Summary

Conflict Period:
World War I 1
Branch:
Army 1
Rank:
Captain 1
Birth:
08 May 1884 1
Lamar, Missouri 1
Death:
December 26, 1972 1
Kansas City, Missouri 1
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Person:
Harry S Truman 2
Age in 1930: 45 2
Birth:
08 May 1884 1
Lamar, Missouri 1
Estimated Birth Year: 1885 2
Death:
December 26, 1972 1
Kansas City, Missouri 1
Residence:
Place: JACKSON County, Missouri 2
From: 1930 2
Enumeration District: INDEPENDENCE CITY, WARD 1 2
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World War I 1

Branch:
Army 1
Rank:
Captain 1
Service Start Date:
1917 1
Service End Date:
1919 1

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Harry S. Truman: Decisive President-NY Times Obit Part 2

Defense Waste Exposed

When Truman was sworn for his second term in 1941, the nation was preparing for war, and the letting of defense contracts was surrounded with rumors of favoritism and influence. Deeply concerned, Truman got into his automobile for a 30,000-mile tour of major defense plants and projects.

"The trip was an eye-opener, and I came back to Washington convinced that something needed to be done fast," he said. "I had seen at first hand that grounds existed for a good many of the rumors. . .concerning the letting of contracts and the concentration of defense industries in big cities."

The result was the Special Committee to Investigate the National Defense Program, soon shortened to the Truman Committee after the name of its chairman. It saved the country many millions of dollars by curbing waste and discouraging graft. And it made Truman a minor national figure, conspicuous for his firmness and his fairness.

Truman prepared his investigation by making a thorough study of similar committees in the past, especially of the records of the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War Between the States. Defining his approach, the Senator said:

"The thing to do is to dig up the stuff now and correct it. If we run the war program efficiently, there won't be an opportunity to undertake a lot of investigations after the war and cause a wave of revulsion that will start off the country on the downhill road to unpreparedness and put us in another war in 20 years."

The committee got under way slowly, with $15,000 appropriated for its tasks. Truman invested $9,000 of this in the salary of Hugh Fulton, the group's investigator and counsel. The committee quickly turned up disquieting evidence of waste in military-camp construction and equipment. And once its first reports--sober, factual and damning--were issued, more money for its operations was forthcoming.

The dollar-a-year man came under its scrutiny, and the committee was able to produce evidence that between June 1, 1940 and April 30, 1941, Army and Navy contracts totaling almost $3-billion had gone to 65 companies whose officials or former officials were serving in Washington and elsewhere as unpaid advisers to Federal agencies.

Truman also inquired into aluminum production, the automobile industry, the aviation program, copper, lead, zinc and steel; into labor, plant financing, defense housing, lobbying, ordnance plants, small business and Government contracts. Scarcely any aspect of procurement escaped his attention. The committee's hearings were orderly, remarkably free of partisanship, but they produced news and, more important, correction of the abuses that the Senators had brought to light.

Truman was as unsparing of industrialists as he was of union leaders. He criticized William S. Knudsen, director of the Office of Production management, for "bungling"; he was just as harsh with Sidney Hillman, the union leader, who was associate director of the office.

The Senator was himself a zestful investigator and a keen questioner. He said later that the committee's watchdog role "was responsible for savings not only in dollars and precious time but in actual lives" on the battlefield.

In the course of the committee's work, Truman was in touch with President Roosevelt, but there was no immediate serious thought of him as Vice-Presidential material. When early in 1944 some friends mentioned the possibility to him, Truman "brushed it aside."

"I was doing the job I wanted to do; it was the one I liked, and I had no desire to interrupt my career in the Senate," he said.

Indeed, Truman had so far removed himself from consideration that he had agreed in July, on the eve of the Democratic Convention in Chicago, to nominate James F. Byrnes for Vice President, after Byrnes told him that Roosevelt had given him the nod. Meantime Roosevelt had decided to drop Vice President Henry A. Wallace and also, it turned out, to pass over Byrnes.

The choice fell on Truman. He was not so closely identified with labor as Wallace, although he was acceptable, nor was he a Southern conservative, as was Byrnes. He was without fierce enemies, had an excellent reputation, was moderate on civil rights and was a Midwesterner. Truman, however, was almost the last to know of Roosevelt's decision.

"On Tuesday evening of convention week," he recalled, "National Chairman Bob Hannegan came to see me and told me unequivocally that President Roosevelt wanted me to run with him on the ticket. This astonished me greatly, but I was still not convinced. Even when Hannegan showed me a longhand note written on a scratch pad from the President's desk which said, 'Bob, it's Truman. F.D.R.,' I still could not be sure that this was Roosevelt's intent."

It took a long-distance call to Roosevelt, then on the West Coast, to convince Truman.

"Bob," Roosevelt said, "have you got that fellow lined up yet?"

"No," Hannegan replied. "He's the contrariest Missouri mule I've ever dealt with."

"Well, you tell him," Truman heard the President say, "if he wants to break up the Democratic party in the middle of a war, that's his responsibility."

"I was completely stunned," Truman remarked afterward. After walking around the hotel room, he said, "Well, if that is the situation, I'll have to say yes, but why the hell didn't he tell me in the first place?"

Following the nomination, Truman stumped the nation for Roosevelt and himself; for the President campaigned almost not at all. The Roosevelt-Truman slate won with ease over Gov. Thomas E. Dewey of New York and Senator John W. Bricker of Ohio, the Republican choices for President and Vice President. The popular vote was 25,602,555 to 22,006,278, and the Electoral College tally was 432 to 99.

On Jan. 20, 1945, a snowy Saturday, Harry S. Truman stood on the South Portico of the White House and was inaugurated. The man he was about to displace, Vice President Henry A. Wallace, administered the oath.

The Glorious Comeback of 1948

"A gone goose" was how Clare Boothe Luce described Harry S. Truman in 1948. With that Republican assessment of the President's chances for election on his own, many Democrats agreed--Frank Hague of Jersey City and Mayor William O'Dwyer of New York among them. Truman had his own views.

"There was no doubt of the course I had to take," he said. "I felt it my duty to get into the fight and help stem the tide of reaction, if I could, until the basic aims of the New Deal and the Fair Deal could be adopted, tried and proved."

