Papers of Harry S. Truman Staff Member and Office Files: National Security Council File

Date Span: 1947-1953

The National Security Council File contains documentation of the work preformed by that agency from its founding in July, 1947 through the end of the Truman administration in January, 1953. This file, found in the custody of the Central Intelligence Agency about 1980, was transferred to the Truman Library in 1981. Apparently, it is the office file of the small permanent National Security Council staff located in Truman's White House Office. It is comprised of five series: one containing copies of Central Intelligence Agency documents; one containing National Security Council Determinations with respect to U.S. policy toward foreign nations' trade with Communist nations; a chronological file of outgoing National Security Council correspondence; a set of bound volumes entitled "Policies of the United States of America Relating to the National Security;" and a subject file arranged in alphabetical order. Many of the documents in this file are also located in the National Security Council series of the President's Secretary's Files.

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Size: 5 linear feet, 8 linear inches(ca. 10,400 pages)
Access: Open, with the exception that some documents may be temporarily restricted in accordance with President Truman's letter of gift of February 12, 1957, his will dated January 14, 1959, and the requirements of the Executive Order governing the administration of classified information.
Copyright: President Truman donated his copyright interest in any of his writings in this collection to the people of the United States. In addition, documents prepared by government employees of the United States, in the course of their official duties, are also in the public domain. Copyright interest in documents, which do not fall into the aforementioned categories, is presumed to remain with the writers of the documents or their heirs.
Processed by: Dennis E. Bilger (1981)
Reproccessed by: Cynthia G. Edwards (2000)
Reviewing Archivists: Carol Briley, David Clark and Randy Sowell (2001); David Clark (2012-2013).

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The National Security Council (NSC) was established by the National Security Act of 1947 (Public Law 80 - 253, 61 Stat. 496; 50 U.S.C. 401, et seq.), which was approved on July 26, 1947, as amended by the National Security Act Amendments of 1949 (63 Stat. 579; 50 U.S.C. 401 et seq.). This legislation also provided for a Secretary of Defense, a National Military Establishment, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the National Security Resources Board.

The NSC, which was created under the chairmanship of the President, was composed of the following seven permanent members: the President; the Secretaries of State, Defense, the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force; and the Chairman of the National Security Resources Board. The President was authorized to designate "from time to time" the Secretaries of other executive departments and the Chairmen of the Munitions Board and the Research and Development Board to attend meetings of the NSC. Additionally, the Director of the new Central Intelligence Agency was to report to the NSC, and he attended meetings as an observer and resident adviser, but he was not a member of the NSC.

Later, as part of the Amendments Act of 1949, the three service were removed from the NSC, while the Vice-President was added as a member, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was added as an advisor.

At this same time, the NSC was placed in the Executive Office of the President. Originally, the NSC Staff was to be headed by a civilian Executive Secretary, appointed by the President, with only one other professional staff member, an Assistant to the Executive Secretary. Additional top staff members were to be consultants detailed from the three armed services and the State Department. Eventually, these consultants came to be members of the Senior Staff Group, acting as designated agency representatives. There were only two NSC Executive Secretaries during the Truman administration. Admiral Sidney W. Souers served as the first Executive Secretary from September, 1947, until January, 1950, at which time he was succeeded by his assistant, James S. Lay, Jr., who served until Truman left office in January, 1953.

The NSC is the President's principal forum for considering national security and foreign policy matters with his senior national security advisors and cabinet officials. Its function is to advise the President with respect to the integration of domestic, foreign, and military policies relating to the national security. The NSC also serves as the President's principal arm for coordinating these policies among various government departments and agencies in matters involving the national security. The duties of the NSC are to assess and appraise the objectives, commitments, and risks of the United States in relation to actual and potential military power, for the purpose of making recommendations to the President, with respect to foreign policy and national security. The NSC also considers policies on matters of common interest to the departments and agencies of the Government concerned with the national security, and makes recommendations to the President. [For further information regarding the establishment and workings of the National Security Council, the reader may refer to the NSC's History of the National Security Council, 1947 - 1997].

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Among the significant documents in this collection, the Central Intelligence Agency File contains copies of intelligence reports and other memoranda prepared for the President; these include daily bulletins reporting on the situation in Korea from 1950 to 1953. Also in this series are memoranda for the Director of Central Intelligence and other officials, dealing with Cold War trouble spots and other national security concerns.

The National Security Council Determinations File contains memoranda regarding implementation by the NSC of Section 1302 of the Third Supplemental Appropriations Act of 1951, which required countries receiving economic or financial assistance from the United States to certify that they were not exporting specified commodities to Soviet Bloc countries. A number of nations receiving U.S. aid, including India, Ireland, Israel, Egypt, Germany, Japan, and various NATO allies, are among the subjects of these memoranda.

