President Truman's Address
Before a Joint Session of the Congress.
April 16, 1945
Speaker, Mr. President, Members of the Congress:
It is with a heavy
heart that I stand before you, my friends and colleagues, in the Congress
of the United States.
Only yesterday, we
laid to rest the mortal remains of our beloved President, Franklin Delano
Roosevelt. At a time like this, words are inadequate. The most eloquent
tribute would be a reverent silence.
Yet, in this decisive
hour, when world events are moving so rapidly, our silence might be misunderstood
and might give comfort to our enemies.
In His infinite wisdom,
Almighty God has seen fit to take from us a great man who loved, and was
beloved by, all humanity.
No man could possibly
fill the tremendous void left by the passing of that noble soul. No words
can ease the aching hearts of untold millions of every race, creed and
color. The world knows it has lost a heroic champion of justice and freedom.
Tragic fate has thrust
upon us grave responsibilities. We must carry on. Our departed
leader never looked backward. He looked forward and moved forward. That
is what he would want us to do. That is what America will do.
So much blood has
already been shed for the ideals which we cherish, and for which Franklin
Delano Roosevelt lived and died, that we dare not permit even a momentary
pause in the hard fight for victory.
Today, the entire
world is looking to America for enlightened leadership to peace and progress.
Such a leadership requires vision, courage and tolerance. It can be provided
only by a united nation deeply devoted to the highest ideals.
With great humility
I call upon all Americans to help me keep our nation united in defense
of those ideals which have been so eloquently proclaimed by Franklin Roosevelt.
I want in turn to
assure my fellow Americans and all of those who love peace and liberty
throughout the world that I will support and defend those ideals with
all my strength and all my heart. That is my duty and I shall not shirk
So that there can
be no possible misunderstanding, both Germany and Japan can be certain,
beyond any shadow of a doubt, that America will continue the fight for
freedom until no vestige of resistance remains!
We are deeply conscious
of the fact that much hard fighting is still ahead of us.
Having to pay such
a heavy price to make complete victory certain, America will never become
a party to any plan for partial victory!
To settle for merely
another temporary respite would surely jeopardize the future security
of all the world.
Our demand has been,
and it remains-Unconditional Surrender! We will not traffic with
the breakers of the peace on the terms of the peace.
for making of the peace-and it is a very grave responsibility-must rest
with the defenders of the peace. We are not unconscious of the dictates
of humanity. We do not wish to see unnecessary or unjustified suffering.
But the laws of God and of man have been violated and the guilty must
not go unpunished. Nothing shall shake our determination to punish the
war criminals even though we must pursue them to the ends of the earth.
Lasting peace can
never be secured if we permit our dangerous opponents to plot future wars
with impunity at any mountain retreat-however distant.
In this shrinking
world, it is futile to seek safety behind geographical barriers. Real
security will be found only in law and in justice.
Here in America, we
have labored long and hard to achieve a social order worthy of our great
heritage. In our time, tremendous progress has been made toward a really
democratic way of life. Let me assure the forward-looking people of America
that there will be no relaxation in our efforts to improve the lot of
the common people.
In the difficult days
ahead, unquestionably we shall face problems of staggering proportions.
However, with the faith of our fathers in our hearts, we do not fear the
On the battlefields,
we have frequently faced overwhelming odds-and won! At home, Americans
will not be less resolute!
We shall never cease
our struggle to preserve and maintain our American way of life.
At this moment, America,
along with her brave Allies, is paying again a heavy price for the defense
of our freedom. With characteristic energy, we are assisting in the liberation
of entire nations. Gradually, the shackles of slavery are being broken
by t he forces of freedom.
All of us are praying
for a speedy victory. Every day peace is delayed costs a terrible toll.
The armies of liberation
today are bringing to an end Hitler's ghastly threat to dominate the world.
Tokyo rocks under the weight of our bombs.
The grand strategy
of the United Nations' war has been determined-due in no small measure
to the vision of our departed Commander in Chief. We are now carrying
out our part of that strategy under the able direction of Admiral Leahy,
General Marshall, Admiral King, General Arnold, General Eisenhower, Admiral
Nimitz and General MacArthur.
I want the entire
world to know that this direction must and will remain-unchanged and
Our debt to the heroic
men and valiant women in the service of our country can never be repaid.
They have earned our undying gratitude. America will never forget their
sacrifices. Because of these sacrifices, the dawn of justice and freedom
throughout the world slowly casts its gleam across the horizon.
