PRESIDENT HARRY S. TRUMAN
ADDRESS BEFORE A JOINT SESSION OF CONGRESS,
MARCH 12, 1947
Mr. President, Mr. Speaker, Members of the Congress of the United States:
The gravity of the situation which confronts the world today necessitates my
appearance before a joint session of the Congress. The foreign policy and the
national security of this country are involved.
One aspect of the present situation, which I wish to present to you at this
time for your consideration and decision, concerns Greece
The United States
has received from the Greek Government an urgent appeal for financial and
economic assistance. Preliminary reports from the American Economic Mission now
in Greece and reports from
the American Ambassador in Greece
corroborate the statement of the Greek Government that assistance is imperative
is to survive as a free nation.
I do not believe that the American people and the Congress wish to turn a
deaf ear to the appeal of the Greek Government.
is not a rich country. Lack of sufficient natural resources has always forced
the Greek people to work hard to make both ends meet. Since 1940, this
industrious and peace loving country has suffered invasion, four years of cruel
enemy occupation, and bitter internal strife.
When forces of liberation entered Greece they found that the
retreating Germans had destroyed virtually all the railways, roads, port
facilities, communications, and merchant marine. More than a thousand villages
had been burned. Eighty-five per cent of the children were tubercular.
Livestock, poultry, and draft animals had almost disappeared. Inflation had
wiped out practically all savings.
As a result of these tragic conditions, a militant minority, exploiting
human want and misery, was able to create political chaos which, until now, has
made economic recovery impossible.
is today without funds to finance the importation of those goods which are
essential to bare subsistence. Under these circumstances the people of Greece cannot
make progress in solving their problems of reconstruction. Greece is in
desperate need of financial and economic assistance to enable it to resume
purchases of food, clothing, fuel and seeds. These are indispensable for the
subsistence of its people and are obtainable only from abroad. Greece must
have help to import the goods necessary to restore internal order and security,
so essential for economic and political recovery.
The Greek Government has also asked for the assistance of experienced
American administrators, economists and technicians to insure that the
financial and other aid given to Greece shall be used effectively in
creating a stable and self-sustaining economy and in improving its public
The very existence of the Greek state is today threatened by the terrorist
activities of several thousand armed men, led by Communists, who defy the
government's authority at a number of points, particularly along the northern
boundaries. A Commission appointed by the United Nations security
Council is at present investigating disturbed conditions in northern Greece and alleged border violations along the
frontier between Greece on
the one hand and Albania, Bulgaria, and Yugoslavia on the other.
Meanwhile, the Greek Government is unable to cope with the situation. The
Greek army is small and poorly equipped. It needs supplies and equipment if it
is to restore the authority of the government throughout Greek territory. Greece must
have assistance if it is to become a self-supporting and self-respecting
The United States
must supply that assistance. We have already extended to Greece certain
types of relief and economic aid but these are inadequate.
There is no other country to which democratic Greece can turn.
No other nation is willing and able to provide the necessary support for a
democratic Greek government.
The British Government, which has been helping Greece, can give no further
financial or economic aid after March 31. Great
Britain finds itself under the necessity of reducing or
liquidating its commitments in several parts of the world, including Greece.
We have considered how the United Nations might assist in this crisis. But
the situation is an urgent one requiring immediate action and the United
Nations and its related organizations are not in a position to extend help of
the kind that is required.
It is important to note that the Greek Government has asked for our aid in
utilizing effectively the financial and other assistance we may give to Greece, and in
improving its public administration. It is of the utmost importance that we
supervise the use of any funds made available to Greece;
in such a manner that each dollar spent will count toward making Greece
self-supporting, and will help to build an economy in which a healthy democracy
No government is perfect. One of the chief virtues of a democracy, however,
is that its defects are always visible and under democratic processes can be
pointed out and corrected. The Government of Greece is not perfect.
Nevertheless it represents eighty-five per cent of the members of the Greek
Parliament who were chosen in an election last year. Foreign observers,
including 692 Americans, considered this election to be a fair expression of
the views of the Greek people.
The Greek Government has been operating in an atmosphere of chaos and
extremism. It has made mistakes. The extension of aid by this country does not
mean that the United States
condones everything that the Greek Government has done or will do. We have
condemned in the past, and we condemn now, extremist measures of the right or
the left. We have in the past advised tolerance, and we advise tolerance now.
Greece's neighbor, Turkey, also
deserves our attention.
The future of Turkey as
an independent and economically sound state is clearly no less important to the
freedom-loving peoples of the world than the future of Greece. The
circumstances in which Turkey
finds itself today are considerably different from those of Greece. Turkey has been spared the disasters that have
And during the war, the United States
and Great Britain furnished Turkey with
now needs our support.
Since the war Turkey has
sought financial assistance from Great Britain
and the United States
for the purpose of effecting that modernization necessary for the maintenance
of its national integrity.
That integrity is essential to the preservation of order in the Middle East.
The British government has informed us that, owing to its own difficulties
can no longer extend financial or economic aid to Turkey.
