Harry S Truman
State of the Union Address
January 9, 1952
Mr. President, Mr. Speaker, Members of the Congress:
I have the honor to report to the Congress on the state of the Union.
At the outset, I should like to speak of the necessity for putting first
things first as we work together this year for the good of our country.
The United States and the whole free world are passing through a period
of grave danger. Every action you take here in Congress, and every action
that I take as President, must be measured against the test of whether
it helps to meet that danger.
This will be a presidential election year-the year in which politics
plays a large part in our lives--a larger part than usual. That is perfectly
proper. But we have a greater responsibility to conduct our political fights
in a manner that does not harm the national interest.
We can find plenty of things to differ about without destroying our
free institutions and without abandoning our bipartisan foreign policy
When everything is said and done, all of us--Republicans and Democrats
alike--all of us are Americans; and we are all going to sink or swim together.
We are moving through a perilous time. Faced with a terrible threat
of aggression, our Nation has embarked upon a great effort to help establish
the kind of world in which peace shall be secure. Peace is our goal-not
peace at any price, but a peace based on freedom and justice. We are now
in the midst of our effort to reach that goal. On the whole, we have been
doing very well.
Last year, 1951, was a year in which we threw back aggression, added
greatly to our military strength, and improved the chances for peace and
freedom in many parts of the world.
This year, 1952, is a critical year in the defense effort of the whole
free world. If we falter we can lose all the gains we have made. If we
drive ahead, with courage and vigor and determination, we can by the end
of 1952 be in a position of much greater security. The way will be dangerous
for the years ahead, but if we put forth our best efforts this year--and
next year--we can be "over the hump" in our effort to build strong defenses.
When we look at the record of the past year, 1951, we find important
things on both the credit and the debit side of the ledger. We have made
great advances. At the same time we have run into new problems which must
Now let us look at the credit side first.
Peace depends upon the free nations sticking together, and making a
combined effort to check aggression and prevent war. In this respect, 1951
was a year of great achievement.
In Korea the forces of the United Nations turned hack the Chinese Communist
invasion-and did it without widening the area of conflict. The action of
the United Nations in Korea has been a powerful deterrent to a third world
war. However, the situation in Korea remains very hazardous. The outcome
of the armistice negotiation still remains uncertain.
In Indochina and Malaya, our aid has helped our allies to hold back
the Communist advance, although there are signs of further trouble in that
In 1951 we strengthened the chances of peace in the Pacific region by
the treaties with Japan and the defense arrangements with Australia, New
Zealand, and the Philippines.
In Europe combined defense has become a reality. The free nations have
created a real fighting force. This force is not yet as strong as it needs
to be; but it is already a real obstacle to any attempt by hostile forces
to sweep across Europe to the Atlantic.
In 1951 we also moved to strengthen the security of Europe by the agreement
to bring Greece and Turkey into the North Atlantic Treaty.
The United Nations, the world's greatest hope for peace, has come through
a year of trial stronger and more useful than ever. The free nations have
stood together in blocking Communist attempts to tear up the charter.
At the present session of the United Nations in Paris, we, together
with the British and the French, offered a plan to reduce and control all
armaments under a foolproof inspection system. This is a concrete, practical
proposal for disarmament.
But what happened ? Vishinsky laughed at it. Listen to what he said:
"I could hardly sleep at all last night .... I could not sleep because
I kept laughing." The world will be a long time forgetting the spectacle
of that fellow laughing at disarmament.
Disarmament is not a joke. Vishinsky's laughter met with shock and anger
from the people all over the world. And, as a result, Mr. Stalin's representative
received orders to stop laughing and start talking.
If the Soviet leaders were to accept this proposal, it would lighten
the burden of armaments, and permit the resources of the earth to be devoted
to the good of mankind. But until the Soviet Union accepts a sound disarmament
proposal, and joins in peaceful settlements, we have no choice except to
build up our defenses.
During this past year we added more than a million men and women to
our Armed Forces. The total is now nearly 3 ? million. We have made rapid
progress in the field of atomic weapons. We have turned out billion worth
of military supplies and equipment, three times as much as the year before.
Economic conditions in the country are good. There are 61 million people
on the job; wages, farm incomes, and business profits are at high levels.
Total production of goods and services in our country has increased 8 percent
over last year--about twice the normal rate of growth.
Perhaps the most amazing thing about our economic progress is the way
we are increasing our basic capacity to produce. For example, we are now
in the second year of a 3-year program which will double our output of
aluminum, increase our electric power supply by 40 percent, and increase
our steelmaking capacity by 15 percent. We can then produce 120 million
tons of steel a year, as much as all the rest of the world put together.
