Harry S. Truman

Harry S. Truman

Harry S. Truman
33rd President of the United States
In office
April 12, 1945 – January 20, 1953
Vice President
Preceded by Franklin D. Roosevelt
Succeeded by Dwight D. Eisenhower
34th Vice President of the United States
In office
January 20, 1945 – April 12, 1945
President Franklin D. Roosevelt
Preceded by Henry A. Wallace
Succeeded by Alben W. Barkley
United States Senator
from Missouri
In office
January 3, 1935 – January 17, 1945
Preceded by Roscoe C. Patterson
Succeeded by Frank P. Briggs
Presiding Judge of Jackson County, Missouri
In office
January 10, 1927 – January 3, 1935
Preceded by Elihu W. Hayes
Succeeded by Eugene I. Purcell
Personal details
Born (1884-05-08)May 8, 1884
Lamar, Missouri, U.S.
Died December 26, 1972(1972-12-26) (aged 88)
Kansas City, Missouri, U.S.
Resting place Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum
Independence, Missouri
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Bess Wallace (m. 1919; his death 1972)
Children Margaret
Religion Baptist[1]
Signature Cursive signature in ink
Military service
Years of service
  • 1905–1911
  • 1917–1919
  • 1920–1953 (Reserve)
Commands Battery D, 129th Field Artillery, 60th Brigade, 35th Infantry Division

World War I

Harry S. Truman (May 8, 1884 – December 26, 1972) was the 33rd President of the United States (1945–53). As the final running mate of President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1944, Truman succeeded to the presidency on April 12, 1945, when Roosevelt died after months of declining health. Four weeks later, the Allies successfully concluded World War II; in the aftermath of the conflict, tensions with the Soviet Union increased, marking the start of the Cold War.

Truman was born in Missouri and spent most of his youth on his family's farm. In the last five months of World War I, he served in combat in France as an artillery officer in his National Guard unit. After the war, he briefly owned a haberdashery and joined the Democratic Party political machine of Tom Pendergast in Kansas City, Missouri. Truman was first elected to public office as a county official and became a U.S. Senator in 1935. He gained national prominence as head of the Truman Committee formed in March 1941, which exposed waste, fraud, and corruption in wartime contracts.

During World War II, while Nazi Germany surrendered a few weeks after Truman assumed the presidency, the war with Imperial Japan was expected to last another year or more. Truman approved the use of atomic weapons against Japan, intending to force Japan's surrender and spare American lives in a planned invasion; the decision remains controversial. His presidency was a turning point in foreign affairs, as his government supported an internationalist foreign policy in conjunction with European allies. Following the war, Truman assisted in the founding of the United Nations, issued the Truman Doctrine to contain communism, and passed the $13 billion Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe, including the Axis Powers, whereas the wartime allied Soviet Union became the peacetime enemy, and the Cold War began. He oversaw the Berlin Airlift of 1948 and the creation of NATO in 1949. When communist North Korea invaded South Korea in 1950, he immediately sent in U.S. troops and gained UN approval for the Korean War.[2] After initial success, the UN forces were thrown back by Chinese intervention and the conflict was stalemated through the final years of Truman's presidency.

On domestic issues, bills endorsed by Truman often faced opposition from a conservative Congress dominated by the South, but his administration successfully guided the American economy through post-war economic challenges. He said civil rights was a moral priority and in 1948 submitted the first comprehensive legislation; in addition, he issued Executive Orders the same year to start racial integration in the military and federal agencies. Corruption in Truman's administration, which was linked to certain members in the cabinet and senior White House staff, was brought up as a central issue in the 1952 presidential campaign. Adlai Stevenson, Truman's successor as Democratic nominee, lost to Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower, former Commander of the Allied Armed Forces. Popular and scholarly assessments of Truman's presidency were initially poor, but became more positive over time, following his retirement from politics. Truman's 1948 election upset to win a full term as president is routinely invoked by underdog candidates.


  • Early life and career 1
    • World War I 1.1
  • Politics 2
    • As Jackson County judge 2.1
    • As U.S. Senator from Missouri 2.2
  • Vice presidency 3
  • Presidency 4
    • First term (1945–1949) 4.1
      • Assuming office and the atomic bomb 4.1.1
      • Strikes and economic upheaval 4.1.2
      • Creation of United Nations, Marshall Plan, start of Cold War 4.1.3
      • Berlin airlift 4.1.4
      • Recognition of Israel 4.1.5
    • 1948 election 4.2
    • Second term (1949–1953) 4.3
      • Korean War 4.3.1
      • Worldwide defense 4.3.2
      • Soviet espionage and McCarthyism 4.3.3
      • White House renovations; assassination attempt 4.3.4
      • Steel and coal strikes 4.3.5
      • Scandals and controversies 4.3.6
    • Civil rights 4.4
    • Administration and cabinet 4.5
    • Judicial appointments 4.6
      • Supreme Court 4.6.1
      • Other courts 4.6.2
    • 1952 election 4.7
  • Post-presidency 5
  • Death 6
  • Tributes and legacy 7
    • Legacy 7.1
    • Sites and honors 7.2
  • See also 8
  • Notes 9
  • References 10
  • Bibliography 11
    • Books 11.1
    • Journals 11.2
      • Time 11.2.1
      • The Washington Post 11.2.2
      • New York Times 11.2.3
    • Harry S. Truman Library & Museum 11.3
    • Online sources 11.4
  • External links 12

Early life and career

Harry S. Truman was born on May 8, 1884, in Lamar, Missouri, the oldest child of John Anderson Truman (1851–1914) and Martha Ellen Young Truman (1852–1947). His parents chose the name Harry after his mother's brother, Harrison "Harry" Young (1846–1916).[3] They chose "S" as his middle initial to please both of his grandfathers, Anderson Shipp Truman and Solomon Young. The "S" did not stand for anything, a common practice among the Scots-Irish.[4][5] A brother, John Vivian (1886–1965), was born soon after Harry, followed by sister Mary Jane (1889–1978).[6]

John Truman was a farmer and livestock dealer. The family lived in Lamar until Harry was ten months old, when they moved to a farm near Harrisonville. The family next moved to Belton, and in 1887 to his grandparents' 600-acre (240-ha) farm in Grandview.[7] When Truman was six, his parents moved to Independence, so he could attend the Presbyterian Church Sunday School. Truman did not attend a traditional school until he was eight.[8]

As a boy, Truman was interested in music, reading, and history, all encouraged by his mother, with whom he was very close. As president, he solicited political as well as personal advice from her.[9] He got up at five every morning to practice the piano, which he studied twice a week until he was fifteen.[10] Truman worked as a page at the 1900 Democratic National Convention at Convention Hall in Kansas City;[11] his father had many friends who were active in the Democratic Party and helped young Harry to gain his first political position.[12]

After graduating from Independence High School (now William Chrisman High School) in 1901, Truman worked as a timekeeper on the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway, sleeping in hobo camps near the rail lines.[13] He worked at a series of clerical jobs, and was employed briefly in the mailroom of the Kansas City Star. He returned to the Grandview farm in 1906, where he lived until entering the army in 1917.[14] During this period, he courted Bess Wallace and proposed to her in 1911. She turned him down. Truman said that before he proposed again, he wanted to be earning more money than a farmer did.[15]

Truman is the most recent U.S. president who did not earn a college degree. When his high school friends went off to the state university in 1901, Truman enrolled in Spalding's Commercial College, a Kansas City business school, but left after only one semester. Following his military service, in 1923–25 he took night courses toward a law degree at the Kansas City Law School (now the University of Missouri–Kansas City School of Law), but dropped out after losing reelection as county judge.[16]

World War I

Truman in military uniform with shoulder and waist belt with helmet
Truman in uniform ca. 1918

Truman had dreamed of going to the United States Military Academy at West Point, but he was refused an appointment because of poor eyesight.[16] He enlisted in the Missouri Army National Guard in 1905, serving until 1911 in a Kansas City-based artillery battery.[17] At his induction, his eyesight had been an unacceptable 20/50 in the right eye and 20/400 (past the standard for legal blindness) in the left.[18] The second time he took the test, he passed by secretly memorizing the eye chart.[19]

When the United States entered the Great War, Truman rejoined the Guard, although as the sole male in the family he was exempt from conscription. To his surprise, the men elected Truman as an officer, making him first lieutenant of a battery. Before deployment to France, Truman was sent to Camp Doniphan, Fort Sill, near Lawton, Oklahoma, for training. He ran the camp canteen with Edward Jacobson, a clothing store clerk he knew from Kansas City; under the two men, the canteen returned $10,000 in dividends in six months.[17] At Fort Sill, Truman met Lieutenant James M. Pendergast, nephew of Thomas Joseph (Tom) Pendergast, a Kansas City political boss, a connection that was to have a profound influence on Truman's later life.[20][21]

In mid 1918, about one million soldiers of the American Expeditionary Forces were in France. Promoted to captain, Truman in July 1918 became battery commander in an artillery battery in France. His new unit, Battery D, 129th Field Artillery, 60th Brigade, 35th Infantry Division, was known for its discipline problems, and Truman was initially unpopular.[17] During a sudden attack by the Germans in the Vosges Mountains, soldiers began to flee. Using profanity that he had learned while working on the Santa Fe railroad, Truman encouraged his men to stay and fight; they were so surprised to hear Truman use such language that they immediately obeyed.[17]

On September 26, 1918, at the opening of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, Truman's unit joined in a massive pre-arranged assault barrage. They advanced with difficulty over pitted terrain to follow the infantry, and when they were west of Cheppy, they set up an observation post. Through his binoculars on September 27, Truman saw an enemy artillery battery setting up across a river in a position allowing them to fire upon the neighboring 28th Division. Truman's orders limited him to targets facing the 35th Division, but he ignored this and patiently waited until the Germans had walked their horses well away from their guns; he ordered his men to open fire and scattered the enemy. Truman was given a dressing down by his commander, Colonel Karl D. Klemm, but he was not court-martialed. Truman's decision probably saved American lives that day.[22][23]

In other action during the Meuse-Argonne fighting, Truman provided support for


Media coverage

  • Harry S. Truman Library & Museum
  • Harry S Truman National Historic Site
  • White House biography