The Republicans' exultancy and the Democrats' pessimism seemed well founded. Early in 1948 Truman, who had always opposed discrimination, submitted to Congress a series of moderate civil rights proposals that included anti-lynching and anti-segregation measures. Southern Democrats were disconcerted. They organized a States Rights party, with Senator J. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina as its Presidential candidate, to sunder the Democrats' traditional Solid South.

At the other end of the political spectrum, pacifist and leftist groups, alarmed over the Cold War with the Soviet Union, and dissident labor groups rallied around Henry A. Wallace and formed a Progressive party to challenge the Democrats in the big Northern and Western cities.

Popularity Hits Bottom

Added to those seemingly fatal Democratic rifts was a generalized voter discontent over inflation, high taxes, the presence of Truman's Missouri friends in the White House and in preferred administrative jobs.

Furthermore, some sophisticates thought ill of a President who relaxed at Key West, Fla., in brightly hued sports shirts, whose words lacked scholarly elegance and who was inclined to be snappish with his Republican Congress.

Truman himself conceded the dismal outlook for his fortunes. "Almost unanimously the polls taken before the 1948 Democratic Convention showed my popularity with the American people to have hit an all-time low," he said.

He was convinced nonetheless that this "resulted from the efforts made by the American press to misrepresent me and to make my program, policies and staff appear in the worst possible light." His complaint had some merit; most publishers were staunchly Republican, and frequently their news columns gave more space to Truman's opponents than to his defenders.

"I knew I had to do something," the President recalled, and that "something" was to "go directly to the people in all parts of the country with a personal message."

The consequence was a "nonpolitical" train trip in May to the West Coast and back. On it Truman delivered 76 speeches, many at whistle stops, and the bulk of them extemporaneously. They were plain, earnest talks that expounded his domestic and foreign program, and they created a favorable impression. Indeed, even those Democrats who were considering drafting Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, because of his aura as a war leader, now warmed up to Truman.

He was thereupon nominated with ease, and selected to run with him was Senator Alben W. Barkley of the border state of Kentucky.

Earlier, expectant Republicans had chosen Gov. Thomas E. Dewey of New York as their Presidential candidate and Gov. Earl Warren of California as his ticket mate. Their platform emphasized that "it is time for a change," and it pledged action to halt rising prices, meet the housing shortage, promote civil rights and aid education. The party exuded confidence; the campaign appeared to be little more than a formal prelude to inauguration.

Truman, however, took the offensive, starting with his acceptance speech before the Democratic Convention. It was a rousing talk given from notes, and it foreshadowed his campaign strategy and his style.

"I made a tough, fighting speech," he recalled. "I recited the benefits that had been won by the Democratic Administrations for the people."

He singled out farmers and workers, telling them that "if they don't do their duty by the Democratic party, they are the most ungrateful people in the world."

Then, to use his words, he "tore into the 80th Congress" and the Republican party, building to his climax--an announcement that he would recall the Congress into special summer session to enact the recently adopted Republican platform.

It was a masterly tactic, for the special session accomplished nothing. Its Republican leaders were awaiting what seemed to them an assured Dewey victory in November, and they had no desire to give Truman credit for legislation that might better go to Dewey. In the meantime Truman took himself to the country.

"I am going to fight hard; I am going to give them hell," he assured Barkley as he prepared to denounce again and again "that no-good, do-nothing 80th Congress."

The Long Campaign Trail

His campaign covered 31,700 miles, and it included 256 speeches--16 in one day once. More than 12 million people turned out to see him. "I simply told the people in my own language," he said later, "that they had better wake up to the fact that it was their fight."

He appealed to farmers not to jeopardize their prosperity. To labor he vowed a fight to repeal the Taft-Hartley Act. To Negroes he promised more civil rights. And to everyone he said he would carry on his domestic program "for the benefit of all the people."

The response, mild at first, grew in late September and October, and at the end, wherever he appeared, the crowds were large and friendly, and there were yells of "Give 'em hell, Harry," and the throngs applauded and cheered when he did just that. Owing to bipartisanship, however, foreign policy was not an active issue; the concentration was on domestic affairs.

Dewey, for his part, was speaking in polished and euphonious generalities, virtually ignoring his opponent. He pleaded for "unity" among the voters, much like a man who had already won an election. The polls and the commentators all predicted he would win, and he did not see how he could lose.

But Truman sensed something else. A homespun man without guile, he believed that he had touched the common man with simple, hortatory speeches, whose theme was, "Help me."

Dewey 'Election' Reversed

Election eve, Truman was in Missouri. He took a Turkish bath, ate a ham sandwich, drank a glass of milk and went to bed. He awoke twice during the night, both times to listen to Hans von Kaltenborn's clipped, slightly Teutonic-voiced radio analyses of the returns. These showed Truman ahead in the popular vote--but he couldn't possibly win, the commentator insisted. (For years afterward Truman delighted in imitating Kaltenborn's remarks that night, just as he enjoyed poking fun at The Chicago Tribune, which "elected" Dewey in its early-edition headline.)

At 6 A.M. on Nov. 3, when the California vote came in, Truman was elected in what many experts called a stunning upset. The tally gave him 24,105,695 votes to Dewey's 21,969,170; in the Electoral College the vote was Truman, 303; Dewey, 189, and Thurmond, 39. Wallace received no electoral votes, though his popular vote, a little more than a million, equaled Thurmond's.

"I was happy and pleased," the President said, not only for himself but also for the Democratic Congress that was elected with him.

The President opened his new term with characteristic audacity, by using his Inaugural Address on Jan. 20, 1949, to call for fulfillment of his domestic plans and to urge reinforcement of the Western alliance against Soviet power.

But the high spot of his foreign program was a proposal that the United States share its tremendous scientific and industrial experience with nations emerging from colonialism into freedom. He summed up the plan (quickly shortened to Point Four, because it was the fourth point in the foreign program) in these words:

I believe we should make available to peace-loving people the benefits of our store of technical knowledge, in order to help them realize their aspirations for a better life."

Help to Weaker Nations

Point Four captured the imagination of the peoples in the underdeveloped world, and more than 34 nations eventually signed up for technical assistance. By 1953 Truman was able to report that the program "had relieved famine measurably in many portions of the world, had reduced the incidence of diseases that keep many areas poverty-stricken, and had set many nations on the path of rising living standards by their own efforts and by the work of their own nationals."