This expansion will mean more jobs and higher standards of living for
all of us in the years ahead. At the present time it means greater strength
for us and for the rest of the free world in the fight for peace.
Now, I must turn to the debit side of the ledger for the past year.
The outstanding fact to note on the debit side of the ledger is that
the Soviet Union, in 1951, continued to expand its military production
and increase its already excessive military power.
It is true that the Soviets have run into increasing difficulties. Their
hostile policies have awakened stern resistance among free men throughout
the world. And behind the Iron Curtain the Soviet rule of force has created
growing political and economic stresses in the satellite nations.
Nevertheless, the grim fact remains that the Soviet Union is increasing
its armed might. It is still producing more war planes than the free nations.
It has set off two more atomic explosions. The world still walks in the
shadow of another world war.
And here at home, our defense preparations are far from complete.
During 1951 we did not make adequate progress in building up civil defense
against atomic attack. This is a major weakness in our plans for peace,
since inadequate civilian defense is an open invitation to a surprise attack.
Failure to provide adequate civilian defense has the same effect as adding
to the enemy's supply of atomic bombs.
In the field of defense production we have run into difficulties and
delays in designing and producing the latest types of airplanes and tanks.
Some machine tools and metals are still in extremely short supply.
In other free countries the defense buildup has created severe economic
problems. It has increased inflation in Europe and has endangered the continued
recovery of our allies.
In the Middle East political tensions and the oil controversy in Iran
are keeping the region in a turmoil. In the Far East the dark threat of
Communist imperialism still hangs over many nations.
This, very briefly, is the good side and the bad side of the picture.
Taking the good and bad together, we have made real progress this last
year along the road to peace. We have increased the power and unity of
the free world. And while we were doing this, we have avoided world war
on the one hand, and appeasement on the other. This is a hard road to follow,
but the events of the last year show that it is the right road to peace.
We cannot expect to complete the job overnight. The free nations may
have to maintain for years the larger military forces needed to deter aggression.
We must build steadily, over a period of years, toward political solidarity
and economic progress among the free nations in all parts of the world.
Our task will not be easy; but if we go at it with a will, we can look
forward to steady progress. On our side are all the great resources of
freedom--the ideals of religion and democracy, the aspiration of people
for a better life, and the industrial and technical power of a free civilization.
These advantages outweigh anything the slave world can produce. The
only thing that can defeat us is our own state of mind. We can lose if
The middle period of a great national effort like this is a very difficult
time. The way seems long and hard. The goal seems far distant. Some people
get discouraged. That is only natural.
But if there are any among us who think we ought to ease up in the fight
for peace, I want to remind them of three things--just three things.
First: The threat of world war is still very real. We had one Pearl
Harbor--let's not get caught off guard again. If you don't think the threat
of Communist armies is real, talk to some of our men back from Korea.
Second: If the United States had to try to stand alone against a Soviet-dominated
world, it would destroy the life we know and the ideals we hold dear. Our
allies are essential to us, just as we are essential to them. The more
shoulders there are to bear the burden the lighter that burden will be.
Third: The things we believe in most deeply are under relentless attack.
We have the great responsibility of saving the basic moral and spiritual
values of our civilization. We have started out well--with a program for
peace that is unparalleled in history. If we believe in ourselves and the
faith we profess, we will stick to that job until it is victoriously finished.
This is a time for courage, not for grumbling and mumbling.
Now, let us take a look at the things we have to do.
The thing that is uppermost in the minds of all of us is the situation
in Korea. We must, and we will, keep up the fight there until we get the
kind of armistice that will put an end to the aggression and protect the
safety of our forces and the security of the Republic of Korea. Beyond
that we shall continue to work for a settlement in Korea that upholds the
principles of the United Nations.
We went into Korea because we knew that Communist aggression had to
be met firmly if freedom was to be preserved in the world. We went into
the fight to save the Republic of Korea, a free country, established under
the United Nations. These are our aims. We will not give up until we attain
Meanwhile, we must continue to strengthen the forces of freedom throughout
I hope the Senate will take early and favorable action on the Japanese
peace treaty, on our security pacts with the Pacific countries, and on
the agreement to bring Greece and Turkey into the North Atlantic Treaty.
We are also negotiating an agreement with the German Federal Republic
under which it can play an honorable and equal part among nations and take
its place in the defense of Western Europe.
But treaties and plans are only the skeleton of our defense structure.
