Harry S. Truman

America was not built on fear. America was built on courage, on imagination, and on an unbeatable determination to do the job at hand.”

Harry Truman was born and raised on a farm in Missouri. Tight financial times left him without the means to attend college. He worked as a farmer, railroad worker, World War I captain, and the owner of a clothing store. Later, he became a U.S. Senator and finally Vice President to Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Concerning Truman’s death, Roosevelt said, “I felt like the moon, the stars, and all the planets had fallen on me.” He was now left to lead the country through World War II. Truman decided to drop the atomic bomb on Japan, hoping it would end the war quickly before more people died. The strategy killed thousands of Japanese instantly, but was effective in helping end World War II. Over 10 million people died throughout the world.

Truman’s problems didn’t end though. Communism was spreading. Communism is a system of government that controls individuals, property, money, and industry. Communism and democracy are at complete odds with each other. The United States and several European countries developed NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) to protect themselves against future aggression. These countries were in open disagreement with the Soviet Union and other countries that supported Communism. During the Cold War, these groups were hostile to each other. They gathered up nuclear weapons to use against each other.

Fun Facts

  • Harry S. Truman was born May 10, 1884 in Lamar, Missouri.
  • He met his future wife, Elizabeth (Bess), at Sunday School when he was just a child. They married many years later. They had only one child, Margaret.
  • Truman had only a high school education, but he was very bright. He was always reading a book.
  • Truman began wearing thick glasses as a child. Afraid of breaking his expensive glasses, he avoided roughhousing with the boys. He learned to play the piano instead.
  • Truman went into politics mostly because he needed a job. As U.S. Senate committee chairman, he oversaw government spending on supplies. He saved the country billions.
  • When Roosevelt asked him to run as vice-president, he never expected to become President. In fact, Roosevelt rarely talked to him or gave him assignments.
  • Truman won a second term as President.
  • By the end of his second term, many people disliked Truman. At home, he was affectionate and playful with his family. He loved spending time with his wife and daughter. The public thought he was too countrified and not dignified enough. He sometimes lost his temper and used swear words.
  • Most historians today believe Truman was one of our best Presidents. He made tough decisions and stood by them. His decisions were usually the right ones.

Questions and Answers

Question: Was Bess involved in politics as Eleanor Roosevelt had been?

Answer: Truman’s wife, Bess, had a close relationship with her husband and he asked her opinion on everything. In public, though, she was quiet and supportive. The Roosevelts were wealthy liberals from New York. The Trumans were more conservative, traditional, and religious. Bess was a decidedly different First Lady.

Learn More

Visit the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum website.