Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman (born May 8, 1884 in Lamar , Missouri , † December 26, 1972 in Kansas City , Missouri) was an American politician of the Democratic Party and from 1945 to 1953 the 33rd President of the United States . Before that, he was Vice President for a short time in 1945 and represented the state of Missouri in the US Senate between 1935 and 1945 .
Truman came from a very humble background and entered active politics relatively late. Initially working as a farmer, he volunteered in the First World War in 1918/19 . After the failure of his business activities as a co-owner of a men's outfitter in the early 1920s, the Democrat Truman went into regional politics at the instigation of local party leader Tom Pendergast , where he was head of the county administration from 1927 . At Pendergast's instigation, he made the leap to the US Senate in 1934 , to which he remained until the beginning of 1945 after being re-elected in 1940. Through the chairmanship of the committee for arms production during the Second World War he became known nationwide, which paved the way for him to the Democratic vice-presidential candidacy in the 1944 election at the side of Franklin D. Roosevelt . However, he only served as Vice President between January and April 1945 ; after Roosevelt's death he had to take over the presidency himself.
While the German Reich capitulated a few weeks after taking office , the Pacific War was only ended after the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki , which are still controversial today . After the end of the Second World War, political tensions with the Soviet Union soon increased, which led to the division of Europe and founded the Cold War . Truman countered this new world situation with the Truman Doctrine of 1947, which called for a "containment" of communism ( containment policy ). From 1948 onwards, the USA provided extensive economic aid to large parts of Europe with the Marshall Plan . Meanwhile, the further development of nuclear weapons was advanced.
Although Truman's defeat was expected in the run-up to the 1948 presidential election , he was surprisingly able to prevail against his Republican opponent Thomas E. Dewey . After his re-election, the political turmoil with the Eastern bloc increased. The Korean War (1950–1953) became the first proxy war in the East-West conflict. After the intervention under US leadership with a UN mandate , it was not possible to end the costly war during Truman's tenure. Domestically, Truman's fair deal advocated a continuation of the New Deal and a progressive policy . His plans, which included an expansion of the welfare state , were only partially implemented due to the resistance of conservative forces in Congress . However, his advocacy for the rights of African Americans was groundbreaking when he began to dismantle racial segregation in the armed forces in 1948 . For the 1952 election , Truman renounced another candidacy and resigned from the presidency in January 1953. He then retired into private life until his death in 1972.
Although Truman was considered extremely unpopular during his presidency, he is one of the most popular US presidents in polls among Americans in the 21st century. Most historians today also rate his term in office very positively.
Life to the presidency
Origin and youth
Harry S. Truman was born on May 8, 1884 in Lamar , Missouri . He came from a very simple background; his father John Anderson Truman (1851-1914) was a farmer, his mother Martha Ellen Young Truman (1852-1947) was a housewife. Harry was the Truman's first child, followed by a brother and a sister. He had English , Scottish and Irish ancestors.
The "S" in Harry S. Truman is not an abbreviation for a middle name, but an initial that comes from the names of his two grandfathers (Anderson Shipp Truman and Solomon Young); a common way of commemorating one's ancestors in the southern United States at the time. Since Truman's parents could not decide whether to use the middle name Shipp or Solomon, they just used the initial. Although the "S" is not an abbreviation, Truman himself put a point after it.
In 1890, the Truman family settled in Independence , a few kilometers away , where Harry attended high school . He completed this successfully in 1901. He then attended a business school for a short time, but soon returned to his parents when his father lost his entire fortune in a wheat speculation.
Profession and military career
From 1903 to 1906 he worked as a bank clerk in Kansas City , Missouri, to then help his father build a new farm. After his father's death in 1914, he took over the management of the farm and tried at the same time to earn money with risky investments in a zinc mine and oil drilling; both projects failed. Instead, he continued to work the farm and was able to secure a modest livelihood by raising cattle and growing grain. His brother and his family also worked on the farm.
In 1905 Truman joined the National Guard . At first he hoped for extensive military training, but he was retired due to his poor eyesight, which meant that he was out of the question for a career in the US armed forces. As a child, Truman was dependent on wearing glasses. In 1917 he volunteered for service in the US Army . Before that, he had to take another eye test . However, he passed this after he succeeded in memorizing the letters and numbers on the blackboard without the knowledge of the examiner. With the US entry into World War II, he was employed for use in Europe and in the course of the war for Artillery - Officer transported. In November 1918 he commanded a battery of the 129th Field Artillery Regiment, which was firing grenades just a few hours before the end of the First World War (armistice on November 11 at 11 a.m.). After returning to the USA in 1919, he took leave of the US Army as a captain .
After returning from the war in the United States, he married his childhood sweetheart Bess Wallace (1885-1982) on June 28, 1919 . The marriage resulted in a daughter, Margaret (1924-2008). Margaret later became an actress and writer; among other things, she also published a biography of her father.
Together with his close friend Edward Jacobson, Truman opened a men's clothing store in Kansas City on his return from Europe, which was granted moderate success. After a national economic downturn in 1921, Truman and Jacobson were forced to go out of business a year later. It ended up with $ 25,000 in debt, which Truman had to repay over the following years.
