The Autobiography of Harry S. Truman
Edited with a New Introduction by Robert H. Ferrell University of Missouri Press, 2002 Library of Congress E814.A32 2002 | Dewey Decimal 973.918092
The Autobiography of Harry S. Truman is a compilation of autobiographical writings composed by Truman between 1934 and 1972. Taken directly from his own manuscript material, the volume presents the thoughts and feelings of the man himself. The book touches on details in Truman’s life from his days as a boy until graduation from Independence High School in 1901 to the vice presidency of the United States and beyond. There is also a memorandum written by Truman about the Pendergast machine in Kansas City telling how it was possible to work with the machine and not be soiled by it. The Autobiography concludes with some of the retired president’s thoughts about politics and the purposes of public life.
The election year of 1948 remains to this day one of the most astonishing in U.S. political history. During this first general election after World War II, Americans looked to their governments for change. As the battle for the nation’s highest office came to a head in Illinois, the state was embroiled in its own partisan showdowns—elections that would prove critical in the course of state and national history.
In Battleground 1948, Robert E. Hartley offers the first comprehensive chronicle of this historic election year and its consequences, which still resonate today. Focusing on the races that ushered Adlai Stevenson, Paul Douglas, and Harry Truman into office—the last by the slimmest of margins—Battleground 1948 details the pivotal events that played out in the state of Illinois, from the newspaper wars in Chicago to tragedy in the mine at Centralia.
In addition to in-depth revelations on the saga of the American election machine in 1948, Hartley probes the dark underbelly of Illinois politics in the 1930s and 1940s to set the stage, spotlight key party players, and expose the behind-the-scenes influences of media, money, corruption, and crime. In doing so, he draws powerful parallels between the politics of the past and those of the present. Above all, Battleground 1948 tells the story of grassroots change writ large on the American political landscape—change that helped a nation move past an era of conflict and depression, and forever transformed Illinois and the U.S. government.
As Franklin D. Roosevelt's health deteriorated in the months leading up to the Democratic National Convention of 1944, Democratic leaders confronted a dire situation. Given the inevitability of the president's death during a fourth term, the choice of a running mate for FDR was of profound importance. The Democrats needed a man they could trust. They needed Harry S. Truman.
Robert Ferrell tells an engrossing tale of ruthless ambition, secret meetings, and party politics. Roosevelt emerges as a manipulative leader whose desire to retain power led to a blatant disregard for the loyalty of his subordinates and the aspirations of his vice presidential hopefuls. Startling in its conclusions, impeccable in its research, Choosing Truman is an engrossing, behind-the-scenes look at the making of the nation's thirty-third president.
“It was a quiet on the second floor. The vice-president walked solemnly into Mrs. Roosevelt’s sitting room, where she waited, grave and calm. With her was her daughter, Mrs. Anna Roosevelt Boettiger, her husband, Colonel John Boettiger, and Stephan Early. Truman knew at a glance that his premonition had been true. Mrs. Roosevelt came forward directly and put her arm on his shoulder.
‘Harry, the President is dead.’”
Robert J. Donovan’s Conflict and Crisis presents a detailed account of Harry S. Truman’s presidency from 1945-1948.
Once again available is the critically acclaimed Dear Bess, a collection of more than 600 letters that Harry S. Truman wrote to his beloved wife, Bess, from 1910 to 1959. Selected from 1,268 letters discovered in Bess's house after her death in 1982, this extraordinary collection provides an inside look at Truman's life, his thoughts, and his dreams.
This highly accessible book provides new material and a fresh perspective on American National Intelligence practice, focusing on the first fifty years of the twentieth century, when the United States took on the responsibilities of a global superpower during the first years of the Cold War. Late to the art of intelligence, the United States during World War II created a new model of combining intelligence collection and analytic functions into a single organization—the OSS. At the end of the war, President Harry Truman and a small group of advisors developed a new, centralized agency directly subordinate to and responsible to the President, despite entrenched institutional resistance. Instrumental to the creation of the CIA was a group known colloquially as the “Missouri Gang,” which included not only President Truman but equally determined fellow Missourians Clark Clifford, Sidney Souers, and Roscoe Hillenkoetter.
