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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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The final outcome was a win for Truman with 49.5 percent of the vote, compared with Dewey’s 45.1 percent, and was one of the greatest upsets in the history of American elections.
Truman announced his domestic policy initiative, the “Fair Deal” program, in his 1949 State of the Union address. Building on Roosevelt’s “New Deal,” it included universal health care, an increase in the minimum wage, more funding for education and a guarantee of equal rights under the law for all citizens.
The program was a mixed success. In 1948, racial discrimination was banned in federal government hiring practices, the military was desegregated and the minimum wage had gone up. National health insurance was rejected, as was more money for education.
The Korean War broke out in June of 1950, and Truman swiftly committed U.S. troops to the conflict. He believed that North Korea’s invasion of South Korea was a challenge from the Soviets, and that, if left unchecked, it could escalate to another world war and to further communist aggression. After a brief wave of public support for his decision, criticism mounted.
Truman initially endorsed a rollback strategy and encouraged General Douglas MacArthur to breech the 38th parallel, bringing forces into North Korea in order to take over the government. But when China sent 300,000 troops to the aid of North Korea, Truman changed tactics. He reverted to the containment strategy, focusing on preserving the independence of South Korea rather than eliminating communism in the north. MacArthur publicly disagreed. To Truman, this was insubordination and a challenge to his authority, and he dismissed MacArthur in April of 1951. MacArthur was a popular general, and Truman’s already-weak approval rating declined further.
Truman’s challenges were not limited to international affairs. On the home front, he was struggling to manage a labor dispute between the United Steel Workers of America and the major steel mills. The union demanded a wage increase, but the mill owners refused to grant it unless the government allowed them to increase the prices of their consumer goods, which had been capped by the Wage Stabilization Board. Unable to broker an agreement and unwilling to invoke the Taft-Hartley Act, which was passed in spite of his veto in 1947 and would have allowed him to seek an injunction that prevented the union from striking, Truman seized the steel mills in the name of the government.
The steel companies responded by filing a suit against the government, and the case, Youngstown Sheet & Tube Company v. Sawyer (sometimes referred to as "The Steel Seizure Case") went before the Supreme Court. The Court found in favor of the steel mills, and forced Secretary of Commerce Charles Sawyer to give the mills back to the owners. Truman's handling of this dispute further tarnished his reputation with the American people.
In March of 1952, Truman announced that he would not run for reelection.
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