Harry Before WWI

January 25th, 2014
Harry S. Truman at Fort Sill

Harry S. Truman at Fort Sill


As the only son in his family, Harry wasn’t conscripted for service in America’s troops for WWI. When Truman rejoined the Guard, his men elected Harry an officer and he became First Lieutenant of his battery. Before being sent to France, Truman helped run a camp canteen at Fort Sill, where he had been sent for training! Can you imagine our beloved Harry behind the counter working as a clerk? We sure can!


A Presidential Log

December 12th, 2012

President Truman Hard at Work in the Little White House

Did you know that the eleven trips of President Harry S. Truman to Key West were recorded in official trip logs? They were often regarded as just souvenirs for family and staff, but a more thorough reading reveals some aspects to the workings of President Truman while in Key West. There are many mentions of both political and military House Staff flying to KW to meet with Truman. However, the finer details of these meetings are currently considered classified information.

Harry in WWI

November 9th, 2012

Truman as a WWI American Solider

In 1917, World War I was in full swing and Truman joined the army like a million others his age! He served in France, leaving the army as a captain in May of 1919. Very soon after he married Elizabeth “Bess” Wallace! The Truman couple was born!

The Little White House… in 1890

November 9th, 2012

Quarters A & B

Did you know that what we call the Harry S. Truman Little White House was originally waterfront when it was built in 1980? It was constructed as a first officer’s quarters on the submarine base naval station. The wooden duplex was made up of Quarters A for the base commandant and Quarters B for the paymaster. However, in 1911, the home was converted into a single-family dwelling.

Decisions, Decisions…

October 29th, 2012

Harry S. Truman as President

As President, Harry S. Truman faced some of the most complex issues to ever face any world leader! These international decisions included the decision to drop the atomic bombs in Japan to end WWII, the task of helping to rebuild a bombed out Europe and Japan, and the tedious task of making changes in American foreign policy.

100 Years of Girl Scouting in the USA

August 21st, 2012

With help from the Key West Garden Club and Fran Ford, local Girl Scouts from the Lower Keys planted a pigeon plum tree at the Truman Little White House in celebration of 100 years of girl scouting in the USA. Founded in 1912, Girl Scouts of the USA is the preeminent leadership development organization for girls with 3.6 million girl and adult members worldwide. Girl Scouting is the leading authority on girls’ healthy development, and builds girls of courage, confidence and character, who make the world a better place. The organization strives to serve girls from every corner of the United States and its territories. Girls Scouts of the USA also serves American girls and their classmates attending American or international schools overseas in 90 countries.The Girl Scout Council of Tropical Florida, Inc. is one of 112 councils nationwide chartered by Girl Scouts of the USA to deliver Girl Scout program within specific geographic boundaries. The local council serves more than 20,000 girls and 3,600 adult volunteers in Miami-Dade and Monroe Counties and maintains five campsites each offering unique experiences for girls and adults. For more information on how to join, volunteer, reconnect or donate to Girl Scouts, call (305) 253-4841 or visit www.girlscoutsfl.org.

Presidential Fishing in Paradise

July 6th, 2012
Presidential Fishing in Key West

Map with Presidential Fishing Locations on Display at the Truman Little White House

Americans love fishing… in salt water, in fresh water. And American presidents are no exception to this pastime. Looking for more exotic fishing, presidents like Hoover and Carter traveled to the Florida Keys to get their fishing fix. Hoover visited Key Largo, soaking up some rays while casting his bait into the sea. Key Largo, received another presidential visit when Franklin Delano Roosevelt sought a respite in Tavernier from the hustle and bustle of Washington. One of the most famous visitors of Key West was Harry S. Truman. While he wasn’t the biggest fisherman, his wife, Bess, certainly was. Harry would bait her hook and sit back to read a book while his wife would pull in tropical fish. They greatly enjoyed their visit to the Dry Tortugas as well (no doubt, Bess did some major fishing there too!). Even the strict, military man “Ike” Eisenhower had some time to visit Key West to cast his line a couple of times into it’s beautiful waters. Marathon had its presidential visit when Jimmy Carter and his family visited the Hawk’s Cay Resort to interact with dolphins. George HW Bush traveled to Cheeca Lodge in Islamorada several times before and after his term in office to experience tropical fishing. Learn more about presidential fishing trips in the Keys at the Harry S. Truman Little White House!

VE Day

May 8th, 2012

It was on this day in 1945 Harry S. Truman announced to the American public that Germany had surrendered signalling the beginning of the end of World War II and is known as VE Day. Ironically it was also the president’s 61st birthday. It would take until August 14 before Japan officially surrendered ending World War II. The war had claimed 20 million military personnel and 40 million civilians during 1939 and 1945.

July 26

July 26th, 2011

President Truman signed the National Security Act of 1947 on the Sacred Cow, the Air Force One of its day.

It would seem that July 26 is a rather important day in the presidency of Harry S. Truman. He signed two major pieces of legislation on that day, one in 1947 and one in 1948. Both continue to have impacts on our country today.

In 1947, Truman signed the National Security Act, which re organized the intelligence agencies and armed forces. The act created the Department of Defense. Prior to this the United States had the Department of War and the Department of the Navy. With the Department of Defense, all of the armed forces would come under one umbrella including the the newly created Air Force, which had previously been the Army Air Forces. The National Security Act also created the Joints Chiefs of Staff, that was made up of the senior uniformed commanders of the armed forces. The first Joint Chiefs of Staff included Admiral William Leahy, USN; General George Marshall, USA; Admiral Ernest King, USN and General Henry Arnold, who was an Army General and later reappointed as a General of the newly created Air Force.

