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Part I - The End of Exile

It was self interest that brought together Herbert Hoover and Harry S. Truman in May 1945. The new president, who faced the enormous challenge of ending a world war and rebuilding the ravaged economies of Europe, was happy to receive assistance from all volunteers including Hoover. For his part, the former president was eager to return to public service after a twelve-year exile. Throughout the summer and fall of 1945 the two men explored their common concerns, particularly the need to prevent mass starvation in Europe in the aftermath of World War II. It was the beginning of a working partnership that would last nearly twenty years.

Perhaps it is not so surprising that these presidents of opposing parties could work together so well for such a long time. It is easy to overlook the fact that they both had roots in farming communities of the trans-Mississippi West, had known economic hardship and self-reliance, were transformed by the conflagration of World War I, and lived in the shadow of Franklin D. Roosevelt. The collaboration between Hoover and Truman marked a new chapter in the lives of both men. It was an alliance that eventually ripened into a friendship that lasted until Hoover's death in 1964.


The first communication between the thirty-first president and the thirty-third president was a brief telegram extending best wishes and support to the new president. Knowing little of Truman or his political philosophy, Hoover had no expectation that the new president would accept his veiled offer of service. But he could hope. Writing that month to a friend, Hoover noted that "now that there has been a change in Washington, I may be on the move often."

The President of the United States
Harry S. Truman
Washington, D.C.

All Americans will wish you strength for your gigantic task. You have the right to call for any service in aid of the country.



Edgar Rickard was one of Herbert Hoover's most trusted and devoted confidants throughout the former president's public life. Contemporaries in the emerging profession of mine engineering, the two men shared many professional and personal interests. More important, Rickard came to admire Hoover's skills not only as an engineer but also as an administrator; the two men worked together on various famine relief efforts and related projects between 1914 and Rickard's death in 1951.

In his diary, Rickard documented Hoover's optimism about the new president and his cabinet. Indeed, Hoover even mused about becoming secretary of war in the new administration.

Saturday, April 14 [1945]

To dinner alone with H.H. Tell him I entirely approve of his statement to Press re F.D.R.; it was one of the very few that did not spill over. He thinks that Truman will prove a change for the better. He thinks that if he has intention to appoint new Cabinet he should do so without delay. If he does it person by person remaining members will gang up on him. H.H. would like to be Sec'y of War, and says in that job, with command of shipping, he could give relief to Europe in short order.


President Truman responded to the former president's telegram with a brief, but significant note. Although the text is perfunctory, Truman added a hand written comment accepting Hoover's offer of assistance. Little did either man realize that this would be the beginning of a long collaboration.

April 19, 1945

Dear Mr. Hoover:

Please accept my thanks for your message of the twelfth. I need not assure you that your good wishes are deeply appreciated.

Very sincerely yours,

/s/I assure you I shall feel free to call upon you. Thanks for the offer.



Hoover's musings about serving in the new administration were not his alone. His previous experience as a famine relief administrator made Hoover a logical choice to help with the enormous food problems facing the world after World War II It was an idea that had occurred to more than one official in the Truman administration in early May 1945.

Henry L. Stimson, who had been Hoover's secretary of state and was now Truman's secretary of war, actively advocated asking Hoover for advice. After discussing the idea with a number of associates, Stimson went to Truman on May 2 and again on May 4 to discuss Hoover and how to gain his assistance.

Who would make the first move was the question. Truman thought that Hoover was coming to the White House on his own. But Stimson got the impression that Truman had sent Hoover a formal invitation and told the former president as much on May 4. Although willing to help, Hoover would do nothing until he received the request from Truman. (This document is from the Henry L. Stimson Papers in the Department of Manuscripts and Archives of the Yale University Library and printed with permission.)

Wednesday, May 2, 1945
Page 3

. . . I brought up the name of Mr. Herbert Hoover as a person whose general advice should be obtained on the chaotic situation in central Europe and the methods of dealing with the famine and pestilence which will likely follow. He [Truman] was at once cordially acquiescent to the suggestion; said that he had been thinking of Mr. Hoover himself, that Mr. Hoover was going to visit him, and he would ask him to visit me and discuss what he might do about it. I told him that I thought Mr. Hoover should not be asked to accept an executive position but should be used as an adviser, and that I would be glad to use him myself if the President did not have some other suggestion., He cordially acquiesced . . .


During the week that followed Hoover's brief contacts with Stimson, the former president received suggestions that he repeat his offer. No less than four groups, the last led by the financier Bernard Baruch, raised the issue. In spite of their persistence Hoover rejected the suggestions out of hand.

New York, New York
May 6, 1945

Today I had lunch with Bernard Baruch at his home with some of his friends, who wanted to discuss with me the situation generally. I did not get much out of the meeting except that the whole Administration is flabbergasted by Roosevelt's schemes which are like chickens and now coming home to roost . . .

Generally, I got little from them. They were the fourth group during the week who urged me to call on Truman and for the fourth time I had to explain that I would not go to Washington except at the direct invitation of the President. They told me that I ought to be of bigger mind and that Truman needed and wanted my advice. I said that if they considered that my advice were worth anything it at least warranted an invitation from Truman; that so far as my own personal feelings were concerned because of the pettiness and vindictiveness of the group in Washington that my own inclination was to tell them to all go to Hell. But that nevertheless the President had the right to ask for my advice and that if he asked for it I would be glad at his invitation to give it to him. That all of these requests that I go to Washington to give Truman advice, and not at his request, was an attempt to find some way so as not to offend the left-wingers by putting the onus of a visit on to me. And I again told them that if Truman thought my advice were worth anything, then it at least warranted an invitation to come to Washington from him.


Stimson telephoned Hoover on May 4 to tell him that soon he would receive a letter of invitation from Truman. But four days passed and Hoover still had not heard from the White House. The former president would do nothing to aid the new administration until he heard from the president. He repeated to Edgar Rickard what he had told Baruch and his friends two days before: Truman must ask for his help.

