Harry S. Truman is born

Harry S. Truman is born

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On May 8, 1884, Harry S. Truman is born in Lamar, Missouri. He joined the army at the relatively advanced age of 33 in 1916 to fight in World War I. After the war, he opened a haberdashery in Kansas City. When that business went bankrupt in 1922, he entered Missouri politics. Truman went on to serve in the U.S. Senate from 1934 until he was chosen as Franklin D. Roosevelt’s third vice president in 1945; it was during his Senate terms that he developed a reputation for honesty and integrity.

Upon FDR’s death on April 12, 1945, Truman became the 33rd president of the United States, assuming the role of commander in chief of a country still embroiled in World War II. With victory in Europe imminent, Truman agonized over whether or not to use the recently developed atomic bomb to force Japan to surrender. After only four months in office, Truman authorized the dropping of two atomic bombs on Japan in August 1945. He and his military advisors argued that using the bomb ultimately saved American and Japanese lives, since it appeared that the Japanese would fiercely resist any conventional attempt by the Allies to invade Japan and end the war. The use of the new weapon, dropped on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in early August, succeeded in forcing Japan’s surrender, but also ushered in the Cold War. From that point until the late 1980s, the U.S. and Russia raced to out-spend and out-produce each other in nuclear weaponry.

READ MORE: Hiroshima, Then Nagasaki: Why the US Deployed the Second A-Bomb

After the war, the long-term and deadly effects of radiation fall-out on human beings were bleakly illustrated in pictures of the Japanese who survived the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. Images and information released after the war regarding illnesses and environmental devastation related to nuclear weapons shocked the world and earned Truman lasting criticism for ushering in the possibility of complete global annihilation through nuclear warfare.

Although best known—and reviled by some—as the only president to choose to use nuclear weapons against innocent civilians in combat, Truman’s time in the executive branch was also notable in other areas. In 1941, Truman drove 10,000 miles across the country in his Dodge to investigate potential war profiteering in defense plants on the eve of World War II. After World War II, Truman helped push the Marshall Plan through Congress, which provided desperately needed reconstruction aid to European nations devastated by the war and on the verge of widespread famine. He also supported the establishment of a permanent Israeli state.

Truman was also known for his explosive temper and fierce loyalty to his family. In December 1950, his daughter Margaret gave a singing recital that was panned the following day in the Washington Post. Truman was so furious that he wrote a letter to the editor in which he threatened to give the reviewer a black eye and a broken nose. This was just one of many events that illustrated Truman's feisty, no-nonsense style, for which he was earlier given the nickname “Give ’em hell, Harry.”

Truman served as president for two terms from 1945 to 1953, when he and his wife Bess happily retired to Independence, Missouri, where he often referred to himself jokingly as “Mr. Citizen.” He died there on December 26, 1972.

Incidentally, Harry Truman's middle name really was just “S.” According to the Truman Library the “S” was a compromise between the names of his grandfathers, Anderson Shipp Truman and Solomon Young.

Harry S. Truman Scholarship

The Harry S. Truman Scholarship is the premier graduate fellowship in the United States for public service leadership. [1] It is a federally funded scholarship granted to U.S. undergraduate students for demonstrated leadership potential, academic excellence, and a commitment to public service. [2] It is administered by the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation, an independent federal agency based in Washington, D.C.

Congress created the scholarship in 1975 as a living memorial to the 33rd president of the United States. Instead of a statue, the Truman Scholarship is the official federal memorial to its namesake president. According to The Washington Post, the Truman Scholarship's "sole aim is to pick out people with potential to become leaders—then provide support to help them realize their aspirations." [3] The scholarship supports public service oriented graduate study in the amount of $30,000.

Each year, between 50 and 60 university nominated candidates in their junior year are named Truman Scholars following a rigorous application process involving essays, recommendations, and an interview. [4] Scholarships have historically been awarded to one individual from each U.S. state. [5] Each university in the United States may only nominate four candidates annually, who represent the most accomplished nominees from that university. [6]


The Truman Home (earlier known as the Gates–Wallace home), 219 North Delaware Street, Independence, Missouri, was the home of Harry S. Truman from the time of his marriage to Bess Wallace on June 28, 1919, until his death on December 26, 1972. Bess Truman's maternal grandfather, George Porterfield Gates, built the house between the years 1867 and 1885.