Truman detailed his domestic proposals in a State of the Union message. These included controls on prices, credit, wages and rents to fight inflation; priorities and allocations of essential materials; new civil-rights laws; a 75-cent-an-hour basic wage; health insurance; expanded Social Security; low-cost housing and a tax increase.

"Every segment of our population and every individual has the right to expect from our Government a fair deal," he declared. The "fair deal" phrase was picked up and became the shorthand name for his program.

Meanwhile the President was confronted with a fearful and insecure Europe, uncertain anew of the extent of Soviet bellicosity after the Communist take-over of Czechoslovakia in 1948. The response Truman framed was military: the mutual security system of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The treaty embracing Western Europe and the United States was signed April 4, 1949, and ratified Aug. 14 by the Senate.

The pact, which placed this country's allies under its military umbrella, was a milestone in American foreign relations, for it dramatized United States determination to block any Soviet westward thrust by force of arms.

To head the NATO command, Truman had one man in mind--Dwight D. Eisenhower, whose organizational skills the President admired. With the general in charge, NATO quickly shaped common defense measures for Europe, and by early 1950 its nations were receiving the first of many hundreds of shipments of American arms. Military might was reinforcing the economic recovery fostered through the Marshall Plan and the Truman Doctrine.

Domestically business slumped in 1949, swelling the jobless rolls to 3.7 million and creating a Federal deficit of $3.7 billion. Despite vigorous prodding from the White House, Congress was not, on the whole, responsive to appeals for social legislation or economic pump-priming; nor did it repeal the Taft-Harley Act, as Truman had urged. Much of its mind, instead, was on the loyalty of Federal employes, a question raised acutely by the Soviet explosion of an atomic device in 1949 and by revelations in the Alger Hiss case.

A former high State Department officer, Hiss was convicted of perjury in 1949. Testimony at his trial alleged that he had been involved in giving classified information to Soviet agents. This, and similar charges involving other former and current Federal employes, aroused demands for a finer screening of Government workers and for restraint of Communist and leftist groups.

Although Truman objected pungently to what he termed "the witch-hunting tactics" of Congressional inquiries, and although he stoutly defended witness invocations of the Fifth Amendment, he did tighten loyalty-security procedures in an effort to bar Communists and subversives from Federal jobs.

Nonetheless he was never entirely convinced that these programs were in the American tradition, because, he argued, virtually any such program gave "Government officials vast powers to harass all of our citizens in the exercise of their right of free speech."

"There is no more fundamental axiom of American freedom," he declared at the time, "than the familiar statement: 'In a free country, we punish men for the crimes they commit but never for the opinions they have.'"

It was in that vein that the President vetoed the Internal Security Act of 1950--a law designed to curb and punish "subversive" political expression. It was a courageous move, but an ineffective one, for Congress overrode the veto within 24 hours.

Internal security problems preoccupied legislators and the public for the remainder of Truman's term, becoming acute when Senator Joseph R. McCarthy, Republican of Wisconsin, began to accuse the State Department of harboring Communists and to charge that the Administration was "soft" on party members and sympathizers.

Truman, of course, was not "soft" on Communists, but neither was he "soft" on McCarthy, whom he scorned as a demagogue. He was especially bitter about McCarthy's attacks on Marshall and the imputation that the general, who had headed a mission to China, was responsible for the Nationalist debacle there. Later the President condemned Eisenhower for his failure, in 1952, to disavow McCarthy publicly for having criticized Marshall.

Beset on the home front, Truman was soon fatefully involved again in the Far East. As one result of the peace settlement there, Japan was obliged to give up her 40-year suzerainty over Korea. The peninsula was divided for occupation purposes between the United States and the Soviet Union, with American forces supervising the area south of the 38th Parallel.

Shortly, however, a Communist regime was established in the Soviet zone, and it became North Korea. In the American zone a government headed by Syngman Rhee had been set up in 1948, after elections watched over by a United Nations commission. To this new republic the United States extended military and economic aid.

Nonetheless pockets of discontent persisted in South Korea, and these were exploited by Communists in the North. By 1950 it seemed to North Korea that the Republic of Korea could be readily obliterated and the peninsula united in a single Communist regime.

The War in Korea

Throughout the spring Central Intelligence Agency reports indicated to Truman that the North Koreans might attack, but these reports, the President noted later, were vague on timing. Besides, he said, "these same reports also told me repeatedly that there were any number of other spots in the world where the Russians 'possessed the capability' to attack." Moreover, at that time, America's first-line defense perimeter did not include Korea, as Secretary of State Dean Acheson had made clear.

So it was that on Saturday, June 24, 1950, the President was in Independence, Mo., on a family visit. "It was a little about 10 in the evening, and we were sitting in the library of our home on North Delaware Street, when the telephone rang," he recalled. "It was the Secretary of State calling from his home in Maryland. 'Mr. President,' said Dean Acheson, 'I have very serious news. The North Koreans have invaded South Korea.'"

Truman's reaction was swift: to request an immediate special meeting of the United Nations Security Council and to seek from it a declaration that the invasion was an act of aggression under the United Nations Charter.

The next day Truman flew back to Washington for a Blair House conference with his diplomatic and military advisers. As they were meeting, the Security Council (which the Soviet Union was boycotting at the moment) approved, 9 to 0, a resolution ordering the North Koreans to halt their invasion and to withdraw their forces. (Yugoslavia abstained on the roll-call.)

"As we continued our discussion," Truman wrote later, "I stated that I did not expect the North Koreans to pay any attention to the United Nations. This, I said, would mean that the United Nations would have to apply force if it wanted its order obeyed.

"Gen. [Omar] Bradley said we would have to draw the line somewhere. Russia, he thought, was not yet ready for war, but in Korea they were obviously testing us, and the line ought to be drawn now.

"I said most emphatically I thought the line would have to be drawn."

With North Korean forces rapidly penetrating southward, the President ordered Gen. Douglas MacArthur, in Tokyo, to use American air and naval forces to aid the South Koreans. Simultaneously, with United States backing, the Security Council called on all members of the United Nations to help South Korea.

Within the next few days, under nominal United Nations command, American ground troops entered the conflict. This decision to intervene, Truman said later, "was probably the most important of all" that he made in his years of office.

