Tag Archives: Harry Truman

Harry Truman: What We Can Learn From The Man From Missouri [24]

 Never Expect to Be Loved In High Office: Approval ratings don’t matter to historians. Truman had a 32% approval rating. 43% of Americans believed the Korean War was a mistake. Economic growth was massive but Truman was losing support. The standard of living had gained to an unparalleled level in human history. 62 million American’s had jobs. Farm income and corporate income were at an all time high. The post-war economic collapse didn’t happen. The minimum wage had been increased. Truman was charged with being soft on communism, a man accused of an enemy of private enterprise, a man accused of being the enemy of the new deal ultimately, the man was did more than anyone else to in the opposite of what was believed. Truman gave a flat speech that was characteristic of his style.

Leave The Stage Gracefully: Truman’s final address famously said “I hope and believe we have contributed to the wealth of this nation. When FDR died I thought there were a million man better qualified to take up the presidential task but I had to do it and I have given it everything that was in me. And I did not work alone, that you were with me. The people had supported me.” Truman’s departure was praised on all sides. Eisenhower was elected in 1952. Truman was just plain Mr. Truman: a private citizen again.

Harry Truman: What We Can Learn From The Man From Missouri [23]


Fortune Favours The Brave: MacArthur was certain that China and Russia would not intervene in Korea. He wanted to win the war with one bold stroke but Truman feared that this proxy war could explode into WWIII. MacArthur eyed invading North Korea and to continue beyond. MscArthur began to intervene in public policy. MacArthur said that Chiang Kai-shek and Formosa needed to be defended he felt it was not fair that this would be unfair to Asians. Truman fired Johnson and nominated Marshall. MacArthur wanted an amphibian assault in Northern Korea at Inchon. It was the riskiest proposal because of the coastal mud and cliff-faces. Montcalm was defeated in Quebec by Wolfe’s climbing of the Quebec City walls; this was a similar situation to MacArthur’s Inchon. Ultimately, MacArthur’s Inchon invasion was a success. The causalities were very high, however. In 11 days Seoul was retaken. Half the North Korean army was split in a pincher movement. It was a military miracle. The question was then whether to cross the 39th parallel. MacArthur wanted a hot pursuit of the North Koreans. The excitement of victory against North Koreas engulfed MacArthur’s already shaky judgement. He believed that basic military action says that you should chase your defeated enemy until they are destroyed. Underpressure, MacArthur was authorized to invade North Korea. MacArthur was not to cross into China, however.

Carrying north was risky: a) Chinese intervention, b) winter.

Harry Truman: What We Can Learn From The Man From Missouri [21]

Fortune Favours The Brave: MacArthur was certain that China and Russia would not intervene in Korea. He wanted to win the war with one bold stroke but Truman feared that this proxy war could explode into WWIII. MacArthur eyed invading North Korea and to continue beyond. MacArthur began to intervene in public policy. MacArthur said that Chang High Chek and Formosa needed to be defended he felt it was not fair that this would be unfair to Asians. Truman fired Johnson and nominated Marshall. MacArthur wanted an amphibian assault in Northern Korea at Inchon. It was the riskiest proposal because of the coastal mud and cliff-faces. Montcalm was defeated in Quebec by Wolfe’s climbing of the Quebec City walls; this was a similar situation to MacArthur’s Inchon. Ultimately, MacArthur’s Inchon invasion was a success. The causalities were very high, however. In 11 days Seoul was retaken. Half the North Korean army was split in a pincher movement. It was a military miracle. The question was then whether to cross the 39th parallel. MacArthur wanted a hot pursuit of the North Koreans. The excitement of victory against North Koreas engulfed MacArthur’s already shaky judgement. He believed that basic military action says that you should chase your defeated enemy until they are destroyed. Underpressure, MacArthur was authorized to invade North Korea. MacArthur was not to cross into China, however. Carrying north was risky: a) Chinese intervention b) winter.

