Truman surrounded himself with his old friends, and appointed several to high positions that seemed well beyond their competence, including his two secretaries of the treasury, "Fred Vinson and "John Snyder. His closest friend in the White House was his military aide "Harry H. Vaughan, who seemed to others like a huge joke.
Truman loved to spend as much time as possible playing poker, telling stories and sipping bourbon. Alonzo Hamby notes that:
- to many in the general public, gambling and bourbon swilling, however low-key, were not quite presidential. Neither was the intemperant "give 'em hell" campaign style nor the occasional profane phrase uttered in public. Poker exemplified a larger problem: the tension between his attempts at an image of leadership necessarily a cut above the ordinary and an informality that at times appeared to verge on crudeness.
First term (1945–49)
Assuming office and the atomic bomb
Shortly after taking the oath of office, Truman spoke to reporters: "Boys, if you ever pray, pray for me now. I don't know if you fellas ever had a load of hay fall on you, but when they told me what happened yesterday, I felt like the moon, the stars, and all the planets had fallen on me."
Upon assuming the presidency, Truman asked all the members of Roosevelt's cabinet to remain in place, and told them that he was open to their advice. He emphasized a central principle of his administration: he would be the one making decisions, and they were to support him. Although Truman was told briefly on the afternoon of April 12 that the Allies had a new, highly destructive weapon, it was not until April 25 that "Secretary of War "Henry Stimson told him the details. Truman benefited from a honeymoon period after Roosevelt's death, and from the "Allies' success in Europe, wrapping up the war there. Truman was pleased to issue the proclamation of "V-E Day on May 8, 1945, his 61st birthday.
We have discovered the most terrible bomb in the history of the world. It may be the fire destruction prophesied in the Euphrates Valley Era, after Noah and his fabulous Ark.
In the wake of Allied victory, Truman journeyed to Europe for the "Potsdam Conference. He was there when he learned that the "Trinity test of the first atomic bomb on July 16 had been successful. He hinted to "Joseph Stalin that the U.S. was about to use a new kind of weapon against the Japanese. Though this was the first time the Soviets had been officially given information about the atomic bomb, Stalin was already aware of the bomb project, having learned about it (through "espionage) long before Truman did.
In August, the Japanese government refused surrender demands as specifically outlined in the "Potsdam Declaration and with the "invasion of mainland Japan imminent, Truman approved the schedule for dropping the two available bombs. Truman always said that attacking Japan with atomic bombs saved many lives on both sides; military estimates for the invasion of mainland Japan were that it could take a year and result in 250,000 to 500,000 American casualties. Hiroshima was bombed on August 6, and Nagasaki three days later, leaving 105,000 dead. The Soviet Union "declared war on Japan on August 9 and "invaded Manchuria. Japan "agreed to surrender the following day.
Supporters[c] of Truman's decision argue that, given the tenacious Japanese defense of the outlying islands, the bombings saved hundreds of thousands of lives that would have been lost invading mainland Japan. Critics have argued that the use of nuclear weapons was unnecessary, given that conventional tactics such as firebombing and a naval blockade might have induced Japan's surrender without the need for such weapons. Truman strongly defended himself in his memoirs in 1955–56, stating that many lives could have been lost had the U.S. invaded mainland Japan without the atomic bombs. In 1963, he stood by his decision, telling a journalist that "it was done to save 125,000 youngsters on the American side and 125,000 on the Japanese side from getting killed and that is what it did. It probably also saved a half million youngsters on both sides from being maimed for life."
Strikes and economic upheaval
The end of World War II was followed by an uneasy transition from war to a peacetime economy. The costs of the war effort were enormous, and Truman was intent on decreasing government expenditures on the military as quickly as possible. Demobilizing the military and reducing the size of the various services was a cost-saving priority. The effect of demobilization on the economy was unknown, but fears existed that the nation would slide back into a depression. A great deal of work had to be done to plan how best to transition to peacetime production of goods while avoiding mass unemployment for returning veterans. Government officials did not have consensus as to what economic course the postwar U.S. should take. In addition, Roosevelt had not paid attention to Congress in his final years, and Truman faced a body where a combination of Republicans and conservative southern Democrats formed a powerful voting bloc.
The president was faced with the reawakening of labor-management conflicts that had lain dormant during the war years, severe shortages in housing and consumer products, and widespread dissatisfaction with inflation, which at one point hit 6% in a single month. Added to this polarized environment was a wave of destabilizing strikes in major industries. Truman's response to them was generally seen as ineffective. A rapid increase in costs was fueled by the release of price controls on most items, and labor sought wage increases. A serious steel strike in January 1946 involving 800,000 workers—the largest in the nation's history—was followed by a coal strike in April and a rail strike in May. The public was angry, with a majority in polls favoring a ban on strikes by public service workers and a year's moratorium on labor actions. For commodities where price controls remained, producers were often unwilling to sell at artificially low prices: farmers refused to sell grain for months in 1945 and 1946 until payments were significantly increased, even though grain was desperately needed, not only for domestic use, but to stave off starvation in Europe.