The sinew and muscle of defense are the forces and equipment which must
In Europe we must go on helping our friends and allies to build up their
military forces. This means we must send weapons in large volume to our
European allies. I have directed that weapons for Europe be given a very
high priority. Economic aid is necessary, too, to supply the margin of
difference between success and failure in making Europe a strong partner
in our joint defense.
In the long run we want to see Europe freed from any dependence on our
aid. Our European allies want that just as bad as we do. The steps that
are now being taken to build European unity should help bring that about.
Six European countries are pooling their coal and steel production under
the Schuman plan. Work is going forward on the merger of European national
forces on the Continent into a single army. These great projects should
become realities in 1952.
We should do all we can to help and encourage the move toward a strong
and united Europe.
In Asia the new Communist empire is a daily threat to millions of people.
The peoples of Asia want to be free to follow their own way of life. They
want to preserve their culture and their traditions against communism,
just as much as we want to preserve ours. They are laboring under terrific
handicaps--poverty, ill health, feudal systems of land ownership, and the
threat of internal subversion or external attack. We can and we must increase
our help to them.
This means military aid, especially to those places like Indochina which
might be hardest hit by some new Communist attack.
It also means economic aid, both technical know-how and capital investment.
This last year we made available millions of bushels of wheat to relieve
famine in India. But far more important, in the long run, is the work Americans
are doing in India to help the Indian farmers themselves raise more grain.
With the help of our technicians, Indian farmers, using simple, inexpensive
means, have been able since 1948 to double the crops in one area in India.
One farmer there raised 63 bushels of wheat to the acre, where 13 bushels
had been the average before.
This is point 4--our point 4 program at work. It is working--not only
in India but in Iran, Paraguay, Liberia--in 33 countries around the globe.
Our technical missionaries are out there. We need more of them. We need
more funds to speed their efforts, because there is nothing of greater
importance in all our foreign policy. There is nothing that shows more
clearly what we stand for, and what we want to achieve.
My friends of the Congress, less than one-third of the expenditure for
the cost of World War II would have created the developments necessary
to feed the whole world so we wouldn't have to stomach communism. That
is what we have got to fight, and unless we fight that battle and win it,
we can't win the cold war or a hot one either.
We have recently lost a great public servant who was leading this effort
to bring opportunity and hope to the people of half the world. Dr. Henry
Bennett and his associates died in line of duty on a point 4 mission. It
is up to us to carry on the great work for which they gave their lives.
During the coming year we must not forget the suffering of the people
who live behind the Iron Curtain. In those areas minorities are being oppressed,
human rights violated, religions persecuted. We should continue to expose
those wrongs. We should continue and expand the activities of the Voice
of America, which brings our message of hope and truth to those peoples
and other peoples throughout the world.
I have just had an opportunity to discuss many of these world problems
with Prime Minister Churchill. We have had a most satisfactory series of
meetings. We thoroughly reviewed the situation in Europe, the Middle East,
and the Far East. We both look forward to steady progress toward peace
through the cooperative action and teamwork of the free nations.
Turning from our foreign policies, let us consider the jobs we have
here at home as a part of our program for peace.
The first of these jobs is to move ahead full steam on the defense program.
Our objective is to have a well-equipped active defense force large
enough--in concert with the forces of our allies--to deter aggression and
to inflict punishing losses on the enemy immediately if we should be attacked.
This active force must be backed by adequate reserves, and by the plants
and tools to turn out the tremendous quantities of new weapons that would
be needed if war came. We are not building an active force adequate to
carry on full scale war, but we are putting ourselves in a position to
mobilize very rapidly if we have to.
This year I shall recommend some increases in the size of the active
force we are building, with particular emphasis on air power. This means
we shall have to continue large-scale production of planes and other equipment
for a longer period of time than we had originally planned.
Planes and tanks and other weapons-what the military call "hard goods"--are
now beginning to come off the production lines in volume. Deliveries of
hard goods now amount to about a billion and a half dollars worth a month.
A year from now, we expect that rate to be doubled.
We shall have to hold to a high rate of military output for about a
year after that. In 1954 we hope to have enough equipment so that we can
reduce the production of most military items substantially. The next 2
years should therefore be the peak period of defense production.
Defense needs will take a lot of steel, aluminum, copper, nickel, and
other scarce materials. This means smaller production of some civilian
goods. The cutbacks will be nothing like those during World War II, when
most civilian production was completely stopped. But there will be considerably
less of some goods than we have been used to these past 2 or 3 years.
The very critical part of our defense job this year is to keep down
We can control inflation if we make up our minds to do it.