In succeeding weeks Truman was immersed in the conflict and its incessant demands for decisions that only he could make. From the start, he did not regard the United Nations effort as a war but rather as a "police action" to punish aggression; as an armed struggle with clearly limited objectives.

"Every decision I made in connection with the Korean conflict," he said, "had this one aim in mind: to prevent a third World War. . . . This meant that we should not do anything that would provide the excuse to the Soviets and plunge the free nations into full-scale, all-out war."

On the battleground itself, the North Koreans pushed the battered South Koreans and American forces into a pocket, and disaster seemed imminent until MacArthur, in a brilliant maneuver, landed troops at Inchon, behind the North Korean lines. Slowly the American forces regained the initiative. In October American troops were sweeping up the neck of the peninsula, deep into North Korea.

In Washington the President explained his objectives in Korea to Congressional leaders and to Dewey, as the titular head of the Republican party, and received their support. Then he set about to put the nation on a semiwar footing.

He asked Congress to remove limitations on the size of the armed forces, authorize priorities and allocation of materials to prevent hoarding, raise taxes, restrict consumer credit and add $10-billion for armaments. The proposals, most of which were adopted, gave rise to grumbling later on, in 1952, when the conflict became stalemated.

Early in the conflict there were two developments that, as they matured, deeply affected the fighting and brought Truman into collision with MacArthur. These were indications that the Communist People's Republic of China might intervene in North Korea and that the general was not hewing to the Truman policy that called for a neutral Taiwan.

(MacArthur doubted the likelihood of Red Chinese intervention, and he wanted to bring Chiang Kai-shek into the fighting. His public disagreement with Truman on that point almost cost him his command in August, 1950.)

Truman decided that the best way to handle his differences with MacArthur was in a face-to-face talk. "Events since June had shown me that MacArthur had lost some of his contacts with the country and its people in the many years of his absence," the President wrote. "He had been in the Orient for nearly 14 years then. . . . I had made efforts through [W. Averell] Harriman and others to let him see the worldwide picture as we saw it in Washington, but I felt that we had little success. I thought he might adjust more easily if he heard it from me directly."

The two men met for the first time on Wake Island in the Pacific on Oct. 15, 1950. The general was optimistic: The Chinese Communists would not enter Korea and the fighting would end by Thanksgiving, he predicted. Truman was pleased, and again he emphasized that the "police action" had strictly limited objectives, a prime one being the containment of the fighting to Korea.

Strategists differ as to what prompted the action, but on Oct. 25 the Chinese did enter the conflict, sending thousands of "volunteers" across the Yalu River into North Korea. Thus reinforced, the Communist forces eventually beat back the American and United Nations troops to the 38th Parallel, where a front was established that lasted until the truce of 1953.

Truman's policy in the face of the Chinese intervention was to continue to confine the fighting to Korea, to avoid escalation, a policy in which other members of the United Nations concurred. MacArthur, on the other hand, wanted to strike directly at the Chinese by air action in Manchuria across the Yalu River.

Matters came to a head in March, 1951, when MacArthur wrote to Representative Joseph W. Martin Jr., the House Republican leader, criticizing the President's policy. Truman believed that he had no choice but to relieve the general of his command.

"If there is one basic element in our Constitution, it is civilian control of the military," he explained. "Policies are to be made by elected political officials, not by generals or admirals. Yet time and again General MacArthur had shown that he was unwilling to accept the policies of the Administration. By his repeated public statements, he was not only confusing our allies. . .but, in fact, was also setting his policy against the President's."

Amid mounting public speculation, Truman acted dramatically on April 10, 1951. In a concise order he discharged MacArthur for insubordination. To the American public, MacArthur was an almost legendary figure as a result of his Pacific War exploits--a general with superb aplomb who had turned the tide against Japan--and it was difficult at first to accept the possibility that he had overstepped the bounds of his role in Korea. It seemed logical, after all, for a general to want to win a clear-cut victory, and it was obvious to many that it must be frustrating for him to be forbidden the means to do it.

Realizing this, the President went on the radio to explain his action. The United States and the United Nations, he said, could not permit the Korean conflict to become a general war. Bringing China into that conflict directly, he warned, might unleash a third World War.

"That war can come if the Communist leaders want it to come," he said. "But this nation and its allies will not be responsible for its coming."

The deposed MacArthur returned to the United States, and to triumphal adulation. It appeared for a time that Truman, the Commander in Chief, was about to be outflanked by MacArthur, the dismissed general. Senate hearings were called in an air of expectancy, but after a few weeks the furor subsided, and the validity of Truman's step was generally accepted.

Assassination Foiled

In the midst of the Korean conflict there was a crude attempt to assassinate the President. It occurred Nov. 1, 1950, when the Trumans were living in Blair House while the White House was under repair.

On the street below the President's window, guards kept vigil. At 2 P.M., as Truman was napping, a taxicab stopped nearby, and two men got out and walked toward Blair House. Suddenly one drew a pistol and fired at a guard. The other ran toward the front door of Blair House.

The guards sprang into action, and when the shooting ceased in a few minutes, Griselio Torresola, a Puerto Rican extremist, lay dead, and Leslie Coffelt, a guard, was mortally wounded.

The second would-be assassin, Oscar Collazo, was shot in the chest. He was subsequently convicted of murder and sentenced to die, but the President commuted the penalty in 1952 to life imprisonment.

Trumans' second term, like his first, was marked by greater harmony on foreign policy-- especially economic and military aid to Europe--than on domestic affairs. He found Congress reasonably willing to spend on foreign aid but reluctant to provide for social welfare, housing and education. This, in part, stemmed from home-front discontent over dislocations--taxes and a rise in living costs--caused by the Korean fighting.

Truman strove to keep the economy stable, a determination that he dramatized by seizing the steel industry on April 8, 1952, to avert a strike and a price rise in that basic commodity. Invoking his Korean conflict emergency powers, he put the industry under Government operation. The stunning move aroused the ire of the business community, but the President was prepared with an explanation.

"If we give in to the steel companies on this issue," he said, "you could just say goodbye to stabilization. If we knuckled under to the steel industry, the lid would be off, prices would start jumping all around us--not just the prices of things using steel but prices of many other things we buy, including milk and groceries and meat."

