Harry S. Truman

Summary

Harry S. Truman (December 26, 1972) was the thirty-third president of the United States from 1945 to 1953. Previously, he was the thirty-fourth vice president during Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s brief fourth term from January to April 1945 and became president on April 12 of that year, due to the president’s death.

During World War I, Truman was an artillery officer, becoming the nation’s only president to fight in that war (his successor, Eisenhower, only trained artillery crews in Pennsylvania). After the war he became part of police chief Tom Pendergast’s political machine and was elected county commissioner in Missouri, he became a Democratic U.S. senator. After gaining national fame as head of the Truman Commission, he replaced Vice President Henry A. Wallace as Roosevelt’s running mate in the 1944 election.

As president, Truman faced complicated domestic issues. The messy postwar reconversion of the U.S. economy was marked by severe shortages, numerous strikes, and the passage of the anti-union Labor and Maintenance Act by Congress and over a presidential veto. Against all odds he won the 1948 election, aided by his famous Whistle Stop Tour. After his election, he was only able to push through one of the proposals in his program, called the Fair Deal. He used executive orders to initiate the demobilization of the armed forces and created “loyalty checks,” dismissing thousands of Communist sympathizers from their posts. His staunch opposition to mandatory loyalty oaths for government employees cost him accusations that his administration was being “soft” on communism. Truman’s presidency was filled with international events, such as the end of World War II and his decision to use nuclear weapons against Japan – in which more than 220,000 people died – the founding of the United Nations, the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe, the Truman Doctrine to contain communism, the beginning of the Cold War, the Berlin Airlift, the creation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the Greek Civil War, the Chinese Civil War, the Indochina War and the Korean War. Corruption in the Truman administration, linked to certain cabinet members and senior White House officials, was a central issue in the 1952 presidential election and caused Adlai Stevenson, the Democratic presidential candidate in the 1952 election, to lose to Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Truman oversaw the 1948 Berlin Airlift. When North Korea invaded South Korea in 1950, he got UN approval for the major political action known as the Korean War. It saved South Korea, but the Chinese intervened, pushing back the UN forces.

Corruption in the Truman administration became a central campaign issue in the 1952 presidential election. After Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower’s election victory over Democrat Adlai Stevenson II, Truman entered a financially difficult retirement, 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 highly rated by academics.

Truman, whose attitude was different from Roosevelt’s, was a quiet, unpretentious president. He popularized phrases such as “The buck stops here” and “If you can’t stand the heat, you better get out of the kitchen. He overcame the low expectations of many political observers, who compared him unfavorably with his highly respected predecessor. At various points during his presidency, Truman had the lowest public approval ratings on record until 1991. Despite the negative public opinion during his tenure, subsequent and scholarly evaluations of his presidency became positive after his retirement from politics, and the publication of his memoirs. Truman’s unexpected victory in 1948 is often invoked by presidential candidates with lesser chances.

Harry S. Truman was born on May 8, 1884 in Lamar, Missouri, and was the eldest son of John Anderson Truman (1851-1914) and Martha Ellen Young Truman (1852-1947). His parents chose the name Harry after the name of his mother’s brother, Harrison Young (1846-1916), Harry’s uncle. His parents chose “S” as his “middle name” in an attempt to please both of Harry’s grandfathers, Anderson Shipp Truman and Solomon Young. The S actually stood for nothing, a common practice among the Scots-Irish.

Truman’s initial prompted an unusual slip when he first became president and took the presidential oath. At a meeting in the Cabinet Room, Chief Justice Harlan Stone began reading the oath by saying, “I, Harry Shipp Truman…,” and Truman responded, “I, Harry S Truman…,”

Some sources use the middle name Swinomish, based on an anecdote that occurred in Seattle in November 1955, when Martin J. Sampson, chief of the Swinomish Indians, gave him the name of his tribe to replace the initial S, a gift Truman readily accepted.

In his autobiography, Truman stated, “I am named for…. Harrison Young. I was given the diminutive Harry, so there could be two initials to my name, and the letter S. My grandfather’s name was Anderson Shippe Truman.” He once joked that the S was a name, but his library shows that the S was an initial and not a name. The Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum has numerous examples of the signature in writing at various times throughout Truman’s life. However, the use of his initial is not universal. Prior to 2008, his official White House biography did not have it. All official U.S. Navy listings bear the initial, as on the USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75).

John Truman, Harry’s father, was a farmer and cattle dealer. The family lived in Lamar until Harry was ten months old. They then moved to a farm near Harrisonville, then to Belton, and in 1887 to his grandparents’ farm in Grandview. When Truman was six years old, his parents moved the family to Independence so he could attend Sunday School Presbyterian Church. Truman did not attend elementary school until he was eight years old.

As a child, Truman had three main interests: music, reading, and history, all encouraged by his mother, and he maintained a close relationship with his mother for as long as she lived, and as president he continued to consult her, even asking for some political advice. He maintained a close relationship with his mother for as long as she lived, and as president he continued to consult with her, even asking her for some political advice. He got up at five every morning to practice piano, and had a music teacher twice a week until he was fifteen. Truman also read a great deal of popular history. He was at the 1900 Democratic National Convention in Kansas City.

After graduating from Independence High School in 1901, Truman worked as a timekeeper at the Santa Fe railroad station, sleeping in “hobo camps” near the railroad lines; he subsequently worked at a series of local jobs. He worked briefly in the Kansas City mail room. Truman decided not to join the International Typographers’ Union. He returned to the Grandview farm in 1906 and remained there until 1917, when he entered military service.

The physically demanding work put upon him at the Grandview farm was a formative experience. During this period, he courted Bess Wallace and even proposed to her in 1911. She turned him down, and Truman said he wanted to make more money than a farmer before proposing again.

Alternatives:World War IFirst World War

Truman enlisted in the Missouri National Guard in 1905, and was in it until 1911. In his 1905 physical examination, his eyesight had scored a 20

With the start of American involvement in World War I, Truman rejoined the Guard. Before going to France, he was sent to Camp Doniphan, near Lawton, Oklahoma for training. He was in the camp canteen with Edward Jacobson, who had experience as a clerk in a Kansas City clothing store. At Ft. Still he also met Lt. James M. Pendergast, the nephew of Tom Pendergast, a Kansas City politician. The two men were to have a profound influence on Truman’s later life.

