Harry S. Truman is probably the most surprising President, and an unassuming man. Truman grew rapidly with the job. He succesfully navigated the United States throught its first Cold War crisis..Elected 1948
The Early Years
Truman was born in Lamar, Missouri. As a child, Truman wore thick and expensive glasses and was not allowed to play sports. He attended grade school in Independence. He graduated from high school in 1901. He was an accomplished pianist, and hoped to purse a musical career, but his father's financial ruin ended any such plans, and Harry went to work. He held various jobs, and in 1906, Truman returned home to run the family farm. Truman served in the Missouri National Guard from 1905 to 1911. During World War I, Truman volunteered for active duty. He served in France in the field artillery, rising from Lieutenant to Major.
Immediately after the war, Truman went into the haberdashery business with Eddie Jacobsen. The business at first prospered, then went under during the recession of 1922. In 1923, Truman entered Kansas City Law School, which he attended until 1925. From 1922-24 and then again from 1926-34 Truman served as the Administrator of Jackson County Missouri.
In 1934, Truman was elected to the Senate of the United States. He entered, encumbered by his reputation as a machine politician, controlled by political bosses. Truman was a strong supporter of the policies of Franklin Roosevelt. He came to national prominence in his role as head of the committee investigating the National Defense Program. He identified over $5 billion in unnecessary spending.
In 1944, Roosevelt gave into pressure from party leaders and agreed to replace Henry Wallace as his Vice Presidential candidate. He selected Truman as his Vice President. His brief period as Vice President was uneventful. Truman was having a drink in the office of Senate Speaker Sam Rayburn when he was summoned to the White House on April 12, 1945. Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt greeted him with the words, "Harry, the President is dead." Truman replied, "Is there anything I can do for you?" Mrs. Roosevelt shook her head and replied, "Is there anything we can do for you? For you are the one in trouble now."
Accomplishments in Office
The day after assuming the Presidency, Truman stated to a reporter, "I felt like the moon, the stars and all the planets had fallen on me." Truman became President less than a month before the end of the war in Europe. He attended the final war summit at Potsdam. There, Truman had his first personal encounter with Stalin. At Potsdam, the Allies issued an ultimatum demanding immediate Japanese surrender.
Truman reluctantly decided to use the Atomic Bomb. He was concerned about it's possible effects, but feared the cost of invading Japan. Two bombs were dropped, one on Hiroshima and one on Nagasaki, and the Japanese surrendered. Truman warned, "We have unleashed the power of the sun."
Truman is best known for his foreign policy. Soviet action in Eastern Europe in the year following the end of the war made it clear that the Soviet goal was the domination of Eastern Europe. Thus, in 1947, Churchill gave what became known as the "Iron Curtain" speech, in which he stated that an iron curtain had descended across Europe. Truman responded by announcing the Truman Doctrine, which stated, "I believe that it must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures."
When the Soviets began to pressure Turkey and Greece into an alliance, Truman won Congressional approval for large-scale aid to those countries. He supported the Secretary of State's plan, known as the March Plan, through which the United States spent $13 billion to help rebuild Europe. When the Soviets blockaded Berlin, Truman responded vigorously by ordering the airlift that eventually carried 2 million tons of emergency supplies to West Berlin.
In 1949, the United States helped establish the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). NATO was organized to provide a common defense mechanism to defend Europe against Soviet attack.
In 1950, the North Koreans attacked South Korea. Truman responded immediately. He and other major policy leaders feared that this was the first round of World War III. The United States came to the immediate defense of South Korea, and organized a joint United Nations action. After an initial rout, U.S. forces took the offensive. They had almost completely conquered North Korea, when the Communist Chinese intervened on the side of the North Koreans. The war eventually ended in stalemate.
Truman's record on domestic issues was not as impressive as his foreign affairs activities. He announced a program called "The Fair Deal" immediately after World War II. Through this policy, he succeeded in having Congress pass the Federal Housing Act of 1949 that provided money for slum clearance. In addition, the minimum wage was raised and social security coverage was expanded. He was unable, however, to achieve passage for a law for a National Health Insurance program, nor could he repeal the Taft-Hartley Act. Truman succeeded in desegregating the Armed Forces.
The First Family
Father: John Anderson Truman
Mother: Martha Ellen Young
Wife: Elizabeth Virginia Wallace
Daughter: Margaret Truman
Secretaries of State: Edward Stettinius, James Byrens, George Marshall, Dean Acheson
Secretaries of Treasury: Henry Mogenthau Jr., Fredrick Vinson, John Snyder
Secretaries of War: Henry Stimson, Robert Patterson, Kenneth Royall
Secretaries of Defense: James Forrestal, Louis Marshall, George Marshall
Attorney Generals: Francis Biddle, Thomas Clark, J. Howard McGrath
Secretary of Navy: James Forrestal
Postmater Generals: Frank Walker, Robert Hannegan, Jesse Donaldson
Secretaries of Interior: Harold Ickes, J. A. Krug
Secretaries of Agriculture: Clause Wickard, Clinton Anderson
Secretaries of Commerce: Henry Wallace, Averell Hariman, Charles Sawyer
Secretaries of Labor: Francis Perkins, Lewis Schwellenbach, Maurice Tobin
Undeclared war in Greece
Airlift in Berlin
Did You Know?
Gave the first televised Presidential address.
First President to witness the swearing in of his own appointed Supreme Court Justice.
First President to officially recieve a woman ambassador.