The 1947 National Security Act created two national security agencies, the National Security Council, which makes sure the players in the defense and security of the United States are synchronized with the one another. Lastly, the act created the Central Intelligence Agency, a non military agency that is responsible for the monitoring and reporting of security of the country and its interests aboard to the president and his team of senior officials. The agency’s first director was Roscoe H. Hillenkkoetter. It is interesting to note before the agency was created, the post of Director of Central Intelligence was created in 1946 by Truman. The second person to hold that position was General Hoyt S. Vandenburg. To those familiar with Key West, we have the USS Hoyt S. Vandenburg, a former missile tracking ship, sunk off the island as an artificial reef. Other directors have included former President George W. Bush, Robert Gates and James Schlesinger. The director designate is General David Patraeus, former commander of U.S. Forces Afghanistan.

In 1948, Truman one of the most important pieces of legislation of his presidency, Executive Order 9981, the desegregation of the military. The military was not quick to accept this order and failure to act on it resulted in Kenneth Royall to retire from his post as Secretary of the Army in 1949 because he would not eliminate segregation in the U.S. Army. Prior to the order, there were separate military training bases for white and black soldiers, all black units, including the Tuskegee Airmen, 11 Tank Destroyer Divisions, 24 Field Artillery Battalions, 7 Field Artillery Regiments, 3 Tank Battalions, 1 Parachute Infantry Battalion, and 8 Calvary and Infantry Regiments. Black military nurses and doctors could not treat white soldiers or and donated blood from blacks could not be used on white sailors and soldiers. In 1989, forty two years after the signing Executive Order 9981, President George H.W. Bush appointed General Colin Powell as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the highest ranking military person in the country and the first African American to hold that position.

Executive Order 9981 says in its entirety:

Whereas it is essential that there be maintained in the armed services of the United States the highest standards of democracy, with equality of treatment and opportunity for all those who serve in our country’s defense:

Now, therefore, by virtue of the authority vested in me as President of the United States, and as Commander in Chief of the armed services, it is hereby ordered as follows:

1. It is hereby declared to be the policy of the President that there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion or national origin. This policy shall be put into effect as rapidly as possible, having due regard to the time required to effectuate any necessary changes without impairing efficiency or morale.

2. There shall be created in the National Military Establishment an advisory committee to be known as the President’s Committee on Equality of Treatment and Opportunity in the Armed Services, which shall be composed of seven members to be designated by the President.

3. The Committee is authorized on behalf of the President to examine into the rules, procedures and practices of the armed services in order to determine in what respect such rules, procedures and practices may be altered or improved with a view to carrying out the policy of this order. The Committee shall confer and advise with the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of the Army, the Secretary of the Navy, and the Secretary of the Air Force, and shall make such recommendations to the President and to said Secretaries as in the judgment of the Committee will effectuate the policy hereof.

4. All executive departments and agencies of the Federal Government are authorized and directed to cooperate with the Committee in its work, and to furnish the Committee such information or the services of such persons as the Committee may require in the performance of its duties.

5. When requested by the Committee to do so, persons in the armed services or in any of the executive departments and agencies of the Federal Government shall testify before the Committee and shall make available for the use of the Committee such documents and other information as the Committee may require.

6. The Committee shall continue to exist until such time as the President shall terminate its existence by Executive Order.

The White House
July 26, 1948

Remembering Betty Ford

July 11th, 2011

Betty and Gerald Ford

Betty Ford, the outspoken and much admired wife of President Gerald Ford died this past weekend in Palm Springs, California. She was 93. As First Lady (from 1974 to 1977), Ford battled breast cancer, overcame addiction, and helped found one of the best known rehabilitation centers in the United States, The Betty Ford Center. For her work in this field, she was honored with the Congressional Gold Medal, awarded by George H.W. Bush in 1998.

Mrs. Ford was born in Chicago in 1918 and pursued her love of dance before meeting and marrying lawyer and WWII veteran, Gerald Ford. The Fords had four children together: Michael, John, Steven, and Susan. In the past, The New York Times has called her a great impact on American culture and a symbol for new political and cultural ideas. Ford encouraged openness among women and spoke out about her ideas. She spoke understandingly about taboo subjects of the time such as pre-marital sex, abortion, drug and alcohol addiction, the benefits of psychiatric treatment, and brought the issue of breast cancer to light among American women. Ford was also an advocate of the arts and even received an award from Parsons The New School for Design in recognition of her style.

After Ford’s addiction recovery she established the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, California in 1978 for the treatment of chemical dependency. Betty delegated the director position to her daughter Susan in 2005. Even after leaving the White House, Betty still played an active role in public American life. She remained active in women’s issues, taking on numerous speaking engagements and lending her name to charities for fundraising. She was the recipient of many prestigious awards such as the Presidential Medal of Freedom, awarded by President George H.W. Bush in 1991.

In a statement this past Friday, President Barack Obama said the Betty Ford Center would honor Mrs. Ford’s legacy “by giving countless Americans a new lease on life. As our nation’s First Lady, she was a powerful advocate for women’s health and women’s rights”. Thursday morning, her casket will travel by motorcade to the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan, for a private burial alongside her husband. Betty Ford’s influence has forever changed the way America thinks and her contributions to our society will always be honored and remembered.

The Ford family in the White House