After Bess's father, David Willock Wallace, committed suicide in 1903, she and her mother and brothers moved into the house with Bess's grandparents, George and Elizabeth Gates. At the time Harry and Bess married in 1919, Harry was putting all of his money into his business partnership, a men's clothing store called Truman & Jacobson at 104 West 12th Street in downtown Kansas City, so living at the Wallace home made good financial sense.

After Truman's haberdashery failed in 1922, he and his wife continued to live in the house to save money while he paid his debts. After being elected to the Senate in 1935, he moved to Washington, D.C. with his wife and daughter. Whenever they came back to Missouri, the house at 219 N. Delaware was their home.

After he retired in 1953, until the Truman Library was opened on July 6, 1957, the Truman Home served as Mr. Truman's personal office. Bess lived in the home until her death in 1982, and she bequeathed the property to the National Park Service. [4] The home was closed for 8 months in 2009-10 for a $1.1 million renovation that improved fire safety, visitor comfort and structural stability. [5]

The Truman Home offers a glimpse at the personal life of the 33rd President of the United States, particularly the simple life the family enjoyed in Independence before and after Harry's eight years as President. The Trumans' only child, Mary Margaret, was born in the home on February 17, 1924. The site also includes the two adjacent homes of Mrs. Truman's brothers, and, across Delaware Street, the Noland Home, where the President's favorite aunt and cousins lived. The site operates a visitor center, located inside an historic firehouse, in downtown Independence. NPS park ranger-interpreters lead guided tours of the home on a regular basis, providing a look at the home much as the Truman family left it. [6]

The second floor of the home has never been open to the public – Bess wrote into her will that to protect her family's privacy, the second floor was to remain closed until the death of her daughter, Margaret. Though Margaret died in 2008, the NPS has maintained the closure in order to best preserve the home. [4] A photo tour of the closed rooms, including Harry and Bess's bedroom, is available.

On display in the ground floor of the home is the Steinway piano Truman originally purchased as a Christmas present for Margaret, and which was played by Truman in the White House a portion of the Trumans' extensive personal library (including the mysteries preferred by Bess) the family record collection the official White House portrait of the First Lady (the one in Washington D.C. is a copy): and paintings including a panorama of Athens, Greece, a "primitive" of Key West featuring palm trees and a backward-looking donkey, and a canvas entitled "Swan River." The fireplace is framed with tiles depicting a fanciful Middle Eastern desert landscape with tents and minarets, likely inspired by One Thousand and One Nights.

Truman is one of the few Presidents who never owned his own home prior to his time in office. He lived with his parents until he married, then in the Wallace House, in rented apartments and houses in Washington (including 4701 Connecticut Avenue), in Blair House (the official state visitors residence), and in the White House, but it was not until July 1953, following his term of office and the December 1952 death of Madge Gates Wallace, that Harry and Bess Truman purchased the home at 219 North Delaware Street.

The Harry S. Truman Farm Home is located 15 miles (24 km) away from Independence in Grandview, Missouri. A National Historic Landmark, the farmhouse at 12301 Blue Ridge Blvd. was built in 1894 by Harry Truman's maternal grandmother, and is the centerpiece of a 5.25 acres (2.12 ha) remnant of the family's former 600-acre (240 ha) farm. Truman worked the farm as a young man, from 1906–1917. It was here, said his mother, that Harry got his "common sense." There is no visitor center on the site, but the grounds are open year-round for self-guided tours, and an audio tour is available. [6] Guided tours were formerly conducted during the summer, but were cancelled in 2013 due to sequestration-related budget cuts. [7]

The site consists of a two-story farm house a reconstructed smokehouse the Grandview post office-turned-garage (Truman moved it to the farm to store his 1911 Stafford automobile) a restored box wagon once used on the farm and several stone fence posts marking the original boundaries of the farm, plus other original and reconstructed buildings.

After Truman returned to private life he sold portions of the farm for the Truman Corners Shopping Center as well as other Kansas City suburban development.

Sometimes an “S” is just an “S”

When future President Harry S. Truman was born on May 8, 1884, his parents decided to name him Harry, after his mother’s brother Harrison Young. But what about a middle name? Harry’s parents could not come to a decision—should Harry’s middle name be Shipp, in honor of his paternal grandfather, Anderson Shipp Truman? Or should it be Solomon, in honor of his maternal grandfather, Solomon Young?