When a national rail strike threatened in May 1946, Truman seized the railroads. Two key railway unions struck anyway and the entire national railroad system was shut down—24,000 freight trains and 175,000 passenger trains a day stopped moving. For two days public anger mounted and no one was angrier than Truman himself. He drafted a message to Congress that called on veterans to form a lynch mob and destroy the union leaders:
- Every single one of the strikers and their demagogue leaders have been living in luxury. . . . Now I want you who are my comrades in arms . . . to come with me and eliminate the Lewises, the Whitneys, the Johnstons, the Communist Bridges [all important union officials] and the Russian Senators and Representatives . . . Let's put transportation and production back to work, hang a few traitors and make our own country safe for democracy.
His staff was stunned; top aide "Clark Clifford rewrote and toned down the speech. Truman did go to Congress and he called for a new law to draft all the railroad strikers into the Army. As he was concluding his speech he read a message just handed to him that the strike was settled on presidential terms. Truman nevertheless finished the speech, and a few hours later the House voted to draft the strikers. Taft killed the bill in the Senate.
Although labor strife was muted after the settlement of the railway strike, it continued through Truman's presidency. The President's approval rating dropped from 82% in the polls in January 1946 to 52% by June. This dissatisfaction with the Truman administration's policies led to large Democratic losses in the 1946 midterm elections, when Republicans took control of Congress for the first time since 1930. The "80th Congress included Republican freshmen who would become prominent in the years to come, including Wisconsin Senator "Joe McCarthy and California Congressman "Richard Nixon. When Truman dropped to 32% in the polls, Democratic Arkansas Senator "William Fulbright suggested that Truman resign; the President said that he did not care what Senator "Halfbright" said.
Truman cooperated closely with the Republican leaders on foreign policy, though he fought them bitterly on domestic issues. The power of the labor unions was significantly curtailed by the "Taft–Hartley Act, which was enacted "over Truman's veto. Truman twice vetoed bills to lower income tax rates in 1947. Although the initial vetoes were sustained, Congress overrode his veto of a tax cut bill in 1948. The parties did cooperate on some issues; Congress passed the "Presidential Succession Act of 1947, making the Speaker of the House and the President pro tempore of the Senate rather than the Secretary of State next in line to the presidency after the Vice President.
As he readied for the 1948 election, Truman made clear his identity as a Democrat in the "New Deal tradition, advocating "national health insurance, the repeal of the Taft–Hartley Act. He broke with the New Deal by initiating an aggressive civil rights program, which he termed a moral priority. Taken together, it constituted a broad legislative agenda that came to be called the ""Fair Deal." Truman's proposals were not well received by Congress, even with renewed Democratic majorities in Congress after 1948. The Solid South rejected civil rights, as those states still enforced segregation. Only one of the major Fair Deal bills, the "Housing Act of 1949, was ever enacted. On the other hand, the major New Deal programs still in operation were not repealed, and there were minor improvements and extensions in many of them.
United Nations, Marshall Plan, Cold War, China
As a "Wilsonian internationalist, Truman strongly supported the creation of the United Nations, and included Eleanor Roosevelt on the delegation to the UN's first "General Assembly. With the Soviet Union expanding its sphere of influence through Eastern Europe, Truman and his foreign policy advisors took a hard line against the USSR. In this, he matched American public opinion, which quickly came to view the Soviets as intent upon world domination.
Although he had little personal expertise on foreign matters, Truman listened closely to his top advisors, especially "George Marshall and "Dean Acheson. He won bipartisan support for both the "Truman Doctrine, which formalized a policy of Soviet "containment, and the "Marshall Plan, which aimed to help rebuild postwar Europe. To get Congress to spend the vast sums necessary to restart the moribund European economy, Truman used an ideological argument, arguing that Communism flourishes in economically deprived areas. As part of the U.S. "Cold War strategy, Truman signed the "National Security Act of 1947 and reorganized military forces by merging the "Department of War and the "Department of the Navy into the National Military Establishment (later the "Department of Defense) and creating the "U.S. Air Force. The act also created the "CIA and the "National Security Council. In 1952, Truman secretly consolidated and empowered the cryptologic elements of the United States by creating the "National Security Agency (NSA).
Truman was torn two ways about China, where the Nationalists and Communists were fighting a large scale civil war. On the one hand, the Nationalists had been major wartime allies and had large-scale popular support in the United States, along with a powerful lobby. "General George Marshall spent most of 1946 in China trying to negotiate a compromise, but failed. He convinced Truman that the Nationalists would never win on their own, and that a very large scale American intervention to stop the Communists would significantly weaken America's opposition to the Soviets in Europe. By 1949, the Communists under "Mao Zedong had won the civil war, the United States had a new enemy in Asia, and Truman came under fire from conservatives for "losing" China.
On June 24, 1948, the Soviet Union blocked access to the three "Western-held sectors of Berlin. The Allies had never negotiated a deal to guarantee supply of the sectors deep within the Soviet-occupied zone. The commander of the American occupation zone in Germany, General "Lucius D. Clay, proposed sending a large armored column across the Soviet zone to "West Berlin with instructions to defend itself if it were stopped or attacked. Truman believed this would entail an unacceptable risk of war. He approved "Ernest Bevin's plan to supply the blockaded city by air. On June 25, the Allies initiated the "Berlin Airlift, a campaign that delivered food and other supplies, such as coal, using military aircraft on a massive scale. Nothing like it had ever been attempted before, and no single nation had the capability, either logistically or materially, to have accomplished it. The airlift worked; ground access was again granted on May 11, 1949. Nevertheless, the airlift continued for several months after that. The Berlin Airlift was one of Truman's great foreign policy successes; it significantly aided his election campaign in 1948.