As early as the first half of the 1910s, Truman began to be more interested in politics. The enthusiasm for the progressive politics of President Woodrow Wilson soon brought him to the Democratic Party . His political interest and the support of the president was one of the main reasons Truman enlisted for service in the army. With the support of Tom Pendergast , the most influential member of the Kansas City Democrats at the time, Truman was named Judge of the County Court of Jackson County in 1922 after the failure of his business activities . Truman and Pendergast met during their army careers after Pendergast's nephew had served with Truman. In addition to Pendergast, he owed his choice primarily to his fame as a captain in the First World War; so he could rely on the support of former comrades, many of whom he knew personally from the region. After the two-year term, during which he was entrusted mainly with administrative activities, he was not re-elected in 1924 in view of the strong trends towards the Republican Party . He then worked on the family farm again for two years.
In late 1926, Truman was elected Presiding Judge of Jackson County . Also in this election success, both his fame as a former captain and Tom Pendergast helped him. Although the literal translation into German would be “Presiding Judge”, it was not a legal activity. In other federal states the term county executive is used, which in Germany corresponds to a district administrator . In this post he was responsible, among other things, for the maintenance and construction of the infrastructure. Truman put his focus here particularly on the county roads, bridges and the sewage system. With the support of the local Democratic Party leadership, he also managed to restructure and modernize the administration. However, the financial means for the implementation of such projects were limited at the end of his term, as the country had suffered from the Great Depression since 1929 .
In 1933, Truman was appointed head of a federal job creation program initiated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt (but he also remained head of the county administration). He had Pendergast to thank for this promotion again. It had been granted by the US government to determine the head of the program after he had made a significant contribution to the good performance of the Democrats in the Kansas City area in the course of the 1932 presidential election . While serving as director of the program, Truman was a dedicated supporter of the president and his reforms under the New Deal .
Career in the Senate
In 1934, Truman did not want to reapply for the post of county administration officer. His mandate expired in January 1935. Instead, he envisaged running for governor of Missouri or the US House of Representatives . However, Pendergast, whose support was virtually inevitable due to his influence in the local party organization, was unwilling to promote Truman's endeavors. After Truman's withdrawal to the family farm was expected in the local media, Pendergast agreed to support a candidacy for the outgoing county administrator for the US Senate . Previously, four of Pendergast's preferred candidates had ruled out an application for the Senate. Truman was interested in such an endeavor, although his wife Bess, who was known throughout her life for her aversion to public life, was initially not very enthusiastic about her husband's plans.
In the internal party primaries of the Democrats in the summer of 1934, Truman was able to prevail against two other applicants thanks to the strong mobilization of voters in Jackson County. The actual election on November 6, 1934, he won against the Republican incumbent Roscoe C. Patterson with 59 against 39 percent of the vote. Mainly responsible for his victory was the national departure from the Republican Party, which was blamed for the ongoing economic depression. With the New Deal reforms, the Democrats under President Roosevelt raised new hopes for a better future among the population.
On January 3, 1935, Truman was sworn in as the new senator. At the age of 50, he took up a higher political office relatively late. In Congress he was initially suspiciously referred to by Senate colleagues as the "Senator of Pendergast", as Pendergast's reputation was gradually waning due to his gambling addiction and connections to the mafia in the mid-1930s. Truman had distanced himself from Pendergast's illegal activities, in which he himself was not involved, and emphasized that he would vote in the Senate at his own discretion and not according to Pendergast's will, but he was personally loyal to "Boss Pendergast", whose state of health is gradually changing after worsened. After taking office, Senator Truman appeared as a staunch supporter of Roosevelt's government policy and supported the New Deal. He spoke out against excessive speculation on Wall Street , which would have led to the economic depression and would make stronger regulation of the banking system inevitable. He shared the president's conviction that the government had the right to regulate the economy more in the interest of the general public. He also complained that individual interest groups from the large corporations had too much influence. He was also responsible for uncovering illegal activities by railroad companies in the course of a Senate investigation.
When the next election for his Senate mandate came up in 1940, Truman's connection with Pendergast, who had been convicted of tax evasion the previous year, entered the election year politically weakened. In the Democratic primary, he faced both Missouri's Governor Lloyd C. Stark and District Attorney Maurice M. Milligan , who sought Truman's replacement. Truman was able to narrowly prevail in the primaries with 40 percent of the votes against Stark (39 percent) and Milligan (19 percent) and was nominated again for his party. His lead over Stark was only around 8,000 votes out of over 655,000 votes cast. He then also won the Senate election on November 5, 1940: with 51.2 percent of the vote, he defeated the Republican State Senator Manvel H. Davis , for whom 48.7 percent of the electorate voted. In January 1941 he entered another term as Missouri's representative in the US Senate.
With the outbreak of World War II in Europe, Truman turned increasingly to foreign affairs. After his election victory, he took over the chairmanship of the Senate Committee, which was responsible for monitoring war production. With the entry of his country into the Second World War after the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, this post gained significantly in importance (the USA, however, had previously had war goods both to its close allies Great Britain and the Soviet Union under the Lending and Lease Act that were at war with Hitler's Third Reich ). The committee headed by Truman, which was soon named after him, quickly gained national fame in the early 1940s after the working group had also denounced wasted resources. As the historian Herman-Joseph Rupieper notes, "the Truman Committee criticized it in a constructive, non-sensational way and was quickly accepted by various political groups and institutions". The Truman Committee could also count on the support of President Roosevelt.
