Truman ~ David McCullough ~ 9/02 ~ Biography
May 21, 2002 - 12:38 pm

"David McCullough's sweeping biography of Harry S Truman captured the heart of the nation. The life and times of the thirty-third President of the United States, Truman provides a moving look at an extraordinary, singular American. From Truman's small-town, turn-of-the-century boyhood and his transforming experience in the face of war in 1918, to his political beginnings in the powerful Pendergast machine and his rise to prominence in the U.S. Senate, McCullough shows, in colorful detail, a man of uncommon vitality and strength of character. Here too is a telling account of Truman's momentous decision to use the atomic bomb and the weighty responsibilities that he was forced to confront on the dawning of a new age." ...from the Publisher

Character Above All
Harry S Truman


Inaugural Address

        Brief Biography

Truman Links
Portraits of U.S. Presidents          First Lady Portraits
World War II Timeline                                                                                             Yalta, 1945

Discussion Leader: Bill H

To search the bookstore click on the graphic.

Click on the box to suggest books for future discussion.

Bill H
May 24, 2002 - 11:51 am
Please post here, if you are interested in the Truman discussion

Bill H

Bill H
May 28, 2002 - 09:49 am
I received email from LGrodsky (Larry G) saying he plans on participating in the Truman discussion. Thank you Larry.

Bill H

Ella Gibbons
May 30, 2002 - 06:31 pm
Bill, I hope to participate! Do you realize if you are going to discuss this in October that many of us will be going to the Washington, D.C. Bookfest that month and we could not, therefore, be able to be here also?

Bill H
June 2, 2002 - 11:02 am
Ella, sorry I took so long in getting back to you, but Iíve been off the computer the last few days.

First Iím happy to know you are going to participate in the Truman. discussion I have been reading the book and I do think you will like it.. Second, I realized a few days ago the bookfest is in October and Iím going to ask for a starting date in November. Do you think that is better?

Bill H

Bill H
June 2, 2002 - 11:15 am
The email I received from LarryG read as follows:

"Since one of my friends said that this book even better than "John Adams", I definitely will join the discussion.

Larry G."

Bill H

June 2, 2002 - 11:47 am
Bill H,

If my eyes hold out I will join the Discussion.

I have had the book for years and have yet to crack it open. I have a number of books on Truman. Most interesting is "The Loneiest Campaign." About the 48 election campaign. Very good.

Tiger Tom

Bill H
June 2, 2002 - 01:22 pm
Tiger Tom, I'm so happy to here you plan on joining us. Tom I do think you will like TRUMAN and thank you for telling us about the "The Loneiest Campaign." I'm sure that's a great read. I listened to the '48 election till the wee hours of the morning.

Well now, we have LarryG, Ella, and Tiger Tom. I thnk that might be a go.

Bill H

Bill H
June 2, 2002 - 01:24 pm
I have been reading TRUMAN and the way David McCullough unfolds this biography makes the reading of it as interesting as any book Iíve read. As I read along, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself thinking of James A Michenerís tales. This doesnít mean McCulloughís style is the same as Mitchenerís, but rather the way he presents the bio as a story, especially his account of the migration to Missouri and touching upon cruelty of the Civil War. He keeps the reader turning pages with interesting insights about the varied characters never boring the reader with unnecessary data at least I havenít been. bored. I find myself waiting for the evening when I once again will pick up the book to read and learn more about this President, as I learned about the settling of his Missouri.

I can easily understand why McCullough was awarded a Pulitzer for this bio. If you like reading about our Presidents, donít miss out on TRUMAN.

Bill H

June 3, 2002 - 07:00 pm
I hope you can put the date off until November. I just read the book and will want to re-read before the discussion. I do not know which of his books is better-I loved 'John Adams' and I loved 'Truman'. David McCullough's respect for these great men is all through the story. We just do not have men like this anymore-power, today, seems to corrupt not bring responsibility for others. I hope to be back for the discussion. Wilan

Bill H
June 4, 2002 - 03:01 pm
Wilan, welcome and thanks for planning on joining the TRUMAN discussion. Yes, Iím going to ask for a November starting date. I think most of the bookies will be attending the Bookfest in October.

Well, we are certainly getting quite a gathering

Bill H

June 4, 2002 - 04:21 pm
Bill: As you requested, I have changed the possible starting date to November in the header.

June 4, 2002 - 06:09 pm
I look forward to joining the Truman discussion. Have finished the first 9 chapters and now I have an incentive to keep going. Have also started Hamby's bio of Truman, "Man of the People."

June 5, 2002 - 06:34 am
I can participate....the Truman era is very interesting to me. I was just old enough to know what a 'president' was when he beat Dewey!

November sounds good, it'll be dark and nasty outside by then, and the computer will become my home until spring!

Bill H
June 5, 2002 - 03:01 pm
Welcome, Bibliophile and Catbird hope to see you in November.

The list keeps growing and growing.

Bill H

Bill H
July 31, 2002 - 02:52 pm
The reason for the Truman schedule change from November 1 to September 1:

SN's Bookies will be traveling to Washington DC in October for the annual SN Bookfest, which will coincide with the National Book Festival on Oct.12.We understand that David McCullough will be present at the National Festival and we hope to meet with him there. I believe the National is the First Ladyís Bookfest. For this reason, we have decided to move the discussion of his fine book,Truman to September BEFORE the Festival, to write to Mr. McCullough and invite him into this discussion of his book and to be our guest at the National Festival. Perhaps we can persuade Mr. McCullough to say a few words in the discussion.

I do hope this doesnít inconvenience those who planed on the November 1 date, but Iím sure you can understand the reason for the change. Please join us on September 1. Iím sure you will enjoy the Truman discussion.

Joan Pearson
August 4, 2002 - 02:06 pm
Hi there, Bill. Looking forward to joining you all in September. Ordered my copy of McCullough's biography just this morning. I think we will all find something to enjoy in this book...we grew up with Harry. So did D. McCullough!

We are hoping that a number of you will be able to join us in Harry's old stomping grounds, as SN's annual Bookfest plans to meet in DC between Oct.9-13. We hope you plan to be there for the National Book Festival on Capitol Hill when we will meet with Mr. McCullough. Just click the revolving ball in the heading to plan your trip and make reservations. Or click here:SN's Annual Bookfest-2002

Francisca Middleton
August 4, 2002 - 02:45 pm
I've just begun reading "Truman" (and thoroughly enjoyed DMc's John Adams).

Like Bill, I was fascinated with the beginning of the book, going back to the first settlements in western Missouri and Kansas..and on up through Harry's youth (as far as I've gone so far). Wonderful background to understanding the man.

I also kept thinking of my own ancestors' travels to get to California..not related, of course, but Mc's writing was magical in the way it stimulated my thoughts.

What a gift!!!!! And, yes, Joan, let's all get together and walk exactly where President Harry took his morning walks in DC..that will give us more energy for the BookFest and gathering... and we'll be staying within easy walking distance!


Bill H
August 4, 2002 - 03:02 pm
I have opened Truman for comments only the discussion itself will not begin until September First.

BIll H

Bill H
August 4, 2002 - 03:13 pm
Welcome, Joan and Fran, I'm happy that you will be joining us September 1. I believe this can be a truly fine discussion, as well as nostalgic for Seniors.

I will once again post what I said in an earlier message, for the benefit of those just tuning in.

I canít begin to put into words how much I enjoyed reading the biography of the life of Harry Truman. Mr. McCullough writes this bio in a story form that is easy to follow. The book took me nostalgically back to the days when I was a young man, and I was reminded of the events that were so much a part of my youth. Although I lived through the Roosevelt - Truman era, I never realized how remarkable a man Harry Truman was and how much adversity in life he faced and overcame. As a senior, Iím sure you will recall these days of your own youth if you choose to read this biography.

David McCullough magnificently describes Trumanís years as a farmer, his exploits in World War One as an artillery battery commander that takes the reader into the trenches and the battle of the Argonne. Mr. McCullough tells of the roll Truman played in the Pendergast Organization, and I was held in suspense even though I knew the outcome of the campaigns he waged for the Senate and Presidency. The author presents a very touching account of President Trumanís ride through war torn Berlin and his first look at the Reichís Chancellery the day before the Potsdam conference with Churchill and Stalin.

I could go on, but then it would take the pleasure out of reading the book. David Mcullough was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for his biography of Truman and I can understand why.

The discussion will begin on September 1.. Please join us. I believe you will enjoy reliving the days of your youth, and learning how truly remarkable Harry Truman was.

Bill H

Ella Gibbons
August 4, 2002 - 04:04 pm
Hi Bill and others. I'm going out of town for two days but wanted to let you know I'll be here later.

What do we know about our author? How old is he, did he live through the Truman era as well as most of us? He's got beautiful white hair and nice smile - I don't have the time to look him up on the Internet to ferret out anything about him, but I will when I get back.

He's got a lovely voice and has done documentaries on PBS I know.

Anybody know anything about the man, where he lives, etc?

Ann Alden
August 5, 2002 - 03:17 am
Hi BillH. I intend to be here on Sept 1 to discuss Truman. For you and Ella, here's a clickable bio to McCullough from the simonsays site:David McCullough bio.

I was able to buy the large paperback on site for $4.78 plus shipping. Not bad as it is here and in perfect condition.

I,too, intend to be in Washington DC at the Seniornet Books trip and hope to see the places that Truman frequented. Wasn't he a super person and the book depicts all of that. I remember when Margaret made her singing debut and Harry became furious with the reporters who didn't think she was very good. As a good parent, he defended his daughter and good for him!! Do you remember his piano playing at the White House? And, when he recalled McCarthur? I watched that on our neighbor's TV. My grandmother was very suspicious of him since she had relatives in Kansas City who told her he was part of the Pendergast gang!! "And just a haberdasher! How could he be a good president?", she would ask. Surprise, surprise! See ya'al in September and hopefully in DC in October.

Francisca Middleton
August 5, 2002 - 06:04 am
I have a distinct recollection of the day Roosevelt died. We were having our house painted and, as I arrived home, one of the painters said, very disdainfully, "Well, now we've got some little haberdasher for a president. Good luck!"

I can hardly wait for the discussion.


Bill H
August 5, 2002 - 10:46 am
Welcome, Ann. I'm looking forward to you joing us in September, and thak you for the bio link to David McCullough

Bill H

Bill H
August 5, 2002 - 10:49 am
Ann and Fran,I was in service when Roosevelt died and, like you, we didn't know what to expect from Harry Truman, but we soon found out

Bill H

Bill H
August 5, 2002 - 11:00 am
Ann,I hope you don't mind, but I've taken the liberty of posting the bio you found of David McCullough.

Simon Says
ĒDavid McCullough has been called a ďmaster of the art of narrative history.Ē His books have been praised for their exceptional narrative sweep, their scholarship and insight into American life, and for their literary distinction.

In the words of the citation accompanying his honorary degree from Yale, ďAs an historian, he paints with words, giving us pictures of the American people that live, breath, and above all, confront the fundamental issues of courage, achievement, and moral character.Ē

Mr. McCullough is twice winner of the National Book Award, twice winner of the prestigious Francis Parkman Prize. For his monumental Truman, he received the Pulitzer Prize. For his work overall, he has been honored with the National Book Foundation Distinguished Contribution to American Letters Award, the National Humanities Medal, the St. Louis Literary Award, the Carl Sandburg Award, and the New York Public Libraryís Literary Lion Award.

His books include The Johnstown Flood, The Great Bridge, The Path Between the Seas, Mornings on Horseback, Brave Companions, and Truman. As may be said of the work of few writers, none of his books have ever been out of print.

In a crowded, productive career, Mr. McCullough has been an editor, essayist, teacher, lecturer, and familiar presence on public televisionóas host of Smithsonian World, The American Experience, and narrator of numerous documentaries including The Civil War and Napoleon. He is a past president of the Society of American Historians. He has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and has received 31 honorary degrees.

A gifted speaker, Mr. McCullough has lectured in all parts of the country and abroad, as well as at the White House, as part of the White House presidential lecture series. He is also one of the few private citizens to be asked to speak before a joint session of Congress.

Born in Pittsburgh in 1933, Mr. McCullough was educated there and at Yale, where he was graduated with honors in English literature. An avid reader, traveler, and landscape painter, he lives in West Tisbury, Massachusetts with his wife Rosalee Barnes McCullough. They have five children and fifteen grandchildren.Ē

The above bio was published by Simon and Schuster,Inc.

Bill H

August 5, 2002 - 06:08 pm
I'm looking forward to the discussion also, I read and hugely enjoyed the huge biography of Truman some years ago, it was awfully good, can't recall who wrote it, but gave my copy to a friend, am interested to see how this one compares.

And of course, for somebody attending our Bookfest in Washington, the opportunity to hear McCullough speak is just the icing on the cake, it's not every day you get to hear an author of a book you are studying together speak, it's going to be a very exciting experience!


Francisca Middleton
August 5, 2002 - 09:01 pm
Ginny, the HUGE one? Well, McCullough is 900 that not huge enough for you????????

August 6, 2002 - 10:12 am
You're right, Fran, I'm wrong. It took me 8 pages of B&N books on Truman (who knew there were so many) to find Plain Speaking: An Oral Biography of Harry S. Truman by Merle Miller and at only 448pp in hardback it's just a baby, wonder why I recall it as being so large?

Oh well, repetitio mater memoria est, too bad I gave it away, huh? hahahahaah

At any rate, it was quite good, but it's amazing how many books have been written about Harry Truman, I would have gone back further, but with the antique modem connectin I have, I think 8 pages is enough.

That's a very good book, by the way, the Plain Speaking.


Bill H
August 6, 2002 - 10:42 am
Hi,Ginny. Itís great your joining the discussion. Iím sure you will add so much to it. I believe Tiger Tom mentioned ďPlain Speaking,Ē also. I e-mailed Tom about the change in dates, but I'm not sure he still plans on participating.

The heat broke today here in western PA and what a relief. The wind is out of the NW and the breeze is so cool.

Bill H

August 6, 2002 - 01:36 pm
Bill, hopfeully Tom's eyes will be a bit better, I miss him and would love for him to rejoin us in the Books, he's a very special person. Hopefully he's had good nesw on his eye problem.

Thanks for the welcome, I'm looking forward to it!


Bill H
August 8, 2002 - 12:47 pm
Ginny, yes, Tom was enthusiastic about joining the discussion. Back in May, he e-mailed me that he was looking forward to it, however, this was before he started having trouble with his eyes. I hope heís able to join us because, with his knowledge of history, he could add so much depth and enrichment to the subject.

I realize that some of the readers planning on joining the Truman discussion were not yet born during his administration or World War 2. Sometimes we older folk forget this. We welcome there participation because they can give us thoughts from an entirely different point of view. As we read along, they can point out our success and failures during one of the most important and traumatic times in our nations history. Wouldnítit be nice to hear from readers in their twenties or thirties? Oh, Iíll bet they would have a lot to say.

Bill H

Ella Gibbons
August 8, 2002 - 03:40 pm
I'm one of those who remember President Truman very well having been born in 1928.

You know for years as a youngster and maybe into Junior High (that's what we used to call it), I thought FDR would be our president forever as I didn't realize all about elections, etc. He was always talked about at home as the president and he was listened on radio, so it came as a shock, of course, when he died and we had another President. I probably didn't think much of death then either.

But Truman was controversial at the time - nobody knew him. What do we know of vice presidents?

I had a wonderful day as I spent 2-3 hours at Barnes & Noble's bookstore and came away with the purchase of two books (and many notes of books to get at the Library); one of which was THE JOHNSTOWN FLOOD by David McCullough. This was his first book written in 1968. We were in PA a few years ago and were going to stop at a little museum they have there dedicated to this flood, but it was pouring down rain and we decided to go on to our next stop instead as we were on a timetable.

Looks quite interesting.

betty gregory
August 9, 2002 - 09:43 am
Ella, The Johnstown Flood has long been on my to-read list. McCullough has written somewhere (?) that the flood was talked about often in his childhood and that he would make a depression in his mashed potatoes for the gravy at dinner....then cut away some potatoes for the "flood."


Bill H
August 9, 2002 - 11:02 am
Ella, Thereís a B&N not far from me in a quite area far from the hustle and bustle of urban surroundings that I enjoy visiting. Probably like the one you visit, it has these very comfortable lounge chairs one sinks into when sitting. Iíve seen customers reading for hours--me too--without any embloyee saying anything to them. Iíve watched students bring loose leaf notebooks and do their homework using the reference books of the subject their studying. A great place just to browse.

Joan Pearson
August 9, 2002 - 02:20 pm
D. McCullough is coming to Washington on Sept.17 to speak to members of the Washington Post Book Club about his The Great Bridge...a super fascinating book on the building of the Brooklyn Bridge. It's an exciting story, even if you've never seen the Bridge. You've all heard of it though, right?

Look forward to meeting him then.

August 9, 2002 - 06:13 pm
My dad voted for FDR four times. Before the last time, he said, "The only reason not to vote for Roosevelt is that I don't think that guy Truman would be worth a damn." Truman was largely unknown at the time.

I was 12 years old, summering in a little town in Nebraska, when someone said FDR had died. I thought it was some kind of joke because I had never heard of another living President or heard the word President (expressed in the present tense) followed by anything but Roosevelt. Years later, it still sounded strange to hear "President" followed by any other name.

August 10, 2002 - 01:45 pm
Rambler, I was in 5th grade when Roosevelt died. The principal called the whole school into our upstairs auditorium and announced, "Today, all the nations in the world but two are in mourning," and I remember thinking, "He's wrong, there are a lot more places where it's morning."

Another thing I remember from Roosevelt days, and it's a good example of how impressionable children are and why adults need to watch what they say in front of them, is when an aunt came to our house and said, "Hitler isn't dead yet because Roosevelt looked all over hell and couldn't find him." That horrible joke has stayed with me for over 50 years.

Ella Gibbons
August 11, 2002 - 05:31 pm
Oh, Pedlin, that first paragraph is PRICELESS!

Children are so wonderful - was it Art Linkletter who used to have a show where he talked to children? Or was it the guy who did Candid Camera? Whoever did it, I thought some of the remarks of the children were the funniest lines on TV and better than any writer could ever imagine.

Bill H
August 12, 2002 - 02:55 pm
Ella, I believe it was Art Linkletter who had that show, and I can still remember some of the things those little kids said and the look of surprise on Art's face after he heard what they said.

Bill H

Ella Gibbons
August 12, 2002 - 04:42 pm
Just started reading the Johnstown Flood by McCullough - the man must have lived in the Court House researching old birth/deaths/marriages and then gone to the newspaper offices and rented space there to do research in papers as far back as they had them. It's astonishing how far back the man could have found this information, none of the people could be living.

If he happened on a family that kept records or old photos, it must be like finding a pot of gold!

August 12, 2002 - 07:05 pm
I was just passing by and couldn't help noticing that the discussion of McCullough's TRUMAN is about to begin. What a great subject; and judging by the lively posts, showing great promise of an interesting read and discussion. Having been there ourselves...some of!...a ring-side seat to history, some, perhaps even clinging to the ropes...with first-hand stories to tell!!!

On that account I do have to wonder how someone could pass up a chance at a potential first-hand experience of what must have been a calamitous event, in lieu of reading an account of it found in musty archives and attics (gold mine, indeed), however good the telling.

To actually be in Johnstown, and have the heavens open up, with pouring down rain, and then plead a busy schedule as a reason to get out of town...what an opportunity missed! Oh, ye faint of heart!

How nice to see so many old friends.

Bill H
August 13, 2002 - 10:39 am
Welcome, Jonathan. I hope you are planning on joining the TRUMAN discussion Yes, I do think you wll find it an interesting discussion. And "having been there" you still may be surprised at all the things we didn't know.

Perhaps we will be able to discuss the JOHNSTOWN FLOOD another time.

Bill H

Peggy Cloud
August 21, 2002 - 11:23 am
I have ordered "Truman" and am expecting it to arrive any day now. I hope to read enough to join your discussion when it starts . I also have read "The Johnstown Flood" which I found fascinating. I really enjoy books that "take me back" to the early years of the country and am looking forward to "Truman".

Bill H
August 22, 2002 - 10:34 am
Hi, Peggy, Iím looking forward to the contributions Iím sure you will make to this discussion. I receive so many messages like yourís telling me they are looking forward to reliving these days again Didnít Mr. McCullough give us a wonderful time machine so that we are able to visit this era once more?

I borrowed the movie cassette TRUMAN from the library. Iím not certain it was based on David McCoulloughís bio it may not have been. However, I did find the following quote on the back jacket of the cassette container that I would like to share with you.

ĒIt was an era of tremendous unrest and a tough time to be president. Truman led a nation through the end of World War 2, the beginning of the Cold War, the struggle for civil rights, and the creation of the United Nations. But with whatever decisions he shared with the world, one decision had to be his alone. The buck stopped with Truman when America dropped the first Atomic bomb, ending the war with Japan.

Through it all Harry Truman lived true to his name, ďto serve the peopleĒ not to control themĒ

At the end of his presidency, the movie showed Truman alone with his thoughts in the Oval Office thinking that no other President had endured what I have.

I believe this to be true. Korea could also be added to the above trials. Please stop and consider the above quote and all that took place during his time in office, so many monumental achievements that has had a lasting affect on world history. However, Abraham Lincoln comes to mind, when I think of the anguish he endured during the slaughter of the Civil War and his decision to declare the Emancipation Proclamation.

Bill H

Ann Alden
August 26, 2002 - 08:00 am
My book has arrived and is in perfect shape. Looking forward to reading it. Should we be perusing it right now?

Did everyone watch CSPAN yesterday when they reran McCullough's book talk about "John Adams"? He gave that talk on 9/8/02! He is just too gracious! Hope JoanP can get him to visit with our book group which is working at the National Bookfest this year on Oct 12th. Anyone want to join us? There is plenty of room, in the hotel and on the bus tour. You are all welcome!

Bill H
August 26, 2002 - 01:23 pm
Hi, Ann, so glad you are going to join us. Iíve read your post in other discussions and Iím sure you will be a great contributor.

Ann, I would like to wait until September 1, before discussing the first part of the book. Some readers may not have their copy yet and I donít want to spoil any surprise they may be in for. Iím sure you understand.

Bill H

betty gregory
August 26, 2002 - 10:49 pm
Ann, if you were pondering whether to begin reading (I think that's what you meant), then I thought I'd tell you I'm half way through, about 500 pages, and am thoroughly enjoying it. I know everyone has their own preferences about reading schedule and pace, even though the discussion schedule is posted above. Some like to read along with the discussion and some like to be finished reading by the time the discussion begins. I'm finding McCullough's story-like narrative and meaty details extraordinarily interesting! Happy reading!!


Francisca Middleton
August 27, 2002 - 08:50 am
I'm doing pretty much what Betty is doing, though I don't think I'm that far into the book. But I certainly echo her's a great book.


Bill H
August 27, 2002 - 09:43 am
Hi, Betty and Fran. Great to hear you both are enjoying the book as much as I did. Once I started reading I didnít want to put it down and when I finished reading the bio, I started right in reading it again. Surprising how much more detail jumped out at me the second time around.

Of course, I didnít mean you shouldnít begin reading the bio. Who wouldnít want to start right in reading such a magnificent book. Like I said Iíve read it twice and I still reread certain passages that I found most interesting. Iím sure most of the readers have finished the book by now.

Bill H

Bill H
August 27, 2002 - 10:00 am
Folks, I apologize if I have confused anyone. The posted schedule serves only as guide for the actual discussion. As all of you are aware, the purpose of any book discussion schedule is to help prevent helter-skelter random posting of the book being discussed.

Bill H

Ann Alden
August 28, 2002 - 06:19 am
Hi!!! Betty Gregory? I've missed seeing you! Where and what are you usually discussing?

Bill, I haven't started the book yet as I haven't really had time. So, it will be a fresh story to me, I am not perusing yet!

August 28, 2002 - 06:27 am
Blink blink, Betty didn't you post something about how it might be slow going at first but people should hang on because it gets really super?

I found that quite heartening, if that was you, and I appreciate it, am slogging a bit here in the opening (not discussing anything whatsoever about the book, now) but just a note that it's like reading the OT and the begats, at this point for me, so your thoughts that it gets super good and this beginning part is necessary and important and folks should read ON are quite encouraging, I'll keep going, people seem to LOVE the book, I want to, too!

Thanks so much,


Francisca Middleton
August 28, 2002 - 08:11 am
Without getting into discussion, I think the first part.....

Ooops, don't want to break the rules!!!! Just remind me when we get started that I want to disagree WHOLEHEARTEDLY with Ginny.

'Nuf sed?


August 28, 2002 - 10:15 am
Super, Fran, I hope you do, our best book discussions have been ones in which we can all express opposing opinions cordially, cf. the ongoing Greatest Feuds in History, great discussion.

Bill, looks like you will have another winner here September 1.


Bill H
August 28, 2002 - 11:01 am
Thank you Ginny, for the "winner" hope.

I have to agree with Fran. I loved the first part of the book, especially the opening pages. I vizualized, in my mind's eye, every thing David Mccullough painted with words and what a picture he painted with his writing. I suppose I'm just a romantic at heart.

Bill H

August 28, 2002 - 11:15 am
Bill, I'm well into the book and can't make up my mind about it. Is it harder to put down than it is to hold it up? I've weighed it. Three pounds!...including the begets. But the begets are crucial to an understanding of the man. A thousand pages; but I have yet to see something which might have been left out.


Ella Gibbons
August 28, 2002 - 02:58 pm
Hi Bill - And I won't talk about the contents of the book, but I'm on the POLITICIAN CHAPTER and I loved every page of the book, didn't find it difficult at all, but I'm a nonfiction fan, a biography fan -and a plain man, as Truman, was and remained is absolutely fascinating! So much here to discuss, I can hardly wait!

I have a million questions for the group here to answer, all kinds of scribbles in the margins (hope I can read them) and agree with JONATHAN that the book is so heavy that it is difficult to find a comfortable position to read it in. I've propped it on pillows in my lap, propped it on other books in bed - "propped" is the only way to read it! prop-prop--- how do the rest of you read it?

Joan Pearson
August 28, 2002 - 03:17 pm
Jonathan! hahahaha...still laughing - "Is it harder to put down than it is to hold it up?" Hahahaaha, can you imagine writing a book this long? No wonder it took DM ten years!

Peggy Cloud
August 28, 2002 - 04:14 pm
Well, I found out that I can't read this one in bed. I kind of hold it on my lap. I am new to the discussion aspect of this,,,,,,how does it work? Do we just post when we have something to say? Or do we answer questions from the group leader? Sept. 1st is getting close.

betty gregory
August 28, 2002 - 07:55 pm
Ha ha ha ha hahaha!! It was the book Kindred Souls, Ginny, that I thought was a little dry at first, but well worth continuing to read....that post is in another Book folder!

Well, if you can believe this, I actually think McCullough left out some crucial information, or at least I'm disappointed about some content decisions he made. I'll tell more after the 1st.

Peggy, to answer your questions, yes, yes, to both and anything else you want to write in your posts. Responding to each other is something we keep trying to improve upon, too.


Bill H
August 29, 2002 - 01:51 pm
So many positive posts from Jonathan, Ella, Joan, Peggy and Betty, GREAT!

Johathan, I found it harder to put down, but itís three pounds of entertainment and not as harmful as a three pound steak ) And, yes, the early chapters gave me an insight to the mettle of Truman. What a guy.