Truman was chosen to be an officer, and later to be a battery commander of an artillery regiment in France. His unit was Battery D, 129th Artillery Campaign and 60th Brigade, 35th Infantry Division, known for its discipline problems. During a sudden attack by the Germans in the Vosges Mountains, the battery began to disperse, Truman commanded its position using profanities he had “learned while working on the Santa Fe Railroad.” Impressed by the outburst, his men regrouped and followed him safely. Under Captain Truman’s command in France, the battery did not lose a single man. His battery also provided support to tanks of George Patton’s brigade during the Meuse-Argonne offensive. On November 11, 1918, his artillery unit fired some of the last shots of World War I at German positions after the armistice was signed at 5 a.m., but it was six hours before the cease-fire went into effect. In a letter lamenting the end of the war, he wrote: “It is a pity we could not go in and devastate Germany and cut off the hands of German children and the feet and scalps of old men.” The war was a transforming experience that led to Truman’s leadership qualities; he was later promoted to the rank of colonel in the Army Reserve, and his war record made possible his later political career in Missouri.

Family, education and the beginning of his business career

At the end of the war, Truman returned to Independence as a captain and married his longtime love, Bess Wallace, on June 28, 1919, the same day the Treaty of Versailles was signed. The couple had a daughter, Margaret Truman (1924-2008).

Truman was the only president who did not compete after 1897 for a college degree, as vision problems prevented him from West Point, which had been his dream since childhood, and financial constraints prevented him from earning a degree elsewhere. He did, however, study for two years for a law degree at Kansas City University School of Law in the early 1920s. Later, in his 60s, Truman was invited to join the Alpha Delta Gamma National Fraternity and the Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity of Kansas City-Misuri, accepted the invitations and was recognized as an honorary member of both organizations.

A month before Truman married, Truman and Edward Jacobson, one of his buddies during his training at Fort Still, opened a haberdashery of the same name in Kansas City. After a few years of success, the store went bankrupt during the recession of 1921, which greatly affected the farm economy. Truman blamed the drop in farm prices on the Republicans; he worked to pay off the debts until 1934, just as he was to become a member of the Senate, however, banker William T. Kemper recovered the note during the sale of a failed bank and allowed Truman to pay off his debts by a $1,000 payment to the bank. At the same time Kemper made a $1,000 donation to Truman’s senatorial campaign.

Former comrades in arms and business partners, Jacobson and Truman remained close friends for life. Decades later, Jacobson advised Truman to recognize Israel as a nation.

Alternatives:FreemasonryMasonryFreemasonry .

On February 9, 1909, Harry Truman was inducted into Masonry through the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite at Belton Lodge, Missouri. In 1911 he helped establish Grandview Lodge, and served as its first Worshipful Master. In 1940, Harry Truman was elected 97th Grand Master of the Missouri Masons. In 1945, he was appointed 33rd Sovereign and Grand Inspector General and an honorary member of the Supreme Council in Washington D.C.. In 1959, he was awarded the 50th Anniversary Award, the only U.S. President to reach that anniversary.

Jackson County Judge

In 1922, with the help of Kansas City’s Democratic clientele led by Boss Tom Pendergast, Truman was elected county court judge of the Eastern District Court of Jackson County, an administrative, not judicial, position similar to county commissioners elsewhere.

In 1922, Truman gave a friend $10 for an initiation fee into the Ku Klux Klan, but later asked for his money back, since Truman never belonged, never attended a meeting, and never pretended to be a member of the organization. Although Truman sometimes expressed anger toward Jews in his diaries, his partner and friend Edward Jacobson was Jewish. Truman’s attitudes toward blacks were typical of Missouri in his day, and were expressed in his occasional use of terms such as “nigger,” which was a derogatory term. Years later, another measure of his racial attitudes would come to the forefront: accounts of the abuse, violence, and persecution suffered by many African-American veterans on their return from World War II enraged Truman, and were a major factor in his decision to issue Executive Order 9981 in July 1948 to support civil rights initiatives and eliminate racial segregation in the armed forces.

He was not re-elected in 1924, but in 1926 he was elected chief justice of the court, and was again elected Jackson County judge in 1930. In 1930, Truman coordinated the “Ten Year Plan,” which transformed Jackson County and the Kansas City skyline with new public works projects, including an extensive series of roads, a new county courthouse, and monuments honoring pioneer women.

In 1933, Truman was appointed Missouri director for the Federal Re-Employment program (part of the Civil Works Administration) at the request of Postmaster General James Farley as payment to Pendergast for the delivery of the Kansas City ballot to Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1932 presidential election.

Truman took office under the moniker of “Pendergast’s senator.” He gave patronage decisions to Pendergast, but always maintained that he voted his conscience. Truman always defended patronage by saying that by offering a little, he saved a lot.

In his first term as a senator, Truman spoke out bluntly against corporate greed, and warned about the dangers of Wall Street speculators and other private moneyed interests gaining too much influence in national affairs. He was, however, largely ignored by President Roosevelt, who did not seem to take him seriously at that stage. Truman also had trouble getting White House officials to return his calls.

The 1936 election backed by Pendergast’s puppet gubernatorial candidate, Lloyd C. Stark, revealed even greater voter irregularities in Missouri that had been uncovered in 1934. Milligan prosecuted 278 defendants in voter fraud cases and convicted 259. Stark turned to Pendergast, put him on trial, and was able to wrest federal sponsorship from the Pendergast machine.

In the final moments Milligan discovered that Pendergast had failed to pay federal taxes between 1927 and 1937 and had run a fraudulent insurance scam. In 1939, Pendergast pleaded guilty and was fined $10,000 and sentenced to 15 months in federal prison at Leavenworth. No charges were filed against Truman.

Truman’s prospects for reelection to the Senate looked bleak. In 1940, both Stark and Maurice Milligan challenged him in the Democratic primary for the Senate. Robert E. Hannegan, who controlled St. Louis Democratic politics, threw his support in the election to Truman. Truman fought relentlessly and competitively. In the end, Stark and Milligan split the anti-Pendergast vote in the Democratic primary and had more combined votes than Truman.

In September 1940, during the election campaign, Truman was elected Grand Master of the Grand Lodge Masonry of Missouri. In November of that year, he defeated Kansas City State Senator Manvel H. Davis by more than 40,000 votes and retained his Senate seat. Truman later said that the Masonic election ensured his victory in the general election over State Senator Manvel H. Davis.

His successful 1940 senatorial campaign is considered by many biographers as a personal triumph, along with the 1948 election, an election in which he was also underestimated. It was the turning point of his political career.