Tuesday, May 8 [1945]

. . . H.H. feels as I do; says he has been told by at least three responsible people that if he (H.H.) should ask to see Truman he would be cordially received and a big job in Europe offered. H.H. says he will not go to see Truman unless Truman asks him, and then he will gladly give all the information and help that he can.

7. STIMSON DIARY, MAY 13, 1945

Having heard nothing from the White House by May 12, Hoover contacted Stimson and asked for a meeting. In response, Stimson promptly invited the former president to lunch the next day at his home on Long Island. Hoover and Stimson spent the better part of an afternoon discussing the rehabilitation of Europe. But Stimson made no mention of their frank discussion of what it would take to get Hoover involved -- namely an invitation from Truman. (This document is from the Henry L. Stimson Papers in the Department of Archives and Manuscripts of the Yale University Library and printed with permission.)

Sunday, May 13, 1945

. . . Mr. Hoover came at a little after twelve o'clock and I had a very satisfactory talk with him. It was a great pleasure to talk with a master of a subject after the amateurs that I have been running in contact with in the New Deal. I took up the question of the rehabilitation of Europe and in the short time before and after lunch I got some very vigorous and stimulating views from him about it. I took them down in pencil and I shall use them to try to get the War Department at least aided by his wisdom. His views of the problem of Germany follow very much the line which McCloy and I had been fighting for since last September and the issue with Morgenthau over a pastoral Germany. Another point that I was interested to find was that Hoover had come to the conclusion that the Army is the best agent for rehabilitation and in that I think he is probably right. Certainly the efforts thus far of the various civilian agencies which the past Administration has appointed have not shown results which would indicate otherwise . . .

8. RICKARD DIARY, MAY 13-14, 1945

Rickard documented Hoover's recollection of his meeting with Stimson at which they discussed the growing food crisis in Europe. Like Baruch and others, Stimson urged Hoover to offer his assistance to the president. But as Rickard noted, Hoover again refused unless Truman sent a personal request for his services.

Sunday, May 13 [1945]

H.H. motored to Long Island for lunch (very hush hush) with Sec'y of War Stimson, who was very insistent that H.H. call on Truman who, according to Stimson, was anxious to see H.H. and discuss the food situation, intimating an important post would result. H.H. told Stimson that he would be glad to see Truman, but must have personal request from him. H.H. feels that the New Deal has been making H.H. the goat in campaigns, and Truman, if he really wants H.H.'s cooperation, must take the initiative. Stimson, without success, tried to persuade H.H. and said he (Stimson) had seen Truman last Friday, and Truman had agreed to H.H.'s public suggestion that the Army take over European Relief.

Monday, May 14 [1945]

. . . At the Waldorf and while H.H. did not mention the source, evident he had a very favorable report on Truman from Stimson. While F.D.R. had not been available for consultation sometimes for weeks, Truman keeps open house and could give positive answers and otherwise was good administrator, while F.D.R. failed in this respect. H.H. thinks Truman will make better President than Dewey, even though he is a Democrat. However H.H., [Jeremiah] Milbank and [Arch] Shaw agree they are all prejudiced against Dewey. I completely agree and am very pleased that H.H. has not fallen into trap of initiating a conference with Truman.


The meeting had gone well enough for Stimson to call the former president and suggest he travel to Washington to discuss the food crisis in Europe once again. Hoover refused. It was one thing to have an informal lunch at his friend's house on Long Island, but quite a different matter for a former president to discuss such matters in the office of the Secretary of War.

For Hoover it was a matter of pride. Once again he told Stimson that he would not come to Washington unless he received a personal invitation from the president. Stimson tried to set up a second meeting with Hoover at his Long Island house, but Hoover excused himself. He was going fishing.

The Waldorf Astoria Towers
New York, New York
[May 17, 1945]

Today, Secretary Stimson telephone me from Washington. (He had called me on Saturday the 21st of April but I was away and reached me on Sunday the 22d of April but this was merely to ask me to come out and spend that Sunday at his Long Island place.)Today he asked me if I would come down to Washington and discuss with him the post-war situation of Europe, which he said had degenerated into a dreadful state. He said he had discussed this with the President and that Truman thought my advice would be very valuable. I told Stimson that I would not ride on the horse of my pride but that if the President valued my advice at all that at least I merited an invitation from the President to come to see him; that there need not be more than three minutes between us, but that at least it would be a sign to the country that I was not a seeker of interviews and that if he directed me to talk to the Secretary of War that I would be delighted to do so. Stimson told me that I was making a mountain out of a molehill. I told him that if he wanted to come in as an old friend, I would be glad to talk to him as I had to many other old friends, but that I would not come to Washington unless at the specific invitation of the President. I informed Stimson that he had always thought on other occasions that I was stubborn but that this time I was right, and I was going to maintain my stand. He then asked that I come out to his home on Long Island on Sunday and that he would come up especially from Washington. I made the excuse for not going out to Long Island that I was going fishing. I reiterated that I would not come to Washington under any circumstances unless I was invited by the President. He expressed much disappointment but said that he would discuss it with the President.

In the meantime, Colonel [John C.] O'Laughlin told me of a conversation with Steve Early during which Cal had urged them to get my advice. Cal reported Early as having said, "That if Hoover wanted anything he would have to come down on his knees to get it." So I surmise that whatever good intentions the President may have had about this, he has been coaxed by the men around him into the old vindictiveness.

I did not mention Steve Early by name, but I told this piece of gossip to Stimson as being the sort of thing going on and as the sort of thing that the left-wingers were continually putting out and that my only protection from the left-wingers and people like Early would be to have an invitation from the President and that if Truman did not think it worth while to pay this small courtesy to me for the benefit of my advice, they had better not continue to attempt to get it.

10. TRUMAN TO HOOVER, MAY 24, 1945

Then came the letter that ended Hoover's twelve year isolation from the White House. Because Truman was interested in meeting Hoover, who was not willing to come to the White House without an invitation, the president was willing to take the first step.

