TRUMAN, HARRY S. (1884–1972)

 Harry S. Truman, 1884–1972
Harry S. Truman was the 33rd President of the United States, from 1945 to 1953, and Franklin D. Roosevelt’s third Vice President. He succeeded to the presidency on April 12, 1945, when President Roose­velt died less than three months after beginning his unprecedented fourth term.

During World War I, Truman served in combat in France as an artillery officer in his National Guard unit. After the war, he joined the Democratic Party political machine of Tom Pendergast in Kansas City, Missouri. He was elected a county official and in 1934 a United States senator. After he had gained national promi­nence as head of the wartime Truman Com­mittee, Truman replaced vice president Henry A. Wallace as Roosevelt’s running mate in 1944, although it was a close thing: The ailing president nearly ruined the choice of Truman as his running mate in 1944 by wavering in the days prior to the Democratic Party’s national convention.

The year Truman assumed the highest office in the land was a momentous and challenging one for him. Nineteen forty-five saw the first and only use of an atomic bomb (actually, two bombs dropped three days apart), the end of hostilities with Japan and thus the end of World War II, the founding of United Nations in San Francisco, and the complex, interrelated problems of reconstructing states devastated by war while constructing a world peace amid the outbreak of a new war, a Cold War, between the forces of Communism in the east and the democracies in the west.

Truman also faced many challenges in the area of domestic affairs during his presidency. The disorderly postwar re-conversion of the U.S. economy was marked by severe shortages, numerous strikes, and the passage of the Taft–Hartley Act over his veto. He confounded all predictions to win election in 1948, helped by his famous Whistle Stop Tour of rural America. After his election, he passed only one of the proposals in his liberal Fair Deal program. He used executive orders to end racial discrimination in the armed services and created loyalty checks that dismissed thousands of communist supporters from federal office.

Harry S. Truman Assumes the U.S. Presidency, April 12, 1945