6-019 Memorandum of the Press and Radio News Conference, February 7, 1947

Date: February 7, 1947


February 7, 1947, Washington, DC

In the first place, I want to say that in regard to matters in the European theater, particularly matters of policy and proposals relating to the Moscow meetings that are ahead of us, I am not prepared to answer questions at this time. I have to have more information myself before I can make any public comments so please do not consume time to ask me questions with regard to that which I am not going to answer. I will just save that much time. I will mention some things myself but I am not at all prepared personally to discuss the details of those matters–later on, yes, but not today.

Of course you thoroughly understand that there is a mass of information of transactions and discussions regarding the various problems that I have to absorb here, have had to absorb here, in a very brief time, with a number of people to see and discuss matters with. That will probably continue for some little period until I get out of the country. I will have a great deal of special information when I get back but I will still have a broad field to work on for myself….2

Regarding China, you are familiar with the recent announcement for the termination of our participation in the Committee of Three and in the Executive Headquarters.3 No mention was made by the State Department regarding the Marines. Considerable mention was made in the press. The withdrawal of the Marines, of course, was implied so far as they related to Executive Headquarters. The termination of our participation in the Committee of Three and the Executive Headquarters was indicated some time back in my own statement of January 8. It had reached a point where it was quite ineffective as an instrument and it was felt by me and by the President and the Department that it was not appropriate that such a shell of semblance of mediation or negotiation should be continued under the circumstances as it would lead to a confusion of view and many other implications in the minds of the people, particularly in China.

The Marines were sent to China for a specific purpose. It was for the evacuation of some two million Japanese from China proper and at least a million from Manchuria. Now, that function was practically concluded along about the end of May. A small force of Marines was continued to insure communications to the sea, both at Chingwangtao where ships could dock off Thangku or Taku where they could barge stuff ashore to the Executive Headquarters in Peiping, which means the personnel there and also the Marine personnel which was the local guard of the airfields, which are a considerable distance outside of the city. That security was essential and when we speak of Executive Headquarters, we are referring not only to the men in Peiping but of those scattered over a fair part of the continent with whom communication had to be obtained every week by plane and practically every day by radio.

Now, as Executive Headquarters is withdrawn, the Marines involved in that security mission will also withdraw. There has been confusion in the public mind because of the treatment of the Marine question as to what our policy was in China. The President made a very clear statement on December 18.4 I amplified that in a more personal way on January 8. The Marines we are talking about were concerned with a single activity and it is a very small force. They will remain and a small force of Marines at Tsingtao where we are engaged in endeavoring to instruct Chinese seamen for the coastal and river naval craft that they require to guard their coastline against pirates, against those running the blockade and there avoid custom duties. It is also a deep water anchorage for our Navy ships of the 7th Fleet, I think it is, that may be on station off the Chinese Coast.

There are undoubtedly questions in your mind regarding the matter of funds, particularly this 500 million that has been talked about so frequently. You will find the answer to that in the President’s statement of December 18.

There may be some questions about issues in the Philippines as to bases there. I am informed the discussions are going on in a very friendly spirit with apparently no particular difficulties involved.

We are naturally deeply interested in the troubled situation in Indochina and naturally are hopeful that they can find a pacific basis for its adjustment.

There have been a great many discussions in the press about reorganization of the State Department. I might say by way of introduction to that subject that I am not aware myself yet just what the organization of the State Department is, but I know this already, that by some very simple adjustments, the business can be expedited and can be effectively coordinated, and most of those are under way now. Whether or not at some future time a basic reorganization is required remains for me to see so far as my own opinion goes, but I am very happy to find that it did not require very much adjustment nor any particular change in my own procedure to which I have been accustomed for many years, to find that things could be transacted in a very satisfactory manner.

“The most important thing that has been done was the amalgamation”–you can quote this if you want–”of the various coordinating and administrative bodies now directly serving the Office of the Secretary into a single Secretariat. This will be an expediting and coordinating organization and in no way a policy-making group. As the organization develops, the necessary revisions, regulations and procedures will be announced.” Not for quotation–I mean by that, they are going right into action on the detailed directives which will be gradually worked out. It has been ordered and also is in the process of operation which will be working in a very few days.