With the victory of the Allies over the German Reich , which became apparent from 1944 at the latest , Truman and Roosevelt spoke out in favor of the creation of a new international institution, which later led to the establishment of the United Nations . Truman saw himself as an internationalist since the beginning of his political interest and supported the League of Nations proposed by President Woodrow Wilson after the end of the First World War . Truman regarded its non-ratification by the US Senate in 1919 as a grave error. But unlike after World War I, the influence of isolationist politicians in Congress waned considerably.
In the run-up to the 1944 presidential election, President Roosevelt ran for an unprecedented fourth term; In 1944 there was no legal restriction to two terms of office. Within the democratic party leadership, however, there was resentment about the previous Vice President Henry A. Wallace , who was considered too left-leaning and who was said to have sympathy for the Soviet dictator Josef Stalin . The party's governing bodies therefore sought to replace Wallace after the upcoming election, although Wallace was popular with many regular Democratic voters. In the summer of 1944, Roosevelt, who was personally close to his previous deputy, gave in to pressure from the party leadership and agreed to a new appointment, without, however, naming a preferred candidate for Wallace's successor. For the democratic party leadership, Truman was the first choice as the new vice president. Although he was not a close confidante of the president in Congress, he was seen as a loyal supporter of his policies. In the end, the president also agreed to campaign with Truman as the new running figure. Truman himself did not actively apply for the post, but did not turn down the offer. In his candidacy, he saw above all the chance to finally give up his reputation as "the Senator of Pendergast". At the Democratic Party Congress in July 1944, Truman was then nominated as Roosevelt's running mate . In the final vote, 1,031 of the delegates voted for him, while only 105 incumbents favored Wallace. His nomination was referred to in allusion to his origin as the Second Missouri Compromise ("second Missouri Compromise ").
In the election campaign of the Democrats Truman was actively involved, so he completed a number of campaign appearances across the United States. The November 7 election ended with a comfortable victory for the democratic team: They received 53.4 percent of the vote. In the electoral committee , the democratic team achieved a solid majority with 432 against 99 votes. Overall, Roosevelt and Truman had achieved a majority in 36 US states. The Republicans were again defeated with their candidate Thomas E. Dewey and his running mate John W. Bricker .
Roosevelt began his fourth term on January 20, 1945. On that day, Truman took the oath of office as US Vice President before the White House; three days earlier he officially resigned from his Senate seat. While Roosevelt was primarily concerned with warfare and the political questions of the approaching end of the war in Europe, Truman did not belong to the closer circle of power around the president. He was not involved in government consultations on wartime matters. Even about the top secret Manhattan project , the development of nuclear weapons , he learned nothing until he took office as president. A few days after taking office, the Vice President attended Tom Pendergast's funeral. In the public, this was viewed critically after Pendergast's reputation had been badly damaged in recent years. Since he was Vice President by virtue of his office also President of the Senate, Truman chaired several meetings there. Otherwise, Truman's vice presidency was relatively uneventful due to its short duration.
Assumption of office
On April 12, 1945, Roosevelt, who had been in poor health for some time, died of a cerebral haemorrhage in his home in Georgia . Truman was called to the White House that evening , where Eleanor Roosevelt informed him of the President's death. This conversation was mostly remembered by the former First Lady who replied to Truman's question, “Is there anything I can do for you?” “Is there anything we can do for you ? Because you are now the one who is in trouble. "
In accordance with the United States Constitution , Truman was sworn in as the new President immediately in the presence of the Cabinet after just 82 days as Vice President. The office of Vice President remained vacant for the entire remaining term of office until January 1949, as the legal basis for the appointment of a new Vice President was still lacking at that time. The public and international reaction to the new president was very tense, as Truman was not particularly well known among the US population or international partners and opponents of the war.
After taking office, the Roosevelt ministers initially remained in their posts at the request of the new president. However, with the exception of James V. Forrestal as Minister of the Navy (and later as Secretary of Defense), the cabinet was completely reorganized by the end of 1945. Truman, who did not belong to the closer circle of power around Roosevelt's cabinet, gradually replaced the heads of department with politicians he trusted. In 1947, the Ministry of Navy was also converted into a sub-agency of the newly created Ministry of Defense ; This status was also given to the Army Office as the successor to the War Ministry . From then on, only the Minister of Defense still had cabinet rank.
End of World War II and atomic bombing
When Truman took over the leadership of his country, the Second World War on the European arena was already close to the end. The final defeat of the German Reich was only a matter of weeks. He stuck to his predecessor's military strategy; the war was to continue until the Nazi regime surrendered unconditionally. Hitler's hope that the allied war alliance would collapse after Roosevelt's death had not been fulfilled. On May 8, 1945, his 61st birthday, Truman announced the end of World War II in Europe on national television and radio. He also officially moved into the White House on the same day .
In July 1945 the new president traveled to Potsdam for a conference there with the Soviet party leader Josef Stalin and the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill , whom Clement Attlee replaced after Churchill was voted out of office during the conference. At the end of the conference there was the Potsdam Agreement , which among other things provided for the division of Germany into four zones of occupation .
