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Harry S. Truman Biography and Facts for Kids


Harry S. Truman was the 33rd President of the United States serving 2 terms from 1945–1953. He grew up on a farm near Independence, Mo., worked at various jobs, and tended the family farm. He served as a captain of field artillery in France in World War I. In 1934 he was elected a U.S. Senator. In the Senate he was a firm supporter of the New Deal policies of President Franklin Delano RooseveltDuring Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidency he served as his third vice-president. He then became the 34th Vice President of the United States April 12, 1945, when PresidentRoosevelt died less than three months after beginning his historic fourth term. Truman remained active in politics for many years after his retirement, campaigning around the country for Democratic candidates and commenting on national issues. He also contributed much time to the Harry S. Truman Library, which opened in 1957 in Independence, Mo.

Fun Facts and Trivia about Harry S. Truman

When was Harry S. Truman born: May 8, 1884
Where was Harry S. Truman born: Lamar, MO
Where did Harry S. Truman go to college: Kansas City Law School
What was Harry S. Truman’s job: Businessman
Who was Harry S. Truman married to: Bess Wallace Truman
What number president was Harry S. Truman: 33rd
What political party did Harry S. Truman belong to: Democrat
Who was Harry S. Truman’s vice president: Alben W. Barkley
When was Harry S. Truman president: 1945-1953
How many terms did Harry S. Truman serve: 2
When did Harry S. Truman die: December 26, 1972
How old was Harry S. Truman when he died: 88
Where is Harry S. Truman buried: Kansas City, Missouri

Harry S. Truman Quotes

  • “If you can’t convince them, confuse them.”
  • “Carry the battle to them. Don’t let them bring it to you. Put them on the defensive and don’t ever apologize for anything.”
  • “I learned that a great leader is a man who has the ability to get other people to do what they don’t want to do and like it”
  • “The absence of war is not peace.”
  • “My favorite animal is the mule. He has more horse sense than a horse. He knows when to stop eating — and he knows when to stop working.”
  • “You can’t get rich in politics unless you’re a crook.”

Timeline of the life of Harry S. Truman

1884 Born in Lamar, Mo.
1917-1919 Served in the U.S. Army during World War I.
1919 Married Elizabeth Virginia Wallace.
1922 Elected judge of Jackson County, Missouri.
1934 Elected to the United States Senate.
1941-1944 Served as chairman of the Truman Committee.
1944 Elected Vice-President of the United States.
1945 Became the 33rd President of the United States.
1945 The United Nations was organized in San Francisco.
1946 Communist leaders began the Cold War with the West.
1947 Congress passed the Taft-Hartley Act after the President had vetoed it.
1948-1952 Workmen renovated the White House.
1949 The U.S. and its allies set up the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
1950 Two Puerto Ricans tried to kill the President.
1950 Truman signs the 1950 Social Security Amendments that expands coverage and increases benefits.
1951 Truman relieved General Douglas MacArthur as UN commander in Korea.
1951 22nd Amendment to the Constitution limits the President of the United Statesto two four-year terms.
1952 Dwight D. Eisenhower is elected President.
1972 Harry S. Truman died in Independence, Missouri.

What was the Truman Doctrine?

After the end of World War II, the structure of the international system took on the form of bipolarity. In a bipolar world order, there exists only two great powers. A bipolar international system is considered less dangerous than a multi-polar system as warfare between the two super powers is deterred. If one country achieves a technological edge, the other tries to catch up to maintain the balance of power, leaving no window of opportunity to attack. Such a situation existed between 1945-1990 between the United States and the Soviet Union. The behavioral patterns specific to bipolarity include an arms race, the development of security alliances and the overreaction to hot spots among weaker powers.

It was in this atmosphere that the central tenet of American foreign policy of the Cold War years was developed. The years 1947-1950 can be seen as the formative years of the Cold War and the Truman Doctrine of 1947 laid out the basic policy of American containment of the U.S.S.R. The main thrust of the Truman Doctrine was to assist all those countries, militarily and economically, who where opposed to communism. NSC 68, the security planning paper developed in 1950 by President Truman’s security council, called for two major shifts in U.S. strategy – the globalization of containment policy and the militarization of containment.

Was the Truman Doctrine a Success?

There are two main strategies a country employs in order to protect its sovereignty and territorial integrity, deterrence and defense. While defense is primarily physical, deterrence is primarily psychological. The Truman Doctrine and the U.S. policy of containment were geared towards deterrence. Understanding the nature of deterrent strategy will lead to an understanding of the Truman Doctrine and its results.

