Believing that Americans should understand their leadership, Harry Truman was the first American president to authorize an oral history of his life and times. In that vein, almost forty years ago, the Truman Library in the president’s native Independence, Missouri, began the daunting task of compiling the words of Truman’s contemporaries, including his senior aides, foreign policy and military advisors, political strategists, and close friends. Longtime Chicago journalist Steve Neal has edited twenty of these remarkable interviews for HST: Memories of the Truman Years.
Candid and insightful, the recollections include those of statesmen Dean Acheson and Averell Harriman; soldiers Omar Bradley and Lucius Clay; Truman’s best friend Thomas Evans; associates Clark Clifford and Matt Connelly; 1948 Republican vice-presidential nominee Earl Warren; artist Thomas Hart Benton; West German leader Konrad Adnauer; former New Dealers Sam Rosenman and James Rowe; journalist Richard L. Strout; and many others.
An honest portrait of Truman emerges from the twenty firsthand accounts of those who knew him best. HST: Memories of the Truman Years spans Truman’s rise to the presidency and his responses to the challenges of World War II, the Soviet blockade of Berlin, the rebuilding of postwar Europe, the 1948 campaign, his controversial firing of General Douglas MacArthur, and his courageous leadership on civil rights.
“The goal of these histories,” explains Truman’s grandson, Clifton Truman Daniel, in the foreword, “in keeping with Grandpa’s stated desire that the [Truman Library] be about his presidency, not a monument to him, was to preserve forever the perspective of those who had shared his life and times and, in many cases, helped him shape the world.”