Harry Truman: What We Can Learn From The Man From Missouri [22]


Always Confront Your Friends and Enemies Directly: this allows you to understand their position more than any letter or email could possibly allow. Truman went to see MacArthur, some press believed he wanted to cash in on the successes of the war so far. The two met alone for 2 hours. MacArthur believed that North Korea would be defeated. Some historians believe that Truman traveled to Korea for not much. Truman was impressed by MacArthur. They liked each other. There is no substitute from someone who has first hand experience. Truman wanted to make sure that there was UNITY in the war strategy.

Protect Yourself Against Assassination: On November 1st, 1950, two Puerto Rican assassins attempted to kill Truman to draw attention to their nation’s plight. The president under heavy guard went to make a speech that day anyway. Officer Coffelt was killed. Later, Truman was shocked and deeply disturbed when JFK was assassinated. He would not do any further public speeches. Truman wanted the secret service reinstated for all former US presidents.

Harry Truman: What We Can Learn From The Man From Missouri [20]

Defend Your Allies Vigorously: North Korea attacked South Korea in 1949. Kim Il Sung wanted to crush the south. The republic of South Korea at the 38th parallel was chiefly agricultural while North Korea was purely industrial. Korea is an extremely small country. The NKPA (North Korean People’s Army) was marching south to conquer the entire peninsula. In the summer of 1949, the UN (mostly US army) fought and fell back. The equipment could not prevent the USSR tanks from crossing the line. It was a dark chapter but the UN and South Koreas held down the south. McArthur was responsible for the UN army. Truman called for 60,000 men to South Korea. Truman had to ask how they could afford to defend Korea with only 10 divisions after years of cutbacks in the military. Truman didn’t want to commit everyone to Korea or he might leave US susceptible to attack. Truman didn’t like McArthur’s ridiculousness. McArthur had a heroic standing. The UN forces appeared in Korea under the international flag: a testament to the emerging international law.

Harry Truman: What We Can Learn From The Man From Missouri [19]

Don’t Irrationally Fear Your Philosophical Enemy: Truman feared the specter of Communism only slightly. The Cold War events were an expression of the philosophical war that ensued. China becomes a communist country under Mao in 1949. The USSR had detonated an atomic bomb. The hydrogen (super bomb) would be an excellent deterrent the Americans would flex. The UK revealed that there was a Russian spy. McCarthy claimed that he had a list of communists in the state department. McCarthy seemed to be on to something even though he didn’t have much evidence. Truman felt that McCarthy was the greatest asset Moscow had. Despite the hysteria, Truman was unphased.

Harry Truman: What We Can Learn From The Man From Missouri [18]


Never Believe You Are Beaten (Even If The Media Prints It!): (Presidential Race 1948) Israel is born, the bikini is unveiled, the jet breaks the sound barrier but Truman was going to lose according to Life Magazine to Dewey. Henry Wallace had split from the Democrats. Truman didn’t implement a cohesive campaign strategy: he took to a railway-styled campaign. Truman had big crowds. The people turned out to see Harry Truman. Truman attacked the Republican’s for their coldness. Truman believed that the Republicans were trying to steal from the poor. Truman called bankers “blood suckers of Wall Street”. Truman had solid attack lines. Dewey on the other hand was careful, cruel and controlled. Dewey didn’t want to make mistakes he wanted to ride his poll numbers which were much higher than Truman’s. Truman looked likely to lose despite Dewey’s lazy campaigning. Truman lashed out at the Republican congress, press, and the candidate. Truman did the best he knew how. Dewey had 49.5 to 44.5 for Truman at the end of the campaign. None of the press believed that Truman would win. On Election Night, Truman had the popular vote by 2 million votes but the farm vote had not come in until past 2am. At 10:14am the next morning, Dewey was defeated after many newspapers went to print. Truman was the miracle man. Not one of the polling organizations was accurate. Not one of the newspapers was accurate; the people had made fools of those “in the know”. This event was dubbed: “the great laughter of the public”. The press was dumbfounded. Gallup was completely embarrassed. The fault was not the polls were imperfect but that they were two weeks too late. On the last two weeks of the campaign Gallup did not take anymore polls. There was a massive shift in support in the last two weeks of the campaign. 2/3 of the population of Washington came to welcome Truman for his inauguration in 1948.

