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33rd President

Terms: 1945-1953
Political Party: Democrat
First Lady: Elizabeth Virginia Wallace Truman
Vice President: Alben W. Barkley

Highlights from the Truman website include:

  • read letters and official documents of the Truman era
  • access a chronology of Truman's life
  • see a gallery of Truman family pictures

Overview

Born: May 8, 1884, in Lamar, Missouri...On October 5, 1947, Truman delivered the first presidential address to be televised from the White House... "Being a president is like riding a tiger. You have to keep on riding or be swallowed." Harry Truman's assessment of the office accurately described the conditions under which he found himself thrust into it. To the little-known man from Missouri would fall the burden of ending a World War and asserting the U.S.'s leadership in a newly-aligned and hostile international environment...Died: December 26, 1972.

Did you know? - Read some fun facts about Harry S. Truman

The Era

  • United Nations charter adopted in San Francisco (1945)
  • Jackie Robinson breaks baseball's color barrier (1947)
  • Novelist George Orwell writes 1984 (1948)
  • Israel founded (1948)
  • NATO established (1949)
  • The Korean War begins (1950)
  • Catcher in the Rye published (1951)

World Timeline - See a timeline of world events during Harry S. Truman's administration.

Domestic Politics

World War II ended on August 14, 1945, with the unconditional surrender of Japan. In Washington, President Harry Truman turned his attention to the pressing needs of Americans. Twelve million soldiers returned to look for jobs, homes, and financial security. Citizens who had sacrificed to defeat fascism wanted an end to shortages of consumer goods. African Americans who fought as hard as their white counterparts to win the war demanded equal rights and protections under the law. The task of bringing stability and prosperity to all Americans, however, would prove impossible.

Read the page on Truman's Domestic Politics to learn more about the post-war years.

Foreign Affairs

On April 12, 1945, Harry Truman became president of the United States and immediately stepped into a foreign policy maelstrom. The Soviet Union had begun an ominous push for control of eastern Europe and across the world, war raged on in Japan. To complicate matters even further, this former Missouri farmer would soon control the most terrible weapon the world had ever known. Truman learned about the atomic bomb soon after becoming president. Now, he agonized over whether to use the weapon against the Japanese. To do so might end the war quickly and minimize American casualties, but thousands of Japanese civilians would die. In June, a committee appointed by the president recommended using the bomb. Truman concurred.

Read the Foreign Affairs page to learn more about Truman's decision to use the bomb.

Presidential Politics

Harry Truman entered the 1948 presidential campaign an almost certain loser. As America moved from war to peace, the economy faltered. The country suffered through strikes and shortages of consumer goods. Two years earlier, in the 1946 midterm elections, voters had delivered solid majorities in both houses of Congress to the GOP. Now Truman, known as a lackluster campaigner, faced an uphill battle against Republican Thomas Dewey, the popular governor of New York. Every poll, every journalist, and even Bess Truman, the president's wife of 28 years, predicted that Truman would lose by a landslide. But Harry Truman would not give up.

Read the page on Truman's Presidential Politics to learn more about his election.

Extended Biography
Access in-depth biographical materials for Harry S. Truman.

Additional Resources
Explore bonus materials for Harry S. Truman, including primary sources, audio interviews, television program
transcripts, and in-depth teacher's guides.

My American Experience

My American Experience photos

Share Your Story

We invite you to tell us your own stories - whether you lived through a tumultuous time period or learned about it from a relative, a book or a movie.



  • Additional funding for this program was provided by

  • NEH

  • Additional funding for this program was provided by

  • NEH