Truman gained fame and respect when his readiness commission (popularly known as the “Truman Commission”) investigated the military waste scandal by exposing fraud and mismanagement. The Roosevelt administration had initially feared that the commission was going to do damage to war morale, and Undersecretary of War Robert P. Patterson wrote to the president stating that it was “in the public interest,” to suspend the commission. Truman wrote a letter to the president saying that the commission was “100 percent behind the administration” and had no intention of criticizing U.S. military conduct in the war.The commission was considered a success by researchers and historians and was reported to have saved at least $15 billion and thousands of lives.Truman’s common sense thrift for the military drew much attention. In 1943, his work as chairman of the commission earned him his first appearance on the cover of Time magazine. He was also voted man of the year in the same magazine in 1945 and 1948. After years as a fringe figure in the Senate, Truman rose to the national spotlight after the success of the Truman Commission.

After months of uncertainty over President Roosevelt’s preference for a running mate, Truman was chosen as Franklin D. Roosevelt’s running mate for the 1944 election as a result of an agreement worked out by Hannegan, who was chairman of the Democratic National Committee that year.

Although his public image remained that of a strong leader, Roosevelt’s physical condition was deteriorating rapidly by mid-1944. A key handful of the president’s advisers, including outgoing Democratic National Committee chairman Frank C. Walker, incoming chairman Robert Hannegan, party treasurer Edwin W. Pauley, strategist Ed Flynn, and lobbyist George E. Allen, shut down the Rankings in 1944 to “keep Henry A. Wallace out of the game.” In their view, Wallace, the incumbent vice president, was too liberal, and there were serious concerns about the possibility of his ascension to the presidency. Allen would later recall that each of these men “realized that the next man Roosevelt’s running mate, in all probability, would be the next president.”

After meeting personally with party leaders, Roosevelt agreed to replace Wallace as vice president, however, Roosevelt decided to leave the final selection of a running mate unresolved, at least until the final stages of the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. James F. Byrnes of South Carolina was favored at first, but labor leaders opposed him. Roosevelt also opposed Byrnes, but was reluctant to disappoint all candidates and did not want to tell Byrnes directly that he opposed him, so the president told Hannegan to “remove the obstacles to Byrnes’ nomination with Sidney,” meaning labor leader and Byrnes’ opponent, Sidney Hillman, a few days before the convention. In addition, Byrnes’ segregationist attitude gave him trouble with Northern liberals, and he was also considered vulnerable because of his Catholic beliefs. Roosevelt reportedly offered the vice presidential slot to Governor Henry F. Schricker of Indiana, but he declined. Before the convention began, Roosevelt wrote a note that he would accept either Truman or Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, but most party leaders in the area preferred Truman. Truman himself did not campaign directly for the vice presidency, and always maintained that he did not want the vice presidential post. As a result, Roosevelt had to put a great deal of pressure on Truman to accept the post. On July 19, party bosses summoned Truman to a suite at the Blackstone Hotel to listen in on a phone call that, unknown to the senator, he had previously rehearsed with the president. During the conversation, Roosevelt asked the party bosses if Truman would accept the job. When he said no, Roosevelt angrily charged that Truman was disrupting the unity of the Democratic Party and then hung up. Feeling he had no choice, Truman reluctantly agreed to become Roosevelt’s running mate for the 1944 election.

Truman’s candidacy was humorously called the second “Missouri Compromise” during the 1944 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, as his appeal for party leadership in contrast to the liberal Wallace and conservative Byrnes. The nomination was well received, and the Roosevelt-Truman team went on to a victory with 432 to 99 electoral votes from defeated Governor Thomas E. Dewey of New York and Governor John Bricker of Ohio. Truman was sworn in as vice president on January 20, 1945, and was in office less than three months.

Truman’s brief vice presidency was relatively uneventful, and Roosevelt was rarely in contact with him, even to inform him of major decisions. Truman surprised many when he attended the funeral of his patron Tom Pendergast less than a week after being sworn in as vice president. Truman brushed off criticism, saying simply, “He was always my friend and I have always been his friend.”

On April 12, 1945, Truman had postponed his Senate meeting to a later date and was about to have a drink in the office of House Speaker Sam Rayburn when he received an urgent message that he had to go immediately to the White House. Upon his arrival at the White House the first lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, informed him that the president had died shortly before his arrival from a massive cerebral hemorrhage. Truman asked her if there was anything he could do for her and she replied, “Is there anything we can do for you? You’re the one in trouble now!”

Alternatives:First term (1945-1949)First mandate (1945-1949)

Truman had been vice president for only 82 days when President Roosevelt died on April 12, 1945. He had had very little communication with Roosevelt about world affairs or domestic policy after taking over as vice president, and was completely uninformed about the conduct of the war, including, in particular, the Manhattan Project, which was close to testing the first nuclear bomb in history.

Shortly after taking office, Truman told reporters, “Boys, if you ever pray, pray for me now. I don’t know if any of you ever had a load of hay fall on you, but when they told me what had happened yesterday, I felt like the moon and the stars and all the planets had fallen on me.”

Upon taking office, Truman asked all members of Roosevelt’s cabinet to remain in their posts, told them he was open to their advice, and established a central tenet of his administration: that he would be the decision-maker and they would be the ones to support him. A few weeks after he took office, on his sixty-first birthday, the Allies achieved victory in Europe.

Truman was much more difficult for the Secret Service to control than Roosevelt. When Roosevelt, who had to use a wheelchair, needed to go somewhere, his Secret Service agents would take him at their own pace, however, Truman was an avid walker and regularly went for walks around Washington.

We have discovered the most terrible bomb in world history. It is the massive destruction predicted in the age of Mesopotamia, after Noah and his fabulous Ark.

Truman was briefed on the Manhattan Project by Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson on the day Roosevelt died, after his first cabinet meeting as president. While in Europe for the Potsdam Conference, he learned the news that the Trinity Test, the world’s first atomic bomb, had been a success. He dropped a hint to Yósif Stalin that the United States was about to use a new type of weapon against the Japanese. Although this was the first time the Soviets had been given official information about the atomic bomb, Stalin, through his espionage service, was already well aware of the atomic bomb project and had been learning about it long before Truman.

In August 1945, after Japan rejected the Potsdam Declaration, Truman authorized the use of atomic weapons against Japan.

On the morning of August 6, 1945, at 8:15 a.m., the B-29 Enola Gay bomber dropped an atomic bomb called Little Boy on Hiroshima. Two days later, after hearing no response from the Japanese government, the U.S. military went ahead with plans to drop a second atomic bomb. On August 9, Nagasaki was also devastated with a bomb, Fat Man, which was dropped by the B-29 Bockscar bomber. The bombs killed about 140,000 people in Hiroshima and about 80,000 in Nagasaki by the end of 1945, half of those deaths occurring on the days of the bombings. Truman received word of the bombing while aboard the cruiser USS Augusta (CA-31) on his way back to the United States after the Potsdam Conference. The Japanese surrendered on August 14.