Harry Truman: What We Can Learn From The Man From Missouri [17]

United NationsLead With Big & Helpful Ideas: Truman helped create the United Nations. Also, the Truman Doctrine was assigned to George Marshal to shape the plan to provide help for Greece in February of 1947. The concern was the Soviet invasion of Eastern Europe. Money for Greece and Turkey was only the beginning of a plan to protect Western capitalist interests. Marshall outlined a speech for the goals of entering European politics. The situation in Greece was massively significant. If he didn’t act, then the Soviets would likely expand their sphere of influence. It signaled a turning point. America was no longer non-interventionalist. The future of nations in Europe had driven the US into intervention. Truman said that the cost of not acting was far more horrible than the measures that would occur. At a Harvard convocation, Marshall made his declaration. Stalin was supportive at first but congress would not support aid to USSR satellite states, Stalin pulled out thereby making the European Reconstruction possible from the perspective of congress. The central gem to Truman’s presidency was the Marshal Plan. The Marshall Plan would feed and support the conquered. Their borders had not guns or forts anymore, this was economic aid. The US wanted peace in the world as far as Truman was concerned.

Harry Truman: What We Can Learn From The Man From Missouri [15]

 Force Your Enemies Hand: Truman bombed Nagasaki. 70,000 died. The bombardier had missed the city by two miles. Truman knew about the tragic destructive consequences. Truman knew that it would be the most powerful deterrent known to man. Truman “found the bomb” and used it against civilians. Truman demanded Japanese surrender. Prime Minister Suzuki wanted war on Japanese soil. Others “wanted [Japan] to be destroy like a beautiful flower”. BUT the Japanese cabinet heard about the Nagasaki bombing and agreed they would surrender. The Emperor could stay. August 14th, 1945 Truman announced the end of the war. Truman’s popularity was beyond expectation at 85%. By 1946, Truman had dropped to 35%. Truman had a 21-point domestic program. Business leaders wanted free markets. Soldiers returned looking for jobs.

Harry Truman: What We Can Learn From The Man From Missouri [14]

 Use Drastic Measures to Defeat Your Enemy: Hiroshima was bombed on August 5th. Truman learned of the complete success of the bombing. Truman was very happy and had a broad smile upon the news of mass destruction. A quick end to the war with the equivalent of 20,000 tons of TNT was only a positive thing for Truman. Truman explained that an atomic bomb harnessed ‘the nature of the universe’. Truman said that Japan would and should be prevented from waging war. Truman promised to destroy BUT many were terrified by the idea of this new kind of horror. Could the world handle the use of such destructiveness? The aftermath resulted in a 60% destruction of Hiroshima. 80,000 civilians were killed instantly with over 50,000 killed in the coming days. People burning into cinder while standing up, birds were ignited in mid-flight.

Harry Truman: What We Can Learn From The Man From Missouri [13]

With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility: The Manhattan Project: Truman was curious about having this weapon tested. In June of 1945, the bomb was indeed tested and had worked. George Marshall claimed that a million American’s could be killed in an invasion of Japan, so anything in the arsenal of the United States that could curb an invasion was preferable. Truman believed that the shock value of the bomb would end the war. Okanawa was a battle that had major loses. Japanese kamikaze air pilots resulted in 30 US ships being sunk with over 12,000 Americans killed in Okanawa. Japanese military loses were 10x worse. Civilian deaths on the Island were 150,000. Tokyo was bombed heavily in March 300 B 29s bombed Tokyo killing 100,000 civilians. Osaka was bombed heavily as well. Japanese morale was unaffected. Truman wanted to shock them into action. The Truman Committee believed that no demonstration or warning would work. It would be worse if the bomb malfucntioned so he did not notify the Japanese about the impending bombing. Truman never considered NOT using the bomb. Truman could not say “No” to the bombing.

