Harry S. Truman: "The President's News Conference on V-E Day," May 8, 1945.
Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project.
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I want to start off by reading you a little statement here. I want you to understand, at the very beginning, that this press conference is held with the understanding that any and all information given you here is for release at 9 a.m. this morning, eastern war time. There should be no indication of the news given here, or speculation about it, either in the press or on the radio before 9 o'clock this morning.
The radio-my radio remarks, and telegrams of congratulation to the Allied military leaders, are for release at the same time. Mr. Daniels has copies of my remarks, available for you in the lobby as you go out, and also one or two releases here.
[1.] Now, for your benefit, because you won't get a chance to listen over the radio, I am going to read you the proclamation, and the principal remarks. It won't take but 7 minutes, so you needn't be uneasy. You have plenty of time. [Laughter]
"This is a solemn but glorious hour. General Eisenhower informs me that the forces of Germany have surrendered to the United Nations. The flags of freedom fly all over Europe."
It's celebrating my birthday, too--today, too.
Voices: Happy birthday, Mr. President! [Laughter]
THE PRESIDENT. "For this victory, we join in offering our thanks to the Providence which has guided and sustained us through the dark days of adversity. Our rejoicing is sobered and subdued by a supreme consciousness of the terrible price we have paid to rid the world of Hitler and his evil band. Let us not forget, my fellow Americans, the sorrow and the heartache which today abide in the homes of so many of our neighbors--neighbors whose most priceless possession has been rendered as a sacrifice to redeem our liberty.
"We can repay the debt which we owe to our God, to our dead, and to our children, only by work, by ceaseless devotion to the responsibilities which lie ahead of us. If I could give you a single watchword for the coming months, that word is work, work, and more work. We must work to finish the war. Our victory is only half over."
[2.] Now, we have got another little release here, which doesn't go into the speech, but it informs the Japanese what they can expect. We are going to be in a position where we can turn the greatest war machine in the history of the world loose on the Japanese; and I am informed by the Chiefs of Staff, by the Secretary of State, and the Secretary of the Navy, that Japan is going to have a terrible time from now on. This release here, I will read it.
"The Japanese people have felt the weight of our land, air, and naval attacks. So long as their leaders and the armed forces continue the war, the striking power and intensity of our blows will steadily increase, and will bring utter destruction to Japan's industrial war production, to its shipping, and to everything that supports its military activity.
"The longer the war lasts, the greater will be the suffering and hardships which the people of Japan will undergo-all in vain. Our blows will not cease until the Japanese military and naval forces lay down their arms in unconditional surrender.
"Just what does the unconditional surrender of the armed forces mean for the Japanese people?
"It means the end of the war.
"It means the termination of the influence of the military leaders who brought Japan to the present brink of disaster.
"It means provision for the return of soldiers and sailors to their families, their farms, and their jobs.
"And it means not prolonging the present agony and suffering of the Japanese in the vain hope of victory.
"Unconditional surrender does not mean the extermination or enslavement of the Japanese people."
Now, you will have copies of that when you go out.
Mr. Daniels: Mr. President, will you point out that that is marked immediate release, but that it is for 9 o'clock ?
THE PRESIDENT. That is for 9 o'clock. It is marked immediate release, but it was to be released after the proclamation this morning. But I thought it was so important that we released it at the same time; and while this release is marked immediate release, it wants to be released at 9 o'clock, after the other release.
[3.] [Continues reading his address]: "The West is free, but the East is still in bondage to the treacherous tyranny of the Japanese. When the last Japanese division has surrendered unconditionally, then only will our fighting job be done.
"We must work to bind up the wounds of a suffering world--to build an abiding peace, a peace rooted in justice and in law."