Supporters of Truman’s decision to use the atomic bomb argue that it saved hundreds of thousands of lives that would have been lost in an invasion of the Japanese archipelago. In 1954, Eleanor Roosevelt said that Truman “made the only decision he could,” and that the use of the bomb was necessary “to avoid the tremendous sacrifice of American lives.” Others have argued that the use of the atomic bomb was unnecessary and inherently immoral, the only time in human history that such a weapon of mass destruction has been used.

Truman himself wrote after the presidency, “I knew what I was doing when I stopped the war…I do not regret it and, under the same circumstances, I would do it again.”

As a Wilsonian internationalist, Truman strongly supported the creation of the United Nations, and placed former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt as the first delegate to the United Nations General Assembly. Faced with Communist abandonment of part of the commitments signed at the Potsdam Conference, and with Communist advances in Iran, Greece, which later went into civil war, and Turkey, Truman and his foreign policy advisors took a hard line against the Soviets.

Although he had no personal experience in foreign affairs, Truman won bipartisan support with his Truman Doctrine, which formalized a policy of containment, and the Marshall Plan, which was intended to help rebuild postwar Europe. To get Congress to spend large sums of money needed to revive the moribund European economy, Truman used an ideological argument, saying that communism flourished in economically disadvantaged areas. As part of America’s Cold War strategy, Truman signed the National Security Act of 1947 and reorganized the military by merging the War Department and the Navy Department into the National Military Establishment, which would later be known as the Department of Defense, and creating the Air Force. The act also created the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the National Security Council.

After many years of Democratic majorities in Congress and two Democratic presidents, voter fatigue with the Democrats delivered a new majority to the Republicans in the 1946 congressional elections, and the Republicans picked up 55 seats in the House of Representatives and several seats in the Senate. Although Truman cooperated closely with Republican leaders on foreign policy, he fought them bitterly on domestic issues. He could not prevent tax cuts or the elimination of price controls. The power of labor unions was significantly reduced by the Labor and Maintenance Act, which was enacted over Truman’s veto.

As he prepared for the 1948 election, Truman made clear his identity as a Democrat in the New Deal tradition, promised national health insurance, repeal of the anti-union Labor and Maintenance Act, and an aggressive civil rights program. Taken together, these constituted a broad legislative program that was called the Fair Deal.

Truman’s proposals were not well received by Congress, even after the unexpected Democratic victory in the 1948 election. Only one of the major Fair Deal bills, the Housing Act of 1949, was enacted in Congress.

Truman made the decision to recognize the creation of the State of Israel ignoring statements by Secretary of State George Marshall, who feared that this might damage relations with the Arab states. At a White House meeting on November 10, 1945, he told envoys to Saudi Arabia, Syria, Lebanon and Egypt, “I am sorry, gentlemen, but I have to answer to hundreds of thousands who are anxious for the success of Zionism: I do not have hundreds of thousands of Arabs among my constituents.”

Ignoring warnings from the Arabs, the British, and the State Department that feared Jewish immigration to Palestine and that a Jewish state could destabilize the Middle East, Truman and Congress continued to support the creation of a home for the Jewish people. American policy makers between 1947 and 1948 agreed that the primary foreign policy objective was to contain communism, as was the case in the Cold War. From Washington’s perspective, Palestine was secondary to the goal of protecting the “Northern Tier” of Greece, Turkey, Iran from communism, as promised in the Truman Doctrine. Truman set three objectives for the region: a peaceful solution, avoiding the need to send U.S. troops, and avoiding Soviet penetration.

According to George Lenczowski, Truman’s Palestine policy was influenced by Jewish pressure groups. In his memoirs, Truman wrote that Jewish leaders in the United States pressured him to promote Jewish aspirations in Palestine. At the urging of the British, a special UN commission, UNSCOP, recommended the immediate partition of Palestine into two states. With Truman’s support, the plan for such partition was approved by the General Assembly on November 29, 1947. Secretary of State George Marshall and other foreign affairs experts continued to oppose the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine. When Truman agreed to meet with Chaim Weizmann, the Secretary of State objected, but did not publicly state his decision. Secretary of Defense James Forrestal warned of the dangers of arousing Arab hostility, which could lead to denial of access to the area’s oil resources, and of “the impact of this question on the security of the United States.” Truman recognized the State of Israel on May 14, 1948, eleven minutes after it became an independent nation.

Truman wrote:

Hitler has been murdering Jews from left to right. I saw it, and I still dream about it today. The Jews need a place where they can go. It is my responsibility that the U.S. government not stand idly by while the victims of Hitler’s madness are not allowed to build a new life.

On June 24, 1948, the Soviet Union blocked access to Berlin to the three western sectors. The Allies had never negotiated an agreement to guarantee the permanent supply of the western sectors within the Soviet zone. The commander of the U.S. occupation zone in Germany, General Lucius D. Clay, proposed sending a large armored column through the Soviet zone to West Berlin, with instructions to defend themselves if stopped or attacked. Truman felt that this would pose an unacceptable risk of war, and approved a plan to supply the blockaded city by air. On June 25, the Allies launched the Berlin Airlift, a campaign that delivered food, coal and other supplies, using military aircraft on a large scale. Nothing remotely like it had ever been done before, and no nation had the capacity, either logistically or materially, to repeat it. Ground access was agreed again on May 11, 1949. The airlift continued for several more months, and was one of the great successes of Truman’s foreign policy as president and, significantly, helped his 1948 presidential campaign.

Truman adopted a strategy of rapid demobilization after World War II with the suspension of ship activity and the demobilization of veterans. The reasons for this strategy, which persisted through Truman’s first term and until nearly the end of his second, were largely financial. To finance domestic spending needs, Truman had advocated a policy of cuts in the defense program for the Armed Forces at the end of the war. The Republican majority in Congress, eager to enact numerous tax cuts, approved Truman’s plan to “hold the line” on defense spending. Moreover, Truman’s experience in the Senate left him with lingering suspicions that large sums of money were being wasted at the Pentagon. In 1949, Truman appointed Louis A. Johnson as Secretary of Defense. Impressed by U.S. progress in developing the atomic bomb, Truman and Johnson initially believed that the atomic bomb made conventional forces largely irrelevant to the modern battlefield. This assumption was ultimately wrong because the Soviet Union detonated its first atomic bomb in the same year.

The continued downsizing, however, adversely affected the conventional defense readiness of the U.S. Both Truman and Johnson had a special antipathy to Navy and Marine Corps budget requests. Truman proposed disbanding the Marine Corps altogether as part of the 1948 national defense reorganization plan, but the idea was abandoned after a letter-writing campaign and intervention by influential Navy veterans.