External links

  • Bennett, Stephen Earl (May 2012). "Restoration of Confidence: Polling's Comeback from 1948". Public Opinion Pros. Retrieved November 1, 2012. 
  • Berdichevsky, Norman (May 2012). "Israel: From Darling of the Left to Pariah State". New English Review. Retrieved September 3, 2012. 
  • Curran, Jeanne; Takata, Susan R. (2002). "Getting a Sample Isn't Always Easy". Dear Habermas. California State University—Dominguez Hills. Retrieved September 6, 2012. 
  • Giangreco, D. M. "Capt. Harry Truman & Battery D, 129th Field Artillery In Action in the Argonne". Doughboy Center: The Story of the American Expeditionary Forces. WorldWar1.com. Retrieved July 29, 2012. 
  • ——— (April 7, 2002). "Soldier from Independence: Harry S. Truman and the Great War". U.S. Army Command and General Staff College. Retrieved July 29, 2012. 
  • Gilwee, William J. (2000). "Capt. Harry Truman, Artilleryman and Future President". Doughboy Center: The Story of the American Expeditionary Forces. Worldwar1.com. Archived from the original on June 14, 2008. Retrieved July 29, 2012. 
  • Goldstein, Steve (January 31, 2008). "First Daughter". Obit mag. Retrieved July 29, 2012. 
  • Hamby, Alonzo. "Presidency: How Do Historians Evaluate the Administration of Harry Truman?". History News Network. George Mason University. Retrieved September 8, 2012. 
  • Jones, Tim. "Dewey defeats Truman". Chicago Tribune. p. 1. Retrieved September 7, 2012. 
  • Smaltz, Donald C. (January 29, 1996). "Speech Delivered by Donald C. Smaltz". University of North Texas Libraries. Retrieved September 3, 2012. 
  • Smith, Stephanie (March 18, 2008). "Former Presidents: Federal Pension and Retirement Benefits" (PDF). U.S. Senate Congressional Research Service. Retrieved September 3, 2012. 
  • Truman, Harry S. (August 5, 1963). "Letter from Harry S. Truman to Irv Kupcinet (unsent), 08/05/1963". National Archives – Online Public Access. Retrieved September 2, 2012. 
  • Vaccaro, Ernest B. (January 15, 1953). "Truman Puts in Busy Day as Term Comes to Close". The Victoria Advocate. Retrieved September 8, 2012. 
  • Winn, Kenneth H. "It All Adds Up: Reform and the Erosion of Representative Government in Missouri, 1900–2000". Missouri Secretary of State. Retrieved July 30, 2012. 
  • Wooten, James T. (January 6, 1973). "Truman Honored By World Notables At Cathedral Rites". The New York Times. p. 1. Retrieved November 1, 2012. 
  • "America in the Second World War: The Manhattan Project". U.S. History. 2012. Retrieved July 30, 2012. 
  • "American President: A Reference Resource". Miller Center, University of Virginia. Retrieved September 9, 2012. 
  • "Biographical Dictionary of the Federal Judiciary". Washington, D.C.: Federal Judicial Center. Retrieved March 4, 2012.  searches run from page, "select research categories" then check "court type" and "nominating president", then select U.S. District Courts (or U.S. Circuit Courts) and also Harry Truman.
  • "C-SPAN Survey of Presidential Leadership". Archived from the original on February 17, 2009. Retrieved April 5, 2010. 
  • "Chapter 12: The President Intervenes". U.S. Army Center of Military History. 2012. Retrieved September 3, 2012. 
  • "Executive Order 9981, Establishing the President's Committee on Equality of Treatment and Opportunity in the Armed Services, Harry S. Truman". Federal Register. National Archives. 1948. Retrieved September 6, 2012. 
  • "Hall of Famous Missourians". Missouri House of Representatives. Retrieved September 7, 2012. 
  • "Harry S. Truman: 2nd Confederate President". The Missouri Partisan Ranger. 1995. Retrieved July 29, 2012. 
  • "Harry S Truman – 1948". United States Federal Archives. Retrieved September 7, 2012. 
  • "Harry S Truman (1884–1972) Thirty-third President (1945–1952)". The Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Pennsylvania. 2011. Retrieved July 29, 2012. 
  • "Harry S. Truman, 34th Vice President (1945)". United States Senate. 2012. Retrieved July 30, 2012. 
  • "Harry S. Truman Birthplace State Historic Site". Missouri State Parks and Historic Sites. 2012. Retrieved July 30, 2012. 
  • "Harry S Truman School of Public Affairs". Truman School of Public Affairs, University of Missouri. Retrieved June 18, 2008. 
  • "Inauguration of the President: Fact & Firsts". United States Senate. 2005. Retrieved September 3, 2012. 
  • "Interview Transcripts: The Potsdam Conference". The American Experience. PBS. 2012. Retrieved July 31, 2012. 
  • "Job Performance Ratings for President Truman". Public Opinion Archives. Roper Center. 2010. Retrieved September 7, 2012. 
  • "March 1, 1941: The Truman Committee". United States Senate. Retrieved November 18, 2012. 
  • Mike' Device is Tested"'". Atomic Archive. Retrieved September 7, 2012. 
  • "Presidential Funerals: Services Following Deaths of American Presidents". Washington National Cathedral. 2012. Retrieved September 3, 2012. 
  • "Our History: A Living Memorial". Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation. Retrieved September 8, 2012. 
  • "Reading 2: Goodwill Ambassador to the World". National Park Service. 1961. Retrieved September 1, 2012. 
  • "Records of the Committee on Government Contract Compliance". United States Federal Archives. Retrieved September 7, 2012. 
  • "Special Designation Liting". Army National Guard, United States Army. Retrieved September 8, 2012. 
  • "State Department headquarters named for Harry S. Truman". CNN. Associated Press. September 22, 2000. Archived from the original on December 8, 2004. Retrieved April 4, 2010. 
  • "Thoughts of a President, 1945". Eye Witness To History. 2012. Retrieved July 30, 2012. 
  • "Truman Fellowship".  
  • "Truman Reconstruction: 1948–1952". White House Museum. 1952. Retrieved September 3, 2012. 
  • "U.S. Constitution: Twenty-second Amendment". Find Law. Retrieved September 7, 2012. 
  • "U.S. Domestic Politics in the Early Cold War Era, 1947–1961". The Ohio State University. Retrieved September 7, 2012. 
  • "USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75)". NavSource Online. July 10, 2012. Retrieved September 8, 2012. 

Online sources

  • Giangreco, D. M.; Griffin, Robert E (1988). "The Airlift Begins: Airbridge to Berlin – The Berlin Crisis of 1948, its Origins and Aftermath". Harry S. Truman Library & Museum. Retrieved July 28, 2012. 
  • Marks, Ted (1962). "Oral History Interview with Ted Marks". Harry S. Truman Library & Museum. Retrieved July 27, 2012. 
  • Southern, Mrs. William (June 28, 1919). "Wedding of Bess Wallace and Capt. Harry S. Truman". The Examiner. Harry S. Truman Library & Museum. Retrieved July 29, 2012. 
  • Strout, Richard L. (February 5, 1971). "Oral History Interview with Richard L. Strout". Harry S. Truman Library & Museum. Retrieved July 27, 2012. 
  • Truman, Harry (May 14, 1948). "Memo recognizing the state of Israel". Harry S. Truman Library & Museum. Retrieved July 28, 2012. 
  • Truman, Harry (November 11, 1918). "WWI Letter from Harry to Bess". Harry S. Truman Library & Museum. Retrieved July 24, 2012. 
  • Vest, Kathleen. "Truman's First Democratic Convention". Harry S. Truman Library & Museum. Retrieved November 18, 2012. 
  • "Background Information". The Truman Balcony. Harry S. Truman Library & Museum. Retrieved October 16, 2012. 
  • "Background Information (Continued)". The Truman Balcony. Harry S. Truman Library & Museum. Retrieved October 16, 2012. 
  • "Biographical sketch of Mrs. Harry S. Truman". Harry S. Truman Library & Museum. Retrieved July 29, 2012. 
  • "Birthplace of Harry S. Truman". Harry S. Truman Library & Museum. 1988. Retrieved July 25, 2012. 
  • "Chronological Record of the 129th Field Artillery 1917–1919". Harry S. Truman Library & Museum. Retrieved July 27, 2012. 
  • "Desegregation of the Armed Forces". Harry S. Truman Library & Museum. Retrieved July 28, 2012. 
  • "Drugstore Clerk at 14 His First Job". Harry S. Truman Library & Museum. Retrieved July 25, 2012. 
  • "Eleanor and Harry: The Correspondence of Eleanor Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman". Harry S. Truman Library & Museum. Retrieved July 28, 2012. 
  • "FAQ: Is the letter on display that Truman wrote in defense of his daughter's singing?". Harry S. Truman Library & Museum. December 6, 1950. Retrieved July 29, 2012. 
  • "Harry S. Truman Post-Presidential Papers". Harry S. Truman Library & Museum. Retrieved July 28, 2012. 
  • "Harry Truman joins Battery B of the Missouri National Guard". Harry S. Truman Library & Museum. Retrieved July 27, 2012. 
  • "Memorandum of Information for the Secretary – Blockade of Korea". Harry S. Truman Library & Museum. July 6, 1950. Retrieved July 28, 2012. 
  • "Military Personnel File of Harry S. Truman". Harry S. Truman Library & Museum. Retrieved July 27, 2012. 
  • "President Lyndon B. Johnson Signs Medicare Bill". Harry S. Truman Library & Museum. July 30, 1965. Retrieved July 29, 2012. 
  • "President Truman Addresses Congress on Proposed Health Program, Washington, D.C". This Day in Truman History. Harry S. Truman Library & Museum. November 19, 1945. Retrieved July 27, 2012. 
  • McDonald, John W. (May 1984). "10 of Truman's Happiest Years Spent in Senate". Harry S. Truman Library & Museum. Retrieved May 10, 2014.  Originally published in the Independence Examiner, Truman Centennial Edition.
  • "Special Message to the Congress on Civil Rights". Harry S. Truman Library & Museum. Retrieved December 2, 2012. 
  • "Use of the Period After the "S" in Harry S. Truman's Name". Harry S. Truman Library & Museum. Retrieved July 24, 2012. 

Harry S. Truman Library & Museum

New York Times

  • Barnes, Bart (January 29, 2008). "Margaret Truman Daniel Dies at Age 83". The Washington Post. Retrieved April 2, 2010. 
  • Barr, Cameron W. (December 11, 2004). "Listing Madonna Rescued in Bethesda". The Washington Post. Retrieved April 4, 2010. 
  • Smith, J. Y. (November 28, 2001). "Paul Hume: Music Critic Who Panned Truman Daughter's Singing and Drew Presidential Wrath". Pitssburgh Post-Gazette via The Washington Post. Retrieved July 22, 2012. 

The Washington Post

  • "Armed Forces: Revolt of the Admirals". Time. October 17, 1949. Retrieved July 25, 2012. (subscription required (help)). 
  • "The Art of the Possible".  
  • "Historical Notes: Giving Them More Hell". Time. December 3, 1973. Retrieved July 25, 2012. (subscription required (help)). 
  • "The Man of Spirit". Time. August 13, 1956. Retrieved July 25, 2012. (subscription required (help)). 
  • "National Affairs: Taft–Hartley: How It Works and How It Has Worked". Time. October 19, 1959. Retrieved July 25, 2012. (subscription required (help)). 
  • "The Presidency: The World of Harry Truman". Time. January 8, 1973. Retrieved July 25, 2012. (subscription required (help)). 
  • "Truman on Time Magazine Covers". Time. 2012. Retrieved July 25, 2012. 
  • "The Wonderful Wastebasket". Time: 3. March 24, 1952. Retrieved July 25, 2012. (subscription required (help)). 


