Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

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Harry S. Truman
1945-1953


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Provided courtesy of The American Presidency Project.  John Woolley and Gerhard Peters. University of California, Santa Barbara.
  232. Radio and Television Report to the American People on the Situation in Korea  
September 1, 1950

[Broadcast from the White House at 10 p.m.]

My fellow citizens:

Tonight I want to talk to you about Korea, about why we are there, and what our objectives are.

As I talk with you, thousands of families in this land of ours have a son, or a brother, or a husband fighting in Korea. I know that your thoughts and hopes are constantly with them. So are mine.

These men of ours are engaged once more in the age-old struggle for human liberty. Our men, and the men of other free nations, are defending with their lives the cause of freedom in the world. They are fighting for the proposition that peace shall be the law of this earth.

We must and shall support them with every ounce of our strength and with all our hearts. We shall .put aside all else for this supreme duty. No cause has even been more just or more important.

For the first time in all history, men of many nations are fighting under a single banner to uphold the rule of law in the world. This is an inspiring fact.

If the rule of law is not upheld we can look forward only to the horror of another war and ultimate chaos. For our part, we do not intend to let that happen.

Two months ago Communist imperialism turned from the familiar tactics of infiltration and subversion to a brutal attack on the small Republic of Korea. When that happened, the free and peace-loving nations of the world faced two possible courses.

One course would have been to limit our action to diplomatic protests, while the Communist aggressors went ahead and swallowed up their victim. That would have been the course of appeasement. If the history of the 1930's teaches us anything, it is that appeasement of dictators is the sure road to world war. If aggression were allowed to succeed in Korea, it would be an open invitation to new acts of aggression elsewhere.

The other course is the one which the free world chose. The United Nations made its historic decision to meet military aggression with armed force. The effects of that decision will be felt far beyond Korea. The firm action taken by the United Nations is our best hope of achieving world peace.

It is your liberty and mine which is involved. What is at stake is the free way of life--the right to worship as we please, the right to express our opinions, the right to raise our children in our own way, the right to choose our jobs, the fight to plan our future and to live without fear. All these are bound up in the present action of the United Nations to put down aggression in Korea.

We cannot hope to maintain our own freedom if freedom elsewhere is wiped out. That is why the American people are united in support of our part in this task.

During the last 5 years we have worked day in and day out to achieve a just and lasting peace. We have given every possible proof of our desire to live at peace with all nations. We have worked for liberty and self-government for people the world over. Most nations have joined with us in this effort, but the Soviet Union and the nations it controls have unceasingly hampered all efforts to achieve a just peace.

The Soviet Union has repeatedly violated its pledges of international cooperation. It has destroyed the independence of its neighbors. It has sought to disrupt those countries it could not dominate. It has built up tremendous armed forces far beyond the needs of its own defense.

Communist imperialism preaches peace but practices aggression.

In these circumstances, the free nations have been compelled to take measures to protect themselves against the aggressive designs of the Communists.

The United Nations was able to act as it did in Korea because the free nations in the years since World War II have created a common determination to work together for peace and freedom.

Every American can be justly proud of the role that our country has played in bringing this about.

We have taken the lead in step after step to create unity and strength among the free nations. The record of these steps is impressive. Let me recall some of them to you.

In 1945 we helped to bring the United Nations into existence at San Francisco.

In 1946 the United States gave its full support to the successful action taken by the United Nations to protect Iran against Communist invasion.

In 1947 we began our military and economic aid to Greece and Turkey, which has helped those countries to keep their independence against Communist attacks and threats.

Also in 1947, by the Treaty of Rio de Janeiro, we joined with the other American nations to guarantee the safety of the Western Hemisphere.

In 1948 the Marshall plan checked the danger of Communist subversion in Europe; and, since that time, it has brought the free nations more closely together in a strong economic framework.

The Berlin airlift, in 1948 and 1949, defeated the Soviet effort to drive the free nations out of the democratic outpost of western Berlin.

The North Atlantic Treaty, in 1949, served notice that the nations of the North Atlantic community would stand together to preserve their freedom.

Today, in 1950, we are going ahead with an enlarged program for military aid to strengthen the common defense of the free nations.

Step by step, these achievements in the struggle between freedom and Communist imperialism have brought the free nations closer together.