In order for deterrence to be successful, a country must exhibit a commitment to punish and/or retaliate, the capability to do so and the credibility to do so. The Truman Doctrine of containment dictated both general deterrence, which is a long-term strategy, and immediate deterrence, which is a response to a specific challenge. It also guided the policies of primary deterrence, which intends to discourage the enemy from attacking one’s own state and extended deterrence, which intends to discourage the enemy from attacking one’s allies. The Truman Doctrine can be seen as having been successful in primary deterrence but somewhat of a failure in extended deterrence.

In examining the success or failure of the Truman Doctrine, it is necessary to look at a test case. Extended deterrence, guided by the policy objectives of the Truman Doctrine, and containment was responsible for having brought the United Statesinto a number of protracted conflicts, most instructively, the war in Vietnam. The United States entered Vietnam slowly, taking over for the French following their withdrawal. However, with a foreign policy based upon containment, the situation quickly escalated and the U.S. became heavily involved in fighting the North Vietnamese, backed by the Soviet Union, for fear of the domino effect. This theory held that if Vietnam fell, other countries would soon follow and communism would spread throughout Southeast Asia. A number of cases could be examined, including the Korean War, the war in Afghanistan and the Cuban Missile Crisis. In light of the Vietnam War, however, the Truman Doctrine and the policy of containment was clearly a failure.

It could be argued that the Truman Doctrine was indeed successful, as the two super powers never came into direct conflict with one another and the Cold War ended somewhat peacefully. Even this argument, however, for the success of the Truman Doctrine is tenuous as there are a number of reasons posited for the peaceful end to the Cold War, including the collapse of Soviet power, hastened by U.S. President Ronald Reagan’s policies and assertive leadership, Soviet Premier Gorbachev’s reform policies in the U.S.S.R., the decline of bipolarity as other nations gained economic and political strength, and the globalization of democracy and capitalism.

What was the Fair Deal Proposed by President Truman?

President Harry Truman proposed his Fair Deal plan as a way of transitioning the United States to a peacetime economy after World War II. His idea was for the federal government to take a strong role in establishing economic opportunities and social stability for the people of the United States. The plan, which began with 21 proposals just after the war and snowballed into a comprehensive legislative package by 1948, was opposed by many members of Congress – particularly Southern Democrats opposed to civil rights measures and Northern Republicans wary of a top-heavy economic structure. Their coalition of opposition resulted in many elements of the plan never coming to pass. The Fair Deal also floundered as a result of the Korean War in June 1950, which plunged the United States back into a wartime economy.

Where did the Name “Fair Deal” Come from?

The name of the program comes from Truman’s 1949 State of the Union address, in which he stated, “Every segment of our population, and every individual, has a right to expect from his government a fair deal.” In many ways, the program built on the success of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, which sought to help the nation recover economically and socially after the Great Depression.

Why did Truman’s Fair Deal flounder?

The Fair Deal’s many proposed legislative components covered different aspects of health care, employment, education, energy, agriculture and social welfare. Truman did succeed in some of these areas. In the realm of civil rights, Truman’s initiatives led to integrating the armed forces, keeping government contracts from racially discriminatory companies and getting some black Americans appointed to federal government positions.

Three other major areas where Congress cooperated in implementing the Fair Deal were: getting more people out of substandard housing and into federal housing projects, raising the minimum wage and bringing Social Security benefits to about 10 million additional citizens. Also under the Fair Deal, several existing programs begun as part of the New Deal were extended or augmented, such as the Tennessee Valley Authority projects to improve agriculture, flood control, industrial development and education and health services in this depressed area.

In the education arena, the only one of Truman’s proposed Fair Deal policies that came to fruition was the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act, better known as the G.I. Bill. This major initiative funneled billions of government dollars into education grants for veterans as well as into housing, health and job-training programs.

However, due to congressional opposition, most of the proposed parts of the Fair Deal were rejected. One of these parts was universal health care, an idea in which Truman strongly believed. The American Medical Association lobbied against this legislation, making many Americans fearful that it represented a form of communism. President Lyndon Johnson made inroads in this direction with the establishment of Medicare for a large segment of the population, but universal health care remained an elusive and contentious goal for many decades. President Bill Clinton’s universal health care proposal did not gain favor, and it was not until 2010 that President Barack Obama’s sweeping national health care reform plan – with many revisions – was finally approved by Congress.

Truman had also proposed federal subsidies for education as part of the Fair Deal. This, too, was scuttled as a result of lobbying efforts, particularly by the Roman Catholic Church because the legislation would not have included parochial schools in the relief package. Another aspect of the Fair Deal that failed to materialize was the Brannan Plan, which would have guaranteed farmers a steady income despite fluctuations in crop yields and pricing structures. The Brannan Plan was successfully opposed by owners of large farms, who believed it amounted to a form of socialism. A more modest Agricultural Act was passed in 1949, which essentially served to continue New Deal farm policies.