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Harry S. Truman

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Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman.jpg
33rd President of the United States
In office
April 12, 1945 – January 20, 1953
Vice President none (1945–1949), Alben W. Barkley (1949–1953)
Preceded by Franklin D. Roosevelt
Succeeded by Dwight D. Eisenhower
34th Vice President of the United States
In office
20 January 1945 – 12 April 1945
President Franklin D. Roosevelt
Preceded by Henry A. Wallace
Succeeded by Alben W. Barkley
United States Senator
from Missouri
In office
January 3, 1935 – January 17, 1945
Preceded by Roscoe Patterson
Succeeded by Frank Briggs
Personal details
Born May 8, 1884(1884-05-08)
Lamar, Missouri
Died December 26, 1972(1972-12-26) (aged 88)
Kansas City, Missouri
Nationality American
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Bess Wallace Truman

Harry S. Truman (May 8, 1884 - December 26, 1972) was the 33rd President of the United States, from 1945 to 1953. His wife was Bess Wallace Truman. Harry became president when Franklin D. Roosevelt died in office. As president, Truman made important foreign policy decisions such as using atomic weapons on Japan to end World War II, repairing Europe (which was destroyed during the war), beginning the Cold War, and getting the U.S. involved in the Korean War.

Early Years

Harry Truman was born on May 8 1884 in Lamar, Missouri. He lived for 12 years as a Missouri farmer. He was raised in Independence, Missouri. The presidential election of 1892 happened when Harry was eight years old. Harry wanted Grover Cleveland to win. Grover Cleveland did win. Harry Truman joined the United States Military in 1917. He went to France in World War 1 and was captain in the Field Artillery. Later on, he had opened a clothing store in Kansas city. He left the military in 1919. In 1919 he married Elizabeth Virginia Wallace. He was active in the Democratic party, which led him to get elected judge of Jackson County Court. The initials S in Truman's name has no meaning.[1]

Political Life

In 1922 Harry was elected county judge. On February 17, 1924, Bess had a baby girl and named her Mary Margaret Truman. In November 1924 Harry Truman lost re-election. He was elected county judge again in 1926.(County Judge was not a judicial office. It was more like the California office of County Supervisor) In 1934 He was elected Senator of Missouri. Harry became a member of the Interstate Commerce Committee. He was vice-chairman of a subcommittee on railroad safety. In 1940 Harry Truman ran for re-election to the Senate. Governor Lloyd Stark was his primary opponent. President Franklin Roosevelt wanted Stark to win. St. Louis Mayor Bernard Dickmann wanted Stark to win. Harry had a hard time getting money. Most people thought that Harry would lose. About a month before the primary election the railroad unions said that they wanted Truman to win. Two days before primary election day Bernard Dickmann also said that he wanted Harry to win instead of stark. Harry won by about 8,000 votes. He also won the election in November.

Truman became chairman of a committee to investigate defense spending during World War 2. He helped eliminate billions of dollars of spending in the defense department that he believed was a waste. He supported Roosevelt's leadership of the country in the war, but wanted to make the government more efficient and effective. He gained a moderate amount of fame for leading that committee.

In 1944 President Franklin Roosevelt ran for re-election again. Roosevelt was in bad health and he did not have much longer to live. The Democratic Party realized that whoever they selected as Vice President could potentially be the next president of the United States. George Wallace, Roosevelt's former Vice President, was not selected because he had a friendly attitude toward the Soviet Union, which many saw as a dictatorship. Roosevelt wanted Truman as his Vice President and Truman was selected as his Vice President.

They won the election and Roosevelt began his 4th term as president. On April 12th 1945, shortly after the election, Franklin Delano Roosevelt died and Harry S. Truman became president.


After Franklin Roosevelt died, Truman became president. Truman said "it felt like the moon, the stars, and all of the planets had fallen upon me".

