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Harry S Truman - Thirty-Third President of the United States

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Harry S Truman, Thirty-Third President of the United States

Harry S Truman, Thirty-Third President of the United States

Credit: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, LC-USZ62-88849 DLC

Harry S Truman's Childhood and Education:

Truman was born on May 8, 1884 in Lamar, Missouri. He grew up on farms and in 1890 his family settled in Independence, Missouri. He had bad eyesight from a youth but he loved to read having been taught by his mother. He especially liked history and government. He was an excellent piano player. He went to local grade and high schools. Truman did not continue his education until 1923 because he had to help make money for his family. He did attend two years of law school from 1923-24.

Family Ties:

Father: John Anderson Truman - Farmer and livestock trader and active Democrat.
Mother: Martha Ellen Young Truman
Siblings: One brother - Vivian Truman and one sister - Mary Jane Truman.
Wife: Elizabeth "Bess" Virginia Wallace. They did not marry until he was 35 and she was 34.
Children: One daughter - Margaret Truman. She is a singer and a novelist, writing not only biographies of her parents but also mysteries.

Harry S Truman's Career Before the Presidency:

Truman worked at odd jobs after graduating from high school to help his family make ends meet. He helped on his father's farm from 1906 until he joined the military to fight in World War I. After the war he opened a hat shop which failed in 1922. Truman was made a "judge" of Jackson Co., Missouri, which was an administrative post. From 1926-34, he was the head judge of the county. From 1935-45, he served as a Democratic Senator representing Missouri. Then in 1945, he assumed the vice presidency.

Military Service:

Truman was a member of the National Guard. In 1917, his unit was called up into regular service during World War I. He served from August 1917 until May 1919. He was made a commander of a Field Artillery unit in France. He was part of the Meuse-Argonne offensive in 1918 and was at Verdun at the end of the war.

Becoming the President:

Truman took over the presidency upon Franklin Roosevelt's death on April 12, 1945. Then in 1948, the Democrats were at first unsure about backing Truman but eventually rallied behind him to nominate him to run for president. He was opposed by Republican Thomas E. Dewey, Dixiecrat Strom Thurmond, and Progressive Henry Wallace. Truman won with 49% of the popular vote and 303 of the possible 531 electoral votes.

Post Presidential Period:

Truman decided not to seek reelection in 1952. He retired to Independence, Missouri. He remained active in supporting Democratic candidates for the presidency. He died on December 26, 1972.

Historical Significance:

It was President Truman who made the final decision to use the atomic bombs on Japan to speed up the end of the World War II. His use of the bomb was not only a way to stop what could have been a bloody fight on the mainland but also to send a message to the Soviet Union that the U.S. was not afraid to use the bomb if necessary. Truman was president during the beginnings of the Cold War and also during the Korean War.

Events and Accomplishments of Harry S Truman’s Presidency:

The war in Europe ended in May, 1945. However, America was still at war with Japan.

One of the most important decisions made by Truman or possibly any other president was the use of the atomic bombs in Japan. He ordered two bombs: one against Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 and one against Nagasaki on August 9, 1945. Truman's goal was to stop the war quickly avoiding further losses of allied troops. Japan sued for peace on August 10th and surrendered on September 2, 1945.

Truman was president during the Nuremberg Trials which punished 22 Nazi leaders for numerous crimes including crimes against humanity. 19 of them were found guilty. Also, the United Nations was created in order to try and avoid future world wars and to help settle conflicts peacefully.

Truman created the Truman Doctrine which stated that it was the duty of the U.S. to "support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or outside pressures." America joined with Great Britain to fight against a Soviet blockade of Berlin by airlifting over 2 million tons of supplies to the city. Truman agreed to help rebuild Europe in what was called the Marshall Plan. America spent over $13 billion dollars to help get Europe back on its feet.

In 1948, The Jewish people created the state of Israel in Palestine. The U.S. was among the first to recognize the new nation.

From 1950-53, America participated in the Korean Conflict. North Korean Communist forces had invaded South Korea. Truman got the UN to agree that the U.S. could expel the North Koreans out of the South. MacArthur was sent in and called for America to go to war with China. Truman would not agree and MacArthur was removed from his post. The U.S. did not achieve its objective in the conflict.

Other important issues of Truman's time in office were the Red Scare, the passage of the 22nd Amendment limiting a president to two terms, the Taft-Hartley Act, Truman's Fair Deal, and an assassination attempt in 1950.

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