Harry S. Truman: A Life
Robert H. Ferrell University of Missouri Press, 1995 Library of Congress E814.F46 1994 | Dewey Decimal 973.918092
Few U.S. presidents have captured the imagination of the American people as has Harry S. Truman, “the man from Missouri.”
In this major new biography, Robert H. Ferrell, widely regarded as an authority on the thirty-third president, challenges the popular characterization of Truman as a man who rarely sought the offices he received, revealing instead a man who—with modesty, commitment to service, and basic honesty—moved with method and system toward the presidency.
Truman was ambitious in the best sense of the word. His powerful commitment to service was accompanied by a remarkable shrewdness and an exceptional ability to judge people. He regarded himself as a consummate politician, a designation of which he was proud. While in Washington, he never succumbed to the “Potomac fever” that swelled the heads of so many officials in that city. A scrupulously honest man, Truman exhibited only one lapse when, at the beginning of 1941, he padded his Senate payroll by adding his wife and later his sister.
From his early years on the family farm through his pivotal decision to use the atomic bomb in World War II, Truman’s life was filled with fascinating events. Ferrell’s exhaustive research offers new perspectives on many key episodes in Truman’s career, including his first Senate term and the circumstances surrounding the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan. In addition, Ferrell taps many little-known sources to relate the intriguing story of the machinations by which Truman gained the vice presidential nomination in 1944, a position which put him a heartbeat away from the presidency.
No other historian has ever demonstrated such command over the vast amounts of material that Robert Ferrell brings to bear on the unforgettable story of Truman’s life. Based upon years of research in the Truman Library and the study of many never-before-used primary sources, Harry S. Truman is destined to become the authoritative account of the nation’s favorite president.
The idea of revising what is known of the past constitutes an essential procedure in historical scholarship, but revisionists are often hasty and argumentative in their judgments. Such, argues Robert H. Ferrell, has been the case with assessments of the presidency of Harry S. Truman, who was targeted by historians and political scientists in the 1960s and ’70s for numerous failings in both domestic and foreign policy, including launching the cold war—perceptions that persist to the present day.
Widely acknowledged as today’s foremost Truman scholar, Ferrell turns the tables on the revisionists in this collection of classic essays. He goes below the surface appearances of history to examine how situations actually developed and how Truman performed sensibly—even courageously—in the face of unforeseen crises.
While some revisionists see Truman as consumed by a blind hatred of the Soviet Union and adopting an unrestrainedly militant stance, Ferrell convincingly shows that Truman wished to get along with the Soviets and was often bewildered by their actions. He interprets policies such as the Truman Doctrine, the Marshall Plan, and support for NATO as prudent responses to perceived threats and credits the Truman administration for the ways in which it dealt with unprecedented problems.
What emerges most vividly from Ferrell’s essays is a sense of how weak a hand the United States held from 1945 to1950, with its conventional forces depleted by the return of veterans to civil pursuits after the war and with its capacity for delivery of nuclear weapons in a sorry state. He shows that Truman regarded the atomic bomb as a weapon of last resort, not an instrument of policy, and that he took America into a war in Korea for the good of the United States and its allies. Although Truman has been vindicated on many of these issues, there still remains a lingering controversy over the use of atomic weapons in Japan—a decision that Ferrell argues is understandable in light of what Truman faced at the start of his presidency.
Ferrell argues that the revisionists who attacked Truman understood neither the times nor the man—one of the most clearheaded, farsighted presidents ever to occupy the Oval Office. Harry S. Truman and the Cold War Revisionists shows us that Truman’s was indeed a remarkable presidency, as it cautions historians against too quickly appraising the very recent past.
Based upon extensive research in the papers of President Harry S. Truman and in several journalistic collections, Harry S. Truman and the News Media recounts the story of a once unpopular chief executive who overcame the censure of the news media to ultimately win both the public's and the press's affirmation of his personal and presidential greatness.
