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FACING THE POST-WAR WORLD: EVERETT M. DIRKSEN ABROAD, 1945

Anchor Documents


The Congressional Front was a weekly newsletter the congressman himself wrote and mailed to constituents.  This particular issue was dated the day he left Washington DC to begin his 89-day trip abroad.  In it he explains the purpose of his trip.

Everett Dirksen to “Honey Kids,” May 8, 1945 [Everett M. Dirksen Papers, Personal, f. 34]

Everett Dirksen was nearing the end of his trip as he left Italy mid-day on May 7.  At 3:30 p.m., the pilot of Dirksen’s flight from Rome to Paris brought the message that in two or three hours the war in Europe would be over.  Dirksen’s log entry at 4:00 read “flash—Germans have unconditionally surrendered, (Thank God).”  On Tuesday, May 8, Dirksen penned this letter.

Everett Dirksen’s Report to Congress, May 29, 1945 [Everett M. Dirksen Papers, Remarks and Releases, May 29, 1945] Four days after meeting with Truman, Dirksen took to the floor of the House of Representatives to address his colleagues.  His 13,000- word speech covered the waterfront:  the trip itinerary, physical descriptions of the terrain and historic sites, the dignitaries he met, the inspections of military and civilian operations, and his conclusions about the state of the world in 1945.

The Congressional Front, June 2, 1945 [Everett M. Dirksen Papers, Remarks and Releases, June 2, 1945]

After meeting with President Harry Truman on May 25, Dirksen wrote his first post-trip newsletter to his constituents back home.  His newsletters were called The Congressional Front.  The June 2 edition, entitled “What of Freedom,” was the first in a series related to his travels. 

Confidential Memorandum for the President, June 4, 1945 [Collection 3, Truman, Harry S., Correspondence with Everett M. Dirksen, 1945-69, The Dirksen Congressional Center]

At Noon on Friday, May 25, 1945, Congressman Everett Dirksen met with President Harry Truman in the Oval Office of the White House.  “You were a wagon soldier in the last war, Mr. President.  So was I.  We don’t have much conception of how modern warfare operates.  But we do know something of what our boys have gone thru, and we’ve got to make sure that those who have taken it on the chin have not done it in vain.”

“You speak my language,” replied Harry Truman.

For the next 30 minutes, Illinois Congressman Everett M. Dirksen, just returned from an overseas trip to twenty-one nations, reported to President Harry Truman on the post-war challenges facing the United States.

The president asked Dirksen to prepare a memorandum with his observations and recommendations.  The congressman sent it to the White House on June 4.

Remarks Concerning the Office of War Information, July 13, 1945 [Everett M. Dirksen Papers, Notebooks, f. 70, 26]

The Office of War Information, created in 1942, formulated and executed information programs to promote understanding of the status and progress of the war effort and of war policies, activities, and aims of the U.S. government.  Besides coordinating the release of war news for domestic use, the office established an overseas branch to manage the information and propaganda campaign abroad.  Congressional opposition to the domestic operations of the OWI resulted in increasingly curtailed funds, and by 1944 the OWI operated mostly in the foreign field.  At virtually every stop, Dirksen made a point of visiting the OWI outpost.  He came away impressed by the agency’s work and vowed to increase funding for its work, as his remarks confirm.  He did not succeed, however.  OWI ceased operations in September 1945, and its foreign functions were transferred to the Department of State.

“Dirksen Reports on his World Tour,” July 27, 1945 [Everett M. Dirksen Papers, Scrapbooks, v. 6, 11]

Before Everett Dirksen left on his trip, he promised his sponsors—people in his hometown and the 16th congressional district of Illinois—to provide a full report upon his return.  For example, on Friday, June 8, Dirksen returned to his hometown to meet with an audience eager to hear first-hand about their congressman’s adventure.  The press estimated that 3,500 residents packed the Pekin High School auditorium.  He made at least five such speeches within two weeks before continuing his speaking tour outside the district.  The congressman tended to speak extemporaneously.  As a result, his files do not contain full texts of his remarks during this period, and we must rely on newspaper coverage to know what he said.


 

 


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