In the end, they entered his middle name as simply S, which led to a never-ending controversy and questions about Harry S. Truman’s middle name.

Many people tried to give Truman a middle name. When Truman took the oath of office upon the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt on April 12, 1945, Chief Justice Harlan F. Stone delivered the oath as “I, Harry Shipp Truman.” When Truman repeated it back, he made the subtle correction, “I, Harry S. Truman.”

Truman often received mail addressed to “Harry Solomon Truman,” “Harry Simpson Truman” and “Harry Shippe Truman.” In 1955, on a visit to Eugene, Oregon, to raise money for the construction of the Truman Library, the Swinomish Indian tribe gave Truman the ceremonial middle name of Swinomish.

But if Truman’s middle name is just S, and does not stand for anything else, why does the Truman Library use a period after the S? The reason is simple: Harry Truman did.

The Truman Library is filled with numerous examples, from Truman’s boyhood through his old age, where the period after the S is very clear. Other times, especially while he served as President, Truman ran his signature into a single stroke of the pen and the period can be difficult to decipher. Other times it is quite emphatic.

Another reason the Truman Library also uses “S.” is that the library follows the guidance of the U.S. Government Printing Office Style Manual, which states that the period should be used as part of Truman’s middle name, partly for the sake of consistency.

This leads to another question that Truman asked his friend and former Secretary of State Dean Acheson: what does one call Truman’s middle name? In a letter to Acheson in 1957, Truman writes “…do you know the word meaning an initial standing in a name but signifying no name itself, as the ‘S’ in Harry S. Truman?”

This leads to an entertaining response from Acheson, who contacts several librarians and reports back on his search:

The essence of the matter is that we are blind men, searching in a dark room for a black hat which isn’t there. The “S” in Harry S Truman (no period after the “S”) does not “stand for anything.” Therefore, it cannot have a descriptive noun—“vacuum,” “nothing,” etc., are already pre-empted. But, more positively, it is something—not representatively, but absolutely. You are “S” (without a period) because it is your name.

One of the librarians stated in her report that she understood Truman’s parents gave him S as a middle name. “Parents can name their child anything they please, and if they choose to name him X, then X is his name,” she wrote. “On the other hand it seems a pity to offer nothing to an ex-President. Why not make up a word? I suggest sic, meaning ‘so in christening.’”

Early life and career

Truman was the eldest of three children of John A. and Martha E. Truman his father was a mule trader and farmer. After graduating from high school in 1901 in Independence, Missouri, he went to work as a bank clerk in Kansas City. In 1906 he moved to the family farm near Grandview, and he took over the farm management after his father’s death in 1914. When the United States entered World War I in 1917, Truman—nearly 33 years old and with two tours in the National Guard (1905–11) behind him—immediately volunteered. He was sent overseas a year later and served in France as the captain of Battery D, a field artillery unit that saw action at Saint Mihiel and the Meuse-Argonne. The men under his command came to be devoted to him, admiring him for his bravery and evenhanded leadership.

Returning to the United States in 1919, Truman married Elizabeth Wallace (Bess Truman), whom he had known since childhood. With army friend Edward Jacobson he opened a haberdashery, but the business failed in the severe recession of the early 1920s. Another army friend introduced him to Thomas Pendergast, Democratic boss of Kansas City. With the backing of the Pendergast machine, Truman launched his political career in 1922, running successfully for county judge. He lost his bid for reelection in 1924, but he was elected presiding judge of the county court in 1926, again with Pendergast’s support. He served two four-year terms, during which he acquired a reputation for honesty (unusual among Pendergast politicians) and for skillful management.

In 1934 Truman’s political career seemed at an end because of the two-term tradition attached to his job and the reluctance of the Pendergast machine to advance him to higher office. When several people rejected the machine’s offer to run in the Democratic primary for a seat in the U.S. Senate, however, Pendergast extended the offer to Truman, who quickly accepted. He won the primary with a 40,000-vote plurality, assuring his election in solidly Democratic Missouri. In January 1935 Truman was sworn in as Missouri’s junior senator by Vice Pres. John Nance Garner.

