Post World War II Presidency

March 14th, 2016

Truman became convinced that Stalin meant to extend Communist influence throughout Europe. By early 1947, the president had a new foreign policy in the making. In its later stages it was called “Containment” and was aimed at blocking Communist expansion anywhere in the world. Under Truman, the Marshall Plan and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) were the major manifestations of containment and committed the United States to a role of world leadership it had never before been willing to assume. The war years had brought America out of its isolationism.

Implemented in 1947 and 1948, the Marshall Plan was a massive American-financed reconstruction program for war-torn Europe. At the time, NATO was a military alliance established in 1949 to provide a common defense against potential Soviet and later Communist Chinese military aggression, and it was the first peacetime military alliance the U.S. had ever joined.

Truman’s Executive Order 9981 on July 26, 1948, desegregated the military. The order declared: “There shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion or national origin.” Truman also established a presidential committee to oversee the desegregation of military units. By the end of the Korean War in 1953, 90 percent of the units were integrated.

Truman presided over major domestic events and trends in the late forties and early fifties:

  • The GI Bill (passed in 1944) provided assistance to veterans for college tuition and to buy houses with low-interest mortgages.
  • Eighty-five percent of new houses were constructed outside of central cities.
  • Automobiles and highways became essential for the “American Dream.”
  • The postwar “Baby Boom” (1946 to 1964), was the largest generation in history.
  • Defense companies laid off one million workers; three million workers became unemployed by March 1946.
  • Inflation jumped 25 percent weeks after price controls ended in June 1946.
  • In 1947, Taft-Hartley anti-labor legislation was passed over Truman’s veto.
  • Truman insisted upon a strong civil rights plank in the Democratic Party platform, prompting southern Democrats to bolt from the party.
  • Truman’s Fair Deal program managed to extend Social Security to 10 million additional people, provided flood control, and raised the minimum wage to 75 cents an hour, but failed to win national health insurance and more assistance for farmers.
  • The “McCarthy Hearings,” brought on by several U.S. Cold War setbacks and an increasingly anti-Communist political atmosphere at home, persisted for more than five years.
  • Truman’s approval ratings dropped to 23 percent by 1951, with the public unhappy with the war in Korea, doubts about Communist subversion, and the “loss of China” to Communism.

A Florida Heritage Landmark

February 29th, 2016

Built in 1890 as quarters for Navy officers, the Little White House later was used by American Presidents William Howard Taft, Harry S. Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton. Truman used the facility as a vacation home and functioning White House between 1946 and 1952. National Legislation was drafted and official government business was conducted daily from the site. Perhaps the most important of these actions occurred on December 5, 1951, when Truman enacted a Civil Rights Executive Order requiring federal contractors to hire minorities. The house is considered the birthplace of the Department of Defense and the U.S. Air Force as a result of the Key West Accords of 1948. President Eisenhower used the site  in 1956 while recuperating form a heart attack. In 1961, the house was the venue for a summit between President Kennedy and British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan during the Bay of Pigs incident. Kennedy returned in 1962 after the Cuban Missile Crisis. Secretary of State, Colin Powell, and foreign leaders held an international summit here in 2001. The Little White House was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.

Our 33rd President

February 22nd, 2016

Harry S. Truman was born in Lamar, Missouri on May 8, 1884. He was the son of John Anderson Truman and Martha Ellen (Young) Truman, and had a brother, Vivian, and sister, Mary Jane. In 1887,  the Truman’s moved to a farm near Grandview, in 1890, to Independence, and finally, in 1902, to Kansas City. Harry attended public schools in Independence, graduating from high school in 1901. After leaving school, he worked briefly as a timekeeper for a railroad construction contractor, then as a clerk in two Kansas City banks. In 1906 he returned to Grandview to help his father run the family farm. He continued working as a farmer for more than ten years.

From 1905 to 1911, Truman served in the Missouri National Guard. When the United States entered World War I in 1917, he helped organize the 2nd Regiment of Missouri Field Artillery, which was quickly called into Federal service as the 129th Field Artillery and sent to France. Truman was promoted to Captain and given command of the regiment’s Battery D. He and his unit saw action in the Vosges, Saint Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne campaigns. Truman joined the reserves after the war, rising eventually to the rank of colonel. He sought to return to active duty at the outbreak of World War II, but Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall declined his offer to serve.

On June 28, 1919, Truman married Bess Wallace, whom he had known since childhood. Their only child, Mary Margaret, was born on February 17, 1924. From 1919 to 1922 he ran a men’s clothing store in Kansas City with his wartime friend, Eddie Jacobson. The store failed in the postwar recession. Truman narrowly avoided bankruptcy, and through determination and over many years he paid off his share of the store’s debts.

Truman was elected in 1922, to be one of three judges of the Jackson County Court. Judge Truman whose duties were in fact administrative rather than judicial, built a reputation for honesty and efficiency in the management of county affairs. He was defeated for reelection in 1924, but won election as presiding judge in the Jackson County Court in 1926. He won reelection in 1930.