Even after the end of the war in Europe, the fighting with the Japanese Empire ( Pacific War ) continued unabated in the Pacific arena. The United States had been working on the so-called Manhattan Project to develop atomic bombs for some time . This project was so secret that Truman was only fully informed about it after he took office as president. During his stay in Potsdam on July 16, 1945, he was informed that the first nuclear explosion had been triggered with the Trinity test in the New Mexico desert . This successful nuclear test quickly raised the question of whether this new weapon should be used against Japan. President Truman ordered the atomic bombs to be dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in early August . Until today it was the only use of nuclear weapons in a military conflict. In total, around 155,000 people died instantly from the two atomic bombs and 90,000 to 140,000 people died from the direct consequences. By some estimates, around 200,000 people had died from cancer and other long-term damage by 1950. After the second bomb was dropped on August 9, Japan surrendered unconditionally. The official surrender of Japan took place on September 2, 1945. This finally ended the Second World War.
At that time, military intervention on the main Japanese islands was seen as an alternative to using atomic bombs. However, Truman rejected this after he was convinced that using the atomic bombs would end the war more quickly and save the lives of American soldiers. This fact remains the subject of controversial discussions to this day. Critics believe that Japan was close to surrendering and that the use of atomic bombs was superfluous. In their opinion, Truman only wanted to test the newly developed weapon under real conditions and demonstrate the new military strength of the USA, especially against the Soviet Union . Such a demonstration of American military power wanted to prevent Moscow from having a say in the post-war order in Japan by completing the surrender of the empire before the USSR entered the war. Other historians argue that Japan was far from ready to surrender, which made US intervention inevitable. Estimates at the time, based on experience with fighting over smaller Japanese islands, assumed that such an intervention on the main islands would have caused more deaths on both sides and prolonged the war by months or years.
Domestic Policy of the Post-War Years
By the late summer of 1945, the war had almost completely obscured US politics. With the Japanese surrender, Truman was able to focus more on domestic politics. The entry into the war finally brought the USA out of the Great Depression in the early 1940s , and an economic boom ensued. With the end of the war, as it turned out wrongly, there were fears that the economic situation might deteriorate again. In fact, it was almost full employment and the standard of living improved noticeably. Home and car ownership became affordable for many Americans, including the middle class. The greatest challenge for the economy was now to convert war production to a civilian basis. The costs of the Second World War resulted in an enormous national debt ; In 1946 the deficit reached just under 242 billion US dollars. Truman therefore advocated major spending cuts. In the military in particular, financial resources should be drastically reduced. By 1948, government spending had been cut by $ 19 billion, marking the first debt reduction since 1930 under Herbert Hoover . Defense spending was reduced by 85 percent from its peak in 1945 over the next two years. Unlike many of his economic policy advisers who were followers of Keynesianism , Truman was more oriented towards the traditional teachings of Adam Smith . He therefore rejected deficit spending in principle, but was unable to pursue this line after the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950.
In autumn 1945 Truman presented his domestic policy program for the post-war years. In it he called for a continuation of the New Deal reforms, as planned by Roosevelt, and thus an expansion of the American welfare state . One of Truman's main concerns was the introduction of general health insurance . Comprehensive health care, according to the President, is "a right and not a privilege". State aid in particular for the particularly needy and the elderly was one of Truman's core demands. He held on to this goal until the end of his presidency, although Congress blocked with the votes of Republicans and conservative southern Democrats, who together formed a conservative coalition . On other economic and social policy issues, too, the conservative coalition resisted the president, who was accused of advocating too much state interference.
Despite the generally positive economic situation, the president was confronted with an unprecedented number of strikes in the post-war years , which increasingly damaged his popularity. Rapid inflation in particular led to calls for higher wages. Better working conditions, such as in the steel industry, were also called for. In January 1946, for example, 800,000 workers in the steel industry went on strike. After this came to an end, a strike by coal workers followed in the spring of 1946, which led to supply bottlenecks across the country. The majority of US citizens reacted angrily to the situation and called for government intervention. Truman saw the strikes as a threat to the common good and was therefore forced to take countermeasures. He called for the strikers to be forcibly recruited into the armed forces. His plan passed the House of Representatives, but failed due to resistance from the Senate. His proposal aroused sharp criticism from the unions. The opposition Republicans, however, accused the president of not acting decisively enough against the strikes.
In this political climate, which seriously damaged Truman's popularity among the population, the Republicans managed to win a majority in both houses of the legislature for the first time in 16 years in the congressional elections in November 1946. Although the President cooperated closely with the republican leaders on foreign policy issues after the constitution of the new Congress in January 1947, bitter disputes arose on domestic issues. Truman saw himself as the defender of Roosevelt's legacy, which he had to defend against a Republican Congress that wanted to revise social reforms and pursued a clientele policy in favor of upper income and large corporations. The Republicans understood their election victory as a mandate of the population to drastically reduce a welfare state that was becoming too prevalent and regulations that were harmful to the economy. The influence of the trade unions in the years since the Great Depression was also inconvenient for many Republicans, as it was detrimental to economic growth in their eyes. In the summer of 1947, for example, Congress passed the so-called Taft-Hartley Act , which was intended to severely restrict the influence of workers' associations and curb excessive strikes. President Truman vetoed the bill. However, with the help of the conservative Democrats from the south, the Republicans succeeded in overriding the president's objection with the necessary two-thirds majority. Truman's veto improved his standing with the trade unions, which in 1948 were largely in favor of re-election of the president. Two further vetoes by Truman against the tax cuts sought by the Republicans could not be rejected.