He began his Senate career under the cloud of being a puppet of the corrupt Pendergast, but Truman’s friendliness, personal integrity, and attention to the duties of his office soon won over his colleagues. He was responsible for two major pieces of legislation: the Civil Aeronautics Act of 1938, establishing government regulation of the aviation industry, and the Wheeler-Truman Transportation Act of 1940, providing government oversight of railroad reorganization. Following a tough Democratic primary victory in 1940, he won a second term in the Senate, and it was during this term that he gained national recognition for leading an investigation into fraud and waste in the U.S. military. While taking care not to jeopardize the massive effort being launched to prepare the nation for war, the Truman Committee (officially the Special Committee Investigating National Defense) exposed graft and deficiencies in production. The committee made it a practice to issue draft reports of its findings to corporations, unions, and government agencies under investigation, allowing for the correction of abuses before formal action was initiated.

Respected by his Senate colleagues and admired by the public at large, Truman was selected to run as Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s vice president on the 1944 Democratic ticket, replacing Henry A. Wallace. The Roosevelt-Truman ticket garnered 53 percent of the vote to 46 percent for their Republican rivals, and Truman took the oath of office as vice president on January 20, 1945. His term lasted just 82 days, however, during which time he met with the president only twice. Roosevelt, who apparently did not realize how ill he was, made little effort to inform Truman about the administration’s programs and plans, nor did he prepare Truman for dealing with the heavy responsibilities that were about to devolve upon him.


Wallace House (also called the Truman Home), 219 North Delaware Street, Independence, Missouri, would be the home of Harry S. Truman, on-and-off, after his marriage to Bess Wallace, on June 28, 1919 until his death on December 26, 1972. Bess Truman's maternal grandfather, George Porterfield Gates, built the house over a period of years from 1867 to 1895.

Bess's mother, Madge Gates Wallace, wanted the couple to live there with her. Bess had lived with her mother after Bess's father, David Willock Wallace, committed suicide in 1903, both of them moving in with Madge's parents. Also in 1919, Harry was putting all of his money into the men's clothing store of Truman & Jacobson open at 104 West 12th St. in downtown Kansas City, so living at the Wallace home made good financial sense.

After the haberdashery failed, in 1922, Harry and Bess could not afford to move to a new home. So they would continue living there while Harry paid off the debts from the store. That same year he went into politics, and would eventually move to Washington, D.C. Whenever they came back to Missouri, the Wallace House was their home.

The Trumans' only child Mary Margaret was born in the home on February 17, 1924. The site also includes the two adjacent homes of Mrs. Truman's brothers, and, across Delaware Street, the home of the President's favorite aunt and cousins. Guided tours of the site are conducted, and a visitor's center is housed in a nearby historic firehouse.

After he retired in 1953, until the Truman Library was opened on July 6, 1957, the Wallace House was also his office.

Truman is one of the few Presidents who never owned a home. He would live with family members in his early life, then the Wallace House, rented apartments and houses in Washington (including 4701 Connecticut Avenue), Blair House (the official state visitors' residence), and the White House, but never a house that he had purchased.

After the War

In spite of these early successes, Truman’s diplomatic situation was beset with challenges. Although the Soviet Union had been a powerful ally to the United States during the war, international relations deteriorated quickly when it became apparent that the Soviets intended to remain in control of Eastern European nations that were expected to be reestablished according to their pre-Hitler governments. This, along with the exclusion of the Soviets from the reconstruction of Asia, began the Cold War.


Truman was born in Lamar, Missouri, on May 8, 1884, the oldest child of John Anderson Truman and Martha Ellen Young Truman. He was named for his maternal uncle, Harrison "Harry" Young. His middle initial, "S", honors his grandfathers, Anderson Shipp Truman and Solomon Young. [7] [b] A brother, John Vivian, was born soon after Harry, followed by sister Mary Jane. [8] Truman's ancestry is primarily English with some Scots-Irish, German, and French. [9] [10]

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, Missouri. The family next moved to Belton and in 1887 to his grandparents' 600-acre (240 ha) farm in Grandview. [11] When Truman was six, his parents moved to Independence, Missouri, so he could attend the Presbyterian Church Sunday School. He did not attend a conventional school until he was eight. [12] While living in Independence, he served as a Shabbos goy for Jewish neighbors, doing tasks for them on Shabbat that their religion prevented them from doing on that day. [13] [14] [15]

