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Truman, Harry S. - 33rd President
12 April 1945 to 20 January 1953

Russell Renka
Southeast Missouri State University

General Sources:  The UMKC-Truman Presidential Studies Collection is the result of a collaboration of the Truman Library and UMKC; scroll down to "Presidential Studies Collection Online."  (Note:  see Truman Library and Project WhistleStop files below.)
    The Miller Center's American President.org site has American President - Harry Truman.
    The American Experience The Presidents Harry S. Truman PBS has an overview plus five topics; a Primary Sources guide with speeches, documents, and letters; and a Teacher's Guide with a World Timeline from 1945 through 1953.
    The American Experience Truman film site has additional resources, many preceding or post-dating Truman's presidential years.  See American Experience Truman Timeline on Truman's long life from 1884 to 1972.  The PBS site Truman Primary Sources has important letters associated with the atomic bomb, and the launching of NATO.
    IPL POTUS -- Harry S. Truman has detailed information on Cabinet, election of 1948, and other Truman presidency topics.

Harry S. Truman Presidential Museum and Library:  This has recently become the preeminent website source for material on President Truman.  Carefully review the introduction, including President Truman Library Archival Reference; Search Truman Presidential Museum & Library Photographs; and Truman Life and Times Exhibit - Truman Presidential Museum & Library.  Many specific Library-based resources are cited below.

Project WhistleStop-Truman Library web site integration map:  This site is now integrated with the Library.  Resources are extensive; it's excellent work on their part.

Personal Biographies:  See Richard Kirkendall's essay at Encyclopedia Americana Harry S. Truman.   Also see 33rd President Harry S Truman; this is thorough and detailed, but does contain errors such as claim that Truman's 1949 inauguration was still in March (it was January 20, dating from the 20th Amendment 's adoption in 1933). 

The United States History Index:  Truman's tenure of 1945 to 1953 is cited via WWW-VL HISTORY USA 1940-1950, and United States History Index - 1950-1959.   The Cold War History 1945-1991 is a separate source on that seminal event of Truman's time.

Timelines:  The Truman Library has a thorough Chronology at Truman Chronologies.   Harry S. Truman - Presidents Timeline from the PBS site National Video Resources also has highlights.

C-SPAN Truman Tapes:  These Truman Interviews were recorded in fall 1959 with former President Truman and two advisors.

Character Above All: Harry S. Truman is by journalist David McCullough.

Truman Diary:  A 1947 diary by President Truman was discovered in July 2003.  See Truman Library - Harry S. Truman 1947 Diary and Truman Library - News release on its important contents.

1948 Election Campaign:  The State of Missouri has Harry S Truman Fiftieth Election Anniversary 1948-1998 Introduction with summary essay by Robert Ferrell, plus photographs, for the 50th anniversary in 1998 of Truman's 1948 election to the presidency.
    Project Whistlestop has 1948 Campaign: Campaign Strategies from the Library with numerous primary documents.  This famous upset victory by Truman over Dewey was marked by the July 15, 1948 Acceptance Speech at Excerpts from Truman's Address to Democratic Convention - July 15, 1948.  Truman called the Republican-run 80th Congress back into special session, thereby saddling Thomas Dewey with unwanted campaign baggage.  The political strategy is at the Truman Library's Truman Calls Back 80th Congress by Irwin Ross.
    The campaign had two separate "whistle stop" train speaking tours, the first before the Convention in June 1948, the second in September and October after the traditional Labor Day launch of the fall general election campaign.  Details with photographs and speeches are at the 1948 Campaign site.  Included is the famous "Dewey Defeats Truman" falsehood in the Chicago Tribune, held up for ridicule by Truman on 3 November 1948 after his 1948 election was evident to the world.  There are also 9 speeches and documents from fall campaigning at the 1948 Campaign Speeches.

1948 Presidential ElectionDave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections for 1948 shows the famous upset victory by Truman over Thomas Dewey.