Ella, Iím like you I canít wait to get started. Iím eager to read all the posts from you folks,

But I didnít find the opening slow going I enjoyed those pages. I would sit back in my easy chair, close my eyes and visualize all that was taking place, and, oh, the scenes I would see, far better than a movie because I could use my imagination. If you have time, reread some of those easily pages and just mentally picture all David wrote about Of course the same thing holds true through out the book And you know, in those first few pages there was quite a bit taking place that set the stage for Harry the man.

Peggy, post as much and as often as you wish. I will not be conducting a quiz )

Joan, canít you just imagine the research that went into the creating of this bio. What a staff he must have.

Betty, dear lady, Iím anxious to hear what was left out.

Excuse me, folks, I didnít mean to ramble on so long.

Bill H

Ann Alden
August 30, 2002 - 11:08 am
Not only reading but listening to DM who sounds like Walter Cronkite is just too terrific!!

August 31, 2002 - 07:02 am
BILL H: Does listening to McCullough's audio book tape qualify for the discussion? At the time I was going to read the book, I was involved in another discussion on "April 1865" and I didn't have the time to read. I will have to relisten anyway as I have probably forgoten much of what was told. Just finished reading "John Hancock" and am looking for another historical Biography. Truman turned out to be one of my favorite presidents, even though I didn't like him at first and voted for Tom Dewey.

Bill H
August 31, 2002 - 11:47 am
Williewoody, you are more than welcome to join us in the discussion, glad to have you join in. I've read several of your posts in other discussons and and they were always worthwhile reading. I'm sure you will make worthwhile contributions here, also. However, I would appreciate your staying with us as we move through the various parts of the book and not jumping too far ahead, some participants are just now stating to read the bio.

Bill H

August 31, 2002 - 01:40 pm
BILL H: Thanks, I will just tag along as best I can. I don't know if McCullough followed the book in the same order on his audio tape, although I suspect that he did.

I just picked up the bio of Edwin Hubble, the astronomer, who happens to be an ancestor of my granddaughter, Jaime Taylor Hubble. Hope it's not too dull.

Bill H
August 31, 2002 - 04:00 pm
Williewoody, Iím looking forward to your contributions. Iím sure your posts will make for fine reading. And Iím confident you'll be able to have something positive to say about the many posts others will be making. Their posts and your tape will probably serve you well. Hope to hear from you soon.

Bill H

Bill H
August 28, 2002 - 11:05 am
Hello, and welcome to the Truman discussion.

David Mccullough wrote a fascinating biography of the life of Harry S Truman. From his childhood to old age, the former presidentís journey through life is one the reader will not soon forget. I believe any one part of the book could stand by it's self. I found a rewarding reading experience in the very first chapter of the book as the writer described the early settlement of Missouri and the role Indepence played as the gateway to the west.

As you can see from the schedule, I have devoted two weeks to each part of the book. I have received e-mail from readers congratulating me for giving ample time to the first chapter of the biography and allowing an in depth discussion of all parts of the book. As we read along, I hope the schedule time allows each participant to express his views on each chapter. I would appreciate the readers adhering to the schedule because some readers, who received the book late, may not be far advanced and we donít want to spoil their reading pleasure. With your participation, I believe this can be a fine discussion. I sincerely hope those born years after the Truman Presidency ended will learn and appreciate how remarkable a man Harry S. Truman was.

My thanks to Jane DeNeve for creating the excellent heading.

Bill H

Bill H
September 1, 2002 - 05:45 am
As we read through the first few pages of the biography we encounter the term Scotch-Irish. To clarify this term, I did a GOOGLE search and this is how it was explained.

...Ē Beginning slightly in the late 1500s, but in earnest in the reign of James I (1603-1625), the British established "plantations" in Ulster (the northern province of Ireland) wherein they imported Scottish Presbyterians to rent farms on land which the British had seized from the Irish. The idea was that the (mainly) English-speaking Scots, also Protestants, would be loyal to the crown and the British could stamp out the greatest threat to their sovereignty over Ireland, namely, the fiercely-Irish Catholics in Ulster.

North American prejudice toward the Irish was real, especially in Canada, : and the root of it was religion. To be a Catholic was worse than having the Bubonic plague. To lessen the stigma of being "just Irish", rather than calling yourself "Scotch-Irish", it would have been better to use the : expression "Protestant/Presbyterian Irish" or city-specific, as in : "Glaswegian Irish"....

Bill H

Joan Pearson
September 1, 2002 - 07:42 am
My husband's ancestors on his father's side were Scotch-Irish...his mother, all Scottish, descended from those renegades, the McGreggors. We spent a cold, windy, rainy week in the Scottish Trossachs and I learned more about Scottish history during that week...and about the "Scotch-Irish" too. Mary Queen of Scots, James I, Charles I...intriguing the part that religion played in the history of the country.

Firsthand, I can tell you that Scotland is not a good place to farm, although it is good for raising livestock. No wonder the Scottish farmers were quick to take advantage of the move to the fertile Irish soil.

Religion was always the point of contention...These Scots were strong Presbyterians and the English kings never ceased in their efforts to convert them (and the Irish) to the Church of England. Many Scots actually fled to Ireland to excape the English.

My husband's Scottish ancestors came over (from Ireland) in the early 1700's...the Irish immigrated to France...or Spain, but the Scottish came to America in huge numbers...this was the "Great Migration." These "Scotch-Irish" played a prominent role in the American Revolution. Daniel Boone, Betsy Ross were among this group. They were referred to simply as "the Irish". It wold be a century later, that the Irish immigration would take place during the potato famine. These were the Catholic Irish, dirt-poor, living in ghettos and willing to work for nothing. The earlier immigrants were staunch Presbyterians and they did not want to be confused with the Irish. (Not sure when the Truman ancestors became Baptists...will leave that for others to explain.) When the Irish came, the they began to refer to themselves as the "Scotch Irish"...there is no such term in Scotland or Ireland. That's something that came about here in the mid 19th century.

So why did they migrate to the "west"- Missouri? My husband's family were living in the Shanandoah hills...which resembled Scotland's terrain. The west promised rich arable soil..."Eden", as McCullough referred to it. (Missouri had also come into the Union as a Slave-State...this would have appealed to the Kentucky migrants to the west.)

In the opening chapter, D. McCullough describes the Scotch Irish as "workers, loners, firecely independent, fiercely loyal to their kind." These are H.S. Truman's people...the apple didn't fall very far from the tree, did it?

Opal Harriet
September 1, 2002 - 09:13 am
You are so right. It seems to me it seldom does.

I thought the earlier description was also right on the mark - They could be tough, courageous, blunt, touchy, narrow-minded, intolerant, and quarrelsome. And obstinate.

To me these are characteristics of people who have strong beliefs and are firm and unwielding in those beliefs, or to sum it up - those of strong character.

Bill H
September 1, 2002 - 09:19 am
Joan, thank you for that informative post. I agree the apple didn't fall far from the tree Harry Truman was hard working and meticulous in his work from a very young man.

Your mention of your vist to Scotland ignited a memory of mine. Several years ago we toured the British Isles. I was impressed with the honesty of a Scot sales lady. After making a purchase in one of the department stores in Edinburg, I walked off without my change. Then, on the busy sidewalk, in the shadow of Edinburg Castle, I heard someone calling "Ho mister, you forgot your change." She walked right up to me and handed me my change. That stayed with me all through these years.

Bill H

Bill H
September 1, 2002 - 09:30 am
Harriet Opal, welcome to the discussion. You were very succinct in your description of the Scots, but as my previous post suggested, one other attribute could be added: Honesty. Harriet, Iím happy you joined in and Iím looking forward to your future posts.

Bill H

September 1, 2002 - 01:54 pm
David McCullough is a marvel at researching old dusty manuscripts, records and documents, then breathing life into them til they spin out into a readable story. What a gift! I have but one complaint so far and it has already been levied. It is simply that I have trouble balancing the heavy book while reading. That, and the fact that my blasted "floaters" fall directly on the line of print currently being read make it necessary to read small doses before tiring. I just hope I can keep up. I am half way through section 1. Losalbern

Ella Gibbons
September 1, 2002 - 05:14 pm
We all agree, Losalbern, with your assessment! Do you think it should have been two volumes? Did McCullough consider that I wonder?

Take your time, we have plenty of it.

Joan and Bill, obviously you both believe that personality traits are inherited; have their been any studies to prove that?

For some reason I remember Missouri as the "SHOW ME" state; it was rather a joke as a teenager when someone would say "I'm from Missouri, you have to prove that to me." Any idea where that came from?

In reading the first few pages of the book one has to pity the poor women of the plains or wives of farmers; they had so many children and that must have been very difficult.

I remember asking my grandmother one time who was one of 13 children why her mother had so many. She answered by telling me that all were needed for help with the farm and many of the children born in early days did not live to be adults.

I'm of Welsh and English ancestry and what are the traits I am supposed to have instilled in me because of that heritage?

Ann Alden
September 1, 2002 - 05:33 pm
I didn't know what Scotch-Irish meant before today. Always assumed that it meant people who migrated from Scotland, thru Ireland to the US. And, in some cases, I guess that's what happened. The time in Ireland must have been longer than just using that country for a way to a seaport. My own ggrandparents came here from Ireland but when asked about where she was born, my ggrandmother always bragged about being born in Glasgow. Finally after some research, I found that her parents were from Wales(a surprise to this staunch Irish person). They, in turn, migrated to Glasgow for work as there was none in Wales at that time, which would be around the 1840's. Then they moved to Ireland for their trip to the states. They probably landed in Philly and due to lack of popularity, they left there for the border of Ohio-Indiana. Areas around Cincinnati were set aside for the Irish and the also unpopular Germans.

But, as usual, I digress. I have truly enjoyed reading the first part of this book. To come to my computer and to SN this evening I had to build a sort of desk to my left so I could turn pages and check on facts. I am not good at making notes first time through so find myself rereading quite a bit. I used a folding chair plus a pile of blankets to bring it up a decent level! :<)

The strength of the pioneers never ceases to amaze me. I am sure I could not live back in those days. Can you imagine fighting the Mississipps curent for 457 miles just to get to the unboarding spot where they left the boats and walked to Independance? And, unloading all the many things that they brought including their horses, chickens. Building tools, and koorknobs? Not like when we move anywhere.The harshness of the country west of St Louis and into the north on the praries is humbling.

My curiousity about George Bingham's art has me leaving here for a "google" search. And here is one site that tells of this fine artist. George Caleb Bingham

September 1, 2002 - 10:03 pm
Bill, congratulations, on your successful launching of this discussion. And to everyone participating, bon voyage, as you accompany Harry S Truman on his odyssey through history. If the first chapter is any indication of what's to follow...why even the author is so overwhelmed after hardly a dozen pages, that he exclaims about 'this pitiless onrush of history'. Now that's prophetic. And meant to be, I believe. In a 'dirty, wind-blown market town' at the edge of far horizons, an apocraphal event takes place...the birth of a man who will be told by an authority in such things: 'you more than any other man, have saved Western civilization'.

I know that may seem like I'm getting to far ahead in the story; but I think McCullough wants to suggest that to the reader, the great historical role which lays ahead for the 'child, a boy, born in a bedroom so small there was hardly space for the bed'. Why else would he make the statement so prominent:

'The date was May 8, 1884.'

I guess I get too enthusiastic at times; but this man's life-story is an epic. In fact, not since reading the ILIAD, many years ago, have I been so stirred by a book.

September 2, 2002 - 06:57 am
OPAL HARRIET: Your description of the characteristics of the Scotch-Irish ie.

"They could be tough, blunt, touchy, narrowminded, intolerant, and quarrelsome and obstinate. "

sounds so much like the Harry Truman I remember. His famous quote "The buck stops here" when he was President reflects that strength of character. My hope is that our current president can have the courage of Harry Truman to make good decisions in the terrible war we face against terrorist nations.

Bill H
September 2, 2002 - 09:25 am
Ella, the only studies I can think of right now for the inheritance of personality traits is the study of genes.and you and I have something in common we are both of Welsh, English, ancestrey, but I have Irish as well.

losalbern, I think we all had trouble balancing so large a book. I just held it on my chest as I read and that seemed to work fine. Like, Ella, you ought to see my notes in all the margins of the book:o)

Ann, thank you for that great link. I'm a Norman Rockwell fan and I found his paintngs, also, in the link you gave. Bravo!

Jonathan, the book stired my emotions like no other. I always did think well of Truman, but after reading McCullough's bio of him, my admiration for Truman increased a hundered-fold.

Willywoody, yea, wasn't he a courages and tough fellow. He never failed to seize the moment and do what he had to do. Maybe Truman's spirit is watching over our President, let's hope so.

Joan Pearson
September 2, 2002 - 09:25 am
What really interests me is McCullough's frequent references to Willa Cather. We've just finished My Ńntonia in the Great Books discussions ~in which she tells of the difficulties of life on the pioneer. She was also of Scotch-Irish descent...was born in the hills of Virginia, Gore, near Winchester...Patsy Kline territory. Her family migrated West in the late 1800's to Nebraska when she was 9 ... and her writing describes pioneer life, the large families, the difficulty of life on the frontier. So many parallels here to Harry's family's experience. And so many of these same personality traits!

I'm wondering whether DMcCullough was familier with her work BEFORE he came to the research for this book. If feels as if he was. Later on in the book, (excuse me for jumping ahead, but I think it relates to what Jonathan has said about the prophetic aspects found here in the early chapters about the man Harry would become based on inherited personality traits.)

I've been rereading these early chapters right now with Willa C's quote in mind. "Only once did Truman suggest that history....had it's own kind of direction and force - 'the greater-than-man force' that Willa Cather wrote of.."

Willa Cather's work is marked with such determinism - that some things are just meant to be. I wonder if David McCullough himself believes that events in history have their own force that is greater than man, out of his control? Something to think about.

Ella, don't know anything about the history of Wales, but it does seem that DMcCullough is showing us that the personality traits of his Scotch-Irish ancestors have determined the man that Harry will become, doesn't it?

Francisca Middleton
September 2, 2002 - 09:42 am
Not only his Scotch-Irish ancestry, but also their experiences in settling new territory. There are good reminders here of how hard it must have been.. (yes, shades of My Antonia) and that had to have influenced the generations.

Reading this part, as an introduction to Truman the man, kept making me think back to some of my own pioneer ancestors (those who sailed "Round the Horn" or who walked and rode mules over the Isthmus). While I was reading of such different experiences on the prairies, I also thought of the similarities. I'm sure the history of my area, and the diversity of the people who "Rushed in" in 1849, has a lot to do with our liberal tendencies. And while Truman was a Democrat, he was quite different from the Democrats that I know here. I'm not a determinist, but I do think our histories have a real impact on us.

For me this is one more example of how good writing expands our thinking, not only for the subject of the book, but for extrapolating to a larger view.


Bill H
September 2, 2002 - 09:56 am
I sat back, relaxed and enjoyed reading about the migration to Western Missouri. David McCullough painted a word picture of the packed river boats carrying the emigrants and their belongings up the Missouri River so vividly I could see it in my minds eye, and his telling of the painting by George Caleb Bingham, especially, of the river boat appearing ghost like out of the early morning mist made me feel as though I was there watching. Like, Ann, -and I donít wish to be a copycat- butI just have to show these Missouri River paintings by Bingham. I loved the "Jolly Flatboatmen" Scroll down when you reach the site.


Fran, very good post. Our ancestors did have rough going. No Recreational Vehicles for land travel or sea going luxury liners were there for them.

Bill H

Bill H
September 2, 2002 - 10:19 am
I believe Harry Truman inherited much of his strength of character and his desire for traveling from his grandfather Solomon Young. Other than size, I believe Harry, arguably, was much like grandfather Solomon.

I thought it curious, after explaining in detail most of Harryís grandparents and great grandparents, no mention was made of great grandfather William Trumanís wife. I wouldíve liked to have known her name. Maybe I just missed it. Perhaps someone can tell me.

Bill H

September 2, 2002 - 11:02 am
Bill, I'm glad you mentioned the influence of Grandfather Solomon Young. Without taking anything away from the strong, primary Scotch-Irish makeup of Truman's anscestry, I must say I found some satisfaction in the good judgment shown by the Trumans in looking for an admixture of German via the strong personality of Solomon Young.

God knows, Harry needed all the help he could get when the hell and high water days came.

September 2, 2002 - 12:52 pm
And I am enjoying it very much! It is nice to read postings from people encountered from other earlier discussions. Some notes; ELLA, my complaint about the size of the book is minor compared to the content. I shouldn't have done it! Perhaps a two volume set wouldn't have sold as well. ANN, As far as I am concerned, please continue to digress! Seems to me that most digression fleshes out all surrounding conversation and makes it all the more interesting. Bill will always get people back on course if we digress too far. BILL, when I was in Grammer School, we were taught never, ever do any writing in any of our text books . That was a real no-no! But then many years ago I became a devotee of Mortimer Adler's great television series whose concept was 'how to learn' where he strongly advocated a reader to make lengthy notes or underlinings in any book they owned. That was a hard habit to break but I love doing it now! Finally, an impression about the Trumans. I can't help but admire the strong admiration Harry had for his father, John. There seems to be continuous attempt to please his Dad in everything they undertook. A straight arrow learning to follow the flight of another one. Losalbern

Ella Gibbons
September 2, 2002 - 02:53 pm
LOSALBERN - it's a treat for me to underline and make notes in the TRUMAN book for I usually get our books for discussion at my Library and I use postit notes for references. But this book, being so very long, I bought online for $10 and I had a great time underlining - it's mine! I can do it!

Particularly fascinating were the "Mormon Difficulties." Most readers are aware of the problems this religious sect had finding a place to roost, a determined lot weren't they! And most recently, I think they were somewhat embarrassed for their part in the scandals of the Olympics.

But McC's description of the virgin land in that day is wonderful - "clear springs...considerable rivers....limestone quarries, splendid blue-grass pastures and.....the timber." Walnut was the most abundant - I doubt if we have any black walnut trees left in the country. A few years ago there was an article in TIME, I believe, detailing the few that were left; they were being stolen at night from forests as they are a prized wood for furniture and other places in the home.

Ann Alden
September 2, 2002 - 03:26 pm
Oh yes, Ella, can you imagine having a barn built of walnut???If they tore it down in later days. I'll bet they had a great sale of the wood.

Can you just picture poor Harriet Young trying to keep her babes warm beside fence rails and brush.

I love the devotion that Harry poured on his parents by trying to please them but I must be honest here, I bacame weary that he was so perfect. I wanted him to break out, just once. But not with Klan! He did get his way many times eg.the car that his mother paid for after he nursed her to health. Remarkable for anyone!

Bill H
September 2, 2002 - 08:33 pm
The author skillfully wove the role the Trumanís ancestry and the roll Independence played in the settling of the region. Independence, Queen City of the Trails. I never realized Independence Missouri was an important staging area for the Conestoga Wagons and the pioneers heading west. I had no idea Independence served as the jumping off point for the Santa Fe and Oregon bound wagon trains.

My yard is a hundred and twenty feet deep, from front to back, and I stood in the center trying to picture the ninety-feet needed for each wagon and teams. No wonder some wagon trains were three-hours in length from head to tail. A far cry from the RVs we travel in today.

But try to imagine a wagon train three-hours long trailing off into the distant horizon, and even when it merges with the horizon you know there are still more wagons beyond. It mustíve been an awesome sight.

A short story and paintings of the Conestoga Wagons.


Bill H

Joan Pearson
September 3, 2002 - 07:08 am
Bill, super links...the conestoga wagons and the Bingham paintings too. Thank you! I find the whole pioneers on the new frontier scene fascinating...especially the "Morman Difficulties." DIFFICULTIES...isn't that a euphemism?! I can understand why they were not popular in Jackson County...they were anti-slavery...they regarded the Indians "fellow tribes of Israel" ~Jackson County the "City of Zion". But did they deserve the treatment they received? They were harmless enough.

Did you see a recent documentary on the Morman exodus from Illinois? They went ON FOOT! With all their earthly possessions loaded on to carts, they pushed and pulled these carts (they had no beasts)...from Illinois all the way Salt Lake! Women and children pushing too, of course. Willa Cather writes of Nebraska's sunflowers...says they are not native to Nebraska, but that the Morman's on their trek, sowed them so that other Morman's could follow the path to whatever their final destination would be.

Soloman Young had dealings with Brigham Young in Salt Lake years later..extended Brigham credit for his goods. Soloman Young was a man bigger than life, wasn't he? A superman!

I agree with Bill and Jonathan, this man would have a great influence on young Harry. So we add Soloman Young's German traits to the admixture of Scotch Irish.

I'm watching D.McCullough at work here...he's more than an historian, organizing facts, chronologically, isn't he? Do all biographers get so involved with their subjects, that they begin to interject their own conclusions? Here's an example:
" later years he (Harry) would talk often of the "big man" in his background who had made his own way in the world, on nerve and will, who had seen the Great West when it was still wild, who played a part in history, and who - of course-came home always to Missouri. With such a grandfather a boy could hardly imagine himself a nobody." Who said that last line...Harry or D. McCullough?

Bill H
September 3, 2002 - 09:24 am
Joan, thank you for that very good post.

Mormon Difficulties

Missouri was a slave state and the Mormons were anti slavery. When their numbers in Jackson County numbered more than a third of the populaton, it was feared they might control elections. This triggered the "Mormon Diffculties."

As I read about the violence perpetrated against the Mormons following the mass meeting. I couldn't help but think of Crystal Nacht. This violence pointed up the fact that when fear takes over mob rule begins and anything can happen.

The governor of Missoiuri declared "that for the public good all Mormons must leave the state or be exterminated. Does all this remind you of anything?

I would appreciate hearing your thoughts on the Mormon Difficulties.

September 3, 2002 - 11:06 am
I'll opine that the Saints came on just a little too strongly with their notion of setting up their kingdom, along with their strange ideas and life-style. And being well organized, they would have seemed to pose a real threat. With hindsight, and looking at affluent, prosperpous Utah, perhaps the Missourians were the losers after all. Not that Missouri got left behind...weren't we all singing 'Everything's up to date in Kansas City' when we were young? Passing through, Lieut. Truman said, New York City has nothing on KC.

Joan, you make a very interesting comment with your question about McCullough's style, along with the quotation on the role which Grandfather Young played in Harry's life. It was obviously considerable. The early years of Truman's life are not terribly exciting, but still there is always the question of what and who formed the later man, the later president.

It occurred to me that it must have been the Scotch-Irish background and milieu which account for Harry's taking to the 'sociability and excitement of politics'. Later in the book the author even talks about 'politics as a life force'! As for the German influence, wouldn't it be natural to think that Harry owed to that his life-long passion for music? As for the fencing, that was a big thing in German universities at the time.

Like the rest of you I was fascinated by the historical details provided as a setting for much of the book. Especially interesting was hearing about John Brown's activity during the Border War. I've paid a number of visits to the historically preserved Brown farm in North Elba, NY, where the famous bones lay mouldering in the grave. Having always believed that he was unjustly hanged, I was surprised to read about the atrocities he committed.

But wasn't Harry a model boy? In the very best sense of the word.

Bill H
September 3, 2002 - 11:22 am
I am enjoing all these great post.

This bio taught me extent of the vicious and brutal behavior that existed between the pro-slavers and abolitionist long before the Civil War started. The atrocities of Bill Quantrillís Raiders, accompanied by Harryís uncle-in law Jim Crow Chiles, in Jackson County and the Lawrence Massacre were, in proportion, the equal of atrocities in any war. When I was a kid watching the cowboy movies on the silver screen, and hearing John Wayne saying: ď...yes I rode with Bill Quantrill...,Ē I thought, hey, they were the ďgood guys.Ē Little did I know,

Reading about Quantrill and his band of ruffians and others of that day in time, strengthened my belief that in such mobs the primitive emotions of human beings are released and they vent there own ineptness and frustrations on any and all that within reached. When I learned Quantrill was from Ohio, I was convinced his interest in pro-slavery was nil. He just grasped a chance to have his own ďfifteen minutesĒ of fame.

But this is not to say that the abolitionists were guilt free. Doc Jennisonís raids seen to that. There again, Jennisonís rag tag gang exhibited what mob rule can do. And James Lane was elected to the US Senate for his outrages exploits.

I often wonder the terrible risk to the wives and children, when men like Solomon Young would leave their families alone for weeks and even months at time in remote farms and ranches. Iím sure these families were vulnerable to any gang of desperadoes. It had to be common knowledge their men had left and would be gone for long periods of time.

Bill H

September 3, 2002 - 01:37 pm
to know just where and when Harry admitted that he was a good boy by design so that he could "nearly always get what he wanted!" It is quite an admission to tell someone that he watched his father and mother "closely to learn what I could do to please them.." Is there perhaps a little bit of craftiness there along with the goodness? Be good, as a means to an end, eh Harry? Could this be an early indication of a natural attribute to be found useful downstream in the field of politics? Losalbern

Ann Alden
September 3, 2002 - 04:34 pm
Oh yes, Lasel, I saw that quote too and wondered at the time if he was more sly(in a nice way) or just really well intentioned when it came to the treatment and love he showered on his parents.

We read a book about the Lawrence, Kansas conflagration when the Missouri anti slave men decided to burn Lawrence because(I think) they thought it was too close to the border and they didn't want those slavery lovers so close to their state and to their families. There was a real war with that story. The book was very well written.

September 3, 2002 - 10:30 pm
I have enjoyed reading about the personality of John Truman; small, sensitive about his size, his word is his bond kind of guy and resentful of any insinuations regarding his honesty or integrity. A fiesty man with a temper when challenged and yet he had a grin that people warmed to. I understand all of this and the personal respect it begets because the description fits my own father so well. Losalbern

Joan Pearson
September 4, 2002 - 06:59 am
This is actually a very interesting experience...reading ahead (am about at the half-way point) and then rereading earlier pages for this discussion. So much of what we are discussing now will play such a part in Harry's future!

For example, the influence of Harry's family's personality traits. Ella, I don't think they are so much genetic, as they are environmental...values and behavior learned from his family, mother, father, grandparents...from their example and also from their stories. He heard many tales of Grandfather Young's adventures. And Grandfather Young seems to have had the great gift of listening and seeming to agree with, or at least accept ideas and opinions of whomever he was speaking with at the time. No matter how contrary they were to his own beliefs. Look at him dealing with Brigham Young. And how about Jim Crow CHiles! His young daughter, Sarah Ann ran off and married the scoundrel, but Soloman was able to take this all in stride. This is where Harry learned to listen, accept and deal with opposing sides!

(Bill, I learned more about the "wild west" and Quantrill's Raiders in these chapters than I ever learned in school or after! It all makes so much sense now.) <

Losalbern, I can't help but relate to young Harry. Didn't you try to figure out what each teacher was looking for, and then do whatever it took to produce it? I did. I'm not sure I did it to the extent that Harry did though. Even with his parents! Did he ever let them know what HE wanted, or was he always the good boy who did whatever was expected of him? I'm trying to figure out how he developed into the outspoken, forthright man he would become...

But as I read further and see his dealings with people in the Army, and in the Senate, it seems that the secret of success is his ability to listen to all sides of an argument (this trait from Grandpa Young)...and then tell people what they want to hear. Agree with everyone. Losal, I do think this helps in politics! hahahaha...but in the Presidency, I'm not sure.