In 1950, many Navy ships were sold to other countries or scrapped. The Navy, faced with a high turnover of experienced personnel, cut back on training exercises, and eased recruiting standards. Equipment was scrapped or sold and the number of munitions was cut. The Marine Corps, with its dwindling budget, was reduced to surplus inventories from World War II weapons and equipment hoarding. It was not until after the invasion of South Korea by North Korea in 1950 that Truman sent numerous budget requests to Congress for the Marine Corps and began what could be considered the modern era of defense spending in the United States.

Alternatives:1948 presidential election1948 Presidential Elections

At the 1948 Democratic National Convention, Truman attempted to relax domestic politics through a civil rights strategy in the party platform, which was intended to relax internal conflicts between the northern and southern wings of the party. The events that transpired, however, overcame his efforts to reach a compromise. A strong address given by Minneapolis Mayor Hubert Humphrey convinced the convention to make a stronger civil rights policy, and Truman enthusiastically endorsed it. All of the Alabama delegates, and a portion of the Mississippi delegates, walked out of the convention in protest. Undeterred, Truman delivered an aggressive acceptance speech attacking the 80th Party Congress and made a promise to win the election and “make the Republicans that way.”

Two weeks after the Convention, Truman issued Executive Order 9981, allowing racial integration in the Armed Forces. Truman took considerable political risk with his support for civil rights, and many veteran Democrats worried that the loss of support might unravel the Democratic Party. The fear seemed well justified, as Strom Thurmond announced his candidacy for the presidency and led numerous revolts in Southern states, proclaiming the rights of defenders. This right-wing rebellion was accompanied by a left-wing revolt, led by former Vice President Henry A. Wallace as the Progressive Party’s presidential candidate. Immediately after its first convention following the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Democratic Party looked as if it would disintegrate. Victory in the election seemed remote, not only because it was divided, but because it was split into three parties.

This was followed by a remarkable presidential odyssey of 21,928 miles (35,290 kilometers), something never before undertaken by any president in the entire nation. Truman and his staff toured the country on the so-called U.S. presidential train, the “Whistlestop,” with the tactic of giving brief speeches on the rear platform of the railroad, this act came to represent the entire campaign. His combative appearances, such as those on the town square in Harrisburg, Illinois, captured the popular imagination and drew large crowds. Six stops in Michigan drew a total of half a million people; and a million people also attended the presidential parade in New York.

The vast majority of Truman’s spontaneous rallies and events were an important sign of a fundamental shift in the pulse of the campaign, but this shift went virtually unnoticed by the national press, which followed the filing of reports giving an apparent, imminent, and inevitable victory to Republican Thomas E. Dewey. One reason for the inaccurate press projection was polls conducted primarily by telephone at a time when many people, including much of Truman’s voting base, did not own a telephone. This data bias indicated a stronger base of support for Dewey than existed, and this led to an undesirable and undetected projection error that may have contributed to the perception of Truman’s bleak prospects. All three major pollsters abandoned further polling before the November 2 election, e.g., Roper in September, and Crossley and Gallup in October.

In the end, Truman succeeded in rallying his progressive Midwestern base and won most of the southern states, despite his civil rights advocacy. The final tally showed that the president had secured 303 electoral votes for Truman, 189 for Dewey, and only 39 for Thurmond. Henry A. Wallace got none. The defining image of the campaign came after Election Day, when Truman was on the front page of the Chicago Tribune and the Tribune incorrectly stated, “Dewey Defeats Truman.” Truman did not have a first-term vice president. His running mate and eventual vice president for the term that began on January 20, 1949, was Senator and Congressman Alben W. Barkley.

Alternatives:Second term (1949-1953)Second mandate (1949-1953)

Truman’s presidential inauguration in 1949 was the first nationally televised inauguration. His second term was grueling, largely due to foreign policy and his policy of containment. For example, he quickly ended the U.S. nuclear monopoly. Through information provided by his U.S. spy networks, he learned that the Soviet Union’s atomic bomb project was progressing much faster than anticipated, and the Soviet Union exploded its first atomic bomb on August 29, 1949. On January 7, 1953, Truman announced the detonation of the first U.S. hydrogen bomb.

Truman was a strong supporter of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which established a formal peacetime military alliance with Canada and many of the democratic European countries that had not fallen under Soviet control after World War II. Truman successfully proposed the creation of the treaty in the Senate in 1949. NATO’s stated objectives were “to stop Soviet expansion into Europe and to send a clear message to communist leaders that the democracies of the world were willing and able to build new security structures in support of democratic ideals.” The United States, United Kingdom, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Norway, Denmark, Portugal, Iceland and Canada were signatories to the original treaty, with Greece and Turkey joining in 1952.

On December 21, 1949, Chiang Kai-shek and his National Revolutionary Army from eastern mainland China fled to the island of Taiwan due to successful attacks by the Communist army led by Mao Zedong during the Chinese Civil War. In June 1950, Truman ordered the U.S. Seventh Fleet to be positioned in the Taiwan Strait to prevent further conflict between the Communist government in mainland China and the Republic of China on Taiwan. Truman also warned the Republic of China not to make any further attacks against the People’s Republic of China.

Throughout his presidency, Truman had to deal with allegations that the federal government was harboring Soviet spies at the highest level. Congressional testimony on this issue attracted national attention, and thousands of people were fired for security. A man like Truman doubted reports of potential Soviet Communist penetration of the U.S. federal government, and his response was widely quoted as dismissing the allegations as a “red herring.”

In August 1948, Whittaker Chambers, a former Soviet spy and former editor of Time magazine, confessed before the Un-American Activities Committee and presented a list of possible members of a secret network of Communists who worked in the U.S. government during the 1930s. One of them was Alger Hiss, a senior State Department official, but Hiss denied the allegations.

The Committee’s statements led to a crisis in American political culture, and Hiss was found guilty of perjury in a controversial trial. On February 9, 1950, Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy accused the State Department of having Communists in its services, and specifically that Secretary of State Dean Acheson knew this and was protecting 205 Communists in the State Department. At issue was whether Truman had removed all the subversive agents who had entered the government during the Roosevelt years. McCarthy insisted that he had not.