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. [16] He rose at five every morning to practice the piano, which he studied more than twice a week until he was fifteen, becoming quite a skilled player. [17] Truman worked as a page at the 1900 Democratic National Convention in Kansas City [18] his father had many friends active in the Democratic Party who helped young Harry to gain his first political position. [19]

After graduating from Independence High School in 1901, Truman enrolled in Spalding's Commercial College, a Kansas City business school. He studied bookkeeping, shorthand, and typing but left after a year. [20]

Truman made use of his business college experience to obtain a job as a timekeeper on the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway, sleeping in hobo camps near the rail lines. [21] He then took on a series of clerical jobs and was employed briefly in the mailroom of The Kansas City Star. Truman and his brother Vivian later worked as clerks at the National Bank of Commerce in Kansas City.

He returned in 1906 to the Grandview farm, where he lived until entering the army in 1917. [22] During this period, he courted Bess Wallace. He proposed in 1911, but she turned him down. Truman later said he intended to propose again, but he wanted to have a better income than that earned by a farmer. [23] To that end, during his years on the farm and immediately after World War I, he became active in several business ventures, including a lead and zinc mine near Commerce, Oklahoma, [24] a company that bought land and leased the oil drilling rights to prospectors, [25] and speculation in Kansas City real estate. [26] Truman occasionally derived some income from these enterprises, but none proved successful in the long term. [27]

Truman is the only president since William McKinley (elected in 1896) who did not earn a college degree. [28] In addition to having briefly attended business college, from 1923 to 1925 he took night courses toward an LL.B. 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. [29] He was informed by attorneys in the Kansas City area that his education and experience were probably sufficient to receive a license to practice law. He did not pursue it, however, because he won election as presiding judge. [30]

While serving as president in 1947, Truman applied for a license to practice law. [31] A friend who was an attorney began working out the arrangements, and he informed Truman that his application had to be notarized. By the time Truman received this information he had changed his mind, so he never sought notarization. After the rediscovery of Truman's application, in 1996 the Missouri Supreme Court issued Truman a posthumous honorary law license. [32]

National Guard

Because he lacked the funds for college, Truman considered attending the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, which had no tuition, but he was refused an appointment because of poor eyesight. [29] He enlisted in the Missouri National Guard in 1905 and served until 1911 in the Kansas City-based Battery B, 2nd Missouri Field Artillery Regiment, in which he attained the rank of corporal. [33] At his induction, his eyesight without glasses was unacceptable 20/50 in the right eye and 20/400 in the left (past the standard for legal blindness). [34] The second time he took the test, he passed by secretly memorizing the eye chart. [35] He was described as 5 feet 10 inches tall, gray eyed, dark haired and of light complexion. [36]

World War I

When the United States entered World War I in 1917, Truman rejoined Battery B, successfully recruiting new soldiers for the expanding unit, for which he was elected as their first lieutenant. [37] Before deployment to France, Truman was sent for training to Camp Doniphan, Fort Sill, near Lawton, Oklahoma when his regiment was federalized as the 129th Field Artillery. [38] The regimental commander during its training was Robert M. Danford, who later served as the Army's Chief of Field Artillery. [39] Truman later said he learned more practical, useful information from Danford in six weeks than from six months of formal Army instruction, and when Truman later served as an artillery instructor, he consciously patterned his approach on Danford's. [39]

Truman also ran the camp canteen with Edward Jacobson, a clothing store clerk he knew from Kansas City. Unlike most canteens funded by unit members, which usually lost money, the canteen operated by Truman and Jacobson turned a profit, returning each soldier's initial $2 investment and $10,000 in dividends in six months. [33] At Fort Sill, Truman met Lieutenant James M. Pendergast, nephew of Tom Pendergast, a Kansas City political boss, a connection that had a profound influence on Truman's later life. [40] [41]