On the executive side of the Government, we intend to hold the line
on prices just as tightly as the law allows. We will permit only those
wage increases which are clearly justified under sound stabilization policies;
and we will see to it that industries absorb cost increases out of earnings
wherever feasible, before they are authorized to raise prices. We will
do that, at any rate, except where the recent amendments to the law specifically
require us to give further price increases.
Congress has a tremendous responsibility in this matter. Our stabilization
law was shot full of holes at the last session. This year, it will be one
of the main tasks before the Congress to repair the damage and enact a
strong anti-inflation law.
As a part of our program to keep our country strong, we are determined
to preserve the financial strength of the Government. This means high taxes
over the next few years. We must see to it that these taxes are shared
among the people as fairly as possible. I expect to discuss these matters
in the Economic Report and the Budget Message which will soon be presented
to the Congress.
Our tax laws must be fair. And we must make absolutely certain they
are administered fairly, without fear or favor of any kind for anybody.
To this end, steps have already been taken to remedy weaknesses which have
been disclosed in the administration of the tax laws. In addition, I hope
the Congress will approve my reorganization plan for the Bureau of Internal
Revenue. We must do everything necessary in order to make just as certain
as is humanly possible that every taxpayer receives equal treatment under
To carry the burden of defense we must have a strong, productive, and
expanding economy here at home. We cannot neglect those things that have
made us the great and powerful nation we are today.
Our strength depends upon the health, the morale, the freedom of our
people. We can take on the burden of leadership in the fight for world
peace because, for nearly 20 years, the Government and the people have
been working together for the general welfare. We have given more and more
of out citizens a fair chance at decent, useful, productive lives. That
is the reason we are as strong as we are today.
This Government of ours--the Congress and the executive both--must keep
on working to bring about a fair deal for all the American people. Some
people will say that we haven't the time or the money this year for measures
for the welfare of the people. But if we want to win the fight for peace,
this is a part of the job we cannot ignore.
We will have to give up some things, we will have to go forward on others
at a slower pace. But, so far as I am concerned, I do not think we can
give up the things that are vital to our national strength.
I believe most people in this country will agree with me on that.
I think most farmers understand that soil conservation and rural electrification
and agricultural research are not frills or luxuries, but real necessities
in order to boost our farm production.
I think most workers understand that decent housing and good working
conditions are not luxuries, but necessities if the working men and women
of this country are to continue to out-produce the rest of the world.
I think our businessmen know that scientific research and transportation
services and more steel mills and power projects are not luxuries, but
necessities to keep our business and our industry in the forefront of industrial
I think everybody knows that social insurance and better schools and
health services are not frills, but necessities in helping all Americans
to be useful and productive citizens, who can contribute their full share
in the national effort to protect and advance our way of life.
We cannot do all we want to in times like these--we have to choose the
things that will contribute most to defense--but we must continue to make
progress if we are to be a strong nation in the years ahead.
Let me give you some examples.
We are going right ahead with the urgently needed work to develop our
natural resources, to conserve our soil, and to prevent floods. We are
going to produce essential power and build the lines that are necessary
and that we have to have to transmit it to our farms and factories. We
are going to encourage exploration for new mineral deposits.
We are going to keep on building essential highways and taking any other
steps that will assure the Nation an adequate transportation system--on
land, on the sea, and in the air.
We must move right ahead this year to see that defense workers and soldiers'
families get decent housing at rents they can afford to pay.
We must begin our long deferred program of Federal aid to education--to
help the States meet the present crisis in the operation of our schools.
And we must help with the construction of schools in areas where they are
critically needed because of the defense effort.
We urgently need to train more doctors and other health personnel, through
aid to medical education. We also urgently need to expand the basic public
health services in our home communities--especially in defense areas. The
Congress should go ahead with these two measures immediately.
I have set up an impartial commission to make a thorough study of the
Nation's health needs. One of the things this commission is looking into
is how to bring the cost of modern medical care within the reach of all
the people. I have repeatedly recommended national health insurance as
the best way to do this. So far as I know, it is still the best way. If
there are any better answers, I hope this commission will find them. But
of one thing I am sure: something must be done, and done soon.
This year we ought to make a number of urgently needed improvements
in our social security law. For one thing, benefits under old-age and survivors
insurance should be raised $5 a month above the present average of $42.
For another thing, the States should be given special aid to help them
increase public assistance payments. By doing these things now, we can
ease the pressure of living costs for people who depend on those fixed
We should also make some cost-of-living adjustments for those receiving
veterans' compensation for death or disability incurred in the service
of our country. In addition, now is the time to start a sensible program
of readjustment benefits for our veterans who have seen service since the
fighting broke out in Korea.
