Harry Truman was the 33rd president of the United States. He was born on May 8, 1884 in Lamar, Missouri.
His full name was Harry S. Truman. The “S” didn’t stand for anything, but honored grandparents whose surnames both began with the letter “S.” As a young man, Truman fought in World War One on the European front. In the 1920s he became a judge, often working closely with members of the Democratic Party. He was elected to Congress as a Democratic senator from Missouri in 1934.
In 1941, the United States entered World War Two. Truman headed up a congressional watchdog committee assigned to oversee wasteful spending in the Defense sector.
His probes led to government savings of roughly 15 billion dollars. In 1944, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt picked Truman as his vice presidential running mate. Roosevelt died a year later, leaving the presidency in Truman’s hands.
Truman took charge of the nation at a delicate time. The war in Europe had ended but Japan continued to fight. Truman authorized the use of a new and devastating weapon, the Atomic Bomb. On August 6 and 8, 1945, two bombs were dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Tens of thousands died and Japan quickly surrendered.
The end of World War Two saw two victors: the United States and the Soviet Union. The world was split into two spheres of influence with support divided between the Soviets and the United States. In 1947, Truman announced a commitment to block Soviet expansion that was soon dubbed the “Truman Doctrine”.
This marked the beginning of the underground conflict known as the Cold War. For four decades, the United States and the USSR fought one another using diplomacy and espionage. Truman was re-elected President in 1948. A year later he promoted the creation of NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organization], a military alliance between the United States and key Western European states. The alliance was intended to resist an eventual Soviet attack.
In the early 1950s, American military forces backed South Korea against communist North Korea. But the Chinese entered the fray on behalf of the North. To avoid a war with China, Truman agreed to begin peace talks, although an armistice was signed only after Truman had left office in 1953.
After his second term expired, Truman retired from politics. He died in Kansas City, Missouri on December 26, 1972. He was 88. Truman’s name is inextricably linked to an important phase in human history: the rise of the United States as a global power.