  • Griffith, Robert, ed. (Autumn 1975). "Truman and the Historians: The Reconstruction of Postwar American history". The Wisconsin Magazine of History 59 (1). 
  • Hamby, Alonzo L (August 2008). "1948 Democratic Convention The South Secedes Again". Smithsonian. 
  • Matray, James I. (September 1, 1979). "Truman's Plan for Victory: National Self-determination and the Thirty-eighth Parallel Decision in Korea". Journal of American History 66 (2).  
  • May, Ernest R. (2002). "1947–48: When Marshall Kept the U.S. Out of War in China". The Journal of Military History (October 2002).  
  •   reprinted in Hamby 1974, pp. 15–42
  • Ottolenghi, Michael (December 2004). "Harry Truman's Recognition of Israel". Historical Journal 47 (4). 
  • Strout, Lawrence N. (1999). "Covering McCarthyism: How the Christian Science Monitor Handled Joseph R. McCarthy, 1950–1954". Journal of Political and Military Sociology 2001 (Summer). 
  • Wells, Jr., Samuel F. (Autumn 1979). "Sounding the Tocsin: NSC 68 and the Soviet Threat". International Security 4 (2).  
  • "Truman Committee Eposes Housing Mess". Life (November 30, 1942). 1942. Retrieved October 10, 2012. 


  • Binning, William C.; Esterly, Larry E.; Sracic, Paul A. (1999). Encyclopedia of American Parties, Campaigns, and Elections. Westport,  
  • Burnes, Brian (2003). Harry S. Truman: His Life and Times. Kansas City,  
  • Chambers II, John W. (1999). The Oxford Companion to American Military History. Oxford: Oxford University Press.  
  • Eakin, Joanne C.; Hale, Donald R., eds. (1995). Branded as Rebels. Madison,  
  • Eisler, Kim Isaac (1993). A Justice for All: William J. Brennan, Jr., and the Decisions that Transformed America. New York: Simon & Schuster.  
  • Evans, M Stanton, Blacklisted by History .
  • Giglio, James N. (2001). Truman in cartoon and caricature. Kirksville,  
  • Hamby, Alonzo L., ed. (1974). Harry S. Truman and the Fair Deal. Lexington,  
  • ——— (1995). Man of the People: A Life of Harry S. Truman. Oxford: Oxford University Press.  
  • Judis, John B. (2014). Genesis: Truman, American Jews, and the Origins of the Arab/Israeli Conflict. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux.  
  • Kirkendall, Richard S. (1989). Harry S. Truman Encyclopedia. Boston: G. K. Hall Publishing.  
  • Kloetzel, James E.; Charles, Steve, eds. (April 2012). Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalog 1. Sidney,  
  • McCoy, Donald R. (1984). The Presidency of Harry S. Truman. Lawrence,  
  • MacGregor, Morris J., Jr. (1981). Integration of the Armed Services 1940–1965. Washington, D.C.: Center of Military History.  
  • Mitchell, Franklin D. (1998). Harry S. Truman and the News Media: Contentious Relations, Belated Respect. Columbia,  
  • Savage, Sean J. (1991). Roosevelt: The Party Leader, 1932–1945. Lexington,  
  • Skidmore, Max J. (2004). After the White House: Former Presidents as Private Citizens (rev ed.). New York: Macmillan.  
  • Stokesbury, James L. (1990). A Short History of the Korean War. New York: Harper Perennial.  
  • Troy, Gil (2008). Leading from the Center: Why Moderates Make the Best Presidents. New York: Basic Books.  
  • Truman, Harry S. (1955). Memoirs: Year of Decisions 1. Garden City,  
  • ——— (1956). Memoirs: Years of Trial and Hope 2. Garden City,  



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  2. ^ United Nations Security Council Resolutions 82, 83, United Nations Security Council Resolution 84|84]], 85 and 88
  3. ^ McCullough 1992, pp. 24, 37.
  4. ^ McCullough 1992, p. 37.
  5. ^ Truman Library 2012.
  6. ^ McCullough 1992, pp. 27, 37.
  7. ^ Truman Library, Birth 2012.
  8. ^ McCullough 1992, pp. 37, 77, 1112.
  9. ^ a b c Oshinsky 2004, pp. 365–380.
  10. ^ McCullough 1992, p. 38.
  11. ^ Ferrell 1994, p. 87.
  12. ^ Truman Library 2012aa.
  13. ^ Truman Library, Job 2012.
  14. ^ McCullough 1992, pp. 67, 99.
  15. ^ McCullough 1992, pp. 78–79.
  16. ^ a b Hamby 1995, pp. 17–18, 135.
  17. ^ a b c d e f Gilwee 2000.
  18. ^ McCullough 1992, p. 105.
  19. ^ Truman Library, Eye 2012.
  20. ^ McCullough 1992, pp. 105–10.
  21. ^ Giangreco 2012.
  22. ^ McCullough 1992, pp. 130, 531.
  23. ^ Giangreco 2002, p. 192.
  24. ^ Giangreco 2002, pp. 181–86.
  25. ^ Spalding, Elizabeth Edwards (2009), "Religion and the presidency of Harry S. Truman", in Espinosa, Gastón, Religion and the American Presidency: George Washington to George W. Bush, pp. 219–49 .
  26. ^ Truman Library 1919.
  27. ^ Goldstein 2008.
  28. ^ McCullough 1992, pp. 63–64, 68.
  29. ^ Hamby 1995, pp. 410–12.
  30. ^ Oshinsky 2004, pp. 365–80.
  31. ^ a b Dallek 2008, p. 6.
  32. ^ Barr 2004.
  33. ^ Savage 1991, p. 65.
  34. ^ a b United States Senate 2012.
  35. ^ Dallek 2008, pp. 7–9.
  36. ^ a b c Winn 2000.
  37. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l January 8, 1973Time.
  38. ^ McCullough 1992, p. 232.
  39. ^ McCullough 1992, p. 230.
  40. ^ Dallek 2008, pp. 11–12.
  41. ^ Hamby 1995, pp. 236–47.
  42. ^ Dallek 2008, pp. 12–14.
  43. ^ Herman, Arthur (2012), Freedom's Forge: How American Business Produced Victory in World War II, New York, NY: Random House, pp. 103, 118, 194, 198–9, 235–6, 275, 281, 303, 312,  .
  44. ^ McCullough 1992, pp. 337–38: "Later estimates were that the Truman Committee saved the country as much as $15 billion."
  45. ^ McDonald 1984: "This committee saved billions in taxpayers' money by helping eliminate waste and fraud."
  46. ^ Daniels 1998, p. 228: Jonathan W. Daniels quotes journalist Marquis Childs who wrote in November 1942 that the Truman Committee had "saved billions—yes, billions—of dollars."
  47. ^ Hamilton 2009, p. 301: "Over seven years (1941–1948) the committee heard from 1,798 witnesses during 432 public hearings. It published nearly two thousand pages of documents and saved perhaps $15 billion and thousands of lives by exposing faulty airplane and munitions production."
  48. ^ Senate Truman Committee 2012.
  49. ^ Alexrod, Alan. The Real History of the Cold War: A New Look at the Past. Sterling. p. 44. 
  50. ^ McCullough 1992, pp. 373–378.
  51. ^ Dallek 2008, pp. 14–16.
  52. ^ Dallek 2008, pp. 15–17.
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  55. ^ a b U.S. History 2012.
  56. ^ Truman Library 2012h.
  57. ^ McCullough 1992, p. 425.
  58. ^ McCullough 1992, p. 436.
  59. ^ Eye Witness 2012.
  60. ^ McCullough 1992, p. 348.
  61. ^ McCoy 1984, pp. 21–22.
  62. ^ Dallek 2008, pp. 19–20.
  63. ^ Reynolds 2005.
  64. ^ Alexrod, Alan. The Real History of the Cold War: A New Look at the Past. Sterling. p. 56. 
  65. ^ PBS 2012.
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  70. ^ Kramer, Ronald C; Kauzlarich, David (2011), Rothe, Dawn; Mullins, Christopher W, eds., "Nuclear weapons, international law, and the normalization of state crime", State crime: Current perspectives: 94–121,  .
  71. ^ Lambers, William (May 30, 2006). Nuclear Weapons. William K Lambers. p. 11.  
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  73. ^ a b c Miller Center 2012.
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  76. ^ McCoy 1984, pp. 54–55.
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  78. ^ Dallek 2008, pp. 48–50.
  79. ^ McCoy 1984, p. 91.
  80. ^ McCoy 1984, pp. 96–102.
  81. ^ Markel, Howard (2015), "'Give 'Em Health, Harry'", Milbank Quarterly 93 (1): 1–7 .
  82. ^ Dallek 2008, pp. 84–86.
  83. ^ Binning, Esterly & Sracic 1999, p. 417.
  84. ^ Lamb, Charles M; Nye, Adam W (2012), "Do Presidents Control Bureaucracy? The Federal Housing Administration during the Truman‐Eisenhower Era", Political Science Quarterly 127 (3): 445–67 .
  85. ^ Neustadt 1954, pp. 349–81.
  86. ^ Roosevelt 1961.
  87. ^ Dallek 2008, pp. 56–57.
  88. ^ Freeland 1970, p. 90.
  89. ^ Roberts 2000.
  90. ^ Holsti 1996, p. 214.
  91. ^ Dallek 2008, pp. 62–63.
  92. ^ Truman Library 1988a.
  93. ^ McCullough 1992, pp. 595–97.
  94. ^ a b McCullough 1992, p. 599.
  95. ^ Ottolenghi 2004, pp. 963–88.
  96. ^ McCullough 1992, pp. 604–5.
  97. ^ Lenczowski 1990, p. 26.
  98. ^ Truman Library 1948.
  99. ^ Berdichevsky 2012.
  100. ^ a b Hechler & Elsey 2006.
  101. ^ Burnes 2003, p. 137.
  102. ^ McCullough 1992, p. 640.
  103. ^ Hamby 2008.
  104. ^ Center of Military History 2012.
  105. ^ Truman Library 1998.
  106. ^ McCoy 1984, pp. 153–158.
  107. ^ Pietrusza 2011, pp. 226–232.
  108. ^ McCullough 1992, p. 654.
  109. ^ McCullough 1992, p. 657.
  110. ^ McCullough 1992, p. 701.
  111. ^ Curran & Takata 2002.
  112. ^ Bennett 2012.
  113. ^ Truman Library 1971.
  114. ^ Jones 1948.
  115. ^ United States Senate 2005.
  116. ^ Atomic Archive 1953.
  117. ^ a b McCoy 1984, pp. 222–27.
  118. ^ Truman Library, Memo 1950.
  119. ^  .
  120. ^ Dallek 2008, p. 107.
  121. ^ Matray 1979, pp. 314–33.
  122. ^ Stokesbury 1990, pp. 81–90.
  123. ^ Cohen & Gooch 2006, pp. 165–95.
  124. ^ Stokesbury 1990, pp. 123–29.
  125. ^ Strout 1999.
  126. ^ Weintraub 2000.
  127. ^ Chambers II 1999, p. 849.
  128. ^ Roper 2010.
  129. ^ Wells, Jr. 1979, pp. 116–58.
  130. ^ Mitchell 1998, pp. 223–28.
  131. ^ McCoy 1984, pp. 197–99, 232.
  132. ^ Dallek 2008, pp. 89–91.
  133. ^ May 2002, pp. 1001–10.
  134. ^ Ferrell 1994, pp. 217–18, 224.
  135. ^ Donovan 1983, pp. 198–199.
  136. ^ Dr. Edward J. Marolda. "The Seventh Fleet in Chinese Waters". Retrieved December 5, 2014. 
  137. ^ Dallek 2008, pp. 87–88.
  138. ^ McCoy 1984, pp. 194, 217–18.
  139. ^ Evans, p. 322.
  140. ^ Weinstein 1997, pp. 450–51.
  141. ^ Weinstein 1997, pp. 452–53.
  142. ^ Troy 2008, p. 128.
  143. ^ Evans, p. 324.
  144. ^ McCoy 1984, pp. 216–17, 234–35.
  145. ^ McCullough 1992, p. 553.
  146. ^ White House Museum 1952.
  147. ^ Truman Library, Balcony 2012.
  148. ^ Truman Library, Balcony II 2012.
  149. ^ McCullough 1992, pp. 593, 652, 725, 875ff.
  150. ^  .
  151. ^ Higgs 2004.
  152. ^ Smaltz 1998.
  153. ^ Smaltz 1996.
  154. ^ McCoy 1984, p. 299.
  155. ^ Donovan 1983, pp. 116–17.
  156. ^ a b Truman Library, FAQ 1950.
  157. ^ Barnes 2008.
  158. ^ Giglio 2001, p. 112.
  159. ^ Smith 2001.
  160. ^ Truman Library, Special Message 1948.
  161. ^ Truman 1973, p. 429.
  162. ^ Kirkendall 1989, pp. 10–11.
  163. ^ MacGregor 1981, pp. 312–15, 376–78, 457–59.
  164. ^ National Archives 1948.
  165. ^ National Archives 1953.
  166. ^ a b c d e Eisler 1993, p. 76.
  167. ^ Federal Judicial Center.
  168. ^ Find Law 2012.
  169. ^ a b McCullough 1992, p. 887.
  170. ^ a b Ambrose 1983, p. 515.
  171. ^ Dallek 2008, pp. 139–142.
  172. ^ a b Dallek 2008, p. 144.
  173. ^ a b Truman Library 2012i.
  174. ^ Vaccaro 1953.
  175. ^ a b Smith 2008.
  176. ^ Dallek 2008, p. 150.
  177. ^ Ferrell 1994, p. 387.
  178. ^ McCullough 1992, p. 949; quoting Nevins 1955.
  179. ^ Truman 1955, title page.
  180. ^ Truman 1956, title page.
  181. ^ McCullough 1992, p. 963.
  182. ^ Martin 1960, p. 249.
  183. ^ Burnes 2003, pp. 217–18.
  184. ^ Skidmore 2004, pp. 123–124.
  185. ^ Ohio State 2012.
  186. ^ a b Truman Library 1965.
  187. ^ McCullough 1992, p. 983.
  188. ^ Washington National Cathedral 2012.
  189. ^ Wooten 1973, p. 1.
  190. ^ Lubell, Samuel (1956). The Future of American Politics (2nd ed.). Anchor Press. pp. 9–10. 
  191. ^ Dallek 2008, pp. 149, 152.
  192. ^ Moynihan 1997.
  193. ^ Hamby 2002.
  194. ^ CSPAN 2009.
  195. ^ a b Dallek 2008, p. 152.
  196. ^ McCoy 1984, pp. 318–19.
  197. ^ Kloetzel & Charles 2012, pp. 50, 61, 71, 91, 99.
  198. ^ McCullough 1992, pp. 952–59, quote on p. 959.
  199. ^ Grand Lodge-Pennsylvania 2011.
  200. ^ Truman Library, SAR 2012.
  201. ^ a b Missouri Partisan Ranger 1995.
  202. ^ Eakin & Hale 1995, p. 71.
  203. ^ Truman Scholarship 2012.
  204. ^ Truman Fellowship 2012.
  205. ^ Truman School of Public Affairs 2010.
  206. ^ CNN 2000.
  207. ^ NavSource Online 2012.
  208. ^ Army National Guard 2012.
  209. ^ "Congressional Gold Medal Recipients". Office of the Clerk. House of Representatives. Retrieved August 20, 2014. 
  210. ^ Truman Birthplace 2012.