Recognition of Israel
Truman had long taken an interest in the history of the Middle East, and was sympathetic to Jews who sought to re-establish their ancient homeland in "Mandatory Palestine. As a senator, he announced support for "Zionism; in 1943 he called for a homeland for those Jews who survived the Nazi regime. However, State Department officials were reluctant to offend the Arabs, who were opposed to the establishment of a Jewish state in the large region long populated and dominated culturally by Arabs. Secretary of Defense "James Forrestal warned Truman of the importance of "Saudi Arabian oil in another war; Truman replied that he would decide his policy on the basis of justice, not oil. American diplomats with experience in the region were opposed, but Truman told them he had few Arabs among his constituents.
Palestine was secondary to the goal of protecting the "Northern Tier" of Greece, Turkey, and Iran from Communism, as promised by the Truman Doctrine. Weary of both the convoluted politics of the Middle East and pressure by Jewish leaders, Truman was undecided on his policy, and skeptical about how the Jewish "underdogs" would handle power. He later cited as decisive in his recognition of the Jewish state the advice of his former business partner, Eddie Jacobson, a non-religious Jew whom Truman absolutely trusted. Truman decided to recognize Israel over the objections of Secretary of State "George Marshall, who feared it would hurt relations with the populous Arab states. Marshall believed the paramount threat to the U.S. was the Soviet Union and feared that Arab oil would be lost to the United States in the event of war; he warned Truman that U.S. was "playing with fire with nothing to put it out". Truman recognized the "State of Israel on May 14, 1948, eleven minutes after "it declared itself a nation. Of his decision to recognize the Israeli state, Truman wrote in his "memoirs: "Hitler had been murdering Jews right and left. I saw it, and I dream about it even to this day. The Jews needed some place where they could go. It is my attitude that the American government couldn't stand idly by while the victims [of] Hitler's madness are not allowed to build new lives."
The "1948 presidential election is remembered for Truman's stunning come-from-behind victory. In the spring of 1948, Truman's public approval rating stood at 36%, and the president was nearly universally regarded as incapable of winning the general election. The "New Deal" operatives within the party—including FDR's son "James—tried to swing the Democratic nomination to General "Dwight D. Eisenhower, a highly popular figure whose political views and party affiliation were totally unknown. Eisenhower emphatically refused to accept, and Truman outflanked opponents to his nomination.
At the "1948 Democratic National Convention, Truman attempted to unify the party with a vague "civil rights plank in the party platform. His intention was to assuage the internal conflicts between the northern and southern wings of his party. Events overtook his efforts. A sharp address given by Mayor "Hubert Humphrey of "Minneapolis—as well as the local political interests of a number of urban bosses—convinced the Convention to adopt a stronger civil rights plank, which Truman approved wholeheartedly. All of Alabama's delegates, and a portion of Mississippi's, walked out of the convention in protest. Unfazed, Truman delivered an aggressive acceptance speech attacking the 80th Congress, which Truman called the "Do Nothing Congress," and promising to win the election and "make these Republicans like it."
Within two weeks of the convention, in 1948 Truman issued "Executive Order 9981, racially "integrating the U.S. Armed Services and Executive Order 9980 to integrate federal agencies. Truman took a considerable political risk in backing civil rights, and many seasoned Democrats were concerned that the loss of "Dixiecrat support might destroy the Democratic Party. South Carolina Governor "Strom Thurmond, a segregationist, declared his candidacy for the presidency on a Dixiecrat ticket and led a full-scale revolt of Southern ""states' rights" proponents. This rebellion on the right was matched by one on the left, led by Wallace on the "Progressive Party ticket. Immediately after its first post-FDR convention, the Democratic Party seemed to be disintegrating. Victory in November seemed unlikely as the party was not simply split but divided three ways. For his running mate, Truman accepted Kentucky Senator "Alben W. Barkley, though he really wanted Justice "William O. Douglas, who turned down the nomination.
Truman's political advisors described the political scene as "one unholy, confusing cacophony." They told Truman to speak directly to the people, in a personal way. Campaign manager William J. Bray said Truman took this advice, and spoke personally and passionately, sometimes even setting aside his notes to talk to Americans "of everything that is in my heart and soul."
The campaign was a 21,928-mile (35,290 km) presidential odyssey. In a personal appeal to the nation, Truman crisscrossed the U.S. by train; his ""whistle stop" speeches from the rear platform of the "observation car, "Ferdinand Magellan, came to represent his campaign. His combative appearances, such as those at the town square of "Harrisburg, Illinois, captured the popular imagination and drew huge crowds. Six stops in "Michigan drew a combined half-million people; a full million turned out for a New York City ticker-tape parade.
The large, mostly spontaneous gatherings at Truman's whistle-stop events were an important sign of a change in momentum in the campaign, but this shift went virtually unnoticed by the national press corps. It continued reporting Republican "Thomas Dewey's apparent impending victory as a certainty. One reason for the press's inaccurate projection was that polls were conducted primarily by telephone, but many people, including much of Truman's populist base, did not yet own a telephone. This skewed the data to indicate a stronger support base for Dewey than existed. An unintended and undetected projection error may have contributed to the perception of Truman's bleak chances. The three major polling organizations stopped polling well before the November 2 election date—"Roper in September, and Crossley and "Gallup in October—thus failing to measure the period when Truman appears to have surged past Dewey.