The White House
May 24 '45

/s/My dear Mr. President: --

If you should be in Washington, I would be most happy to talk over the European food situation with you.

Also it would be a pleasure to me to become acquainted with you.

Most sincerely

11. DIARY OF EBEN A. AYERS, MAY 24, 1945

Although Truman was interested in meeting and willing to invite Hoover to the White House, some members of the White House staff opposed this action. To prevent aides from thwarting his plan, Truman wrote the invitation to Hoover in longhand and mailed it himself. In a diary entry for May 24, Truman aide Eben A. Ayers recorded the aftermath of the president's action. (See Robert H. Ferrell, ed., Truman in the White House: The Diary of Eben A. Ayers [Columbia, Mo., 1991] pp. 27-28.)

May 24, [1945]

. . . The president said he was going to tell us of something he had done last night on his own -- and we might all throw bricks at him. He said he was in the House, studying the food situation the European food situation -- and he decided to write a note to Herbert Hoover. So he said he wrote one out himself, in longhand, signed it, and mailed it, suggesting he would be glad to see and talk to him sometime.

Steve Early seemed a little upset. He went on to say that during the Roosevelt term Hoover never came to the White House to pay his respects, that he came into and left Washington without ever doing it. He said he, himself, had passed word to Hoover suggesting he come in but he never had done it. None of the others commented on the president's action. Early suggested that perhaps the president might do the same with Landon, defeated Republican candidate in 1936, and Governor Dewey, last year's defeated candidate. The president indicated he might.

12. HOOVER TO TRUMAN, MAY 26, 1945

Hoover responded as soon as he received the note. It is interesting that both notes were handwritten -- one of only two known exchanges of this kind between these two presidents. Hoover arranged to meet Truman in the president's office on the morning of May 28.

May 26'45

/s/Dear Mr. President.

I have your most kind invitation of the 24th -- I will be glad to come to Washington anytime to meet your convenience and I am asking one of your secretaries to fix an hour --

Yours Sincerely,

13. RICKARD DIARY, MAY 26-27, 1945

Hoover was pleased with the personal invitation and implied as much to Rickard. The former president took the meeting very seriously and prepared himself for all manner of questions and requests for assistance.

Saturday, May 26 [1945]

. . . To Waldorf -- H.H. has received a "cordial invitation" from President Truman to go to Washington Monday, and has accepted. Radio gives prominence to this meeting, and H.H. is pleased. He says, in answer to my query, that he will await the outcome of this meeting as to whether he will accept a job with this Administration.

Sunday, May 27 [1945]

Afternoon at Waldorf with H.H., who very busy collecting material to take to Washington for possible use in case Truman needs real help. Says he does not know what the conference will bring about, but will stay in Washington several days if necessary. He had Baruch for lunch and primed him on what he would tell Truman, as he wanted Baruch's backing if necessary. Evident H.H. elated that he at least has a chance to give advice, and back of it possible public recognition of his experience.


Hoover met with Truman for about an hour on the morning of May 28 and the two discussed international issues. For the most part their attention focused on the need for immediate food relief in Europe. They discussed Hoover's proposal that the military should administer the food program, at least temporarily, and Truman agreed. Truman asked Hoover to meet with Stimson to iron out the details.

In addition to food relief the two presidents discussed a variety of international issues including how to end the war with Japan. Truman asked Hoover to prepare memoranda on issues discussed and Hoover agreed. The former president prepared the following memorandum of this first meeting.


Washington, D.C.
Monday, May 28, 1945

I saw President Truman this morning at 10:30 am. He asked me to tell him what I thought of the whole food situation. I replied that the situation was degenerating all over the world, partly, of course, due to the war and partly due to mismanagement; but that he had to take it as it is and that there was no time to be bothered with recriminations as to what might have been.

The President then asked me about the food problem in Europe. I told him that the food situation there divided itself into three segments:

The first segment was that area which Russia had taken over in Eastern Europe of perhaps 200,000,000 people. I stated that I did not assume that the United States was going to take any part in supplies to that area. That was entirely Russia's problem. To that the President agreed, and said that we were going to do nothing in those areas, that Russia would look after it herself.

The second segment was the Mediterranean area which was mostly comprised of Italy, Greece, and a few minor points.

And the third segment consisted of northwestern Europe -- France, Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Norway and American-occupied Germany which comprised about 100,000,000.

In these latter two areas, the problem divided itself into two parts -- emergency organization during the next 90 days until after the harvest was in, and then a more thorough and long-view organization after that time.

I explained to Mr. Truman that these people had been living on the supplies of the last harvest, and that so far as I could make out they had received less that 100,000 tons a month from the Army and other American sources since liberation. In no country was that enough to go through until the next harvest in August. There was thus an accumulated deficit that would fall particularly on the populations in the cities and more particularly on the working people. They were already on rations that left them hungry and unless something were done at once they would be more hungry. That there were two levels of subsistence. First, the minimum amount which would give just bare subsistence; and second, there was a level which would give a lift to the people and give stability to the whole situation. Bare subsistence meant hunger; and hunger meant Communism. With insufficient information I estimated that a minimum of 1,000,000 tons of wheat per month until the next harvest they could take off the bread ration completely and that this would give such a lift as to remove dangers of disorder. I told him that involved in this were also fat supplies and that that was a question largely whether we could spare any from the United States.

I told him that it was impossible to reproduce the organization of the last war. That when I was directing the economic situation after the last war I was United States Food Administrator and as such had command of American food, transportation and shipping. In addition I was appointed to a position, which was a counterpart of that of General Foch, in command of relief and rehabilitation. The four great heads of State were sitting in Paris and I acted directly under their authority. If things got tangled up in red tape, I could go to the Big Four and could cut through any obstructions. That any needed transportation, shipping and distribution in Europe was under my control. That no man could be sent to Europe with the command of powers which I possessed and he would not have the four heads of States to whom to appeal.