Harry Truman: What We Can Learn From The Man From Missouri [12]

Expect Resistance When In the Shadows Of Greatness: Truman had a nightmare during the campaign in 1944 that he would be president. It came true…but it wasn’t a nightmare per say. On April 12th, 1945, Truman ran to the White House after hearing that Roosevelt had died. Truman was in big trouble. With the news of Roosevelt’s death, veteran ‘new dealers’ and millions of Americans overseas where shocked that Harry Truman would be president. People feared that the war would drag on longer because of FDR’s death and Truman’s succession. BUT once you’re president, the country will back you. Truman’s acceptance speech made it clear that he was going to work hard. Truman asked to be only a great servant for his people. Truman had a Midwest Accent. People appreciated Truman’s accent. Others wanted to see him succeed. Republican’s did not want to rock the boat because it would be considered unpatriotic during a time of war. Stalin believed that America was now soft. Stalin wanted to invade Europe. Potsdam Conference created the result that Stalin would attack Japan. However, Stalin refused to relinquish territory gained in the USSR’s march across Europe. Churchill was defeated and Atlee was the new PM in Britain during the Potsdam Conference. Potsdam Conference was not a success. Stalin later told Khrushchev that Truman was “worthless.”

Harry Truman: What We Can Learn From The Man From Missouri [10]

Attach Yourself to a Meaningful Objective: Truman was interested in efficiency and saving lives during the dire war years. This behaviour drew the attention of FDR. FDR was very difficult to read as a leader but he called for the Senate to allow the creation of a Committee to investigate the national defence program. Meanwhile, Truman ran something of his own which was a special committee on the War weapon production called the “Truman Committee”. Truman was obsessed with getting facts. Truman investigated the scandal of military wastefulness by exposing fraud and mismanagement. Truman saved the country money. Production of weapons was not particularly efficient and some weapons were faulty. Truman intervened in the creation of a Weapons czar. If you can claim you are saving people money, then you will be rewarded for your efforts. Truman saved thousands of lives by ensuring American military equipment functioned properly.

Harry Truman: What We Can Learn From The Man From Missouri [11]

Try To Get Lucky: Fortunately for Truman, Roosevelt let things slide with Henry Wallace who was the presumptive VP nominee in 1944. FDR was very ill and the VP would likely be the next president. Roosevelt didn’t pursue handling the question of his vice presidential issue. Democrats in the party didn’t want Wallace to become VP and likely President and attempted to block his ascension. Meanwhile, Truman didn’t appear to be ambitious. Truman was a compromise candidate. He appeared honest and patriotic. Many of the party bosses supported Truman, although Truman claimed repeatedly that he didn’t want the job. During the Chicago Convention, Wallace was the choice of the delegates but Truman was the emerging favourite. Byrnes was also a possible winner but was an ardent segregationist. Ed Flynn convinced the president to go with Truman, there was rule bending but Truman won on the second ballot. Truman’s acceptance speech was shy for a new vice president. His high-pitched voice was hilarious and memorable at Chicago. He was the 2nd Missouri Compromise. Many were disappointed with the nomination because it satisfied no one. People didn’t like the way Truman was elected. It was a corrupt approach. Many party insiders felt that “mousy” Truman was considered one of the weakest candidates in US Democratic history. But the New York Times praised his political qualities “having been through the mill”. During the Federal election, Roosevelt hated Dewey. His hate emboldened him. Truman was straightforward and plain spoken during the 1944 campaign.

Harry Truman: What We Can Learn From The Man From Missouri [9]

Your Opponent’s Chief Advantage Is Surprise: Truman didn’t restrict Roosevelt’s power and Harry supported the new deal. However, FDR did not openly support Harry Truman or his competition named Stark in the 1940 challenge for the Missouri Senate Democratic nomination. Stark decided to run for the VP position at the same time as he challenged Truman for the Senate seat. As the deadline for applicants to contest the seat approached, Stark did not tell Truman about his intent until absolutely necessary. An incumbent should always expect a campaign for any race. In Kansa City, the Republicans who controlled the judges decided to foreclose on Harry’s Mother’s house in the middle of the campaign. Harry’s land was auctioned because he could not raise money to save her property. The Republicans were hoping to embarrass him during the race and also compel him to quit. They failed.