Franklin D. Mitchell traces the major contours of journalism during the lifetime and presidency of Truman. Although newspapers and newsmagazines are given the most emphasis, reporters and columnists of the Washington news corps also figure prominently for their role in the president's news conferences and their continuing coverage of Truman and his family. Broadcast journalism's expanding coverage of the president is also explored through chapters dealing with radio and television.
President Truman's advocacy of a liberal Fair Deal for all Americans and a prudent and visible role for the nation in world affairs drew fire from the anti-administration news media, particularly the publishing empire of William Randolph Hearst, the McCormick-Patterson newspapers, the Scripps-Howard chain, and the Time-Life newsmagazines of Henry R. Luce. Despite press opposition and the almost universal prediction of defeat in the 1948 election, Truman was victorious in the greatest miscalled presidential election in journalistic history.
During his full term, Truman's relations with the news media became contentious over such matters as national security in the Cold War, the conduct of the Korean War, and the continuing charges of communism and corruption in the administration. Although Truman's career in politics was based on honesty and the welfare of the people, his early political alliance with Thomas Pendergast, Kansas City's notorious political boss, provided the opportunity for a portion of the press to charge Truman with subservience to Pendergast's own agenda of corrupt government.
The history and the dynamics of the Truman presidency and the American news media, combined with biographical and institutional sketches of key individuals and news organizations, make Harry S. Truman and the News Media a captivating and original investigation of an American president. Well written and researched, this book will be of great value to Truman scholars, journalists, and anyone interested in American history or presidential studies.
“I have some bitter disappointments as President,” reflected Harry Truman after leaving office, “but the one that has troubled me the most in a personal way, has been the failure to defeat organized opposition to a national compulsory health-insurance program.”
Harry S. Truman versus the Medical Lobby by Monte M. Poen examines proposals for national health insurance from 1914 to 1965 focusing on Truman’s efforts during his presidency.
Harry’s Farewell confronts the biggest issue of Truman historiography: the historical significance of Harry S. Truman’s presidency. Exploring the subject from the point of view of Truman’s Farewell Address of January 15, 1953, the book begins by describing the preparation of the address itself by the president and his closest advisers. In it, they challenged the negative view of his presidency that prevailed as he prepared to leave the White House. The book goes on to appraise the presidency in terms of the topics included in the address: the president and the people, the economy, civil rights, the bomb, Containment, Korea, and the end of the Cold War. Four essays follow that cover key topics that Truman did not mention in his speech: the Red Scare, women’s rights, ethnicity, and the environment. The book ends with essays by two major Truman biographers who present their own interpretations of his historical significance.
In addition to interpreting the Truman presidency, the book also deals with the needs of teachers who must bring this subject into their classrooms. Reflecting the importance of education for the Truman Library’s mission, Harry’s Farewell began as a conference at the library that brought researchers and teachers together for four days of conversation about interpretation and teaching. As a result, this book offers documents that teachers can use in their classes and includes an essay, based on the conversations, on ways of teaching the Truman presidency. In addition to being of great value to researchers and teachers, this book provides the general reader with a clearly focused collection of informative and provocative essays on Harry Truman, a man now widely regarded as a great American president.
HST: Memories of the Truman Years
Edited by Steve Neal. Foreword by Clifton Truman Daniel Southern Illinois University Press, 2003 Library of Congress E814.H76 2003 | Dewey Decimal 973.918092
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.”
The Man of Independence
Jonathan Daniels University of Missouri Press, 1998 Library of Congress E814.D3 1998 | Dewey Decimal 973.918092
Having worked closely with Harry S. Truman in the triumphant campaign of 1948, Jonathan Daniels believed that President Truman was an "everyday" American, an ordinary human who aspired to greatness and achieved it. Thus, it was Daniels's intention that The Man of Independence not be a conventional biography; rather, he wanted it to reveal in real terms "the Odyssey of the 'everyday' American through our times." As a result, this comprehensive work not only presents Truman's life, it also details the development of the America in which the president grew up.
