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Harry S. Truman

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Provided courtesy of The American Presidency Project.  John Woolley and Gerhard Peters. University of California, Santa Barbara.
  110. Remarks to the President's Conference on Community Responsibility to Our Peacetime Servicemen and Women  
May 25, 1949

Mr. Chairman, members of this Committee, ladies and gentlemen:

I appreciate most highly what this Committee is doing and is trying to do. Last fall, when we organized this Committee for the moral welfare of our young men in the Armed Forces, they came to see me and we had a long conversation on the situation.

You know, before 1939 our Armed Forces were scarcely 300,000, and they were made up of men who had passed 30. We now have about 1,600,000 young men in the Armed Forces, more than 50 percent of whom are under 21. They are the young men who are the future citizens, and who in the future will run the country. These young men should have the same sort of treatment as they would have received had they stayed at home. They are your sons, the neighbors' sons, and they are away from home. in most instances, they are very happy in the armed services. But they need something which the armed services can't give them.

Therefore, it was my privilege to create this Committee. I don't think I could have found a better one in the whole United States of America. It is a cross-section of the moral forces that have made this country great, and the very fact that we have these moral forces is the reason for our greatness.

They accuse us of being materialists because we strive for a high standard of living for the whole population, but the fundamental back of that pursuit of the high standard of living is living according to the Sermon on the Mount, which in my opinion is the best system of philosophy that this world has ever seen.

Therefore, the communities adjacent to the Posts which train these young men should assume the responsibility of seeing that these young men receive the same sort of treatment which our Armed Forces received when we were at war. It is just as important. It is just as necessary.

You know how this country acts, though, when the emergency is over. They go to something else. When the war ceased-well, it was all over, they had other things to think about. Never occurred to them that we now are fighting for the peace. We are fighting for the peace, and for the welfare of the whole world. And it is just as important, in fact it is much more important, than when we were spending $103 billion a year to win the war.

We are now trying to win the peace, and in order to win that peace we must have these young men as a backlog to secure that peace. Therefore, I am urging the home communities in this great Nation of ours to do for these young men, who are serving in peacetime, just what they did for the young men who were serving and expecting to go under fire. We are trying to keep these young men, and their brothers and their cousins at home, from having to go under fire.

I hope you will get behind this move. I hope you will do everything you possibly can to make these young men realize that the moral forces behind the things for which we stand are the things for which we are fighting. Fundamentally we are fighting for peace in the world, and for the welfare of all the people in the world, not only ourselves but for all the people.

Never in the history of the world has there been a great nation with the powerful backing which we have that has followed the path which we followed since the victory on May 8, 1945, and on September 2, 1945. We have helped to rehabilitate the countries which were defeated. Study your history. Never before in the history of the world will you find that situation prevailing.

Now I hope you will back this Committee with everything you have. In case you do that, these young men will come out of the armed services with something they could gain nowhere else. I served in the Armed Forces once, and I know what I am talking about.

I can't tell you how much I appreciate the interest you have taken in this procedure which we are following. I hope you will continue that interest, and that these young men now in the service will receive the same sort of treatment that they would have received before May 8th, 1945.

Thank you very much.

NOTE: The President spoke at 10 p.m. at the opening session of the Conference held at the Washington Hotel in Washington. The Conference was called by the President's Committee on Religion and Welfare in the Armed Forces, and was held in Washington on May 25 and 26.

The President's opening words referred to Frank L. Weil, chairman of the Committee and the meeting, Dorothy Enderis, Truman Gibson, Dr. Lindsley F. Kimball, Mark A. McCloskey, Basil O'Connor, Dr. Daniel A. Poling, Mrs. Ferdinand Powell, Sr., and the Rev. Edmund A. Walsh, members of the Committee.

On April 29, 1949, the White House released a statement by the President's Committee on Religion and Welfare in the Armed Forces calling for the Conference, stating that the main purpose of the Conference would be to acquaint interested individuals and organizations with the unprecedented needs of the peacetime military establishment and to discuss problems raised in the Committee's first report to the President dealing with the subject. See Item 73.

On May 18, 1949, the President's Committee on Religion and Welfare in the Armed Forces issued a release (through the White House) urging civic organizations, "as an opportunity for outstanding public service," to eliminate profiteering and rent gouging on families of military personnel stationed near their communities.

The Committee charged that married servicemen are paying "penthouse rents for chicken coop homes." They said that servicemen cannot compete on equal terms with civilians for available housing. Warning that we may hinder the effectiveness of our Armed Forces, the Committee called for widespread public attention to the problem.
Provided courtesy of The American Presidency Project.  John Woolley and Gerhard Peters. University of California, Santa Barbara.