Memorandum by the Secretary of State to the Secretary of Defense (Forrestal)
I have only had an opportunity hastily to scan this draft of statement1 that Cutler sent us for your appearance before the Armed Services Committee on Thursday.2 I questioned the wisdom at this time of a stark comparison of this nature between the forces disposed of by the Soviet Union and those of the free world. I am not questioning the accuracy, although I assume the figures on the Soviet Union are at best nothing but guesses. The political effect of this comparison would be very serious in Europe, especially the statement as to [Page 542] the number of weeks it would take for Russia to reach the Atlantic and the Pyrenees. In France, particularly, such a statement would be very disheartening. It would, I am afraid, undo much of the good abroad of the President’s address.
While we cannot afford to bluff in this matter, the struggle is still in its political phase and anything which tends to reduce the will to resist in the Western democracies is a loss to us and a gain to the Soviets. The picture which this presents is one of such hopelessness from a military point of view that it will not only dishearten free Europe, but will have a direct effect on ERP. There is no note of confidence in the ability of free Europe backed by us to give pause to the Russians.
Furthermore, we are not at all certain that the Russians are convinced that the military advantage lies so heavily on their side. They sometimes have a tendency to be caught in their own propaganda which, as you know, is to the effect that imperialist America is rushing around to take over the world.
I have the further reaction that the statement is drafted in such a form that it is more a preliminary to war than a proposal for preparation to avoid war.
In a letter to me a few days ago, Mr. Stimson3 made this comment:
“I have been thinking hard on the Russian problem, and would give anything for a chance to talk it over with you sometime, if it would help you at all. But among the people I see oftenest down here, the main necessity is to urge caution lest we go too far in aggressiveness;—that is, however, in all respects except military training—the most important military task.”
I feel in looking over the various speeches I have made recently, particularly those on the West Coast,4 those of the President, and what you and I have said to Committees of the Congress, that we can overdo the statement of the case to the extent which would leave us open to the charge that we had provoked a war, deliberately or otherwise.
- Not found in the files of the Department of State.↩
- On Thursday, March 25, Forrestal, supported by the Service Secretaries and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, presented the administration’s program for Universal Military Training and Selective Service to the Senate Armed Services Committee. The Secretary of Defense called for an increase of authorized strength of the armed forces by approximately 350,000 men, the drafting of 220,000 men for two years service, “universal military training” for about 850,000 18 and 19 year olds for one year, and the appropriation of an additional $3 billion for defense. For text of his statement, see U.S. Congress, Senate Committee on Armed Services, Hearings on Universal Military Training, March–April, 1948, 80th Cong., 2nd sess., p. 3.↩
- Henry L. Stimson, Secretary of War, January 1940–September 1945.↩
- For text of Marshall’s address at the University of California, Berkeley, March 19, 1948, see Department of State Bulletin, March 28, 1948, p. 422.↩