In mid-1918, about one million soldiers of the American Expeditionary Forces were in France. [42] Truman was promoted to captain effective April 23, [43] and in July became commander of the newly arrived Battery D, 129th Field Artillery, 35th Division. [44] [45] Battery D was known for its discipline problems, and Truman was initially unpopular because of his efforts to restore order. [33] Despite attempts by the men to intimidate him into quitting, Truman succeeded by making his corporals and sergeants accountable for discipline. He promised to back them up if they performed capably, and reduce them to private if they did not. [46] In an event memorialized in battery lore as "The Battle of Who Run", his soldiers began to flee during a sudden night attack by the Germans in the Vosges Mountains Truman succeeded at ordering his men to stay and fight, using profanity from his railroad days. The men were so surprised to hear Truman use such language that they immediately obeyed. [33]

Truman's unit joined in a massive prearranged assault barrage on September 26, 1918, at the opening of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. [47] They advanced with difficulty over pitted terrain to follow the infantry, and set up an observation post west of Cheppy. [47] On September 27, Truman saw through his binoculars an enemy artillery battery setting up across a river in a position allowing them to fire upon the neighboring 28th Division. [47] 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, ensuring they could not relocate out of range of Truman's battery. [47] He then ordered his men to open fire, and their attack destroyed the enemy battery. [47] His actions were credited with saving the lives of 28th Division soldiers who otherwise would have come under fire from the Germans. [48] [49] Truman was given a dressing down by his regimental commander, Colonel Karl D. Klemm, who threatened to convene a court-martial, but Klemm never followed through, and Truman was not punished. [47]

In other action during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, Truman's battery provided support for George S. Patton's tank brigade, [50] and fired some of the last shots of the war on November 11, 1918. Battery D did not lose any men while under Truman's command in France. To show their appreciation of his leadership, his men presented him with a large loving cup upon their return to the United States after the war. [33]

The war was a transformative experience in which Truman manifested his leadership qualities. He had entered the service in 1917 as a family farmer who had worked in clerical jobs that did not require the ability to motivate and direct others, but during the war, he gained leadership experience and a record of success that greatly enhanced and supported his post-war political career in Missouri. [33]

Truman was brought up in the Presbyterian and Baptist churches, [51] but avoided revivals and sometimes ridiculed revivalist preachers. [52] He rarely spoke about religion, which to him, primarily meant ethical behavior along traditional Protestant lines. [53] Most of the soldiers he commanded in the war were Catholics, and one of his close friends was the 129th Field Artillery's chaplain, Monsignor L. Curtis Tiernan. [54] The two remained friends until Tiernan's death in 1960. [55] Developing leadership and interpersonal skills that later made him a successful politician helped Truman get along with his Catholic soldiers, as he did with soldiers of other Christian denominations and the unit's Jewish members. [56] [57]

Officers' Reserve Corps

Truman was honorably discharged from the Army as a captain on May 6, 1919. [58] In 1920 he was appointed a major in the Officers Reserve Corps. He became a lieutenant colonel in 1925 and a colonel in 1932. [59] In the 1920s and 1930s he commanded 1st Battalion, 379th Field Artillery, 102d Infantry Division. [60] After promotion to colonel, Truman advanced to command of the same regiment. [61]

After his election to the U.S. Senate, Truman was transferred to the General Assignments Group, a holding unit for less active officers, although he had not been consulted in advance. [62] Truman protested his reassignment, which led to his resumption of regimental command. [62] He remained an active reservist until the early 1940s. [63] Truman volunteered for active military service during World War II, but was not accepted, partly because of age, and partly because President Franklin D. Roosevelt desired Senators and Congressman who belonged to the military reserves to support the war effort by remaining in Congress, or by ending their active duty service and resuming their Congressional seats. [64] He was an inactive reservist from the early 1940s until retiring as a colonel in the then redesignated U.S. Army Reserve on January 20, 1953. [65]

Military awards and decorations

Truman was awarded a World War I Victory Medal with two battle clasps (for St. Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne) and a Defensive Sector Clasp. He was also the recipient of two Armed Forces Reserve Medals. [66]

Harry S Truman

Harry S. Truman was born in 1884 and served as the 33rd president of the United States from 1945 to 1953, succeeding upon the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt after serving as vice president. He implemented the Marshall Plan to rebuild the economy of Western Europe, and established the Truman Doctrine and NATO.

Truman was elected to the United States Senate in 1934 and gained national prominence as chairman of the Truman Committee aimed at waste and inefficiency in wartime contracts. Soon after succeeding to the presidency he authorized the first and only use of nuclear weapons in war. Truman’s administration engaged in an internationalist foreign policy and renounced isolationism. He rallied his New Deal coalition during the 1948 presidential election and won a surprise victory that secured his own presidential term.

