Editorial Note

In his State of the Union message on January 8, President Truman did not specifically mention sending American troops to Europe, but he did ask the Congress for legislation for “military and economic aid to help build up the strength of the free world.” A copy of the State of the Union message is in Department of State Bulletin, January 22, 1951, pages 123–127.

On the afternoon of the same day Senator Kenneth Wherry introduced Senate Resolution 8, and the Wherry Resolution came to be the central issue of the “Great Debate.” It stated that “no ground forces of the United States should be assigned to duty in the European area for the purposes of the North Atlantic Treaty pending formulation of a policy with respect thereto by the Congress.” (Congressional Record, 82d Congress, 1st session, page 94)

In a press conference on January 11, the President told reporters that his constitutional powers as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces gave him the authority to send troops anywhere in the world. He said he would consult the Congress before sending troops, but did not need congressional permission to do so. (Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Harry S Truman, 1951 (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1965, page 19)

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On January 12 Secretary Acheson called Senators Connally and McFarland to thank them for responding to Senator Taft with Senate speeches favorable to the administration’s foreign policy. On January 16 he called Senator Lodge to thank him for his speech of January 11, and on January 18 he called Senator Morse about his speech of January 15 and Senator Kerr about his speech of January 16 in support of the administration. Memoranda of those telephone conversations are in the Secretary’s Memoranda, lot 53 D 444. The speeches can be found in the Congressional Record, 82d Congress 1st session: McFarland, page 139; Connally, page 140; Lodge, page 146; Morse, page 253; Kerr, page 334. All the Senators the Secretary called spoke in favor of stationing American troops in Europe as part of the NATO forces, and opposed Senator Taft’s suggestion that the United States rely on air and sea power.

During the month of February the Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services Committees held 11 days of joint public hearings on Senate Resolution 8, the Wherry Resolution. Secretary of Defense Marshall gave the opening testimony against it on February 15. He told the committees that the President had authorized him to discuss the specific strength of American ground forces in Europe. He said, “The Joint Chiefs of Staff have recommended to me and I have so recommended to the President—and the President has approved—a policy with respect to our forces in Europe which looks to the maintenance by us, in Europe, of approximately six divisions of ground forces. We already have there, on occupation duty, about two divisions of ground forces. Our plans, based on the recommendation of the Joint Chiefs, therefore contemplate sending four additional divisions to Europe.” (Department of State Bulletin, February 26, 1951, pages 328–330)

Secretary of State Acheson and General of the Army Omar N. Bradley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified against the resolution on February 16. The Secretary answered those who proposed reliance on air and sea power by saying that “however overwhelming our available air striking power is likely to be in the period ahead of us, the presence of defense forces in being in Western Europe is a vital part of the effectiveness of our air power as a deterrent to attack. … In the event of an attack the availability of defense forces in Europe would give us time that we would vitally need to bring our other forces into operation.” Copies of the administration witnesses’ testimony are in Department of State Bulletin, February 26, 1951, pages 323–332. Early drafts of Secretary Acheson’s testimony are in the Shulman files, lot 53 D 403, “Wherry Resolution Testimony.” An account of the public hearings is printed in Hearings before the Committee on Foreign Relations and the Committee on Armed Services on S. Con. Res. 8 (Washington: Government Printing Office, [Page 24] 1951). A short account of the “Great Debate” and excerpts from some of the major speeches can be found in Documents on American Foreign Relations, 1951, pages 13–25, 225–228.

After the hearings ended, the committees rewrote the Wherry Resolution and reported out Senate Resolution 99, in support of the President’s authority to send American troops to Europe. (Senate Report 175, 82d Congress, 1st session.) A copy of Senate Resolution 99 is in Department of State Bulletin, April 16, 1951, page 637; Documents on American Foreign Relations, 1951, page 227; and Congressional Record, 82d Congress, 1st session, page 3282.

On April 2 the Senate, by a vote of 49 to 43, with 4 not voting, added the McClellan Amendment to Senate Resolution 99. The amendment stated that “no ground forces in addition to such four divisions should be sent to Western Europe in implementation of Article 3 of the North Atlantic Treaty without further congressional approval.” On April 4, by a vote of 69 to 21, with 6 not voting, the Senate passed Senate Resolution 99. (Ibid., pages 3096, 3282)

At a press conference on April 5, in answer to a question about whether the Senate’s addition of the McClellan Amendment would alter his policy on sending troops to Europe, the President said that the only matter considered was the sending of four divisions, which the Senate approved. He added that he had always consulted the Congress about major policies and that the situation would develop in the usual manner. (Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Harry S Truman, 1951, page 214)

Documentation in Department of State files on the “Great Debate” is scanty. From time to time Department officials discussed it and reports of their meetings are in the Secretary’s Daily Meetings, lot 58 D 609; the Secretary’s Memoranda of Conversation, lot 65 D 238; the Secretary’s Memoranda, lot 53 D 444; and the Barrett files, lot 52 D 432.