Steel challenged the seizure and was upheld by the Supreme Court on the ground the President had exceeded his authority. He was obliged to approve a price rise. He always insisted, however, that the seizure was justified and legal.

As far back as 1949 Truman had decided not to run for election in 1952, and as that year drew near, he cast about for a suitable candidate. Once, in 1945, he had impulsively told Eisenhower he would back him in 1948, but by 1952 the general had been courted by the Republicans.

Support for Stevenson

Trumans' initial choice for 1952 was Chief Justice Fred M. Vinson, but the latter declined on grounds of health in the fall of 1951. The President then turned to Gov. Adlai E. Stevenson of Illinois, who had been elected in 1948 by an impressively large vote. Stevenson rejected Truman's proffer at least twice. Then, after almost six months of uncertainty, he decided to seek the nomination.

Truman, always a loyal party man, helped him get the nomination and stumped for him vigorously. The President, however, did not like Stevenson's campaign tactics, and he was not greatly astonished when Eisenhower won.

Afterward Truman made elaborate arrangements to acquaint the President-elect with pending problems, but the White House meeting was stiff and unproductive. Truman felt that the general was still smarting from the partisanship of the campaign.

Truman's intimates and advisers, who had watched him mature in office, praised him above all for his forthrightness. He himself, reviewing his actions in December, 1952, said:

"The Presidents who have done things, who were not afraid to act, have been the most abused. . .and I have topped them all in the amount of abuse I have received."

If he had to do it all over again, he went on, he would not change anything.

On another occasion, he was more poignant. He said:

"I have tried my best to give the nation everything I had in me. There are probably a million people who could have done the job better than I did, but I had the job, and I always quote an epitaph on a tombstone in a cemetery in Tombstone, Arizona: 'Here lies Jack Williams. He done his damndest.'"

 

 

Harry S. Truman: Decisive President-NY Times Obit Part 1

At 7:09 P.M. on April 12, 1945, Harry S. Truman, the Vice President of the United States, was elevated by the sudden death of Franklin D. Roosevelt to the Presidency of the United States. He lacked a month of being 61 years old, and he had been Vice President for only 83 days when Chief Justice Harlan F. Stone administered the oath in the White House Cabinet Room.

It was the third time since 1900 that a President had died in office, but it was the first wartime accession. For Truman, a hitherto minor national figure with a pedestrian background as a Senator from Missouri, the awesome moment came without his having intimate knowledge of the nation's tremendously intricate war and foreign policies. These he had to become acquainted with and to deal with instantly, for on him alone, a former haberdasher and politician of unspectacular scale, devolved the Executive power of one of the world's mightiest nations.

"But now the lightning had struck, and events beyond anyone's control had taken command," Truman wrote later.

These events, over which he presided and on which he placed his indelible imprint, were among the most momentous in national and world history, for they took place in the shadow and the hope of the Atomic Age, whose beginning coincided with Truman's accession. And during his eight years in office, the outlines of the cold war were fashioned.

In war-ravaged Europe in those years, Truman and the United States established peace and held back Soviet expansion and built economic and political stability through the Truman Doctrine, the Marshall Plan and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. In the Mideast he recognized the State of Israel. In the Far East the President imposed peace and constitutional democracy on the Japanese enemy, tried valiantly to save China from Communism and chose to wage war in Korea to halt aggression. In the United States, Truman led the nation's conversion from war to peace, while maintaining a stable and prosperous economy.

Summons to Leadership

The drama and significance of these accomplishments were, of course, not readily predictable when Truman took office April 12, 1945, as the 33d President, but there was an element of theatricality in the way he was notified that the burden had fallen on him.

Two hours before Truman stood, Bible in hand, before the Chief Justice that misty Thursday, he had entered the office of Speaker Sam Rayburn in the House wing of the Capitol for a chat. Writing to his mother and sister a few days later, he said: ". . .as soon as I came into the room Sam told me that Steve Early, the President's confidential press secretary, wanted to talk with me. I called the White House, and Steve told me to come to the White House 'as quickly and as quietly' as I could.

"I ran all the way to my office in the Senate by way of the unfrequented corridors in the Capitol, told my office force that I'd been summoned to the White House and to say nothing about it. . . ."

He arrived there at 5:25 P.M. and was taken by elevator to Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt's study on the second floor. As he emerged, Mrs. Roosevelt stepped forward and put her arm across his shoulders.

"Harry," she said quietly, "the President is dead."

For a minute Truman was too stunned to speak. Then, fighting off tears, he asked, "Is there anything I can do for you?"

With her characteristic empathy, Mrs. Roosevelt replied, "Is there anything wecan do for you? For you are the one in trouble now."

In the next hour and a half Truman learned the details of Roosevelt's death at Warm Springs, Ga., gathered his composure and prepared to take the oath in the presence of Congressional leaders, Cabinet members, his wife, Bess, and their daughter, Margaret.

The person on whom the Executive power of the United States was so abruptly thrust was, in appearance, not distinctive. He stood 5 feet 8 inches tall. He had broad, square shoulders, an erect carriage, a round, apple-checked face, a long, sharp nose, deep blue eyes that peered through steel-rimmed glasses, and thin gray-white hair that was neatly parted and carefully brushed.

Apart from the plain eyeglasses, the most catching feature of Truman's face were his thin lips, which could be clamped in grimness or parted, over even teeth, in an engaging smile.

Dressed in a conservative double-breasted suit, with a 35th Infantry Division insigne in the left lapel and a white handkerchief peeping out of the breast pocket, Truman looked neat and plain. His only jewelry was a double-band gold Masonic ring on the little finger of his left hand. Aside from his speech--its flat, clipped, slightly nasal quality pegged him as a Middle Westerner--he seemed a typical small-city businessman, pleasant and substantial, more at home on Main Street than on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Certainly he could not have been typecast as a Senator. He was not an orator, nor even a frequent speaker, in his 10 years as a Democratic Senator from Missouri. But when he did speak, he was listened to, closely, for his remarks were coherent, forceful and usually brief.

He was industrious on Senate committees, and he served with distinction and fairness as chairman of the Special Committee to Investigate the National Defense Program. He was popular ("Harry" to everyone) and a member of the Senate's inner circle. He was known for his informal geniality, his homely language and also, on occasion, for his irascibility and brusqueness.