Truman spent his youth and his political life believing that old- fashioned, determined conservatism was vital to the preservation of personal liberty. Daniels re-creates Truman's remarkable journey through life—employing newspapers, letters, memos, family papers, as well as interviews with Truman, his family, and his close acquaintances. In the process, Daniels provides powerful evocations of the time during which Truman lived.
Daniels tells this extraordinary story by following this simple farm boy from Missouri through his youth and his years as a farmer, a veteran, and a businessman, on to his early career in politics, and then his presidency. Along the way, Daniels deals with issues, events, and ideas that were part of Missouri and American politics in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s; ultimately, he gives us the Truman who was to become the legend.
This inside account provides thought-provoking and personal information about Truman. His relationship with Thomas Pendergast, the seeming conflict between Truman's midwestern conservatism and his belief in equality for American blacks, and his momentous decision to use the atomic bomb to end the war—these are just a few of the topics touched on. Ending in 1949 when Truman was for the second time sworn in as president, The Man of Independence provides a fascinating and valuable look at one of America's most important and beloved presidents, as well as a crucial look at the America from which he emerged.
This new “Reader’s Edition” of Harry Truman’s memoirs removes the overload of detail and reproduced historical documents, reduces the bloated cast of characters, clarifies the often confusing balance between chronological and thematic presentation, and corrects some important problems of presentation that made the two volumes of Truman’s memoirs, published in 1955 and 1956, difficult to read and enjoy. This new edition, reduced to half the length of the original text, offers a new generation of readers the thrill of hearing the unique and authentic voice of Harry S. Truman, probably the most important president of the last seventy-five years, telling the story of his life, his presidency, and some of the most important years in American history.
Gathered for the first time, Truman's private papers--diaries, letters, and memoranda--cover the period from his occupancy of the White House in 1945 to shortly before his death in 1972. Students and scholars will find valuable material on major events of the Truman years, from the Potsdam Conference to the Korean War.
Over the past century, three nationally significant histories have vied for space and place in Independence, Missouri. Independence was declared Zion by Joseph Smith, served as a gathering and provisioning point for trails west, and was called home by President Harry S. Truman for sixty-four years. Historian Jon E. Taylor has integrated research from newspapers, public documents, oral histories, and private papers to detail how the community has preserved and remembered these various legacies.
Truman’s legacy would appear to have been secured in Independence via three significant designations—his presidential library opened there in 1957, his neighborhood was designated a national historic landmark in 1972, and his home was declared a national historic site in 1982. However, Taylor argues that Truman’s seeming dominance in the community’s memory is in fact endangered by competition from the other aspects of the town’s historical heritage.
Taylor considers the role Mormon history has played in the city's history and chronicles how the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints returned to Independence to fulfill Joseph Smith's dream of creating Zion in the city, a situation that impacted neighborhoods near the Truman home. Taylor also examines the city's fascination with the Santa Fe, Oregon, and California trails, detailing how that history was lost and remembered and is now immortalized on the Independence square and in the National Frontier Trails Museum.
In the 1980s, the city council reduced the size of the Truman Heritage District, created to maintain Truman’s association with his neighborhood, after church opposition. At the same time, city officials pushed to make Independence a major tourist destination, a move largely dependent upon the city capitalizing on its association with Truman. These inconsistent policies and incongruous goals have led to innumerable changes in the landscape Truman enjoyed during his legendary morning walks.
A President, a Church, and Trails West chronicles one city’s struggle to preserve its history and the built environment. Taylor places the role of preservation in Independence not only within the larger context of preservation in the United States but also within the context of American environmental history. This volume is sure to appeal to anyone interested in public history, historic preservation, history and memory, and local history.
Harry S. Truman made plain speaking his trademark, and it was a common belief that "Give 'em hell" Harry spared few with his words. However, this fascinating collection of 140 amusing, angry, sarcastic, and controversial letters President Truman wrote but never mailed proves that conception wrong. Addressed to admirers and enemies alike, including Adlai Stevenson, Justice William Douglas, Dwight Eisenhower, Joe McCarthy, and Truman's wife, Bess, these intriguing letters cover such diverse subjects as the atomic bomb, running the country, and human greed.