Efforts on Civil Rights and Racial Issues
As president, Truman took a firm stand against racial discrimination . He found the social and economic disadvantage of African Americans to be incompatible with the ideals of the American constitution. In December 1946 he appointed Charles Edward Wilson , President of General Electric , to chair a temporary commission on civil rights. The President's Committee on Civil Rights should propose measures and new laws to protect and improve the civil rights of all US citizens. The Commission consisted of a total of 15 members, among them the son of the late President Franklin D. Roosevelt Jr . It submitted a 178-page report entitled To Secure These Rights , on time in December 1947 .
Among the most groundbreaking domestic political decisions Truman its ranks Executive Order of July 26, 1948 for the abolition of racial segregation in the armed forces of the United States . He was vehemently criticized for this attitude, especially by the conservative wing of the party in the south. His demand for actual equality for colored people was partly responsible for the split-off of the party wing in the 1948 election and initiated a gradual departure of the South from the Democratic Party, which has had its strongholds there since it was founded. The turning of the southern states towards the Republicans was finally sealed by the politics of the Democratic presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson , who were also committed to the equality of blacks and here, like Truman, in contrast to most politicians from the South saw a responsibility of the federal government (see also Solid South ). In many states in the north and west, however, the opposite trend took place. Legal advances in this area demanded by Truman proved difficult in view of the negative attitude of southern politicians. Still, Truman's policies are seen as the beginning of a level playing field for black people in the United States. Much of his political endeavors in this area were implemented in the 1960s under President Lyndon B. Johnson; including the civil abolition of racial segregation .
Beginning of the Cold War and the Marshall Plan
Already during the Potsdam Conference more and more political tensions arose between the Soviet Union and the Western powers (especially the United States and the United Kingdom ). These were based in particular on very different political and social systems. In the period that followed, the US government saw increasing evidence that the USSR under Stalin wanted to expand its influence over Europe. The USSR installed so-called satellite states in the Eastern Bloc countries . Socialist systems were established in these countries. In the face of those who think differently, especially politicians critical of the Soviet Union, people reacted with persecution and murder. When massive espionage activities by the Soviet Union in Great Britain, the USA and Canada became known through documents from the defected cryptographer Igor Gouzenko , the West and the US government under Truman were also much more open to conflict.
The political tensions between the two new superpowers USA and USSR increased massively in the following years. Mutual mistrust grew when the Iran crisis in 1946 and with regard to the political development of Turkey added further sources of conflict. In 1945 and 1946, Stalin tried to split off the provinces of Iran inhabited by Kurds and Azeris in order to establish pro-Soviet states there. For example, Stalin wanted to install a communist government in Tehran that would have approved the permanent occupation of Iran by Soviet troops and turned Iran into a pro-Soviet satellite state. Only when President Truman threatened serious consequences, including the use of nuclear weapons, did Stalin give in.
Given the tense geopolitical situation proclaimed Truman on March 12, 1947 before the Congress his as Truman Doctrine became known foreign policy, the Cold War , founded by western side. Truman also worked to ensure that the funds for the Marshall Plan were approved by a large majority in Congress. On April 3, 1948, the Marshall Plan Act was finally signed by Truman. This program provided for extensive US reconstruction aid in numerous European countries in the form of loans and deliveries of goods. The aim was, on the one hand, the economic and social regeneration of these states and, on the other hand, the prevention of a further spread of communism in Europe. The American government had come to believe that communism could spread throughout Europe if the famine and economic problems resulting from the destruction of the war were not resolved. At the same time, the economic development in Europe would create the USA a new trading partner and thus also promote the US economy. The reconstruction program is now considered a success in a historical context, as numerous European countries, especially Germany, benefited from it. States in the Eastern Bloc as well as the USSR itself refused aid offered under the Marshall Plan.
Recognition of Israel
Truman was positive about the efforts to establish a Jewish state with Israel in the Middle East . Even as a senator he was a supporter of Zionism . Although the creation of a Jewish state was popular among the American people, there were also concerns within the cabinet. Defense Secretary James V. Forrestal warned the President that the recognition of such a state could put a strain on relations with Saudi Arabia , which, however, are of elementary importance for the USA due to its dependence on oil . However, Truman rejected this, stating that he would make his decisions according to law rather than oil. For the president, the recognition and support of Israel, to which many survivors of the Holocaust were able to flee, was primarily a moral matter in view of the Jewish persecution by the Nazi regime a few years earlier, but also a consequence of domestic political pressure, especially from the Congress. When Israel declared itself independent on May 14, 1948, Truman recognized the country's sovereignty that same day. The Soviet Union also did this a few days later. Truman's decision to recognize the new Jewish state was the starting point for the close political ties between the United States and Israel to this day. On the other hand, he thought the Jews were very selfish. In his diary on July 21, 1947, he wrote that the Jews did not care how many refugees were murdered or mistreated as long as the Jews received special treatment.