Unlike most of his fellow legislators, Truman did not have a college degree or a fixed profession. His formal education had ended with high school, and he had been in business from time to time, but mostly he had been in politics. He was a county official from 1922 until his election to the Senate in 1934.

An inquisitive and retentive mind helped to compensate for Truman's lack of schooling, and he employed it in prodigious, if haphazard, reading, especially in American political history.

Although he had been Roosevelt's choice as a ticket mate in 1944 and although the two men were on good terms, Truman was not, even as Vice President, a White House intimate, closely informed on the progress of the war. He had supported Roosevelt at home and abroad, but his personal inclinations were more conservative.

His private attitude toward Roosevelt was astringent, according to Margaret Truman Daniel's "Harry S. Truman," published this year. His daughter's book quoted a desk-pad memo of 1948 that said "I don't believe the USA wants any more fakers--Teddy and Franklin are enough. So I'm going to make a common-sense, intellectually honest campaign."

From the very first, Truman had to exercise his new authority from minute to minute, while his advisers briefed him as swiftly as they could. "I did more reading than I ever thought I could," he said after his first full day in office. But he was aware of his inadequacies.

"Boys," he told a group of reporters in those first days, "if you ever pray, pray for me now. . . . I've got the most terribly responsible job a man ever had."

Truman's first decision was routine. The question: Should the San Francisco conference on the United Nations meet April 25, as scheduled? "I did not hesitate a second" in giving an affirmative response, he recalled.

His second decision--to meet with the Cabinet and ask its members to remain on--was also easy. But most of the judgments that followed (including Cabinet dismissals) were not.

"I felt as if I had lived five lifetimes in those first days as President," he said of his "mighty leap" into the White House and global politics.

'The Buck Stops Here'

In creating and carrying out his policies, Truman built a reputation for decisiveness and courage. He did not fret once his mind was made up.

"I made it clear [to the first Cabinet session] that I would be President in my own right," Truman said, "and that I would assume full responsibility for such decisions as had to be made."

Expressing the same thought, a sign on his desk read: "The buck stops here."

With the war in Europe near its triumphant end, Truman had immediately to deal with Soviet intentions to impose Communist regimes in Eastern Europe and possibly to exploit the economic breakdown in Western Europe. Simultaneously he had to seek military and political solutions in the war against Japan. Both situations involved Soviet-American relations, and both gave initial shape to decades of strife and conflict between the world's two major powers.

Whereas Roosevelt tended to be flexible in coping with the Russians, Truman held sterner views. "If we see that Germany is winning the war, we ought to help Russia; and if that Russia is winning, we ought to help Germany, and in that way let them kill as many as possible. . . ." he said as a Senator in 1941. This basic attitude prepared him to adopt, from the start of his Presidency, a firm policy.

Showdown with Molotov

The Polish question epitomized his approach. This thorny matter arose from the Yalta agreements of February, 1945, when the Red Army had driven the Nazis from the plains of Poland. The accord, calling for a broadly based Polish regime and eventual free elections, was fuzzily worded. The Russians took it to mean a pro-Moscow Government; Truman read it to require a Western style of government.

"I was not afraid of the Russians and. . .I intended to be firm," he said. "I would be fair, of course, and anyway the Russians needed us more than we needed them."

Determined to push his point on Poland as a symbol of Soviet-American relations, Truman had his first personal exchange, tart and brusque, with Vyacheslav M. Molotov, the Soviet Foreign Minister, in Washington on April 22 and 23, 1945. The President used "words of one syllable" to convey his insistence that Poland be "free and independent."

"I have never been talked to like that in my life," Molotov complained.

"Carry out your agreements, and you won't get talked to like that," his host retorted.

After much pulling and hauling, Poland got a regime that the United States recognized, but not before Truman's dislike of Russian diplomatic in-fighting had hardened.

"Force is the only thing the Russians understand," he concluded, and force in one guise or another was to underlay his subsequent dealings with Moscow and the Communist bloc.

Even so, Truman got along rather well with Josef Stalin, the Soviet dictator, whom he met for the first time at the Potsdam Conference in July, 1945. "I liked him a lot," Truman said, adding that, of course, "Uncle Joe" (as he called Stalin behind his back) "didn't mean what he said" and consistently broke his word.

In the foreground of Truman's dealings with Stalin at Potsdam and afterward was the atomic-bomb project. Started in the deepest secrecy in the early days of World War II, it was on the verge of producing its first explosive when Truman became President.

Although project scientists, some people in the military and a few civilians were aware of the incalculable world importance of an atomic bomb, the President himself had been told nothing. Not only had the project been kept secret from him as a Senator and as Vice President, but also the immense scientific military, civilian and moral implications of atomic fission had not been presented to him.

Atomic Power Unchained

Thus Truman was unprepared when Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson explained the atomic project to him on April 25, 1945--13 days after he had become President--and told him of the then presumed fantastic power of an atomic bomb. Apart from its staggering military potential, what impressed the President almost immediately were its implications for American diplomacy and world peace.

"If it explodes, as I think it will, I'll certainly have a hammer on those boys," he said, alluding to the Russians.

At the same time it was assumed by Truman and Stimson and virtually everyone connected with the atomic project that the bomb would be employed as a matter of course to shorten the Japanese war. The moral implications of its use and the total effect of atomics on United States-Soviet relations, later topics of vigorous debate, were not then publicly raised or widely appreciated.

Nevertheless, once an atomic device was tested and its destructiveness confirmed, Truman said in an interview in 1966 for this article that he had given the matter of actually using the bomb "long and careful thought."

"I did not like the weapon," he said, "but I had no qualms, if in the long run millions of lives could be saved."

Against his critics--and there were many in after years--he took the responsibility for the atomic havoc inflicted on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The bombs, he maintained, did shorten the war and did save millions of American and Japanese battlefield casualties.

With the unconditional surrender of Germany on May 8, 1945, a meeting of Truman, Stalin and Winston Churchill, the British Prime Minister, became necessary to consider Europe's problems and to prepare, in accordance with Yalta, for Soviet entry into the Pacific war. Twice delayed by Truman pending the plutonium-bomb test at Alamogordo, N.M., the conference at Potsdam began July 17--the day Truman learned the bomb was a success--and lasted through Aug. 1. It was the President's only meeting with Stalin and his first with Churchill, with whom he formed a lasting friendship.

