Only a few men have ascended to the presidency of the United States because their predecessor died in office. And none was as unprepared for the realities of his new position as Harry S. Truman.
Truman had served as Vice President under Franklin Roosevelt just 82 days when FDR passed away from a stroke. During that entire time, he had only two meetings with the President. He was never apprised about details of the war effort in Europe or Japan, so he had no idea that the Soviet Union – a supposed ally of America – was growing increasingly belligerent. Even more shocking, he had never even heard of the Manhattan Project, the United States' atomic bomb program.
PRESIDENT HARRY S. TRUMAN IN A STRIKING POSE
These days it’s hard to imagine that a Vice President could have been so completely in the dark, especially about issues that went to the heart of our nation’s security. Truman was initially overwhelmed, telling the press, “I felt like the moon, the stars and all the planets had fallen on me.”
Harry S. Truman had no choice but to become an instant foreign affairs expert. But he rose to the occasion, making an indelible mark on the United States and the world as a statesman and leaving a legacy of significant foreign relations achievements.
THE PRESIDENT AND GENERAL EISENHOWER
Truman faced a series of international crises, including the continuation of war. Even after V-E Day in Europe, Japan refused to surrender. Truman conferred with military advisors and then ordered cities in Japan that were instrumental in their war effort to be bombed with America's newly-developed atomic bombs. After the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan did surrender, and there was hope for peace.
The new United Nations was established in 1945, to replace the failed League of Nations as a worldwide peacekeeper. And Truman convinced Congress to fund the European Recovery Program – nicknamed the Marshall Plan after the Secretary of State, George C. Marshall – a massive undertaking designed to get devastated western European nations back on their feet economically as quickly as possible.
HARRY TRUMAN SIGNING A WWII PROCLAMATION
Unfortunately, all was not peaceful after all. With the Soviet Union threatening Greece and Turkey, Truman announced a new policy of containment that became known as the Truman Doctrine. When the Soviet Union blockaded western Berlin, Truman ordered the famous Berlin airlift to bring vital supplies to the citizens. To create a show of solidarity and strengthen the military might of the West, Truman worked to help establish the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1949.
The next year, Communist North Korea invaded South Korea, and President Truman felt compelled to become involved. He said there was “complete, almost unspoken acceptance on the part of everyone that whatever had to be done to meet this aggression had to be done. There was no suggestion from anyone that either the United Nations or the United States could back away from it.” And another war was underway - one that did not end until Truman had left office.
Our 33rd president, Harry S. Truman served a little less than two full terms. Yet in those few years, he led the way through the end of World War II and almost to the conclusion of the Korean War, and he managed to navigate the frosty waters of the early days of the Cold War. He truly became a major leader in foreign affairs, something he never could have envisioned when he first entered office as Vice President.
HISTORIAN AND COLLECTOR - RALEIGH DeGEER AMYX
World renowned collector Raleigh DeGeer Amyx has acquired many significant pieces from President Harry Truman's official White House China Set. Mr. Amyx’s passion for American historical memorabilia has been his sole focus for more than three decades. His collection is the second largest privately-owned collection of White House China in the world. If you would like to engage in a discussion with Mr. Amyx about White House China, please contact him through the button below.