Harry Truman — We Didn’t Start the Fire

Truman gleefully displaying an incorrect headline stating “Dewey Defeats Truman”

This post is part of my series of short posts on every subject in “We Didn’t Start the Fire” by Billy Joel. You can also see the whole list of live posts, and dive into my original Roam Notes.

Harry Truman was the 33rd president of the United States, and was president during late WW2, the WW2 recovery, the early Cold War and the early Civil Rights era. He was responsible for the dropping of the nuclear bombs, the implementation of the Marshall Plan for rebuilding post-war Europe, the creation of the CIA, Air Force, NATO, and NSA, and US involvement in the Korean War.

His life before his presidency was wild. As a child, he developed a love of piano, reading, and history, as well as a deep love and respect for his mother, who would later be a major support for him as president. He served as a “shabbos goy” for his neighbors, which may have led to his strong support for the creation of Israel.

He studied bookkeeping, shorthand, and typing at a business school, and got a job working for the railroad, where he developed the ability to curse, and an enjoyment of “vulgar” activities like drinking and gambling for which he would take flack as a president. He was involved in several business ventures, none of which panned out.

He went to law school, but didn’t bother graduating because he wound up winning a judgeship. He subsequently lost it, worked in the private industry, concluded the public sector was probably a better job bet, and won another judgeship. These wins were thanks to his fathers contacts in the local Democratic machine.

He joined the army (his eyesight was so bad he had to cheat to get in), and worked his way up, eventually becoming a well respected head of a unit in WWI, and never lost a man. He returned (still enlisted in the reserve forces), and headed a successful program to revitalize Jackson County, Missouri. He swung this into a position as a senator, and used his Army expertise to head a successful commission auditing US Army spending leading into WW2, leading to a Time Magazine cover.

He was the compromise option for “VP who will likely replace Franklin Roosevelt when he dies in his fourth term,” and became president 82 days into Roosevelt’s term. He went to the Potsdam Conference to negotiate peace, and when Japan refused to surrender, he nuked them twice (a decision he defended for the rest of his life).

The economy fell apart after WW2, and his popularity dropped accordingly. He struggled with labor strikes that paralyzed the nation, and failed to stop the Taft Hartley Act from passing. He also worked a lot on early Cold War stuff, including the creation of NATO, the implementation of the Marshall Plan, and the Berlin Airlift (which massively boosted his popularity). He opposed the Red Scare (but lost).

He worked on Civil Rights, ensuring integration of the army, as well as equal opportunity in government/government contractor jobs. He also tried to get voting rights guaranteed by the federal government, as well as employment rights. Leading up to his reelection, he swung towards strong support of Civil Rights and the creation of a National Health Insurance. (Congress said “no, lol”).

Overall, he led an interesting and varied life, and was in many ways instrumental in deciding what the world looked like after World War 2. We still live in the shadow of his foreign policy, and he created many long standing government institutions.

Sourced from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_S._Truman

Senior @ UTD, Web Dev & the Digital Humanities | Roamcult | ii