Therefore, insofar as northwestern Europe and Italy were concerned my suggestion was (a) that the Army must take over this problem; that the Army was already dealing with four-fifths of the situation, including Germany, and that the FEA was dealing with one segment of the problem. During the next ninety days, when the emergency existed until the harvest was in, that no organization could be formed that could cut through the maze of red tape except the Army. (b) I recommended that an economic council be set up consisting of the nations of Belgium, Holland, Norway, Denmark, France, that the members of the council should be ministerial in rank and that an army man, such as General Clay, should sit on this Council. That while the Army should cooperate to solve their coal and transportation problems America should not be put in the position of being responsible for everything that went wrong. That Europe must get onto its own feet. There was only one thing for which America could be blamed and that was if the supplies of food did not get there.

That the red tape here in the United States with its mass of committees needed to be cut through at once. That if General Marshall should appoint some outstanding officer to get and ship supplies from this end during the emergency and this man should send for some man like Walter Franklin of the Pennsylvania Railroad and told to get the food to the seaboard, I saw no other way.

The President said that Stimson was opposed to the Army's getting further involved, but that after my explanation and presentation he had agreed with me and asked me to see Stimson. I said if the Army wants an out this is the only way it can get out.

He asked about the domestic food administration, I said it was terrible and two statements could prove it. That while fats were the first necessity of war production yet our hogs had decreased from 82 million to 60 million in 12 months. That while the country had, after the Army and Lend-Lease, about 70% of annual products yet New York was getting [by] on 10% to 20%.

We had considerable discussion of the effect of the method of price fixing. I started the revolution.

I told him that the war economic problems in the country were not confined to just food by any manner of means. That the home front activities were in a mess.

I then explained that the following suggestions were based on my experience of the last war. That in every country in the last war there was a war council sitting directly under the head of State, including the United States. That these economic war councils determined the broad economic and other policies. That in this war every other country except the United States had a War Council. That the War Council in the last war met once a week directly under the President but brought only subjects to him when decision had to be made by the President and gave him advice when he asked for it. That the Council presented him with agreed facts when there was a difference of opinion and that he made the decision. That after such a decision every man carried out his decision whether he liked it or not. That there were never any quarrels; that they may have had differences of views but there were no personalities involved.

I told the President that I was not suggesting such a set up at the moment, but rather was proposing that some kind of Economic War Council to deal with purely economic questions and its organization. It should include the Secretaries of War, Army, Navy, Agriculture, State and possibly Labor. That on this Economic War Council there should be three men without portfolio; that these three men should be men who have a large understanding of public problems; that they should devote themselves to the formulation of economic policies and to methods of organizing the government to meet them. I suggested that this would take a great burden off of him. Truman told me that this was a valuable suggestion. He asked if I would write him a memorandum on that subject.

We went into some side issues on the food and other problems as illustrations.

In response to his inquiries as to the methods of the last war I went into some detail and pointed out the fearful mistake that had been made by refusal to use that experience as to method and organization. I said he had made an admirable move in the appointment of the new Secretary of Agriculture and in making him Food Administrator. I suggested he must have still more powers, that the Food Administrator should have complete control over all buying, control over distribution as well as production and that price was the real base of both production and distribution. Therefore the new Food Administrator should have these functions from the O.P.A. [Office of Price Administration].

He asked for my views on the foreign situation. I said I had lived in Russia and the Orient for some years, that I had subsequently to deal with them as Secretary of Commerce and as President. I then outlined the view that the Russians were Asiatics; that they had the characteristics of Asiatics; that they did not have the reverence for agreements that was current among Western nations; that we must just take them as they were; that we could not go to war with them and we should never bluff. Our position should be to persuade, hold up our banner of what we thought was right and let it go at that. A war with Russia meant the extinction of Western civilization or what there was left of it. I stated I had no patience with people who formulated policies in respect to other nations "short of war." They always lead to war.

I said I would like to see some declaration made jointly with the British and possibly the Chinese as to our objectives in the Far East. The Russians did not need to be included as they were not in the war with Japan. He asked what I thought the nature of it should be. I said it should start with a declaration that this war arose over the invasion of Manchuria, that there must be unqualified restoration of Manchuria, that there must be unconditional surrender of the Japanese military forces, the complete disarmament of Japan for 30 to 40 years; that we would ask for certain men to be turned over to us who had violated the rules of civilized warfare, that they would receive just trial by us. That there should be a statement that the United States had no desire to exterminate the Japanese people, had no desire to destroy the Japanese form of government, that it had every desire to see Japan return to the family of nations and to build itself into a prosperous nation. I said that I felt such a declaration should include some intimation that they could keep Korea and Formosa. Korea had a much worse government before the Japanese had taken it over; that the United States had made a treaty with Japan acknowledging the Japanese sovereignty over Korea and that legalistically we had no claim for its separation now.

As for Formosa, the Formosans neither sprang from the Chinese nor the Japanese and also China did not have any particular moral right to that territory.

I said that I thought that if such a declaration were made it would define our relations with Russia that Manchuria should go to China. I said such a declaration should contain a statement that if the Government of Japan wished to continue the war it would be proof to the world that there was not responsibility in the Japanese Government of today and that we must completely destroy it.

I stated that I did not believe Russia would come into the war with Japan except perhaps in the last five minutes and I added that the total number of Russian forces in Siberia were about 700,000 whereas the Japanese strength in Manchuria is rapidly coming up to a million and a half. That the Russians would have difficulties in the face of previous losses, weariness and a single track railway of successfully fighting such a war at the outset at least.

I told him that there could be no greater gift to the world than to give it peace -- and that to have peace would be of enormous advantage to the world and to us. Truman asked me if I thought the Japanese would accept. I said I was not optimistic but that there was a bare chance. That unlike Germany a government alternative to the War Party did exist. I stated that Suzuki certainly had been a leader in this alternative group.