Detailing for the first time the story of America's homefront during the Korean War, Truman and Korea fills an important gap in the historical scholarship of the postwar era. Paul Pierpaoli analyzes the political, economic, social, and international ramifications of America's first war of Soviet containment, never losing sight of the larger context of the cold war. He focuses on how and why the Truman administration undertook a bloody, inconclusive war on the Korean peninsula while permanently placing the nation on a war footing.
Truman and Korea illuminates the importance of the Korean conflict as a critical turning point in the cold war by examining both the immediate and the long-term domestic and foreign policy effects of the conflict. Pierpaoli addresses such important topics as presidential war powers and debates concerning the Defense Production Act; the inner workings of the many war mobilization agencies; the operations and politics of nationwide price and wage controls; questions concerning cold war tax policies and fiscal and monetary policies; and the evolution of national security policy.
Pierpaoli shows that President Truman's decision to intervene in the Korean War quickly became subsumed by larger cold war concerns. By the autumn of 1950 the Korean mobilization program had become the nation's de facto cold war preparedness program, which would come to span nearly forty years and eight presidential administrations. After 1950 the cold war not only continued to significantly shape political and ideological discourse in the United States but also began to reshape aggregate economic policy. By doing so, it altered the nation's industrial and economic contours, giving birth to the concept of an institutionalized "national security state," which in turn spawned the cold war military-industrial-scientific complex.
Based upon extensive research in the papers and official presidential files of Harry S. Truman, as well as many manuscript collections and records of wartime and government agencies, Truman and Korea offers a new perspective on the Korean War era and its inextricable ties to broader cold war decision making.
Truman and Pendergast
Robert H. Ferrell University of Missouri Press, 1999 Library of Congress E814.F483 1999 | Dewey Decimal 973.918092
No portion of the political career of Harry S. Truman was more fraught with drama than his relationship with Thomas J. Pendergast. In one of their earliest meetings, the two men were momentarily at odds after Truman, who was then presiding judge of Jackson County, gave a $400,000 road contract to a construction company in South Dakota, and Pendergast, the boss of Kansas City, wasn't very happy about it. He had someone else in mind for the contract. Their association thus had its disagreements, but their common interest in politics was enough to establish a long-lasting relationship.
In 1934, after considering fourteen other men, Pendergast sponsored Truman for the Senate. Although Truman had often cooperated with Pendergast on patronage issues, he had never involved himself in the illegalities that would eventually destroy the Pendergast machine. In fact, Truman had no idea how deeply the Boss had engaged in corruption in his personal affairs, as well as in managing the government of Kansas City. When the Boss was sent to Leavenworth for tax evasion in 1939, Truman was astonished.
Despite Truman's honesty, his relationship with Pendergast almost caused his defeat during the Missouri senatorial primary in August 1940. The main challenger for Truman's Senate seat was the ambitious governor of Missouri, Lloyd C. Stark, who after destroying Truman's sponsor, the Pendergast machine, denounced Truman as "the Pendergast senator." Behind the governor was President Franklin D. Roosevelt, whom Stark turned against Truman. Roosevelt wanted Missouri's electoral votes in his forthcoming bid for a third term, and he believed that Stark could give them to him.
Because of the stigma of Truman's Pendergast connection, the 1940 Democratic primary was the tightest election in his entire political career. He won by fewer than eight thousand votes. In Truman and Pendergast, Robert H. Ferrell masterfully presents Truman's struggle to keep his Senate seat without the aid of Pendergast and despite Stark's enlistment of Roosevelt against him. Ferrell shows that Truman won the election in his typical fashion—going directly to the people, speaking honestly and like one of them.
