This essay has a total of 3757 words and 15 pages.


by lindsey leverett

Harry S. Truman. ĶEarly Life Harry S. Truman, the oldest of three children born
to Martha Ellen Young Truman and John Anderson Truman, was born in his
familyÕs small frame house in Lamar, Missouri, in 1884. Truman had no middle
name; his parents apparently gave him the middle initial S. because two
family relatives names started with that letter. When Truman was six years
old, his family moved to Independence, Missouri, where he attended the
Presbyterian Church Sunday school. There he met five-year-old Elizabeth
Virginia (ŌBessĶ) Wallace, with whom he was later to fall in love. Truman did
not begin regular school until he was eight, and by then he was wearing thick
glasses to correct extreme nearsightedness. His poor eyesight did not
interfere with his two interests, music and reading. He got up each day at 5
AM to practice the piano, and until he was 15, he went to the local music
teacher twice a week. He read four or five histories or biographies a week
and acquired an exhaustive knowledge of great military battles and of the
lives of the worldÕs greatest leaders. Early Career In 1901, when Truman
graduated from high school, his future was uncertain. College had been ruled
out by his familyÕs financial situation, and appointment to the U.S. Military
Academy at West Point was eliminated by his poor eyesight. He began work as
a timekeeper for the Santa Fe Railroad at $35 per month, and in his spare time
he read histories and encyclopedias. He later moved to Kansas City, where he
worked as a mail clerk for the Kansas City Star, then as a clerk for the
National Bank of Commerce, and finally as a bookkeeper for the Union National
Bank. In 1906 he was called home to help his parents run the large farm of
Mrs. TrumanÕs widowed mother in Grandview, Missouri. For the next ten years,
Truman was a successful farmer. He joined Mike PendergastÕs Kansas City
Tenth Ward Democratic Club, the local Democratic Party organization, and on
his fatherÕs death in 1914 he succeeded him as road overseer. An argument
soon ended the job, but Truman became the Grandview postmaster. In 1915 he
invested in lead mines in Missouri, lost his money, and then turned to the oil
fields of Oklahoma. Two years later, just before the United States entered
World War I, he sold his share in the oil business and enlisted in the U.S. Army.
He trained at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, but returned to Missouri to help recruit
others. He was elected first lieutenant by the men of MissouriÕs Second Field
Artillery. World War I World War I began in 1914 as a local European war
between Austria-Hungary and Serbia. Though U.S. President Woodrow Wilson
tried to remain neutral, the United States was drawn into the war in April
1917. Truman sailed for France on March 30, 1918, and as a recently promoted
captain was given command of Battery D, a rowdy and unmanageable group
known as the Dizzy D. Truman succeeded in taming his unit, and the Dizzy D
distinguished itself in the battles of Saint-Mihiel and Argonne. In April 1919
Truman, then a major, returned home, and on June 28 he married Bess
Wallace. The following November, Truman and Eddie Jacobson opened a menÕs
clothing store in Kansas City. With the Dizzy D veterans as customers the
store did a booming business, but in 1920, farm prices fell sharply and the
business failed. In the winter of 1922 the store finally closed, but Truman
refused to declare bankruptcy and eventually repaid his debts. Entrance Into
Politics Truman turned to the Pendergasts for help. Jim Pendergast, MikeÕs
son, persuaded his father to give Truman permission to enter a four-way
Democratic primary for an eastern Jackson County judgeship, which was
actually a job to supervise county roads and buildings. Mike refused to
support Truman. In addition, one of the other candidates was supported by
the Ku Klux Klan. Truman was advised to join the Klan, but he objected to its
discriminatory policies against blacks, Jews, and Roman Catholics.
Nonetheless, by campaigning on his war record and Missouri background,
Truman won the primary and in the general election. In January 1923 he was
sworn into his first public office. A year later the TrumansÕ only child, Mary
Margaret, was born. United States Senator After a long, hard battle, Truman
soundly defeated his Republican opponent. On January 3, 1935, Truman was
sworn in as the junior senator from Missouri. TrumanÕs common sense and
knowledge of government and history impressed two of the SenateÕs most
influential men. One was vice president John Nance Garner, and the other was
Arthur H. Vandenberg, Republican senator from Michigan. With their aid,
Truman was named to two important committees, the Appropriations
Committee and the Interstate Commerce Committee. Truman also joined the
subcommittee on railroads, becoming vice-chairman and, later, acting
chairman. Despite pressures from powerful railroad companies, including the
Missouri Pacific Railroad, he recommended major regulatory changes that
were embodied in the Transportation Act of 1940. 1940 Election To no oneÕs
surprise, two Missouri Democrats challenged Truman for his Senate seat in the
primary. One was Governor Lloyd Stark, whom Roosevelt supported, and the
other was Maurice Milligan, whose nomination for a second term as U.S.
district attorney Truman had opposed in the Senate. Truman began his primary
fight with no political backing, no money, and two popular reformers as
opponents. He traveled the state, making speeches about his record in short,
simple language. He won the primary, and despite his Pendergast association,
mentioned frequently by his Republican opponent, he won in November. His
reelection was so unexpected that when he returned to the Senate, his