He said negotiations were underway with Stalin to clarify certain matters, including Manchuria. He returned to the question of our relations with Russia. I repeated we must look at the whole situation realistically for we were not going to war with them, that we would have to accept them as they were, but on our side we must hold up the banner of free peoples and let it go at that for the present.

He asked that I send him memoranda covering my suggestions. The interview lasted 55 minutes.

My conclusions were that he was simply endeavoring to establish a feeling of good will in the country, that nothing more would come of it so far as I or my views were concerned.

15. RICKARD DIARY, MAY 30, 1945

Hoover was disappointed with the meeting; not much had resulted except a request for more information. Even as he prepared his meeting notes, however, he complained that his advice would have no influence. Yet Hoover saw a distinct value in the meeting as Rickard indicates in this entry.

Wednesday, May 30 [1945]

Early to Waldorf and H.H. very much preoccupied preparing his notes on his 55 minutes with Truman. H.H. said his invitation from Truman was wholly political; that Truman was strictly partisan and that he had no intention of asking any Republican to participate in his Administration. H.H. thinks that Stimson will soon be out; feels that Truman gained much by asking H.H. in as much as giving public impression the he (Truman) was broadminded and above party politics and animosity. H.H. felt that he too had gained in quieting some of the smear people who were heretofore encouraged, if not directly by F.D.R., at least by his not interfering.

16. HOOVER TO TRUMAN, MAY 30, 1945

Hoover worked for two days on his notes and the four memoranda of information requested by Truman. The first three memos addressed the food situation in Europe and the United States and shared a theme -- centralize the authority for food supplies and employ well-qualified administrators to see that the relief plan is carried out. Hoover urged Truman to delegate control over U.S. food supplies to the secretary of agriculture as a means of ensuring the distribution of food both at home and abroad.

He reiterated his earlier proposal to use military personnel in the initial food relief effort, emphasizing that the president needed "men of experience and skill" to study long-term domestic and foreign needs. Hoover's ideas were patterned on his own successful experiences as U.S. Food Administrator during and after the First World War.

Perhaps the most interesting of the memoranda was on ending the war with Japan. Hoover urged the president to end the war as quickly as possible to minimize the loss of perhaps as many as a million American lives and billions of dollars needed for America's recovery from the war. He proposed terms that were far less harsh than those eventually imposed by the U.S. government.

The memoranda and a cover note went to Truman through Charles G. Ross, Truman's press secretary. "I am sending it to you as I do not know how many hands these things go through under the present mechanism." Hoover trusted Ross to place the memoranda directly on the president's desk.

/HST-s/[Sec of Agri]

The Waldorf Astoria Towers
New York, New York
May 30, 1945

My dear Mr. President:

I enclose herewith the memoranda which I promised on the major subjects we discussed. They are:

1. The European Food Organization
2. The Domestic Food Organization
3. The Creation of a War Economic Council
4. The Japanese Situation

I am indeed indebted for your consideration and I trust you will command me in any further service.

Yours faithfully,


The lack of regularly organized overseas supplies in the ten months since liberation and the exhaustion of the insufficient last harvest of European peoples have projected an emergency which, entirely aside from humanitarian questions, must be solved or it will seriously jeopardize the stability of these nations and may embarrass our armies. The exhaustion of the harvest will have its main impact upon the workers in the industrial areas as the farmers and villagers will take care of themselves.

The method of UNRRA [United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration] organization from the start with the dominance of power politics and the lack of authority, made this organization incapable of administering the larger economic problems of Europe.

1. The peoples needing help can be considered in three groups as their situations also differ:

a. The new Russian sphere comprising probably 170,000,000 people.

b. Northwestern Europe -- that is, France, Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Norway, and the area of Germany occupied by the United States, Britain and France -- comprising altogether perhaps 90,000,000 people.

c. The Mediterranean area comprising the area of Italy, Greece, etc., of perhaps 50,000,000 people.

The Russian sphere is not included in this discussion because there is no adequate information as to their situation.

A minor amount of food and other supplies have gone into Northwestern Europe and into Italy during the past ten months which has been furnished partly by the Army and partly by Lend-Lease. Some supplies have reached Greece and North Africa through UNRRA.

2. The problem in Northwestern Europe and the Mediterranean areas falls into two stages:

a. The emergency stage -- until the next harvest ninety days from now.

b. The longer view stage -- until the harvest of 1946. If these peoples can be carried over until the next 90 days there will be time to develop a considered organization and therefore, except for some foundations, it can be deferred until the emergency organization is set up and in motion.

c. The Army naturally wishes to withdraw from Northwestern Europe and Italy and from the responsibility of furnishing supplies to the civil populations along their lines of communication. But during this emergency period for its own safety the Army cannot withdraw. The Army has the only practicable organization with authority and personnel that can take over the whole administrative responsibility insofar as American relationship to this emergency. It should give notice now that there must be civil organization by September 1st.

d. To do this emergency job some capable Army officer should be placed in charge in Europe and the same centralization of authority be set up in the United States.

e. The officer in charge in the United States must coordinate the finances, the food purchasing agencies in the United States, the railway transportation and the shipping.

f. The officer in charge in Europe has a more extensive job.

To carry out the European end I suggest that the nations in Northwestern Europe be asked to create an Economic Council of men of Cabinet rank with some outstanding statesman as chairman. That this Council set up divisions of transportation, coal, food supply, and such others as they need; that the American Army officer appointed to take charge of American activities should be a member of this Council, and that the Army give every assistance it can to the work of the Council. The object must be to get transportation, coal, etc., organized as rapidly as possible.

g. As to the Mediterranean area, the American relations with Italy must be organized under some strong Army officer. He needs to help both a coal supply from the Northwestern area and food supplies from the United States. [sic] UNRRA can probably look after Greece and other Eastern Mediterranean areas.

3. The program of supplies, until more definite information can be had, should consist of a minimum of 1,000,000 tons of wheat per month from the United States and Canada and should be provided for each month of June, July and August. There should be 100,000 tons of fats a month if possible. The objective should be to supply such an amount of breadstuffs as will allow the removal of the restrictions on bread consumption completely. Nothing would contribute more to the courage and stability of these people.

