Harry R. Truman

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Harry R. Truman at his lodge in the spring of 1980, a few days before his death

Harry Randall Truman (born October 30, 1896 in Ivydale , West Virginia , † May 18, 1980 at Mount St. Helens Lodge, Washington ) was an American inn manager who gained fame for being in the run-up to the outbreak of the In 1980, Mount St. Helens was the only one to refuse to leave his home despite all evacuation measures.


He was born in 1896 to Newberry Truman (1870-1923) and Rosa Belle Hardman (1873-1957) and had a sister named Geraldine. A few years later the family moved to Chehalis in the US state of Washington. On August 4, 1917, he joined the 100th Aero Squadron as a private . During his service on February 5, 1918, when he was transferred to France for use on the Western Front , he survived the torpedoing and sinking of the Tuscania used as a troop transport off Ireland . He then worked as an aircraft mechanic in France , where he gained his first flight experience. After the end of the First World War , he was honorably discharged from the army on June 12, 1919 .

After a brief stay in Riffe, Washington, he married Helen Irene Hughes (1900–1983) and had two children with her, Asa Benjamin and Clara Jane. Initially, the family continued to live in Chehalis, where Truman ran a gas station . But soon alcohol smuggling became a more rewarding field of activity in the wake of prohibition . During this time, Truman transported rum along the west coast of the United States between San Francisco and the Canadian border and primarily supplied brothels . The move to Spirit Lake followed in 1926 , where he took over the Mount St. Helens Lodge as administrator. However, his lifestyle had a negative impact on his private life - the divorce from Hughes was followed in 1935 by a second marriage to Marjorie Bennett (1901–1954), but soon also the separation from this. In 1947 he finally married Edna O. Henrickson (1909–1975). Over the decades, Truman has also welcomed a number of prominent guests. In 1936, for example, the film producer Jack L. Warner and his film team made a guest appearance with him, as the film was shot in the God's Country and the Woman region . 1953 visited William O. Douglas , Judge of the Supreme Court , the lodge and between the two men is a life-long close friendship developed. In later years, while the tourist and tourism business was good and profitable, Truman went from time to time to bear and elk hunting . In addition, he is said to have continued to smuggle alcohol from Canada to the United States on a seaplane . Views on Truman's character are divided. After the death of his third wife, he developed heavy alcohol consumption and increasingly neglected the maintenance of the lodge. While he was easily irritable, aggressive and impulsive on the one hand, his guests and friends valued him on the other for his warmth and storytelling as well as his piano music . In the biography she wrote, his niece Shirley Rosen described him as “curmudgeon who lived his life the way he really wanted to live. He was a tough person with an amiable side. "

From mid-March 1980 on Mount St. Helens - in the picturesque setting of which Truman lived for 54 years and from which he had also benefited economically - began to show volcanic activity again for the first time since 1857, which steadily intensified in the following weeks. On March 27, a safety zone around 25 kilometers around the volcano was set up and the people living in this area were brought to safety. However, Truman refused on the grounds that after such a long time he could not part with the mountain, to which he had a very close bond. He would rather die with “his” volcano than leave his house. He also dismissed the fears as exaggerated. When Washington Governor Dixy Lee Ray declared a state of emergency on April 3, access to an area of ​​eight miles around the crater was restricted. The case of the stubborn senior quickly caught media attention. He has been dubbed the “keeper of the mountain” in tabloid fashion and has been interviewed several times. Some camera teams even flew directly to his lodge by helicopter to ask him about his decision. Truman's brother-in-law Buck Whiting later stated that the 83-year-old really enjoyed the hustle and bustle around him. He received countless letters of support from all over the country and from a school class in Salem , Oregon , even a banner with the inscription “ Harry - We Love You ” (German: “Harry - We love you”). On May 17, some officers made one final attempt to get Truman to leave his lodge. They did not succeed either. The last person who saw him alive was probably the delivery man Rob Smith, who delivered mail and groceries for the last time around 5:30 p.m. that same day. At 8:32 a.m. the next morning, the northern flank of Mount St. Helens slipped and poured itself over the landscape and the western foothills of Spirit Lake as a huge landslide at a speed of up to 250 km / h. The subsequent glowing cloud also spread in a northerly direction at almost the speed of sound , overtook the debris avalanche and devastated a fan-shaped area 37 kilometers wide and 30 kilometers long. Mount St. Helens Lodge was buried under a 50-meter-thick layer of volcanic deposits in the course of the eruptions. Harry R. Truman's body has never been recovered. He was one of the 57 fatalities in the Mount St. Helens eruption .


Truman is still considered the region's unforgettable original . His fate on the volcano was first processed in the media in 1981 in the docu-drama Mount St. Helens - The Killer Volcano, directed by Ernest Pintoff , in which Art Carney played him . Later the Truman Trail and Harry's Ridge on the west bank of Spirit Lake, which was newly formed in the wake of the eruption, were named after him. His person also found its way into various poems and songs. For example, the Irish band Headgear released the melancholy song Harry Truman .


  • " I talk to the mountain and it talks to me " (German: "I talk to the mountain and he talks to me.")
  • " I know that mountain like the wrinkles on my hand ... " (German: "I know this mountain like the wrinkles of my hand ...")
  • If I left this place, it would worry me to death… If this place is gonna go, I want to go with it, 'cause if I lost it, it would kill me in a week anyway. "(German:" If I leave this place, I would be scared to death ... If this place disappears, I want to disappear with it, because if I lost it, it would kill me within a week anyway. ")
  • If the mountain goes, I'm going with it. This area is heavily timbered, Spirit Lake is inbetween me and the mountain, and the mountain is a mile away, the mountain aint gonna hurt me. "(German:" When the mountain disappears, I disappear with it. This area is densely forested, Spirit Lake is between me and the mountain and the mountain is a mile away, the mountain won't hurt me. ")


  • Shirley Rosen: Truman of St. Helens - The Man And His Mountain . Madrona Publishers, Seattle, 1981, ISBN 0-914842-57-9

Individual evidence

  1. Tabular curriculum vitae of Harry R. Truman ( Memento of the original from August 11, 2011 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. at freepages.history.rootsweb.ancestry.com . Retrieved February 25, 2011 @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / freepages.history.rootsweb.ancestry.com
  2. Sister, friend say Harry probably died . In: Spokane Daily Chronicle , No. 208, May 20, 1980, p. 6
  3. a b c Biography of Harry R. Truman ( Memento of the original from May 21, 2009 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. on marthadigs.com . Retrieved February 25, 2011 @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.marthadigs.com
  4. Michael K. Green; Laurie M. Carlson; Susan A. Myers: Washington in the Pacific Northwest . Gibbs Smith Publisher, Layton, 2002, ISBN 978-0-87905-988-0 , p. 29