By pointing out this problem and attacking the Truman administration, McCarthy quickly established himself as a national figure, and his explosive allegations dominated the headlines. His claims had few confirmable details, but nevertheless paralyzed a nation struggling with fear of new realities: the explosion of a Soviet nuclear bomb, the loss of atomic bomb secrets by the United States, China’s conversion to communism, and new revelations of Soviet espionage penetration inside other U.S. agencies, including the Treasury Department. Truman, a pragmatic man who had made concessions to the likes of Tom Pendergast and Stalin, quickly developed an unwavering hatred for Joseph McCarthy. Truman countered by saying:

Americanism” is under attack by elements who loudly proclaim to be its main defenders. They are trying to create fear and suspicion among us through the use of slander, unproven accusations and outright lies. They are trying to make us believe that our government is full of communism and corruption. These beings are trying to create so much hysteria among us, that no one will stand up to them for fear of being called a communist. Now that is the old reverse communist trick. That’s not playing fair. That’s not Americanism.

However, Truman was never able to shake off his image among the public of being unable to purge his government of alleged subversive influences.

President Truman recognized the newly created Pakistan in 1947, making the United States one of the first countries in the world to do so. President Truman personally invited Pakistani Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan and his wife, Begum Ra’ana, to the United States for talks. Liaqat Ali Khan accepted the invitation and arrived in Washington D.C. in May 1950. Liaqat toured the United States and also gave several speeches in the Senate. At the time of the visit, Pakistan was not aligned between the Western bloc led by the United States or the Eastern bloc led by the Soviet Union. Pakistan had recognized the People’s Republic of China as a communist government of its own, ignoring Washington’s opposition to Beijing. Despite the success of his tour of the United States, the Liaqat Ali government did not make any drastic changes in its foreign policy, not allying itself with any of the leading blocs of the Cold War. In the UN Security Council, all opposed North Korean aggression against South Korea, but refused to send Pakistani combat troops to join the UN on the Korean peninsula. This was mainly because Pakistan was recovering from its recent war against India over disputed Kashmir in 1948.

On June 25, 1950, the North Korean People’s Army under Kim Il-sung invaded South Korea, precipitating the outbreak of the Korean War. Poorly trained and equipped, without tanks or air support, the South Korean Army was quickly pushed back, quickly losing the capital, Seoul.

Truman called for a naval blockade of Korea, only to discover that, due to budget cuts, the U.S. Navy no longer possessed a sufficient number of warships to enforce such a measure. Truman quickly urged the United Nations to intervene; it did so, authorizing armed defense for the first time in its history. The Soviet Union, which was boycotting the United Nations at the time, was not present at the vote that approved the measure. However, Truman chose not to consult Congress, a mistake that greatly weakened his position in the conflict.

In the first four weeks of the conflict, U.S. infantry forces hastily deployed to Korea proved to be sparse and ill-equipped. Japan’s Eighth Army was forced to refit World War II Sherman tanks from depots and memorials for use in Korea.

Responding to criticism about preparedness, Truman fired his much-criticized Secretary of Defense, Louis A. Johnson, replacing him with retired General George Marshall. Truman, with the approval of the United Nations, decided in a vote on a new policy, i.e., the conquest of North Korea. UN forces led by General Douglas MacArthur made a counterattack, winning an impressive surprise victory with an amphibious landing at Inchon that nearly trapped the invaders. UN forces then marched north toward the Yalu River border with China, with the goal of reuniting Korea under UN auspices.

China surprised UN forces with a full-scale invasion in November. UN forces were forced back below the 38th parallel, but then recovered; by early 1951 the war became a fierce stalemate above the 38th parallel, where it had begun. Casualties to the United Nations and the United States were heavy. Truman rejected MacArthur’s request to attack Chinese supply bases north of the Yalu, but MacArthur laid out his plan to the Republican leader, Joseph Martin, who leaked it to the press. Truman was gravely concerned that further escalation of the war would drag the Soviet Union even further into the conflict, since it was supplying arms and providing fighter planes to the North Korean forces. On April 11, 1951, Truman relieved MacArthur of all his commands in Korea and Japan.

The impeachment of General Douglas MacArthur was one of the least popular political decisions in presidential history. Truman’s approval ratings plummeted, and he faced calls for impeachment proceedings from, among others, Senator Robert Taft. The Chicago Tribune proclaimed immediate impeachment proceedings against Truman:

President Truman should be impeached and convicted. His hasty and vindictive withdrawal of General MacArthur is the culmination of a series of acts which have shown him to be unfit, morally and mentally, for his high office. The American nation has never been in greater peril. It is led by a madman who is surrounded by knaves.

Strong criticism from virtually all quarters accused Truman of refusing to take the blame for a botched war and blaming his generals instead. Many prominent citizens and officials, including Eleanor Roosevelt, nevertheless supported Truman’s decision. MacArthur, for his part, returned to the United States with a hero’s welcome, and, after his famous speech to Congress, Truman was reported to have said it was a bunch of “bullshit.” It was even rumored that MacArthur would run for president.

U.S. involvement in Indochina expanded during the Truman administration. On Victory Day in 1945, Vietnamese Communist leader Hồ Chí Minh declared independence from France, but the United States announced its support for the restoration of French power. In 1950, Hồ Chí Minh again declared Vietnam’s independence, which was recognized by communist China and the Soviet Union. Hồ Chí Minh controlled a very remote territory along the border with China, while France controlled the rest. Truman’s “policy of containment” and his opposition to Communist expansion led the United States to continue to recognize French rule, support of the French provisional government, and increase aid to Vietnam. However, a basic difference emerged: The Americans wanted a strong and independent Vietnam, while the French cared little for the containment of China, but wanted the suppression of local nationalism and the integration of Indochina into the French Union.

In 1948, Truman ordered a controversial addition to the exterior of the White House: a second-floor balcony on the south portico, which became known as the “Truman Balcony.” The work was unpopular.

Soon after, engineering experts concluded that the building, well over 130 years old, was in a dangerous condition. In August, a section of the floor collapsed and Truman’s own bedroom and bathroom were closed as unsafe. No public announcements about the White House’s serious structural problems were made public until after he won the 1948 election, and by then Truman had been informed that his new balcony was the only part of the building in good repair. Truman’s family moved into Blair House, the new West Wing and Oval Office remained open, Truman had to walk to work down the street every morning and evening. In due course, the decision was made to demolish and rebuild the entire main interior of the White House, as well as excavate new basement levels to support the foundation. The famous exterior of the structure, however, was supported and retained, while renovations proceeded on the interior. The work lasted from December 1949 to March 1952.

On November 1, 1950, Puerto Rican nationalists Griselio Torresola and Oscar Collazo attempted to assassinate Truman at Blair House. On the street outside the residence, Torresola fatally wounded a White House policeman, Leslie Coffelt, who shot Torresola to death before dying himself. Collazo, as a co-conspirator in a felony that became a homicide, was convicted of murder and was sentenced to death in 1952. Truman commuted his sentence to life imprisonment. Recognizing the importance of the Puerto Rican independence issue, Truman allowed a plebiscite in Puerto Rico to determine the status of its relationship with the United States. The attack, which could easily have taken the president’s life, called attention to new security problems around his Blair House residence. He had jumped up from his nap and was watching the shooting from the open window of his bedroom until a passerby shouted for him to take cover.