Photographic History of Truman Administration:  Start at Truman Library Digital Archives and Photographs, or go straight to Photograph Collection for over 100 photographs.  Project WhistleStop has merged with the Truman Library, so all information previously found there has been incorporated into the library's archives.
    The famous Chicago Daily Tribune "Dewey Defeats Truman" headline (held up by the true victor) is at Dewey Defeats Truman (Memory) American Treasures of the Library of Congress.  Historian Alan Brinkley at Columbia University has four jpg sizes of this famous photograph at Index of -itc-history-brinkley-3651-photos.

Foreign Policy of President Truman:

    WWII and creation of the United Nations:   The Avalon Project: The Papers of Harry S. Truman has important documents, including 1945 proclamations creating the United Nations.

    The Bomb: The Bomb/Project Manhattan:  A good starting point is Documents Relating to the Development of the Atomic Bomb and Its use on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  See also Trinity Atomic Web Site and HEW Archive (U.S.).  The site Hiroshima: Was It Necessary? The Atomic Bombing of Japan also has extensive links, including The Harry Truman Diary and Papers.  Gene Dannen's ATOMIC BOMB DECISION (Hiroshima-Nagasaki) has more links, including some to the more important atomic scientists.
    Leading Truman historian Alonzo Hamby authored The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb in Journal of American History, Vol. 84, no. 2 (September 1997); it takes quite direct issue with Gar Alperovitz's position profiled in The Decision H-NET Debate. On Truman's final order, see The Decision That Launched the Enola Gay by John T. Correll, Editor in Chief, Air Force Magazine - April 1994.
    The Avalon Project has The Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki from a 1946 technical report that also informed John Hersey's memorable account of this human-wrought disaster.  Hiroshima Archive is a photographic archive.
    Atomic Bomb-Truman Press Release-August 6, 1945 from the Truman Library tracks the event and announcement.

    Cold War policy:  For outline of events during the seminal period of 1946-1953, see Cold War Policies 1945-1991 under item 3, entitled "Containment 1947-1949."   Seminal events include the The Truman Doctrine in 1947, the Berlin Airlift (Operation Vittles:  The Berlin Airlift) in 1948, the Marshall Plan in 1949, and the creation of NATO that same year.  One of the chief architects was Secretary of State Dean Acheson, profiled in Robert Beisner's American History article at Devotion To The Chief.  A useful timeline on Acheson, who was Secretary of State during 1950-1953, is Dean Acheson.  George Marshall, another principle architect of American postwar foreign policy, is briefly profiled at GI -- World War II Commemoration - George W. Marshall.

    Soviets and 'Mutual Assured Destruction':  Once the Soviets acquired nuclear weaponry of their own in 1949, a special form of mutual deterrence eventually took hold by the 1960s.  As though anticipating this, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists began to publish its famous Doomsday Clock in Overview.  The first issue in 1947 showed seven minutes to midnight.  Later on it was much closer than that.  Possession of such power was the defining attribute of the new term 'superpower' per Why did the United States become a superpower after 1945? from the distinctly left-wing Nuclearfiles.org (Everything you need to know about nuclear age history).

    Postwar institutional development of national security apparatus:  Not all began with Truman, but the core elements all were set down then.  See History of the National Security Council, 1947-1997.  Its beginning at the Cold War outset in 1947 is shown in its Truman Administration, 1947-1953 and the preceding Summary.
    Studies in Intelligence-Truman and Eisenhower: Launching the Process traces the Central Intelligence Agency's formal beginning that same seminal year of 1947.
    NSC-68, U.S. Objectives and Programs for National Security, April 14, 1950 outlines the fundamental statement of postwar national security policy.  This is linked from the Mt. Holyoke College site of Vincent Ferraro, Resources for the Study of International Relations and Foreign Policy, with numerous Documents links.  I recommend it for additional web file material on Cold War policy.  In particular for the Truman years, use the Documents subfile to see Documents Related to the Cold War and Documents on the Korean War.  Both are impressively thorough.
    The 1947 creation of the Central Intelligence Agency is documented at the CIA Factbook on Intelligence 2002 timeline, and The Genesis of the CIA.