This morning I came across this little verse that appeared in the Chicago Tribune ...under a cartoon of Truman done up like Little Lord Fauntleroy. (In 1946 when Truman was beset with all sorts of difficulties, unemployment, strikes, etc.) I know it is jumping ahead a bit, but it ties in here with what we are reading of the young Harry
"Little Truman Fauntleroy
Famous as 'that model boy'
Always trying to do good
In the name of brotherhood
Was the leader of his class
Temporarily, alas.

Look at little Truman now
Muddy, bettered, bruised and how!
Victim of is misplaced trust,
He has learned what good boys must.

In the ally after school
There just ain't no golden rule."
David M. went on to say.."The trouble with the President, it was said, wasn not that he spoke his mind to often and too candidly, but that he wanted too much to please, to get along with everybody, to agree with everybody."

Bill H
September 4, 2002 - 09:19 am
Joan, I loved that verse.

I agree Harry's personality traits were environmental.I feel certain his early childhood years of living on Grandfather Solomon's farm and life on Waldo Street --the wonderful times--shaped Truman's tolerance for people except, of course, any remarks made about his family. Any youngster would be envious of this life. His grandfather, aunt and uncle made life pleasant for him, but he wasn't spoiled. No, his mother and father kept him in line, when he got a little too over zealous. However, his mother watched over him carefully. She was the one who recognized he needed glasses and his father instilled in him the neatness that Harry Truman would follow through out his life.

I say this to point out the stage was set early on for his good emotional outlook in life, an emotional stability that served him well in the Oval Office.

Losalbern, your description of John Truman was, in many ways found in Harry, however, I don't mean to say that Harry Truman was sensitive about his size. I don't think he ever thought about his physical structure. Bill H

September 4, 2002 - 09:20 am
It has been of interest to me in the previous discussion, the reference to Quantrill's Raiders and their activities in the Missouri and Kansas area just prior to the Civil War. For those who may have participated in the Discusson on "April 1865" you will recall that, Quantrill continued on his brand of attacks on both miltary and civilian targets for the Confederacy . As a matter of fact this is basically how the war was fought in the west as opposed to the type of warfare carried on by Lee and others in the East. You will also remember that it was one of the basic points of that book which, consentrated on the theme of the final month of the war, and the concerns of Grant and Lee and others that the war should come to an end, rather than degenerate into a protracted endless period of guerrilla warfare in the pattern of Quantrill's reign of terror.

As a youngster I recall that I too, based on Hollywood's version of Quantrill, thought of him as a "good guy." Of course, I learned differently later in life. I sometimes wonder how Harry thought of him.

Bill H
September 4, 2002 - 09:35 am
Williewoody, interesting post, but I wonder more what Harry thought of his uncle-in-law, Jim Crow Chiles!. James Chiles was the family skeleton in the closet. But Hary seemed to have thought well of his cousin, Sol Chiles.

Bill H
September 4, 2002 - 09:58 am
It appeared that Bess Wallace and Harry Truman knew each other from just about cradle to grave. First meeting her in Sunday school, but too timid to say anything. When he changed public schools, she sat directly behind him. I believe he was only about ten or eleven, when he changed schools. They were together from early childhood. But, you know, I sort of feel his cousins, Nellie and Ethel Noland, might have let Bess know about Harry's feelings for her, either directly or otherwise.

I think our lady readers could better explain this.

Bill H

September 4, 2002 - 10:54 am
where the President-to-be formed his scruples for his later life. Strange how easily that can be overlooked in viewing leadership qualities. Bill, I thought your statement about Harry's background to wit, "the stage was set early on in life, an emotional stability that served him well in the Oval Office" was right on the mark. Harry's Grandparents furnished him living examples of how one should conduct his life, as one person noted it, "on the square". Joan, I wasn't smart enough to cater up to my teachers the way Harry did. I think my major accomplishment was learning to look alert and listening while in truth day dreaming elsewhere! One last thought on Harry's relationship with his father. I was very impressed to read the story about the two of them working from dawn to dusk to get the hay crop cut and stacked before bad weather set in. Exhausted or not, when John learned of rain beginning to fall, he and Harry went out into the darkened fields with lanterns to struggle to cover the stacks and prevent possible spoilage. Just hang in there til the job is finished! What a lesson! Losalbern

September 4, 2002 - 12:17 pm
Far be it from me to doubt the veracity of McCullough's biography of Truman; but the question posed by Joan in post #88, somehow brought to mind the bystander who challenged Colonel Crisp's version of the facts (p63).

I believe it is as Joan suggests. The biographer may get so involved with his subject, that he begins to interject his own conclusions. Not surprising, if one considers that the biographer has, as McCullough tells us, immersed himself for ten years,

' the great body of surviving letters, diaries, private memoranda, and autobiographical sketches written by Harry S is Truman himself, again and again, who makes it possible to go below the surface, to know what he felt, what he wanted, his worries, his anger, the exceptional and the commonplace details of his days.' Acknowledgments, p993.

And eventually, sharing the same memories, couldn't one even imagine the biographer correcting the subject on a fact here and there. Or play proxy to the reader. Something like this came up in the discussion of McCullough's JOHN ADAMS, when McCullough put words into Thomas Jefferson's mouth for which there was no source. I believe it was Ginny who noticed it. And yet it seemed perfectly reasonable, like something Jefferson might have said.

In all this, I guess, one shouldn't lose sight of the intent. Did HST at anytime 'imagine himself a nobody'?

Doesn't the statement 'To tell the truth. I was kind of a sissy.' also reveal a great deal about Truman's perception of himself while growing up? I'm inclined to view that favorably as a stage of growing awareness, and comparing himself to Grandfather Young, and the great heroes he was reading about. I get a picture of a young man keen on self-improvement...with ambition.

It seems many of these details came from things remembered fifty years after the event. Observing and studying those around him, to please them, and thus to get what he all sounds so characteristic of a politician in the making. Or was he just observing his grandsons when the thought occurred to him?

Ella Gibbons
September 4, 2002 - 02:22 pm
Joan, loved the poem - "that model boy, always trying to do good.

As many of you have pointed out, this young boy seems to be "a bit much" - my squibble on the margin of one page and on another page another note - "too idyllic?"

And, as Jonathan has pointed out, we must remember that the author is interviewing people that are probably very old or relatives of those who remain, or possible dusty records in some courthouse, or letters, we don't know - well, if I weren't in a hurry, I could look up the sources in the notes in the back of the book.

However I am struck by these sentences and I don't where McCullough got them from:

"But nowhere in all that Harry Truman wrote and said about his youth, or in the lengthy recollections of him by friends and family, is there even a hint of anger or hurt or frustration over his surroundings. Clearly he liked Independence, Missouri, and it people. He liked being Harry Truman."

Who would write or say anything harmful to the vision he left us with as an honest, straight-forward, blunt speaking president?

Again, on page 66, we see more of this: "The Trumans were never a complaining people. It was not nice to tell your troubles, one must always be cheerful."

WW: I remember the conversation in "April 1865" and the courageous decision by Lee that they would not conduct a guerilla warfare and continue fighting in a dishonorable manner.

And, Jonathan, I was also in the JOHN ADAMS discussion, always enjoy any history discussion.

Bill H
September 4, 2002 - 05:00 pm
I was raised in a large house, therefore, I read with interest the writers description of the large houses of Independence. The house that gave me pause for thought was the Swope place, with it's ballroom on the top floor. During the hot, humid summers of Missouri and the lack of central air conditioning, I can't imagine any balls or parties on a top floor at that time of year. The writer described the Vaile house as a Victorian wedding cake and the showiest one of all. I found a graphic of a Victorian wedding cake house in Kennebunk, Maine It's worth a look.

Wedding Cake

For a picture tour of a southern plantaion, view the

Ormond Plantation

Bill H

Bill H
September 5, 2002 - 09:08 am
Even as a boy we learn of his steadfastness. The diligence to his work at the jobs at the drugstore and bank were an insight as to what would follow in life. The perseverance to his piano practice and the study of books was a quality that would also follow all through life. I suppose this diligence was inherited, but I sometimes think it was learned.

In this chapter we are introduced to Charlie Ross, a good friend that would serve him well in later life. However, the teaching of his parents to "...never forget a friend" may have hurt Harry somewhat because their were some friends it would of been well to forget.

Bill H

Bill H
September 5, 2002 - 12:40 pm
Ginny and Peggy, if you are still with us, would you give us your thoughts of "The Model Boy.?"

Bill H

Ella Gibbons
September 5, 2002 - 01:46 pm
Mental illness in the days of Truman's boyhood was a disgrace and not to be discussed and, therefore, it is understandable the shame that Bessie Wallace and her family must have felt at the suicide of Bessie's father.

Whether the father's suicide was due to mental illness, e.g. depression, alcoholism or money troubles, the thought comes to mind that, as it was stated earlier in the book, it was the women who had the money in this family and I can't help but wonder what kind of women these were? The kind that might drive a man to suicide?

McCullough doesn't tell us much about these women - the mother, grandmother and great-grandmother of Bessie. Perhaps he could find nothing? But it is a fact that the father lived in a home of women who controlled the money and in that generation must have preyed on his self-esteem.

September 5, 2002 - 02:40 pm
Hey, what"s wrong with women having the money and controlling everything. I kinda like it!! No way I'm gonna check out on that kind of deal.


Bill H
September 5, 2002 - 03:03 pm
Ella, I believe any man living in a house where the money was controlled by the women would suffer from humiliation, unless he was a neer-do-well looking for just such a thing. But as you point out this was not the case with George Wallace. The stress from living like this probably did play a role in his mental instability. We may never know the insults, if any, he endured.

You stated the author didn't tell us much about Bess' ancestors. Perhaps McCullough believes that if you can't say good about a person don't say anything.

Bill H

Joan Pearson
September 5, 2002 - 03:28 pm
Harry didn't seem to have a problem in the world living with Bessie's mother. Bessie was really attached to her, wasn't she? I was surprised that she didn't move into the White House with them...or did she? Half way through the book and Bess Truman is still an enigma to me but they seem to have had a rock solid marriage.

But we fast forward a bit. I want to comment on the "good boy" who wanted to please his parents, his teachers. We've been kind of hard on him. Look at the reading this boy did! Wouldn't you give anything to see your child read like that? Later he would feel inferior to the Harvard boys because of his lack of education, but I think that what he did as a boy, MORE than made up for the lack of formal education. He read and learned because he loved it. McCullough couldn't have made that up, he must have concluded from the fact that as a boy, he read the Bible twice, ALL of Shakespeare...and the History! Oh, I forget, Harry and Charlie Ross read all 2000 books in the public library! I can't get over the way he read. That alone would give him a strong foundation, an appreciation for the past, an understanding of human nature. (You don't read all of Shakespeare without learning of man's nature.)

I keep looking at his mother now...Solomon Young's fiesty independent daughter that Harry adored...and wanted to please - and can't for the life of me understand ...well, that's later, isn't it?

Bill H
September 5, 2002 - 04:54 pm
My post #108 should read Bess' father was David Wallace not George. Senior moment.

Bill H

Barbara S
September 5, 2002 - 09:17 pm
Just to let you know that I am thoroughly enjoying lurking here. I don't have time to contribute and I do not have the book, but lived through the Truman years, especially the conflict with Macarthur, which made big news here, especially as Macarthur spent so much time in this country. Recently we had a TV series on Truman - from birth to grave. It was fascinating.

Ann Alden
September 6, 2002 - 04:14 am
Sorry, not to have been posting, but I am under the weather once again and probably won't be in here before Monday.

Bill H
September 6, 2002 - 09:33 am
Barbara S, you are welcome to lurk as much as you wish. I'm happy to know you are enjoying the discussion and all the lurkers are welcome to contribute.

Ann, I sorry to hear you are under the weather. Is it flu? Perhaps a little of Ginny's chicken soup will help:o)

Bill H
September 6, 2002 - 10:06 am
Barbara S, you are welcome to lurk as much as you wish. I'm happy to know you are enjoying the discussion and all the lurkers are welcome to contribute.

Ann, I sorry to hear you are under the weather. Is it flu? Perhaps a little of Ginny's chicken soup will help:o)

Joan, Bess Truman still remains an enigma to me. I don't believe the author ever truly brought out why Harry had such a deep love for her especially so early on in his youth. We are told he was quite taken with her from the first time he met Bess. Being taken with someone doesn't necessarily form a deep love. I don't recall reading anything she did to encourage Harry's love for her. Her family would've been enough to turn me away. I'll have more to say about Bess as we move along.

Bill H

Bill H
September 6, 2002 - 10:29 am
When John and Mat left Kansas City and moved to Clinton for yet another try in business, Harry began boarding with his father's sister Emma. Now I found the following amusing. "After several months with Aunt Emma, he moved to an altogether respectable boarding house." Does this cast a shadow over Aunt Emma.? Does it mean that Emma did not run a respectable boarding house?

Harry Truman seemed to adapt to any situation. After failing yet again in Clinton, John Truman moved back to the Young farm, and Harry was "ordered" to quit his bank job and help with the grueling farm work. Even though Harry was twent-one at this time and "could do as I pleased," he threw himself into learning and doing farm work at the demanding hand of his father. This was to the exclusion of every thing else he loved. Bess, his love of the piano, and theater may not have been forgotten, but they were set aside in the interest of family well being. However the long hours of hard farm work did make Harry a physically strong man and contributed to the endurance he would need later in the war torn fields of France and other walks of life.

What a strong family bond Harry had, and, unless McCullough failed to tell us, it didn't appear Truman's parents were all that devoted or considerate to him. Joan, explained Bess was an enigma to her. The strong bond Harry had for John and Mattie is a mystery to me.

Bill H

September 6, 2002 - 11:29 am
Like so many others, I find that Bess Truman does not exactly come off as a warm and outgoing or exuberant person. I always thought of her as being a very private lady, very content to stay in the background. It is interesting, though, to learn from McCullough's quotes that she seemed to have kept most of Harry's letters to her even in the earlier stages of writing where Harry wasn't too certain that his attentions did not necessarily match hers. Still she kept them, nevertheless. Not exactly what you may call a case of indifference. On the other hand, I don't recall McCullough quoting from one of Bess's letters to Harry, or did I miss something? I guess the point that I am trying to make is that Bess may have been a much warmer person than her cool facade would indicate.

September 6, 2002 - 11:52 am
Ann, I hope you're soon feeling better. I don't want to make light of your not feeling well, but perhaps it would be a good idea to avoid heavy lifting for a few days. Allow the rest of us to read to you.

WW, it's better for the economy if men have the money. It's more likely to be spent...on the women...or by the women accessing it, who with their livelier imaginations see so many more needs. Spending it on unprofitable zinc mines, or buying a pastime like poker games! for that ridiculous wedding cake house, the poor guy must have spent the rest of his life and money painting it.

Ella, some of it does sound a bit too idyllic; but there's also a charm about much of it, isn't there? Of course we can always try reading between the lines; or look for the missing lines. Doesn't Truman's early life offer an interesting contrast to John Adams' early life? Not to mention their subsequent careers as president. There are so many contradictions. The mature Truman spoke about the lonely child, and yet who could be a greater 'joiner' than he? He loved his friends, his fellow masons, his fellow veterans. And a man does need his cronies - the Charlie Rosses and the Harry Vaughans - if only to preserve his sanity. Truman seemed like such a well-adjusted person, with an enviable moral and emotional equilibrium.

And like Joan reminds us, the Trumans' seemed to be a rock-solid marriage, despite Madge Wallace's feelings about Harry. I wonder if she frightened off those other suitors who came calling on Bess. Didn't bother Harry, by the looks of it. He had a high enough opinion of himself, or an inner strength, to both accept the superiority of those Harvard boys when he needed them, while scorning them for their impracticality or worse at other times. I suppose, too, if one has a head full of the greats of history one has a greater wherewithal to measure one's contemporaries. And to read their hearts he had Shakespeare! Quite a guy, this Harry Truman. Now if he would only slow down with that Stafford of his, and watch for stumps.

Bill, I can appreciate your reminding us of that bit of prudent wisdom we're all taught, if you don't have anything good to say about someone, say nothing. Do you think McCullough knows more than he's telling us? Then he allows us so much more scope to speculate. And that's always fun.


Bill H
September 6, 2002 - 04:57 pm
Losalbern, I share your opinion of Bess as not being a warm, out going person. I sometimes wonder if she kept all of Harry's letters because of the adulation he showered upon her. Do you think she answered all of his letters? I can't blame her if she didn't. Harry was a writer, sent letters to so many people, kept a diary and even wrote letters to himself just to get things off his chest. But we can't be too hard on Bess. Some people have deep love and affection for their family, but they are just not demonstive with their love.

Jonathan, Harry may not of shown that Madge's temperment bothered him, he did hide it rather well, although he must've felt some dis contentwith her aloof nature, but Bess, on occasion, showed her displeasure with Madge.

I have no doubt Madge's attitude spilled over to her husbnd David Wallace, perhaps this helped lead to David's inferioritycomplex and drinking problem. How would any of you like to come home to Madge Wallace after a days work

Bill H

September 6, 2002 - 05:00 pm
Have been lurking here, and thoroughly enjoying and learning much from your posts.

Bill, I don't know that I quite agree with your assessment of Harry's parents and their treatment of him -- #115. I thnk they had high expectations for him and expected him to do their bidding, but treated him well. They moved from the Young farm into Independence so that Harry might have a better education. His piano lessons were certainly a luxury, something not available to all children. And then there was the car. And when he broke his leg he spoke of how wonderful his parents were to him. I really not trying to build a case, but I do believe he thought so highly of his parents because they were there for him, as parents should be.

Ann, do get well and stay well. We will need you in D.C.

Bill H
September 7, 2002 - 07:43 am
Hi, Pedlin. Welcome and thank you for the post. You make a very good point about Mattie seeing that Harry would go to a better school by the family moving to Independence and also the luxury of piano lessons. But the money she "gave" her son for the Strafford automobile, I feel was an earned gift. After returning to the Solomon farm to help his father. Harry worked very hard. To wit:

"...every day was work, never ending work, and Harry did "everything."
"...they spent twelve hours loading three hundred bales of hay into a railroad car. That night they went back out and covered the hay that still had to be baled. Harry handing up fourteen foot boards to his father..."
"When Mattie had hernia surgery, Harry staid by her side all through the surgery and for the following two weeks."

This is to say that perhaps Mattie was trying to repay Harry for his kindness to her and for the hard farm work. It's true that after Vivian married and left the farm John Truman made Harry a full partner. but, you know, up until then I don't read where he received any pay for his work on the farm, although I imagine he was given pocket money to purchase necessary personal items.

Bill H

Ella Gibbons
September 7, 2002 - 10:46 am
Perhaps we can segue into a lighter vein for a few minutes because McCullough did provide us with some humorous aspects here, notably Harry's statement to Bess:

"When I buy a cow for $30 and then sell her to someone for $50 it always seems to me that I am really robbing that person of $20."

That's hilarious and this is the future president of a very materialistic America!!!

And in his essay on the "MERCHANT OF VENICE", he says:

"though ideal men were few, his ideal man should in the first place be brave; then he should fear his God....he must not be cold, haughty, or hypocritical; but he must have a warm heart and love someone (A WOMAN IS PREFERABLE)"

Hahahahah And I loved the story that Harry Truman would tell the rest of his life about eating the celery, a bowl of consomme' and the lobster! That's precious.

All of you are talking about Harry's hard work on the farm but I note that he disliked most of it - the milking, raking hay (a cussin job), putting rings in hogs' noses and husking corn was work devised by Satan.

But I deplore Truman's bigotry through much of the first half of this book. That, I'm sure, was common language where he lived, but still......

Ella Gibbons
September 7, 2002 - 10:54 am
As I am checking my notes in the margins I see a question I posed and I will pose it here: Did McCullough find it difficult to quote Truman's language in parts of this book? For example:

"His Uncle Will young, the Confederate veteran, had a theory that 'the Lord made a white man of dust, a nigger from mud, then threw up what was left and it came down a Chinaman.'

Furthermore, Truman thought it was amusing to tell stories like this as he tells Bess that his uncle was racist, and then proceeds to say: "It is race prejudice I guess"...I am strongly of the opinion that negroes ought to be in Africa, yellow men in Asia, and white men in Europe and America."

McCullough could have left out these statements, but he chose not to in this Pulitizer-prize winning book.

Would you have put them in?

Joan Pearson
September 7, 2002 - 11:08 am
Ella, he didn't like the farm work did he? It was hard work and kept him from having much of a life...this was a kid doing farm work with his head full of dreams. Remember that book his mother gave him when he was 10...the four-volumes that made up Great Men and Famous Women? D. McCullough says that this collection was not intended for children, but young Harry "plowed through all four of them" - Soldiers and Sailors, Statesmen and Sages, Workmen and Heroes, Artists and Authors." These were the stuff he dreamed on...especaily the Soldiers and Sailors....he dreamed of becoming a great general some day. He especially admired his mother's heroes, R.E.Lee and Andrew Jackson. Especially Robert E. Lee. Included in the Lee biography was a letter to his son, that apparently made a long-lasting impression on him.
"You must be frank with the world; frankness is the child of honesty and courage. Say just what you man to do on every occasion, and take it for grainted you mean to do it right..."
Ella, I think we need to keep Harry's "bigotry" in the context of what he learned as he grew up. He wasn't an Archie Bunker type, but a child and young man who reflected what he learned, what he had heard all around him growing up. Do you think that he was a bigoted man really? When it came to individuals? I think it was a kind of talk that he heard, with the accompanying jokes. Maybe we have to read more.

What I can't understand was the way he left Mary Jane and his mother on the farm to tend themselves. He had done the hard work, he knew what his leaving for the war would mean for Mary Jane. He didn't have to go...just wanted to be a soldier. And then when he came back, he didn't feel like going back to the farm...expected Mary Jane and his mother to keep it running. Did Mary Jane ever marry? Or were her best years spent trying to keep the farm going? I find these actions harder to accept than the semantics that he joked about. I hear from what you quoted a growing awareness of the "bigotry" in his speech. I am not defending the speech, the jokes, but am saying I don't think that he really felt, or acted that way towards men of other nationalities that he would meet in the war, or later in politics.

Ella Gibbons
September 7, 2002 - 01:42 pm
JOAN - I am just halfway through the book, but past his youth and we have no knowledge of whether the sister married or not. Once again, McCullough is leaving us holding the "bag" so to speak. I felt as you did that it was so out of character for Harry to leave his mother and sister to carry on alone and I believe that his mother at one time had to take out another mortgage on the farm.

I'm not sure where that is in the book so may not be correct; this is my memory speaking and, frankly, I cannot count on it!

No, I agree with you that as an adult Truman did not exhibit racist attitudes that I can remember or that I have read so far in this book and, as you said, he was repeating remarks made to him.

My questions was: If you were McCullough, the writer, would you have put those racist remarks in this book? What have those remarks added to the whole picture of Truman?

Bill H
September 7, 2002 - 02:57 pm
Ella, I enjoyed those humorous quotes of Harry's also. I forgot about them. Thanks for jogging my memory. I'm sure I know why he disliked the milking, but I don't want to say here:o)

Joan and Ella, When I first read the racist remarks, I thought WOW were those really necessary.

Missouri was a slave state and old habits die hard. Harry grew up in the environment where these remarks were acceptable and he saw no harm in saying them. Did McCullough have to include them in the biography? At first I was shocked. However, he was writing a detailed account of Truman's life and I realized the author wrote the bad as well as the good. Maybe those remarks were included to show us that Harry Truman was not a saint, but just another human being

Again, at first, I thought Harry's enlistment was inconsiderate. Leaving his mother and sister to run the farm was the first selfish thing I had read about Harry so far in the bio. Upon reflection I came to the conclusion that Truman felt he had to get off that farm! Life was passing him by, he wanted better and, whether consciously or not, he grabbed the moment to leave. A better excuse may never present itself. At least that's the way I looked at it.

Bill H.

September 7, 2002 - 08:39 pm
I have been slowly making my way through "Truman". I am well into the Presidential years. However, I don't find it as absorbing as was "John Adams. Will check in late on the discussions. lizabet

betty gregory
September 8, 2002 - 12:17 am
I respect McCullough for letting the facts speak for themselves on the issue of learned racial attitudes. To leave out important details would have weakened the authenticity of the biography. Since Truman loved to tell stories, I'll bet McCullough's task was to decide how MUCH bigoted comments of Harry's to include. Harry's bigotry as a young man may only have included his thoughts and comments to family and friends, but I think his experiences in WWI were his first opportunities to TEST what he thought. I see his international travel in WWI as a turning point in his learned stereotypes and awful joking.


Before, in a post, I wrote that I was disappointed in a decision McCullough made about content. He tells us so little about Bess and what he does tell is strictly surface level. For example, her comings and goings between Washington and Missouri during Harry's first term as President almost could be summarized in a short travel itinerary, but with little explanation. How is this possible in an indepth biography!! In everything else, we have mountains of details. Are we to assume there is nothing to tell about Bess and about her relationship with Harry? I don't believe it. I'm nearly ready to say, here is an exquisite example of old-style, MALE style biography where work achievement is THE story.


Ann Alden
September 8, 2002 - 05:27 am
I,too, think that Harry's bigotry was a learned thinking but when he joined WWI, he saw other things to consider about other races. When I was growing up, my grandmother, a self taught pianist sang many old songs for us and one that has always stuck out in my mind was racist but also funny to me, the child. It is not PC now and used a few racist referrals but still takes me back to a gentler time in my life. I have the words written down somewhere as to me the music and words are worth keeping. Shows how much we have all grown.

I also wondered about Harry leaving the farm to Mary Jane and his mother but hoped that they were able to hire farm hands while he was gone. I can't see them doing all the work alone. Just remembering my visits to the family farms in Indiana, lets me know that two people can't do all that work alone.

Looking to Bess, she does seem a very quiet part of Harry's life but I do believe that he truly loved her and Margaret. What was it he said, "A man must remember where he came from"? So interested in politics and gaining better and better offices, he stepped out with TJ Pendergast's organization.

The growth of Kansas City back then reminds me of Atlanta in the '80's. When the depression hit the rest of the country, Kansas City still trundled on, building building building! (Red Skelton once remarked while visiting Atlanta, in the early '80's, that the state bird should be the CRANE, since there was one on every corner in the city).

I remember that John Truman was very interested in politics. How does one know that that is the way one wants to go when it comes to a job or a career?

Back to the war, I was really impressed with Truman's ability to lead and to care for his soldiers. Where did that talent come from? Was it a knowing of the right thing to do? Here was a young man(well, older for that day, 31) who really hadn't shown such leadership qualities before. It was as though he finally hit his stride and there was no stopping him. Amazing!

Bill H
September 8, 2002 - 09:33 am
Lizabet, welcome to the discussion. I look forward to your future contributions.

Betty, I agree with you concerning the little he wrote about the Wallace family . For instances, I would've like to know what Bess and her mother spoke of during the courtship of Harry and Bess and a little more of Madge's feeling about Harry not being worthy of her daughter. Most likely she accepted Harry because as Madge told a friend: "I draw my strength from Bess, a strength that I don't have." Madge wouldn't go to far to strain this relationship with daughter Bess.