1948 presidential election
For the next presidential election, which took place on November 2, 1948, Truman ran for re-election. Since he had previously only held the office of President as a successor to Roosevelt, he wanted his own legitimation from the voters. At the Democratic National Convention , the nomination party convention of the Democrats, he prevailed with 947 to 266 delegate votes clearly against the southern Senator Richard B. Russell . At the convention, he elected Senator Alben W. Barkley as his candidate for the office of vice president. In the run-up to the convention, however, due to Truman's low popularity, there were also critical voices within the party demanding that Truman be replaced by another candidate. In all opinion polls, he was well behind his Republican challenger Thomas E. Dewey , who was a Republican candidate in 1944.
In September and October 1948, Truman toured the country by train and gave more than 200 speeches. In his speeches he promoted his liberal program and attacked the Republicans sharply. Far more sharply than the domestically moderate Dewey, he attacked the Republican-dominated Congress since January 1947. So he called it the "Do-nothing-congress" ("Do-nothing congress"). Despite the positive response to Truman's appearances, the public and the media viewed his chances of winning an election as slim. The president's confidence was dismissed as optimism. In addition, Truman was expected to lose further votes due to a splinter group of the Democratic Party, the Dixiecrats . This southern group, which primarily criticized Truman's liberal positions and his stance on the civil rights of colored people, had nominated Strom Thurmond as its own candidate for president in mid-1948 . Truman's predecessor as Vice President, Henry A. Wallace , also ran for the Progressive Party for president. Wallace, who campaigned a left wing program, was expected to cost Truman more votes.
Even on election day, despite Truman's vigorous election campaign, no one expected the president to win. The day after the election, the Chicago Tribune newspaper even appeared with a headline announcing that Dewey had won the presidential election even though Truman had won. One of the most famous press photos of that time shows a smiling Truman holding a copy of the newspaper with the false report of his defeat (headline: " Dewey Defeats Truman ") in the picture the day after the election .
After the votes were counted, however, Truman's election victory was certain: He had won 49.6 percent of the votes and a majority of votes in 28 states. This means that Truman accounted for 303 of the 531 electors on the electoral committee (266 were required to win). 45.1 percent of the electorate voted for Dewey, he had received a majority of votes in 16 states and thus 189 electors. The Dixiecrats won only 2.4 percent of the vote and 39 electors nationwide, all from the southern states; in the rest of the country the Dixicrats had no chance. In addition, the Democrats had won the congressional elections, which took place at the same time, after they had lost the midterm elections in 1946.
After his election victory in November 1948, Truman took the oath of office for a full term in a solemn ceremony on January 20, 1949 in front of the Capitol . At these celebrations, Alben W. Barkley was also sworn in as Vice President. It was the first presidential swearing in ceremony in American history to be televised.
For Truman's domestic political program, which he presented for the 1948 election, the term Fair Deal was coined, based on Roosevelt's New Deal . Although his Democrats again achieved a majority in Congress in this year's elections, few of his proposals were actually implemented due to opposition from the conservative coalition. The President stuck to his call for universal health insurance in the form of today's Medicare and Medicaid , which Congress rejected with the votes of the Conservative Coalition. These projects were not realized until the 1960s under Lyndon B. Johnson . A withdrawal of the Taft-Hartley law, which Truman sought, did not come about because of the blockade of the conservative coalition. In contrast, the Housing Act of 1949 to promote social housing was implemented. As part of the program, the federal government participated in the construction of around 800,000 apartments.
After the use of the atomic bomb in Japan, the US government pushed ahead with the further development of nuclear weapons . In view of the deteriorating relations with the USSR, armament, especially in the case of nuclear weapons, was defined as an elementary interest of the USA in order to be able to guarantee the defense of the country and its allies in the event of a military conflict. Above all, however, the use of nuclear weapons was a deterrent in order to be able to prevent a nuclear war . The systematic armament led to an arms race with the Soviet Union (later also with Red China ), which essentially only came to an end with the end of the Cold War around 1989.
In December 1945, President Truman decided to carry out tests with nuclear weapons to determine their destructive potential. The Bikini Atoll and neighboring Eniwetok , were selected as test sites because they were far away from all the regular shipping and air traffic routes. At the request of the Military Governor of the Marshall Islands, the head of the Bikinians, King Judah, agreed that his people would leave their homeland, believing that they could return to the islands at a later date. The total of 167 bikinians were relocated to the smaller, uninhabited Rongerik -Atoll. However, large parts of the test areas that were used until 1954 are so contaminated to this day that repopulation does not seem possible. At the time, however, the US government was unaware of the long-term consequences of nuclear tests. To date, the USA has only partially paid compensation.
When the Soviet Union successfully detonated the first atomic bomb in August 1949, the Truman administration came under strong pressure from Congress and the public to push the further development of nuclear weapons even more intensively. Shortly before that, the government and secret services had assumed that the Soviets would only be able to build an atomic bomb a few years later. On the American side, however, it was not clear at the time that the Manhattan Project had already been infiltrated with Soviet spies (such as Klaus Fuchs ) who were revealing the nuclear weapons secrets of the Americans and British to the USSR. Under the direction of nuclear physicist Edward Teller , the USA developed the hydrogen bomb in the coming years . With the implementation of the Ivy Mike test , Truman was able to announce the first successful test of a hydrogen bomb on October 31, 1952 (the USSR also followed suit after the end of Truman's presidency).
