- 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.
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.
1. HERBERT HOOVER TO HARRY
S. TRUMAN, APRIL 12, 1945
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
Americans will wish you strength for your gigantic task.
You have the right to call for any service in aid of
DIARY OF EDGAR RICKARD, APRIL 14, 1945
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.
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.
April 14 
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.
3. TRUMAN TO HOOVER, APRIL
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
accept my thanks for your message of the twelfth. I
need not assure you that your good wishes are deeply
/s/HARRY S. TRUMAN
assure you I shall feel free to call upon you. Thanks
for the offer.
DIARY OF HENRY L. STIMSON, MAY 2, 1945
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
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.
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
. . 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 . .
HOOVER NOTES OF MEETING WITH BERNARD BARUCH, MAY 6,
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.
York, New York
May 6, 1945
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 . . .
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
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.
RICKARD DIARY, MAY 8, 1945
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.
May 8 
. . 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.
STIMSON DIARY, MAY 13, 1945
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 . . .
RICKARD DIARY, MAY 13-14, 1945
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.
May 13 
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 
. . 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.
HOOVER NOTES OF PHONE CALL WITH STIMSON, MAY 17, 1945
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.
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.
Waldorf Astoria Towers
New York, New York
[May 17, 1945]
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.
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.
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
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.
May 24 '45
dear Mr. President: --
you should be in Washington, I would be most happy to
talk over the European food situation with you.
it would be a pleasure to me to become acquainted with
HARRY S. TRUMAN
DIARY OF EBEN A. AYERS, MAY 24, 1945
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.)
. . 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.
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.
HOOVER TO TRUMAN, MAY 26, 1945
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.
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
RICKARD DIARY, MAY 26-27, 1945
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.
May 26 
. . 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
May 27 
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 NOTES OF MEETING WITH TRUMAN, MAY 28, 1945
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.
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.
Monday, May 28, 1945
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.
President then asked me about the food problem in Europe.
I told him that the food situation there divided itself
into three segments:
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.
second segment was the Mediterranean area which was
mostly comprised of Italy, Greece, and a few minor points.
the third segment consisted of northwestern Europe --
France, Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Norway and American-occupied
Germany which comprised about 100,000,000.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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%.
had considerable discussion of the effect of the method
of price fixing. I started the revolution.
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.
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.
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.
went into some side issues on the food and other problems
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].
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
RICKARD DIARY, MAY 30, 1945
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.
May 30 
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.
HOOVER TO TRUMAN, MAY 30, 1945
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.
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
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.
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
Waldorf Astoria Towers
New York, New York
May 30, 1945
dear Mr. President:
enclose herewith the memoranda which I promised on the
major subjects we discussed. They are:
The European Food Organization
2. The Domestic Food Organization
3. The Creation of a War Economic
4. The Japanese Situation
am indeed indebted for your consideration and I trust
you will command me in any further service.
on THE ORGANIZATION OF FOREIGN RELIEF and REHABILITATION
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.
method of UNRRA [United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation
Administration] organization from the start with the
of power politics and the lack of authority, made this
organization incapable of administering the larger economic
problems of Europe.
The peoples needing help can be considered in three
groups as their situations also differ:
The new Russian sphere comprising probably 170,000,000
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.
The Mediterranean area comprising the area of Italy,
Greece, etc., of perhaps 50,000,000 people.
Russian sphere is not included in this discussion because
there is no adequate information as to their situation.
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.
The problem in Northwestern Europe and the Mediterranean
areas falls into two stages:
The emergency stage -- until the next harvest ninety
days from now.
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.
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
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
The officer in charge in Europe has a more extensive
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 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.
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
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.
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
surplus Red Cross Prisoners of War packages already
in Europe could be most useful in such work.
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.
ON REORGANIZATION OF THE WAR FOOD AGENCIES
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
appointment of a new Secretary of Agriculture and the
transfer to him of the functions of the Food Administrator
is an admirable step.
view is that the following further organization steps
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.
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.
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.)
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.
ON WAR ECONOMIC POLICIES AND THEIR ORGANIZATION
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.
There should be created a War Economic Council comprising:
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
They should meet with the President at least
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
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:
price and wage structure against inflation is now so
distorted and weak as to be visibly breaking down as
indicated by the following:
wages are 250% above the last war level (1918).
of living (not including black market and "grading
up" prices) is 16% above the 1918 level.
food prices (not including black market or subsidies)
are 1% above 1918.
received by the farmers (not including subsidies) are
3% below the 1918 level.
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.
ON ENDING THE JAPANESE WAR
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.
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
For reparations to China, it should be declared that
all Japanese Government property in China must be handed
to the Chinese.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Encouragement to Japan to accept such points and a part
saving of face could be had by further necessary points
in the declaration.
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.
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
A further point in declaration should be that except
as above mentioned we wished no reparations nor indemnities.
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]
That the Japanese would accept these terms and end the
war cannot be stated with any assurance. The factors
favorable to its acceptance are:
The appointment of Suzuki, a one-time anti-militarist
elder statesman, as Prime Minister;
The desire of the Japanese to preserve the Mikado
who is the spiritual head of the nation;
The sense they showed after the Russo-Japanese war
of making peace before Russia organized her full might;
The fear of complete destruction which by now they
must know is their fate;
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
From an American point of view, if such a declaration
were successful, we would:
have attained our every objective except perhaps the
vengeance of an excited minority of our people;
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;
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.
If Japan does not accept, the essence of such a declaration
still has advantages:
It will clarify the world's understanding that Manchuria
is to be returned to China;
It again demonstrates that America is not in war for
any purpose but to establish order in the world.
TRUMAN TO HOOVER, JUNE 1, 1945
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.
June 1, 1945
Dear Mr. Hoover:
a lot for your memorandum. It will be very useful to
HARRY S. TRUMAN
appreciated very much your coming to see me. It gave
me a lift.
TRUMAN DIARY, JUNE 1, 1945
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.)
. . 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 . . .
JOSEPH L. GREW TO TRUMAN, JUNE 13, 1945
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.)
June 13, 1945
FOR THE PRESIDENT
Analysis of Memorandum Presented by Mr. Hoover
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
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
. . .
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 . . .
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 . . .
HOOVER TO TRUMAN, AUGUST 22, 1945
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 White House
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.
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 TO HOOVER, AUGUST 24, 1945
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
August 24, 1945
appreciated most highly your telegram of August twenty-third
and I understand the situation in which the colleges
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.
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.
/s/HARRY S. TRUMAN
HOOVER TO TRUMAN, AUGUST 30, 1945
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
August 30, 1945
dear Mr. President:
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.
am impelled to re-emphasize this need not only as a
relief to the colleges, but even more importantly for
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.
23. TRUMAN TO HOOVER, SEPTEMBER
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."
September 6, 1945
Dear Mr. President:
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.
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.
am more than happy to hear from you on any subject at
/s/HARRY S. TRUMAN
TRUMAN TO HOOVER, OCTOBER 11, 1945
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:
am grateful to you for sending me through Colonel John
Callan O'Laughlin [a] copy of the letter which you addressed
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.
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.
is heartening to know that you approve the bill in principle.
/s/HARRY S. TRUMAN
HOOVER TO O'LAUGHLIN, DECEMBER 27, 1945
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"
Waldorf Astoria Towers
New York, New York
December 27, 1945
John C. O'Laughlin
1711 Connecticut Avenue
My dear Cal:
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 . . .
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