In the end, Truman held his progressive Midwestern base, won most of the Southern states despite the civil rights plank, and squeaked through with narrow victories in a few critical states, notably Ohio, California, and Illinois. The final tally showed that the president had secured 303 electoral votes, Dewey 189, and Thurmond only 39. Henry Wallace got none. The defining image of the campaign came after Election Day, when an ecstatic Truman held aloft the erroneous front page of the "Chicago Tribune with a huge headline proclaiming ""Dewey Defeats Truman."
Second term (1949–53)
"Truman's second inauguration was the first ever televised nationally. His second term was grueling, as his opponents controlled Congress and his policy of rollback in Korea failed. The Soviet Union's "atomic bomb project progressed much faster than had been expected, and they detonated their first bomb on August 29, 1949. In response, on January 7, 1953, Truman announced the detonation of the first U.S. "hydrogen bomb, which was much more powerful than what the Soviets had.
On June 25, 1950, "Kim Il-sung's "Korean People's Army invaded South Korea, starting the "Korean War. In the early weeks of the war, the North Koreans easily pushed back their southern counterparts. Truman called for a naval blockade of Korea, only to learn that due to budget cutbacks, the U.S. Navy could not enforce such a measure. Truman promptly urged the United Nations to intervene; it did, authorizing troops under the UN flag led by U.S. General "Douglas MacArthur.
Truman decided that he did not need formal authorization from Congress, believing that most legislators supported his position; this would come back to haunt him later, when the stalemated conflict was dubbed "Mr. Truman's War" by legislators. However, on July 3, 1950, Truman did give Senate Majority Leader "Scott W. Lucas a draft resolution titled "Joint Resolution Expressing Approval of the Action Taken in Korea". Lucas said Congress supported the use of force, that the formal resolution would pass but was unnecessary, and that the consensus in Congress was to acquiesce. Truman responded that he did not want "to appear to be trying to get around Congress and use extra-Constitutional powers," and added that it was "up to Congress whether such a resolution should be introduced."
By August 1950, U.S. troops pouring into South Korea under UN auspices were able to stabilize the situation. Responding to criticism over readiness, Truman fired his Secretary of Defense, "Louis A. Johnson, replacing him with the retired General Marshall. With UN approval, Truman decided on a "rollback" policy—conquest of North Korea. UN forces led by General "Douglas MacArthur led the counterattack, scoring a stunning surprise victory with an amphibious landing at the "Battle of Inchon that nearly trapped the invaders. UN forces marched north, toward the "Yalu River boundary with China, with the goal of reuniting Korea under UN auspices.
However, China surprised the UN forces with a large-scale invasion in November. The UN forces were forced back to below the "38th parallel, then recovered. By early 1951 the war became a fierce stalemate at about the 38th parallel where it had begun. Truman rejected MacArthur's request to attack Chinese supply bases north of the Yalu, but MacArthur promoted his plan to Republican House leader "Joseph Martin, who leaked it to the press. Truman was gravely concerned that further escalation of the war might lead to open conflict with the Soviet Union, which was already supplying weapons and providing warplanes (with Korean markings and Soviet aircrew). Therefore, on April 11, 1951, Truman fired MacArthur from his commands.
The "dismissal of General Douglas MacArthur was among the least politically popular decisions in presidential history. Truman's approval ratings plummeted, and he faced calls for his "impeachment from, among others, Senator "Robert A. Taft. Fierce criticism from virtually all quarters accused Truman of refusing to shoulder the blame for a war gone sour and blaming his generals instead. Others, including Eleanor Roosevelt, supported and applauded Truman's decision. MacArthur meanwhile returned to the U.S. to a hero's welcome, and addressed a joint session of Congress, a speech which the President called "a bunch of damn bullshit."
The war remained a frustrating stalemate for two years, with over 30,000 Americans killed, until an armistice ended the fighting in 1953. In February 1952, Truman's approval mark stood at 22% according to "Gallup polls, which was, until "George W. Bush in 2008, the all-time lowest approval mark for an active American president.
The escalation of the Cold War was highlighted by Truman's approval of "NSC-68, a secret statement of foreign policy. It called for tripling the defense budget, and the globalization and militarization of containment policy whereby the U.S. and its NATO allies would respond militarily to actual Soviet expansion. The document was drafted by "Paul Nitze, who consulted State and Defense officials; it was formally approved by President Truman as official national strategy after the war began in Korea. It called for partial mobilization of the U.S. economy to build armaments faster than the Soviets. The plan called for strengthening Europe, weakening the Soviet Union, and for building up the U.S. both militarily and economically.
Early in Truman's second term, his former Secretary of Defense Forrestal died soon after his retirement. Forrestal had become exhausted through years of hard labor during and after the war, and began to suffer "depression. He retired in March 1949; soon after, he was hospitalized but he committed "suicide in May.