In response to labor management stemming from bitter disagreements over price and wage controls, Truman ordered his Secretary of Commerce, Charles W. Sawyer, to take control of the nation’s numerous 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 destined for the Korean War. The Supreme Court found Truman’s actions unconstitutional and struck down the order in a major separation of powers, Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer. The 6-3 decision, which held that Truman’s assertion of authority was too vague and had no roots in congressional legislative action, was issued by a court composed entirely of justices appointed by Truman or Roosevelt. The high court’s reversal of Truman’s order was one of the most notable defeats of his presidency. After coal miners went on strike in the spring of 1946, Truman threatened to involve the Army if the miners did not return to work, or replace the workers with members of the military.

Alternatives:Scandals and controversiesScandals and controversy

In 1950, the Senate, led by Estes Kefauver, investigated numerous charges of corruption among senior administration officials, some of whom received fur coats and freezers for favors. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) was involved. In 1950, 166 IRS employees resigned or were fired, and many faced Justice Department indictments on a variety of tax-fixing and bribery charges, including the assistant attorney general in charge of the Tax Division. When Attorney General Howard McGrath fired the special prosecutor for being overzealous, Truman fired McGrath. Historians agree that Truman himself was innocent. In 1945, Mrs. Truman received a new, expensive, and very hard-to-get freezer. The businessman who always got her gifts was the president of a perfume company and, thanks to the help of Truman and confidant General Harry Vaughan, he was given priority to fly to Europe days after the war, where he bought new perfumes. On the way back to the United States he “bumped” into a wounded veteran who was also returning home. The disclosure of the episode in 1949 humiliated Truman. The President responded forcefully by defending Vaughan, an old friend with a White House office of his own. Vaughan was linked over time to multiple trafficking scandals.

Allegations that Soviet agents had infiltrated the Truman administration became a major issue in Eisenhower’s campaign in 1952. In 1947, Truman issued Executive Order 9835 to create loyalty boards and investigate espionage in government employees. Between 1947 and 1952, about 20,000 government employees were investigated, about 2,500 resigned voluntarily, and 400 were fired. Truman, however, strongly opposed mandatory loyalty oaths for government employees, a stance that led to accusations that his administration had been soft on communism. In 1953, Senator Joseph McCarthy and Attorney General Herbert Brownell Jr, claimed that Truman knew Harry Dexter White was a Soviet spy when he appointed him to the International Monetary Fund.

Civil rights

A 1947 report from the Truman administration, entitled “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, in which he proposed the creation of several federal offices devoted to issues such as voting rights and fair employment practices. This provoked a firestorm of criticism from Southern Democrats in the run-up to the national nominating convention, but Truman refused to compromise, saying, “My ancestors were Confederates, but my sensitive stomach and I turned away when we heard that black soldiers, who had just returned from overseas, were being beaten by the armies of Mississippi.” In retirement, however, Truman was less progressive on this issue. He described the marches from Selma to Montgomery as having been very foolish and that they had not “accomplished a damn thing.”

Rather than address civil rights on a case-by-case basis, Truman wanted to address civil rights on a national level. Truman prepared three executive orders that eventually became a framework for future civil rights legislation. The first executive order was Executive Order 9981 in 1948, it is generally known as the act that initiated racial desegregation in the Armed Forces. This was a milestone on a long road to complete desegregation of the Armed Forces. After several years of planning, recommendations and reviews between Truman, the Equal Treatment and Opportunity Commission and the various branches of the armed forces, until finally all units were racially integrated. This process also benefited from the pressure of manpower shortages during the Korean War, as replacements for the previously separate units could now be of any race.

The second executive order, also in 1948, made it illegal to discriminate against persons applying for civil service positions on the basis of race. The third executive order, in 1951, established the Government Contract Compliance Commission. This commission ensured that defense contractors of the Armed Forces could not discriminate against a person on the basis of race.

Alternatives:CabinetOffice

All the members of Truman’s cabinet when he became president in 1945 had previously been serving under Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Alternatives:Appointed judgesDesignated judgesJudges appointed

Truman appointed the following justices to the U.S. Supreme Court:

Truman’s judicial appointments were critically called “inexcusable.” A former Truman aide confessed that it was the weakest aspect of Truman’s presidency. The New York Times condemned the appointment of Tom C. Clark and Sherman Minton, in particular, as examples of favoritism in unqualified candidates.

The four Truman-appointed justices joined Justices Felix Frankfurter, Robert H. Jackson, and Stanley Reed to create a substantial seven-member conservative bloc on the Supreme Court. This returned the court once again to Taft-era conservatism.

In addition to the four justices he appointed to the Supreme Court, Truman appointed 27 judges to the U.S. Courts of Appeals, and 101 judges to the U.S. District Courts.

Alternatives:1952 Presidential Elections1952 Presidential Election

In 1951, the United States ratified the Twenty-second Amendment, which provided that a president could not be elected three times, or be elected a second time after serving more than two years of a previous president’s term in office. The latter clause would have applied to Truman in 1952, except that an exemption clause in the amendment explicitly excluded the current president from this provision. However, Truman decided not to run for reelection.

By the time of the 1952 New Hampshire primary, no candidate had won Truman’s endorsement. His first choice, Judge Fred M. Vinson, had declined; Illinois Governor Adlai Stevenson had also defeated Truman; Vice President Barkley was considered too old; and Truman was wary of Senator Estes Kefauver, whom he privately called “Cowfever.”

Truman participated in the New Hampshire primary election, but was beaten by Kefauver. On March 29, Truman announced his decision not to run for reelection. Stevenson, who reconsidered his presidential ambitions, received Truman’s endorsement and won the Democratic nomination.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, a Republican and the party’s presidential candidate, campaigned against what he denounced as Truman’s failures over “Korea, communism, corruption and disorder in Washington,” and pledged to “go to Korea.” Eisenhower defeated Stevenson at the polls, ending 20 years of Democratic rule. While Truman and Eisenhower had been good friends, Truman felt betrayed by Eisenhower because Eisenhower did not denounce Joseph McCarthy during the campaign.

Presidential Library, Memoirs and Life as a Private Citizen

Truman returned to Independence, to live in the home of his wife, Bess, which they had shared for years with her mother. Four months after leaving office, Truman was invited to address the Philadelphia Reserve Officers Association. Refusing to accept official transportation, Truman turned up in his new second-generation Chrysler New Yorker, with Bess accompanying him in the passenger seat. The trip, which included stops in Washington, D.C., New York, and several small towns, caused a media sensation, especially when the former president was stopped by a policeman for driving too slowly in a pass line.