You remember, it has been emphasized here all the time that we want a peace of justice and law. That's what we are trying to get, at San Francisco--what we are going to get--the framework for a peace in justice and law. We have got terrific problems facing us. While we have been prepared for this thing for several days, I think ever since last Saturday night, if I remember correctly--[laughter]--we have had other things to think about, besides this formal proclamation which we are issuing this morning. We are facing a situation that we can either go the whole way and make the world the happiest place it has ever been in which to live, or we can go the wrong way and spoil the whole thing. So we are thinking all the time of the problems which we have to face.
[Continues reading his address]: "We can build such a peace only by hard, toilsome, painstaking work--by understanding and working with our Allies in peace as we have worked with them in war.
"The job ahead is no less important, no less urgent, no less difficult than the task which now happily is done.
"I call upon every American to stick to his post until the last battle is won. Until that day, let no man abandon his post or slacken his efforts."
[4.] Now, I want to read to you the formal proclamation.
"A Proclamation--The Allied armies, through sacrifice and devotion and with God's help, have wrung from Germany a final and unconditional surrender. The western world has been freed of the evil forces which for five years and longer have imprisoned the bodies and broken the lives of millions upon millions of free-born men. They have violated their churches, destroyed their homes, corrupted their children, and murdered their loved ones. Our Armies of Liberation have restored freedom to these suffering peoples, whose spirit and will the oppressors could never enslave.
"Much remains to be done. The victory won in the West must now be won in the East."
I want that emphasized time after time, that we are only half through.
"The whole world must be cleansed of the evil from which half the world has been freed. United, the peace-loving nations have demonstrated in the West that their arms are stronger by far than the might of dictators or the tyranny of military cliques that once called us soft and weak."
I would like to know what the Germans think about that now. [Laughter]
"The power of our peoples to defend themselves against all enemies will be proved in the Pacific war as it has been proved in Europe.
"For the triumph of spirit and of arms which we have won, and for its promise to peoples everywhere who join us in the love of freedom, it is fitting that we, as a nation, give thanks to Almighty God, who has strengthened us and given us the victory.
"Now, therefore, I, Harry S. Truman, President of the United States of America, do hereby appoint Sunday, May 13, 1945, to be a day of prayer."
And it's exceedingly fitting that that is Mother's Day, too.
"I call upon the people of the United States, whatever their faith, to unite in offering joyful thanks to God for the victory we have won and to pray that He will support us to the end of our present struggle and guide us into the way of peace.
"I also call upon my countrymen to dedicate this day of prayer to the memory of those who have given their lives to make possible our victory.
"In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States of America to be affixed."
[5.] And I have sent messages to Prime Minister Churchill, Marshal Stalin, and General Eisenhower and General de Gaulle. This is the message to--to General Eisenhower, and I will let you read the rest of them from the release which will be given you. I want you to read every one of them.
Mr. Daniels: Mr. President--the time is getting late, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT. I'll just read the one [to General Eisenhower]: "In recognition of the unconditional surrender--unconditional and abject surrender of the Nazi barbarians, please accept the fervent congratulations and appreciation of myself, and of the American people, for the heroic achievements of your Allied Army, Navy, and Air Forces. By their sacrifices, skill, and courage they have saved and exalted the cause of freedom throughout the world. All of us owe you, and to your men of many nations, a debt beyond appraisal for their high contribution to the conquest of Naziism.
"I send also my personal appreciation of the superb leadership shown by you and your commanders in directing the valiant legions of our own country, and of our Allies, to this historic victory.
"Please transmit this message to the appropriate officers of your command, and publish it to all Allied forces in your theaters of operation."
And in the message to Marshal Stalin, we asked him to do the same thing for the Russian commanders and Russian troops.
Reporter: Thank you, Mr. President.
Note: President Truman's sixth news conference was held in his office at the White House at 8:35 A.M. on Tuesday, May 8, 1945. The White House Official Reporter noted that members of the Cabinet, Mrs. Truman and Margaret Truman, high United States and British Army and Navy officials, and Senate and Congressional leaders were grouped in chairs around the President's desk.