Truman was a strong supporter of the "North Atlantic Treaty Organization ("NATO), which established a formal peacetime military alliance with Canada and democratic European nations that had not fallen under Soviet control following World War II. The treaty establishing it was widely popular and easily passed the Senate in 1949; Truman appointed General Eisenhower as commander. NATO's goals were to contain Soviet expansion in Europe and to send a clear message to communist leaders that the world's democracies were willing and able to build new security structures in support of democratic ideals. The U.S., Britain, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Norway, Denmark, Portugal, Iceland, and Canada were the original treaty signatories. The alliance resulted in the Soviets establishing a similar alliance, called the "Warsaw Pact.
General Marshall was Truman's principal adviser on foreign policy matters, influencing such decisions as the U.S. choice against offering direct military aid to "Chiang Kai-shek and his Nationalist Chinese forces in the "Chinese Civil War with their communist opponents. Marshall's opinion was contrary to the counsel of almost all of Truman's other advisers—he thought that even propping up Chiang's forces would drain U.S. resources in Europe needed to deter the Soviets. When the communists took control of the mainland, driving the Nationalists to "Taiwan and establishing the "People's Republic of China, Truman would have been willing to maintain some relationship between the U.S. and the new government, but Mao was unwilling. On June 27, 1950, after the outbreak of fighting in Korea, Truman ordered the U.S. Navy's "Seventh Fleet into the "Taiwan Strait to prevent further conflict between the communist government on the China mainland and the "Republic of China (ROC) on Taiwan.
Soviet espionage and McCarthyism
In August 1948, "Whittaker Chambers, a former spy for the Soviets and a senior editor at Time magazine, testified before the "House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). He said that an underground communist network had been working within the U.S. government since the 1930s, of which Chambers had been a member, along with "Alger Hiss, until recently a senior State Department official. Although Hiss denied the allegations, he was convicted in January 1950 for perjury for denials under oath. The Soviet Union's success in exploding an atomic weapon in 1949 and the fall of the nationalist Chinese the same year led many Americans to conclude that subversion by Soviet spies was responsible, and to demand that communists be rooted out from the government and other places of influence. However, Truman did not fully share such opinions. He famously called the Hiss trial a "red herring," and the Justice Department was moving to indict Chambers instead of Hiss for perjury.
Wisconsin Senator McCarthy accused the State Department of harboring communists, and rode the controversy to political fame.
Charges that Soviet agents had infiltrated the government were believed by 78% of the people in 1946, and became a major campaign issue for Eisenhower in 1952. Truman was reluctant to take a more radical stance because he feared that the full disclosure of the extent of the communist infiltration would reflect badly on the Democratic Party. It was a time of the "Red Scare. In a 1956 interview, Truman denied that Alger Hiss had ever been a communist, a full six years after Hiss' conviction for perjury on this topic. In 1949, Truman described American communist leaders, whom his administration "was prosecuting, as "traitors," but in 1950 he vetoed the "McCarran Internal Security Act. It was passed over his veto. Truman would later state in private conversations with friends that his creation of a loyalty program had been a "terrible" mistake.
White House renovations; assassination attempt
In 1948, Truman ordered an addition to the exterior of the "White House: a second-floor balcony in the south portico, which came to be known as the ""Truman Balcony". The addition was unpopular; some said it spoiled the appearance of the south facade, but it gave the First Family more living space.  The work uncovered structural faults which led engineering experts to conclude that the building, much of it over 130 years old, was in a dangerously dilapidated condition. That August, a section of floor collapsed, and Truman's bedroom and bathroom were closed as unsafe. No public announcement about the serious structural problems of the White House was made until after the 1948 election had been won. By then Truman had been informed that his new balcony was the only part of the building that was sound.
The Truman family moved into nearby "Blair House during the renovations. As the newer "West Wing, including the "Oval Office, remained open, Truman walked to and from his work across the street each morning and afternoon. In due course, the decision was made to demolish and rebuild the whole interior of the main White House, as well as excavate new basement levels and underpin the foundations. The famous exterior of the structure was buttressed and retained while the extensive renovations proceeded inside. The work lasted from December 1949 until March 1952.
|Newsreel scenes in English of the assassination attempt on U.S. President Harry S. Truman|
On November 1, 1950, "Puerto Rican nationalists "Griselio Torresola and "Oscar Collazo attempted to assassinate Truman at Blair House. The attack drew new attention to security concerns surrounding Truman's residence at Blair House. He had jumped up from a nap, and was watching the gunfight from his open bedroom window until Secret Service agents shouted at him to take cover. On the street outside the residence, Torresola mortally wounded a White House policeman, "Leslie Coffelt. Before he died, the officer shot and killed Torresola. Collazo was wounded, stopped before he entered the house. He was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death in 1952. Truman commuted his sentence to life in prison. To try to settle the question of Puerto Rican independence, Truman allowed a "plebiscite in Puerto Rico in 1952 to determine the status of its relationship to the U.S. Nearly 82% of the people voted in favor of a new constitution for the "Estado Libre Asociado, a continued 'associated free state.'
Steel and coal strikes
In response to a labor/management impasse arising from bitter disagreements over wage and price controls, Truman instructed his "Secretary of Commerce, "Charles W. Sawyer, to take control of a number of the nation's 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 to be used in the war in Korea. The Supreme Court found Truman's actions unconstitutional, however, and reversed the order in a major "separation-of-powers decision, "Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer (1952). The 6–3 decision, which held that Truman's assertion of authority was too vague and was not rooted in any legislative action by Congress, was delivered by a Court composed entirely of Justices appointed by either Truman or Roosevelt. The high court's reversal of Truman's order was one of the notable defeats of his presidency.