Perhaps there wasn't much for McCullough to go on. We read about all the letters Harry sent Bess, but hardly anything of the letters she wrote Harry. Just maybe their wasn't too much documentation. of Bess's life with her mother. Oh yes, the sun moon and stars revolved around his Bess. I couldn't help but wonder what would've happened to Harry's life if Bess had turned him down

One glaring omission I point out once again is the omission of the name of Great grandfather William's wife. After searching the index and rereading parts of the ancestry history, I can't find it. Am I to assume he never married? Maybe I'm being picayune.

Hi, Ann. I'm glad to see you are feeling better. Ginny's chicken soup is a wonderful cure all. You asked where Harry's ability to lead come from. Didn't he supervise the hired farm hands? I think it was said he helped his father with the road supervision. Maybe, and I know this is stretch, this is how his leadership qualities started and grew from there. As far as caring for others I think this just came natural to Harry Truman.

But the WW and his leadership of men gave Harry the strength of character that followed him all through life,

Bill H

robert b. iadeluca
September 8, 2002 - 10:21 am
I don't have the book and frankly would not have the time to read it. But the interest is there. As a WWII veteran, I remember well the death of FDR (while I was still fighting in Europe) and how so many of us grizzled veterans cried about that. In many ways FDR had been almost like a King. FDR became president when I was 12 years old. I graduated high school and he was still there. Then I went off to work for a few years and he was still there. Then I enlisted in the army and went overseas and he was still there. It was almost as if he was invincible. In The Stars and Stripes we would read about FDR's meetings -- in Canada with the British prime minister -- in North Africa at secret meetings -- at Yalta -- he was always there and we had implicit faith in him and in Churchill.

Then SUDDENLY! -- he was gone and this very unknown person was the President of the United States. Most of us knew practically nothing about him. It wasn't that he had a bad reputation. It was that he had no reputation at all. And we had lots of doubts. There was Roosevelt with his powerful voice of conviction telling us that everything would be all right. And now there was this weaker mid-Western voice (so strange to Easterners) telling us that he was feeling so humble and that he would do the best he could. Lots of doubt in those days.


betty gregory
September 8, 2002 - 10:42 am
Right, Bill. That IS the next logical thought....that resources/sources on Bess were limited. Then my mind asks, what about friends of Bess, friends of the Wallace family, cousins, uncles, aunts, neighbors in Missouri, friends, neighbors in Washington, newspaper articles at the time, other books, financial records, White House employees, White House documents. But, if all these sources were thin or limited or non-existent, why didn't McCullough say so, just as he reported in the very first chapter that there was less information to report on John Truman's family than the Soloman Young family (Harry's mother)? Just as important to report would be common knowledge rumors and popular stereotypes of Bess, if only to say that author could find nothing to support or document them.

Since I haven't finished the book, maybe McCullough does some catch-up about Bess later on, but that would be odd, too, because it would be a change in style. I can't remember being this frustrated about book in a long time....mostly because what is there is incredibly good and so well written.

Joan, when you meet and talk with Mccullough in October in Washington, could you ask him for us, uh, uh, uh, if information on Bess was difficult to find, or, er, in some way, find a way to get him to talk about Bess and Harry. "To report back to the group who is so curious about Bess," or something along that line? I know you can think up a way to ask, without implying criticism. Or, if you're in the mood, imply criticism!


September 8, 2002 - 11:22 am
Harry Truman seems to have been a good farmer, when he put his mind to it. One of the benefits, he later claims, was the time and opportunity it gave him to think, while working the fields. His Secretary of Agriculture felt that working with mules and other farm animals helped HST when dealing with Congress. The farm vote in '48 was won by Harry's ability to talk to farmers. I can even imagine the President in moments of great stress, shutting his eyes and getting solace with visions of the corn in the back forty.

But he could never have wished that as a calling. (like John Adams?) While still on the farm, he trys several get-rich-schemes, partly, I suppose, to make himself more acceptable to Bess's mother; but more likely as an alternative to farming. When the war came, it was a way out. Mary Jane was peeved and hurt, it seems, when left alone to care for Mattie and the farm. Still Harry remained devoted to her and to his mother, and especially to Bess of course. Photos of all of them, and Margaret, had places of honor in the Oval office...but not of Madge Wallace. Harry had a great deal of respect for her, that unfortunate woman, living with her 'burden of shame'. Whatever drove her husband to take his own life, we'll probably never know; but from the little that we know of Madge, she must have been terribly shaken by it. They were very private people after that. Madge must have hated Washington, and Bess probably didn't mind in the least getting away to Independence and that lovely family home to look after her mother there.

lizabet, it get's more absorbing than JOHN ADAMS, later. Be sure to come back.

Hi Betty. There must be more about Bess out there. Let's find it. Didn't we always hear that Harry consulted Bess in serious matters? Harry was very lucky with the women in his life, as long as they were family.

Bill H
September 8, 2002 - 12:16 pm
Robby, thank you for the post. Like you I thought Roosevelt would go on for ever. I never gave another president much thought. I was in service also at the time Roosevelt died. None in my company knew what to expect. We kept asking one another "Who is Truman.?" and "What happens now?"

Bill H

Joan Pearson
September 8, 2002 - 02:35 pm
Robby, you will remember Marilu Kogan from our Chicago Bookfest? She is the wife of Herman Kogan, an editor of the Chicago Tribune and had been a combat journalist during WWII. Mrs. Kogan gave us several boxes of precious photographs which we have been slow to upload into SN's World War II memories discussion before passing them on to the World War II Memorial collection in DC. Well, Mrs. Kogan just telephoned to say that Bob Greene, a Chicago Tribune columnist, wrote an article recently about Bill Mauldin ...the WWII Pulitzer-prize winning cartoonist...Willy and Joe that appeared in Stars and Stripes Bill Mauldin, has recently entered a California nursing home, and Greene is encouraging all who remember and loved his work to send him notes of cheer to the local newspaper. He is quite "bitter" as Marilu K. put it ...and she thought some of you might be interested in dropping him a line, or a card.
Bob Mauldin
Orange County Register
c/o Gordon Dillow
625 Grand Ave.
Santa Ana, CA 92701
Mrs. Kogan will be telephoning Bill Mauldin 's son, David, to get together an exhibit of Mauldin 's work for us to copy into SN's World War II memories and then pass on to the World War II Memorial people. Wouldn't that be something? She has connections in high places. Recently celebrated Studs Terkel's 90th birthday with him...he's off to Germany for a book-signing. (His latest book has just been translated into German!) He has two more in the trilogy to complete... The man is amazing!

Marilu Kogan will pass on to Bob Greene the information that we will be discussing his book, Duty here on SeniorNet in November...and that Bob's mother is going to be joining us. Isn't this a small, small world?

I asked her for a Harry Truman story (I'm telling you, she knows EVERYBODY.) She remembered sitting beside HT in the Muhlenbach Hotel in Kansas City...Harry reached into his pocket, took out his wallet, and handed her a dollar know the "buck stops here" story...

Betty, I should have asked her about Bess Truman. She's going to call back with some other information...will ask her then. She wouldn't hesitate to say if she knows anything. Yes, I'll ask D. McCullough about Bess, the untold story, or reasons (hahahaha, will NOT "imply criticism", because we'll want to ask him other questions as we go along.)

I'll tell you, if Mr. P had ever considered the presidency, it would have been understood that what went on in our private lives...was NOT fair game for the press. I would have been as much an enigma as Bess...

Ann, I think that Harry's reading...the lives of soldiers and sailors had a huge impact and influence on the kind of officer he would become. He wasn't just reading these stories for entertainment, he was looking for and learning the lessons of good soldiering. I think his reading provided the bedrock ...the foundation, the source of his confidence that would serve through the war and beyond...

robert b. iadeluca
September 8, 2002 - 02:40 pm
Yes, Joan, I remember Mrs. Kogan very well. We were sitting next to each other while we were eating lunch. I will most definitely send a note to Bill Maldin. He helped some of us to keep our sanity during the war.


September 8, 2002 - 03:20 pm
As usual, I am behind the curve in my reading of "Truman" and will tryto catch up to the rest of you good people. But Robby and Bill's recollections of GI reactions to the sudden death of FDR can only be echoed by me. It was a real downer! Almost a helpless feeling of how can we continue to win this war without our Commander-in-Chief? And then what about this new guy Truman? Are we in trouble or what? The only mental picture I remembered of him was not flattering at all. He was some Senator playing an old upright piano and smiling while some some doll posed a lot of leg while sitting on the piano top. This was not a confidence builder for a nation about to go into mourning. But as it turned out, Harry had a lot more on the ball than I gave him credit for. It dawned on me some time later, that because I had turned 21 while in the service I was able to vote for the Presidency for the first time and did so, casting my vote for FDR, his last election, and ....Harry Truman. Losalbern

robert b. iadeluca
September 8, 2002 - 03:31 pm
I'm glad that Losalbern, Bill, and I have had an opportunity to give you folks a united memory. Things change in our memories as the years pass but as everyone here can see, there was a sadness as FDR left us and a fear as piano-playing Harry assumed the Oval Office. Times have changed so much. Nowadays a president can walk around in shorts and act like a "regular guy" but in those days, we expected our commander-in-chief to look and act in a "proper" manner. A constant playing of "The Missouri Waltz" didn't seem the way to win a war.

But, as Losalbern indicated, he very quickly rose to the occasion. Think of the atom bomb. Think of the firing of MacArthur. How does that expression go? "Some people are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them." But that is another story.


September 8, 2002 - 04:42 pm
I haven't posted since #36, because I'm not reading the book.

Robby: Re your # 130: I was 12 years old when FDR died!

I still have misgivings about dropping the bomb. But as they say here in Chicago regarding politics, war "ain't beanbag".

In '48, I suggested to my father that he vote for the Socialist, Norman Thomas, and I think he did so. But we were delighted with Truman's victory over Dewey. I still remember that night, listening on the radio in a dim bedroom in Minneapolis.

robert b. iadeluca
September 8, 2002 - 05:05 pm
And Truman the next morning, after a good night's sleep, imitating commentator Kaltenborn.


September 8, 2002 - 05:30 pm
And doing a very good imitation of H.V. Kaltenborn. (Hans Von, who called himself H. V. because there was plenty of anti-German sentiment so soon after WW II.)

Francisca Middleton
September 8, 2002 - 06:40 pm
Ella, I certainly would include them; after all, that's part of what the man was. The younger he was, the more he'd be a product of the environment around him. And, as someone said, that language was surely common in his area and time. DMcC HAD to leave that in.

It's what we do later in life as we mature that shows our real mettle. I know I've changed... as a young woman, I voted the way my parents did, and believed as they did. Later on, and to this day, I changed politically from their ways.. and became their complete opposite. (Don't get me wrong, they were not prejudiced, or bigoted, and didn't use such language, but their political views were sure ..... well, out of respect I won't say! LOL)

Francisca Middleton
September 8, 2002 - 06:44 pm
I think the spelling was Mauldin. Wonderful cartoonist.

For me the most breathtaking one he did was after the war in a large full-page drawing after Eisenhower died.

Picture a large cemetery, military, stretching off into the distance, and a voice saying, "Pass the word, Ike's here." I am teary eyed just remembering it.


September 8, 2002 - 06:51 pm
'Dear Bessie...' What a charming reply from Harry in love, on being refused her hand. I'm referring to the letter on page 84. I think it's just the greatest love letter with all its unadorned sincerity. Being turned down brings out the best in Harry. It's all the better for not having been written by a romantic (Italian) or a poet (previous letter, p84). But just consider how much thought and feeling went into the writing of it. It sounds better and is more revealing with every reading; and must have seemed that way to Bess. It was written twenty years after he first felt himself in love with her, and eight years before they were married.

It rewards romantic analysis, no matter how one comes at it.

What bliss just to tell her how he feels.

How incredibly high he aimed in seeking her heart.

How gracious she is while refusing his tendered love and offer of marriage.

How considerate of her feelings to supply his own reasons for her refusal. She would appreciate that.

How thoughtful and hopeful of him, in such a nice way, not to accept her refusal as final.

The door is left open; but through it she may glimpse 'all (his) girlfriends'. Far from giving her reason to be jealous, he sounds more than convincing, in telling her that she is the only one he'll ever love.

And the most amazing thing of all. With Bess love takes on, for Harry, something of the sublime, of which he stands in awe, and for which he becomes something more than that 'cheerful idiot and confirmed old bach'.

eat your hearts out, you poets.

Joan Pearson
September 8, 2002 - 07:34 pm
Jonathan, how beautifully put. I think it was Harry's refusal to accept Bess's refusal that made her finally take him seriously. I think her mother probably scared away her other suiters - but this one was...undaunted! You know, you don't have to look far for words from Bess to Harry. Her inscription on the back of the photo he carried through the war...her "come home to me" note was all that he needed.

Oh, yes, Fran is right! Bill M-a-u-l-d-i-n. I hate the idea that he is now so bitter and unhappy after a lifetime of making others smile. The least I can do is spell his name right on the card! Will go back into earlier post and repair the damage. Thanks, Fran!

robert b. iadeluca
September 9, 2002 - 07:01 am
I have, along with my discharge papers, a paper with the signature stamp of Harry Truman which says the following:--

"To you who answered the call of your country and served in its Armed Forces to bring about the total defeat of the enemy, I extend the heartfelt thanks of a grateful Nation. As one of the Nation's finest, you undertook the most severe task one can be called upon to perform. Because you demonstrated the fortitude, resourcefulness and calm judgment necessary to carry out that task, we now look to you for leadership and example in further exalting our country in peace."

My paper is not unique. Millions of men and women have this very same paper in their files. But I call to your attention the final phrase which helps us to see Truman's personality and character. In the very same declaration of thanks for something past, he is already looking forward to the future and is EXPECTING us veterans to continue our proven abilities on behalf of the nation after the war.

Now THAT is a leader!


robert b. iadeluca
September 9, 2002 - 07:07 am
I notice on the back of my discharge papers that I was 182 pounds. I was 25 at the time. Now why can't I use that fortitude, resourcefulness, and calm judgment to achieve that weight now?

Bill H
September 9, 2002 - 09:48 am
I would appreciate all those not reading the book to please stay within the set schedule.

Rambler and Robby, We haven't advanced as far as what you are posting, and I'm sure you don't wish to spoil it for the others.

Bill H

Bill H
September 9, 2002 - 10:25 am
Rejoining the National Guard, during the WW, seemed to free Harry of past restraints. The first election he won was to First Lieutenant. He took the Stratford with him to Camp Doniphan, OK, after his guard unit was called into service, and turned it into a truck hauling things around for the canteen he and Edward Jacobson were supervising. Can't you just imagine the bright red Sratford with Harry driving it around the canp with articles for the canteen. Ed Jacobson was to become a friend for life. While in the Army Harry was to form many friendships that would endure for life, an officer by the of Pendergast was one of them. Not the boss Pendergast, but a stepping stone to the boss man.

Harry Truman had a quality about him that his men liked and I believe this helped him slip into the leadership role he was to assume as a fine officer. A leadership that would save the lives of a lot of his men.

Bill H

Ella Gibbons
September 9, 2002 - 10:46 am
JOAN - that was a fascinating post about Marlu Kogan (sp?) and I certainly remember her as I sat opposite her in Chicago, a sharp lady both in appearance and personality. Studs Terkel and his wife and the Kogan had been friends for years, and shorly after our visit, Studs' wife died. Mrs. Kogan's husband had died 10 years prior, and I'm sure today that Studs and she are very good friends.

Of course, JOAN, we could manage to have a "private" life in the White House if we were First Ladies! Let's talk about that in Washington,DC in October. Other first ladies have managed it, you just need the right people around you that won't gossip to the press. Your husband has the time now to run for office - tell him to go for it! Haha

Looking at a few of my squibbles in the margins (I might get attached to this habit and have to buy my books after this), I was somewhat startled that in 1918, there were 2 million American troops in France, arriving at the rate of about 120,000 a month. The war was over that November wasn't it?

Can you believe that WE (AMERICA, THE GOOD, THE GREAT!) shelled the Germans with poison gas. We gassed the enemy!!! Does it say that in the history books? (page 121)

That war saw the last horses being used; the statistics are rather staggering - 600,000 men, 3000 artillery pieces, trucks, tanks, supply wagons, and more than 90,000 HORSES!

And I underscored this line:

At a different point along the line, a swashbuckling American tank commander, Lieutenant Colonel George Patton, impatient for morming, wrote to his wife, "Just a word to you before I leave to play a part in what promises to be the biggest battle of the war or world so far."

A General in the next war, he was to be a very controversial figure, we were just discussing him in the book discussion: GREAT FEUDS - and the feud between he and General Montgomery of Great Britain. We are considering a new biography of him - a huge one!

Another statistic (they are staggering!) - "2,700 guns opened fire all along the front with a roar such as had never been heard before. In 3 hours more ammunition was expended than during the entire Civil War and at an estimated cost of a million dollars per minute." A MILLION A MINUTE!!!

My father was in the trenches during that war but he lived to come home and later in '28 I was born.

I do like Truman's sense of humor (necessary for a person in politics). He said that he had such a habit of sleeping underground in the dugouts that he would have to go to the cellar to sleep when he gets home.

This war brought out the leadership qualities in Harry Truman, don't you agree? He realized he could lead men and it gave him a tremendous amount of self-confidence.

September 9, 2002 - 11:47 am
Bill, I see the need to stay within an orderly framework of discussion while pregressing through the book. Keep us on track; but you'll probably have to fight it all the way. The book will be competing with the memory of everyone stopping by here. Perhaps you could make a slight allowance for that, on the chance that it will add something to the discussion, while enlargeing the participation.

Don't go away, rambler. It would be interesting to hear more about your feelings at election time.

It seems fine to be reminded of Bill Mauldin, whom an infuriated General Patton wanted to court-martial, while other generals thought him a great morale-builder.

Even better to read the commendation on Robby's discharge papers. I couldn't help comparing what President Truman says there with how Harry Truman felt and thought about going to war himself. In chapter 4, where we are reading now.

'I'll never forget how my love cried on my shoulder when I told her I was going. That was worth a lifetime on this earth.'

Joining up: 'Every day had focus now.' 'One of life's geat moments'...on being elected first lieutenant.

'I wouldn't be left out of the greatest history-making epoch the world has ever seen for all there is to live for...'

Left out! Who made more history in the 20th century than HST? Except for FDR, perhaps. And what a tough act to follow.

losalbern, did you have any premonition when you voted in '44, that you might be voting for two presidents? FDR had already been in very poor health for more than a year. By the same token, when the mantle of the presidency fell on Truman's shoulders, it was a shock for him. Yet he must have been certain for months that he would occupy the Oval Office before long.

betty gregory
September 9, 2002 - 01:46 pm
Rambler and Robby aren't the only ones jumping ahead. I'm guilty, too (as are several others), with my reference to Bess in the White House. I guess the temptation is greater on a subject that we already know so much, even before reading about it. However, Bill is right to bring us back to the schedule (and as many times as needed), partly because there is so much richness to mine in a 1,000 page book about one man. McCullough builds his case slowly and carefully, so we'll lose something if we don't let McCullough guide us along.

As well as staying on schedule, we must make room for the incredible memories of the time...WWI, WWII, Korea, etc., etc. No question, the best discussions are the ones whose subjects inspire many and long posts of personal memories. (Knowing this, that's half the reason I decide to read these history books, anticipating Robby's and others' stories.)

Ok, I'm back on schedule, where Bess is not married yet and has no idea that one day she will be in the White House.

Keep the lasso handy, Bill.


September 9, 2002 - 02:02 pm
Never having been a military officer, I can't say this for a certainty but I recollect that early in officer candidate training, the prospect was emphatically taught the the first duty of any officer was to look after the well being of the troops he/she commands, i.e., see that they are rested, fed and under proper cover as far as the circumstances would permit. In return, the officer could expect the troops to obey orders and commands to the letter. It would seem that Harry Truman took that concept very seriously and in so doing, earned the respect of his men. Harry's military experience was another big step in the making of a national leader.

Jonathon, member's of the military in those days were not well informed about day to day wordly events due to lack of access to most all forms of media. By and large, we GI's had no premonition of FDR's failing health or apprehension of his death. It just happened. To most of us who voted in that election, we knew very little about Truman except that FDR selected him as his running mate because there had to be a Vice President. Harry' position was something like a spare tire in a car. You are not concerned about its qualities until the time comes when you need it very badly. Losalbern

Bill H
September 9, 2002 - 02:25 pm
Betty, we are going to have plenty of time and a lot to say when we discuss WW1, WW2, Korea, the death of FDR and the '48 election. They all play a prominent roll in the biography. And thank you for the lasso. Maybe I can borrow one of Harry's horses to tie it to )

Joanathan, the times you spoke of and the memories they invoke in all of us are well understood. The temptation is great to talk them over. However, if we are encouraged to discuss them now, we will have little to say when we reach the "wonderful" part of the book. When we arrive at those parts and chapters, we will all have plenty to say and I'm sure the participation will increase.

For now maybe we can see Harry off to WW1 and the BANG up job (pardon the pun) he does.when his unit gets to France.

Bill H

robert b. iadeluca
September 9, 2002 - 02:27 pm
Sorry, Bill. As I do not have the book, I was merely speaking from memory, not knowing exactly what was being read in the book. I will try to restrain myself. Truman, the person, is indeed a big subject.


Bill H
September 9, 2002 - 02:39 pm
Robby, your participation in this and any discussion is most welcome by me and all of us on SeniorNet.Your contributions are always worthwhile. I just didn't want to give away some of the surprises in store for us, and there are several things that even those of us who lived in those times knew.

Bill H

Bill H
September 10, 2002 - 10:16 am
Captain Harry's battery participated in the Meuse-Argonne offensive a battle that was to produce a stunning number of casualties for American military forces. It was a battle that according to the History Channels' "Military Blunders" program need not to have been waged. Some military strategist later were of the opinion it would've been just as effective to go around the Argonne Forrest cutting off the greatly outnumbered German troops with their eventual surrender. But you know what they say about hind sight.

Here's one soldier's story of the Argonne action.

Battle in the Argonne

The Battles of WW1

<American Casualties

Harry Vaughn was puzzled that after weeks in the trenches Truman could look so clean and dapper.

Bill H

Joan Pearson
September 10, 2002 - 01:43 pm
Bill, from those links, and from Harry's diary of the action in WWI, it comes home to us, that this war was hell. I marvelled at the mental picture of everyone in gas masks, Americans and Germans, hard telling who's who. Ella, that seems to be how this war was fought!

Well, it was an interesting fast-forward twenty years to hear what the WWII Vets thought of Harry when he became President. Who? "Harry who? Isn't it something that even the Army guys did not know that Harry was one of their own...that he had been an exemplary officer, tested in battle? I'm finding it so interesting to find out exactly who this man was...filling in the blanks, learning who he was before he stepped up to make those hard decisions as president.

I'm still back in Grandview, marvelling at the young Harry who is fascinated with war, dreaming of becoming a great general someday. Please forgive me from jumping at the Willa Cather quotes, but we did just finish My Ńntonia...written during WWI. The setting was Nebraska. Hardly a mention of the war. All of us who were discussing the book thought this strange at the time. But McCullough quotes Willa Cather's One of Our Own in Truman:
"Even to quiet wheat-growing people, the siege guns before LiŤge were a menace, not to their safety or their goods, but to their comfortable, established way of thinking. They introduced the greater-than-man force which afterward repeatedly brought into this war the effect of unforeseeable natural disaster."
Harry DID NOT HAVE TO GO TO WAR. The folks, many of them farmers in the plains, the breadbasket, were told that it was their patriotic duty to stay home and farm. Harry was past the Selective Service cut-off of 31...he was 33. He hadn't been to the National Guard for six years, his eyes were bad...he failed the test. Why did he go? He knew tending to the farm would be a real hardship on Mary Jane. It doesn't seem to have been patriotic duty, either. What then? From what is written here it seems as if he wanted the adventure. He says he was like "Gallahad after the grail," When he was elected to lieutenant during training, he was so excited..."nothing even remotely so exciting had ever happened to me before."

It seems that it wasn't until he was handed the French 75 mil. gun that he began to realize his situation...suddenly he learns he is captain and give a battery to command. Now he has to teach these kids how to use this weapon. He has to prove to them that he can lead them...and they look at him as a "sitting duck." He admits that he was never so scared and felt that he was in over his head. But he learned his lessons well. He does that, doesn't he? Prepares himself...reads everything he can get his hands on, takes to heart and learns from his superiors.

I thought it was interesting the way he turned Battery D from the worst to one of the best. Battery D incurred so few injuries, with only one fatality (and that one not under Harry's command at the time)... It was interesting watching him earn their respect. I had pictured him a little guy, who took after his father. (Weren't you surprised to read that he was 5'8" and weighed in at 151 lbs...and that this was 10 lbs. and 1"taller than the average enlistee? Am I remembering that right?) His attitude, "you soldier for me, I'll soldier for you" was what earned their undying loyalty. He didn't just say the words, he walked the walk. He was never arrogant, always fair...and loyal to those men of his. These are traits we'll see more of...

September 10, 2002 - 02:37 pm
Bill, I certainly agree with Joan that the links you provided that dealt with a soldier's diary,et al, were very informative in setting the stage for an understanding of Harry's environment in that area Meuse-Argonne that was such an important campaign in the final stages of WWl. That was a brutal war made even moreso by the desperate attempt to overcome a stalemate by using poison gases. It brings to mind my reading of the book, "In Flander's Fields" many years ago that told of the terrible slaughter of troops by both British and French Generals in their attempts to throw back German entrenched armies. Unbelievable waste of thousands upon thousands of men! The French troops finally rebelled refused to be ordered into combat until their top echelon commanding officers were changed. It is interesting that Harry's 129th Battalion participated the Meuse-Aragonne area of fighting that was so crucial to the big American push that finally broke the back of German resistance. I feel certain that attitudes learned here played a big role Harry's future. Joan, I thought your synopsis of why Harry chose to go to war was outstanding! Losalbern

Bill H
September 10, 2002 - 03:24 pm
Losalbern, I'm reminded of the poem I learned as a child, "In Flanders Field the Poppies grow..."

Losalbern, f you scroll down to the bottom of one of the links you spoke of just now, you'll find other links that may be of interest to you.

Joan, yes, Harry could've stayed out of the war, both for the farm exemption and his eyes. As we all read he later memorized the eye chart to pass a second eye exam. I was surprised to learn Harry was above average height and weight of most enlistees. I would imagine a tall soldier would feel as though he was in the Lillyputin Land (don't know if I spelled that correctly) of Gullivar's Travels.

He also he was not afraid to make a decision. I refer to the time he turned his guns on a German artillery battery wipping it out, even though they were not in his assigned sector, inorder to save the lives of troops in the 28th Infantry Division.that would have fallen prey to the German battery. He knew he could face a Court Marshall for this. But he deterimend their lives were more important than he was. His men greatly admired him for this action. Seems like Harry would always make the decesions he thought were right.

I would've liked to have read more about his leave in Paris. Do you suppose these are some of the places of interest Harry viewed wheile in


Bill H

betty gregory
September 10, 2002 - 04:46 pm
I think we must all think of Truman as "short," because of how tall FDR was. Then, again, Truman is shorter than the average man of today, because human height has been creeping up. Men in WWI were much shorter than men today. (Think of the lower heights of men playing football and basketball in the 50s and 60s, compared to today. Going waaay back, remember the low door frames of colonial houses?)


