We pay a visit to the Truman Museum and Family Home in Independence, Missouri
Harry S Truman was born May 8th, 1884 in Lamar Missouri and grew up at his family home in Grandview Missouri near Kansas City. He defended his country in the first World War ( the only US President to have served). After the war, he worked at a Haberdasher (men’s hat maker) before becoming a Circuit Judge. Truman is one of the few persons ever to ascend to the presidency without ever having obtained a college degree. He was known for having a quick mind and a very strong memory His knowledge of the Law was mostly self-taught. he also had a well connected local family.
While serving in WWI Truman ran a canteen clothing supply business for his fellow soldiers that became quite profitable. One of the men serving with Truman was James Pendergast who was the nephew of local Kansas City political boss Tom Pendergast. Truman moved rapidly up the Army rank’s eventually becoming a colonel. After the war, James introduced Harry Truman to his uncle. Tom Pendergast, was a powerful ally to have in Kansas City in the 1920s. Truman would struggle for years with the infamous rumor that he only got as far as he did for being “Tom Pendergast’s boy”.
As he had within the Army, civilian Truman rose quickly in the political world, becoming a county court judge, and later a presiding judge. In 1932 he ran and won a seat in the United States Senate, but his opponents derided him as “the Senator from Pendergast.” Despite the moniker, Truman began to show independence and earned a reputation for being outspoken and quick-witted.
In 1944 President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was running for his fourth term. His prior veep Henry Wallace was not selected to run again with FDR being deemed “too left”, and Truman was chosen to run with the president. FDR was almost certain to win, WWII was in its third year and the public was not eager to change leaders in the midst of an ongoing war.
FDR was reelected easily in 1944 and Truman’s brief time as vice president was uneventful. As Vice-President, he was mostly kept out of the loop regarding the war and the Top secret Atomic testing that was going on.
Truman’s time as vice president was short lived. On just the 82nd day of office. Franklin Roosevelt died on April 12th, 1945. Truman in an attempt to console Mrs. Roosevelt Truman asked her if there was anything he could do to help her. Eleanor Roosevelt replied “Is there anything we can do for you? For you are the one in trouble now!”
Truman had his hands full and he knew it. He once said to reporters “Boys, if you ever pray, pray for me now. I don’t know if you fellas ever had a load of hay fall on you, but when they told me what happened yesterday, I felt like the moon, the stars, and all the planets had fallen on me.” The war still had to end and it was now all on Truman’s shoulders.
Truman was unaware of the Manhattan Project which was testing the Atomic Bomb until after he had been sworn in. Whether to use it on Japan to expedite the end of the Pacific conflict is still a controversial subject even today. The Truman Museum has a sign-up book where visitors can weigh in on the subject. The comments were mostly in favor but many comments expressed the contrary.
Truman’s administration had many issues after the war ended including a “Red Scare” where Wisconsin Senator Joe Mccarthy claimed he had a list of known communists in the State Department. He never showed the list and the exact number on his ‘list’ seemed to vary widely. The united states under the umbrella of the United nations also engaged in an armed conflict with North Korea in 1950 that ended with over thirty thousand American servicemen killed and many more civilian deaths. The grinding stalemate took its toll on Truman’s popularity. His last year in office he had only a 22% approval rating.
Due to his unpopularity, Truman chose not to run again in 1952 and returned home to his residence on Delaware street in Independence, Missouri.
The Truman museum has a replica of the oval office at the white house. And Mr. Truman even provided the commentary, explaining the items in his office.