Editorial Note

President Truman held a news conference on the morning of November 30 which he opened by reading a prepared statement. In it, he promised that the United States would continue to work in the United Nations for concerted action to halt aggression in Korea and indicated that the United States would take steps to strengthen its own defenses and aid its allies to do the same against the possibility of aggression elsewhere. He also adverted to the repeated assurances given the Chinese Communists that no aggressive intentions were held by the United States or the United Nations. Responding to questions on General MacArthur, Mr. Truman said that he had done a good job and had not exceeded his authority.

In the course of questioning on the Korean crisis, the following exchange occurred:

“The President: We will take whatever steps are necessary to meet the military situation, just as we always have. [12.] Q. Will that include the atomic bomb? The President: That includes every weapon that we have. Q. Mr. President, you said ‘every weapon that we have.’ Does that mean that there is active consideration of the use of the atomic bomb? The President: There has always been active consideration [Page 1262] of its use. I don’t want to see it used. It is a terrible weapon, and it should not be used on innocent men, women, and children who have nothing whatever to do with this military aggression. That happens when it is used.”

Later on the same day, the White House issued the following press release:

“The President wants to make it certain that there is no misinterpretation of his answers to questions at his press conference today about the use of the atom bomb. Naturally, there has been consideration of this subject since the outbreak of the hostilities in Korea, just as there is consideration of the use of all military weapons whenever our forces are in combat.

“Consideration of the use of any weapon is always implicit in the very possession of that weapon.

“However, it should be emphasized, that, by law, only the President can authorize the use of the atom bomb, and no such authorization has been given. If and when such authorization should be given, the military commander in the field would have charge of the tactical delivery of the weapon.

“In brief, the replies to the questions at today’s press conference do not represent any change in this situation.”

For the complete text of the press conference of November 30, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Harry S. Truman, 1950, pages 724–728.