Going to "fight for your country" might have been the only "out" Harry would have taken advantage of, to get away from the farm. However, it's difficult to imagine Harry's later progress, political and otherwise, without all the personal growth he experienced in his leadership role(s) in WWI. Leaving the farm to his mother and sister did seem like a major odds with who he had been and who he was becoming. At face value, it was a selfish thing to do. It also calls up philosophical questions about duty, responsibility, love for one's family.


September 10, 2002 - 07:26 pm
Bill, was Harry ever decorated for saving those lives, when he wiped out the enemy artillery battery? He certainly showed a lot of initiative on that occasion. I found it interesting that Harry and his men were encamped for a while within view of Verdun and its terrible battlefield desolation. That terrible battle was fought before American forces arrived.

Harry's stint in the military was certainly a turning point in his life. And he made the most of it, even if the reasons given for going off to the wars make it seem more like an adventure than a duty. Perhaps it was selfish to walk away from his responsibilities at home. I find McCullough's account of this year of Truman's life just full of details which become significant much further along. For example, winning the loyalty of the men of Battery D, all of whom came from the Independence area. Finding a future business partner and friend. Doing Jim Pendergast, a fellow officer, a favor. Best of all, I think McCullough wants us to see Harry Truman thrust into a situation in which he proves himself capable of measuring up to the task at hand.

I don't think I'm giving anything away, because we all know how it ends. Didn't McCullough write chapter 4 with the end of the book in mind?

losalbern, I remember, too, the shock and surprise of FDR's unexpected death. For obvious reasons the serious nature of his illness was covered up, so to speak. Public appearances were rare. Not even at the Convention in 1944, if I remember correctly. But more of that, all in good time, eh, Bill? How much more could Harry have done in Paris? I think he had only 24 hours.

To all, a solemn, memorable 9/11.

Ella Gibbons
September 11, 2002 - 08:13 am
On this day of remembrance, I am copying/pasting Joan's message from the book discussion - "DUTY" - which will start on November lst and will be our very FIRST ANNUAL VETERANS DAY BOOK DISCUSSION (other wars will be subjects in coming years).

"Bob Greene, wrote an article in the Chicago Tribune recently about Bill Mauldin ...the WWII Pulitzer-prize winning cartoonist...Willy and Joe that appeared in Stars and Stripes. You Vets will surely remember him. Bill Mauldin, has recently entered a California nursing home, and Greene is encouraging all who remember and loved his work to send him notes of cheer to the local newspaper. Bill Mauldin brought such cheer when it was needed...he seems to need it from us now. All cards and greetings will reach him through Gordon Dillow at the Orange County register, so as not to overwhelm the nursing home.

Bill Mauldin
Orange County Register
c/o Gordon Dillow
625 Grand Ave.
Santa Ana, CA 92701 (/blockquote>

The book is written by Bob Greene about two WWII soldiers. You may click here to read more: Duty

Bill H
September 11, 2002 - 12:03 pm
Janathan, I don't, recall Harry being decorated for what you write of, but perhaps I missed it. I know he could've faced Court's Marshall for doing so, but it never came to pass. I don't know about you, Jonathan, but some guys can do a lot on a twenty-four hour leave in Paris. You missed the point:o)

Ella, thank you for posting Joan's message and the link to the upcoming November discussion.

Bill H

Peggy Cloud
September 11, 2002 - 04:27 pm
Yes, I am still here. We just returned from a trip so I haven't had time to catch up. I read all of the first section and kept thinking of things I could say. My Father was in World War I in France so I found that part fascinating. In fact, all through Harry Truman's boyhood I kept remembering my family and what they had told me about their younger years. The pictures of the houses and the women's clothes reminded me of family photo albums. I am continually interested in the early years of the country and the people who settled the towns and how they lived....they were my family.

September 11, 2002 - 08:44 pm
Sure, Bill. I get the point.


Joan Pearson
September 12, 2002 - 07:02 am
Peggy, where did you grow up? I'm finding the midwesterners' hard-work ethic and the forthright, direct, tell-it-like-it-is way of dealing with people so refreshing. I don't want to jump ahead, but will say that Harry's ways must have been disarming after Roosevelt's cards-to-the-chest way of dealing with those around him.

Jonathan, I agree with you in your assessment of McCullough's way of handling the mountain of details. He's not an historian in the strict sense, is he? He takes all the letters, interviews AND factual material and weaves a most intertesting story. I read that DM has been called the "master of narrative history". His style sure captures the imagination, doesn't it? This seems to be a combination of historical fact, biographical detail and good story-telling. Reading that McCullough's major was English Literature came as no surprise.

Betty, where are you in the book? ...I'm trying to read ahead. Last night I read several pages on Bess. You might find it helpful. McCullough didn't ignore her. Devotes space to her...mainly saying that she was a very private person..hahahaha..

Ann Alden
September 12, 2002 - 07:39 am
I found to "beau coup" sites about Bess on the net and then realized that we aren't there yet!

I am enjoying the many clickables that BillH has put up here. There is so much that many of us don't know about WWI and the only one I couldn't read was the first one with the print in RED! Whoa! Gave me headache!

Yes, isn't is amazing to find that we, the US, also used gas during the war. It was one of the accepted weapons. I have a friend whose Dad was exposed to mustard gas in WWI. He was a very handsome man before that happened. His face and upper body were just a mess. Covered with scar tissue and lumps and bumps and burn scars. Also, another small male! I remember noticing that when I met him. Probably around 5'7" and slender in size. Very wiry in build. That's how I think of HST. Wiry and outspoken but kind also.

Perhaps its the Midwestern thing, to speak plainly. Almost apolitically??

How did any of our parents or grandparents vote back then? Who were the Democrats? Republicans? I had grandparents who were died-in-wool Dems until FDR ran a third time. They didn't like Truman because of his connection to the Pendergast "gang" as they referred to the Kansas City group. Whoops, I have jumped ahead! Sorry, Bill.

robert b. iadeluca
September 12, 2002 - 07:44 am
As to voting, please keep in mind that my mother wasn't allowed to vote until 1920, the year I was born, and two years after WWI.


Ella Gibbons
September 12, 2002 - 09:16 am
Ann, I also had a relative that was gassed, my mother's brother, whom I never met. She was a spinster (we used to call them old maids, I don't know which is worse!), a school teacher, and took care of her brother until he died. We never met them, as my grandmother died giving birth to my mother (which made our mother a very sickly child and adult) and she, my mother, was given to relatives to raise. They moved to another state and I don't know that she and her sister and brother ever united! Times were tough back then.

Bill H
September 12, 2002 - 09:47 am
Peggy, happy you are back with us. We missed you. Do hope you enjoyed your trip. Peggy, I was interested in the first section, too. I had a mental picture of the first settlers of Missouri and how they coped with their hardships.

Ann, glad you enjoyed the clickables. Can't wait till I see yours. I didn't know Flame throwers were used in WW1 until I watched a documentary of the WW1. I had an uncle that was a doughboy in that war, but he would never talk about it. I asked him once about it and he just looked at me and then looked away. No closure.

Ella, that was a very touching post. I believe it must be dreadful for a child to know her/his mother died at giving birth. Died so they could have life.

Robby, I'm trying to remember the first election my mother voted. I think it must've been during the first FDR election. She just missed the Hoover election.

Bill H

Bill H
September 12, 2002 - 10:07 am
Although Harry felt safe from harm, after the Armistice, he was alarmed when he learned of the news of the influenza epidemic at home. Bess and her brother Frank and Mary Jane and Ethel Noland had it. All this happened through the weeks he had been on leave. Though they were all on the mend, he couldn't keep from worrying.

By the time the Flu ran it's course, the number of deaths in the US reached 500,000 including 25000 soldiers, nearly half of the American battlefield casualties. Half the number of US battlefield casualties. That's mind boggling, when you think of it. With all the combat fighting in France, here comes the Flu taking half as many casualties.Did any of your eary family members have it?

Harry's mother would say "The farm was where Harry got his common sense.' Harry would remember the years on the farm as an invaluable experience. "Ridding one of these plows all day, day after day gives one time to think. "I've settled all the ills of mankind in one way or other while riding along..."

But after the Armistice and before being shipped home, Harry visited Paris two more times, and I was reminded of the popular melody of that day: "How ya gonna' keep them down on the farm, after they've seen Pairee. I took poetic license and changed two words of the melody to read :"How ya gonna' keep Harry down on the farm after he seen Paireeeeee."

Bill H

Mary W
September 12, 2002 - 02:44 pm
As a native Missourian and a zillion years old I think it's about time I gat into this discussion.

Tomorrow I'll write a proper post. It is getting late and there's not enough time to get it off now.

See you all tomorrow. Mary W

PS--Hi, Ella!

Peggy Cloud
September 12, 2002 - 05:53 pm
Joan, I still live in California where I grew up. My dad was stationed in San Diego during WW I and always wanted to come back here. He was from Colorado and had never been West until then. My mother was from fact my grandmother had been in the Oklahoma Land Rush. Ann, I just remembered finding an old gas mask in with my fathers things. Someone mentioned the l918 flu father's sister died in that epidemic while he was overseas. I fear that I am straying from a discussion of the book, and am instead getting into my life story....which is not what you are all interested in. I'm ready to begin the next section and will try to stick to the much as I can.

September 12, 2002 - 08:53 pm
Peggy, you're not straying from the discussion at all. Telling about memories that reading the book has brought back for you says something about the book too.

But Mary, your post has put me into the mood to stray off topic. I'm so delighted to tell a Missourian that once, many years ago, when the kids were six and nine, while driving about in Missouri, on a blistering summer day, with the temperature at 105 degrees, I stopped for gas in Columbia. When I asked, if there was a swimming pool around, I got directions to what seemed like a new high school, with the most glorious pool in the world. The kids just loved it. We all did. We still talk about it. Many thanks.

Ella, I'm sorry. No matter how hard I try, I can't make it through your post (169) without the feeling of being lost in a puzzling family maze...well to be frank, more than just the times are tough in there. Could you draw me a diagram?

Joan Pearson
September 13, 2002 - 05:37 am
Jonathan's right, Peggy. Don't apologize for going into your family history...blame McCullough, he started it by going beyond biography, providing a setting by describing what was going on in the country, in the world during Harry's time.

Bill, the numbers of those dying from the flu at the time is mind-boggling, isn't it? My family was all in the was my husband's - and neither of us can think of anyone in our family history who died from this. You would think that it would have spread like wild-fire in the big industrial, highly populated areas of the northeast, wouldn't you? To read here of the flu in the Midwest (Mary W, can't wait to hear from a native Missourian!)...and Peggy's aunt in the far west, I would like to know more about this flu and where it hit the hardest.

Yes, it must have been more than troubling for the men in combat to hear news of this epidemic at home.

What is becoming more apparent to me as I read this biography is Harry Truman's amazing ability to compartmentalize, his ability to focus completely on the matter at hand, without being distracted by other worries that could easily have distracted him from what he had to do on any given day, at any given moment. Maybe this is what makes him appear unflappable.

He really listens to those above and below him too, and because he can do this, he can hear them and take to heart what they are telling him. When General Pershing tells him to make sure to return his men as clean physically and morally as they were before, Harry takes that as a "command"...which explains why he himself remained "clean" in an example. He was a leader in the true sense of the word.

Someone sent me Plain Speaking ~ an Oral Biography of Harry S. Truman, by Merle Miller...copyright 1973. I'd be surprised if D.McCullough didn't use it for this comprehensive biography of his. Just opened it this morning...looking for something on the flu epidemic (didn't find anything) ~but my eyes landed on a quote from Harry on leadership.
"The best definition of a leader is a man who can make the people who served with or under him do what they don't want to do and like it."
When reading of the Meuse-Argonne offensive, I can understand that Harry got his men to do something they didn't want to do...but did they LIKE it? McCullough does include somewhere in these pages, that none of the battalion wanted to go home until the job was done. Maybe that's what they liked about what they were doing...

September 13, 2002 - 08:21 am
I have been following with interest the discussion thus far. Last night I finished reading the first section as Harry and others are bound for home after WW1. Among those others was my father, Lt. John H. Pike from Washington, MO. He was in the 130th Field Artillery of the 35th Division along with his good friend Harry Vaughan while Harry Truman was in the 129th. So as a kid growing up, I would hear a lot about Truman.

Relating to the war, we have a letter my dad wrote to his sister in October, 1918. As I read McCullough, I heard echoes of that letter. Here is a portion of what my dad said about what went on in the month of September, 1918:

"Somewhere in France, Oct 16, 1918

I won't attempt to tell you all we have been through in the last six weeks...We have been in four drives, two of which will go down in history as the fiercest of the war. For twenty four days, we had no rest except what we could snatch.....After announcing our presence on the front to the boche and putting a number of their batteries out of commission we were called up to the Big Frolic at St. Mihiel. This is where we broke into the big league with a vengeance. The Germans were dug in and had the most elaborate system of trenches and dugouts yet seen in this war. Underground homes of concrete with electric lights were not uncommon. Machine gun nests were everywhere and in some places where we crossed fields we found them mined and had to detour.

For devlish ingenuity the Huns have them all beaten. To make a long story short our division in two hours stormed and took ground that they deemed impregnable. It was wonderful. Our artillery...opened up our barrage fire at 2:30 in the morning. Imagine hundreds of big guns, all timed to the second, opening up at once. The din was awful. Some poor chaps actually cried with pain caused by the dreadful concussion on the ears. Dark as it is at that time of morning one can easily see to read fine print. This was kept up for five hours and then, as suddenly as it started, it died out. Then our infantry went over the top and finished up the job. They are wonderful chaps, those dough boys, and our hats are off to them."

Sometime, in the last days of September, my dad was awarded the Silver Star, for what, we have not been able to determine, because he died years before the family ever knew anything about it. Records have been lost, but we still have that wonderful letter, quoted above, that gives us an idea, more than 80 years later, of what it was like to be in that war.

Bill H
September 13, 2002 - 08:36 am
Mary W, Welcome and thank you for joining the discussion. I'm sure we all would all like to know what a native Missourian has to say about the Truman biography.

Piker, hi and welcome to you also. Thank you for sharing your father's letter with us. It appears your dad had his share of combat. His letter spoke multitudes about the agony of war. I'm positive you are more than proud of father being awarded the Silver Star. Sharing things like that and the memories Peggy wrote of make a great discussion.

Seems like we are getting a lot of fresh voices in the discussion and their input is most welcome.

Before we move on to Part 2 on the sixteenth (The Politician), it would be interesting to hear your thoughts on how McCullough handled Part One of the book. What could he have given us more of and, by the same token, what could he have written less about?

Bill H

Ella Gibbons
September 13, 2002 - 12:33 pm

Jonathan, the complexity of family relationships is not all that important I just wanted to say that fellows did come from that war broken, both mentally and physically, as they do in all wars. It's heart-breaking.

PIKER: Thanks for sharing that letter and like all G.I.'s I noticed he called a battle the "BIG FOLIC" and later said it was "wonderful." While you are reading it, you know it wasn't; there were dead bodies all around and the fear and sweat was noticeable in those young faces. Gotta be! But he was writing home and didn't want people to know of the bad parts, didn't want them worrying. That's a soldier!

September 13, 2002 - 01:11 pm
Bill, all in all I think McCullough has made a great beginning to his story of the remarkable life of Harry Truman, especially so because the first half of Truman's life is so unremarkable.

I'm taking a lead from Joan, with my use of the word 'story'. She put it so well in an earlier post (166) I think it's worth keeping in mind:

D M 'is not an historian in the strictest sense...he weaves a most interesting story. (He's) called a "master of narrative history"...his style captures the imagination...(which) seems to be a combination of historical fact, biographical detail and good story-telling.' And Joan adds that DM's major was English Literature.

I sensed something like that myself, and was pleased to see it so succinctly described. I get the impression that you, too, are getting the 'big picture' of the book.

I find something running through my mind: history is too important to be left to the historians. Awareness of history, for practical purposes, is a creative process; and who is better qualified to write it than a person versed in the classics? Well, a lot more could be said about that. I felt it was a bit far out when I talked about TRUMAN in the same breath with The Iliad, but given the scale of the events in which Harry Truman was caught up, why not?

And how about the style of Edmund Morris' DUTCH'? No literary classic comes to mind for comparison purposes. But now I'm straying. Let's proceed to Part II.

September 13, 2002 - 01:13 pm
Ella, I missed the point again. Thanks.

Bill H
September 13, 2002 - 02:24 pm
Jonathan, thank you for the very good post. I'm looking forward to others sharing there reflections about Part One.

Bill H

Mary W
September 13, 2002 - 03:53 pm
It has been ten years since I read McCoullough's "Truman" As yet I haven't had achance to start re-reading it. This will be about Missouri and some personal reflections. I'll try to catch up with you but if I don't I'll stay current. I remember much of WW1 and haven't missed too much.

I was born in St. Louis, Mo. in 1915 (do the math). By 1918 I was a bright little three year old- able to converse with adults and certainly to undestand everything they said. My father was turned down by the military because he was extremely near-sighted and had feet as flat as the Texas prairie upon which I now live. Except for a last gasp of the cavalry WW1 was a war waged by infantry and they couldn't accomodate those with fallen arches. My three uncles were, however, in the war. I visited one uncle at Fort McPherson near Atlanta, Georgia where we visited my maternal grandparents every summer.Must have been 1919 before he was mustered out. So. you see, I remember much of those years-Including a lot of songs besides "How You Gonna Keep 'Em Down on the Farm" and some really dirty ones one uncle brought back and sang in front of us. Of course I remembered all the words.I can never the Flu Epidemic. My father nearly died from it but was one, thankfully, of not many who survived

Truman was born ony 20 plus years after the Civil War. His world did not change as rapidly as it does today. Missouri was admitted as a slave state. The Dred Scott Decision was handed down in St. Louis. All of the southern part of the state and nearly all of the rural areas except the northern part of the state considered themselves to be southern. Everything in their lives reflected it-manners, mores, even food. Remember it was Bess Truman who rid the White House of the Rooseveltian cold hard rolls and requested biscuits-even provided her own recipe for them. I believe Harry Truman was a product of hs environment, schooling and heredity. His vistas were limiyed in that confining world and only expanded as he read, learned and left his origins into a larger world. Military service was simply the first step. It is true that he left his mother and sister with the farm but it is unrealistic to believe that they could possibly have worked a farm without help.

In 1045 my husband, our five year son and I were living in Kansas City. I was very pregnant and preparing dinner at arm's length from the stove when my husband came in and told me of Roosevelt's death. I burst into tears-I was one of those who loved him and then said"my God! now we have Truman". It was anguished and despairing. I had always considered him a sort of coat-tail politician of Pendergast.I was dead wrong as I later learned.

It is my opinion that Truman was not a bigot or racist. He spoke the language of his peers with whom he had grown up. Some of you must recall Bess' deathless "You don't know how long it took me to get him to say manure".He was the first to effect desegration in the arned forces. I think innately he was sympathetic and empathetic towards others. The Marshall Plan was actually the Truman Plan. It was given Marshalls name to expedite its wonderful work. He became one of only a few prsidents to bring about changes not only in this country but throughout the world.

When I learned about this group I knew that the book was here somewhere and suddenly remembered another book about the Trumans. I couldn't remember the title but told my intrepid hunter son, Ken that it was written by Margarete Truman. He found them both in this jungle of books in our house. The title of the book is "Bess w. Truman". It was published in 1986 by Macmillan. Probably out of print and I don'tremember much about it any longer. I believe that Margaret

Mary W
September 13, 2002 - 04:29 pm
What happened?

to continue----Truman wrote a book about her father as well. Probable title "Harry Truman".

Sorry this is so long. All the left out words and flubs are result of needing new glasses.

Mary W

Barbara S
September 13, 2002 - 04:43 pm
I am not in a position to join this discussion as I do not have the book. But suffice to say that I am finding the conversations riveting and will be lurking until the end.

barbara s

Ann Alden
September 13, 2002 - 05:42 pm
B>BarbarS, if you want a copy of this book, look on the used book sites, even Amazon and Barnes&Noble have them. I got my book for practically nothing. And, I am sure that there are used shops in Australia that are listed also on the net. Can't remember the newest used site but Amazon has always had something listed for me. I hope you will try it!

All of these posts from people who have lived in that time or known people who lived then are so fascinating. I loved Mary's and piker's tales of Missouri.

My grandmother and mother(six at the time) almost died during the flu epidemic and it left my mother with the problem of asthma which never quite left her. I can remember her sitting up during the "hay fever" season every year, sleeping in a chair in the living room. All sorts of things were tried but nothing really helped. I remember something glass having red liquid in it, bulb shaped at one end, that she used to inhale.

I love Harry's mother's remark about Harry getting his strength of character while on the farm. Wasn't she a true mid-westerner?

September 14, 2002 - 07:11 am
Sorry I haven't been able to contribute more, but I too do not have the book. Tried to get McCulloughs audio tape, but it is checked out from the local library. I am enjoying the discussion just the same. At the time I didn't think too much about it, but Truman's decision to drop the bomb quite possibly saved my life along with 100's of thousands of others. At the time I was on Saipan in the 2nd Marine Division, which was slated to be an assult group landing on the southern island of Kyushu. During the occupation period we saw the beaches where we were to land and it would have been murderous, they were so heavily fortified. In my first opportunity to vote after returning home I voted for Tom Dewey, I guess because I felt we needed a change of parties after a long Democratic reign. However, I must admit that I have always felt that Harry Truman was one of our best presidents.

Bill H
September 14, 2002 - 10:05 am
Mary W, Thank you so much for your informative post, and I congratulate you on your longevity. Living in Missouri gives you an excellent feel for this biography. Please let us hear more from you.

Barbara S, even though you don't have the book, please feel free to make comments on our posts and the thoughts they present to you.

Williewoody, same thing I'm sure these posts provoke thoughts in your mind that you can comment on.

Ann, yes Mattie was a very matter of fact lady in her conversations. By the way, Ann, how do you feel about the way McCullough presented Part One of the bio.

Bill H

Joan Pearson
September 14, 2002 - 11:02 am
Bill, that's an interesting question...about the manner in which DM presented the first part of the book. I know some, (was it you, Ginny?) found it slow-going through the "begats"...but can see the reasons why so much was written of Truman's ancestral tree. I guess I don't understand a man like Truman...but having read of his people, I see where the traits came from. Sometimes he seemed like the "little Lord Fauntleroy" the poem. I don't see any mischief-making.Did he ever have fun? He was a serious child, who wanted to please those around him...but I don't sense his "feelings" about living like this. Did you conclude as I did, that he enjoyed his childhood the books that he read?

He works very hard to keep the farm going, and yet he wanted he leaves it to mama and his sister to run. Mary Jane comes down with the flu... McCullough writes that Harry is worried about the influenza epidemic back home, but his letters are full of the sights of Pareee at the same time.
To get an idea of the magnitude of the flu epidemic, look here - Flu What is amazing is that it was the young people who contracted it...between 20-40. In October, 1918, 675,000 people died in the US alone. Throughout the world...30-40 million people!.
Harry seems to have a lot of friends, and yet no close friends in the battalion. Perhaps because he's older than the others, he must be more responsible. Did he have any close frieds that you remember reading about?

I guess I'm saying that there are times that I don't understand what makes Harry tick and must rely on McCullough to expain his actions. I DO think that knowing the family background and the history of the time are important in "translating" the man who would be president.

Mary W....I loved reading of your life in Missouri. Please stick around. I'd love to hear what Margaret has to say about her mother and relationship with her father. I read ahead and see that Mr. McCullough does have more to say about her in later chapters.

Enjoy your weekend!

Bill H
September 14, 2002 - 12:16 pm
Joan, the first graphic in your Flu link brought out the significance of the epidemic.

In answer to your question about Harry's best friend in his youth: He had a "gang" of friends...."yet as much as he liked them all, Harry had no best pal among the boys. His only close friends remained his girl cousins Ethel and Nellie Noland. So I don't suppose he had a best friend.

Bill H

September 14, 2002 - 12:24 pm
One of my uncles served in France during World War I. In the late 1990's, a family member alerted my brother (who lived closest to my uncle) that in commemoration of the 80th anniversary of the armistice, the French Governemtn was awarding the Legion of Honor Medal to all U.S. veterans who had served in France during World War I.

My brother helped my uncle with the paperwork, and the snafus -- his service records had been lost in a fire, the French Embassy lost the application, but in late 1999 he was due to be presented with the medal -- in his hospital room, as he had suffered a heart attack. He was ready and waiting, dressed in his best paisley robe, but no one came -- there was another delay. "Well, I'll just have to live another week," he said, but died two weeks later. However, with the help of a senator and other officials the medal arrived pothumously.

I don't know how many medals were awarded, but my brother was told originally that they were to go only to living veterans, and of course there aren't too many left. When my uncle died in late 1999 at the age of 102 he was the last World War I vet in his home county.

Bill H
September 14, 2002 - 01:23 pm
Pedlin, I could just feel your uncle's disappointment, how crushed he must've felt. Did they ever explain why they didn't visit the hospital with your uncle's medal? And thank you for the link that also led to other links at the bottom of the page. There are several that are worth visiting especially the link taking us to the History of the French Legion of Honor.

Bill H

September 14, 2002 - 07:44 pm
How very interesting Mary W. And how generous of Give-'em-hell Harry to make that concession to the linguistic sensibilities of his wife. How considerate and sensitive, IMO, because I'm convinced the word 'manure' would never convey half of what he was trying to say with it.

Bill's question about our feelings about the first part of the book, and Joan's reply in the form of musings on how well, or not, we've gotten to know the young Harry Truman, sent me off looking for more information. By and large I'm impressed by McCullough's selection of materials and by his way of presenting them. Objectively on the whole, leaving it to the reader to come to her/his own conclusions. If the impressions of Harry remain inconclusive at this point, doesn't that speak well for the artistry of the author, and the complexity of his subject? It was the questions about the content of the letters between Bess and Harry, while he was in France, specifically, on the subject of the influenza epidemic, on the one hand, and Harry's enjoyment of Paree on the other, that made me want to find more. It seems to me that McCullough got most of it into his splendid chapter 4. But browsing about in DEAR BESS, letters edited by R H Ferrell, I found more revealing, endearing, informative letters from Harry. Here are some random excerpts, all from 'Somewhere in France', addressed to Dear Bess:

'October 11, 1918...I wish I could have gone to Lone Jack with you on your hunt for a chicken dinner. I'd have taken you through Lee's Summit and about eight miles west, where I know there are chickens - and a good old mother who can cook them - and we'd have had a real chicken dinner without any expense whatever.'

'October 30, 1918...We sit around these Battery positions and wait for something to shoot at and make maps and do so many things that are necessary and a lot that are not that I sometimes don't know straight up from crossways. You know the Battery commander is the man to whom "the buck" is passed both going up and coming down, and he's got to watch his P's and Q's mighty smartly if they don't succeed in getting something on him. So far I've been very lucky in that I have had no one gassed, have not been shelled in any of my positions (and I've occupied several in the last month), and I haven't shot up our infantry yet - at least haven't done it so they could catch me at it.'

'November 1, 1918...I got a letter of Commendation, capital C, from the commanding general of the 35th Division. The ordinance repair department made a report to him that I had the best-conditioned guns after the drive (Meuse-Argonne?) that he had seen in France. The general wrote me a letter about it. My chief mechanic is to blame, not me. He knows more about guns than the French themselves (they were French guns). As usual in such cases, the C.O. gets the credit. I think I shall put an endorsement on the letter stating the ability of my chief mechanic and stick it in the files anyway. I am going to keep the original letter for my own personal and private use. It will be nice to have someday if some low-browed north-end politician tries to remark that I wasn't in the war when I'm running for eastern judge or something.'