When the Communist movement turned to open, armed aggression in Korea, the response of the free nations was immediate.

Fifty-three of the 59 members of the United Nations joined in meeting the challenge. Thirty have pledged concrete aid to the United Nations to put down this aggression.

Thus far the brunt of the fighting has fallen upon the armed forces of the Republic of Korea and the United States. In addition, naval forces from Australia, Canada, France, Great Britain, the Netherlands, and New Zealand have been and are now in action under the United Nations command. Fighting planes from Australia, Canada, and Great Britain have joined the operation.

Ground forces have been offered by Thailand, the Philippines, Turkey, Australia, France, and other countries. Some British troops have landed in Korea and more are on their way. lust before I started to speak here tonight, I was handed a message received by the Department of State which said: "The Greek Government telegraphed the Secretary General of the United Nations this afternoon that it is prepared to dispatch ground troops to Korea immediately." This is welcome news. All of these troops will serve under the flag of the United Nations and under the United Nations commander, General MacArthur.

Our own men, with their gallant Korean comrades, have held the breach. In less than 8 weeks, five divisions of United States troops have moved into combat, some from bases more than 6,000 miles away. More men are on the way. Fighting in difficult country, under every kind of hardship, American troops have held back overwhelming numbers of the Communist invaders. Our naval and air forces have been carrying the attack to the military bases and supply lines of the aggressors.

Our men have fought with grim gallantry. All of us, especially those of us who are old soldiers, know how worthy they are of a place on that long and honored roll of those who created and preserved liberty for our country.

The soldiers of the Republic of Korea have been fighting fiercely for their own freedom.

The determination of the South Koreans to maintain their independence is shown not only by the valor of their soldiers in the battleline, but also by countless supporting activities of the whole population. They are giving every possible assistance to the United Nations forces.

These United Nations troops are still outnumbered. But their hard and valiant fight is bringing results. We hold a firm base of about 3,500 square miles. For weeks the enemy has been hammering, now at one spot, now at another, sometimes at many points at once. He has been beaten back each time with heavy loss.

The enemy is spending his strength recklessly in desperate attacks. We believe the invasion has reached its peak. The task remaining is to crush it. Our men are confident, the United Nations command is confident, that it will be crushed. The power to do this is being gathered in Korea.

Right now the battle in Korea is the frontline in the struggle between freedom and tyranny. But the fighting there is part of a larger struggle to build a world in which a just and lasting peace can be maintained.

That is why we in the United States must increase our own defensive strength over and above the forces we need in Korea. That is why we must continue to work with the other free nations to increase our combined strength.

The Congress is now acting on my request to increase our program of arms aid to other free countries. These nations are greatly increasing their own efforts. Our aid is not a substitute, but is an addition to what they themselves do.

In Western Europe alone there are over 200 million people. Next to ours, their industry is the world's greatest workshop. They are joining with us to develop collective forces for mutual defense--our defense as well as theirs.

The Armed Forces of the United States are a key element in the strength of the free world. In view of the threats of aggression which now face us, we shall have to increase these forces and we shall have to maintain larger forces for a long time to come.

We have had about one and a half million men and women on active duty in our Army, Navy, and Air Force. Our present plans call for increasing this number to close to 3 million, and further increases may be required.

In addition to increasing the size of our Armed Forces, we must step up sharply the production of guns, tanks, planes, and other military equipment. We shall also have to increase our stockpile of essential materials, and to expand our industrial capacity to produce military supplies.

We have the ability and the resources to meet the demands which confront us. Our industry and agriculture have never been stronger or more productive. We will use as much of this economic strength as is needed to defend ourselves and establish peace.

Hitler and the Japanese generals miscalculated badly, 10 years ago, when they thought we would not be able to use our economic power effectively to defeat aggression.

Let would-be aggressors make no such mistake today.

We now have over 62 million men and women employed--more than we have ever had before. Our farmers are producing over 20 percent more than they were in 1940. The productive capacity of our manufacturing industry is 60 percent greater than it was 10 years ago, when the Axis dictators threatened the world.

We must now divert a large share of this productive power to defense purposes. To do this will require hard work and sacrifice by all of us. I know all of us are prepared to do whatever is necessary in the cause of peace and freedom. We have never yet failed to give all that is needed in that cause, and we never will fail in it.