  1. ^ Truman, who was Vice President under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, became President on Roosevelt's death on April 12, 1945. Prior to the adoption of the Twenty-Fifth Amendment in 1967, a vacancy in the office of Vice President was not filled.
  2. ^ For example, see  


See also

In 1984, Truman was posthumously awarded the United States Congressional Gold Medal.[209] In 1991, he was inducted into the Hall of Famous Missourians, and a bronze bust depicting him is on permanent display in the rotunda of the Missouri State Capitol. In 2006, Thomas Daniel, grandson of the Trumans, accepted a star on the Missouri Walk of Fame to honor his late grandfather. In 2007, John Truman, a nephew, accepted a star for Bess Truman. The Walk of Fame is in Marshfield, Missouri, a city Truman visited in 1948.[37] Other sites associated with Truman include:

Despite Truman's attempt to curtail the naval carrier arm, which led to the 1949 Revolt of the Admirals,[37] an aircraft carrier is named after him. The USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) was christened on September 7, 1996. [207] The 129th Field Artillery Regiment is designated "Truman's Own" in recognition of Truman's service as commander of its D Battery during World War I.[208]

In 1975, the Truman Scholarship was created as a federal program to honor U.S. college students who exemplified dedication to public service and leadership in public policy.[203] In 2004, the President Harry S. Truman Fellowship in National Security Science and Engineering was created as a distinguished postdoctoral three-year appointment at Sandia National Laboratories.[204] In 2001, the University of Missouri established the Harry S. Truman School of Public Affairs to advance the study and practice of governance.[205] The University of Missouri's Missouri Tigers athletic programs have an official mascot named Truman the Tiger. On July 1, 1996, Northeast Missouri State University became Truman State University—to mark its transformation from a teachers' college to a highly selective liberal arts university and to honor the only Missourian to become president. A member institution of the City Colleges of Chicago, Harry S Truman College in Chicago, Illinois, is named in his honor for his dedication to public colleges and universities. In 2000, the headquarters for the State Department, built in the 1930s but never officially named, was dedicated as the Harry S Truman Building.[206]

In 1956, Truman traveled to Europe with his wife. In England, he met with Churchill and received an honorary Doctor of Civil Law degree from Oxford University. Across Britain he was hailed; London's Daily Telegraph characterized Truman as the "Living and kicking symbol of everything that everybody likes best about the United States."[198] In 1959, he was given a 50-year award by the Masons, recognizing his longstanding involvement: he was initiated on February 9, 1909 into the Belton Masonic Lodge in Missouri. In 1911, he helped establish the Grandview Lodge, and he served as its first Worshipful Master. In September 1940, during his Senate re-election campaign, Truman was elected Grand Master of the Missouri Grand Lodge of Freemasonry; Truman said later that the Masonic election assured his victory in the general election. In 1945, he was made a 33° Sovereign Grand Inspector General and an Honorary Member of the supreme council at the Supreme Council A.A.S.R. Southern Jurisdiction Headquarters in Washington D.C.[199][37] Truman was also a member of Sons of the American Revolution (SAR)[200] and a card-carrying member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.[201] Two of his relatives were Confederate soldiers.[201][202]

Stamp issued in 1973, following Truman's death—Truman has been honored on five U.S. postage stamps, issued from 1973 to 1999.[197]

Sites and honors

Harry Truman himself gave a strong and far-from-incorrect impression of being a tough, concerned and direct leader. He was occasionally vulgar, often partisan, and usually nationalistic… On his own terms, Truman can be seen as having prevented the coming of a third world war and having preserved from Communist oppression much of what he called the free world. Yet clearly he largely failed to achieve his Wilsonian aim of securing perpetual peace, making the world safe for democracy, and advancing opportunities for individual development internationally.[196]

The fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 caused Truman advocates to claim vindication for Truman's decisions in the postwar period. According to Truman biographer Robert Dallek, "His contribution to victory in the cold war without a devastating nuclear conflict elevated him to the stature of a great or near-great president."[195] The 1992 publication of David McCullough's favorable biography of Truman further cemented the view of Truman as a highly regarded Chief Executive.[195] According to historian Daniel R. McCoy in his book on the Truman presidency,

Truman had his latter-day critics as well. After a review of information available to Truman about the presence of espionage activities in the U.S. government, Democratic Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan concluded that Truman was "almost willfully obtuse" concerning the danger of American communism.[192] In 2010, historian Alonzo Hamby concluded that "Harry Truman remains a controversial president."[193] However, since leaving office, Truman has fared well in polls ranking the presidents. He has never been listed lower than ninth, and was ranked fifth in a C-SPAN poll in 2009.[194]

American public feeling towards Truman grew steadily warmer with the passing years; as early as 1962, a poll of 75 historians conducted by Arthur M. Schlesinger, Sr. ranked Truman among the "near great" presidents. The period following his death consolidated a partial rehabilitation of his legacy among both historians and members of the public.[37] Truman died when the nation was consumed with crises in Vietnam and Watergate, and his death brought a new wave of attention to his political career.[37] In the early and mid-1970s, Truman captured the popular imagination much as he had in 1948, this time emerging as a kind of political folk hero, a president who was thought to exemplify an integrity and accountability many observers felt was lacking in the Nixon White House. This public reassessment of Truman was aided by the popularity of a book of reminiscences which Truman had told to journalist Merle Miller beginning in 1961, with the agreement that they would not be published until after Truman's death.[191]

Citing continuing divisions within the Democratic Party, the ongoing Cold War, and the boom and bust cycle, an American Political Science Association prize-winning 1952 book stated that "after seven years of Truman's hectic, even furious, activity the nation seemed to be about on the same general spot as when he first came to office… Nowhere in the whole Truman record can one point to a single, decisive break-through… All his skills and energies—and he was among our hardest-working Presidents—were directed to standing still".[190] When he left office in 1953, Truman was one of the most unpopular chief executives in history. His job approval rating of 22% in the Gallup Poll of February 1952 was lower than Richard Nixon's 24% in August 1974, the month that Nixon resigned.

Man in suit sitting behind desk with sign that says
Truman poses in 1959 at the recreation of the Truman Oval Office at the Truman Library in 1959, with the famous "The Buck Stops Here" sign on his desk. (The reverse of the sign says, "I'm From Missouri".)