'November 2, 1918...Mary tells me that she was elected to be treasurer of the 129th Auxilliary without a dissenting voice, which is very nice. She also seems to be on the point of purchasing a Dodge coupe. Well, I don't care if she does, but I'll bet four bits she backs out when it comes to handing out the money for it...She said she purchased a couple of Liberty bonds. Did you solicit her? I have never bought any Liberty bonds yet because I've always seemed to need all the francs and centimes I could rake together to lend to worthless birds in this regiment...Maybe I can make them collect votes for me when I go to run for Congress on my war record - when I get tired chasing that mule up this corn row, as I told you, I am going to.'

'November5, 1918...I was censoring letters today when I ran across this sentence by one of my best seargents. He said that he and the Battery had been in some very tight places and came out all right but that they had a captain that could take them to h..l and bring them all back. I nearly blew up. He didn't know I was going to read it, I guess, because I make my second lieutenants censor all the mail but they got behind. I took it for a compliment anyway....Keep writing for I can't get too many letters. I love you, Always, Harry'

betty gregory
September 14, 2002 - 08:33 pm
Jonathan, such wonderful quotes from those letters!

Joan, my reaction may be similar to yours. There is a provocative theory about women being female impersonators....trying to achieve an image given to us by billion-dollar cosmetic and fashion industries and by long-standing traditional images of "woman." In the same vein, I wonder if Harry was a kind of "good boy" impersonator? Emphasis on good boy, not on impersonator. There was something rigid, rule-bound, role-playing about Harry as a young man...maybe less so as he began to be tested in WWI and later.


Joan Pearson
September 15, 2002 - 07:52 am
Betty, that's an interesting question...a good boy impersonator hmmmm... He may have started out that way in an effort to please parents, and then by extension, his teachers. But I don't think he was a "bad boy" either. Just not as good as he seemed. That was a refreshing admission on his part, don't you think? I am trying to figure out when he morphed into the "tell-it-like-it-is Harry" from this boy who learned young that it was better to tell people what they wanted to hear. It will be interesting to watch him as he grows. Maybe the change did come during WWI.

Two surprising things in this morning's of them was a bit surreal. Do you read the Comics? Does your comic section include Patrick Reynold's "Flashback"? I'll be the first to point out that the influenza pandemic is a strange subject to find treated in a "comic section", but I scanned this so you might share my surprise to see this in today's paper...
Spanish Flu Pandemic

Ella Gibbons
September 15, 2002 - 08:23 am
Joan, that's an interesting comic strip; I couldn't read it very well but it appears it gives a little history at the beginning. Is that syndicated across the nation?

Betty, and Joan, could it be that McC just didn't find the right people to discuss Truman's boyhood? Those he did interview, (or quote from other authors) perhaps did not want to "tell tales out of school" about their Missouri president that I'm sure is now a source of pride?

I agree that the young Truman is too good to be true, although as a bookworm perhaps he didn't have many friends. I'm out of town and don't have my book with me, but I'm wondering how he found the time to read all those books and work so diligently on the farm?

Bill H
September 15, 2002 - 09:42 am
Jonathan, thank you for the Dear Bess letters they are a substantial contribution to our discussion.

Joan, I was able to read the comic strip by sliding the graphic off page and using my picture editor to blow it up to 150%. I realize it took a bit of work for both you and Jonathan to make those posts. This discussion gets more and more interesting.

Betty, tomorrow, when we begin discussing Part Two: The Politician, I'll have a post that may add substance to your theory of "good boy"

Bill H

Joan Pearson
September 15, 2002 - 10:22 am
Oh yes Bill, I meant to thank Jonathan for typing out those letters too. It is in through his letters that we learn much about Harry!!!

I was afraid you wouldn't be able to read the comic was too huge when I scanned it, so had to minimize. But you get the idea that the timing was an extraordinary coincidence, right? I was struck by several of the frames that only underlined what we were talking about yesterday ~
No one beat it, or defeated it ...the epidemic simply faded away by the spring of 1919.

The physical effects lingered..."from deafness to disorders of the heart, liver, lungs and kidneys."

The two drawings of the weeping young people ..."I lost my entire family." "All of my friends died." - remind that the toll was highest among those between the ages of 20-40. I found that very strange.

Finally, "to this day medical researchers are not quite sure how the spanish flu pandemic of 1918 got started."

Ann Alden
September 15, 2002 - 10:57 am
Oh, yes, did I not ask if HRT had any fun earlier in this conversation? I found him calculating but in a nice way with his parents. Do you suppose it was the politician in him already raising its ugly? head?

I liked the beginning of the book as I like to read "begats" and am always interested in tracing people back to an earlier time. I, also, think that DM did a great job of leading us to the next section. You needed to know the man from childhood to see what happens in the next section and why. Harry liked people but didn't seem to need a best friend except for his two female cousins and Bess.

Bill H
September 15, 2002 - 04:06 pm
Ann, thank you for your input on the first part of the book. In my humble opinion, I think DM leads smoothly through all parts of the biography. A very gifted writer

In regard to Harry having fun as a boy, DM told about Harry and a bunch of other boys having fun doing something mischievous. I tried to find where I read it, but without any luck. Anyway, they did something a little bit mischievous, but, of course, Harry took the blame for this action. The other time I thought he was having fun was watching Grandfather Young cutting Vivian's curly locks off.

Bill H

Ann Alden
September 16, 2002 - 07:00 am
Its time to change the reading of sections and I am first in here?

I must say that I am really enjoying the next section. Lots of detail but also the history of the time and what Harry thought when he got to Congress and how he proved to still be using the same ways of acquainting himself with what was going on there. I, of course, liked his slight change in politically thinking and his speech to the Senate on the railroad debacle. His speech would fit right in with the Enron and other greedy companies doing us in today with their creative bookkeeping! And, don't we have big companies like The Limited and Nike or Adidas using overseas slave labor right now??

My book is so marked up that I have to think hard on what I was referring to with those short notes. Can't wait to read on! This is a long but very interesting part of the book.

Bill H
September 16, 2002 - 09:25 am
As we start Part Two: POLITICIAN, we find they couldn't keep Harry down on the farm, after he seen Paree. He married Bess Wallace and went to live in the Wallace house. I couldn't help but feel Harry left one combat zone and entered a new one. However, I think Madge kept her most stinging remarks about Harry in check. Madge had said "She drew her inner strength from Bess." I'm of the opinion Mother Madge was careful not to alienate her daughter's feelings, she needed Bess, maybe too much.

Drew her inner strength from Bess. How much emotional conflict living with her husband in her mother's house caused Bess Truman we may never know. In the first part of the bio, we learned Bess was a popular girl, very athletic "...she played baseball as well as any boy." Bess loved ice skating and other sports, she could dance, and she loved socializing with her girl friends. As time went by, the author presents a different woman. A quiet reserved person. I realize a grown woman would not act like a teen-ager, but did this change come to pass by Bess trying to please the two people she loved?

Bill H

Bill H
September 16, 2002 - 09:43 am
Betty, I thought of your "good boy" post as I was writing this.

When Mary Jane declined to run the farm by herself, after Harry's return from service, the live stock and farm equipment was sold. I was surprised at Harry's unfairness to his sister Mary Jane. The proceeds of the sale went to Harry -- "which pleased none of the family except Harry"--so that he and friend Eddie Jacobson could start their business. I can't help but wonder how Harry was able to ease his conscience, regarding this treatment of his sister. She ,along with her mother, managed the farm for two years while Harry was away. I assume he felt he was responsible for his fathers debts for keeping all or most of the proceeds. Making a success of the business would enable him to pay these debts. John did make Harry a full partner sharing equaly in everything. Perhaps this is the saving grace for Harry keeping the money.

Betty, perhaps Harry could turn the "good boy" impersonation on and off when it suited him.

Bill H

September 16, 2002 - 11:20 am
Bill, I do believe you have been pre-empted... You'll just have to get up sooner if you want to set the direction you would like the discussion to take. I can't help sharing Ann's eagerness to get Harry to Washington. At the same time it would be interesting to explore relationships in the Wallace/Truman household, especially the potential for competition between Madge and Harry for Bess's attentions.

Then again I'm dying to find out what everybody makes of the Pendergast connection. Or, as they say, the plot thickens.

I would also like to ask the group about the relevance, if any, of the movie 'Mr Smith Goes to Washington' to the discussion. McCullough mentions it twice in his book. Harry went to see it in 1939, making a note (in a letter to Bess) of the treatment his fellow-senators get in the movie. Does anyone think there is even a remote resemblance between Harry and Mr Smith?

An opening scene sticks in my memory. It's Mr Smith's first day. He asks his secretary when the senate session will begin. At noon, is the answer. In that case, replies Mr Smith, he has time to run out to Mt Vernon. That will put you in the mood, replies Saunders with caustic, indulgent humor.

By the same token I decided that taking another look at the movie would perhaps put me in the mood for the book. In a way it did.

Joan Pearson
September 16, 2002 - 01:13 pm
I'm trying to be understanding of Harry's predicament and the business with his mother and the sister and the farm. There is evidence in letters that he writes home that he plans to return to the farm. BUT, he also mentions in these letters the possibility of running for office on his war record...for eastern judge in Jackson County. So, which is it? I guess he could have done both.

He also wants to marry Bess...right away. This IS a predicament. He's committed to marrying Bess, he knows he is needed on the farm. Didn't we read that Mary Jane had come down with the flu while he was on leave? Clearly Mary Jane and MOM can't run the farm alone. Mary Jane tells Harry that two years were enough. Well, I guess!!! So what was he going to do? Was bringing Bess to the farm ever an option, considering her mother's strong feelings about the marriage in the first place? hahahaha..."a new combat zone", Bill!

To be honest, I think Harry did the only thing he could do at the time...he sold the livestock and whatever...let other tenants farm the land, but Mom and Mary Jane got to keep the house. Not so sure that Harry should have kept ALL the money to go into the haberdashery business however. But, what else did he have? Maybe he planned to pay some back once he made a go of it at the store.

Harry was to write...""I have often wondered how things would have turned out in my life if the war hadn't come along as it did." Would he still be on the farm, do you think? He met all those men who were going to be by his side throughout his life during the war, in the army. He wouldn't have gone into the haberdashery, he wouldn't have met Jim Pendergast, who hooked him up with that bunch. But do you think he would have stayed down on the farm if he never saw Paree? Do you think Bess would have married him? I thought it was interesting rereading the post-war chapter to learn that Bess had only agreed to marry him when she heard he was enlisting.

Would Bess have agreed to move out to Grandview to the farm with Harry's mother and sister? I don't think that would have been an option.

Bess's mother sounds like a piece of work...Bess considers the living arrangment temporary...just until her mother became accustomed to the idea that she was married. Can you imagine moving into the room you grew up in...your maiden retreat...with your new husband? If this bothered Harry, we're not hearing about it.

I smiled to note that Harry and Bess spent their honeymoon in the famous..."infamous" Blackstone Hotel. Some of you will remember our Bookfest in Chicago. We were booked in this hotel. The day before we were to arrive, the city of Chicago shut down the Blackestone because of over 100 building violations. You'll be happy to know it is being completely renovated into luxury condominiums. It was a glorious hotel...once.

ps. Ann, Jonathan, we're slowly heading to Washington...Harry has to make his way there first, and the people he meets on the way will end up with him. Jonathan, the Mr. Smith/Mr. Truman is quite a parallel! McCullough must think so too. I sailed right over that these references to the movie. Two idealists who take on the the name of the people.

Bill H
September 16, 2002 - 03:30 pm
Joan, very good post and so true about Bess moving to Grandvew. I believe Harry would have found himself alone, if he even suggested it. I'm sure the rent paid for the ground of the farm went to Mattie, at least I hope so.

Jonathan, I'm sure we would all like to start on the last page of the book and talk about what we wanted, but there's a long, long trail a winding for Harry before he gets to Washington. I would first like to establish the relationship between Harry and Boss Pendergast. Maybe we could express our views as to why Tom Pendergast even bothered with Harry. Theres a wealth of material in the first chapter "Try, Try Again." Jonathan, if you look at the chapter carefully, I think you'll find many interesting things to discuss.Bill H

September 16, 2002 - 05:08 pm
Bess in Grandview? Never. Mother Wallace would have expired, along with her mother.

I'm curious about the judgeships, where the holders are really not judges, but more like county administrators. Was this common in other areas, or peculiar to Jackson County, MO? Do we still have non-judges as judges?

As a relative newcomer (25 years) to Missouri, I was surprised at the strong Klan influence in the period after WWI. I guess I never really considered Kansas City "southern."

Mary W -- Don't you wish we'd had someone like Harry Truman in charge of MoDot (MO Dept. of Transportation) this past summer? They tried to pass a hefty gas and sales tax, but did not declare where and how it would be used. I'm very tempted to direct the powers that be to that section that describes how HST let the public know where their tax monies would be spent.

Bill H
September 16, 2002 - 05:28 pm
Pedlin, We here in Allegheny County, PA refer to them as County Administrators. I never heard the name judge being used for this office. Is this term used mostly in Southern States for the county administrators? Perhaps some of our readers could tell us.

Folks, the reason I don't make early posts is because I go to a physical therapist three times a week for my back and the appointments are scheduled at 9 AM. If this is an inconvenience for any of you, I apologize. However, this doesn't mean that you shouldn't post as early as you wish.

Bill H

September 16, 2002 - 06:59 pm
Bill, you take good care of yourself. I didn't mean to be critical or complaining. You have a great discussion going, and I was happy to see the generous three-month time frame.


robert b. iadeluca
September 16, 2002 - 07:04 pm
In the Bible, weren't the "judges" actually administrators?


September 16, 2002 - 07:47 pm
Whether or not the young Harry was a 'good boy' by design, and whether or not the mature Harry left his heart in Paris, can, I believe, be answered by his attitude to abstract art. At first I thought it was ludicrous on McCullough's part to use HST's reaction to Marcel Duchamp's Nude Descending a Staircase as proof of Ethel Noland's observation that Harry Truman was a nineteenth-century man. (I've read elsewhere that Dean Acheson was an eighteenth-century man. Perhaps that is why the two bonded so well.) From what we already know about Harry, his reaction to a nude, even in the abstract, should come as no surprise. The appeal Paris had for him seems to have been mainly architectural. The low-life had no more attraction for him than it did for John Adams when he first arrived in Paris. And he took very seriously General Pershing's admonition to take his men home as 'clean morally and physically' as they were when they came over. (p136)

Consequently, I don't think it was Paris that made Harry turn his back on the farm. Already in 1914, as we have seen, his mother bought him a car; and the car did in fact keep him on the farm for another three years...with plenty of motorized getaways. Which also brings to mind the many debts which are constantly referred to. Many of them seem to have been money owing on mortgages taken out on the substantial Truman farm, to finance Harry's undertakings. All the more remarkable then, that he later established such a good money-management reputation as Presiding Judge.

With your indulgence I would like to submit an anecdotal illustration of the perils of Paris, as seen through the eyes of the renowned evangelist Charles Templeton, who, together with the equally renowned Billy Graham set out to 'carry the message to benighted Europe', immediately at war's end (WW II, of course):

'We held meetings in London, York and Manchester, in Glasgow, Aberdeen and Edinburgh, and across the Irish sea, in Dublin and Belfast. Everywhere we were greeted by overflowing churches and attentive audiences. Billy and I alternated as preachers...I remember only one negative note: Billy and I were on the street, walking to Edinburgh Castle. As we passed a sweet shop, we decided to buy some candy. It was a tiny shop. The propietor was an aging Scot with a craggy face, great, thrusting eyebrows and a ruddy, seamed skin. "Where's your ration coupons?" he asked.

"Sorry," I said. "I didn't know we needed them. I'm from Canada. My friend here is from the United States."

He glared at us fiercely from beneath his brows and then passed a candy bar to me. "Weel," he said bluntly, "I've one for you, but none for your friend. I wouldn'a gie a Yank a pinch o' salt." '

To be continued, with plenty of evidence that General Pershing knew whereof he spoke. I like to think that Chuck shared his candy bar with Billy, once they were back on the street.

Ella Gibbons
September 16, 2002 - 08:42 pm
Joan, we shall always remember the Blackstone for that very reason! A fun memory, though, and did you notice that quote of the "smoke-filled room" at the Blackstone where Warren G. Harding had been picked as the handsome Republic candidate for President in 1920 on a ticket that called for "normalcy."

On the first page of this chapter, McC remarks that "much that came later never appealed to Harry Truman" who never learned to like the telephone and other modern conveniences, yet I noticed that just a few pages later Harry is dreaming of a new car, joining businessmen's clubs, an athletic club and his store had the latest plate-glass show windows, brand names in shirts, electric fans overhead, new cash register.

Harry caught on fast that he must step into the future at the age of 35, but like the rest of you who have posted of his home after marriage I would have thought better arrangements could have been made by both Bess and Harry if it had not been for Madge Wallace, the perfect lady, who kept her family close (right in her own yard in cottages) and who was perceived by town folk as "a very, very difficult person."

"Harry seldom if ever brought any of his friends home to North Delaware Street. The privacy of Madge Wallace's world was one thing, the world without was another, and so it would remain."

And it seems Bess followed in her mother's footsteps as she regarded most of his Army friends as roughnecks. How he ever picked Bess to love and remain in love with for the rest of his life is somewhat difficult at this stage to understand. Was she on a pedestal of his own imagination and never fell off?

Bill, none of the Dl's ever post on a scheduled time; you are doing a great job here and are to be congratulated for a most successful discussion.

September 16, 2002 - 08:53 pm
We (Charles and Billy) arrived in Paris a day early and wandered the streets, grateful that the city had not been pulverized as London had. Paris was thronging with Allied soldiers on leave and seemed a city of prostitutes. They paraded the main thoroughfares, soliciting openly. In civilian clothes, we were particular targets. On a daylight walk down the Champs Elysees from the Arc de Triomphe to our hotel we were accosted at least fifty times. The girls stood in front of us, impeding our progress, or fell in stride, linking their arms in ours, touching, fondling, whispering. One threw open her fur coat to reveal that she was wearing nothing but a garter belt and stockings. Billy's face was grim. "Chuck," he said, "we've got to get out of here." We set off at a half trot, literally shoving the girls aside

Inside the hotel lobby, laughing and breathless, I turned to Billy and said, saying it for both of us, "My LORD!"

That evening we went looking for a restaurant. We chanced upon an attractive and "very French" place. It had a fairly large room with a bar to one side, the tables arranged around a postage-stamp-size dance floor. A trio of blacks were playing American blues. We ordered cokes and looked about. I'd told Billy not to worry about the menu; my high-school French would suffice. In fact, I was immediately at a loss when the waitress began to respond to my questions.

Two girls stopped at our table, and before we were quite aware of what was happening, joined us and ordered drinks. They were very young, not yet in their twenties, and quite beautiful. Neither spoke English.... Our meal came and we proceeded to eat it, two simultaneous conversations going on; Billy and I in English and the girls in French. As we paid the check, it became clear that they were planning to leave with us. I tried to make excuses but each had taken an arm and, as we emerged into the street, clutched tightly. My girl was pointing toward a massive apartment block across the street, Billy's was pulling him away. Over a shoulder he gave me a despairing look. I grimace and said, "Guess we'll have to walk them home." In truth, we didn't know how to extricate ourselves.

Inside the apartment building, a broad staircase led to the second floor. As we mounted the stairs - wanting to get out of my predicament but not sure how to - I spied a W.C. on the landing. I pointed and said, 'Excusez'. It occurred to me that I had wandered into danger and was at risk of being mugged. In the W.C. I looked for a place to hide my wallet; in it was all my money and identification. I stood on the toilet bowl, reached up and stashed it on top of the water chamber. As I emerged the girl was talking to a rough-looking man who turned and went quickly down the hall. She called out to me, "Viens ici." I shook my head, said, "Non, Non," and went down the stairs three at a time. Outside, I watched until I saw her come out and cross the street to the restaurant. I went back up the stairs, retrieved my wallet and returned to our hotel.

At the hotel, no Billy. An hour passed. When two hours had gone, I began to worry. I considered calling the police but realized there was little I could tell them; I had no idea where he might be. Close to midnight, he burst through the door, panting, his face shining with perspiration, his hair dishevelled, his tie in a pocket, the collar of his shirt open.

He threw himself on the bed, breathing heavily. "Chuck, you have no idea what's happened to me. I thought I was going to walk the girl home and then leave her, but she hailed a cab. We drove and drove and drove. Somewhere outside the city in a dark little suburb, the cabby stopped. He didn't speak any English, neither did she, and I couldn't understand what he was saying about the fare. I took the money from my wallet and held it out, expecting him to do what the London cabbies do - take what was his and leave the rest. He took it all.

"The girl had me by the arm and she led toward this place where she lived. It was a dump. We got inside and she closed the door. I was trying to think of something I could say or do to let her know I was leaving. She went over to the bed, and without a word, unbuttoned her dress, tossed it aside and fell back on the bed. And Chuck, she was stark naked!

"I turned, opened the door and got out of there. In the street, I started to run. I don't know how far I ran; it could have been a mile or two. When I finally stopped, I looked around. I had no idea where I was. I was going to hail a cab, and then realized I didn't have any money. I asked some people the way to the downtown area but they just looked at me or rattled on in French. So I started to walk. I walked and walked and walked until I saw the Eiffel Tower in the distance. Then I knew where I was..."

Ever since, whenever I see Billy, especially when he is with others, I grin at him and say, "Hello Bill. How's the Midnight Runner.' (CHARLES TEMPLETON: An Anecdotal Memoir, by the author)

For this one should leave the farm?

Malryn (Mal)
September 16, 2002 - 10:17 pm
All in a day's growing up, Jonathan.
Lurking here with great interest,


Ann Alden
September 17, 2002 - 08:16 am
In referring back to Harry's involvement with the Pendergast group or "gang", as my grandmother called them, I notice that after establishing his haberdashery, he joined three clubs, I think mens' clubs, and at one, the Kansas City Atheletic Club, he taught himself to swim, a style where his head was always above water to keep his glasses dry. I wondered why he was interested in being able to swim.

Another interesting fact here was his willingness to help the American Legion dedicate a "colosal new war memorial" at their annual convention in KC, and dived into the procedure of getting the Legion ready for the convention. Was he already politicing? He certainly took to his job as chairman of the decorating committee very seriously. As I looked at the orders for bunting, flags etc. I thought how nice it would be have HST on any committee. He doesn't seem to need any help with his decisions. Just needs someone to decorate.

So we look at TJ Pendergast starting out in his saloon business and then realizing that politics was another business opportunity. He bought more saloons plus expanded the wholesale liquor business. Then DMc made a jump by writing about Mike Pendergast, TJ's brother was made the liquor license inspector for the county, which gave him the power to approve or disapprove the sale of liquor. Lots of power there. It meant that you would get approval only if you bought from the Pendergasts. My question here would be: How did Mike come by that job? Did TJ already have power over the electorate? So, he could demand that whoever was in power, give Mike that powerful position?

Another thing that interested me was his Irish ancestory and his organization being so much like Boss Tweed of NYC, and also the Mafia of the east coast. Was Boss Tweed of Irish descent also? Was there a connection there? Remember, the help that TJ gave to Roosevelt's(a NY citizen) first try for the presidency?

I looked up Boss Tweed and found this history of the Tammany society. Interesting read. <Tammany and Boss Tweed.

Bill H
September 17, 2002 - 09:12 am
Ann, I see you got the same impression as I did concerning Harry's thoughts of politicking. early on. Our two minds had the same thought.

Harry called it "the shirt store" and it was located on Kansas City's famous 12th street--the street that gave birth to the "12th Street Rag" The store soon become a hang out for Harry's old war buddies and he encouraged this. Truman joined several clubs and organizations in Kansas city and had lunch regularly with Ted Marks or Jim M Pendergast, the nephew of Tom. Politics had to have been discussed at these lunches. Not only were the organizations he joined good for his business, but they wouldn't hurt his political chances either, if and when, the occasion arose. He volunteered his services as chairman of the decorations committee for the dedication of Kansas City's colossal war memorial. this dedication would be attended by so many dignitaries including Marshall Foch, General Pershing and Vice President Coolidge, and as chairman of the committee, our Harry was at the forefront.

After Alderman "Big Jim" Pendergast died, the baton was passed to his brother Thomas Joseph Pendergast. It was no surprise to me that Tom Pendergast contacted Harry Truman to run for a political office, albeit on a county level,. Who better? It seemed as though Harry was always in the lime-light of all worthy adventures in Kansas City and had band of army buddies that were sure vote getters. I think was one of the reasons Harry encouraged them to hang out at "the shirt" store.

For a brief biography of Alderman James Pendergast and his brother Tom Pandergast see the linkds.

James Pendergast

Tom Pendergast

Bill H

Bill H
September 17, 2002 - 09:16 am
Ann, I see you got the same impression as I did concerning Harry's thoughts of politicking. early on. Our two minds had the same thought.

Harry called it "the shirt store" and it was located on Kansas City's famous 12th street--the street that gave birth to the "12th Street Rag" The store soon become a hang out for Harry's old war buddies and he encouraged this. Truman joined several clubs and organizations in Kansas city and had lunch regularly with Ted Marks or Jim M Pendergast, the nephew of Tom. Politics had to have been discussed at these lunches. Not only were the organizations he joined good for his business, but they wouldn't hurt his political chances either, if and when, the occasion arose. He volunteered his services as chairman of the decorations committee for the dedication of Kansas City's colossal war memorial. this dedication would be attended by so many dignitaries including Marshall Foch, General Pershing and Vice President Coolidge, and as chairman of the committee, our Harry was at the forefront.

After Alderman "Big Jim" Pendergast died, the baton was passed to his brother Thomas Joseph Pendergast. It was no surprise to me that Tom Pendergast contacted Harry Truman to run for a political office, albeit on a county level,. Who better? It seemed as though Harry was always in the lime-light of all worthy adventures in Kansas City and had band of army buddies that were sure vote getters. I think was one of the reasons Harry encouraged them to hang out at "the shirt" store.

For a brief biography of Alderman James Pendergast and his brother Tom Pandergast see the linkds.

James Pendergast

Tom Pendergast


Ann Alden
September 17, 2002 - 09:23 am
Yes, Bill, I always like to read where a man came from and what motivates him? Jim Pendergast was his brother? Yes, I see that's correct. Did you read the "Boss Tweed and Tammany Hall" article. When you read about Plunkett sermonizing on the court house back steps and his similar ideas to Jim Pendergast's, lets you know that was how our country was run politically. The talk about educating the incoming new people from all over the world so that they would be Democrats just tickled me. Also, the jobs thing was very important. They promised jobs constantly.

I have read all the Pendergast info that you put up here and when I say all, I clicked on every clickable in each of their biographies. Amazing story about the city's parks. About 50 years ago, we were driving from Indianapolis to Denver, returning to my husband's home base in Denver. On the trip west, we had agreed to pick up a friend in Iowa which put us in line, I think, to drive through Kansas City. It was about 2am, there was much snow on the streets but drivable, and no other traffic. What a beautiful city! We went through on the main road and I remember boulevard's, trees all along the streets, sidewalks, and street lights shimmering in the night. It was a picture that I have never forgotten.