In 1934, Truman was elected to the United States Senate. He had significant roles in the passage into law of the Civil Aeronautics Act of 1938 and the Transportation Act of 1940. After being reelected in 1940, Truman gained national prominence as chairman of the Senate Special Committee to Investigate the National Defense Program. This committee, which came to be called the Truman Committee, sought with considerable success to ensure that defense contractors delivered to the nation quality goods at fair prices.

In July 1944, Truman was nominated to run for Vice President with President Franklin D. Roosevelt. On January 20, 1945, he took the vice-presidential oath, and after President Roosevelt’s unexpected death only eighty-two days later on April 12, 1945, he was sworn in as the nations’ thirty-third President.

Truman later called his first year as President a “year of decisions.” He oversaw during his first two months in office the ending of the war in Europe. He participated in a conference at Potsdam, Germany, governing defeated Germany, and to lay some groundwork for the final stage of the war against Japan. Truman approved the dropping of two atomic bombs on Japan on August 6 and 9, 1945. Japan surrendered on August 14, and American forces of occupation began to land by the end of the month. This first year of Truman’s presidency also saw the founding of the United Nations and the development of an increasingly strained and confrontational relationship with the Soviet Union.

Truman’s presidency was marked throughout by important foreign policy initiatives. Central to almost everything Truman undertook in his foreign policy was the desire to prevent the expansion of the influence of the Soviet Union. The Truman Doctrine was an enunciation of American willingness to provide military aid to countries resisting communist insurgencies; the Marshall Plan sought to revive the economies of the nations of Europe in the hope that communism would not thrive in the midst of prosperity; the North Atlantic Treaty Organization built a military barrier confronting the Soviet-dominated part of Europe. Truman’s recognition of Israel in May 1948 demonstrated his support for democracy and his commitment to a homeland for the Jewish people. The one time during his presidency when a communist nation invaded a non-communist one — when North Korea invaded South Korea in June 1950 — Truman responded by waging undeclared war.

In his domestic policies, Truman sought to accomplish the difficult transition from a war to a peace economy without plunging the nation into recession, and he hoped to extend New Deal social programs to include more government protection and services and to reach more people. He was successful in achieving a healthy peacetime economy, but only a few of his social program proposals became law. The Congress, which was much more Republican in its membership during his presidency than it had been during Franklin Roosevelt’s, did not usually share Truman’s desire to build on the legacy of the New Deal.

The Truman administration went considerably beyond the New Deal in the area of civil rights. Although, the conservative Congress thwarted Truman’s desire to achieve significant civil rights legislation, he was able to use his powers as President to achieve some important changes. He issued executive orders desegregating the armed forces and forbidding racial discrimination in Federal employment. He also established a Committee on Civil Rights and encouraged the Justice Department to argue before the Supreme Court on behalf of plaintiffs fighting against segregation.

In 1948, Truman won reelection. His defeat had been widely expected and often predicted, but Truman’s energy in undertaking his campaign and his willingness to confront issues won a plurality of the electorate for him. His famous “Whistlestop” campaign tour through the country has passed into political folklore, as has the photograph of the beaming Truman holding up the newspaper whose headline proclaimed, “Dewey Defeats Truman.”

Truman left the presidency and retired to Independence in January 1953. For the nearly two decades of his life remaining to him, he delighted in being “Mr. Citizen,” as he called himself in a book of memoirs. He spent his days reading, writing, lecturing and taking long brisk walks. He took particular satisfaction in founding and supporting his Library, which made his papers available to scholars, and which opened its doors to everyone who wished to have a glimpse of his remarkable life and career.

Harry S. Truman died on December 26, 1972. Bess Truman died on October 18, 1982. They are buried side by side in the Library’s courtyard.

The 2015 White House Christmas Ornament Honors Calvin Coolidge

November 30th, 2015

Each year the White House presents an ornament honoring a president or event in our country’s history. This year Mr. Calvin Coolidge is being honored.

Calvin Coolidge served as the thirtieth president of the United States from 1923 to 1929. A Christmas tree (representing the first national Christmas tree) crafted from shiny brass and plated with nickel and 24k gold, is illuminated from within and decorated with ornaments representing events of Coolidge’s life and presidency.

A unique feature in the ornament involves a small switch on the back of the ornament allows a light to be turned on and off. This soft white light casts a warm glow through the windows of the Coolidge White House. Both north and south facades are included in the ornament design. In total 14 individual ornaments are included on the tree which is topped with a star similar in design to the first National Christmas Tree.

At 5:00p.m. on Christmas Eve 1923, President Coolidge lit up the National Christmas Tree, a 60-foot tall fir. More than 6,000 people then arrived on the White House grounds at the Coolidge’s invitation to sing Christmas carols and enjoy the music of the U.S. Marine Band. President Coolidge became the first chief executive to preside over a public celebration of the Christmas holidays.


