“If you can’t convince them, confuse them.”” Harry Truman
Harry S. Truman was born on this day in Lamar, Missouri, in 1884. today is the 129th anniversary of his birth.
He was the eldest of three children born to John Anderson Truman and Martha Ellen Young Truman. Father was a farmer and his family was of modest means. The family moved to Independence Missouri when Harry was six.
When he was eight he began his formal schooling. He liked music and took piano lessons. He also loved to read and enjoyed history. Truman was always interested in politics, and was a page for the Democratic National Convention in 1900. He graduated from Independence High School in 1901.
The Trumans didn’t have the money to send their children to College — Harry Truman is the only US President in the 20th Century with out a college degree — so Harry worked after graduating from high school.
“He worked a variety of jobs after high school, first as a timekeeper for a railroad construction company, and then as a clerk and a bookkeeper at two separate banks in Kansas City. After five years, he returned to farming and joined the National Guard.” [Biography.com]
In 1905 he joined the Missouri Army National Guard. He served in the Guard until 1911. After a few years break he rejoined the Guard to fight in World War One. He served as an Captain in the 129th Field Artillery.
At the end of the War Truman came home to Independence, and married Elizabeth (Bess) Virginia Wallace and opened a haberdashery with his fellow soldier, Edward Jacobson. Although the clothing shop failed his relationship with Jacobson lasted for decades.
“Active in the Democratic Party, Truman was elected a judge of the Jackson County Court (an administrative position) in 1922. He became a Senator in 1934. During World War II he headed the Senate war investigating committee, checking into waste and corruption and saving perhaps as much as 15 billion dollars.” [White House.org]
Franklin Roosevelt choose Truman as his running mate in 1944. Truman served as Vice President less than 12 weeks before Roosevelt died of a massive stroke. Roosevelt had kept him largely in the dark. He didn’t even know about the Manhattan Project.
He said when he assumed office “I felt like the moon, the stars and all the planets had fallen on me.”
While the war in Europe was winding down — he proclaimed “V-E Day” on his 61st birthday — there seemed no end in sight with the war with Japan.
“An urgent plea to Japan to surrender was rejected. Truman… ordered atomic bombs dropped on cities devoted to war work. Two were Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Japanese surrender quickly followed.” [White House.org]
Post war accomplishments included:
- Witnessing the signing of the charter of the United Nations
- Expanding the Social Security system (the Fair Deal),
- The Truman Doctrine (aimed at thwarting Soviet aggression)
- The Marshall Plan (helping to rebuild the European economy)
- The Berlin Airlift
- Recognition of Israel
- Integration of the Armed Forces
- Demobilizing the military while maintaining a healthy economy
- The cold War
- Labor disputes, especially with the Steel industry
- Korean War
Truman survived an assassination attempt on November 1, 1950. The first family was staying in Blair House — the White House was undergoing major renovations — when two Puerto Rican nationals attempted to enter the house and shoot him. There was gun battle outside Blair House, resulting in the death of a White House police man and one of the conspirators.
In 1952 he decided not to run for a second term (He has served most of Roosevelt’s’ final term and one full term of his own.) He supported Democrat Adlai Stevenson against Dwight Eisenhower.
He wrote his memoirs back in Independence. He worked to establish a presidential library. He toured the country with Bess in his Chrysler New Yorker.
Harry Truman died at the age of 88 the day after Christmas, 1972.
“My choice early in life was either to be a piano-player in a whorehouse or a politician. And to tell the truth, there’s hardly any difference.”