Bill H
September 17, 2002 - 04:30 pm
Ann, just finished reading "Tammany and Boss Tweed." Thanks for the link. It seems this points up the need for big city bosses, before the unions came into power. At least the bosses looked out somewhat for the underprivileged immigrants and the underprivileged working class. Who else was going to give them a break? For this the machine expected loyalty from their constituents in the way of votes and monetary kick backs.

This is the way the powerful political machines were built. One hand washes the other "You do for me and I'll look out for you." I'm not saying this was right. I'm just saying the system worked in that day and age. Maybe even in this day and age. The underprivileged willingly gave their loyalty and kick back to the machine because they felt that at least they had a chance of putting bread on the table and clothes on their kids backs and a roof over their family's heads no matter how leaky the roof was. It was the system and the system came into being because of need.

Bill H

September 17, 2002 - 08:08 pm
It would be a mistake to hurry through any part of McCullough's book, or any part of Harry Truman's life, especially the quarter century covered in Part II. Who would want to miss the showdown in the Missouri political corral in 1939/40. And along with it a look at the strange phenomenon of machine politics and city bosses. I think we've made a good start with the links to Tammany and Boss Tweed, and the Pendergasts; and with questions like: 'How did Mike come by that job?' Was much of it outright thievery, or did job creation through public works and patronage count for something more than power and influence?

It's interesting to hear that Kansas City, fifty years ago, was a beautiful city. Still is, it is said. It is also said that there are some who feel, in bad times, that KC would once again benefit from having the Pendergasts back.

But who would Tom Pendergast be except for Harry Truman? I have to think of the good rabbi who told President Truman that God had put him into his mother's womb. Could the President have thought to himself: sure, and it was Tom Pendergast who put me into the White House. And yet, as everyone knows, while Truman was president, for years before that, and even ever since, the Pendergasts have been like an albatross around his neck. Even stranger, it seems to me, Truman seems to have been TJ's nemesis. Except for Truman, he might never have gone to jail. That stubborn man from Independence would not step aside in 1940. Governor Stark, wanting Truman's senate seat, felt he could get Harry, if he could first get Tom Pendergast. So he put Maurice Milligan on the Pendergast case. But Harry was never better than when he was fighting for his life. The way I see it.

And why wouldn't he go to TJ's funeral? He owed him so much. But it must have been more than that which compelled him to go 'to the funeral of a friendless old man just out of penitentiary'.

I may be all over the map at times. It's just my way of reading a book.

Bill H
September 18, 2002 - 11:29 am
Jonathan, I agree with what the Rabbi said about "God putting Truman in his mother's womb." I said in a much earlier post that I am of the opinion that the Truman Presidency was preordained, to see our country through one of the most troubled time in it's history.

Harry made every election interesting, even the county judge's office. McMcullough pointed out it may have been because of the novelty of the women's vote. I find it phenomenal of Harry Truman to be in on the ground floor of everything. The women's vote seemed to be a first in a long string of polical first's for Harry Truman.Bill H

Joan Pearson
September 18, 2002 - 11:44 am
David McCullough made an appearance in Washington last evening...his Great Bridge is the Washington Post Book Club's selection this month. A crowd of 1300+ people gathered to hear him speak. He was amazingly accessible...almost boyishly disarming with such genuine excitement about his work.

And what lady would not love a big teddy bear of a husband/celebrity like this? His wife, Rosalie, was in the audience, introduced as his "editor in chief, the star I steer by." Isn't she lovely? She took all of his ribbing good naturedly. I guess she's heard it all before. Perhaps we will hear much the same talk at the National Book Festival in October. I will bet that she will be there at his side too.
Rosalie McCullough, the "star he steers by"
Last night he was there to speak on The Great Bridge, the building of the Brooklyn Bridge...a wonderful book. He places the building of the bridge into the context of historical events that came before and during the building of the bridge, just as he did in Truman. He mentions Boss Tweed a number of times ~ Said he loved it whenever his research led turned up something on him, that he "lit up" when "Old Tweed" came into the room. He spoke of the building of the bridge as an example of the "affirmation" of the human spirit. The bridge itself was "a symbol of imperfect beings creating something magnificent." This is what he looks for in his research. Somewhere towards the end of his presentation, he told us that he hadn't realized it before last night, but all of his books are really about people with courage who set out to accomplish something with all the odds stacked against them.

When he was in college, (Yale), he met Thornton Wilder, who was by then a famous playwright. T. Wilder told him something D.McCullough never forgot.
First he imagines a story he'd like to see on stage. If no one has written such a play before, "I write it, so I can see it played out on the stage."
Well, this is how McCullough writes. He writes a book he'd like to read. First he checks to see if anyone else has written such a book. If they have, he doesn't bother. The reason he writes a book is to find out about something he doesn't know much about. His intention is to write the book he'd like to read. He's not an historian interested in learning about the past. He is interested in learning about "other people's present" ...who lived in the past. He does not write from a mountaintop...rather he tries to get inside the subject, inside the moment. No one ever knows how things are going to turn out in their lives ... no one ever lived in their past. He does not start with an outline, does not know what the theme will be before he starts. That's the reason you read a book, to find out what the theme is...that's why he writes books. To find the theme. He made a particularly telling remark about the way he writes his books. Once he comes to the end of the book, he goes back and rewrites the first part. Truman was written over a ten year period. By the time he had finished the book, and went back to the beginning, he had a different perspective than when he began. Many of us in the Truman discussion had the impression that he started the book with certain premises and built upon them as he wrote the rest of the book. The exact opposite happened!

McCullough believes that boring history teachers ought to be tried for malpractice. The same for textbook writers. "Don't tell me, show me." He says that history needs to be written with the same artistry as fiction. Actually, he believes that kids would be better off using the "lab technique"...where they have to struggle a bit for the answers. "If you have to struggle to learn you will never forget."

The "lab technique" is what McCullough seems to use when writing his books. He delves through years of research and forms impressions and conclusions. When he was writing Truman, he researched everything he could get his hands on about WWI. It was only when hs was finished that he went to check out the battlefields, be sure he got it right. But you have to "work hard yourself first," he tells us. (Often he sounded an awful lot like Harry!)

During the question/answer period he was asked about his writing techniques. When he is ready to write, with the research behind him, he types out everything on his old blue Royal typewriter. Never uses an outline, just lets it flow. Thinks outlines are a lot like painting by numbers. When he has typed a section, he likes to take the pages to a comfortable chair and then he turns into an editor, takes his black pen and ruthlessly edits what that scoundrel has written.

Computer? A lot of people tell him that he could write so much faster if he'd go to the computer, but he looked out at us with this incredulous look on his face. "Why would I want to go faster? I want to go slower." This is clearly a man who loves what he does.

At the end of the evening, it seems that every one of the 1300 people got in line to have a book signed. I'm going to wait for the Book Festival in October. Did dally around the signing table, not on the line and took a few photos. He was so gracious to each person who stopped for his signature.

Do you recognize this lady? She was kind enough, (in her own inimitable fashion) to smile for a photograph. Her escort asked me if I wanted to get in the photo too. I had to stoop over about 8" so I'd be in the picture.
Can you guess the mystery author?

Bill H
September 18, 2002 - 12:56 pm
Joan, that is such a GREAT REPORT and with graphics! All you ladies look beautiful. I would've loved to have been there to hear his speech.

"The old blue Royal typewriter!!" I still have an old Royal, but I really have to search around for ribbons. However, I never use it. I do all my writing by computer. So much easier to correct mistakes by just highlighting than with the old white-out or chalk strips. And, of course, my old Royal didn't have a spell checker:o) Thank you, Jane.

Bill H

September 18, 2002 - 03:50 pm
Just a thought or two. I noticed that Joan picked up on the fact that in the very interesting Truman letters to Bess that Jonathon so graciously posted, even back as far as November 1918, Harry admitted some thoughts about running for the office of "eastern judge" and in the next letter, mentioned the possibilty of running for Congress. So, folks, these were not johnny-come-lately thoughts when Harry came home from the service and was looking around for a prospective livelihood. These ideas must have been on Harry's mind for a while. So is it any wonder that Harry jumped at the opportunity that Mike Pendergast offered him to run for office of "eastern judge" ? Manna from heaven! And right when his clothing store venture was going down the tubes. I find that interesting! One more thing. If Harry and Bess lived in the Wallace home and his clothing store was in Kansas City, Harry must have done some heavy commuting. Not an easy sort of life, considering the store hours of 8am-9pm, especially for a newly married couple. Seems to me those factors would have made the "eastern judge" possibility look all the better. Losalbern

Barbara S
September 18, 2002 - 05:25 pm
Such an interesting article on McCullough. I am alway inspired by the motivation that authors have in writing books and the strategies they use to compile the book. These anecdotes say so much about an author's style of writing and the sincerity with which they tackle their subject. Personally I am of the school that believes that by just sitting down and letting it flow you impose your own values and morality on what you write. As soon as I get through a stack of work, I will try to get this book and the other one mentioned.

Also that pic of Betty Friedan brought back memories of her visit here to Australia a few years back. What a wonderful woman and with Greer Garson, how she changed the lives of women of my generation.

Barbara S.

Peggy Cloud
September 18, 2002 - 06:32 pm
This book is turning into a can't-put-downer. I must have known some of this before, but it is unfolding like a good novel. I don't think I ever knew very much about the Pendergast "machine" though I had heard of it. They were a pretty shameless bunch, weren't they? And it was the accepted way .....probably expected of politicians. I wonder how much Bess, Margaret and other women of the time knew. .....if they did. I have a feeling that they probably weren't asked what their opinions were. In a sense, Harry was lucky that he wasn't any further involved, but I can just imagine his dismay when the "Boss" was found out.

Bill H
September 18, 2002 - 06:54 pm
Losalbern, I agree with you. I'm convinced that Harry and Lt. James M Pendergast, the nephew of Tom Pendergast, talked about Harry's political future while the war was still raging in France. I'm sure, even if the business hadn't failed, Harry would've still agreed to run for county judge. One sentence that sticks with me is: " pleased Harry to be called judge, He had rank again." And county judge wasn't enough for him it was brought out he wanted more. When the two terms of two years each the the office of county judge carried had ended, He ran for Presiding County Judge that carried two four year terms. Then he told Tom Pendergast he wanted the governor's mansion. I think Harry carried the idea of a political future in his mind after becoming friends with the nephew of Pendergast. He firmly believed he could do as much for the state as he did for the county. And he told Pendergast this, but Tom Pendergast had picked someone else for this plum.

Losalbern, I'm not sure, but think I recall reading that twelve miles separated Independence and KC. Still that's twenty-four mile round trip. I'll have to check on the distance, if you find it let us know.

Peggy, the book is a page turner, and it gets better and better as we go along. I'm learning a lot I never knew before. I believe most readers of this bio are finding things they were totally unaware of.

Bill H

Joan Pearson
September 19, 2002 - 04:17 am
Peggy, you said something that made me stop and think about my own feelings about the "Pendergast gang"....that they were a "pretty shameless bunch." Have I been swayed by McCullough's portrait of these guys or by Harry's relations with them? I'm feeling that they weren't such bad guys. I KNOW that stuffing the election box is a bad thing. And they did that on a grand scale. Yes, I know that. Still, the "Robin Hood" aura persists...they did a lot for desperate people during the depression years. Were they a necessary evil for that time?

I'm watching Harry ...I think McCullough did too...looking for the tell-tale signs of corruption. I'm watching the Pendergasts to see if they try to get him to compromise his principles in any way.

The only thing I find is his short-lived alliance with the Klan. He was persuaded that Klan backing would be important in that first election. He paid that $10 membership. When the Klan wanted to dictate to him, he cancelled the membership. How big a lapse was this? Bigger than what we read here?

I don't see the same thing happening because of his endorsement by the Pendergast people, do you? Was there ever an attempt to get him to compromise his conscience or principles?

I agree with what you are saying about Harry having political leanings while in the army, that young Jim Pendergast knew Captain Harry as a leader...and an honest man. Did young Jim hang out at the haberdashery? If so, he must have known the store was going down and that Harry was going to need to do something else. The time was ripe...he must have sold the eastern judgeship for Harry to his father. They came together, Jim and Mike to the haberdashery to ask him to run.

The fact that he was the son of a farmer, and knew the roads must have counted too. I think that even in the absence of a Pendergast backing, Harry would have won that election. He had everything going for him except "experience"...but had experience in so many different areas of what the job called for. But he wasn't much of a public speaker, was he? In this first election, he seemed to find himself, and that down-to-earth style delivery. McCullough described it this way... "he stated the problem, proceeded to the solution joined to a fundamental philosophy plainly expressed." Plain speaking from a politician. Gets my vote!

That first election was all Harry needed to get started on the political career he had wanted. Without Pendergast backing, he wouldn't have had a chance. This was the opening that he needed. The rest he accomplished with hard work and those friends he had made early on. I really don't see any corruption in character because of his relationship with the Pendergasts, but would appreciate hearing from anyone who does. I remember Harry being quoted as saying that he loved Mike Pendergast as he loved his daddy...

Ann Alden
September 19, 2002 - 05:38 am
Yes, Joan, I agree. I don't see any corruption in Harry. Was that the good boy complex? Or, was he just being true to his Midwestern ethics? I also don't see the Pendergast Gang as any different from other political machines in the country. They pretty much ran their local area and then the state but also gave much support to different candidates trying for office in the federal government. Remember Boss Tweed and Tamany Hall? Back then(late 1800's) those in power by machine or election were needed to look out for the little guy. The new immigrants who couldn't speak English and really didn't know where to go to apply for jobs. And, yes, they did owe their jobs to the machine. And, as TJ says, "Why shouldn't they donate to the party(Democratic), they owed their jobs to his machine which ran the party. Its just the way things were done back then. As BillH says, the machine might have been the precursor to the unions here in the US.

There is also the possibility that Harry's wish to go into politics was fueled by his father. Didn't John go to lots of political meetings and take Harry ocassionaly?

Peggy, I too am having difficulty putting this book down as it reads like a great piece of historical fiction.

I kept thinking of "Mr Smith Goes to Washington" while reading of Harry's first year in DC but I think the movie might have been based on any new congressman who started out with high ideals and high hopes. Innocents Abroad!

Bill H
September 19, 2002 - 12:35 pm
Harry was disappointed that Pendergast chose someone else for the governors nomination. Truman felt he was more experienced for the office. As Presiding Judge of Jackson County, he had more responsibility than he had as an Eastern Judge. He was like a CEO. Now he was responsible for the whole county, including Kansas City with it's 500,000 population. He was responsible for the roads, county institutions, court house and over 700 county employees. The other two judges were answerable to him. He had to OK everything before it was approved, and he cut the county deficit almost in half. The county operating budget was seven-million dollars and that was more than some states. During his two terms as Presiding Judge he earned the respect of all electors, including in Republicans. He explained to Pendergast that he wanted to improve the state roads as he had the county roads--roads were a priority with Harry Truman. The office of Presiding Judge gave Harry the experience he needed for the future office he was to hold. He held this office from January 1927 through 1935. His second term was won by an overwhelming majority.

Bill H

Barbara S
September 19, 2002 - 03:45 pm
MY EARLIER POST. #224 I must have had Greer Garson on my mind. Please read Germaine Greer for Greer Garson. I woke up in the middle of the night and realised what I had said. Senior moments come to all of us. LOL


betty gregory
September 19, 2002 - 04:33 pm
Joan, wonderful picture of you and Betty Friedan! I'm so impressed with the state of this attended a talk last night, then in less than a day, we're reading your report and seeing pictures you took of the speaker, his wife and Betty Friedan!! Aren't we fortunate and thank you so much!

I've seen McCullough speak on C-Span Book TV and heard him describe his methods of writing, but only as an aside, not in such detail as in your report. Now, doesn't that make sense....that he waits to discover the theme of someone's life as it comes to life in his research and writing. And, Joan, you explained it so well how he writes of someone's "present" as it is being lived and not of someone's history. That's exactly how the book Truman reads...we're there with him in his present life.

Thanks again for such an interesting report.


September 19, 2002 - 09:33 pm
I've been feeling poorly, but that hasn't prevented me from enjoying the stimulating posts or the pleasure of replying to them.

Bill, I wonder how far you would be prepared to go with the idea that Truman's career was preordained. The rabbi no doubt was filled with wonder that Truman had been instrumental in seeing the Jewish people reestablished in the Promised Land. Greater than Moses even in that respect. As the 'Father of Israel' President Truman will find a respectable place in history. Having read his Bible twice through by the time he was twelve, he would be able to appreciate that.

It was most interesting to find a link to Truman's astrocartographical horoscope...I almost typed in 'horrorscope',after that impossibly long word...the link under the Truman Links, above. But it concerns mostly Truman's later role on the grand stage of world history; except for a reference to Truman's 'caustic wit, a quality of his Mercury/Saturn temperament'. I'm not much of a believer in such things; but the need for explanations is too great and too inviting - who knows? I'm not sure what you mean by saying that the women's vote was a first for Harry Truman. I thought roads were his priority.

Joan, it was a pleasure to read your account of an evening with the author. He must be a marvellous speaker. At least one is hearing that all the time. I like the part about discovering all he has learned when he rewrites the beginning. Somehow that carries over to the reader, and makes one think that perhaps one should always begin with the end when reading a book. I wish I could have an opportunity sometime to tell David what a marvellous book his TRUMAN is. And if it should get to a little small-talk, I would also tell him how conducive TRUMAN is, too, to one's physical well-being. After a month I'm amazed by how much more strength I have in my fingers and wrists. And the arms. At first I tired after 10 minutes. Now it's a ten-minute break after an hour, and back to it. Who's his next President? Did he say?

That's a lovely picture of the two of you!

Losalbern, it's interesting that you should notice that Harry 'jumped at the opportunity' of Mike P's offer. I think that's an aspect of Turman's character that's worth exploring as we go along. How many of his own opportunities did he make?

Barbara S, I also admire the way McCullough puts his stamp on what he writes - including his values and morality. And sometimes it shows to disadvantage. Sometimes I feel he is not telling the whole story. But perhaps that would have made the book too long. You owe it to yourself, and to all of us, to get the book.

Peggy C, a 'can't-put-downer', is it? Why do you think the Pendergasts were a shameless bunch? McCullough says so many good things about them. Everyone knew about them and many were grateful. But when they, the Pendergasts, got in the way of someone stronger, with more power and friends in high places than they...well, like Tom P said on that Good Friday of his indictment: They've crucified me.

Bill, in your 226 post you raise the most interesting business of Tom P's determining who gets which job. Eventually he picks the wrong man. His judgement must have been failing by then, when he gave Stark a crack at the governor's mansion. Check your attics, folks. I was lucky enough to find the April 24, 1939 issue of LIFE. It has a marvellous picture of Governor Stark sitting at his desk.

September 19, 2002 - 09:41 pm

Barbara S
September 19, 2002 - 10:55 pm
If the book is available here, I will certainly get it.

Joan Pearson
September 20, 2002 - 05:30 am
Jonathan, I've been thinking of your comment..."Sometimes I feel he (McCullough) is not telling the whole story." You know, sometimes I get the same feeling, but not today. Gosh, we have 1000 pages here! It would seem that if DM wanted to pick and choose from this mountain of detail, the book would be half this size!

Consider the puzzling aspects that we have unearthed so far, and see if you don't agree that DM may be giving us so much information that we might come to the same conclusion he did...that Harry Truman, for all of his plaintalk, was really a much more complicated person than he seems. I never read that D.McCullough said that anywhere, but I'm getting that impression here.
*Was he always the "good boy?" the answer has to be, it's more complicated than a yes-no answer, as we read McCullough's story. Always the questions come up concerning his relationship with the Pendergasts, concerning his short, but stormy relationship with the Klan. It is confusing, I think, because McCullough does not present just one side, but more...without drawing conclusions for us....which makes us think that he isn't telling us everything he knows! Just maybe we feel this way because he (DM) presents SO MUCH information but leaves our HIS OWN conclusions?

  • Was there more to his relationship with Bess? Some felt that there is an absence of material on Bess, but after reading of her two miscarriages, which McCullough does include here, it is understanding why he felt protective of her and made her personal life off-limits to the press/public. (By the way, have you noticed the letters from Bess that have begun to surface? The one she wrote to "Old Sweetness" when he was away at law school?)

  • Was Harry always cheerful in the face of disappointment? McCullough writes that he "refused ever to look discouraged, kept his feelings to himself, but was always very, very cheerful." An optimist too...he knew that in the next election he would win in a landslide. It would be his turn. McCullough could have stopped there...merely commenting on his eternal opotimism and cheery demeanor, but goes on to paint another side of the picture, picked up in careful reading of those letters to Bess. He was tense, keyed up, had headaches, dizziness, insomnia...these stress headaches will dog him throughout. Who knew?

  • Jonathan, let's hope that the therapeutic benefits of the book extend to more than just the developing muscle tone from holding it up! Feel better!

    Barbara, we knew who you meant...your story reminded me of a story from years ago when my husband was graduating, his very proud mother was flying up for the occasion and told her seatmate on the plane that the graduation speaker for this prestigious gathering would be Loretta Young. Is wasn't until the next day that she realized that she had confused the name of Coretta King...we reassured her that the woman probably knew what she meant! hahaha, but honestly, we knew you meant Germaine Greer!

    Betty, thank was such an exciting evening, I couldn't wait to get back and share some of it with you. So many things came into focus regarding the way the author presents his material. Jonathan, DM never once mentioned that he includes "astrocartographical horoscopes" in his research, but he might if we make the suggestion??? hahaha...he is a verrry thorough in his research!

    Bill H
    September 20, 2002 - 09:30 am
    Jonathan, I'm sorry to hear you've been feeling poorly I hope it's nothing serious. Take care of yourself.

    You asked how far I would be prepared to go with Truman's presidency being preordained. I touch on that in my next post, but for now. I'll explain my thought in this manner. First, Truman had to survive WW1 and he did so with distinction. Harry was clearly the better choice for governor, but Pendergast, who was usually OK fitting the man to the job, turned him down. It took three, not just one, but three other men to refuse Pendergast's request they run for the Senate. I don't want to get to far ahead of myself here, but there was so much wrangling, as to who Roosevelt's running mate would be, it was decided Truman would cause the lest problems with the voters, almost an after thought. We all know Roosevelt died soon after his fourth reelection. All of this had to happen so that an obscure farmer with no formal education could become President of the United State. Some will say that's politics. Other's will say just a coincidence. I feel it was fate.

    Joan, you asked, if Harry was always the "good boy" I sometimes have the impression that Truman had a duel personality. There were times he displayed the qualities of the gentleman with his love of the classics, both books, music and piano playing. His piano instructor claims "Harry has the makings of a fine concert pianist." His attention to the clothes he wore and how he wore them rivaled that of any socialite. Other times his rough edges would show by his love of smoke filled back room poker playing with buddies of dubious character and sipping on Kentucky straight bourbon. And he was never hesitant to curse someone out who made an uncomplimentary remark about the family and he would do this with strong language.

    I don't feel DM is telling the whole story. You know, some of the politics of the Pendergast machine had to rub off onto Truman. He couldn't side-step all the nasty parts of politics.

    I had a distant relative, who was a police officer. His motto was: "...tell me your company and I'll tell you what you are."

    Bill H

    Bill H
    September 20, 2002 - 10:08 am
    Turned down by T. J. Pendergast for the governor's job, Truman decided to run for congress, but again, T. J. had someone else in mind. Then without any warning, Pendergast tells Truman that he wants him to run for the Senate. Of course, this came after three others had turned the senate job down. And only after Jim Pendergast and Jim Aylward's insistence on, Harry did T. J. agree. Tom Pendergast didn't think Harry was "heavy" enough to run for the Senate. I don't know why he thought this way. By this time Harry was fairly well known throughout the state.

    What a change in history there may have been if either Jim Reed, Joe Shannon or Jim Aylward had not said no to Pendergast's request to run for the Senate. Harry was broke and Jim Pendergast and Aylward gave him 500 dollars each to get him started. Harry was always broke.

    One more aside as to Truman's principals. Presiding Judge Truman was building new roads in the county and one of these roads was to pass through eleven acres of his mother's farm. The county was paying 1000 dollars an acre for road rights, which means Mattie would've received 11000 dollars. Harry told his mother "I'm going to have to deny you this." It seems as though "good boy" Harry's maternal family always took a back seat to his plans. I don't think that was fair to Mattie because shortly after that she had to take another mortgage on the farm. I suppose this was to finance Harry's Senate campaign. I take back what I aid earlier about devotion to his mother. I can now well understand why Harry loved his mother and sister.

    I found it amusing that after winning his first senate campaign he rented a small apartment in Washington, but after a short time he moved into a hotel room to save money. Compared to the grand dwellings of today's senators this seems absurd.

    I'd like to hear some your thoughts about this penurious living.

    Bill H

    September 20, 2002 - 04:07 pm
    Prior to reading this bio and admittedly without too much factual information regarding the Pendergast/Truman relationship, I think I figured that Harry was Tom Pendergast's boy and did his bidding willingly in exchange for political office. But now I realize that was true only to a point. I think that Harry recognised Pendergast was a necessary evil that Harry has to contend with but once elected, Harry intended to be the taxpayer's man, not Pendergast's. The amazing part is that Harry managed to do just that! In that meeting with Pendergast and a couple of his kickback contractor friends, Harry told them flat out that if they wanted to win contracts from him, they had to be the low bidder, not the rigged bidder. That took courage! Tom Pendergast was somewhat amused by Harry's adamant scrupulous postion but he warned Harry that the other two county judges could easily overrule Harry's proposals. I delighted in reading how Harry stood up to the "Boss" .

    Also I learned here for the first time that Harry paid a price for his obstinate modus operandi of honest dealings. Job Stress! Lots of it! Constant telephone messages from people wanting Harry to do something in their behalf. He reached the point where the telephone was an enemy that he despised. Everybody wanted something from Harry! He began suffering from terrible headaches, dizzynes and insomnia so bad that it became necessary to slip away on business trips or become an unregistered guest at a local hotel just to seek relief from job stress. This is the price Harry paid for NOT being Tom Pendergast's boy. I admire him for that! Losalbern

    Bill H
    September 20, 2002 - 04:27 pm
    Losalbern, good input. I'm sure we all agree with what you said. Harry did stand his ground with Pendergast on many occasions. However, the "Senator from Pendergast" and the racketeer laden image of Kansas City followed him for so long a time.

    I would like to hear the readers views on Harry's first years in the Senate. I'm sure all of you have formed opinions about his first Senate term. Maybe you could tell us what you consider to be his accomplishments. What did he fail to do in that first term?

    Bill H

    September 21, 2002 - 03:06 pm
    Bill, before going on to Truman's first term in the Senate, I would like to post some impressions of mine, after thinking about the various issues raised in other, recent posts.

    I have in mind Losalbern's point about the price Harry had to pay for not being Pendergast's 'boy'...the headaches, the dizziness, the insomnia, and seeking an escape in unregistered hotel rooms. And at other times displaying great courage in standing up to the crooked contractors.

    Regarding a course of events, or Truman's achievment, specifically, Bill says: 'some will say that's politics. Others, coincidence. I feel it was fate'.

    And Joan, along with all those perplexing questions in post 235 is half inclined to consider cosmological influences in Truman's life.