For all the popular hope that was invested in Potsdam and for all the grinding hours that the statesmen and their aides conferred, few European disputes were settled. Stalin pledged, however, to invade Japanese-held Manchuria early in August, and he subscribed to a surrender appeal to Japan that implied she could retain a constitutional Emperor.

Amid the Potsdam wrangles, Truman, by arrangement with Churchill, offhandedly informed Stalin of the bomb, but not that it was atomic.

"On July 24 I casually mentioned to Stalin that we had a new weapon of unusual destructive force," Truman recalled. "The Russian Premier showed no special interest. All he said was that he was glad to hear it and hoped we would make 'good use of it against the Japanese.'"

Tottering since June, Japan surrendered Aug. 14, 1945, after the atomic-bomb toll at Hiroshima and Nagasaki had exceeded a total of 100,000 lives and after the Russians had stormed into Manchuria. The victory was sealed on the battleship Missouri, in Tokyo Harbor, when Gen. Douglas MacArthur, the United States commander, accepted the capitulation of the Japanese. The global war, in which the United States had been engaged since 1941, was ended, and a new and different era was emerging.

In the war's course the United States created an industrial plant of unrivaled productivity, with a Gross National Product that soared from $101-billion in 1941 to $125-billion in 1945. Its citizens, meanwhile, accumulated millions in unspent cash. How to handle this new affluence without touching off a perilous inflation was the major concern of reconversion.

Program for Prosperity

The Truman program, given to Congress on Sept. 6, 1945, called for full employment, increased minimum wages, private and public housing programs, a national health program, aid to education, Negro job rights, higher farm prices and continuation of key wartime economic controls.

A President generally friendly to labor (he vetoed the Taft-Hartley bill in 1947), Truman stoutly refused what he considered exorbitant pay goals. In April, 1946, he seized the coal mines when John L. Lewis's 400,000 miners struck for more money. And in another strike that November, Lewis and his union were fined.

The contest between Truman and Lewis, both stubborn men, captured the headlines, with Lewis insisting that mine seizure by troops was a hollow gesture, because "you can't mine coal with bayonets," and with Truman appealing to the miners' patriotism. It was Lewis who yielded, as did the railway unions when the President seized the carriers in May, 1946, to avert a walkout.

If Truman turned out to be not a pet of labor, neither was he a darling to business and industry. He lifted price and profit controls gingerly, vetoed a $4-billion tax cut in 1947, seized steel plants in a labor-and-price dispute in 1952 and increased the Federal budget.

Fair Deal programs met a mixed reaction in Congress, especially after the midterm elections of 1946 gave the Republicans a majority in both the House and the Senate. Truman proposals for broadening civil rights and for Medicare were shunned. In both areas he was in advance of his time, but he lived to see himself vindicated.

In 1965, when Congress passed the Medicare bill, President Johnson journeyed to Missouri to sign the measure in Truman's presence. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 reflected many of Truman's aspirations for Negro equality.

President Truman fared better on unification of the armed forces into a Department of Defense and on establishment of an Atomic Energy Commission. On taxes, price controls and union regulation, his relations with Congress were not uniformly smooth.

"I discovered that being President is like riding a tiger," he remarked afterward. "A man has to keep on riding or be swallowed."

Truman's individuality was also reflected in Cabinet changes. The Roosevelt Cabinet, save for James V. Forrestal as Secretary of Defense, was dismembered by 1948. Some departures were summary, as with Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau Jr. and Commerce Secretary Henry A. Wallace.

Wallace was discharged in the fall of 1946 in an uproar over a speech that seemed to contradict the President's hard Soviet policy. Wallace had thought his remarks were approved by the White House, but it turned out that Truman had only glanced at the text.

Other appointments brought Gen. George C. Marshall, whom Truman revered, into the Cabinet as Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense; Dean Acheson, whose intellect Truman admired, as Secretary of State; and John C. Snyder, whose financial acumen the President respected, as Treasury Secretary. James F. Byrnes served briefly as Secretary of State and was dropped in a personality clash.

Truman's foreign program was to combat Communist expansion and to strengthen what he called the free world. Supported by Senator Arthur H. Vandenberg and other leading Republicans, this policy became bipartisan in its major aspects. Backed by American economic and atomic power, it was remarkably successful. In China, however, the Nationalist Government collapsed despite American exertions, and the Communists took over in 1949.

But in the Middle East the Soviet was obliged to withdraw from Iran. In Yugoslavia a non-Stalinist regime developed. There was outstanding success in Europe, thanks to the Truman Doctrine, inaugurated in 1947.

In that year Britain, for lack of money, had to halt her subventions to Greece and Turkey, nations under heavy Communist pressure. With great dispatch, Truman convinced Congress it should extend cash help. This historic action, he said later, was "the turning point" in damming Soviet expansion in Europe, because it "put the world on notice that it would be our policy to support the cause of freedom wherever it was threatened."

The President's doughty action kept Greece and Turkey in the Western orbit, and the Truman Doctrine was the logical base for the Marshall Plan, enunciated by Secretary of State Marshall in the summer of 1947. Under it, the United States invited all European nations to cooperate in their economic recovery with billions of dollars in American backing.

Western Europe, on the brink of economic disaster, responded favorably, achieving stability and eventually a new prosperity. The Marshall Plan, or the European Recovery Plan as it was formally named, "helped save Europe from economic disaster and lifted it from the shadow of enslavement by Russian Communism," Truman said.

Truman's leadership of the non-Communist world was reflected in vigorous support of the United Nations. Through its mechanism he hoped to keep world peace by positive actions, as well as by thwarting Soviet power plays and intrigues. Moscow, for its part, appeared bent on trouble-making both in the United Nations and out of it.

The Soviet strategy of trying to humble the United States had a crucial test in 1948, when the Russians blockaded Berlin by land in an effort to force the United States to quit the city. Truman resisted, and under his direction an American airlift was organized to fly food and medicines into that beleaguered city. The airlift, in which hundreds of planes participated over many months, forced the Russians to back down.

Soviet-American clashes intruded into domestic politics, especially after the Soviet Union exploded its first atomic device in 1949. A vocal segment of public opinion asserted that the Russians could only have mastered atomics by stealing American secrets. Outcries led to heated charges of Communist infiltration in high Government places. In time a loyalty-security program was set up for Government employees and defense workers.

