Biography of President Truman and past presidents courtesy of the White House Historical Association.
during his few weeks as vice president, harry truman barely saw president franklin roosevelt and received no information about the development of the atomic bomb or the emerging difficulties with soviet russia. Truman suddenly had to solve these and many other problems of the war when, on April 12, 1945, he became the 33rd president of the United States.
during his few weeks as vice president, harry s. Truman barely saw President Roosevelt, and received no information about the development of the atomic bomb or the emerging difficulties with Soviet Russia. Truman suddenly had to solve these and many other problems of the war when, on April 12, 1945, he became president. He told reporters: “I felt as if the moon, the stars and all the planets had fallen on me.”
truman was born in lamar, missouri, in 1884. he grew up in independence and for 12 years prospered as a missouri farmer.
He went to France during World War I as a captain in the field artillery. Upon returning, he married Elizabeth Virginia Wallace and opened a haberdashery store in Kansas City.
Active in the Democratic Party, Truman was elected a Jackson County Court Judge (an administrative position) in 1922. He became a Senator in 1934. During World War II, he headed the Senate War Investigative Committee , investigating waste and corruption and save perhaps as much as 15 billion dollars.
As President, Truman made some of the most crucial decisions in history. Shortly after V-E-Day, the war against Japan had reached its final stage. An urgent request to Japan to surrender was refused. Truman, after consulting with his advisers, ordered the dropping of atomic bombs on cities engaged in war work. two were hiroshima and nagasaki. the Japanese surrender quickly followed.
in june 1945, truman witnessed the signing of the charter of the united nations, established hopefully to preserve peace.
Until now, he had followed his predecessor’s policies, but soon developed his own. He presented a 21-point program to Congress, proposing the expansion of Social Security, a full employment program, a permanent Fair Employment Practices Act and public housing, and slum cleanup. The program, Truman wrote, “symbolizes for me my assumption of the office of president in my own right.” became known as the fair deal.
Dangers and crises marked the scene abroad as Truman campaigned successfully in 1948. In foreign affairs he was already providing his most effective leadership.
in 1947, when the soviet union put pressure on turkey and, through the guerrillas, threatened to take over greece, he asked congress to help both countries, enunciating the program that bears his name: the truman doctrine. The Marshall Plan, named for his Secretary of State, spurred a spectacular economic recovery in war-torn Western Europe.
when the russians blockaded the western sectors of berlin in 1948, truman created a huge airlift to supply berliners until the russians backed down. Meanwhile, he was negotiating a military alliance to protect Western nations, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, established in 1949.
in june 1950, when the communist government of north korea attacked south korea, truman quickly consulted with his military advisers. there was, he wrote, “a complete, almost tacit acceptance by everyone that whatever had to be done to deal with this aggression had to be done. no one suggested that the united nations or the us could back down.”
A long and daunting struggle ensued as part of the UN. The forces held a line on the old South Korean border. Truman kept the war limited, rather than risk a major conflict with China and perhaps Russia.
Deciding not to run again, he withdrew to independence; At age 88, he passed away on December 26, 1972, after a tenacious fight for life.
For more information on President Truman, visit the Harry S. Truman Library & museum.
learn more about harry s. Truman’s wife, Elizabeth Virginia Wallace Truman.