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The Round Tablette
November 2005
Volume 14 Number 3
Published by WW II History Roundtable
Edited by Jim Gerber
Welcome to the November meeting of
the Dr. Harold C. Deutsch World War Two
History Roundtable. Tonight is our annual
Dr. Harold C. Deutsch lecture. Ken Hechler
will be talking about his association with
President Harry S. Truman.
Harry S. Truman became President
of the United States when Franklin Roosevelt
died on April 12, 1945. During his eight years
in office, Truman was faced with enormous
challenges in both foreign and domestic
affairs. His foreign policies, especially
against the Soviet Union in the early part of
the Cold War, would become the basis of
American foreign policy for generations. On
the domestic front, Truman guided the
country from a war-time to a peace-time
Truman was born on May 8 1884 in
Lamar, Missouri but grew up in
Independence. He loved history and
literature and played the piano
enthusiastically. He wanted to become a
soldier but his poor eyesight prevented him
from going to West Point. He was unable to
afford to go to a four year college and so he
worked on the family farm between 1906 and
1914. It was during this time that he met and
fell in love with Virginia “Bess” Wallace.
Bess refused Harry’s marriage proposal in
1911 but the romance continued and they
were finally married in 1919 and five years
later had their only child, Mary Margaret.
In 1917, Truman’s National Guard
unit shipped out to France as part of the
American Expeditionary Force to fight in the
World War. Soldiering suited Truman well
and his artillery battery became a top notch
unit. After the war, Truman opened a men’s
furnishings store with an army buddy. The
shop failed after a few years and Thomas
Pendergast, the Democratic boss of Kansas
City, asked Truman to run for a judgeship
on the county court. He served one term and
in 1926 he became a presiding judge serving
until 1934. In 1934, Truman was elected to
the US Senate and supported Roosevelt’s
New Deal. He became a national figure
during WW II when he chaired the “Truman
Committee” which investigated government
defense spending. Roosevelt chose Truman
as his running mate in the 1944 presidential
campaign largely because the Missourian
passed muster with the Southern Democrats
and party officials. He only served 82 days
as vice president before the death of
Roosevelt made him the thirty-third
President of the United States.
Truman took office as the action in
the European theater was drawing to a close.
Hitler committed suicide in Berlin two weeks
after Truman took office and VE day took
place on May 7, 1945. The war in the Pacific
was far from over. Most experts believed
that it would last another year and might
require an invasion of Japan. The American
government had secretly begun to develop
the world’s most deadly weapon, the atomic
bomb. Truman was informed of this and had
to make the difficult decision to use the
atomic bomb. After its completion and
successful testing, Truman approved its use
against Japan. After the dropping of the
bombs on August 6th and 9th, Japanese
emperor Hirohito agreed to surrender,
bringing World War II to a close.
During the first years of his
presidency, Truman faced unprecedented
challenges in international affairs. The
relations with the Soviet Union, which began
to deteriorate before the end of WW II,
continued to worsen. In response to Soviet
threats, the Truman administration
developed foreign policies to contain the
Soviet Union’s political power and counter
its military strength. The Cold War between
the United States and the Soviet Union,
which would last for over forty years, had
At home, Truman lobbied for a
continuing government role in the immediate
post-war economy and for a liberal agenda
based on the New Deal. Republicans and
conservative Democrats attacked this
strategy and the President mercilessly.
Truman’s political fortunes reached their
low point in 1946 and 1947. Few believed
that he could recover to win a second term.
Truman took steps to energize his liberal
Democratic base in order to be reelected. He
faced Republican Thomas Dewey in 1948.
The President waged a tireless and vigorous
campaign and defeated Dewey in the
November election. This victory capped one
of the most stunning political comebacks in
American History. Truman viewed his
reelection as a mandate for a liberal agenda
which he called “The Fair Deal”. The
President miscalculated as the American
public and conservatives in both parties on
Capitol Hill rejected most of his program.
Significant foreign policy challenges
persisted into Truman’s second term. The
President committed the US to the defense of
South Korea in the summer of 1950 when
that nation was invaded by its communist
neighbor, North Korea. The conflict settled
into a bloody and grisly stalemate that would
not be resolved until Truman left office in
1953. The Korean War globalized the Cold
War and spurred a massive American
military build-up that began the nuclear
arms race in earnest. Truman’s popularity
sank during his second term, largely due to
accusations of corruption, charges that the
administration was soft on communism and
the stalemated Korean War. Truman’s
legacy has become clearer and more
impressive in the years since he left office. He
took important first steps in civil rights,
protected many of the New Deal’s gains and
presided over an economy that would enjoy
nearly two decades of unprecedented growth.
In foreign affairs, Truman and his advisors
established many of the basic foundations of
American foreign policy that would guide the
nation in the decades ahead.
More Reading on tonight’s topic:
Working With Truman; A Personal Memoir
of the White House Years
By Ken Hechler
University of Missouri Press
By David McCullough
Simon and Schuster
New York, New York 1992
Harry S. Truman and The Bomb
Edited by Robert H. Ferrell
High Plains Press
Worland, Wyoming 1996
The Truman White House. The
Administration of the Presidency 1945 –
By Francis H. Heller
Regents Press of Kansas
Lawrence, Kansas 1980
Twin Cities Civil War Roundtable
November 15 - Life of General William
Contact: Marjorie Bingham (952)934-6429
St. Croix Valley Civil War Roundtable
November 28 – William LeDuc and the
LeDuc Mansion
Awada’s in Woodbury
Dinner – 5:30 PM Program – 7:00
Contact: Steve Anderson (715)381-1955