Scandals and controversies
In 1950, the Senate, led by "Estes Kefauver, investigated numerous charges of corruption among senior administration officials, some of whom received "fur coats and "deep freezers in exchange for favors. A large number of employees of the "Internal Revenue Bureau (today the IRS) were accepting bribes; 166 employees either resigned or were fired in 1950, with many soon facing indictment. When Attorney General "J. Howard McGrath fired the special prosecutor in early 1952 for being too zealous, Truman fired McGrath. Truman submitted a reorganization plan to reform the IRB; Congress passed it, but the corruption was a major issue in the 1952 presidential election.
On December 6, 1950, "Washington Post music critic "Paul Hume wrote a critical review of a concert by the president's daughter Margaret Truman:
Miss Truman is a unique American phenomenon with a pleasant voice of little size and fair quality ... [she] cannot sing very well ... is flat a good deal of the time—more last night than at any time we have heard her in past years ... has not improved in the years we have heard her ... [and] still cannot sing with anything approaching professional finish.
Harry Truman wrote a scathing response:
I've just read your lousy review of Margaret's concert. I've come to the conclusion that you are an "eight ulcer man on four ulcer pay." It seems to me that you are a frustrated old man who wishes he could have been successful. When you write such poppy-cock as was in the back section of the paper you work for it shows conclusively that you're off the beam and at least four of your ulcers are at work. Some day I hope to meet you. When that happens you'll need a new nose, a lot of beefsteak for black eyes, and perhaps a supporter below! "Pegler, a gutter snipe, is a gentleman alongside you. I hope you'll accept that statement as a worse insult than a reflection on your ancestry.
Truman was criticized by many for the letter. However, he pointed out that he wrote it as a loving father and not as the president.
In 1951, "William M. Boyle, Truman's long-time friend and chairman of the Democratic National Committee, was forced to resign after being charged with financial corruption.
A 1947 report by the Truman administration titled 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 that proposed creating several federal offices devoted to issues such as "voting rights and "fair employment practices. This provoked a storm of criticism from southern Democrats in the runup to the national nominating convention, but Truman refused to compromise, saying: "My forebears were Confederates ... but my very stomach turned over when I had learned that Negro soldiers, just back from overseas, were being dumped out of Army trucks in Mississippi and beaten." Tales of the abuse, violence, and persecution suffered by many African-American veterans upon their return from World War II infuriated Truman, and were a major factor in his decision to issue "Executive Order 9981, in July 1948, requiring equal opportunity in the Armed Forces. In the early 1950s after several years of planning, recommendations and revisions between Truman, the "Committee on Equality of Treatment and Opportunity and the various branches of the military, the services became racially integrated.
Another executive order, also in 1948, made it illegal to discriminate against persons applying for civil service positions based on race. A third, in 1951, established the "Committee on Government Contract Compliance (CGCC). This committee ensured that defense contractors did not discriminate because of race.
In 1950 he vetoed the "McCarran Internal Security Act. It was passed over his veto.
Administration and cabinet
Truman made five international trips during his presidency:
In 1951, the U.S. ratified the "22nd Amendment, making a president ineligible for election to a third term or for election to a second full term after serving more than two remaining years of a term of a previously elected president. The latter clause would have applied to Truman's situation in 1952 except that a "grandfather clause in the amendment explicitly excluded the amendment from applying to the incumbent president.
At the time of the 1952 New Hampshire primary, no candidate had won Truman's backing. His first choice, Chief Justice "Fred M. Vinson, had declined to run; Illinois Governor "Adlai Stevenson had also turned Truman down, Vice President Barkley was considered too old, and Truman distrusted and disliked Senator Kefauver, who had made a name for himself by his investigations of the Truman administration scandals. Truman had hoped to recruit General Eisenhower as a Democratic candidate, but found him more interested in seeking the Republican nomination. Accordingly, Truman let his name be entered in the "New Hampshire primary by supporters. The highly unpopular Truman was handily defeated by Kefauver; 18 days later the president announced he would not seek a second full term. Truman was eventually able to persuade Stevenson to run, and the governor gained the nomination at the "1952 Democratic National Convention.
Harry S. Truman's speech on leaving office, and returning home to Independence, Missouri. (January 15, 1953)
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Eisenhower gained the Republican nomination, with Senator Nixon as his running mate, and campaigned against what he denounced as Truman's failures: "Korea, Communism and Corruption". He pledged to clean up the "mess in Washington," and promised to "go to Korea." Eisenhower defeated Stevenson decisively in the "general election, ending 20 years of Democratic presidents. While Truman and Eisenhower had previously been on good terms, Truman felt annoyed that Eisenhower did not denounce Joseph McCarthy during the campaign. Similarly, Eisenhower was outraged when Truman accused the former general of disregarding "sinister forces ... Anti-Semitism, anti-Catholicism, and anti-foreignism" within the Republican Party.
