Memorandum by the Secretary of State to President Truman

The current discussions of food supplies and requirements in connection with the visit of Captain Lyttelton and Colonel Llewellin have already verified the critical character of the world food situation. Without drastic action and a reduction of consumption to essentials, the minimum needs of the United Nations will not be met in several categories of foodstuffs. Although the current talks may be limited to food, the same conclusion applies to other commodities, notably cotton and wool textiles and coal. I am sure I do not need to stress the disastrous political and economic results which may be expected if countries dependent on food imports, especially the liberated areas, have to go through another winter of want such as the last. The return of their deportees from Germany and the slackening of war tension at the end of European hostilities will aggravate an already critical situation. The success of any plans agreed upon at San Francisco50 can be seriously jeopardized, if not defeated, by internal chaos in the liberated countries.

I believe that the exchange of cables between President Roosevelt and the Prime Minister51 contemplated that the review of food supplies and requirements should cover the levels of consumption and stocks of both the armed forces and the civilian populations. In the current discussions, the military authorities have taken the firm position that their requirements, as stated, are not subject to discussion whether they pertain to combat troops, inactive troops, prisoners of war, or civilians. They have likewise asserted that military reserves and the management of supplies are not open to question. At a time when military consumption of sugar, for example, has been estimated as high as 175 pounds per year per capita and it has been proposed to cut U.S. civilian consumption below 70 pounds, the military position seems untenable, particularly when the British intend to bring their own military requirements ‘into the discussions. Sugar is only one [Page 1086] example; there are a number of other similar cases. The current discussions cannot be comprehensive unless the broad scope outlined in the cables between President Roosevelt and the Prime Minister is adhered to. I earnestly recommend, therefore, that you instruct the military authorities accordingly, so that they will cooperate fully in the current discussions and contribute to the fullest extent possible to the solution of this critical situation by justifying their requirements and reviewing their supply procedures. In this connection, I should recall to you that the partial alleviation of the shipping crisis last winter was only achieved by similar action on President Roosevelt’s part.

On the side of U.S. domestic requirements, certain of the civilian agencies seem reluctant to carry out the “tightening of the belt” anticipated by President Roosevelt without further instructions from you. Until the food discussions have progressed further, it is impossible to state with any accuracy the cuts which will be necessary if we are to reach an acceptable solution to the current crisis. In view of the great importance of reaching a solution, however, I also recommend that you instruct the appropriate civilian agencies, particularly the War Food Administration, to explore all possible reductions in U.S. consumption which would not cut into the maintenance of our essential war economy so that recommendations can be made as to what action could be taken by this country to meet the problem.

In conclusion, I should like to call to your attention the desirability of bringing before the American public and the Congress, at an appropriate time, both the facts of the food situation and this country’s vital interests abroad. I believe that it is only against a background of enlightened public opinion that the necessary decisions can be made acceptable.

  1. For documentation regarding the United Nations Conference at San Francisco, April 25–June 26, 1945, see vol. i, pp. 1 ff.
  2. See telegrams 710, 902, and 712, dated February 28, March 2, and March 10, pp. 1072, 1072, and 1076, respectively.