Harry Truman was president of America after the death of F D Roosevelt in April 1945. Harry Truman gave the order for the atomic bombs to be dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and he represented the United States at Potsdam, the last of the great war meetings.
Harry Truman was born in 1884 in Lamar, Missouri. He was brought up in a rural background and in World War one he served on the Western Front as a captain in the American artillery. After the war, he took a law degree at Kansas City and after this he moved into the social and political circles of the Democrat Party. Truman was a county court judge for eight years until 1935, when aged 41 he was elected as a Senator. In World War Two, Truman had the responsibility of keeping a check on war time spending. In 1944, he was selected by F D Roosevelt to be his running mate for the 1944 election campaign. Roosevelt won this election and Truman moved from being a Senator to becoming Vice-President of the United States. Truman took the oath of office in January 1945.
Truman’s experience at the very top of American Politics was minimal. Therefore, when Roosevelt died in April 1945, Truman was suddenly thrust into the whole international scene that was occurring in both Europe and the Far East. In view of his lack of experience, Truman said to some journalists at his swearing in, “Boys, pray for me now.”
One of the first things Truman had to deal with was the close to the war in Europe. He represented America at the Potsdam conference. Here he was up against an experienced and cunning opponent – Joseph Stalin who lead the Soviet Union. Britain was first represented by Winston Churchill and then by Clement Atlee. Like Truman, Atlee had minimal experience of dealing with major international issues – and here they were up against an old campaigner like Stalin. However, the military situation in the east of Europe was such that Stalin could effectively get what he wanted to protect the Soviet Union from further attacks. The one bargaining chip Truman had at Potsdam was the fact that he knew that America had a fearsome weapon , though untried in warfare, which he let Stalin know about but only in cryptic terms. Stalin knew that America had, according to its president, an awesome weapon, but he knew little else about it.
American intelligence claimed that any American landing in Japan would lead to a minimum of 1 million US casualties. This was clearly untenable and would have been an electoral liability. Hence Truman authorised the use of ‘Little Boy’ and the ‘Fat Man’ against targets in Japan.
After the end of the war, Truman gained a reputation for driving forward civil rights for racial minorities in America. Truman won the 1948 election but found it difficult to push through what he wanted as he had a hostile Congress to compete with. His presidency also witnessed the rise to fame of Senator Joseph McCarthy and his campaign against communists in America.
In foreign policy, Truman is famed for what became known as the ‘Truman Doctrine’. This stated quite clearly that America would back up any state that faced having an armed minority attempting to topple its government. His statement was aimed at the problems being experienced in Greece in 1947 when communists were attempting to overthrow the government there.
Truman also had to deal with the Korean War and it was his decision to dismiss America’s most famed general then – Douglas MacArthur – in April 1951 for disobeying orders.
Truman did not seek to be re-elected in 1952 and he retired to Independence, Missouri. He died in 1972.