Upon leaving the presidency, Truman returned to Independence, Missouri, to live at the "Wallace home he and Bess had shared for years with her mother. Once out of office, Truman quickly decided that he did not wish to be on any corporate payroll, believing that taking advantage of such financial opportunities would diminish the integrity of the nation's highest office. He also turned down numerous offers for commercial endorsements. Since his earlier business ventures had proved unsuccessful, he had no personal savings. As a result, he faced financial challenges. Once Truman left the White House, his only income was his old army pension: $112.56 per month. Former members of Congress and the federal courts received a federal retirement package; President Truman himself ensured that former servants of the executive branch of government received similar support. In 1953, however, there was no such benefit package for former presidents, and he received no pension for his Senate service.
Truman took out a personal loan from a Missouri bank shortly after leaving office, and then found a lucrative book deal for his memoirs. For the memoirs, Truman received only a flat payment of $670,000, and had to pay two-thirds of that in tax; he calculated he got $37,000 after he paid his assistants. However, the memoirs were a commercial and critical success; they were published in two volumes in 1955 and 1956 by Doubleday (Garden City, N.Y) and Hodder & Stoughton (London): Memoirs by Harry S. Truman: Year of Decisions and Memoirs by Harry S. Truman: Years of Trial and Hope.
The former president was quoted in 1957 as saying to then-House Majority Leader "John McCormack, "Had it not been for the fact that I was able to sell some property that my brother, sister, and I inherited from our mother, I would practically be on relief, but with the sale of that property I am not financially embarrassed." The following year, Congress passed the "Former Presidents Act, offering a $25,000 yearly pension to each former president, and it is likely that Truman's financial status played a role in the law's enactment. The one other living former president at the time, "Herbert Hoover, also took the pension, even though he did not need the money; reportedly, he did so to avoid embarrassing Truman.
Truman's predecessor, Franklin D. Roosevelt, had organized his own "presidential library, but legislation to enable future presidents to do something similar had not been enacted. Truman worked to garner private donations to build a presidential library, which he donated to the federal government to maintain and operate—a practice adopted by his successors. He testified before Congress to have money appropriated to have presidential papers copied and organized, and was proud of the bill's passage in 1957. Max Skidmore, in his book on the life of former presidents, noted that Truman was a well-read man, especially in history. Skidmore added that the presidential papers legislation and the founding of his library "was the culmination of his interest in history. Together they constitute an enormous contribution to the United States—one of the greatest of any former president."
Truman supported Adlai Stevenson's second bid for the White House in 1956, although he had initially favored Democratic Governor "W. Averell Harriman of New York. He continued to campaign for Democratic senatorial candidates for many years. Upon turning 80 in 1964, Truman was feted in Washington, and addressed the Senate, availing himself of a new rule that allowed former presidents to be granted "privilege of the floor. After a fall in his home in late 1964, his physical condition declined. In 1965, President "Lyndon B. Johnson signed the "Medicare bill at the "Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum and gave the first two Medicare cards to Truman and his wife Bess to honor the former president's fight for government health care while in office.
On December 5, 1972, Truman was admitted to Kansas City's "Research Hospital and Medical Center with lung congestion from "pneumonia. He developed multiple organ failure and died at 7:50 am on December 26 at the age of 88. Bess Truman opted for a simple private service at the library for her husband rather than a state funeral in Washington. A week after the funeral, foreign dignitaries and Washington officials attended a memorial service at "Washington National Cathedral. Bess died in 1982; they are buried at the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum in Independence.
Tributes and legacy
Biographer Robert Donovan has tried to capture Truman's personality:
Vigorous, hard-working, simple, he had grown up close to the soil of the Midwest and understood the struggles of the people on the farms and in the small towns....After 10 years in the Senate, he had risen above the Pendergast organization. Still, he had come from a world of two-bit politicians, and its aura was one that he never was able to shed entirely. And he did retain certain characteristics one often sees in machine-bred politicians: intense partisanship, stubborn loyalty, a certain insensitivity about the transgressions of political associates, and a disinclination for the companionship of intellectuals and artists.
Citing continuing divisions within the Democratic Party, the ongoing Cold War, and the "boom and bust cycle, Journalist Samuel Lubell in 1952 stated that "after seven years of Truman's hectic, even furious, activity the nation seemed to be about on the same general spot as when he first came to office ... Nowhere in the whole Truman record can one point to a single, decisive break-through ... All his skills and energies—and he was among our hardest-working Presidents—were directed to standing still". When he left office in 1953, Truman was one of the most unpopular chief executives in history. His job approval rating of 22% in the Gallup Poll of February 1952 was lower than Richard Nixon's 24% in August 1974, the month that Nixon resigned.
American public feeling towards Truman grew steadily warmer with the passing years; as early as 1962, a poll of 75 historians conducted by "Arthur M. Schlesinger, Sr. ranked Truman among the "near great" presidents. The period following his death consolidated a partial rehabilitation of his legacy among both historians and members of the public. Truman died when the nation was consumed with 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 much as he had in 1948, this time emerging as a kind of political folk hero, a president who was thought to exemplify an integrity and accountability many observers felt was lacking in "the Nixon White House. This public reassessment of Truman was aided by the popularity of a book of reminiscences which Truman had told to journalist "Merle Miller beginning in 1961, with the agreement that they would not be published until after Truman's death.
Truman has had his latter-day critics as well. After a review of information available to Truman about the presence of espionage activities in the U.S. government, Democratic Senator "Daniel Patrick Moynihan concluded that Truman was "almost willfully obtuse" concerning the danger of American communism. In 2010, historian Alonzo Hamby concluded that "Harry Truman remains a controversial president." However, since leaving office, Truman has fared well in "polls ranking the presidents. He has never been listed lower than ninth, and was ranked fifth in a "C-SPAN poll in 2009.
The fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 caused Truman advocates to claim vindication for his decisions in the postwar period. According to Truman biographer Robert Dallek, "His contribution to victory in the cold war without a devastating nuclear conflict elevated him to the stature of a great or near-great president." The 1992 publication of "David McCullough's favorable biography of Truman further cemented the view of Truman as a highly regarded Chief Executive. According to historian Donald R. McCoy in his book on the Truman presidency,
Harry Truman himself gave a strong and far-from-incorrect impression of being a tough, concerned and direct leader. He was occasionally vulgar, often partisan, and usually nationalistic ... On his own terms, Truman can be seen as having prevented the coming of a third world war and having preserved from Communist oppression much of what he called the free world. Yet clearly he largely failed to achieve his Wilsonian aim of securing perpetual peace, making the world safe for democracy, and advancing opportunities for individual development internationally.
Sites and honors
In 1953, Truman received the "Solomon Bublick Award of the "Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In 1956, Truman traveled to Europe with his wife. In England, he met with Churchill and received an honorary "Doctor of Civil Law degree from Oxford University. Across Britain he was hailed; London's Daily Telegraph characterized Truman as the "Living and kicking symbol of everything that everybody likes best about the United States." In 1959, he was given a 50-year award by the "Masons, recognizing his longstanding involvement: he was initiated on February 9, 1909, into the Belton "Masonic Lodge in Missouri. In 1911, he helped establish the Grandview Lodge, and he served as its first Worshipful Master. In September 1940, during his Senate re-election campaign, Truman was elected "Grand Master of the Missouri "Grand Lodge of Freemasonry; Truman said later that the Masonic election assured his victory in the general election. In 1945, he was made a 33° Sovereign Grand Inspector General and an Honorary Member of the supreme council at the Supreme Council A.A.S.R. Southern Jurisdiction Headquarters in Washington D.C. Truman was also a member of "Sons of the American Revolution (SAR) and a card-carrying member of the "Sons of Confederate Veterans. Two of his relatives were "Confederate soldiers.
In 1975, the "Truman Scholarship was created as a federal program to honor U.S. college students who exemplified dedication to public service and leadership in public policy. In 2004, the President Harry S. Truman Fellowship in National Security Science and Engineering was created as a distinguished postdoctoral three-year appointment at "Sandia National Laboratories. In 2001, the "University of Missouri established the Harry S. Truman School of Public Affairs to advance the study and practice of governance. The University of Missouri's "Missouri Tigers athletic programs have an official mascot named "Truman the Tiger. On July 1, 1996, Northeast Missouri State University became "Truman State University—to mark its transformation from a "teachers' college to a highly selective "liberal arts university and to honor the only Missourian to become president. A member institution of the "City Colleges of Chicago, "Harry S Truman College in "Chicago, Illinois, is named in his honor for his dedication to public colleges and universities. In 2000, the headquarters for the "State Department, built in the 1930s but never officially named, was dedicated as the "Harry S Truman Building.
Despite Truman's attempt to curtail the naval carrier arm, which led to the 1949 "Revolt of the Admirals, an aircraft carrier is named after him. The "USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) was christened on September 7, 1996.  The "129th Field Artillery Regiment is designated "Truman's Own" in recognition of Truman's service as commander of its D Battery during "World War I.
In 1984, Truman was posthumously awarded the United States "Congressional Gold Medal. In 1991, he was inducted into the "Hall of Famous Missourians, and a bronze bust depicting him is on permanent display in the rotunda of the "Missouri State Capitol. Other sites associated with Truman include:
- "Harry S. Truman National Historic Site includes the Wallace House at 219 N. Delaware in Independence and the family farmhouse at "Grandview, Missouri (Truman sold most of the farm for Kansas City suburban development including the Truman Corners Shopping Center).
- "Harry S Truman Birthplace State Historic Site is the house where Truman was born and spent 11 months in Lamar, Missouri.
- "Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum – The "Presidential library in Independence
- "Harry S. Truman Little White House – Truman's winter getaway at "Key West, Florida
- "Electoral history of Harry S. Truman
- "Truman (film)
- "Truman Day
- "List of Presidents of the United States
- Truman was Vice President under President "Franklin D. Roosevelt and became President upon Roosevelt's death on April 12, 1945. As this was prior to the adoption of the "Twenty-Fifth Amendment in 1967, a vacancy in the office of Vice President was not filled.
- Truman was not given a middle name, only the initial S. There is controversy over whether this initial should be followed by a period (or "full stop), although Truman's own archived correspondence suggests that he regularly used the period when writing his name.
- For example, see "Fussell, Paul (1988). "Thank God for the Atomic Bomb". Thank God for the Atomic Bomb and Other Essays. New York Summit Books.
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- "Robert C. Byrd, Senate, 1789-1989, Vol. 1: Addresses on the History of the United States Senate ("Government Printing Office, 1988), p. 534: "In his eighty-two days as vice president, he had the opportunity to vote only once--on an amendment to limit the Lend-Lease extension bill. The vote was tied, and Truman voted no, which, in a sense, was unnecessary since the bill would have died even without his vote."
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