4. The American food supplies to this Northwestern European area can probably be paid for by these countries. If not, Lend-Lease and Army funds should help out, but only where absolutely necessary. Italy is a separate financial problem and more difficult.

5. A program should at once be provided for under-nourished children by feeding from soup kitchens and canteens, many of which already exist over these areas. The 50,000,000 pounds of surplus Red Cross Prisoners of War packages already in Europe could be most useful in such work.

6. The long-view organization program of supplies and finance after September 1st should be worked out during the next three months while the Army is looking after emergencies. Proposals for this involve careful study on the ground by men of experience and skill in such matters.


When the War Food organization was set up in 1941-42, the experience of every nation in the last war was discarded or ignored. Not only was the form of organization wrongly based, but the economic principles adopted were fatal. Unlike the last war, the country is today rampant with black markets and there are dangerous local famines of animal products and sugar in the large cities which are proof of a breakdown in distribution.

The production of ground crops has been maintained by the unparalleled seven years of bumper crops, although cultivated acreage has not been restored to World War I levels.

The production of fats (the greatest essential after bread in time of war) has decreased instead of increased through the fall in hog population by nearly 35%. The production of range cattle has increased, but the amount of meat produced has decreased.

If black market prices and subsidies are included, the public is paying higher average retail prices for food than even in the post-world-war inflation period of 1920. Prices to farmers and for food advanced more in the first 19 months of this war than during the 19 months we were in the last war, and that does not include the really higher costs of subsidies or black markets of this war.

The consumption of animal products and sugar is higher per capita under this elaborate system of rationing than it was in the last war with voluntary rationing.

The number of paid employees handling war food questions is probably over 120,000 compared to under 10,000 in the last war and the administrative cost is nearly 100 times greater.

The men who founded this system were removed some years ago. The present men in its direction inherited an impossible legacy and are not to be condemned for all its faults. It is impossible to wholly reverse every part of the machinery, but some parts should be drastically changed.

The appointment of a new Secretary of Agriculture and the transfer to him of the functions of the Food Administrator is an admirable step.

My view is that the following further organization steps be taken:

1. The whole of the price functions of O.P.A. and its policing as to food should be transferred to the Secretary of Agriculture, leaving the O.P.A. only the mechanical job of rationing food.

(Price is the greatest factor in both production and distribution. Freezing prices is like freezing the water mains in a city. Prices must be controlled but can be better controlled and more effectively stabilized if the experience of the last war be adopted of fixing prices by agreement with the farmers at points nearest the farmers, guaranteeing them where necessary and then adding proper mark-ups to the various stages of processing and distribution. This price structure can be policed by organizing war committees in the trades themselves -- of course with a constant Government check upon them. The trades do not want black markets. Under such a plan none of the present hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies would be necessary, the black markets and the dangers of local famines would all largely disappear, for food would flow in its legitimate channels. And the trades can direct it to more even distribution as they know how. Subsidies at best are a postponement of payment until after the war when the returned veterans will have to contribute to the food costs of the stay-at-homes. In any event the people will pay less under the method I have proposed than under this plan of trying to catch an economic force with a policeman.

2. The Secretary of Agriculture should control or approve of all purchases by the Army, Navy, Lend-Lease, UNRRA and any other government agency who should be represented on an advisory board to him.

(There could thus be established one central pool of principal food staples in the normal storage of the country upon which the military would have first call. This would do away with competitive buying and separate pools with their consequent waste and dislocation of distribution. If adequate information is kept of stocks there need be no fear on the part of the military forces and no need of their hoarding food.)

3. The Food Administration should be decentralized as much as possible into state, county and municipal food administrators. The Agricultural Department already has state and county rural organizations which could do this job. Through local organization far more effective appeal can be made to the patriotic cooperation of both the trades and the consumers.


With the military, foreign and a thousand domestic burdens upon the President, it is simply impossible that he can solve the shifting problems of war economic policies and their organization. Nor can he wholly delegate them to somebody else for they involve many departments at the same time and they will never wholly accept without constant appeals to the President.

My suggestion is:

1. There should be created a War Economic Council comprising:

The President
The Secretary of State
The Secretary of War
The Secretary of the Navy
The Secretary of the Treasury
The Secretary of Agriculture
The Secretary of Labor
Three members without portfolio

2. They should meet with the President at least weekly.

3. The Cabinet members are too much overwhelmed with duties to formulate policies which require coordination outside their own departments, yet it is they who must execute the large part of them.

4. The three members without portfolio should be men of public experience who would devote their entire time to consideration of economic policies and the methods of their execution. These three members should aid in coordination, but where Presidential decision is required or where new policies, revisions of old policies, and their organization are needed these men should prepare and present them to the Council as a whole with the President.

5. The multitude of committees of congressional investigations, the manifest failures in food and other commodity and man power administration should be ample evidence of the need for such a council. A single instance may be quoted aside from the food muddle:

The price and wage structure against inflation is now so distorted and weak as to be visibly breaking down as indicated by the following:

Factory wages are 250% above the last war level (1918).

Cost of living (not including black market and "grading up" prices) is 16% above the 1918 level.

Retail food prices (not including black market or subsidies) are 1% above 1918.

Prices received by the farmers (not including subsidies) are 3% below the 1918 level.

There are a multitude of such problems looming up which need such a Council with adequate formulation and presentation before decision is asked from the President.


I believe there is just a bare chance of ending the Japanese war if an adequate declaration of Far Eastern policy be made by the United States and Britain jointly, and if possible with China. The President has already taken an admirable step in this direction which might now be further advanced.

The following is my own view of American objectives and the interpretation of them into such a declaration:

1. As this war arose fundamentally over Japanese invasion of Manchuria, the first point in such declaration is the restoration of Manchuria to China. It is an essential step to the establishment of the sanctity of international agreements.