“Carlisle Humelsine, Director of the Office of Departmental Administration, has been detailed to organize the Secretariat.” OFF THE RECORD. I might say that he was active–I mean to say that he was largely responsible for the organization of the War Department’s complicated communications center, message center and with the checking and going along also with the same procedure of those of General Eisenhower, General MacArthur and the Middle East. He was brought into the Department, I think a year and a half ago, by Frank McCarthy, who was my one-time Secretary. END OF OFF THE RECORD.
[“]Stanley T. Orear is named Acting Director of the Office of Departmental Administration.” Not for quotation, but for attribution, I have known for a long time in my intimate contacts with the State Department a good bit about its personnel. And in my brief experience here, I find confirmation each day in my own views during the last six years. I am referring now to the career men. This is not for attribution. This is BACKGROUND.

Well, I guess this is OFF THE RECORD. In the Army, in my experience if you try to get rid of an ineffective individual or low-grade mediocrity, you are immediately a brass hat and some vague form of a criminal. When you get in front of a committee, that is the term you get, but the low-grade mediocrity, completely ineffective person, is some sort of a hero. That is the sort of public reaction we get in the military in dealing with the thing. It is one of the greatest weaknesses we struggle with in the Army, getting rid of the ineffective people. Protection is carried to the point where the country and taxpayers don’t get what they should in results. That is somewhat typical of the democratic reaction but it is very unfortunate and very tragic with the military. In war, you can take a very firm stand and if you manage to hold your chair, you can go ahead and carry it out but in peace, that is very difficult. I can understand it yet I have often wondered why citizens or patriotic citizens don’t get together and demand something for the people as a whole instead of for the failures of individuals. Now, I am still talking OFF THE RECORD.

The popular thing apparently, the democratic if not the demagogic thing is to refer to the ineffectiveness of those who are career men. That is the majority of the State Department. That is a very carefully selected educated group of people. I think the judgment holds there a little bit to the American critical attitude towards protocol.

If you meet an arriving dignitary with great formality, that sort of goes against our instincts but we always put a sash on the sheriff for the Fourth of July Day parade or anything else. We object to the clothes appropriate to the occasion. That is merely protocol. In the hard work and the basic work, the fundamental struggles of the Department, you have a fine, solid body of people and it is very important that before the world their morale and the institution is not demeaned by such censure and baseless comments as you see so frequently. It is easy to understand why that occurs but it does not do good. I don’t mean that for perfection. We don’t have that anywhere. I know that in the Army–I am familiar with that. But I am very much concerned about that because it is one item of effort we are ordinarily making to try to go before the world with efficiency which means you must have high morale and with the respect of the world for the ability of the institution. If you don’t have that, you have a very poor Army. That is just for your private information. END OF OFF THE RECORD.

I have here the list of items that I transmitted to the Foreign Relations Committee the other day, urgent items and then another group classified as important. They gave a priority as to urgent items and there have been a great many questions as to just why the first on the list should have been to continue the relief programs after UNRRA [United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration]. This is for attribution. In the first place, it was not intended as a specific 1,2,3,4,5,6 but nevertheless, in priority that item that I just referred to is our No. 1 for a very specific reason. The last shipment of UNRRA supplies to Europe will probably be cleared by March 31. Unless we immediately have the funds to purchase, collect, pack and prepare for shipment before that time, there will be a complete lapse in April, May or whatever delay occurs in connection with the legislation and you may eat in March but you can starve successfully in April unless some help is received. Therefore, the first priority was accorded that item to avoid that gap in supplies which are very necessary for a number of reasons in the regions in the world.

Still for attribution, I have been questioned on, or read questions as to what would be the proposal of the State Department as to the numbers of displaced people to be received in the United States. I am not prepared at the present time to go into the question of numbers. That has to be very carefully considered and will first be discussed before the Committees of Congress who are to write the legislation.

Mr. McDermott reminds me that I failed to comment on Palestine. I am talking for attribution.

There are very critical and delicate discussions going on now, as you know, in London.5 We are being kept closely and fully informed on the progress of those negotiations and the difficulties involved. We can only hope at the present time that the contending parties will get down to a pacific settlement of their vexatious issues and of course, we are deeply concerned in regard to the actual situation in Palestine itself. I think there has been some confusion there as to the purposes of the British Government in its various actions in Palestine where the implication was assumed that the action taken indicated strong and military tactics. I don’t think that was the case at all. The trouble has been largely the character of the publicity in connection with the matter. There is nothing more that I can say at this time regarding Palestine. I have to be very careful in what I have said because they are in the midst of a very delicate negotiation.