In order to increase our defense effort rapidly enough to meet the danger that we face, we shall have to make many changes in our way of living and working here at home. We shall have to give up many things we enjoy. We shall have to work harder and longer. To prevent runaway inflation and runaway prices, we shall have to impose certain restrictions upon ourselves.

The Congress has today completed action on legislation to enable us to channel the necessary effort to defense production, to increase our productive capacity, and to hold down inflation.

After this legislation is signed I intend to talk to you again, to explain what your Government proposes to do, and how each citizen can play his part in this national effort.

As we move forward to arm ourselves more quickly in the days ahead, and as we strive with the United Nations for victory in Korea, we must keep clearly in mind what we believe in and what we are trying to do. We also want the rest of the world to understand clearly our aims and our hopes.

First: We believe in the United Nations. When we ratified its charter, we pledged ourselves to seek peace and security through this world organization. We kept our word when we went to the support of the United Nations in Korea 2 months ago. We shall never go back on that pledge.

Second: We believe the Koreans have a right to be free, independent, and united-as they want to be. Under the direction and guidance of the United Nations, we, with others, will do our part to help them enjoy that right. The United States has no other aim in Korea.

Third: We do not want the fighting in Korea to expand into a general war. It will not spread unless Communist imperialism draws other armies and governments into the fight of the aggressors against the United Nations.

Fourth: We hope in particular that the people of China will not be misled or forced into fighting against the United Nations and against the American people, who have always been and still are their friends. Only the Communist imperialism, which has already started to dismember China, could gain from China's involvement in the war. The Communist imperialists are the only ones who can gain if China moves into this fight.

Fifth: We do not want Formosa or any part of Asia for ourselves. We believe that the future of Formosa, like that of every other territory in dispute, should be settled peacefully. We believe that it should be settled by international action, and not by the decision of the United States or any other state alone. The mission of the 7th Fleet is to keep Formosa out of the conflict. Our purpose is peace, not conquest.

Sixth: We believe in freedom for all the nations of the Far East. That is one of the reasons why we are fighting under the United Nations for the freedom of Korea. We helped the Philippines become independent and we have supported the national aspirations to independence of other Asian countries. Russia has never voluntarily given up any territory it has acquired in the Far East; it has never given independence to any people who have fallen under its control. We not only want freedom for the peoples of Asia, but we also want to help them to secure for themselves better health, more food, better clothes and homes, and the chance to live their own lives in peace. The things we want for the people of Asia are the same things we want for the people of the rest of the world.

Seventh: We do not believe in aggressive or preventive war. Such war is the weapon of dictators, not of free democratic countries like the United States. We are arming only for the defense against aggression. Even though Communist imperialism does not believe in peace, it can be discouraged from new aggression if we and other free peoples are strong, determined, and united.

Eighth: We want peace and we shall achieve it. Our men are fighting for peace today in Korea. We are working for peace constantly in the United Nations and in all the capitals of the world. Our workers, our farmers, our businessmen, all our vast resources, are helping now to create the strength which will make peace secure.

We want peace not only for its own sake but because we want all the peoples of the world, including ourselves, to be free to devote their full energies to making their lives richer and happier. We shall give what help we can to make this universal human wish come true.

We invite all the nations of the world, without exception, to join with us in this great work.

The events in Korea have shown us again all the misery and horrors of war. The North Koreans have learned that the penalties of armed conflict fall as heavily on those who act as tools for the Communist dictatorship as they do on its victims. There will be no profit for any people who follow the Communist dictatorship down its dark and bloody path.

Against the futile and tragic course of dictatorship, we uphold, for all people, the way of freedom--the way of mutual cooperation and international peace. We assert that mankind can find progress and advancement along the path of peace. At this critical hour in the history of the world, our country has been called upon to give of its leadership, its efforts, and its resources to maintain peace and justice among nations. We have responded to that call. We will not fail.

The task which has fallen upon our beloved country is a great one. In carrying it out, we ask God to purge us of all selfishness and meanness, and to give us strength and courage for the days ahead. We pray God to give us strength, ability, and wisdom for the great task we face.
 
Provided courtesy of The American Presidency Project.  John Woolley and Gerhard Peters. University of California, Santa Barbara.