The Chronological File contains copies of NSC staff correspondence regarding personnel and organizational matters, public and governmental inquiries and arrangements for NSC meetings. Included in this series are drafts of proposed resolutions and directives relating to covert activities and other matters.

The Policies of the United States of America Relating to the National Security contains five bound volumes of policy position papers relating to various countries (as approved by the President upon the advice of the NSC or as noted by the NSC), as well as papers pertaining to actions by the President and the NSC, NSC organization and procedures, and intelligence matters. As of January 4, 2001, all but the second bound volume in the Policies of the United States series are still classified.

The Subject File contains memoranda and reports on various foreign policy and national security issues. Included are reports by the Air Intelligence Division; materials relating to atomic energy; CIA comments on the Gray Report, which dealt with the Psychological Strategy Board; materials pertaining to the Committee on National Security Organization; and staff reports on Palestine.

The various series within the NSC File are arranged as follows: the Central Intelligence Agency File is arranged alphabetically by folder title, with similarly titled folders further arranged chronologically; the National Security Council Determinations are arranged numerically (#1-22); the Chronological File is arranged as it name suggests, the Policies of the United States File is arranged chronologically by numeric volumes; and the Subject File is arranged alphabetically by folder title.

Other manuscript holdings at the Truman Library that relate to this collection include the following files in the Harry S. Truman Papers: President's Secretary's Files, Official File, Confidential File and the Psychological Strategy Board Files.

Generally speaking, there is more material concerning the operation of the NSC during the Truman administration in the President's Secretary's Files than in the National Security Council Files. The Truman Library's collections, however, do not contain the complete records of the NSC for this period. A more complete record of NSC operation during the Truman administration may be found in the Records of the National Security Council [NSC] (Record Group 273), 1947 - 69, which are available at the National Archives of the United States, in the Washington, D.C. area.

Also relevant are the personal papers of S. Everett Gleason, Frank N. Roberts, and Sidney W. Souers, as well as the following transcripts of oral history interviews at the Truman Library, which include discussions of aspects of the National Security Council: Karl R. Bendetsen, Raymond P. Brandt, Clark Clifford, George M. Elsey, Gordon Gray, Felix Larkin, Frederick J. Lawton, Shaw Livermore, Wilfred J. McNiel, Charles S. Murphy, John H. Ohly, Stuart Symington, Theodore Tannenwald, Jr., and Truman White House: Murphy, Neustadt, Stowe, and Webb.

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Container Nos.   Series
Copies of Daily Digest of Significant Traffic (Office of Current Intelligence); distribution list for Daily Digest; notebooks recording receipt and destruction dates of Daily Digests by NSC; intelligence memoranda; memoranda for NSC Director regarding NSC functions, CIA directives, and other intelligence issues; memoranda for the President regarding the early Cold War hotspots (including the rise of the Soviet Bloc and the Korean situation); Daily Korean Summaries/Bulletins; Office of Reports and Estimates memoranda on foreign policy hotspots (such as U.S. withdrawal from Mainland China, Iran, and the Philippines); Special Evaluations analysis papers on various national security topics (including Soviet/Communist influence in various countries, the strength of the Chinese Nationalist government, Soviet objectives in the United Nations, CIA Security Regulations, and Status Reports from the Office of Reports and Estimates). Arranged alphabetically by folder title, with similarly titled folders further arranged chronologically
Copies of National Security Determinations Memoranda with respect to implementation by NSC of Section 1302 of the Third Supplemental Appropriations Act of 1951 (which required countries receiving U.S. economic/financial assistance to certify that they were not exporting specified commodities, such as arms, to Soviet Bloc countries), arranged numerically (by country/countries involved in particular determination). Arranged numerically by Memoranda number (#1-22).
8-10   CHRONOLOGICAL FILE, 1947-1953
Copies of NSC staff correspondence regarding response to public inquiries (potential employment, NSC functions, recommendations for an independent intelligence agency, requests for statement on Nation's primary security, i.e. as "faith in God"), office operations (budget estimates, personnel requirements, office assignments, security clearances, supplies and equipment), notification to NSC members of scheduling/canceling of meetings, governmental inquiries (congressional, executive agency, military), transmittals (for memos, briefs, resolutions, sent to others), acknowledgments (for memos, briefs, received from others), requests for action recommendations by members of NSC regarding NSC proposals, and copies of NSC staff memoranda regarding NSC staffing, NSC organization, international security briefs, agendas for NSC meetings, Hoover Commission Report on Foreign Affairs, proposed/draft resolutions and directives (on covert activities), policy recommendations, and NSC staff actions to facilitate orderly transition to new administration. Arranged chronologically.