Another matter, for attribution, Senator Vandenberg and Senator Millikin–I believe it was Senator Millikin–published a statement today regarding the Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act, which indicates cooperation in an understanding way with the Government, the State Department, and which we are going to examine very carefully.6 There has been no time up to the present moment. The important aspects of that, I think is this: A bipartisan attitude has already been clearly indicated to the world in regard to political matters. This statement by Senator Vandenberg and Senator Millikin does the same thing in regard to economic matters which is the other aspect of our international problem and that, I think, is a very important consideration.
I see Mr. Benton sitting here which reminds me of the discussions with him which I have had regarding the functioning of his activities in the State Department, notably, that of the broadcasting services overseas.7 I personally regard that as a very important matter for the reason that it seems to me absolutely essential that from somewhere–in this case, the United States, we endeavor to cover the earth with the truth, the unadulterated, pure truth without any twist or turn or implication in the midst of this riot of propaganda. Somehow or other, truth has got to prevail and the purpose of the Department in relation to this new activity which will take quite a time to boil down to exactly what we want, to exactly the people running all the phases of it down the line that we want, we should have an establishment, slowly it is true, to act steadily and to our credit before the world for making a purely accurate statement of the facts as nearly as they can be determined with no leaning to the one side or another. There will not be an immediate response to that propaganda which we might say will triumph over that but I think only for a limited period. It may be a period of one or two years, but it is essential that somewhere or other in the world the truth be enunciated until it establishes such a reputation that everybody accepts that from that source as a factual statement. I might say myself that I think that propaganda procedure, however successful for the time being, is going to be a terrific boomerang and it is a boomerang in Japan to the people of Japan at the present time in exercising a profound influence in what is going on in that country.8

All right, gentlemen, your questions?
Q. Mr. Secretary, how do you feel from your wartime experience about our future military establishment with regard to military training?
A. Senator Austin enunciated my view very clearly the other day. I think fundamentally–I think practically on the purely military side that unless we have universal military training, we will not have any real posture of military power to back up our foreign policy.9 I have said in print in the last report I made as Chief of Staff, which was the principal purpose of the report, exactly what I think about it and there is little I can add to that except that we see now the impractical aspects of trying to handle the matter on the basis we are now doing.

Q. Mr. Secretary, I hope this is not going to be one of the excluded questions. Is it the intention to discuss any Far Eastern questions in Moscow at all?
A. I could not answer that at the present moment. I don’t know myself. I am just in the process of being educated. I can tell you a little bit about the Far East but I don’t mind that last statement I made being attributed to me on universal military training.
I might say OFF THE RECORD that in answer to the questions that I heard in Guam and Honolulu, Los Angeles and Chicago and all how I felt about this new appointment, I had two very distinct feelings. One was that I thought I was entitled to sympathy rather than congratulations, and the other was that while I was Chief of Staff, however difficult the years just preceding the war and during the war years, I was dealing with something I supposedly understood, and if my detail as Chief of Staff was correct in the selection, I was supposed to know more about it than most. Now, I lack that assurance in my present job. END OF OFF THE RECORD.
Any other questions?

Q. Mr. Secretary, if my notes were correct, when you were speaking a while ago of your experience here in framing your previous views about career men in the Department, then you went off the record before telling us just what your views were, would you like to put on the record something?
A. When I went off the record and talked about the brass hats?

Q. Yes.
A. I would rather keep that OFF THE RECORD. I don’t want to flash that around. I wanted to put it in your heads. That is to help me. Any other questions?

Q. Mr. Secretary, do you think there is a possibility that there may be a Rio Conference this year?
A. I think they are reasonably good–yes.

Q. Mr. Secretary, relative to the Department’s plans for an international broadcasting agency, can you say when such an agency will be set up and how it will affect domestic broadcasting?
MR. BENTON: That plan has not come to you.
A. I can not answer that.

MR. BENTON: He has not been exposed to that one yet.
Q. Mr. Secretary, we have heard a lot in the last month or two about the remaining differences between Assistant Secretary Braden and Ambassador Messersmith.10 Do you know of any remaining differences?
A. I think we are proceeding along very well now but I will not discuss it any further.

Q. Mr. Secretary, can you tell us anything about your decisions on top personnel in the State Department as to whether you are retaining people?
A. I am glad you asked that. I told Mr. Acheson and all of the leading officials who submitted their resignations that I had not in mind the acceptance of resignations at all. I came in with no preconceived notions of any kind and I am in the process of going along doing business. As I say, I had no preconceived notions at all in the matter. I might say that my own reaction to the thing is particularly in the light of my own limited knowledge of the Department, and of this European and Latin American phase of the present state of negotiations, that I would be very hesitant to make any quick decision of that kind. I want to join a team and I am trying to make certain that whatever lacks in coherence is as quickly as possible remedied and I find that apparently it is nothing like as difficult as I thought it might possibly be. A good many things you see you need, you have to have a written order of some kind. OFF THE RECORD. For instance, Mr. Acheson–to use a military parlance which I believe would be very bad judgment on the part of the Secretary of State, and from this deep feeling that the citizens of the country have, became by the simple method of my transacting my business, my Deputy Chief of Staff, in fact. That is that. It goes that way. That ends it. You don’t have to get any proclamation. I am accustomed to dealing that way. He is an able person to do it whom I see every day. He said he understood why so many of my assistants had stomach ulcers. END OF OFF THE RECORD.

GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers (Secretary of State, Speeches)

1. At his first formal press conference as secretary of state, Marshall was accompanied by Michael J. McDermott, special assistant to the secretary for press relations, and Assistant Secretary William Benton. This memorandum issued by McDermott was marked “NOT FOR THE PRESS”; “FOR DEPARTMENTAL USE ONLY.”

2. At this point the secretary read from or commented on public statements issued by the State Department concerning the United Nations, disarmament, control of atomic energy, preparations for the Moscow Conference of Foreign Ministers, the recent elections in Poland, trade issues with Argentina, and the status of certain Pacific islands formerly governed by Japan that the United States intended to keep as trusteeships under the United Nations. Approximately one thousand words have been omitted.

3. This was released to the press on January 29. See Department of State Bulletin 16 (February 9, 1947): 258.

4. Marshall’s role in drafting this lengthy résumé of US activities in China during 1946 is discussed in Papers of GCM, 5: 760-61. The version released by President Truman on December 18, 1946, is in Department of State, United States Relations with China, With Special Reference to the Period 1944–1949 (Washington: Department of State, 1949), pp. 689–94.

5. The first phase of the conference on the future of Palestine had taken place in London between September 10 and October 2, 1946. The second phase opened on January 26, 1947, with official meetings between representatives of Britain and the Arab countries; paralleling this were unofficial meetings between British and Jewish leaders. A New York Times correspondent (Herbert L. Matthews) reported that the popular attitude in London was that it was “another apparently hopeless effort” and that “most people are betting on partition” of Palestine. (New York Times, January 27, 1947, p. 9)

6. A high-tariff majority of the House Ways and Means Committee had been preparing a resolution that would prevent the Truman administration from making further tariff cuts pending a complete study of the trade-agreements program by the US Tariff Commission. Such an action would probably have resulted in blocking the program for many months if not years. This might have precipitated a tariff struggle within the Republican Party in Congress. Low-tariff supporters believed that it would preclude US participation in the eighteen-nation conference on tariff reductions, which was scheduled to begin in Geneva on April 8. Senators Arthur H. Vandenberg (chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee) and Eugene D. Millikin (chairman of the Finance Committee, which handled tariff matters) publicly released their proposed compromise involving a new procedure for negotiating and amending reciprocal trade agreements. The proposal had the approval of the State Department but had been snubbed by Republican members of the Ways and Means Committee. (New York Times, February 7, 1947, pp. 1, 17.)

7. William Benton was assistant secretary of state in charge of public affairs, including radio broadcasts by the Voice of America. (New York Times, May 12, 1946, p. 19.)

8. For more on this subject, see Marshall’s April 15 letter to Benton (pp. 000–00), as well as Marshall’s May 16 House of Representatives statement and the editorial note concerning his July 2 Senate testimony on the US Information and Educational Exchange Act of 1947, pp. 000–00, 000–00.

9. On January 28 former Republican Senator Warren R. Austin, chief US delegate to the United Nations, on leaving a meeting with President Truman at the White House, described universal military training as the “basis of our domestic peace program” and the foundation “of the whole superstructure of peace.” The next day he appeared before a closed joint session of the Senate and House Committees on the Armed Services to outline his views on “how to prevent World War III.” (New York Times, January 29 [p. 15] and January 30, 1947, p. 9.)

10. Spruille Braden, assistant secretary of state for American Republics since October 1945 (prior to that briefly ambassador to Argentina in 1945), and George S. Messersmith, current ambassador to Argentina, had been engaged in a dispute regarding the proper direction of US policy toward Argentina. Messersmith thought highly of President Juan D. Perón; Braden did not. A major issue had been Argentina’s previous reluctance to purge the country of Nazi interests and agents. (New York Times, January 8 [p. 11], January 26 [p. E1], and January 28, 1947 [p. 1].)

Recommended Citation: The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, ed. Larry I. Bland, Mark A. Stoler, Sharon Ritenour Stevens and Daniel D. Holt (Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 2013- ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 6, “The Whole World Hangs in the Balance,” January 8, 1947-September 30, 1949 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013), pp. 23-30.