
relations and to make sure that we have steady production in this emergency.
Seventh, housing and training of defense workers and the full use of
all our manpower resources.
Eighth, means for increasing the supply of doctors, nurses, and other
trained medical personnel critically needed for the defense effort.
Ninth, aid to the States to meet the most urgent needs of our elementary
and secondary schools. Some of our plans will have to be deferred for the
time being. But we should do all we can to make sure our children are being
trained as good and useful citizens in the critical times ahead.
Tenth, a major increase in taxes to meet the cost of the defense effort.
The Economic Report and the Budget Message will discuss these subjects
further. In addition, I shall send to the Congress special messages containing
detailed recommendations on legislation needed at this
In the months ahead the Government must give priority to activities
that are urgent--like military procurement and atomic energy and power
development. It must practice rigid economy in its nondefense activities.
Many of the things we would normally do must be curtailed or postponed.
But in a long-term defense effort like this one, we cannot neglect the
measures needed to maintain a strong economy and a healthy democratic society.
The Congress, therefore, should give continued attention to the measures
which our country will need for the long pull. And it should act upon such
legislation as promptly as circumstances permit.
To take just one example--we need to continue and complete the work
of rounding out our system of social insurance. We still need to improve
our protection against unemployment and old age. We still need to provide
insurance against the loss of earnings through sickness, and against the
high costs of modern medical care.
And above all, we must remember that the fundamentals of our strength
rest upon the freedoms of our people. We must continue our efforts to achieve
the full realization of our democratic ideals. We must uphold the freedom
of speech and the freedom of conscience in our land. We must assure equal
rights and equal opportunities to all our citizens.
As we go forward this year in the defense of freedom, let us keep dearly
before us the nature of our present effort.
We are building up our strength, in concert with other free nations,
to meet the danger of aggression that has been turned loose on the world.
The strength of the free nations is the world's best hope of peace.
I ask the Congress for unity in these crucial days.
Make no mistake about my meaning. I do not ask, or expect, unanimity.
I do not ask for an end to debate. Only by debate can we arrive at decisions
which are wise, and which reflect the desires of the American people. We
do not have a dictatorship in this country, and we never will have one
in this country.
When I request unity, what I am really asking for is a sense of responsibility
on the part of every Member of this Congress. Let us debate the issues,
but let every man among us weigh his words and his deeds. There is a sharp
difference between harmful criticism and constructive criticism. If we
are truly responsible as individuals, I am sure that we will be unified
as a government.
Let us keep our eyes on the issues and work for the things we all believe
Let each of us put our country ahead of our party, and ahead of our
own personal interests.
I had the honor to be a Member of the Senate during World War II, and
I know from experience that unity of purpose and of effort is possible
in the Congress without any lessening of the vitality of our two-party
Let us all stand together as Americans. Let us stand together with all
men everywhere who believe in human liberty.
Peace is precious to us. It is the way of life we strive for with all
the strength and wisdom we possess. But more precious than peace are freedom
and justice. We will fight, if fight we must, to keep our freedom and to
prevent justice from being destroyed.
These are the things that give meaning to our lives, and which we acknowledge
to be greater than ourselves.
This is our cause--peace, freedom, justice. We will pursue this cause
with determination and humility, asking divine guidance that in all we
do we may follow the will of God.