On 12 April, 1945 the world was fighting a global war. In Europe the Allied Armies had crossed the Rhine and were beginning the sweep across Germany. The Soviet forces were advancing from the east squeezing the Third Reich into a position of ultimate defeat. On the other side of the world the battle for Iwo Jima had just finished and the invasion of Okinawa had just begun. Between these two great battle fronts the President of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was receiving physical therapy in a resort in Warm Springs, Georgia. While relaxing in a friend's room he suffered a fatal cerebral hemorrhage. His Vice President, Harry S Truman, after only 83 days in office, was now the leader of one of the greatest nations of the world.
Before the Presidency
Harry S. Truman was born on 8 May 1884 in Lamar, Missouri and was rased in the town of Independence on the outskirts of Kansas City. After working in a few odd jobs in Kansas City he took over the running of the family farm in 1906. He served as an artillery lieutenant in World War I. When he returned from the war he married Elizabeth Virginia Wallace. They opened a haberdashery1 in Kansas City. Having become active in the local Democratic political party he was elected judge of the Jackson County Court in 1922. He began attending classes at a local law school during this period. In 1934 he was elected to the US Senate where he enthusiastically supported the ‘New Deal'. After having been re-elected to the Senate in a close race he was chosen by Roosevelt to run with him in the 1944 Elections.
As soon as Truman assumed the presidency he discovered how little he had been told about the war effort. His biggest surprise was undoubtably the development of the Atomic Bomb. He become the first, and only, person to authorize these weapons to be used against human targets. Japan surrendered shortly after the destruction of the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He implemented the ‘Marshall Plan' to help rebuild war ravaged Europe and introduced ‘The Fair Deal' in the US as an extension of Roosevelt's social programs. When the Soviets refused to allow Allied trucks to supply the multi national city of Berlin within their sector of occupied Germany he instituted the ‘Berlin Air Lift'.
After a close election in 1948 Truman won the presidency for a second term. In a famous photograph he is shown proudly holding up a newspaper with the headline ‘Dewey defeats Truman'. The paper had obviously not waited for the actual results. In 1950 Communist troops from the northern area of Korea fought their way into the south and threatened to overtake the entire peninsula. Truman received permission from the United Nations for a ‘police action' and sent a force of US military along with units from other countries into combat to support South Korea. Afraid that Red China and the Soviet Union might declare support for the North Koreans he ordered limitations on missions. General Douglas MacAurther publicly disagreed with Truman's policy. Truman removed the General from his command. Faced with very low popularity among the American people he declined to seek a third term.
After the Presidency
After leaving office Truman's legacy became appreciated and he became a respected elder statesman. He passed away in Independence on 26 December, 1972.