2. For reparations to China, it should be declared that all Japanese Government property in China must be handed to the Chinese.

3. As the militarist party in Japan has proved a menace to the whole world, a third point in such a declaration should be to insist upon the unconditional surrender of the whole Japanese Army and Navy and their equipment.

4. In view of the military casts by inheritance among the Japanese people which even assassinates Japanese opposition, they cannot be trusted with a military establishment. Therefore, the third point is continued disarmament for a long enough period (probably a generation) to dissolve the whole military caste and its know-how.

5. As certain Japanese officers are charged with violation of the rules of war and human conduct, they should be surrendered for fair trial by the Allies.

6. As certain islands held by Japan are necessary protection against the future and to enforce disarmament, the next point of declaration could be the ceding of these islands to the Allies. Beyond this point there can be no American objectives that are worth the expenditure of 500,000 to 1,000,000 American lives.

7. Encouragement to Japan to accept such points and a part saving of face could be had by further necessary points in the declaration.

(a) That the Allies have no desire to destroy either the Japanese people or their government, or to interference in the Japanese way of life; that it is our desire that the Japanese build up their prosperity and their contributions to the civilized world.

(b) That the Japanese retain Korea and Formosa as trustees under the world trustee system. The Koreans and Formosans are today incapable of self-government, they are not Chinese, and the Japanese have proved that under the liberal elements of their country that they are capable administrators. Those countries have been Japanese possessions for over fifty years and their annexation has been admitted by treaties of America, Britain and China.

(c) A further point in declaration should be that except as above mentioned we wished no reparations nor indemnities.

8. A final declaration could be added that if the Japanese Government is not prepared to accept these terms it is evident that they are unfit to remain in control of the Japanese people and we must need to proceed to their ultimate destruction. [sic]

9. That the Japanese would accept these terms and end the war cannot be stated with any assurance. The factors favorable to its acceptance are:

(a) The appointment of Suzuki, a one-time anti-militarist elder statesman, as Prime Minister;

(b) The desire of the Japanese to preserve the Mikado who is the spiritual head of the nation;

(c) The sense they showed after the Russo-Japanese war of making peace before Russia organized her full might;

(d) The fear of complete destruction which by now they must know is their fate;

(e) The fact that there is a large middle class in Japan which was the product of industrialization, who are liberal-minded, who have in certain periods governed Japan and in these periods they gave full cooperation in peaceful forces of the world. That this group again exert itself is the only hope of stable and progressive government.

10. From an American point of view, if such a declaration were successful, we would:

(a) have attained our every objective except perhaps the vengeance of an excited minority of our people;

(b) We would have saved the lives of 500,000 to 1,000,000 American boys, the loss of which may be necessary by going on to the end;

(c) We would have saved the exhaustion of our resources to a degree that otherwise will make our own recovery very, very difficult and our aid to the rest of the world little consequence;

(d) We will save ourselves the impossible task of setting up a military or civil government in Japan with all its dangers of revolutions and conflicts with our Allies.

11. If Japan does not accept, the essence of such a declaration still has advantages:

(a) It will clarify the world's understanding that Manchuria is to be returned to China;

(b) It again demonstrates that America is not in war for any purpose but to establish order in the world.


Truman acknowledged Hoover's memoranda in a brief note of June 1. More important was the sentence that Truman penned at the bottom of the page.

The White House
June 1, 1945

Dear Mr. Hoover:

Thanks a lot for your memorandum. It will be very useful to me.

Sincerely yours,

/s/I appreciated very much your coming to see me. It gave me a lift.

18. TRUMAN DIARY, JUNE 1, 1945

Truman did not record his impressions of his first meeting with Hoover until three days later. Judging from his comments, we can assume the meeting did not make much of an impact. Brevity alone would indicate that the event was not as important to Truman as to Hoover. (This entry is from the Longhand Notes File (PSF) of the Truman Library and was published in Robert H. Ferrell, ed., Off the Record: The Private Papers of Harry S. Truman [New York, 1980] p. 40.)

June 1, 1945

. . . Saw Herbert Hoover day before yesterday and had a pleasant and constructive conversation on food and the general troubles of U.S. Presidents -- two in particular.

We discussed our prima donnas and wondered what makes 'em. Some of my boys who came in with me are having trouble with their dignity and prerogatives. It's hell when a man gets in close association with the President. Something happens to him . . .


Truman was sincere when he asked Hoover for his views on food relief and ending the war with Japan. He asked Clinton P. Anderson, of the Department of Agriculture and Fred M. Vinson of the Office of War Mobilization and Reconversion to comment on Hoover's food program. And on June 9, Truman transmitted the Hoover memorandum on Japan to Cordell Hull, the recently retired secretary of state, and to Joseph L. Grew, the acting secretary of state. The president asked both men to analyze the document and discuss it with him. Although Hull declined the assignment, Grew provided a balanced and detailed State Department assessment. (This document is from the holdings of the Harry S. Truman Library.)

Department of State
June 13, 1945


Subject: Analysis of Memorandum Presented by Mr. Hoover

In response to your memorandum of June 9, 1945, to which there was attached a paper submitted to you by Mr. Hoover entitled "Memorandum on Ending the Japanese War", I submit the following analysis of the latter mentioned document.

1. Mr. Hoover's conception of American objectives in relation to the war with Japan as set forth in paragraphs 1 to 6 of his memorandum falls substantially within the framework of the policies with regard to the post-defeat treatment of Japan that are now being formulated by the Department of State in consultation with other interested departments . . .

2. The complete compass of the terms which we propose to impose on Japan would be considerably wider than the points proposed by Mr. Hoover. We believe it important that there should be a program -- and we are in process of formulating such a program -- designed to create in the post -- defeat period conditions which would conduce toward the abandonment by the Japanese of militarism, militant nationalism and other archaic concepts, and toward the regeneration of these people along liberal and cooperative lines . . .