As in the case of Greece,
if Turkey is to have the
assistance it needs, the United
States must supply it. We are the only
country able to provide that help.
I am fully aware of the broad implications involved if the United States extends assistance to Greece and Turkey, and I shall discuss these
implications with you at this time.
One of the primary objectives of the foreign policy of the United States
is the creation of conditions in which we and other nations will be able to
work out a way of life free from coercion. This was a fundamental issue in the
war with Germany and Japan. Our
victory was won over countries which sought to impose their will, and their way
of life, upon other nations.
To ensure the peaceful development of nations, free from coercion, the United States
has taken a leading part in establishing the United Nations,
The United Nations is designed to make possible lasting freedom and
independence for all its members. We shall not realize our objectives, however,
unless we are willing to help free peoples to maintain their free institutions
and their national integrity against aggressive movements that seek to impose
upon them totalitarian regimes. This is no more than a frank recognition that
totalitarian regimes imposed on free peoples, by direct or indirect aggression,
undermine the foundations of international peace and hence the security of the
The peoples of a number of countries of the world have recently had
totalitarian regimes forced upon them against their will. The Government of the
United States has made
frequent protests against coercion and intimidation, in violation of the Yalta agreement, in Poland,
Rumania, and Bulgaria. I
must also state that in a number of other countries there have been similar
At the present moment in world history nearly every nation must choose
between alternative ways of life. The choice is too often not a free one.
One way of life is based upon the will of the majority, and is distinguished
by free institutions, representative government, free elections, guarantees of individual liberty, freedom of speech and
religion, and freedom from political oppression.
The second way of life is based upon the will of a minority forcibly imposed
upon the majority. It relies upon terror and oppression, a controlled press and
radio; fixed elections, and the suppression of personal freedoms.
I believe that it must be the policy of the United States to support free
peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by
I believe that we must assist free peoples to work out their own destinies
in their own way.
I believe that our help should be primarily through economic and financial
aid which is essential to economic stability and orderly political processes.
The world is not static, and the status quo is not sacred. But we cannot
allow changes in the status quo in violation of the Charter of the United
Nations by such methods as coercion, or by such subterfuges as political
infiltration. In helping free and independent nations to maintain their
freedom, the United States
will be giving effect to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.
It is necessary only to glance at a map to realize that the survival and
integrity of the Greek nation are of grave importance in a much wider
situation. If Greece should
fall under the control of an armed minority, the effect upon its neighbor, Turkey, would
be immediate and serious. Confusion and disorder might well spread throughout
the entire Middle East.
Moreover, the disappearance of Greece
as an independent state would have a profound effect upon those countries in Europe whose peoples are struggling against great
difficulties to maintain their freedoms and their independence while they
repair the damages of war.
It would be an unspeakable tragedy if these countries, which have struggled
so long against overwhelming odds, should lose that victory for which they
sacrificed so much. Collapse of free institutions and loss of independence
would be disastrous not only for them but for the world. Discouragement and
possibly failure would quickly be the lot of neighboring peoples striving to
maintain their freedom and independence.
Should we fail to aid Greece
in this fateful hour, the effect will be far reaching to the West as well as to
We must take immediate and resolute action.
I therefore ask the Congress to provide authority for assistance to Greece and Turkey in the amount of
$400,000,000 for the period ending June 30, 1948. In requesting these funds, I
have taken into consideration the maximum amount of relief assistance which
would be furnished to Greece
out of the $350,000,000 which I recently requested that the Congress authorize
for the prevention of starvation and suffering in countries devastated by the
In addition to funds, I ask the Congress to authorize the detail of American
civilian and military personnel to Greece
at the request of those countries, to assist in the tasks of reconstruction,
and for the purpose of supervising the use of such financial and material
assistance as may be furnished. I recommend that authority also be provided for
the instruction and training of selected Greek and Turkish personnel.
Finally, I ask that the Congress provide authority which will permit the
speediest and most effective use, in terms of needed commodities, supplies, and
equipment, of such funds as may be authorized.
If further funds, or further authority, should be needed for purposes
indicated in this message, I shall not hesitate to bring the situation before
the Congress. On this subject the Executive and Legislative branches of the
Government must work together.
This is a serious course upon which we embark.
I would not recommend it except that the alternative is much more serious.
The United States
contributed $341,000,000,000 toward winning World War II. This is an investment
in world freedom and world peace.
The assistance that I am recommending for Greece
amounts to little more than 1 tenth of 1 per cent of this investment. It is
only common sense that we should safeguard this investment and make sure that
it was not in vain.
The seeds of totalitarian regimes are nurtured by misery and want. They
spread and grow in the evil soil of poverty and strife. They reach their full
growth when the hope of a people for a better life has died. We must keep that
The free peoples of the world look to us for support in maintaining their
If we falter in our leadership, we may endanger the peace of the world --
and we shall surely endanger the welfare of our own nation.
Great responsibilities have been placed upon us by the swift movement of
I am confident that the Congress will face
these responsibilities squarely.