    The Truman Doctrine:  This covers the policy.  The speech itself is shown below under major Truman speeches.  Drafting of that speech is shown by the Truman Library at The Truman Doctrine with 9 folders; these are worth a close look on evolution of the policy itself.
    The Truman Library, Truman Doctrine Activity is a secondary-school page with outlines of the policy of providing economic and military aid to Turkey and Greece.  Two seminal documents on British inability to continue its own aid there are at Truman Biography - Truman Doctrine.
     Marshall Plan:  Enacted in 1948 during the Republican 80th Congress, Public Law 80-472 Foreign Assistance Act (Marshall Plan) is now among the most celebrated aspects of the successful Cold War watershed policies associated with recovery of western Europe after the War.  The Brookings Institution's "Government's 50 Greatest Endeavors" ranked it first:  Government's 50 Greatest Endeavors: Rebuild Europe After World War II.  Accolades come almost across-the-board in current ideological terms:  The Marshall Plan by Peter Duignan and Lewis Gann is from the Hoover Institution.  The Department of State counts it as an historical high point:  see The Marshall Plan Investment in Peace by Michael J. Hogan.
    NARA's Featured Document: The Marshall Plan gives highlights and background, as does the Library of Congress, For European Recovery: The Fiftieth Anniversary of The Marshall Plan; and The Marshall Plan from the George C. Marshall Foundation.
    Many 50th anniversary celebrative commemorations took place on-line in 1997-98.  The Council on Foreign Relations has a former German Chancellor's article at Foreign Affairs - Marshall Plan Commemorative Section Miles to Go From American Plan to European Union - Helmut Schmidt WashingtonPost.com Marshall Plan Changed the Face of Europe has other entries including a timeline (WashingtonPost.com Key Events in the Marshall Plan) and graphical portrait (Europe's Recoverty After WWII).  The German Chancellor in 1997, Helmut Kohl, gave this laudatory speech:  Germany Info Government & Politics Statements & Speeches on the 50th anniversary to date of General Marshall's June 5, 1947 commencement speech at Harvard University (The Marshall Plan Speech).

    Korean War
:  The Truman Library's Truman and Eisenhower - Korean War 1950-1953 has numerous documents and statements derived from 50th anniversary conferences held during June 2000 to May 2003.  Also see Korean War for a timeline and source notes.

    State of Israel (and anti-semitism):  Truman's recognition of the State of Israel in 1948 is chronicled by the Truman Library at The Recognition of Israel - Background.  The Library also has Exhibit American Originals Part 2 Postwar United States - U.S. Recognition of the State of Israel.
    The recent discovery of Truman's 1947 Diary includes a now-famous Truman Library - Harry S. Truman 1947 Diary, July 21 displaying fairly raw (but widely held at the time) antisemitic views from this President.
Other policy (non-foreign):

    Internal security and McCarthyism:  The Red Scare era began in earnest in 1949, with precursors involving Alger Hiss and others earlier in the Truman period.  The spy history of this period and U.S. reaction to Soviet-linked sabotage (real plus imagined) is shown at Cold War Spies and Espionage.  Source material is largely from the venona-mirror Venona collection maintained by the National Security Agency.
    The era of Joseph McCarthy spanned 1950-1954 although he sat in the Senate for 10 years starting in 1947.  See McCarthyism from Wikipedia for instant topical coverage.  The Age of Paranoia has links to the major events of this time.
    Joseph McCarthy - Selected Resources from the Appleton Public Library (in McCarthy's old hometown) has many links, including 27 photographs. 