4. There is much with which we would agree in the brief discussion by Mr. Hoover of the factors favorable to the acceptance by the Japanese of the terms proposed by him. Every evidence, without exception, that we are able to obtain of the views of the Japanese with regard to the institution of the throne, indicates that the non-molestation of the person of the present emperor and the preservation of the institution of the throne comprise irreducible Japanese terms . . .

Acting Secretary


Between June 1 and August 22, Hoover and Truman had no communication. Along with many others, Hoover did allow his name to be used in a letter sent to Truman in mid-July concerning the president's upcoming meeting with Winston Churchill and Josef Stalin at Potsdam in Germany. The letter urged the president to do everything in his power to ensure Polish independence and resist Soviet domination in eastern Europe. On August 22, however, Hoover renewed his contact with Truman by urging the president to exempt from military service those men under twenty-one who wanted to continue their education. In a telegram, he argued that the country's colleges and universities needed students and asked Truman to help.

The President
The White House
Washington, D.C.

Most of our many hundred colleges and universities which are partially dependent upon tuition have had great financial deficits during the war because of the necessary draft of students. Their burdens are immediately increasing because of demobilization of faculty members from government service and their return to the college pay rolls and because of the necessity to increase salaries to keep pace with the increased cost of living.

Nearly all of them open their college year during the next few days. The boys who would otherwise attend both these and the state institutions are wholly uncertain and confused as to whether to enter or not. Unless immediate action is taken it appears that the colleges will continue to suffer and young men who would otherwise enter will be deprived of the education which the nation needs.

May I suggest that pending complete settlement of the whole subject that boys under twenty-one who continue high school or are to enter higher educational institutions should immediately be made exempt from the draft.



Truman responded quickly to the Hoover telegram. The president agreed with Hoover that the colleges had problems, but shifted the issue to the demobilization of men in uniform. Without saying so directly, Truman rebuffed Hoover's effort to keep the boys under twenty-one out of uniform so that they could enroll in school for the fall semester of 1945.

The White House
August 24, 1945

Dear Mr. President:

I appreciated most highly your telegram of August twenty-third and I understand the situation in which the colleges find themselves.

Every effort is being made to demobilize the men in service as expeditiously as possible. It is a terrific job, however, and one which will require anywhere from six months to a year and a half to accomplish.

I sincerely hope the colleges will be able to meet the present emergency and continue to a prosperous future. Anything I can do to help that along, of course, I will be glad to do.

I am explaining the draft situation to the Congress as soon as they meet and I hope the matter can be handled quickly and successfully.

Sincerely yours,


In spite of Truman's pessimistic letter on the draft and demobilization, Hoover determined to do all he could to increase college enrollments. He wrote to Truman for a second time on August 30 to encourage him to exempt all college students from the draft. He did not ask Truman to take any specific action, but he spared no effort to convince the president that a crisis was at hand.

Stanford University
August 30, 1945

My dear Mr. President:

I have your kind note of August 24th in response to my suggestion that some sort of exemption from the draft be given to youngsters during their pursuit of education.

I am impelled to re-emphasize this need not only as a relief to the colleges, but even more importantly for another reason.

National preparedness itself imperatively requires that we have a supply of doctors, engineers and scientists. We have already lost four or five annual crops of such men because of the lack of men taking professional and pre-professional training. The present draft arrangements will continue this loss. Any investigation of the number of young men undertaking preparation for such work will show that confusion over the possibilities of draft are continuing this situation. Even without consideration of the questions of national progress involved, the military services themselves should be interested in every inducement to these groups to enter college at once as a matter of national defense.

Yours faithfully,


Truman responded in a rather abrupt tone on September 6 noting that he was trying "to alleviate the situation." In so many words the president told Hoover that the discussion was over. Despite the abruptness, he did not imply that he did not want to hear from Hoover. "I am more than happy to hear from you," he concluded, "on any subject at any time."

The White House
September 6, 1945

Dear Mr. President:

I am well aware of the situation as further pointed out in your letter of August thirtieth and I am doing everything I possibly can to alleviate the situation.

As soon as we can definitely tell just what our military requirements are, it is my opinion, that the situation will be worked out satisfactorily for all concerned -- at least I hope so.

I am more than happy to hear from you on any subject at any time.

Sincerely yours,


Through a mutual friend, John Callan O'Laughlin, Hoover sent Truman a copy of his October 1 letter to Congressman George Bender of Ohio concerning Truman's efforts to reorganize the executive branch of the federal government. "I heartily favor the Bill," Hoover wrote to Bender. "Six successive Presidents over 35 years have recommended such reorganization. The overlap, waste and conflict of policies between executive agencies have been a scandal for the whole 35" years." He authorized Bender to release this letter. As noted in the following letter, the president was grateful for this support.

The White House
October 11, 1945

Dear Mr. Hoover:

I am grateful to you for sending me through Colonel John Callan O'Laughlin [a] copy of the letter which you addressed to Congressman Bender in response to his request for an expression of your views on H. R. 4129, giving the President authority to reorganize the executive departments.

The fight for this measure has been long and futile. As you so wisely observe, the overlapping, waste and conflict of policies between executive agencies have been a scandal for the whole thirty-five years during which six successive Presidents have recommended this reform.

It is heartening to know that you approve the bill in principle.

Very sincerely yours,


Like many Americans, Hoover was keenly interested in the new president and his relations with Congress. At the end of the year, the former president gave the following assessment of Truman to their mutual friend "Cal" O'Laughlin.

The Waldorf Astoria Towers
New York, New York
December 27, 1945

Colonel John C. O'Laughlin
1711 Connecticut Avenue
Washington, D.C.
My dear Cal:

Yours of the 22nd was as illuminating as usual. However, Mr. Truman's plan of battling his own party majority in the Senate and House does not have the same public results as battling the opposition. But more important is the fact that he does not have the abilities of his predecessor in adroit coercion and bribing with political spoils. I believe Congressmen will come back more determined than ever . . .

Yours Faithfully,

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