On May 8, 1884, Harry S. Truman was born in Lamar, Missouri. The son of a farmer, Truman couldn’t afford to go to college. He joined the military at the relatively advanced age of 33 in 1916 to fight in the First World War. After the war, he opened a haberdashery in Kansas City. When this business went bankrupt in 1922, he entered Missouri politics. Truman continued to serve in the United States Senate from 1934 until he was chosen as the fourth vice-president of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1945; it was during his term in the Senate that he built a reputation for honesty and integrity.
When the FDR died on April 12, 1945, Truman became the 33rd President of the United States, assuming the role of commander-in-chief of a country still involved in The Second World War. With the impending victory in Europe, Truman agonized over whether or not to use the newly developed atomic bomb to force Japan to surrender. After only four months in power, Truman authorized the dropping of two atomic bombs on Japan in August 1945. He and his military advisers argued that the use of the bomb had ultimately saved American and Japanese lives, as it appeared that the Japanese would fiercely resist any conventional attempt. by the Allies to invade Japan and end the war. The use of the new weapon, dropped in the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in early August, succeeded in forcing the capitulation of Japan, but also marked the start of the Cold War. From this point until the late 1980s, the United States and Russia ran to spend and produce each other in nuclear weapons.
After the war, the long-term and deadly effects of radioactive fallout on humans were sadly illustrated in photos of the Japanese who survived the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Post-war images and information about nuclear-related disease and environmental devastation shocked the world and earned Truman lasting criticism for heralding the possibility of complete global annihilation by nuclear war .
Although he is best known – and insulted by some – as the only president to have chosen to use nuclear weapons against innocent civilians in combat, Truman’s time on the executive was also notable in others areas. In 1941 Truman traveled 10,000 miles across the country in his Dodge to investigate the potential profits of war in defense factories on the eve of World War II. After World War II Truman helped Marshall Plan through Congress, which provided much-needed reconstruction aid to European nations devastated by war and on the brink of widespread famine. He also supported the creation of a permanent Israeli state.
Truman was also known for his explosive temper and fierce loyalty to his family. In December 1950, his daughter Margaret gave a song recital which was filmed the following day in the Washington Post. Truman was so furious that he wrote a letter to the editor threatening to give the critic a black eye and a broken nose. It was just one of many events that exemplified Truman’s fiery style, for which he had been dubbed “Give Hell, Harry.”
Truman served as president for two terms from 1945 to 1953, when he and his wife Bess happily retired to Independence, Missouri, where he often jokingly referred to himself as “Mr. Citizen. “He died there on December 26, 1972.