Truman and the Hiroshima Cult
Robert P. Newman Michigan State University Press, 1995 Library of Congress D767.25.N3N48 1995 | Dewey Decimal 940.5425
The United States dropped atomic bombs on Japan in 1945 to end World War II as quickly and with as few casualties as possible. That is the compelling and elegantly simple argument Newman puts forward in his new study of World War II's end, Truman and the Hiroshima Cult. According to Newman: (1) The U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey conclusions that Japan was ready to surrender without "the Bomb" are fraudulent; (2) America’s "unconditional surrender" doctrine did not significantly prolong the war; and (3) President Harry S. Truman’s decision to use atomic weapons on Japanese cities was not a "racist act," nor was it a calculated political maneuver to threaten Joseph Stalin’s Eastern hegemony. Simply stated, Newman argues that Truman made a sensible military decision. As commander in chief, he was concerned with ending a devastating and costly war as quickly as possible and with saving millions of lives.
Yet, Newman goes further in his discussion, seeking the reasons why so much hostility has been generated by what happened in the skies over Hiroshima and Nagasaki in early August, 1945. The source of discontent, he concludes, is a "cult" that has grown up in the United States since the 1960s. It was weaned on the disillusionment spawned by concerns about a military industrial complex, American duplicity and failure in the Vietnam War, and a mistrust of government following Watergate. The cult has a shrine, a holy day, a distinctive rhetoric of victimization, various items of scripture, and, in Japan, support from a powerful Marxist constituency. "As with other cults, it is ahistorical," Newman declares. "Its devotees elevate fugitive and unrepresentative events to cosmic status. And most of all, they believe." Newman’s analysis goes to the heart of the process by which scholars interpret historical events and raises disturbing issues about the way historians select and distort evidence about the past to suit special political agendas.
Government seizure of the nation’s strikebound steel mills on 8 April 1952 stands as one of President Harry S Truman’s most controversial actions, representing an unprecedented use of presidential power. On 8 June 1952 the United States Supreme Court invalidated Truman’s order with its monumental decision in Youngstown Sheet and Tube Co. v. Sawyer. The history and significance of this case constitute the subject of Maeva Marcus’s meticulously researched, brilliantly analyzed, and authoritative study. From Truman’s initial assertion of "inherent" executive power under the Constitution to the High Court’s seven opinions, Marcus assesses the influence of the case on the doctrine of separation of powers and, specifically, the nature and practice of executive authority. First published in 1977 (Columbia University Press), and reissued here in paperback with a new foreword by Louis Fisher, this book remains the definitive account of the Steel Seizure incident and its political and legal ramifications.
Perhaps the most overlooked aspect of Harry S. Truman’s presidency is his judicial legacy, with even the finest of Truman biographies neglecting to consider the influence he had on the Supreme Court. Yet, as Rawn James lays out in engaging detail, president Harry Truman successfully molded the high court into a judicial body that appeared to actively support his administration’s political agenda. In rulings that sparked controversy in their own time, the Supreme Court repeatedly upheld Truman’s most contentious policies, including actions to restrict free speech, expand civil rights, and manage labor union unrest.
The Truman Court: Law and the Limits of Loyalty argues that the years between FDR’s death in 1945 and Chief Justice Earl Warren’s confirmation in 1953—the dawn of the Cold War—were, contrary to widespread belief, important years in Supreme Court history. Never before or since has a president so quickly and completely changed the ideological and temperamental composition of the Court. With remarkable swiftness and certainty, Truman constructed a Court on which he relied to lend constitutional credence to his political agenda.
As assistant press secretary to President Harry S. Truman, Eben A. Ayers brought with him twenty-six years of experience as a newspaperman. He knew when he had a good story and knew how to record it. His private diary, which he kept unbeknownst to his associates, tells the inside story of the Truman White House clearly, colorfully, and with an acute sense of history.
The Truman Scandals and the Politics of Morality is a thoroughly researched effort offering an excellent historical narrative of the scandals and accusations of scandal that bedeviled Harry Truman throughout his political career. The book is particularly significant in light of the connections the author establishes between Truman's early political experiences and his subsequent difficulties as president.
“In January of 1949 the aftershocks of the Second World War were still jarring large parts of the globe, although they had greatly diminished in the United States. In Asia, however, turbulence continued to rise as a result of the collapse of Japan, the tottering of the European empires after the war, and the combustion produced by nationalism mixed with communism. Because a segment of American opinion, generally represented in the more conservative wing of the Republican party, was very sensitive to events in Asia, the tremors in the Far East came as harbingers of disturbing political conflict in the United States.”