McCarthy era and "un-American activities"
Even in Truman's era, especially in his second term in office, the so-called McCarthy era began with the activities of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) of the House of Representatives and the investigative committee of Senator Joseph McCarthy , the hunt for actual and supposed communists in the UNITED STATES. The associated excesses, which had grown into true hysteria, later prompted the President to criticize the principles sharply:
"I've said many a time that I think the Un-American Activities Committee in the House of Representatives was the most un-American thing in America!"
"I have said repeatedly that I think the House Un-American Activities Committee was the most un-American affair in America!"
After the Second World War, Korea was divided into north and south at the 38th parallel. While a communist regime supported by the Soviet Union was established in the north, an anti-communist government emerged in the south with the support of the USA. In June 1950, at the instigation of the North Korean ruler Kim Il-sung , the north invaded the south with the aim of reunifying Korea under communist leadership. The USSR under Stalin approved this procedure and delivered war equipment to North Korea (Russian soldiers were not deployed). With a UN mandate, the USA and some other western states sent troops under the command of General Douglas MacArthur to the Korean peninsula to repel the invasion. The US warfare initially proved to be successful, with the North Korean units being pushed back further and further. On General MacArthur's endeavors, Truman authorized the further advance of the US troops and their allies to the border with the People's Republic of China . MacArthur had said that China's participation in the war, which had come under Communist leadership the previous year, was very unlikely. However, when this turned out to be untrue at the end of the year and Chinese forces intervened in the conflict, MacArthur was fired by Truman . Since MacArthur was held in high esteem among the US population and many American politicians, the president's decision led to controversial discussions.
Due to the Chinese involvement in the conflict, it lasted longer and longer and, in view of the difficult military situation, developed into a farce. The course of the front stabilized along the former border at the 38th parallel. In view of the incalculable consequences, Truman categorically rejected proposals by the military for the use of nuclear weapons, such as those made by Douglas MacArthur. Since the USSR had also had nuclear weapons since 1949, Truman thought the risk of a global conflict in the form of a nuclear war was too great. Diplomatic attempts to end the war were unsuccessful for a long time, so that the fighting dragged on beyond Truman's term of office. Only after the end of his presidency was an armistice agreement signed in 1953, but not a peace treaty, which means that the conflict has formally continued to this day.
White House renovation
A major renovation of the White House took place during Truman's tenure, later known as the Truman Reconstruction . In the mid-1940s, the presidential residence was in poor condition. The last major restoration of the residence, built in the early 19th century, took place during Theodore Roosevelt's tenure in the early 1900s. Work began in 1948 and was completed in 1952. The White House was extensively renewed: the interior structure was removed and completely renewed, some changes were made to the floor plan and the architecture was reinforced. A complete gutting was carried out, but the internal structure - now in reinforced concrete - was largely reconstructed. A new balcony was built on the second floor on the south side, which was named Truman Balcony . This was initially extremely controversial. Truman rejected allegations that he had spoiled the presidential seat.
During this period, the President resided in Blair House , not far from the White House in Washington. The West Wing , where the Oval Office is also located, was not restored and therefore remained in regular use.
Attempted assassination attempt
Truman survived an assassination attempt on November 1, 1950 , in which one of the two Puerto Rican assassins, Griselio Torresola , and one of the men from his bodyguard ( Leslie Coffelt ) were shot, which, however, did not seriously endanger the president himself. Oscar Collazo , the second assassin, received the death penalty , which Truman softened by a presidential order for life imprisonment. His successor Jimmy Carter , US President from 1977 to 1981, pardoned Collazo, who, according to his own statements, had no personal motives against Truman, in September 1979.
Election 1952 and end of term
Truman, like his predecessor Franklin D. Roosevelt, could have run for a further term and thus, in the event of an election victory, hold an almost twelve-year presidency. In 1951, the 22nd amendment to the constitution limited the maximum possible presidency to ten years (two years as vice-president and eight years as elected president), but this regulation did not yet apply to the incumbent president. In early 1952, therefore, it was seen in the US media as possible that the incumbent would run again. Truman was in the first primary for the 1952 presidential election in New Hampshire on the ballot, but lost to Estes Kefauver . On March 29, 1952, he made a statement in which he announced that he would not seek another term. In his memoirs Truman later wrote that after his re-election in 1948 he had already decided not to run in 1952. In the election campaign, he then supported the Democratic presidential candidate Adlai Ewing Stevenson after his preferred candidate Fred M. Vinson , the Federal Supreme Justice and former Treasury Secretary, rejected a candidacy. In the November 1952 election, however, Stevenson was defeated by Dwight D. Eisenhower , who ran for the Republicans. Eisenhower succeeded Truman as president on January 20, 1953.
Appeals to the Supreme Court
Truman appointed four judges to the US Supreme Court during his tenure as president :
- Harold Hitz Burton - 1945
- Fred M. Vinson ( Chief Justice ) - 1946
- Tom C. Clark - 1949
- Sherman Minton - 1949
Fred M. Vinson, who remained in office from 1946 until his death in 1953, remains the last Chief Justice to date to be appointed by a Democratic US President. Further appeals were made to lower federal courts.