The Daily Schedule

October 26th, 2015

Harry Truman was an early morning riser, up at 7:30 am, some two hours later than his Washington routine. On the advice of his physician, President Truman started his morning with a shot of bourbon, followed by a large glass of orange juice.

After his morning “medicine”, Truman would take a brisk walk around the compound, usually with the secret service and staff in tow. The prescribed walk spanned ten blocks at 120 paces a minute.


Around 8 am, Truman would return to the Little White House for breakfast of bacon, eggs, cereal, toast and a large glass of milk.

Many mornings began around 9 am with a staff meeting on the lawn.

Mid-morning saw Truman reading and responding to the enormous volume of official correspondence received from DC, including draft legislation, proclamations, appointments, and briefs on national and world politics. Mail arrived from DC via naval plane every other day.

After 11 am, Truman and staff would take a break at Fort Zach for swimming and sunbathing.


Lunch was at 1 pm. Most of the lunches were working lunches on the lawn. Every November, the annual budget and State of the Union Address was drafted in Key West. Many congressional and military leaders met with Truman at the Little White House.

Mid-afternoons were a relaxation period for most of Truman’s personnel. Truman wanted the Little White House to be an escape from the pressures of DC. Many staff members went deep-sea fishing, but Truman preferred swimming or walking.

In late afternoons, Truman would take a nap, read a book, or write home to Bess.

Dinner was in the dining room, of course. Truman usually hosted around 14 guests. After, movies were shown in the living room. Some read, and others joined Truman in a game of poker.


Presidential Seal and Flag

September 28th, 2015

President Truman was the first President to establish by Executive Order a legal definition of the President’s Coat of Arms and Seal. Up to 1945 there was a no known basis in law for the coat of arms which had been used by Presidents since 1880 and which were reproduced on the flag. The seal had been originated during the Rutherford B. Hayes administration and was an erroneous rendering of the Great Seal of the United States.

The first President to have a Presidential Flag was Woodrow Wilson. Prior to that time the Army and the Navy had separate flags for the Commander in Chief. Franklin D. Roosevelt, Assistant Secretary to the Navy, and Commander Bryon McCandless USN, designed a presidential flag which would be suitable for use by both the Army and the Navy. The flag consisted of a presidential coat of arms on a blue field with a white star in each corner. The eagle facing left toward the arrows gripped in one talon.

In December, 1944 Fleet Admirals of the Navy and Generals of the Army were given a new grade with five stars. President Roosevelt requested a new design for the Presidential Flag.

President Roosevelt died before a new design could be approved. President Harry Truman’s Executive Order made several changes to the Coat of Arms. The circle of 48 stars represented the President not only as Commander in Chief, but as representative of all the people. The eagle’s head was turned to the right as the place of honor, but more importantly facing the olive branch symbolizing America as a nation of peace.


The Key West Uniform

September 21st, 2015

“Loud shirts” as we call them soon became Truman’s Key West uniform by his fifth vacation to Key West. At first, Harry Truman would still dress in slacks and dress shirts- even when fishing. He soon caught up with the locals and found how much more comfortable it is to wear light weight sport shirts.












Once Truman was seen wearing these shirts, companies from all over would send him packages full of sports shirts. Truman would pick out the ones he liked, and then gave the rest to his staff to wear.











The second Truman would step foot on Key West he and his staff would ditch the slacks and button downs and change into their “Key West Uniforms”.


Truman’s “Ten Year Plan”

February 25th, 2014
Madonna of the Trail Memorial, supported by Harry Truman

Madonna of the Trail Memorial, supported by Harry Truman


Did you know that Harry Truman served as a presiding judge in the 1920s? Using his profession as judge, he aided in creating the “Ten Year Plan,” which coordinated public works projects for the Jackson County and Kansas City skyscrapers, roadways, court buildings, and monuments that served as tributes to America’s pioneer women.



Harry Truman and George Patton?

February 15th, 2014
A 1945 photograph of Truman, Patton, and Eisenhower together!

A 1945 photograph of Truman, Patton, and Eisenhower together!

In 1918, Truman gave General George S. Patton’s tank brigade military support during the conflicts in the Meuse-Argonne Allied offense. In fact, Patton and Truman’s forces fired some of the last shots in WWI towards German forces just before the armistice took place in November. Specifically, under Truman’s leadership, his battery never lost a single man! Incredible!

Truman’s Strong Language Saves the Day!

February 5th, 2014

Harry Truman in France, WWI

As a captain in one of America’s armies in France during WWI, Truman’s task entailed handling a division that was known for it’s disobedience problems. So when Germans attacked Truman’s division in the Vosges Mountains and Truman’s soldiers began to flee, Truman used incredibly strong language to encourage them to stay and fight. His men were so surprised and shocked by his language that they instantly rallied and began to fight once more!