Robert J. Donovan’s Tumultuous Years presents a detailed account of Harry S. Truman’s presidency from 1949-1953.
An Unplanned Life: A Memoir
George McKee Elsey University of Missouri Press, 2005 Library of Congress E840.8.E45A3 2005 | Dewey Decimal 973.917092
An Unplanned Life is the scintillating memoir of George Elsey, a small-town kid from western Pennsylvania who, at age twenty-four, was assigned to Franklin Roosevelt’s top-secret intelligence and communications center in the White House. As an officer in the U.S. Naval Reserve, Elsey helped brief the president and his senior associates on war events. He and his map room colleagues acted as the secretariat for Roosevelt’s cabled exchanges with Winston Churchill, Joseph Stalin, and Chiang Kai-shek; filed records of “summit conferences”; and stored in safes plans for future operations. He also traveled with the president in order to code and decode the classified messages that flowed between the presidential train or ship and the White House.
Elsey’s duties continued with Harry Truman’s succession to the presidency. He decoded the famous message from Secretary of War Henry Stimson reporting the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and carried it to President Truman. In 1947, he shed his Naval Reserve uniform and joined the White House’s civilian staff as assistant to the special counsel to the president. In 1949, he became administrative assistant to the president, and, in 1952, he became a member of the Mutual Security Agency staff. During those years, he grew very close to Harry Truman, and thus, a major portion of An Unplanned Life relates to his experiences then.
In the first postwar winter, Elsey was frequently the only staff member who accompanied President Truman on the USS Williamsburg. In September 1946, Elsey submitted a report to Truman on U.S.-Soviet relations, which came to be well known as the “Clifford-Elsey Report.” Providing Truman with notes for some two hundred of his “back-of-the-train” informal talks, Elsey played a part in the best remembered feature of the “Whistle-Stop Campaign” that resulted in “the political upset of the century.” In addition to his years at the White House, Elsey also touches on his post–White House years—his time in private industry, his months with Clark Clifford when Clifford was trying unsuccessfully to extricate America from Vietnam, and his long association with the American Red Cross.
An Unplanned Life is a fascinating look at the life of an extraordinary individual who played an important and unprecedented part in two different presidents’ decisions and affected the course of our nation. Anyone with an interest in history will find this memoir fascinating and invaluable.
President Harry Truman was a disappointment to the Democrats, and a godsend to the Republicans. Every attempt to paint Truman with the grace, charm, and grandeur of Franklin Delano Roosevelt had been a dismal failure: Truman’s virtues were simpler, plainer, more direct. The challenges he faced—stirrings of civil rights and southern resentment at home, and communist aggression and brinkmanship abroad—could not have been more critical. By the summer of 1948 the prospects of a second term for Truman looked bleak. Newspapers and popular opinion nationwide had all but anointed as president Thomas Dewey, the Republican New York Governor. Truman could not even be certain of his own party’s nomination: the Democrats, still in mourning for FDR, were deeply riven, with Henry Wallace and Strom Thurmond leading breakaway Progressive and Dixiecrat factions. Finally, with ingenuity born of desperation, Truman’s aides hit upon a plan: get the president in front of as many regular voters as possible, preferably in intimate settings, all across the country. To the surprise of everyone but Harry Truman, it worked. Whistle Stop is the first book of its kind: a micro-history of the summer and fall of 1948 when Truman took to the rails, crisscrossing the country from June right up to Election Day in November. The tour and the campaign culminated with the iconic image of a grinning, victorious Truman holding aloft the famous Chicago Tribune headline: “Dewey Defeats Truman.”
Available for the first time in paperback is the critically acclaimed Working with Truman, a warm and lighthearted memoir of what it was like to work behind the scenes in the White House during Truman's term as president. Focusing on the strengths and weaknesses of those who worked closely with Truman and on the Truman not seen by the public, Hechler provides insight into one of our greatest presidents.