    Civil Rights:  See Truman Library - Executive Order 9981 whereby Truman directly ordered the racial desegregation of the Armed Forces, issued 26 July 1948 on eve of the Democratic National Convention--in which a southern walkout of delegates threatened Truman's prospects for election the coming November.  Truman had already taken a then-bold civil rights position early in 1948, something he signaled with a 1947 speech to the NAACP (American Experience The Presidents Harry S. Truman - NAACP Address June 28, 1947).  Southern reaction is expressed at American Experience Truman Primary Sources in an April 8, 1948 diatribe by Mississippi Congressman William Colmer.
    The Library's Document trail is considerable; see Desegregation of the Armed Forces and zero in on 1947 and 1948.
    Although the Cold War was the dominant national event of Truman's years, the early onset of the civil rights era is also now traced back to Truman in a considerable degree.  That thesis is shown in the 2002 publication Harry Truman and Civil Rights by Michael Gardner.

    The Fair Deal:  A product of 1948 campaign rhetoric aimed more at the Republican-controlled 80th Congress than at Republican presidential nominee Thomas Dewey, Truman's Fair Deal was announced on 5 January 1949 to a very chilly and unsuccessful reception in the Democratic-run but conservative-controlled 81st House and Senate.  Modeled as an extension of later New Deal programs and ideals, it produced little yield of legislation in 1949 and was then superceded by the Korean War in 1950.  Web coverage is accordingly meager, and mostly associated with the 1948 campaign.  Outline of its fortunes is shown by 96 40 02-02 HND Fair Deal.  A brief paragraph from leading Truman historian Alonzo Hamby is at Harry S. Truman - Presidents Essay Session 3.  Demise of national health insurance is referenced at Today in History January 5.

Major Speeches by Truman:  The Truman Library - Truman speeches audio online has audio extracts of 17 of Truman's presidential speeches, and one earlier 1939 entry from his time in the U.S. Senate.  Each is linked to a text file.  Harry S. Truman Inaugural Address of 1949 and his 1953 Farewell Address are also in text file.
    Major Truman speeches basically fit into two categories:  foreign policy, and the 1948 election campaign.  On the foreign side, American Rhetoric Harry S. Truman - The Truman Doctrine has that important speech in print and MP3 format.  The Truman Doctrine was pronounced before a Joint Session of the 80th Congress on 12 March 1947; see also Debate Information Center's The Truman Doctrine.
    A speech by former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, The Iron Curtain was an early signal (in March 1946) of the forthcoming Cold War of U.S. (and Britain) v. the Soviet Union.  Six associated speeches are shown at American Experience-Truman-Primary Source Material.
    On the 1948 election, there were two Whistle Stop political campaigns and the Convention.  The 1948 Truman Acceptance speech after his nomination at the Democratic National Convention is linked from the end of its "Presidential Politics" site; the specific site is Excerpts from Truman's Address to Democratic Convention - July 15, 1948.   For Whistle Stop speeches, the 1948 Campaign Speeches from the Truman Presidential Museum and Library include an archive entitled Six months in the life of President Harry S. Truman.
    The americanpresidency.org Audio-Video Archive - Harry S. Truman has eight audio excerpts.
    Truman's Farewell Address of 19 January 1953 is also noteworthy.  Read and hear Truman Library's Truman's Farewell Address to the American People.

Person of the Year, 1945 and 1948Time Magazine assigned this recognition twice to Truman: Harry S. Truman - 1945 and Harry S. Truman - 1948. (All these links are gone; will try retrieval but not optimistic - rdr, 1/25/05)

Assassination attempt:   Shoot-Out on Pennsylvania Avenue by Professor Elbert B. Smith is an American History account of the 1950 assassination attempt on President Truman's life.

Book bibliography of President Truman:  See American Presidents Life Portraits - Truman bibliography.

Obituary of Harry S. Truman President Truman's Obituary is on December 27, 1972 at the advanced age of 88.

Copyrightę2004-2007, Russell D. Renka