Harry S. Truman

“Harry S. Truman: (1884-1972) Thirty-third president of the U.S. (1945-53). Unable to obtain a college education, Truman managed his father’s farm and clerked in a bank. He served in the armed forces during World War I, then started an unsuccessful business venture as a haberdasher. Through the office of Thomas J. Pendergast, the political boss of Kansas City and the surrounding region, he won a series of public offices: county judge, presiding judge of the court, U.S. Senator from Missouri. He had attended the Kansas City Law School of two years.

Having been elected vice president as Franklin D. Roosevelt’s running mate in 1944, Truman succeeded to the presidency when Roosevelt died on April 12, 1945. He made many momentous decisions toward the end of World War II, perhaps the most important of which was the use of the atomic bomb to end the war against Japan. He gave unwavering support to the United Nations and formulated the Truman Doctrine of aid to the free peoples of the world “resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or outside pressures.” He generally followed his predecessor’s policies in domestic matters.

In the 1948 election, Truman surprised most experts by defeating Thomas E. Dewey. In what he regarded as his own presidency, he gave U.S. aid to the UN with North Korea, assisted by Russia and China, invaded South Korea in 1950. (See KOREAN WAR.) To him must be credited the Marshall Plan (See GEORGE C. MARSHALL), designed to aid European rehabilitation and check Communist expansion. Refusing a third term, Truman returned to his home in Independence, Missouri, where he prepared his memoirs, published as Year of Decisions (1955) and Years of Trial and Hope (1956). He also wrote Mr. Citizen (1960; repr Harry Truman Speaks His Mind, 1975).”

Excerpted from: Murphy, Bruce, ed. Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia, Fourth Edition. New York: Harper Collins, 1996.

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