Our forefathers came
to our rugged shores in search of religious tolerance, political freedom
and economic opportunity. For those fundamental rights, they risked their
lives. We well know today that such rights can be preserved only by constant
vigilance , the eternal price of liberty!
Within an hour after
I took the oath of office, I announced that the San Francisco Conference
would proceed. We will face the problems of peace with the same courage
that we have faced and mastered the problems of war.
In the memory of those
who have made the supreme sacrifice-in the memory of our fallen President-we
shall not fail!
It is not enough to
yearn for peace. We must work, and if necessary, fight for it. The task
of creating a sound international organization is complicated and difficult.
Yet, without such organization, the rights of man on earth cannot be protected.
Machinery for the just settlement of international differences must be
found. Without such machinery, the entire world will have to remain an
armed camp. The world will be doomed to deadly conflict, devoid of hope
for real peace.
have retained hope for a durable peace. Thoughtful people have always
had faith that ultimately justice must triumph. Past experience
surely indicates that, without justice, an enduring peace becomes impossible.
In bitter despair,
some people have come to believe that wars are inevitable. With tragic
fatalism, they insist that wars have always been, of necessity, and of
necessity wars always will be. To such defeatism, men and women of good
will must not and can not yield. The outlook for humanity is not so hopeless.
During the dark hours
of this horrible war, entire nations were kept going by something intangible-hope!
When warned that abject submission offered the only salvation against
overwhelming power, hope showed the way to victory.
Hope has become the
secret weapon of the forces of liberation!
Aggressors could not
dominate the human mind. As long as hope remains, the spirit of man will
never be crushed.
But hope alone was
not and is not sufficient to avert war. We must not only have hope but
we must have faith enough to work with other peace-loving nations to maintain
the peace. Hope was not enough to beat back the aggressors as long as
the peace-loving nations were unwilling to come to each other's defense.
The aggressors were beaten back only when the peace-loving nations united
to defend themselves.
If wars in the future
are to be prevented the nations must be united in their determination
to keep the peace under law.
Nothing is more essential
to the future peace of the world than continued cooperation of the nations
which had to muster the force necessary to defeat the conspiracy of the
Axis powers to dominate the world.
While these great
states have a special responsibility to enforce the peace, their responsibility
is based upon the obligations resting upon all states, large and small,
not to use force in international relations except in the defense of law.
The responsibility of the great states is to serve and not to dominate
To build a foundation
of enduring peace we must not only work in harmony with our friends abroad,
but we must have the united support of our own people.
Even the most experienced
pilot cannot bring a ship safely into harbor, unless he has the full cooperation
of the crew. For the benefit of all, every individual must do his duty.
I appeal to every
American, regardless of party, race, creed, or color, to support our efforts
to build a strong and lasting United Nations Organization.
You, the Members of
the Congress, surely know how I feel. Only with your help can I hope to
complete one of the greatest tasks ever assigned to a public servant.
With Divine guidance, and your help, we will find the new passage to a
far better world, a kindly and friendly world, with just and lasting peace.
With confidence, I
am depending upon all of you.
To destroy greedy
tyrants with dreams of world domination, we cannot continue in successive
generations to sacrifice our finest youth.
In the name of human
decency and civilization, a more rational method of deciding national
differences must and will be found!
America must assist
suffering humanity back along the path of peaceful progress. This will
require time and tolerance. We shall need also an abiding faith in the
people, the kind of faith and courage which Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Today, America has
become one of the most powerful forces for good on earth. We must keep
it so. We have achieved a world leadership which does not depend solely
upon our military and naval might.
We have learned to
fight with other nations in common defense of our freedom. We must now
learn to live with other nations for our mutual good. We must learn to
trade more with other nations so that there may be-for our mutual advantage-increased
product ion, increased employment and better standards of living throughout
May we Americans all
live up to our glorious heritage.
In that way, America
may well lead the world to peace and prosperity.
At this moment, I
have in my heart a prayer. As I have assumed my heavy duties, I humbly
pray Almighty God, in the words of King Solomon:
"Give therefore thy
servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern
between good and bad; for who is able to judge this thy so great a people?"
I ask only to be a
good and faithful servant of my Lord and my people.
NOTE: The President
spoke in the House. The address was broadcast over the major radio chamber
shortly after 1 p.m. The address was broadcast over the major radio networks.