Stalin, Truman & Churchill in Potsdam, July 1945 (Source: Wikipedia)

Truman oversaw the Berlin Airlift of 1948. When Communist North Korea invaded South Korea in 1950, he gained United Nations approval for the very large policy action known as the Korean War. It saved South Korea but the Chinese intervened, driving back the UN/US forces and preventing a rollback of Communism in North Korea. On domestic issues, bills endorsed by Truman faced opposition from a conservative Congress, but his administration successfully guided the U.S. economy through the post-war economic challenges. In 1948 he submitted the first comprehensive civil rights legislation and issued Executive Orders to start racial integration in the military and federal agencies.

Allegations of corruption in the Truman administration became a central campaign issue in the 1952 presidential election and accounted for Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower’s electoral victory against Democrat Adlai Stevenson II. Truman’s financially difficult retirement was marked by the founding of his presidential library and the publication of his memoirs. When he left office, Truman’s presidency was criticized, but scholars rehabilitated his image in the 1960s and he is ranked as one of the best presidents.

Harry S. Truman

During his few weeks as vice president, Harry S. Truman scarcely saw President Roosevelt, and received no briefing on the development of the atomic bomb or the unfolding difficulties with Soviet Russia. Suddenly these and a host of other wartime problems became Truman’s when, on April 12, 1945, he became president when Roosevelt died. He told reporters, “I felt like the moon, the stars, and all the planets had fallen on me.”

Truman was born in Lamar, Missouri, on May 8, 1884. He grew up in Independence, and for twelve years prospered as a farmer. He went to France during World War I as a captain in the Field Artillery. Returning, he married Elizabeth (Bess) Virginia Wallace, and opened a haberdashery in Kansas City, which failed.

Active in the Democratic Party, Truman was elected a judge of the Jackson County Court (an administrative position) in 1922. He became a senator in 1934. During World War II he headed the Senate War Investigating Committee, exposing waste and corruption and saving perhaps as much as $15 billion.

As president, Truman made some of the most crucial decisions in history. Soon after V-E Day, the war against Japan had reached its final stage. An urgent plea to Japan to surrender was rejected. Truman, after consultations with his advisers, ordered atomic bombs dropped on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Japanese surrender quickly followed. In June 1945 Truman witnessed the signing of the charter of the United Nations.

Soon he presented to Congress a 21-point program, proposing the expansion of Social Security, a full-employment program, a permanent Fair Employment Practices Act, and public housing and slum clearance. The program, Truman wrote, “symbolizes for me my assumption of the office of president in my own right.” It became known as the Fair Deal.

In 1947 the Soviet Union pressured Turkey and, through guerrillas, threatened to take over Greece. Truman asked Congress to aid the two countries, as part of what was soon called the Truman Doctrine. The Marshall Plan, named for his secretary of state, stimulated spectacular economic recovery in war-torn western Europe.

When the Soviets blockaded the western sectors of Berlin in 1948, Truman created a massive airlift to supply Berliners until the Soviets backed down. Meanwhile, he was negotiating a military alliance to protect Western nations, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), established in 1949.

In 1948, Truman faced New York Governor Thomas Dewey and a left-leaning third-party challenger, former Vice President Henry Wallace, and defied the predictions of pollsters and analysts to win his own full term as president. After the election, the Trumans moved out of the sagging White House so that it could be gutted and reconstructed. The Truman White House renovations were completed in 1952.

In June 1950, the Communist government of North Korea attacked South Korea. Truman later wrote, “There was no suggestion from anyone that either the United Nations or the United States could back away from it.” A discouraging struggle ensued as U.N. forces held a line above the old boundary of South Korea. Truman limited the fighting, which frustrated Americans—especially his Korea commander General Douglas MacArthur, whom he fired for insubordination.

Having served almost two terms, Truman decided not to run again. Retiring with Bess to Independence, he lived until December 26, 1972. Later, Americans came to appreciate his honesty, sound judgment, and courageous decision making, admiring him far more than his own contemporaries had. Of his presidency, Truman modestly said, “Well I wouldn’t say I was in the ‘great’ class, but I had a great time while trying to be great.”