But disquiet, fear and suspicion spread in the land. In vain Truman sought to establish calm and a sense of perspective that could be gained through judicial proceedings against suspected spies and disloyal persons.

As Truman's first term came to a close, he was accounted successful in foreign affairs and beset by domestic ones.

He had won recognition as a person in his own right, but there was dispute over the degree to which the country liked what he had become--dogged, scrappy, "right in the big things, but wrong in the small ones," as House Speaker Sam Rayburn phrased it.

From Missouri Farm to Fame

"My first memory is that of chasing a frog around the backyard in Cass County, Missouri. Grandmother Young watched the performance and thought it very funny that a 2-year-old could slap his knee and laugh so loudly at a jumping frog."

Harry S. Truman was 68 when he wrote that recollection of his carefree farm childhood, so secure in strong, affectionate family bonds.

A product of the Middle Border and of hardy farming stock with frontier traditions, Truman was born at 4 P.M. May 8, 1884, in a small frame house at Lamar, Mo. He was the first-born of John Anderson Truman and Mary Ellen Young Truman. The initial "S" was a compromise between Shippe and Solomon, both kinsman's names.

Within the year the family moved to a farm near Harrisonville, Mo., where another son, Vivian, was born in 1886. A year later the Trumans were living on a Jackson County farm, near what was to be Grandview. There, Mary Jane, the third child was born.

"Those were wonderful days and great adventures," Truman said of his growing up on 600 stretching acres. "My father bought me a beautiful black Shetland pony and the grandest saddle to ride him with I ever saw." When Harry was 6, the family moved once more, to Independence, a Kansas City suburb, but John Truman remained a farmer and took up the buying and selling of cattle, sheep and hogs.

The Girl With Golden Curls

It was in Independence that Harry, whose mother had taught him his letters by 5, went to school. He made friends, one in particular. "She had golden curls. . .and the most beautiful blue eyes," he said of Bess Wallace, the childhood sweetheart who was to become his wife. Harry was a shy boy with weak eyes, who wore glasses from the age of 8. Shunning rough-and-tumble sports, he read fast and furiously. By 14 he "had read all the books in the Independence Public Library, and our big old Bible three times through."

Poor eyesight barred him from the United States Military Academy (to which he had an appointment) when he was graduated from high school in 1901; and, since the family lacked the money to send him to college, he turned to a variety of jobs. He worked as a drugstore clerk, timekeeper on a railroad construction project, in a mailroom, in a bank. He speculated in zinc and oil. And he toiled on the family farm. Meantime, he joined Battery B of the National Guard in 1905 and became a member of the Masonic Order in 1909.

When the United States entered World War I, Truman, then 32, was a farmer. He left the soil to help organize the 129th Field Artillery, and he became commander of its Battery D. He led it into action at St. Mihiel, in the Meuse-Argonne offensive in France, and again at Verdun, gaining the respect and affection of his men. (At convivial reunions later, "Captain Harry," used to play the piano--he had learned as a youth, at his mother's insistence--while his comrades sang.)

Mustered out in 1919, he returned to Independence and married Miss Wallace on June 28. Then 35 and without a firm station in civilian life, he opened a haberdashery shop in Kansas City in association with Edward Jacobson, an Army buddy. At the start, business was excellent, but the postwar depression changed all that, and Truman & Jacobson were obliged to close. Jacobson went through bankruptcy proceedings; Truman did not, and he was still paying off his creditors (the total was $28,000) 10 years later when he was a Senator.

Truman's entry into politics was fortuitous. It occurred in 1921, when James Pendergast, an Army friend, introduced Truman to his father, Mike Pendergast, who, with his brother, Thomas J., ran Democratic politics in western Missouri. A veteran, a Baptist, a Mason, the personable Truman was adjudged a likely officeholder, and in 1922 he was elected a judge of the Jackson County Court. The post, a nonjudicial one, had jurisdiction over the building and upkeep of the county roads and public buildings.

Truman was conscientious, vigorous and industrious, both as a campaigner and as an administrator. He was defeated, however, in 1924. But in 1926 he was elected presiding judge and again in 1930, both times with the help of the Pendergast organization. In 1934 Truman wanted to run for the House of Representatives, but the Pendergasts put him up for the Senate instead. Running on a pro-Roosevelt program in a strenuous campaign, he won with a majority of more than 250,000 votes. His record of probity as a county official and his Masonic connections helped him.

Although Truman never disavowed his close friendship with Thomas Pendergast, the leader of the party machine, he made it clear in the Senate and elsewhere that he was not "Pendergast's messenger boy." There was never any tarnish on his reputation for personal integrity.

Truman was nearly 51 when he took his Senate seat. But "I was as timid as a country boy arriving on the campus of a great university for his first year," he recalled. "I had a prayer in my heart for wisdom to serve the people acceptably."

'Plain Folks' in Capital

In Washington, Senator and Mrs. Truman lived simply in an apartment with their daughter and only child, Mary Margaret, who was born Feb. 17, 1924. The family was "plain folks," with Truman coming home in the evening to talk to Margie, as he called his daughter, and to recount the day's happenings to his wife, whom he called "The Boss." The Trumans were little evident on the social and cocktail circuit. Mrs. Truman was popular with the Congressional wives and her husband with his colleagues. For relaxation, he liked to sip bourbon and water (but never in the presence of women, not even his wife) and to play a bit of poker. Otherwise he worked; there were documents and books and reports to read, committee duties to fulfill, constituents to see and do favors for, Senate sessions to attend.

The years Truman spent in the Senate he recalled as "the happiest 10 years of my life." He found his fellow Senators "some of the finest men I have ever known," and he used the word "cherish" to describe his friendship for them. He was a member of two important committees--Appropriations and Interstate Commerce--to whose work he devoted himself with diligence. He read voluminously from the Library of Congress, but he spoke seldom on the Senate floor, and then simply, briefly, without ostentation. His voting record was New Deal, which earned him the opposition of the big Missouri papers.

Truman was re-elected in 1940, but only after a hard and close Democratic primary race. Harry Vaughan, later to be a White House crony, and Robert Hannegan, later to be Postmaster General, worked hard for Truman, and to them, as to other friends, he was unswervingly loyal. It was part of his creed of "doing right."

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