WASHINGTON -- President Truman tonight issued a sweeping civil rights decree requiring equality of treatment of all men in the nation's armed services and the enforcement of fairness among employes of federal government regardless of race.
His proclamation, however, did not call specifically for an end to racial segregation in the armed forces.
It simply declared it to be his policy that "there shall be equality of opportunity for all persons In the armed services without regard to race, color, religion or national origin."
Mr. Truman ordered creation of a special committee within the military establishment to look Into current racial rules and practices. The committee will recommend to him what it thinks should he done to carry out the policy laid down In the proclamation.
The president prohibited racial or religious discrimination in the "personnel actions" of all federal civil agencies.
He directed that a fair employment officer be named in each department to see that this policy is carried out, subject to the final decision of the department head.
An overall fair employment board is to be set up within the Civil Service Commission to lay down blanket anti-discrlmlnatlon rules and to review decisions made by department heads.
Mr. Truman's directives came as 19 Southern Democratic senators planned a "fight to the limit ot our ability" against passage of any civil rights measures at the special session of Congress which convened today.
The orders appeared certain to further anger the already-rebellious Southern wing of the Democratic Party, and to draw fiery charges of "politics" from Dixie Democrats and some Republicans.
Abolition of segregation in the armed forces is one of the planks in the new Progressive Party's platform, and leaders of that party are sure to condemn the President for not at once ordering a complete ban on segregation. Negro and other liberal and left-wing groups also have long demanded an end to segregation of troops on a racial basis, now practiced chiefly by the Army.
Secretary of the Army Kenneth C. Royal has consistently refused to take such action, basing his stand on the postwar Gillem Board report which held that negro manpower could best be utilized through separate battalions and companies within regiments.
Mr. Truman said he laid down the "equality of treatment" rule because it Is "essential" that "the highest standards of democracy" be maintained in the armed forces.
He did not define what he meant by "equality," nor did he bind himself to accept the recommendations of the special committee, to be known as "the President's committee on equality of treatment and opportunity In the armed services." He did not fix any time for the committee to report, but said It would continue In existence till no longer needed.
Capt. Robert Berry, personal public relations adviser to Defense Secretary James Forrestal, said Forrestal will "do all in his power to carry out the President's order." But he added that "as far as I know, there is no discrimination in the armed forces."
Negro leaders regard segregation as discrimination. A. Phillip Randolph, head of the AFL Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, has announced he will urge negroes to refuse to register for the new draft unless segregation is ended. Defense officials insist, however, that segregation is not discrimination.
A 15-member delegation of negro leaders called into conference by Forrestal last April refused to advise him on negro affairs "until segregation is eliminated."
The Army segregates negroes into separate units from white troops. But negro units may be included in large units with white troops in the organization of regiments and divisions.
Both the Army press relations officer and Secretary Royall withheld immediate comment on the President's order.
The government already has an official policy barring discrimination in the hiring and treatment of civilian employes. The President's directive appeared to be aimed at reaffirming that policy, and setting up procedures to prevent deviations.