Editorial Note

Congressional opposition to the stationing of American troops in Europe as part of the NATO defense force grew after President Truman’s press release on the subject on September 9, 1950. In that statement he said he approved a substantial increase in the strength of United States forces stationed in Western Europe for the defense of that area on the basis of recommendations of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, endorsed by the Secretaries of State and Defense. (Department of State Bulletin, September 18, 1950, page 468)

A speech by Herbert Hoover on December 20, 1950, set the stage for the following “Great Debate” on the use of American troops in Europe. Hoover said that the prime obligation to defend Europe rested with the Europeans themselves and that the United States should limit its contributions to air and sea power. In his opinion, committing American ground forces to a land war in Europe would result in “a war without victory … would be the graveyard of millions of American boys and would end in the exhaustion of this Gibraltar of Western Civilization.” (New York Times, December 21, 1950, pages 1, 22)

At a Department of State meeting on January 2, 1951, Under Secretary of State Webb, Legal Adviser Fisher, and Director McWilliams of the Executive Secretariat agreed that someone in the Department should draft a reply to a forthcoming speech by Senator Taft opposing the use of American troops in Europe. They planned to offer it to an administration supporter, probably Senator Connally, for use in the Senate debate. Information on that meeting is in the Secretary’s Memoranda of Conversation, lot 65 D 238.

Senator Taft opened the Senate portion of the debate on January 5. He said the President had “no power to agree to send American troops to fight in Europe in a war between the members of the Atlantic Pact and Soviet Russia.” Taft considered a powerful air force the best defense for the United States and suggested the country rely on superiority in air and sea forces throughout the world for its own defense and for assistance to its allies. He concluded by saying that any policy adopted “must be approved by Congress and the people after full and free discussion. The commitment of a land army to Europe is a program never approved by Congress, into which we should not drift.” (Congressional Record, 82d Congress, 1st session, pages 54–61)