Tributes and legacy

[189][188]. Bess died in 1982; they both are buried at the Harry S. Truman Library & Museum in Independence.Washington National Cathedral Bess Truman opted for a simple private service at the library for her husband rather than a state funeral in Washington. A week after the funeral, foreign dignitaries and Washington officials attended a memorial service at [173] On December 5, 1972, Truman was admitted to Kansas City's Research Hospital and Medical Center with lung congestion from

Wreath at Truman's casket on the day of his funeral, December 27, 1972, Independence, Missouri


Truman supported Adlai Stevenson's second bid for the White House in 1956, although he had initially favored Democratic Governor W. Averell Harriman of New York.[185] He continued to campaign for Democratic senatorial candidates for many years.[186] Upon turning 80 in 1964, Truman was feted in Washington, and addressed the Senate, availing himself of a new rule that allowed former presidents to be granted privilege of the floor.[187] After a fall in his home in late 1964, his physical condition declined. In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Medicare bill at the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum and gave the first two Medicare cards to Truman and his wife Bess to honor the former president's fight for government health care while in office.[186]

Truman's predecessor, Franklin D. Roosevelt, had organized his own [184]

The former president was quoted in 1957 as saying to then-House Majority Leader John McCormack, "Had it not been for the fact that I was able to sell some property that my brother, sister, and I inherited from our mother, I would practically be on relief, but with the sale of that property I am not financially embarrassed."[181] The following year, Congress passed the Former Presidents Act, offering a $25,000 yearly pension to each former president, and it is likely that Truman's financial status played a role in the law's enactment.[175] The one other living former president at the time, Herbert Hoover, also took the pension, even though he did not need the money; reportedly, he did so to avoid embarrassing Truman.[182]

Truman took out a personal loan from a Missouri bank shortly after leaving office, and then set about establishing another precedent for future former chief executives: a book deal for his memoirs of his time in office. Ulysses S. Grant had overcome similar financial issues with his own memoirs, but the book had been published posthumously, and he had declined to write about life in the White House in any detail. For the memoirs, Truman received only a flat payment of $670,000, and had to pay two-thirds of that in tax; he calculated he got $37,000 after he paid his assistants.[177] However, the memoirs were a commercial and critical success;[37][178] they were published in two volumes in 1955 and 1956 by Doubleday (Garden City, N.Y) and Hodder & Stoughton (London): Memoirs by Harry S. Truman: Year of Decisions and Memoirs by Harry S. Truman: Years of Trial and Hope.[179][180]

Two men at a desk with a document one is signing with their wives standing behind them
Truman (seated right) and his wife Bess (behind him) attend the signing of the Medicare Bill on July 30, 1965, by President Lyndon B. Johnson

Upon leaving the presidency, Truman returned to Independence, Missouri, to live at the Wallace home he and Bess had shared for years with her mother.[173] Once out of office, Truman quickly decided that he did not wish to be on any corporate payroll, believing that taking advantage of such financial opportunities would diminish the integrity of the nation's highest office. He also turned down numerous offers for commercial endorsements. Since his earlier business ventures had proved unsuccessful, he had no personal savings. As a result, he faced financial challenges. Once Truman left the White House, his only income was his old army pension: $112.56 per month.[174] Former members of Congress and the federal courts received a federal retirement package; President Truman himself ensured that former servants of the executive branch of government received similar support. In 1953, however, there was no such benefit package for former presidents,[175] and he received no pension for his Senate service.[176]

Painting of Caucasian man in dark suit with wire glasses and gray hair
Official White House portrait of Harry S. Truman by Greta Kempton


Eisenhower gained the Republican nomination, with Senator Nixon as his running mate, and campaigned against what he denounced as Truman's failures: "Korea, Communism and Corruption". He pledged to clean up the "mess in Washington," and promised to "go to Korea."[169][170] Eisenhower defeated Stevenson decisively in the general election, ending 20 years of Democratic presidents. While Truman and Eisenhower had previously been good friends, Truman felt betrayed that Eisenhower did not denounce Joseph McCarthy during the campaign.[37] Similarly, Eisenhower was outraged when Truman, who made a whistlestop tour in support of Stevenson, accused the former general of disregarding "sinister forces ... Anti-Semitism, anti-Catholicism, and anti-foreignism" within the Republican Party.[172] Eisenhower was so outraged he threatened not to make the customary ride down Pennsylvania Avenue with the departing president before the inauguration, but to meet Truman at the steps to the Capitol, where the swearing-in takes place.[172]

Harry S. Truman's speech on leaving office, and returning home to Independence, Missouri. (January 15, 1953)

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At the time of the 1952 New Hampshire primary, no candidate had won Truman's backing. His first choice, Chief Justice Fred M. Vinson, had declined to run; Illinois Governor Adlai Stevenson had also turned Truman down, Vice President Barkley was considered too old,[169][170] and Truman distrusted and disliked Senator Kefauver, who had made a name for himself by his investigations of the Truman administration scandals. Truman had hoped to recruit General Eisenhower as a Democratic candidate, but found him more interested in seeking the Republican nomination. Accordingly, Truman let his name be entered in the New Hampshire primary by supporters. The highly unpopular Truman was handily defeated by Kefauver; 18 days later the president announced he would not seek a second full term. Truman was eventually able to persuade Stevenson to run, and the governor gained the nomination at the 1952 Democratic National Convention.[171]

In 1951, the U.S. ratified the 22nd Amendment, making a president ineligible for election to a third term or for election to a second full term after serving more than two remaining years of a term of a previously elected president. The latter clause would have applied to Truman's situation in 1952 except that a grandfather clause in the amendment explicitly excluded the amendment from applying to the incumbent president.[168]

Three men at a desk reviewing a document
From left: President Harry S. Truman, Vice Presidential nominee, Alabama Senator John J. Sparkman and presidential nominee, Illinois Governor Adlai Stevenson. Oval Office, 1952

1952 election

In addition to his four Supreme Court appointments, Truman appointed 27 judges to the courts of appeals, and 101 judges to federal district courts.[167]

Other courts

The four justices appointed by Truman joined with Justices Felix Frankfurter, Robert H. Jackson, and Stanley Reed to create a substantial seven-member conservative bloc on the Supreme Court.[166] This returned the court for a time to the conservatism of the 1920s.[166]

Truman's judicial appointments have been called by critics "inexcusable."[166] A former Truman aide confided that it was the weakest aspect of Truman's presidency.[166] The New York Times condemned the appointments of Tom C. Clark and Sherman Minton in particular as examples of cronyism and favoritism for unqualified candidates.[166]

Truman appointed the following Justices to the Supreme Court:

Supreme Court

Judicial appointments

The Truman Cabinet
Office Name Term
President Harry S. Truman 1945–1953
Vice President none 1945–1949
Alben W. Barkley 1949–1953
Secretary of State Edward R. Stettinius, Jr. 1945
James F. Byrnes 1945–1947
George C. Marshall 1947–1949
Dean G. Acheson 1949–1953
Secretary of Treasury Henry Morgenthau, Jr. 1945
Fred M. Vinson 1945–1946
John W. Snyder 1946–1953
Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson 1945
Robert P. Patterson 1945–1947
Kenneth C. Royall 1947
Secretary of Defense James V. Forrestal 1947–1949
Louis A. Johnson 1949–1950
George C. Marshall 1950–1951
Robert A. Lovett 1951–1953
Attorney General Francis Biddle 1945
Tom C. Clark 1945–1949
J. Howard McGrath 1949–1952
James P. McGranery 1952–1953
Postmaster General Frank C. Walker 1945
Robert E. Hannegan 1945–1947
Jesse M. Donaldson 1947–1953
Secretary of the Navy James V. Forrestal 1945–1947
Secretary of the Interior Harold L. Ickes 1945–1946
Julius A. Krug 1946–1949
Oscar L. Chapman 1949–1953
Secretary of Agriculture Claude R. Wickard 1945
Clinton P. Anderson 1945–1948
Charles F. Brannan 1948–1953
Secretary of Commerce Henry A. Wallace 1945–1946
W. Averell Harriman 1946–1948
Charles W. Sawyer 1948–1953
Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins 1945
Lewis B. Schwellenbach 1945–1948
Maurice J. Tobin 1948–1953

All of the cabinet members when Truman became president in 1945 had been appointed by Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Administration and cabinet

Another executive order, also in 1948, made it illegal to discriminate against persons applying for civil service positions based on race. A third, in 1951, established the Committee on Government Contract Compliance (CGCC). This committee ensured that defense contractors did not discriminate because of race.[164][165]

A 1947 report by the Truman administration titled To Secure These Rights presented a detailed ten-point agenda of civil rights reforms. In February 1948, the president submitted a civil rights agenda to Congress that proposed creating several federal offices devoted to issues such as voting rights and fair employment practices.[160] This provoked a storm of criticism from Southern Democrats in the runup to the national nominating convention, but Truman refused to compromise, saying: "My forebears were Confederates... but my very stomach turned over when I had learned that Negro soldiers, just back from overseas, were being dumped out of Army trucks in Mississippi and beaten."[161] Tales of the abuse, violence, and persecution suffered by many African American veterans upon their return from World War II infuriated Truman, and were a major factor in his decision to issue Executive Order 9981, in July 1948, desegregating and requiring equal opportunity in the Armed Forces.[162] After several years of planning, recommendations and revisions between Truman, the Committee on Equality of Treatment and Opportunity and the various branches of the military, Army units became racially integrated.[163]

The Chicago Defender announces Executive Order 9980 and Executive Order 9981.

Civil rights

In 1951, William M. Boyle, Truman's long-time friend and chairman of the Democratic National Committee, was forced to resign after being charged with financial corruption.

