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Sworn in as the 33rd president after Franklin Delano Roosevelt's sudden death, Harry S. Truman presided over the end of WWII and dropped the atomic bomb on Japan.
An inside look at the political relationship between Harry Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Harry Truman came from modest beginnings and is the only 20th Century President to not have a college degree. Among his accomplishments as President were integrating the military, defeating Nazi Germany, and initiating the Berlin Airlift.
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Along with Senator Burton Wheeler, Truman began investigating railroads, and in 1940, he initiated legislation that imposed tighter federal regulation on the railroads, which helped him establish his reputation as a man of integrity.
By the time Truman was up for reelection in 1940, Thomas Pendergast had been convicted of tax evasion and associated with voter fraud,
and many predicted Truman’s connection to Pendergast would result in a defeat. Truman didn’t try to hide or distort his relationship with Pendergast, however, and his reputation as a frank and ethical man helped him win reelection, albeit narrowly.
In his second term, Truman chaired a special committee to investigate the National Defense Program to prevent war profiteering and wasteful spending in defense industries. He gained public support and recognition for his straightforward reports and practical recommendations, and he won the respect of his colleagues and the populace alike.
When FDR had to choose a running mate for the 1944 presidential election, he deemed his acting vice president, Henry Wallace, unacceptable. Wallace was disliked by many of the senior democrats in Washington, and since it was apparent that Roosevelt might not survive his fourth term, the vice presidential pick was especially important. Truman’s popularity, as well as his reputation as a fiscally responsible man and a defender of citizens’ rights, made him an attractive option. Truman was initially reluctant to accept, but once he received the nomination, he campaigned vigorously.
Roosevelt and Truman were elected in November of 1944, and Truman took the oath of office on January 20, 1945. He served as vice president just 82 days before Roosevelt died of a massive stroke, and he was sworn in as president on April 12, 1945.
With no prior experience in foreign policy, Truman was thrust into the role of commander in chief and charged with ending a world war. In the first six months of his term, he announced the Germans’ surrender, dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki—ending World War II—and signed the charter ratifying the United Nations.
In spite of these early successes, Truman’s diplomatic situation was beset with challenges. Although the Soviet Union had been a powerful ally to the United States during the war, international relations deteriorated quickly when it became apparent that the Soviets intended to remain in control of Eastern European nations that were expected to be reestablished according to their pre-Hitler governments. This, along with the exclusion of the Soviets from the reconstruction of Asia, began the Cold War.
Republicans won both houses of Congress in 1946, which was seen as a judgment of Truman’s policies, and polls indicated that reelection was all but impossible. So certain seemed the victory of New York Governor Thomas Dewey that the “Chicago Tribune” famously went to press with the headline “Dewey Defeats Truman” before many polling locations had released results.
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