Since we are parked outside of Kansas City, Missouri we decided yesterday that we should brush up on the history of the 33rd President of the United States – Harry S. Truman. As it turns out May 8 is Truman Day which commemorates the birth of Harry S. Truman (interesting side note – Truman does not have a middle name – just an initial) in 1884.
Harry and Bess Wallace when to the same schools and it is said that Harry’s love for Bess started in the 5th grade (although Bess did not know). Years later Harry, then 26, was visiting his cousins Nellie and Ethel Noland who lived across the street from Bess Wallace. Harry was quick to offer to take a borrowed cake dish back across the street and talked to Bess starting their courtship. In 1911 Harry attempted a proposal and Bess made it clear that she was not interested.
Truman re-joined the National Guard at the outset of America’s participation in World War I and was sent to France where he commanded an officer and later Artillery Battery commander. At the conclusion of the war he returned to the United States a Captain and married Bess Wallace in 1919.
After some failures in business Truman was recruited by the Democratic boss of Kansas City Tom Pendergast (the uncle of a former Army buddy he met at Fort Sill prior to going to Europe) and won a seat as a Jackson Country Judge (which was an administrative not judicial position) in 1922. In 1934 Pendergast backed Truman in the Senate race after three other individuals turned him down.
As a Senator Truman started to speak out against corporate greed and the dangers moneyed special interest groups attaining too much influence in national affairs. He later gained national visibility by fighting waste and mismanagement in the war effort thru a Senate committee he proposed and chaired. Due to the money and lives his committee saved he appeared on the cover of Time magazine in 1943.
In 1944 with the health of President Roosevelt deteriorating Democratic party bosses rallied to replace then Vice President Henry Wallace on the ticket for the election because they did not want Wallace as the President should Roosevelt die in office. Truman was selected to be the Vice President – a position he did not seek or want.
Only 82 days after becoming Vice President, Truman had to take the oath of office as President when Roosevelt died. During the 82 days he held the office of Vice President – he rarely discussed domestic or world affairs. He had no knowledge of the Manhattan project prior to assuming the Presidency and had to make the decision to drop two atomic bombs on Japan less than 4 months after learning of the project.
Truman who never went to college had a lot to deal with as President – the end of World War II, the Korean War, the start of the Cold War, the rebuilding of Europe, and the creation of NATO. Truman created the Department of Defense by merging the War Department and the Navy and later adding the Air Force, along with designating the military. He created the CIA and the National Security Council. He pushed for the recognition of the new State of Israel. He dealt with strikes by steel workers and coal miners and was a strong proponent for Civil Rights.
We started our tour at the National Park Visitors Center (a converted fire station). From there walked to the Nolan House which was newly renovated and contained a number of exhibits about Harry and Bess. Looking out the front window of the Nolan House you can see the house that Bess lived in and would become the Truman home for many years.
We then toured the Truman home. Bess continued to live in the home after Harry died in 1972 until her death in 1982. The home was left to the United States government when Bess passed away and the interior of the home contains many original pieces from when the time when the Truman’s lived in the home after they returned from Washington, D.C. We were not allowed to take pictures in the home.
After a quick stop for some lunch in the center of Independence, we drove over to the Truman Presidential Library and Museum. The museum was full of exhibits the chronicle the Truman’s life and the Presidency of Harry Truman. We learned so much about the man the times from the various exhibits.
Truman is famous for the sign that sat on his desk that said “The Buck Stops here”. I never knew there were words on the back of the sign that said “I’m from MISSOURI”