Truman was criticized by many for the letter. However, he pointed out that he wrote it as a loving father and not as the president.[157][158][159]

I've just read your lousy review of Margaret's concert. I've come to the conclusion that you are an 'eight ulcer man on four ulcer pay.' It seems to me that you are a frustrated old man who wishes he could have been successful. When you write such poppy-cock as was in the back section of the paper you work for it shows conclusively that you're off the beam and at least four of your ulcers are at work. Some day I hope to meet you. When that happens you'll need a new nose, a lot of beefsteak for black eyes, and perhaps a supporter below! Pegler, a gutter snipe, is a gentleman alongside you. I hope you'll accept that statement as a worse insult than a reflection on your ancestry.[156]

Harry Truman wrote a scathing response:

Miss Truman is a unique American phenomenon with a pleasant voice of little size and fair quality... [she] cannot sing very well... is flat a good deal of the time—more last night than at any time we have heard her in past years... has not improved in the years we have heard her... [and] still cannot sing with anything approaching professional finish.[156]

On December 6, 1950, music critic Paul Hume wrote a critical review of a concert by the president's daughter Margaret Truman:

[155][154] In 1950, the Senate, led by

Scandals and controversies

In response to a labor/management impasse arising from bitter disagreements over wage and price controls, Truman instructed his Secretary of Commerce, Charles W. Sawyer, to take control of a number of the nation's steel mills in April 1952. Truman cited his authority as Commander in Chief and the need to maintain an uninterrupted supply of steel for munitions to be used in the war in Korea. The Supreme Court found Truman's actions unconstitutional, however, and reversed the order in a major separation-of-powers decision, Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer (1952). The 6–3 decision, which held that Truman's assertion of authority was too vague and was not rooted in any legislative action by Congress, was delivered by a Court composed entirely of Justices appointed by either Truman or Roosevelt. The high court's reversal of Truman's order was one of the notable defeats of his presidency.[151]

Steel and coal strikes

On November 1, 1950, Puerto Rican nationalists Griselio Torresola and Oscar Collazo attempted to assassinate Truman at Blair House. The attack drew new attention to security concerns surrounding Truman's residence at Blair House. He had jumped up from a nap, and was watching the gunfight from his open bedroom window until Secret Service agents shouted at him to take cover. On the street outside the residence, Torresola mortally wounded a White House policeman, Leslie Coffelt. Before he died, the officer shot and killed Torresola. Collazo was wounded, stopped before he entered the house. He was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death in 1952. Truman commuted his sentence to life in prison. To try to settle the question of Puerto Rican independence, Truman allowed a plebiscite in Puerto Rico in 1952 to determine the status of its relationship to the U.S. Nearly 82% of the people voted in favor of a new constitution for the Estado Libre Associado, a continued 'associated free state.'[150]

External video
Newsreel scenes in English of the assassination attempt on U.S. President Harry S. Truman

The Truman family moved into nearby Blair House during the renovations. As the newer West Wing, including the Oval Office, remained open, Truman walked to and from his work across the street each morning and afternoon. In due course, the decision was made to demolish and rebuild the whole interior of the main White House, as well as excavate new basement levels and underpin the foundations. The famous exterior of the structure was buttressed and retained while the extensive renovations proceeded inside. The work lasted from December 1949 until March 1952.[149]

In 1948, Truman ordered an addition to the exterior of the White House: a second-floor balcony in the south portico, which came to be known as the "Truman Balcony." The addition was unpopular; some said it spoiled the appearance of the south facade, but it gave the First Family more living space.[146][147] [148] The work uncovered structural faults which led engineering experts to conclude that the building, much of it over 130 years old, was in a dangerously dilapidated condition. That August, a section of floor collapsed, and Truman's bedroom and bathroom were closed as unsafe. No public announcement about the serious structural problems of the White House was made until after the 1948 election had been won. By then Truman had been informed that his new balcony was the only part of the building that was sound.

Inside of a building being renovated, with scaffolding
View of the interior shell of the White House during renovation in 1950

White House renovations; assassination attempt

Charges that Soviet agents had infiltrated the government were believed by 78% of the people in 1946, and became a major campaign issue for Eisenhower in 1952.[142] Truman was reluctant to take a more radical stance because he feared that the full disclosure of the extent of the communist infiltration would reflect badly on the Democratic Party. It was a time of the Red Scare. In a 1956 interview, Truman denied that Alger Hiss had ever been a communist, a full six years after Hiss' conviction for perjury on this topic.[143] In 1949 Truman described American communist leaders, whom his administration was prosecuting, as "traitors," but in 1950 he vetoed the McCarran Internal Security Act. It was passed over his veto.[144] Truman would later state in private conversations with friends that his creation of a loyalty program had been a "terrible" mistake.[145]

Following Hiss' conviction, Secretary of State Dean Acheson announced that he stood by him. This and other events, such as the revelation that British atomic bomb scientist Klaus Fuchs was a spy, led current and former members of HUAC, including Congressman Nixon of California and Karl Mundt of South Dakota, to decry Truman and his administration, especially the State Department, as soft on communism. Wisconsin Senator McCarthy used a Lincoln Day speech in Wheeling, West Virginia to accuse the State Department of harboring communists, and rode the controversy to political fame.[140] In the following years, Republicans used Hiss' conviction to castigate the Democrats for harboring communists in government; Congressman Nixon gained election to the Senate in 1950 on an anti-communist platform, defeating the liberal Helen Gahagan Douglas, whom he called "the Pink Lady."[141]

In August 1948, Whittaker Chambers, a former spy for the Soviets and a senior editor at Time magazine, testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). He said that an underground communist network had been working within the U.S. government since the 1930s, of which Chambers had been a member, along with Alger Hiss, until recently a senior State Department official. Although Hiss denied the allegations, he was convicted in January 1950 for perjury for his denials under oath. The Soviet Union's success in exploding an atomic weapon in 1949 and the fall of the nationalist Chinese the same year led many Americans to conclude that subversion by Soviet spies was responsible, and to demand that communists be rooted out from the government and other places of influence.[137][138] However, Truman did not fully share such opinions. He famously called the Hiss trial a "red herring," and the Justice Department was moving to indict Chambers instead of Hiss for perjury.[139]

Soviet espionage and McCarthyism

General Marshall was Truman's principal adviser on foreign policy matters, influencing such decisions as the U.S. choice against offering direct military aid to Chiang Kai-shek and his Nationalist Chinese forces in the Chinese Civil War with their communist opponents. Marshall's opinion was contrary to the counsel of almost all of Truman's other advisers—he thought that even propping up Chiang's forces would drain U.S. resources in Europe needed to deter the Soviets.[133] When the communists took control of the mainland, driving the Nationalists to Taiwan and establishing the People's Republic of China, Truman would have been willing to maintain some relationship between the U.S. and the new government, but Mao was unwilling.[134] On June 27, 1950, after the outbreak of fighting in Korea, Truman ordered the U.S. Navy's Seventh Fleet into the Taiwan Strait to prevent further conflict between the communist government on the China mainland and the Republic of China (ROC) on Taiwan.[135][136]

Truman was a strong supporter of the NATO), which established a formal peacetime military alliance with Canada and democratic European nations that had not fallen under Soviet control following World War II. The treaty establishing it was widely popular and easily passed the Senate in 1949; Truman appointed General Eisenhower as commander. NATO's goals were to contain Soviet expansion in Europe and to send a clear message to communist leaders that the world's democracies were willing and able to build new security structures in support of democratic ideals. The U.S., Britain, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Norway, Denmark, Portugal, Iceland, and Canada were the original treaty signatories. The alliance resulted in the Soviets establishing a similar alliance, called the Warsaw Pact.[131][132]

Early in Truman's second term, his former Secretary of Defense Forrestal died soon after his retirement. Forrestal had become exhausted through years of hard labor during and after the war, and began to suffer depression. He retired in March 1949; soon after, he was hospitalized but he committed suicide in May.[130]

The escalation of the Cold War was highlighted by Truman's approval of NSC-68, a secret statement of foreign policy. It called for tripling the defense budget, and the globalization and militarization of containment policy whereby the U.S. and its NATO allies would respond militarily to actual Soviet expansion. The document was drafted by Paul Nitze, who consulted State and Defense officials; it was formally approved by President Truman as official national strategy after the war began in Korea. It called for partial mobilization of the U.S. economy to build armaments faster than the Soviets. The plan called for strengthening Europe, weakening the Soviet Union, and for building up the U.S. both militarily and economically.[129]

Truman and Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru during Nehru's visit to the United States, October 1949

Worldwide defense

[128] In February 1952, Truman's approval mark stood at 22% according to [127] The war remained a frustrating stalemate for two years, with over 30,000 Americans killed, until an armistice ended the fighting in 1953.

The dismissal of General Douglas MacArthur was among the least politically popular decisions in presidential history. Truman's approval ratings plummeted, and he faced calls for his impeachment from, among others, Senator Robert A. Taft.[125] Fierce criticism from virtually all quarters accused Truman of refusing to shoulder the blame for a war gone sour and blaming his generals instead. Others, including Eleanor Roosevelt, supported and applauded Truman's decision. MacArthur meanwhile returned to the U.S. to a hero's welcome, and addressed a joint session of Congress, a speech which the President called "a bunch of damn bullshit."[126]

Giving Them More Hell

I fired him [MacArthur] because he wouldn't respect the authority of the President... I didn't fire him because he was a dumb son of a bitch, although he was, but that's not against the law for generals. If it was, half to three-quarters of them would be in jail.[37]

Harry S. Truman to biographer Merle Miller, 1972, posthumously quoted in Time magazine, 1973.

However, China surprised the UN forces with a large-scale invasion in November. The UN forces were forced back to below the 38th parallel, then recovered.[123] By early 1951 the war became a fierce stalemate at about the 38th parallel where it had begun. Truman rejected MacArthur's request to attack Chinese supply bases north of the Yalu, but MacArthur promoted his plan to Republican House leader Joseph Martin, who leaked it to the press. Truman was gravely concerned that further escalation of the war might lead to open conflict with the Soviet Union, which was already supplying weapons and providing warplanes (with Korean markings and Soviet aircrew). Therefore, on April 11, 1951, Truman fired MacArthur from his commands.[124]

By August 1950, U.S. troops pouring into South Korea under UN auspices were able to stabilize the situation.[120] Responding to criticism over readiness, Truman fired his Secretary of Defense, Louis A. Johnson, replacing him with the retired General Marshall. With UN approval, Truman decided on a "rollback" policy—conquest of North Korea.[121] UN forces led by General Douglas MacArthur led the counterattack, scoring a stunning surprise victory with an amphibious landing at the Battle of Inchon that nearly trapped the invaders. UN forces marched north, toward the Yalu River boundary with China, with the goal of reuniting Korea under UN auspices.[122]

Truman decided that he did not need formal authorization from Congress, believing that most legislators supported his position; this would come back to haunt him later, when the stalemated conflict was dubbed "Mr. Truman's War" by legislators.[117] However, on July 3, 1950, Truman did give Senate Majority Leader Scott W. Lucas a draft resolution titled "Joint Resolution Expressing Approval of the Action Taken in Korea". Lucas said Congress supported the use of force, that the formal resolution would pass but was unnecessary, and that the consensus in Congress was to acquiesce. Truman responded that he did not want "to appear to be trying to get around Congress and use extra-Constitutional powers," and added that it was "up to Congress whether such a resolution should be introduced."[119]

On June 25, 1950, Kim Il-sung's North Korean People's Army invaded South Korea, starting the Korean War. In the early weeks of the war, the North Koreans easily pushed back their southern counterparts.[117] Truman called for a naval blockade of Korea, only to learn that due to budget cutbacks, the U.S. Navy could not enforce such a measure.[118] Truman promptly urged the United Nations to intervene; it did, authorizing troops under the UN flag led by U.S. General Douglas MacArthur.

