Truman was the 33rd president of the United States who oversaw the end of World War Two, including the atomic bombing of Japan, and the new challenges of the Cold War.
Harry Truman was born in Lamar, Missouri, on 8 May 1884. After leaving school he held a series of clerical positions, as well as farming. In 1917, he joined the US Army and fought in World War One. He returned home in 1919 and married Bess Wallace. They had one daughter.
In 1923, he was appointed a judge in Jackson County, a mainly administrative position, and in his spare time studied at Kansas City Law School. He became active in Democrat politics in Missouri and was elected to the senate in 1934 and re-elected in 1940. In 1941, he headed the Truman Committee investigating waste and fraud in the US defence programme. It was estimated to have saved around $15 billion and made Truman a national figure.
Franklin Roosevelt selected Truman as vice president in 1944. In April 1945, with the end of World War Two in sight, Roosevelt died and Truman became president. With very little preparation he faced huge responsibilities in the final months of the war, including authorising the use of the atomic bomb against Japan, and planning the post-war world. Two months after taking office he witnessed the signing of United Nations Charter.
Truman was unable to achieve many of his immediate post-war domestic aims because of opposition within his own party and the Republican Party regaining control of congress. In foreign policy, he responded to the growing threat from the Soviet Union. He issued the Truman Doctrine, justifying support for any country the US believed to be threatened by communism. He introduced the Marshall Plan, which spent more than $13 billion in rebuilding Europe. When the Soviets blockaded the western sectors of Berlin in the summer of 1948, Truman authorised a massive airlift of supplies until the Soviets backed down. The fear of the spread of communism in Europe led to the establishment in 1949 of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), a defence alliance between Western European countries, Canada and the US.
Truman expected to lose the 1948 presidential election as his pro-civil rights actions had alienated many southern Democrats. Nonetheless, he won and foreign policy again dominated in his second term. In the summer of 1950, he authorised US military involvement in the Korean War.
Truman retired from politics in 1952 and died in Kansas City on 26 December 1972.
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