Retirement and death
After Truman left office, he retired to Missouri for private life, and his public appearances became less frequent. After Truman's limited financial leeway became known in the mid-1950s, the US Congress passed the Former Presidents Act , which gave all former presidents the right to pension payments and other benefits such as personal protection and their own office. To date, neither Truman nor any of his predecessors had received any pension payments for his work as head of state. After leaving, he wrote his double-volume memoirs . The first volume, which is only about his first year in office, was published in 1955. The second part was published in 1956. A year later opened in Independence, Missouri, the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum , the Presidential Library Truman.
In the run-up to the 1960 presidential election , Truman was critical of John F. Kennedy , whom he viewed as too young and inexperienced for the White House. After Kennedy's election victory, however, the former president supported his policies as well as those of his successor Lyndon B. Johnson . In July 1965, in his hometown of Independence, he was visited by President Johnson, who in Truman's presence signed the Social Security Act of 1965 , an act that created Medicare and Medicaid . Johnson wanted to remember Truman's efforts, who had tried to pass a similar law during his term in office, but had failed in Congress.
Harry S. Truman died on December 26, 1972 at the age of 88 and was buried shortly afterwards in his hometown. US Presidents Richard Nixon and Lyndon B. Johnson appeared at his funeral, along with numerous other guests .
Harry S. Truman was a very active Freemason . He was admitted to Belton Lodge No. 450 in Grandview, Missouri. When he applied for admission in 1909, his profession was "Farmer". In 1911, he and several other Freemasons founded Grandview Lodge No. 618 . He served there as the first master of the chair . In 1940 he became the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Missouri elected and served her until October 1,941th
At the end of his tenure in January 1953, Truman was considered one of the most unpopular presidents in American history . According to polls at the time, only around 24 percent of US citizens were satisfied with the president's work. This corresponded to the level of approval of Richard Nixon at the height of the Watergate affair in 1974. The ongoing and costly Korean War , the corruption allegations against some members of his government (not against Truman himself), and the political climate of hysteria and fear of communism ( McCarthy era ) were reasons for this.
However, Truman's public reputation began to increase again after the end of his political career. In particular, after his death in 1972, he posthumously rose to become one of the most popular US presidents. Historians cite as the reason for this development the willpower attributed to Truman in relation to foreign policy in the beginning Cold War . The reconstruction of Western Europe after the Second World War, which Truman was instrumental in initiating, is particularly valued by historians and many Americans. Programs like the Marshall Plan would not only have generated considerable economic growth on both sides of the Atlantic , but also strengthened democracy in Europe. Domestically, his efforts to promote civil rights are particularly valued today.
Truman's decision to drop the atomic bombs on Japan is not only controversial but also criticized, especially outside the United States.
The 33rd US President is of particular historical importance due to his election victory in 1948 , as the public had previously firmly assumed that he would be defeated.
- 1945 and 1948 he was man of the year of Time Magazine.
- In 1963 the AHEPA donated a statue of Truman to the city of Athens
- In 1975 the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation was dedicated to him as a Presidential Memorial .
- The US aircraft carrier CVN-75 was given his name in 1996.
- The State Department building, the Harry S. Truman Building , has been named after him since September 2000 .
In the movie
- Robert Dallek : Harry S. Truman: The American Presidents Series: The 33rd President, 1945–1953 , Times Books 2008, ISBN 978-0-8050-6938-9 .
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- Merle Miller : Plain Speaking. Putnam, New York 1973 (an "oral biography" based on interviews with Truman from 1961); German Frankly. Harry S. Truman tells his life . Translated by Hans Joachim Lange and Elfi Lange. DVA, Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, Stuttgart 1982, ISBN 3-421-01709-3 .
- Hermann-Josef Rupieper: Harry S. Truman (1945–1953): The unpopular designer of the post-war world. In: Christof Mauch (ed.): The American Presidents: 44 historical portraits from George Washington to Barack Obama. 6th, continued and updated edition. Beck, Munich 2013, ISBN 978-3-406-58742-9 , pp. 323–334.
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- Fun Facts. (No longer available online.) In: White House website . Archived from the original on October 22, 2009 ; accessed on April 15, 2018 .
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- Harry Truman joins Battery B of the Missouri National Guard
- David McCullough: Truman. Simon and Schuster, New York NY 1992, p. 105
- Herman-Josef Rupieper: Harry S. Truman (1945-1953). The unpopular designer of the post-war world. In: Christof Mauch (Ed.): The American Presidents. 5th, continued and updated edition. Munich 2009, pp. 323–334, here: pp. 324–325
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- Chapter II: The Effects of the Atomic Bombings. In: United States Strategic Bombing Survey. Originally by the United States Government Printing Office ; found at ibiblio.org, 1946, accessed November 25, 2007 .
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|SURNAME||Truman, Harry S.|
|ALTERNATIVE NAMES||Truman, Harry S (full name)|
|BRIEF DESCRIPTION||American politician and President of the USA (1945–1953)|
|DATE OF BIRTH||May 8, 1884|
|PLACE OF BIRTH||Lamar , Missouri|
|DATE OF DEATH||December 26, 1972|
|Place of death||Kansas City , Missouri|