President Truman signing a proclamation declaring a national emergency that initiated U.S. involvement in the Korean War
President Truman signing a proclamation declaring a national emergency that initiated U.S. involvement in the Korean War

Korean War

Truman's inauguration was the first ever televised nationally.[115] His second term was grueling, primarily because of foreign policy challenges connected directly or indirectly to his policy of containment. He quickly had to come to terms with the end of the American nuclear monopoly; using information gained by its espionage networks in the U.S., the Soviet Union's atomic bomb project progressed much faster than had been expected, and they detonated their first bomb on August 29, 1949. In response, on January 7, 1953, Truman announced the detonation of the first U.S. hydrogen bomb.[116]

Second term (1949–1953)

In the end, Truman held his progressive Midwestern base, won most of the Southern states despite the civil rights plank, and squeaked through with narrow victories in a few critical states, notably Ohio, California, and Illinois. The final tally showed that the president had secured 303 electoral votes, Dewey 189, and Thurmond only 39. Henry Wallace got none. The defining image of the campaign came after Election Day, when an ecstatic Truman held aloft the erroneous front page of the Chicago Tribune with a huge headline proclaiming "Dewey Defeats Truman."[114]

The large, mostly spontaneous gatherings at Truman's whistle-stop events were an important sign of a change in momentum in the campaign, but this shift went virtually unnoticed by the national press corps. It continued reporting Republican Gallup in October—thus failing to measure the period when Truman appears to have surged past Dewey.[112][113]

The campaign was a 21,928-mile (35,290 km) presidential odyssey.[108] In a personal appeal to the nation, Truman crisscrossed the U.S. by train; his "whistle stop" speeches from the rear platform of the observation car, Ferdinand Magellan, came to represent his campaign. His combative appearances, such as those at the town square of Harrisburg, Illinois, captured the popular imagination and drew huge crowds. Six stops in Michigan drew a combined half-million people;[109] a full million turned out for a New York City ticker-tape parade.[110]

Within two weeks of the convention, in 1948 Truman issued Executive Order 9981, racially integrating the U.S. Armed Services[104][37][105] and Executive Order 9980 to integrate federal agencies. Truman took a considerable political risk in backing civil rights, and many seasoned Democrats were concerned that the loss of Dixiecrat support might destroy the Democratic Party. South Carolina Governor Strom Thurmond, a segregationist, declared his candidacy for the presidency on a Dixiecrat ticket and led a full-scale revolt of Southern "states' rights" proponents. This rebellion on the right was matched by one on the left, led by Wallace on the Progressive Party ticket. Immediately after its first post-FDR convention, the Democratic Party seemed to be disintegrating. Victory in November seemed unlikely as the party was not simply split but divided three ways.[106] For his running mate, Truman accepted Kentucky Senator Alben W. Barkley, though he really wanted Justice William O. Douglas, who turned down the nomination.[107]

At the 1948 Democratic National Convention, Truman attempted to unify the party with a vague civil rights plank in the party platform. His intention was to assuage the internal conflicts between the northern and southern wings of his party. Events overtook his efforts. A sharp address given by Mayor Hubert Humphrey of Minneapolis—as well as the local political interests of a number of urban bosses—convinced the Convention to adopt a stronger civil rights plank, which Truman approved wholeheartedly. All of Alabama's delegates, and a portion of Mississippi's, walked out of the convention in protest.[102] Unfazed, Truman delivered an aggressive acceptance speech attacking the 80th Congress, which Truman called the "Do Nothing Congress,"[73] and promising to win the election and "make these Republicans like it."[103]

Man in gray suit and wire glasses holding newspaper that says
Truman was so widely expected to lose the 1948 election that the Chicago Tribune had printed papers with this incorrect headline before all the returns were in.

The 1948 presidential election is remembered for Truman's stunning come-from-behind victory.[100] In the spring of 1948, Truman's public approval rating stood at 36%,[101] and the president was nearly universally regarded as incapable of winning the general election. The "New Deal" operatives within the party—including FDR's son James—tried to swing the Democratic nomination to General Dwight D. Eisenhower, a highly popular figure whose political views and party affiliation were totally unknown. Eisenhower emphatically refused to accept, and Truman outflanked opponents to his nomination.[100]

1948 election

Hitler had been murdering Jews right and left. I saw it, and I dream about it even to this day. The Jews needed some place where they could go. It is my attitude that the American government couldn't stand idly by while the victims [of] Hitler's madness are not allowed to build new lives.[99]

Truman later wrote:

American policy makers in 1947–48 agreed that the highest foreign policy objective was containment of Soviet expansion as the Cold War unfolded. From the perspective of many officials, Palestine was secondary to the goal of protecting the "Northern Tier" of Greece, Turkey, and Iran from Communism, as promised by the Truman Doctrine.[95] Weary of both the convoluted politics of the Middle East and pressures by Jewish leaders, Truman was undecided on his policy. He later cited as decisive in his recognition of the Jewish state the advice of his former business partner, Eddie Jacobson, a non-religious Jew whom Truman absolutely trusted.[94] Truman decided to recognize Israel over the objections of Secretary of State [96] Truman recognized the State of Israel on May 14, 1948, eleven minutes after it declared itself a nation.[97][98]

Truman had long taken an interest in the history of the Middle East, and had read many books on ancient history and the events related in the Bible. He was sympathetic to those who sought a Jewish homeland in Mandatory Palestine. As a senator, he had assured Jewish leaders of his support for Zionism, and at a 1943 rally in Chicago had called for a homeland for those Jews who survived the Nazi regime. A Jewish homeland in Palestine was widely popular in the United States, and Jewish support appeared to be important in the upcoming presidential election. However, State Department officials were reluctant to offend the Arabs, who were opposed to the establishment of a Jewish state in the large region long populated and dominated culturally by Arabs. Secretary of Defense James Forrestal warned Truman of the importance of Saudi Arabian oil in another war; Truman replied that he would decide his policy on the basis of justice, not oil.[93] When diplomats were called home from the Middle East to advise Truman and express their concerns about trying to set up a Jewish state in the midst of the Arab-majority region, Truman told them he had few Arabs among his constituents.[94]

President Truman in the Oval Office, receiving a Hanukkah Menorah from the Prime Minister of Israel, David Ben-Gurion (center). To the right is Abba Eban, Ambassador of Israel to the U.S.

Recognition of Israel

On June 24, 1948, the Soviet Union blocked access to the three Western-held sectors of Berlin. The Allies had never negotiated a deal to guarantee supply of the sectors deep within the Soviet-occupied zone. The commander of the American occupation zone in Germany, General Lucius D. Clay, proposed sending a large armored column across the Soviet zone to West Berlin with instructions to defend itself if it were stopped or attacked. Truman believed this would entail an unacceptable risk of war. He approved Ernest Bevin's plan to supply the blockaded city by air. On June 25, the Allies initiated the Berlin Airlift, a campaign that delivered food and other supplies, such as coal, using military aircraft on a massive scale. Nothing like it had ever been attempted before, and no single nation had the capability, either logistically or materially, to have accomplished it. The airlift worked; ground access was again granted on May 11, 1949. Nevertheless, the airlift continued for several months after that. The Berlin Airlift was one of Truman's great foreign policy successes; it significantly aided his election campaign in 1948.[92]

Berlin airlift

Although he claimed no personal expertise on foreign matters, Truman won bipartisan support for both the Department of War and the Department of the Navy into the National Military Establishment (later the Department of Defense) and creating the U.S. Air Force. The act also created the CIA and the National Security Council.[91] In 1952, Truman secretly consolidated and empowered the cryptologic elements of the United States by creating the National Security Agency (NSA).

As a Wilsonian internationalist, Truman strongly supported creation of the United Nations, and included Eleanor Roosevelt on the delegation to the UN's first General Assembly.[86] With the Soviet Union expanding its sphere of influence through Eastern Europe, Truman and his foreign policy advisors took a hard line against the USSR. In this, he matched American public opinion, which quickly came to view the Soviets as intent upon world domination.[87]

Creation of United Nations, Marshall Plan, start of Cold War

As he readied for the 1948 election, Truman made clear his identity as a Democrat in the New Deal tradition, advocating national health insurance,[81] the repeal of the Taft–Hartley Act. He broke with the New Deal by initiating an aggressive civil rights program, which he termed a moral priority. Taken together, it constituted a broad legislative agenda that came to be called the "Fair Deal."[82] Truman's proposals were not well received by Congress, even with renewed Democratic majorities in Congress after 1948. The Solid South rejected civil rights, as those states still enforced segregation. Only one of the major Fair Deal bills, the Housing Act of 1949, was ever enacted.[83][84] On the other hand, the major New Deal programs still in operation were not repealed, and there were minor improvements and extensions in many of them.[85]

Truman cooperated closely with the Republican leaders on foreign policy, though he fought them bitterly on domestic issues. The power of the labor unions was significantly curtailed by the Taft–Hartley Act, which was enacted over Truman's veto. Truman twice vetoed bills to lower income tax rates in 1947. Although the initial vetoes were sustained, Congress overrode his veto of a tax cut bill in 1948. The parties did cooperate on some issues; Congress passed the Presidential Succession Act of 1947, making the Speaker of the House rather than the Secretary of State next in line to the presidency after the vice president.[80]

Although labor strife was muted after the settlement of the railway strike, it continued through Truman's presidency. The President's approval rating dropped from 82% in the polls in January 1946 to 52% by June.[77] This dissatisfaction with the Truman administration's policies led to large Democratic losses in the 1946 midterm elections, when Republicans took control of Congress for the first time since 1930. The 80th Congress included Republican freshmen who would become prominent in the years to come, including Wisconsin Senator Joe McCarthy and California Congressman Richard Nixon. When Truman dropped to 32% in the polls, Democratic Arkansas Senator William Fulbright suggested that Truman resign; the President said that he did not care what Senator "Halfbright" said.[78][79]

Truman with Greek American sponge divers, Florida, 1947

The president was faced with the reawakening of labor-management conflicts that had lain dormant during the war years, severe shortages in housing and consumer products, and widespread dissatisfaction with inflation, which at one point hit 6% in a single month.[73] Added to this polarized environment was a wave of destabilizing strikes in major industries. Truman's response to them was generally seen as ineffective.[73] A rapid increase in costs was fueled by the release of price controls on most items, and labor sought wage increases. A serious steel strike in January 1946 involving 800,000 workers—the largest in the nation's history—was followed by a coal strike in April and a rail strike in May. The public was angry, with a majority in polls favoring a ban on strikes by public service workers and a year's moratorium on labor actions. Truman proposed legislation to draft striking workers into the Armed Forces, and in a dramatic personal appearance before Congress, was able to announce settlement of the rail strike. His proposal passed the House of Representatives, but failed in the Senate.[74][75] For commodities where price controls remained, producers were often unwilling to sell at artificially low prices: farmers refused to sell grain for months in 1945 and 1946 until payments were significantly increased, even though grain was desperately needed, not only for domestic use, but to stave off starvation in Europe.[76]

The end of World War II was followed by an uneasy transition from war to a peacetime economy. The costs of the war effort were enormous, and Truman was intent on decreasing government expenditures on the military as quickly as possible. Demobilizing the military and reducing the size of the various services was a cost-saving priority. The effect of demobilization on the economy was unknown, but fears existed that the nation would slide back into a depression. A great deal of work had to be done to plan how best to transition to peacetime production of goods while avoiding mass unemployment for returning veterans. Government officials did not have consensus as to what economic course the postwar U.S. should steer. In addition, Roosevelt had not paid attention to Congress in his final years, and Truman faced a body where a combination of Republicans and conservative southern Democrats formed a powerful voting bloc.[72]