Truman’s predecessor, Franklin D. Roosevelt, had organized his own presidential library, although legislation allowing former presidents to do something similar had not yet been enacted. Truman worked to raise private donations to build a presidential library, which he then donated to the federal government to administer, a practice adopted by all his successors.

Truman decided that he would not be on a corporate payroll, believing that taking advantage of the financial opportunities of his status as a former president would diminish the integrity of the nation’s highest office. He also turned down numerous offers to represent various commercial firms. Since earning income from his former professional activities, he had no personal savings. As a result, he faced financial problems because since leaving the White House, his only source of income was his former Army pension of $112.56 a month. Although former members of Congress and the federal courts received a federal retirement bonus or pension, and President Truman himself had secured similar support for former officials in the executive branch of government in 1953, there were no statutory retirement bonus or pension benefits for former presidents.

Upon returning to civilian life, he took out a personal loan from a Missouri bank, and then set another precedent for future former chief executives: he wrote a memoir of his presidency. Ulysses S. Grant had overcome similar financial problems with his own memoirs, but the books had been published posthumously, and he had refused to write in detail about life in the White House. For his memoirs Truman received only a payment of $670,000, from which he had to deduct two-thirds in taxes; he estimated that he had made $37,000 after paying his aides.

Truman’s memoirs were a commercial success and garnered rave reviews, published in two volumes in 1955 and 1956 by Doubleday and Hodder & Stoughton:Memoirs of Harry S. Truman: Year of Decisions and Memoirs of Harry S. Truman: Years of Trials and Hope.

Truman told then House Majority Leader John McCormack in 1957, “If it had not been for the fact that I was able to sell a property that my brother, my sister, and I inherited from our mother, I would be practically broke, but with the sale of that property I am not financially relieved either.”

It is likely that Truman’s financial situation influenced Congress in 1958 to pass the Former Presidents Act, which provided a $25,000 annual pension to each former president.The other then-living former president, Herbert Hoover applied for the pension, even though he did not need the money, apparently to avoid embarrassing Truman.Hoover may have remembered an old favor: Shortly after becoming president, Truman invited him to the White House for an informal talk about conditions in Europe. This was his first visit to the White House after leaving office, since the Roosevelt administration had turned Hoover down. The two remained good friends for the rest of their lives.

Alternatives:Later life and deathAfterlife and death

In 1956, Truman traveled to Europe with his wife. In the United Kingdom he received an honorary doctorate in civic law from Oxford University and met with Winston Churchill. When he returned to the United States, he became a supporter of Adlai Stevenson’s second presidential candidacy, even though he had initially favored the Democratic governor, W. Averell Harriman of New York.

On his 80th birthday, Truman was entertained in the U.S. Senate as part of a new rule that gave former presidents a voice in the chamber. He also campaigned for some senatorial candidates. After a fall at home in late 1964, his physical condition was adversely affected. In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Medicare bill into law at the Truman Library and gave the first two Medicare cards to Truman and his wife Bess in honor of their government health care struggle during his presidency. His library was visited by several political figures such as Robert Kennedy and former Mexican President Miguel Aleman.

On December 5, 1972, he was transferred to Kansas City Hospital and Research Medical Center with pulmonary congestion due to pneumonia. He developed multi-organ failure and passed away at 7:50 a.m. on December 26 at the age of 88. His wife died almost ten years later on October 18, 1982. They are buried at the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum in Independence. Bess Truman opted for a simple private service at her husband’s library rather than a state funeral in Washington DC. President Richard Nixon and former President Lyndon B. Johnson attended his funeral. Foreign dignitaries attended the funeral at the Washington National Cathedral a week later.

He has also had his critics. After a review of Truman’s available information on the presence of espionage activities in the U.S. government, Democratic Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, concluded that Truman had been “almost deliberately negligent” about the danger of American communism. As early as the 1960s, revisionist historians began to criticize Truman. Today, the consensus among historians is that “Harry Truman remains a controversial president.”

Truman died at a time when the nation was consumed by the crises in Vietnam and Watergate, and his death brought a new wave of attention to his political career. In the early and mid-1970s, Truman captured the popular imagination as much as he had in 1948, this time emerging as something of a political folk hero, a president who was believed to exemplify an integrity and responsibility that many observers felt was lacking in the Nixon White House. Truman has been portrayed on screen many times, several performances winning widespread applause, and the pop band Chicago played a nostalgic song in 1975 called “Harry Truman.”

Because of Truman’s pivotal role in the decision to have the U.S. government recognize Israel, the Israeli town of Beit Harel was renamed Kfar Truman in 1949.

Ironically, in light of Truman’s attempt to reduce naval production, which led to the 1949 admiral’s revolt, the Marine Corps decided to rename an aircraft carrier in his honor. The aircraft carrier, destined to be named USS United States, was renamed USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) on September 7, 1996, prior to the keel laying. It just so happened that it was the same name of the aircraft carrier that Truman had cancelled in 1949.

The Truman Fellowship, a federal program that honors students at U.S. universities who exemplify dedication to public service and leadership in public policy, was created in 1975. The in the President Harry S. Truman National Security Community of Science and Engineering, a distinguished three-year postdoctoral appointment at Sandia National Laboratory, was created in 2004. The University of Missouri established the Harry S. Truman School of Public Affairs to advance the study and practice of governance. On the occasion of the transformation of a university mascot to Truman’s name, a state normal school, Northeast Missouri State University became Truman State University on July 1, 1996, to honor the only Missourian to become president. A member institution of the City Colleges of Chicago, Harry S. Truman College in Chicago was named in the president’s honor for its dedication to public universities. The headquarters of the U.S. Department of State, built in the 1930s was renamed (unofficially) the Harry S. Truman Building in 2000.

In 1991, Truman was inducted into the Hall of Famous Missourians, and a bronze bust depicting him is on permanent display in the Missouri State Capitol rotunda. Thomas Daniel, one of Truman’s grandsons, accepted a star on the Missouri Walk of Fame in 2006 to honor his late grandfather. John Truman, Truman’s nephew, accepted a star for Bess Truman in 2007. The Walk of Fame is in Marshfield, Missouri, a town Truman visited in 1948.

Truman was honored by the Postal Service in the Great American series with the 20th postage stamp in the series.

Alternatives:Historic sitesHistorical sitesHistorical places

Sources

  1. Harry S. Truman
  2. Harry S. Truman