Another thing the Congress should do at this session is to strengthen
our system of farm price supports to meet the defense emergency. The "sliding
scale" in the price support law should not be allowed to penalize farmers
for increasing production to meet defense needs. We should also find a
new and less costly method for supporting perishable commodities than the
law now provides.
We need to act promptly to improve our labor law. The Taft-Hartley Act
has many serious and far-reaching defects. Experience has demonstrated
this so clearly that even the sponsors of the act now admit that it needs
to be changed. A fair law, fair to both management and labor, is indispensable
to sound labor relations and to full, uninterrupted production. I intend
to keep on working for a fair law until we get one.
As we build our strength to defend the freedom in the world, we ourselves
must extend the benefits of freedom more widely among all our own people.
We need to take action toward the wider enjoyment of civil rights. Freedom
is the birthright of every American.
The executive branch has been making real progress toward full equality
of treatment and opportunity--in the Armed Forces, in the civil service,
and in private firms working for the Government. Further advances require
action by Congress, and I hope that means will be provided to give the
Members of the Senate and the House a chance to vote on them.
I am glad to hear that home rule for the District of Columbia will be
the first item of business before the Senate. I hope that it, as well as
statehood for Hawaii and Alaska, will be adopted promptly.
All these measures I have been talking about--measures to advance the
well-being of our people--demonstrate to the world the forward movement
of our free society.
This demonstration of the way free men govern themselves has a more
powerful influence on the people of the world--on both sides of the Iron
Curtain--than all the trick slogans and pie-in-the-sky promises of the
But our shortcomings, as well as our progress, are watched from abroad.
And there is one shortcoming I want to speak about plainly.
Our kind of government above all others cannot tolerate dishonesty among
Some dishonest people worm themselves into almost every human organization.
It is all the more shocking, however, when they make their way into a Government
such as ours, which is based on the principle of justice for all. Such
unworthy public servants must be weeded out. I intend to see to it that
Federal employees who have been guilty of misconduct are punished for it.
I also intend to see to it that the honest and hard-working great majority
of our Federal employees are protected against partisan slander and malicious
I have already made some recommendations to the Congress to help accomplish
these purposes. I intend to submit further recommendations to this end.
I will welcome the wholehearted cooperation of the Congress in this effort.
I also think that the Congress can do a great deal to strengthen confidence
in our institutions by applying rigorous standards of moral integrity to
its own operations, and by finding an effective way to control campaign
expenditures, and by protecting the rights of individuals in congressional
To meet the crisis which now hangs over the world, we need many different
kinds of strength--military, economic, political, and moral. And of all
these, I am convinced that moral strength is the most vital.
When you come right down to it, it is the courage and the character
of our Nation--and of each one of us as individuals-that will really decide
how well we meet this challenge.
We are engaged in a great undertaking at home and abroad--the greatest,
in fact, that any nation has ever been privileged to embark upon. We are
working night and day to bring peace to the world and to spread the democratic
ideals of justice and self-government to all people. Our accomplishments
are already remarkable. We ought to be full of pride in what we are doing,
and full of confidence and hope in the outcome. No nation ever had greater
resources, or greater energy, or nobler traditions to inspire it.
And yet, day in and day out, we see a long procession of timid and fearful
men who wring their hands and cry out that we have lost the way, that we
don't know what we are doing, that we are bound to fail. Some say we should
give up the struggle for peace, and others say we should have a war and
get it over with. That's a terrible statement. I had heard it made, but
they want us to forget the great objective of preventing another world
war--the objective for which our soldiers have been fighting in the hills
If we are to be worthy of all that has been done for us by our soldiers
in the field, we must be true to the ideals for which they are fighting.
We must reject the counsels of defeat and despair. We must have the determination
to complete the great work for which our men have laid down their lives.
In all we do, we should remember who we are and what we stand for. We
are Americans. Our forefathers had far greater obstacles than we have,
and much poorer chances of success. They did not lose heart, or turn aside
from their goals. In the darkest of all winters in American history, at
Valley Forge, George Washington said: "We must not, in so great a contest,
expect to meet with nothing but sunshine." With that spirit they won their
fight for freedom.
We must have that same faith and vision. In the great contest in which
we are engaged today, we cannot expect to have fair weather all the way.
But it is a contest just as important for this country and for all men,
as the desperate struggle that George Washington fought through to victory.
Let us prove, again, that we are not merely sunshine patriots and summer
soldiers. Let us go forward, trusting in the God of Peace, to win the goals