Strikes and economic upheaval

Supporters[2] of Truman's decision argue that, given the tenacious Japanese defense of the outlying islands, the bombings saved hundreds of thousands of lives that would have been lost invading mainland Japan. Critics have argued that the use of nuclear weapons was inherently immoral.[70] Truman strongly defended himself in his memoirs in 1955–56, stating that many lives could have been lost had the U.S. invaded mainland Japan. In 1963 he stood by his decision, telling a journalist "it was done to save 125,000 youngsters on the American side and 125,000 on the Japanese side from getting killed and that is what it did. It probably also saved a half million youngsters on both sides from being maimed for life."[71]

Truman announces Japan's surrender. Washington, DC, August 14, 1945

In August, the Japanese government refused surrender demands as specifically outlined in the Potsdam Declaration and with the invasion of mainland Japan imminent, Truman approved the schedule for dropping the two available bombs. Truman always said that attacking Japan with atomic bombs saved many lives on both sides; military estimates for the invasion of mainland Japan were that it could take a year and result in 250,000 to 500,000 American casualties. Hiroshima was bombed on August 6, and Nagasaki three days later. Japan agreed to surrender the following day.[68][69]

In the wake of Allied victory, Truman journeyed to Europe for the Potsdam Conference. He was there when he learned that the Trinity test of the first atomic bomb on July 16 had been successful. He hinted to Joseph Stalin that the U.S. was about to use a new kind of weapon against the Japanese. Though this was the first time the Soviets had been officially given information about the atomic bomb, Stalin was already aware of the bomb project, having learned about it (through espionage) long before Truman did.[65][66][67]

We have discovered the most terrible bomb in the history of the world. It may be the fire destruction prophesied in the Euphrates Valley Era, after Noah and his fabulous Ark.

Harry Truman, writing about the atomic bomb in his diary[63] on July 25, 1945[64]

Upon assuming the presidency, Truman asked all the members of FDR's cabinet to remain in place, and told them that he was open to their advice. He emphasized a central principle of his administration: he would be the one making decisions, and they were to support him.[60] Although Truman was told briefly on the afternoon of April 12 that the Allies had a new, highly destructive weapon, it was not until April 25 that Secretary of War Henry Stimson told him the details. Truman benefited from a honeymoon period after Roosevelt's death, and from the Allies' success in Europe, wrapping up the war there. Truman was pleased to issue the proclamation of V-E Day on May 8, 1945, his 61st birthday.[61][62]

Boys, if you ever pray, pray for me now. I don't know if you fellas ever had a load of hay fall on you, but when they told me what happened yesterday, I felt like the moon, the stars, and all the planets had fallen on me.[58][59]

Shortly after taking the oath of office, Truman said to reporters:

Three men in suits standing with several men in the background
Joseph Stalin, Harry S Truman, and Winston Churchill in Potsdam, July 1945

Assuming office and the atomic bomb

First term (1945–1949)


Truman had been vice president for 82 days when President Roosevelt died on April 12, 1945.[55] That afternoon, Truman presided over the Senate as usual. He had just adjourned the session for the day and was preparing to have a drink in House Speaker Sam Rayburn's office when he received an urgent message to go immediately to the White House. Truman assumed that President Roosevelt wanted to meet with him, but Eleanor Roosevelt informed him that her husband had died after suffering a massive cerebral hemorrhage. Truman's first concern was for Mrs. Roosevelt. He asked if there was anything he could do for her, to which she replied, "Is there anything we can do for you? You are the one in trouble now!"[56][57]

Truman's brief vice-presidency was relatively uneventful. He cast his tie-breaking vote as President of the Senate to confirm former Vice-President Henry Wallace as Secretary of Commerce.[53] Roosevelt rarely contacted him, even to inform him of major decisions; the President and Vice President met alone together only twice during their time in office.[54] In one of his first acts as vice president, Truman created some controversy when he attended the disgraced Pendergast's funeral. He brushed the criticism aside, saying simply, "He was always my friend and I have always been his."[9] He had rarely discussed world affairs or domestic politics with Roosevelt; he was uninformed about major initiatives relating to the war and the top-secret Manhattan Project, which was about to test the world's first atomic bomb.[55]

Truman's nomination, dubbed the "Second Missouri Compromise," was well received. The Roosevelt–Truman ticket achieved a 432–99 electoral-vote victory in the election, defeating the Republican ticket of Governor Thomas E. Dewey of New York and running mate Governor John Bricker of Ohio. Truman was sworn in as vice president on January 20, 1945.[52]

[51]. State and city party leaders strongly preferred Truman, and Roosevelt agreed. Truman did not campaign for the Vice-Presidential spot, though he welcomed the attention as evidence that he had become more than the "Senator from Pendergast".William O. Douglas Justice Supreme Court Roosevelt told party leaders he would accept either Truman or [50] Vice President

election poster from 1944 with Roosevelt and Truman
Roosevelt/Truman poster from 1944

Vice presidency

If we see that Germany is winning we ought to help Russia, and if Russia is winning we ought to help Germany, and that way let them kill as many as possible although I don't want to see Hitler victorious under any circumstances.

Harry Truman, one week after Hitler invaded the Soviet Union in 1941[49]

In late-1940, Truman traveled to various military bases. The waste and profiteering he saw led him to use his subcommittee chairmanship in the Committee on Military Affairs to begin investigations into abuses while the nation prepared for war. A separate committee to conduct a formal investigation was set up under Truman; the Roosevelt administration supported this plan rather than weather a more hostile probe by the House of Representatives. Chairmanship of what came to be known as the Truman Committee made him a national figure.[42] Activities of the Truman Committee ranged from criticizing the "dollar-a-year men" hired by the government, many of whom proved ineffective, to investigating a shoddily built New Jersey housing project for war workers.[43][37] The committee is reported to have saved as much as $15 billion;[44][45][46][47] its activities put Truman on the cover of Time magazine.[37] According to the Senate's historical minutes, in leading the committee, "Truman erased his earlier public image as an errand-runner for Kansas City politicos" and "no senator ever gained greater political benefits from chairing a special investigating committee than did Missouri's Harry S. Truman."[48]

During the US Senate election in 1940, United States Attorney Maurice Milligan and former governor Lloyd Stark both challenged Truman in the Democratic primary. Truman was politically weakened by Pendergast's imprisonment for income tax evasion the previous year; the senator had remained loyal, having claimed that Republican judges (not the Roosevelt administration) were responsible for the boss' downfall.[40] St. Louis party leader Robert E. Hannegan's support of Truman proved crucial; he later brokered the deal that put Truman on the national ticket. In the end, Stark and Milligan both split up the anti-Pendergast vote in the Senate Democratic primary and Truman won by a total of 8,000 votes. In the November election, Truman defeated Republican Manvel H. Davis by 51–49%.[41]

Truman assumed office with a reputation as "the senator from Pendergast." Although he turned over patronage decisions to Pendergast, Truman always maintained that he voted his conscience. He later defended the patronage decisions by saying that "by offering a little to the machine, [he] saved a lot".[36][37] In his first term as a U.S. Senator from Missouri, Truman spoke out against corporate greed and the dangers of Wall Street speculators and other moneyed special interests attaining too much influence in national affairs.[38] He was largely ignored by Democratic President Roosevelt and had trouble with getting calls to the White House returned.[36][39]

After serving as a county judge, Truman wanted to run for Governor or Congress, but Pendergast rejected these ideas. Truman thought that he would serve out his career in some well-paying sinecure at the county level. After four other men turned him down, Pendergast reluctantly backed Truman as a Democratic candidate for the 1934 U.S. Senate election for Missouri.[34] During the Democratic primary, Truman defeated two congressmen, John J. Cochran and Jacob L. Milligan, with the solid support of Jackson County, which was crucial to his candidacy, as were the contacts he had made statewide as a county official. Truman defeated the incumbent Republican Roscoe C. Patterson by nearly 20 percentage points.[34][35][36]

Inside of wooden desk with several names carved into it
Drawer from the Senate desk used by Truman

As U.S. Senator from Missouri

In 1933, Truman was named Missouri's director for the Federal Re-Employment program (part of the Civil Works Administration) at the request of Postmaster General James Farley. This was payback to Pendergast for delivering the Kansas City vote to Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1932 presidential election. The appointment confirmed Pendergast's control over federal patronage jobs in Missouri and marked the zenith of his power. It also created a relationship between Truman and Roosevelt aide Harry Hopkins and assured Truman's avid support for the New Deal.[33]

In 1926, Truman was elected as the presiding judge for the county court (similar to a county commission) with the support of the Pendergast machine, and was re-elected in 1930. Truman helped coordinate the "Ten Year Plan", which transformed Jackson County and the Kansas City skyline with new public works projects, including an extensive series of roads and construction of a new Wight and Wight-designed County Court building. Also in 1926, he became president of the National Old Trails Road Association (NOTRA). He oversaw the dedication in the late 1920s of a series of 12 Madonna of the Trail monuments honoring pioneer women, which were installed along the trail.[31][32]

With the help of the Kansas City Democratic machine led by Tom Pendergast, Truman was elected in 1922 as a County Court judge of Jackson County's eastern district—this was an administrative rather than judicial position, somewhat similar to county commissioners elsewhere.[30] Truman was not re-elected in 1924, losing in a Republican wave led by President Calvin Coolidge. Two years selling automobile club memberships in the political wilderness convinced him that a public service career was safer for a man approaching middle-age who had never been successful in the private sector.[31]

Shortly before the wedding, Truman and Jacobson opened a haberdashery together at 104 West 12th Street in downtown Kansas City. After brief initial success, the store went bankrupt during the recession of 1921.[9] Truman did not pay off the last of the debts from that venture until 1934, when he did so with the aid of a supporter.[28] Jacobson and Truman remained close friends, and Jacobson's advice to Truman on Zionism later played a role in the U.S. government's decision to recognize Israel.[29]

At the war's conclusion, Truman was mustered out as a captain. He returned to Independence, where he married Bess Wallace on June 28, 1919.[26] The couple had one child, Mary Margaret Truman.[27]

Wedding photo of Truman in gray suit and his wife in hat with white dress holding flowers
The Trumans' wedding day, June 28, 1919

As Jackson County judge


Young Truman was brought up in the Presbyterian and Baptist churches; he avoided revivals and sometimes ridiculed revivalist preachers. He rarely spoke about religion, which to him primarily meant ethical behavior along traditional Protestant lines. Most of the soldiers he commanded in the war were Catholics, and he got along with Jews and all denominations.[25]

The war was a transformative experience that brought out Truman's leadership qualities. Despite beginning 1917 as a family farmer who had been unsuccessful in several business ventures, Truman achieved a war record and gained leadership experience that supported his postwar political career in Missouri.[17]

[17] after their return to the United States.loving cup On November 11, 1918, his artillery unit fired some of the last shots of World War I before the armistice took effect at 11 am. Under Truman's command in France, the battery did not lose a single man, and his men presented Truman with a large [24]