Harry Truman became president during the last few months of World War II. While Truman was vice president, he was never told much about World War II by Roosevelt because back then the Vice Presidency was not thought to be an important political position. Truman entered the presidency knowing not much more about U.S. military operations in World War II than the average person. However, Truman's defense advisors told him everything once he became president.

The United States made the Potsdam Declaration, telling Japan to surrender the war or it will face "prompt and utter destruction". Japan did not surrender. In result, Truman authorized the dropping of the first Atomic bomb on Japan (in the city Hiroshima) on August 6th, 1945. Truman ordered the second Atomic bomb to be dropped on the Japanese city Nagasaki on August 9th, 1945. Japan surrendered and the war ended.

The bombs were very destructive. They destroyed both cities and killed hundreds of thousands of people. For that reason, the decision to use the weapons was controversial (meaning that many people supported it, but many people were against it also). People who were against it, such as general and future president Dwight Eisenhower, believe it was a cruel and inhumane attack on innocent people when Japan was already close to being defeated. People who supported the decision felt it was necessary because it ended the war early. Truman felt that if the U.S. had invaded Japan instead of using the bombs to end the war quickly, much more people would have died.

After the war, Truman ordered Europe (which was destroyed during the war) to be repaired with the Marshall Plan. Germany was divided into two parts after the war. The Soviet Union controlled East Germany. The United States, Britain, and France controlled West Germany. Truman ordered the Berlin Airlift which flew in tons of food to West Germany to feed the starving people. He helped create the United Nations, an organization which was based on the League of Nations. The United Nations (which still exists today) was founded on the purpose of developed nations working together to help humanity and to promote peace.

After World War II, the Soviet Union and the United States were the only two powerful countries left. With Germany being divided between the Soviet Union and the United States, tensions began to increase between the two countries. The Cold War began. This was a war where the Soviet Union and the United States did not fight directly, but each wanted to have a bigger influence than the other over the world. The Soviet Union wanted to spread communism (a belief that the government should own the economy to make everybody equal) around the world. Truman believed in a policy called containment, which was devised by one of his defense advisors, that the U.S. should contain communism and stop it from spreading. Truman declared the Truman Doctrine, which was the belief that the United States should give money to Turkey and Greece so that they could be strong enough to defend themselves from communism.

He sent Congress his "Fair Deal". It was based on Roosevelt's New Deal. It included more money to education, more money to farmers, and a higher minimum wage for workers. Labor union leaders asked him for higher wages and more benefits. After the coal miners strike he had the Department of Interior take over the mines. While Truman sympathized for the working class, when there was a huge railroad strike, Truman believed it was illegal and unfair to people who could not get to work because the railroads were not operating, so he threatened to draft the people into the army if they did not return to work. He also desegregated the military, allowing blacks and whites to fight together.

In 1948 Harry Truman ran for a second term as President against Thomas Dewey. He was the underdog and everyone thought he was going to lose. The Chicago Tribune published a newspaper on the night of the election with the title "Dewey Defeats Truman". To everyone's surprise, Harry Truman won the election.

On June 24 1950, North Korea attacked South Korea. China was on the side of North Korea. North Korea wanted to bring Communism into South Korea. The U.S. fought the Korean War to defend South Korea and it eventually ended shortly after Truman's term ended. General Douglas MacArthur wanted to bomb China, but Truman thought it was too dangerous to do that, so he fired him. Many people respected MacArthur so they were angry at Truman. He made Mathew B. Ridgeway general.

During the end of his term, Harry Truman's approval rating was at an all-time low. He was very unpopular because thousands of Americans died in the Korean War, there was a moderate amount of corruption in his government, and people were accusing many of Truman's employees of being communists. He left office on January 20 1953.

As time passed, his reputation improved. Many historians now believe that Harry Truman was a great president.

Later life

Harry Truman moved back to Missouri. He died on December 26, 1972.


  1. McCullough, David (1992). Truman. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-671-45654-7 .

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