colleagues gave him a standing ovation. Second Term In 1941 the United
States government was preparing for World War II, a conflict that had begun
in Europe in 1939. The government was building army camps and issuing
defense contracts. Even before his second term began, TrumanÕs constituents
had written him about waste and confusion in the defense program. Truman
toured the camps and defense plants and discovered appalling conditions.
Back in the new Senate he denounced the defense program, demanded an
investigation, and was named the head of the investigating committee. The
Truman Committee During the next two years the Truman committee produced
detailed reports on the defense programs. Committee members frequently
visited defense installations to substantiate the testimony of contractors,
engineers, and army and government personnel. TrumanÕs success in
uncovering fraud and waste led the Senate in 1942 to give the committee
$100,000, an increase of $85,000 over the first year. It was estimated that
the Truman committee saved the country $15 billion and spent only $400,000.
The committee also put Truman on the national stage. With increasing
frequency, leading Democrats mentioned Harry S. Truman as a potential 1944
vice-presidential candidate. Vice President of the United States Before the
Democratic National Convention opened in July 1944, it was assumed that
Roosevelt would run for a fourth term, but his health became a matter of
great concern to party leaders, whose most difficult task was to name his
running mate. The current vice president was Henry A. Wallace, a strong
proponent of using the federal government to regulate big businesses, protect
the civil rights of minorities, and encourage labor unions. WallaceÕs liberal
views offended many of the more conservative leaders of the Democratic
Party, and they encouraged Roosevelt to find someone more appealing to
mainstream voters. Among the leading contenders were Supreme Court
Justice William O. Douglas, and Senators Alben W. Barkley, James F. Byrnes,
and Truman. Truman was nominated on the second ballot. After a whirlwind
campaign and overwhelming victory, Truman took the oath of office as vice
president on January 20, 1945. Truman then engineered the Senate
confirmation of RooseveltÕs appointment of Henry Wallace as secretary of
commerce and Federal loan administrator, attended the funeral of Tom
Pendergast despite wide criticism, and cast the tie-breaking Senate vote that
ensured that the United States would continue delivering supplies to U.S. allies
after the war was over. However, he saw very little of the president. Soon
after the inauguration, Roosevelt left Washington for the month-long Yalta
Conference, where the Allies discussed military strategy and political
problems, including plans for governing Germany after the war. When
Roosevelt returned in March, he met with Truman in two short meetings. When
Roosevelt left for Warm Springs, Georgia, on March 30, Roosevelt had still not
informed his vice president about the conduct of the war or the plans for
peace. Thirteen days later, Truman was summoned to the White House, where
Eleanor Roosevelt told him, ŌHarry, the president is dead.Ķ President of the
United States Wartime President TrumanÕs first month in office was largely
devoted to briefings by RooseveltÕs aides. He asked the founding conference
of the United Nations to meet in San Francisco on April 25, as had been planned
before RooseveltÕs death. When victory in Europe seemed certain, he insisted
on unconditional German surrender, and on May 8, 1945, his 61st birthday, he
proclaimed Victory-In-Europe Day (V-E Day). Truman convinced the San
Francisco conference delegation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics
(USSR) that the general assembly of the new world peace organization should
have free discussions and should make recommendations to the security
council. On June 26 he addressed the final conference session, and six days
later he presented the United Nations Charter to the Senate for ratification.
From July 17 to August 2, 1945, Truman attended the Potsdam Conference in
Germany, meeting with Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin, British Prime Minister
Winston Churchill, and Clement Attlee, ChurchillÕs successor as British prime
minister. The conference discussed how to implement the decisions reached at
the Yalta Conference. As presiding officer, Truman proposed the establishment
of the council of foreign ministers to aid in peace negotiations, settlement of
reparations claims, and conduct of war crimes trials. He also gained StalinÕs
promise to enter the war against Japan. In this first meeting with the other
Allied leaders, Truman confirmed his earlier favorable impression of Churchill,
while he called the Soviets, in one of his typically blunt statements,
Ōpigheaded people.Ķ On July 26, Truman issued the Potsdam Declaration, which
called for JapanÕs unconditional surrender and listed peace terms. He had
already been informed of the successful detonation of the first atomic bomb
at Alamogordo, New Mexico, ten days earlier. Military advisers had told
Truman that a potential loss of about 500,000 American soldiers could be
avoided if the bomb were used against Japan. When Japan rejected the
ultimatum, Truman authorized use of the bomb. On August 6, 1945, at 9:15 AM
Tokyo time, the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, virtually destroying the city.
The Supreme Allied Headquarters reported that 129,558 people were killed,
injured, or missing and 176,987 made homeless. Stalin sent troops into
Manchuria and Korea on August 8, and the following day a second bomb was
dropped on Nagasaki. About one-third of the city was destroyed, and ab

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