    Truman, in the final analysis, seemed to think it all depended on luck, and, taken all in all, perhaps his own sense of amazement in the end was justified. But no one worked harder at it than he. Pendergast was the Boss for him at various times; but then so was Bess, at least that was how he would introduce her, until she told him to stop. And he did. What is easy to overlook, it seems to me, when considering the hand the Pendergast machine had in Truman's political career, is all the support he got from being very heavily involved with other equally important community organizations. Almost an endless list, beginning with the National Guard, and later the American Legion (isn't he somewhere called the AL candidate?) I suspect as important as anything was the role Masonry played in Truman's life...not only for it's networking, but for it's moral and ethical teachings, which served as guidelines in his public life. He was a dedicated Mason. And of course there all those other service clubs he joined.

    With a title such as A Life in Politics, wouldn't a study of HST's life reveal every conceivable aspect? The highs and lows, the uncertainties and the undreamed success. I'm thinking for the moment of the stress of it all, which would just have to bring on the headaches and agonies. Success is only to be enjoyed until the end of the term of office. After that, what? Harry found himself confronting that over and over. How many could take with equanimity a day like October 12, 1932? Thirty-five thousand have come to the barbecue to help Harry celebrate the successful completion of his road program: 'It was my big day'. (194) An hour or two later he's seeking seclusion in a hotel room to brood over being refused Tom P's blessing re the governorship. And he's almost fifty.

    Joan, I will certainly acknowledge that DM has done his homework in researching the facts of Truman's life. It's very impressive as far as it goes; but considering astrological factors might raise the study to an even higher level, mightn't it? Again, considering Truman's interest in Freemasonry teachings might warrant that, don't you think? But as you suggest, there is more than enough in the book to weigh in the scales of normal curiousity.

    I must say that there are times when I wonder about some of the historical data which DM serves up. Some of it seems a little iffy. Take for example the story of Judge Truman's shopping for seat covers for his car (182). The clerk, for his crude attempt at a bribe, is told 'Son, I don't do business that way'. This is followed by the story of Tom P's rewarding a similiar bribe with an order for '200 quick-change seat covers for 100 cars on the police register and an order for 20 front rubber mats'! The source for all this, at the back of the book: Kansas City STAR, November 14, 1990. I believe that day's horoscopes would have been just as reliable.

    On the same page is the matter of the 11 expropriated acres, mentioned already by Bill, for which Harry's mother received less than what everybody else was getting...just to reassure everyone of Harry's probity. The New York POST, of December 29, 1972, forty years after the event, is the source for this info. Isn't that about the time HST died? And there must have been a lot of reminiscing by many people.

    Joan Pearson
    September 21, 2002 - 04:13 pm
    Jonathan, I must admit that I stopped several times and wondered at what drove Harry to do the things he did...either it was ambition or the stars. What else explains his actions? Do you remember after the Gulf War, when Colin Powell was considered the dream candidate? As the idea was catching on, word got out that Alma was not on board...and so Colin didn't run! For all his love for Bess, Harry put her on a pedestal, we read in his letters, when Bess protested at the prospect of running for Congress, he decided to run anyway, against her wishes. She wanted to remain in Independence.

    They had young Margaret, debt (still paying off the haberdashery) and no money to live in Washington. I smile when I think of those apartments he lived in...on Connecticut Ave. and Kalorama. Today those same buildings are the most sought-after, luxury apartments in Washington!

    It was Jim Pendergast and Jim Aylward who each contributed $500 for the move. I read with interest that Harry was Tom P's THIRD choice for the job...that Aylward had turned down the offer because he did NOT want to give up time with his family!

    Do you get the impression that Tom P. was scraping the bottom of the barrel when he agreed with young Jim to back Harry for the job? Oh, he looked good in Missouri...the common-sense country boy...good Baptist farmer from Grandview, but he was in way over his head when he got to Washington. How can someone take on the job of Senator with no legislative experience? Why did Harry accept the job? This is one of those murky examples that we puzzle over here. We are told of his lack of confidence in himself (Jim says he was a better man than he ever knew)...and at the same time we are told of his overwhelming lack of confidence in his ability to do the job. Why did he run for the Senate with such poor credentials? Ambition? Confidence that he could do the job as well as anyone?

    Bill, you ask what are some of the things Harry did right, and then what did he do wrong during the first term.

    Well, he followed old Tom's advice ~to work hard, keep his mouth shut and answer his constituent mail.

    I laughed at the advice he got from Ham Lewis, the Senator from Illinois..."Don't start out with an inferiority complex. For the first six months you'll wonder how the hell you got here, and after that you'll wonder how the hell the rest of us got here." hahaha, and that's exactly what Harry did! He listened AND took to heart all advice. I was interested to read that he had a good, retentive memory...remembered names! Think of what a fantastic trait this is in a Senator! His diligence that we have read so much about earlier, also paid off. He got to work earlier than all the other Senators, so early that they gave him his own pass key! He actually USED the Library of Congress to learn all about the nation's transportation infrastructure. This sounds very much like the Harry we have come to know.

    Okay...what did he do wrong during that first term? Let's start with the day he moved into his new office and hung Tom Pendergast's framed portrait over the mantlepiece so no one would miss it when they walked in...

    Bill H
    September 21, 2002 - 05:27 pm
    Jonathan, yes, Harry did work hard to help fate or the stars along. Perhaps Kismet would be appropriate for Harry's ascension in the political arena: "It is written."

    Joan, hanging the Pendergast portrait in his office was not the greatest of Harry's achievements. I'm happy you mentioned Margaret it opened the door for the following. Both Bess and her mother insisted that the baby be born in the Wallace house. And so she was, but no crib or cradle was available and the baby was placed comfortably n a drawer. So we can say that Margaret lived in the Wallace house from "drawer to grave." ) Joan, I wonder what the monthly rental of those apartments Harry lived in would be now? Do you know if they were as luxurious then as they are today, or were they remodeled?

    I'm not sure if these were accomplishments, but by his speeches in the Senate, Harry focused in on financial greed and corruption.--even back then they had it. In great detail he explained to congress how the railroad financiers made old Jesse James look like a piker compared to them. The financiers stole 70 million dollars from the Rock Island Railroad, causing it's bankruptcy.

    He succeed in having a committee formed to investigate the ones that caused this . Even though pressure was brought to bear on him to "go easy" he told the committee to investigate this as they would any other investigation.

    He started to take a stand on civil rights as it related to Afro Americans, knowing full well this would not sit favorably with the Missouri voters. He was outspoken on "preparedness," national. defense and an air force second to none. He was echoing Winston Churchill's efforts begging Great Britain to prepare for the coming war. In the latter years of his first term, he was gaining the respect of his colleagues

    Bill H

    September 21, 2002 - 09:21 pm
    It's too late. I'm just not up to addressing all the good points and questions raised.

    However, about that portrait over the mantlepiece, that shouldn't be surprising. Tom Pendergast was simply the most politically astute politician of Harry's acquaintance. The portrait must have served as an ever-present reminder to be likewise. Harry was a quick learner, among other things, and he was determined to tell the world that his association with the Pendergasts was not wrong. There was more to Harry, obviously, than the generally accepted image of him conveys. We're agreed on that. There certainly was never anything devious about him, was there? But sometimes even Harry's so-called plain-talk concealed important aspects of his political smarts, as he intended. The way I see it.

    Ann Alden
    September 22, 2002 - 02:12 am
    Just an aside, Harry complained to someone, Bess?, that he was having problems living on the Senatorial pay of $10,000 a year. This was in the 30's when bread cost 5 cents a loaf. It reminded me of when my husband graduated from college, the big talk then, was when we all reached a pay of $10,000, we would have it made. And, that was in 1960's! I know that Harry had many travel expenses but I would also imagine that Bess's mother paid expenses for her and Margaret when they lived with her, as any mother would do.

    While reading about Harry's complaints about the big railroad debacle plus big business defaults, I was reminded of the predicaments of big business at this time. Nothing really changes.

    As Harry put it(in a 1937 speech on corporate greed and corruption), the underlying problem throughout was avarice, "wild greed." (Notated by me...Shades of Enron and Worldcom) In a speech where he vilified big business's use of the "sweat of little children and the blood of underpaid labor", I again was reminded of the practices that we still see going on today in India, China, third world countries, etc. where our companies such as the Limited and Nike use sweat shop labor and underpay the workers. (Even in Mexico, companies provide living quarters and company stores as was done in the past at the mines and the costs take most of the workers monies). He also comments on the concentration of the control of wealth and power where "investment bankers load great debt onto the transportation companies in order to sell securities to savings banks and insurance companies so that they can make a commission." Sound familiar? Again, nothing changes.

    This is when Harry reminds me of "Mr Smith". Not that he is naive but that he has such good intentions and energy and ambition for trying to improve this country. His comparing of Jesse James and the modern-day financiers seemed very appropiate. How James had to get up early and risk his life to rob the Rock Island RR of $3000. But, by use of holding companies, modern day financiers had stolen $70 million from the same railroad.

    Harry certainly seemed to be a humble but astute man when he mentions that the Justice and Mrs Brandeis' party was an exclusive and brainy affair and although he didn't think that he belonged, the attendees made him think that he did.

    I am so enjoying others' comments here on this intricate personality. He seems able to handle all twists and turns of marriage, politics, serving of his government with such attention paid to detail. His health problems point out that this life was taking its toll on him. Maybe his attempting to keep all those balls in the air was just a bit too much for him. But, he comes through and gains enough comfidence in his decisions to keep going.

    Bill H
    September 22, 2002 - 10:54 am
    Your posts are so interesting and they give a depth to the reading of the biography that we may easily overlook, lacking the views of others.

    I believe Truman shed his humble demeanor, when Roosevelt had Pendergast tell Harry how he was to vote on a certain appointment selection. Truman was angered by Roosevelt's blatant disrespect and judging him to still be "The Senator from Pendergast."

    Bill H

    September 22, 2002 - 02:58 pm
    I have just enough time before dinner to thank you, Ann, for your 'aside' about Harry's money problems. That needed saying. I've wondered too, every time it comes up, if we can take it seriously, when he's complaining about his financial problems. The Trumans always lived well, didn't they? That leaves one to wonder why he made so much of his need for money, or the high cost of living.

    Bill H
    September 22, 2002 - 05:35 pm
    A good point about Harry being broke. Although complaining to be always broke, he did seeme to have the necessary funds whenever he needed them. It appeared he was able to get money from others. Did Bess have money of her own and do you suppose Madge Wallace would help Harry? I'm led to believe that Bess had some money because it was brought out that she lost some of her own money in Harry's oil adventure or misadventure. The key word here is "some." And of course, Mattie cosigned the 5000 dollar contract for Truman's share in this oil adventure. Good old Matttie thank heaven she had that prime farm land. I would like to know what constituted the Truman idea of being broke.

    But his primary campaign for his second Senate term showed he didn't have much money. Pendergast was in jail, Roosevelt was completely indifferent to him. Vaughn and Snyder raised a little money and set up headquarters in a borrowed room in the Ambassador building in St. Louis. At one point his funds were so low he had to sleep in his car. "A United States Senator ...sleeping in his car." He knew he had a tough primary campaign to face.

    September 22, 2002 - 09:05 pm
    Hello everyone--first time here. I am a big fan of HST and I am so glad to see you discussing this book. I have not read it but hope to this winter. Like everyone I have a favorite Truman stoy.

    Joan Pearson
    September 23, 2002 - 04:21 am
    Good morning, Delphine! Welcome...we are all developing a growing list of favorite "Harry" stories, as we go!

    It seems to me that Harry's inability to live on his $10,000 salary stemmed from his constant need to borrow to get where he wanted to go. My father did much the same thing at this time... always paying back a loan for one thing or another. There was never money for "extras" because the loans had to be paid off. Harry had to borrow from his life insurance policy to finance his second Senate campaign! Is the haberdashery debt paid off yet? Wasn't that a 20 year loan?

    We read that once again, no one thought he'd win this one, so no one was financially supporting this sure "loser." I can't understand how Stark was able to distance himself from the support he had received from Pendergast, yet had the nerve to attack Harry as a "Pendergast boy." Actually that helped Truman this time because Jimmy Pendergast helped Harry this time "as few men ever did."

    There was some real politicing going on in this election, wasn't there? Harry openly opposing a third term for Roosevelt, instead supporting the "conservative, isolationist, alcoholic Bennett Clark" for president!!! His justification was that no man should be considered "indispensible" ...but Clark? I don't think it was remarkable that Roosevelt ignored his campaign, but wondered why Clark didn't support him.

    The campaign seemed to be going nowhere, didn't it? Harry was supposed to be a dud at delivering speeches..."chopping the air rapidly up and down, with the same rhythm, bobbing up and down on the balls of his feet." It is only later that he will hit his stride, but not now.

    With Stark the better speaker, with the Presidential candidates ignoring him, no money in the campaign coffers, it appears that Harry only has three thing going for him:
  • the support of fellow Senators who came into Missouri to help him
  • the support from Jimmy Pendergast (what was the extent of his "help?")
  • Harry's own uncanny ability to read the electorate
  • Jonathan
    September 23, 2002 - 10:23 am
    I once had occasion to observe at close hand, senators being asked by the media for comments on a significant announcement from the White House. This transpired on the steps of the Capitol. A young man stepped out of the small crowd of bystanders, approached a distinguished senator, and asked him to autograph a copy of Plato's Republic. It seemed like it might be appropriate somehow.

    Given a chance at getting Harry Truman's autograph on something I would choose the Book of Deuteronomy. More and more I feel convinced that to understand the whole man, one should very carefully study that Fifth Book of Moses.

    Truman would not seem to have been a very religious man, and yet, notwithstanding the poker and the bourbon and the cussing, he seemed to be concerned about what might find favor with the Lord. As for example, comparing the likes of political Bosses and unscrupulous opportunists, and the sanctimonious church-goers sneaking a prohibited drink behind the screen. Truman wrestled with his conscience on numerous occasions, as we have seen. He sought and admired leadership roles. Laws and the legislative/judicial life of the community preoccupied him. And so much more, the more one thinks of it. Deuteronomy was among his favorite reading.

    I would give anything to know what Senator Truman and Justice Brandeis talked about at the Brandeis tea. Obviously Brandeis enjoyed the conversation with Truman, even frustrating Mrs Brandeis' efforts to keep the line moving. McCullough more or less implies that the talk could be found reflected in Truman's famous speech of December 20, 1937, on corporate greed and corruption, to the senate, a week or two after the conversation. Some of the moral indignation no doubt came out of Truman's look at the immoralities and skulduggery revealed by the railway mess. But I think the moral measuring stick he found in reading the scripture, with possibly a bit of commentary supplied by the distinguished judge.

    Harry's feet were always firmly planted on the ground, especially while embroiled in the fierce political melee of Missouri politics. I wouldn't put it past him, that with his little story about train robbers, he was speaking in parables. And that he was suggesting to the folks back home that his friend and mentor, Tom Pendergast, was a 'piker' compared to those 'powerful law firms in New York'.

    Getting front page coverage in the NY Times would be rather nice too.

    Bill H
    September 23, 2002 - 01:03 pm
    Hi, Delphine, you are going to have a good winter read. However, feel free to make comments on our posts.

    Joan, Another reason Harry may have been broke is because he assumed his fathers debts He accepted his father's responsibilities, when John made him a full partner. If this is the case, John Truman must've owed a considerable amount of money . Then too, perhaps he may have been helping Mattie with some of the farm mortgages. I recall reading Harry's old war buddies would drop by the store and make loans from Truman. Perhaps many of these loans were never paid back. We were never told the amount Truman would lend. I suppose it depended on the character and financial standing of the person he was making the loan to But it is interesting that Bess never seemed to complain, or at least we are not told of her complaints. There was money enough for Margaret's piano and singing lessons. Where did that come from?.

    Maybe Harry Truman wasn't as broke as he believed. I understand they started measuring the rate of real inflation back in the 1950s The yardstick for wages and prices are deemed to be ten times greater to fill a shopping basket today. If that is the case, ten thousand dollars during the depression era of the 1930s would be far greater than the multiple of ten as applied to the fifties. I would like to know Harry's idea of"broke".

    The tempo picks up as the campaign for reelection is described, and the events that follow his reelection, to me at least, move quickly along.

    I'm sure many of you have thoughts regarding his second term campaign.

    Bill H

    September 23, 2002 - 08:45 pm
    Thank you all for the welcome, I appreciate it.

    Years ago in the "Parade" magazine they told this story about HST and Bess. The president was giving a speech to a very large group of very influential business people and Bess was in the audience with her hostess. As President Truman talked he used a word that offended the hostess and she leaned over and whispered in Mrs. Truman's ear that she should try and have the president stop using the word manure because it was so offensive to the ear...... Mrs Truman whispered to her hostess that the president usually used the word b_ _ ls_ _ _ . There is more to the story but right now I can't remember it.

    September 23, 2002 - 09:10 pm
    Bill, if Bess, as you say, never seemed to complain, then perhaps things weren't as bad as we're led to believe. Or we can speculate. Perhaps Harry lost too much at poker...but not likely. Perhaps by pretending to be short of cash he would be less likely to be asked for a loan. A poor man's honesty wouldn't be questioned. Whatever his connection with the Pendergasts, he wasn't getting rich in their company. Nor was anyone succeeding in bribing him. And he did have a lot of patronage and contracts to pass around.

    He refused to declare bankruptcy when the haberdashery business failed. His partner did, a year or two later. Leaving Harry with the debt, with honest intentions of repaying it. This proved impossible for Harry, and as long as he held public office he could not be sued. The note of indebtedness, I believe it reached something like $10,000, was finally discounted for $1000 after the bank holding it went broke, some time in the thirties. Harry's brother Vivian, for appearances sake, bought it and that settled the matter.

    Anybody, please correct me if I'm mistaken in any of this. My memory may be at fault, or perhaps with a bit of murkiness in the matter, the facts could be otherwise.

    What seems to be beyond doubt is the fact that Harry campaigned on a shoestring in 1940.

    September 23, 2002 - 09:13 pm

    Joan Pearson
    September 24, 2002 - 03:48 am
    Oh yes, that does sound like Harry, Delphine! He never really left the plain-speak of his early days on the farm far behind. Bess seemed amused, didn't she? I think her comment revealed a lot about her too!

    Jonathan, thanks for clearing up the question of haberdashery debt. But the pattern of handling each new financial obligation with loans and more debt seems to be set for life, doesn't it? He will never have a cash reserve for emergencies, it seems. I agree, the campaign was run on a shoestring, Jonathan. But the last line of the "Politiican" chapter really threw me. (Will wait until the election is over to sound off on that...)

    It's clear Harry can't run for the Senate without a lot of financial support, and he isn't having much success as a fundraiser. We're told that Jimmy Pendergast worked for him..."as he had never worked for anyone before." Don't you wonder what that means? Here was Stark, labelling Truman as a Pendergast lackey...accusing him of being elected the first time by "ghost votes" ~ "in the service of a corrupt master" ~ So what could Jimmy Pendergast do without exaggerating this accusation? Did he recruit Tom Hannigan away from Stark's campaign...and how did the St. Louis policeman manage to deliver all those votes to Harry, making the difference in the election? Was it all corrupt?

    The one thing I'll NEVER understand is the way Harry treated his mother. He watches helplessly from the campaign trail as the mortage on the farm is foreclosed, his mother and sister evicted; she breaks her hip in the unfamiliar rented house in Grandview. Harry concludes that she will not survive the broken hip, but continues on the campaign trail!!! This says volumes to me about Harry. I'd love it if someone can explain away this behavior I think Harry's priorities are clear, aren't they?

    David McCullough seems to be presenting the real Harry, warts and all. This isn't a white-wash job.

    Ann Alden
    September 24, 2002 - 07:22 am
    Yes, JoanP, I wondered about Harry's prioties and I can't quite accept his judgements at times. Is he a pragmatist? Does he accept the dying of his mother from a hip fracture as part of life and death? Deems that his presence won't change the outcome?

    Another question I have here is what did his mother and sister think of him, running for Congress? Were they proud of him? I seem to remember that his sister was mad at him for leaving her in charge of the farm while he was off to WWI. What happened to them after they moved into the rental? Did they go on living together? Was Mary Jane always the one responsible for their mother? Maybe that will answered as we get further into the book.

    Bill H
    September 24, 2002 - 02:03 pm
    Delphine, please try and find the rest of that story it was great. I'm sure the story covered much more. I'd like to have seen the look on the hostess's face when Bess whispered in her ear. I think Bess could get right down to earth when the occasion arose

    Several months ago I watched the movie TRUMAN--not by McCullough. The movie gives a good portrayal of Bess Truman. I don't know how accurate the portrayal is, but if you get a chance, try and rent the cassette I think you'll have a good evening of entertainment.

    Jonathan, I had thoughts of Harry's poker playing also. It was brought out that he loved the game and he loved his Kentucky straight while playing the game.. It may have been easier than what we think for our Harry to get carried away playing poker with his buddies while sipping on bourbon )

    Joan, the way Truman treated his mother is the one glaring fault I have with Harry Truman. I feel he treated Mattie very shabbily . Surely he had more feelings for her than what he showed. He didn't appear to have a selfish streak, but he displays one where she's concerned. The way McCullough tells it Harry's political priorities always took precedence over his maternal family.

    Ann, that's a good question you asked as to whether or not Mattie and Mary Jane stayed together for a lifetime. I'm sure Mary Jane never married so I suppose they did. I can't recall reading if his mother and sister were proud of his political life, but I don't think brother Vivian was. I get the impression that Vivian was envious of Harry, not only of his positical achievements but also of the favored treatment he received from both his mother, father and sister.

    I would like to make a correction to an earlier post I made. I said the campaign for his second term was one of the toughest he had so far. I should point out it was the primary election for his second term that was tough. The general election was a shoe in.

    Bill H

    September 24, 2002 - 02:35 pm
    This is what I found......... It is from a speech by the current governor of Arkansas.

    "The last time I addressed this body in an opening session of a General Assembly, the 81st, there were some complaints about some of my humor and the plainspokenness of it. I tried my very best to temper all of my comments today, but I will tell you that it did remind me of Harry Truman's experience speaking to the Washington Garden Club. As he spoke to that august group of ladies, he on several occasions in the course of his address used the term "the use of good manure."

    Well, when it was finished, some of the ladies went to Bess Truman and said: "Bess, don't you think you could get Harry to quit using the word 'manure' and maybe use the word 'fertilizer.''' And Bess said, "Ladies, you just don't understand how long it took me to get him to use the word 'manure.'"

    I found it at:,1169,C_SPEECH%5ED_687,00.html

    I did a search on using "harry truman speeches, manure" I was not able to find the Parade Magazine article but what I did find covers the conversaton very well.

    September 24, 2002 - 02:40 pm
    Bess Truman is one of my favorite women in history. She had wit and wisdom and knew how to make what she said mean something. She may have been 'a plain spoken woman' but she certainly never lost her ability to set others on their ear. I wish I could say that her kind of honestly is the status quo for political wives and husbands-- I thank goodness that our current First Lady is of the same mind as Mrs Truman as is her mother in law, also one of my favorite First Ladies.

    Bill H
    September 24, 2002 - 06:05 pm
    Delphine, thank you for finding that for us. And as my favorite radio announcer Paul Harvey would say, "Now you've heard the rest of the story." )

    DM did say the homeplace was gone, but that it was recovered later. How was it recovered?

    Thoughts on the primary campaign:

    During the primary campaign, Truman crisscrossed the state in his own automobile, again with Fred Canfil along to share the driving. I get the impression that Canfil may have doubled as a bodyguard for Truman. I never did comprehend Truman's relationship with Canfil.

    The largest contribution of 17000 dollars came from the Railroad union, with financier Bernard Baruch contributing a desperately needed 4000 more. Harry borrowed another 3000 on his life insurance policy to meet expenses. Harry was a great borrower. It's well he didn't have to depend on an aunt of mine. Her philosophy was, "Neither a lender nor borrower I be."

    He did not favor social equality for blacks and he said so. However, he said "Legal equality is the Negro's right, because he is a human being and a natural born American. This was probably said to appease the white Missouri voters because of his stand on civil rights.

    Truman openly opposed a third term for Roosevelt. On this third term issue he said, When a republic comes to the point where a man is indispensable, then we have a Caesar...." Can't you just hear him saying this in his Midwestern clip type talking, with his hands and arms flailing the air.

    Primary election day was to be August 6th 1940. From Washington in late July, he wrote, "I'm thinking August 6 all the time." How ironic there was to be another August 6 he would think of for a long time.

    Bill H

    September 24, 2002 - 07:48 pm
    Delphine...yes, 'the rest of the story', can't one just hear that voice, the rest of the story was beautiful. I'm looking forward to hearing much more of Bess later in McCullough's story.

    Bill, I'm looking for the TRUMAN video. I recommend Robert Altman's KANSAS CITY, made in 1995, I believe, but portraying the Kansas City of 1934. Lots of good jazz along with the 'corruption'.

    As we can see, by the fine posts coming out of the reading of the chapter, Harry Truman's 1940 campaign for a second term as senator was even more uncertain of success than the later campaign of 1948 to retain the presidency. The highlights of the primary contest have been noted; but I can't resist adding some opinions.

    I find it hard to believe that Bernard Baruch contributed $4000 to Harry's campaign; and I can't understand why McCullough presents it as fact. Everybody that mattered was writing Harry off, for any number of reasons it seemed. Money and campaign help were hard to come by. Donations came in dribs and drabs. Is it reasonable to think that Baruch, in 1940, would put $4000 on such a long shot?

    McCullough tells the reader earlier in the book that 'Harry Truman had an unusually retentive mind. He remembered people - names, personal interests, family connections...He remembered every kindness he had ever been shown, the help given in hard times...'

    The $4000 doesn't seem to have been remembered in later years judging by his feelings about Bernard Baruch. This generousity on Baruch's part seemed doubtful to me and with a little trouble I found the following:

    Margaret Truman in her bio of her father claims that 'he never had a very high opinion of Mr Baruch.' And she also writes about 'my father's absolute refusal to consult Bernard Baruch before announcing the Truman Doctrine'.

    Being consulted and giving advice to presidents was a big part of Baruch's life, part of his image, and $4000 would be a considerable investment in that direction. If, as Margaret says, Baruch was singing the praises of Jimmy Byrnes as a running mate, for the whole month that FDR spent at the Baruch estate in South Carolina in the spring of 1944, then he would seem to have been losing his touch. If Baruch knew that the President was not condidering Truman, would Baruch not have sensed the same presidential view in 1940?

    Margaret also has it that 'Mr Baruch had great prestige in Congress and several members of the Cabinet urged my father to see him first and get him on side. Dad replied: "I'm just NOT going to do it. I'm not going to spend hours and hours on that old goat, come what may. If you take his advice, then you have him on your hands for hours and hours, and it is HIS policy. I'm just not going to do it. We have a decision to make and we'll make it." '

    And finally, doing a quick check of the index of BARUCH: My own Story, (1957, I find references to T Roosevelt, Wilson, Harding, Coolidge, Hoover, F D Roosevelt. The only president missing is H S Truman. Well, alright, one other. Is that because he never got Harry's ear, nor ever did him a kindness?

    I'm also of the opinion that Governor Stark got what he had coming to him. He seemed to have everything going for him, even to supplying the main ingredient of that wonderful American staple, apple pie. I believe misguided opportunism did him in, accepting Pendergast help in 1936, and then turning on him, and morphing into Mr Good in 1940. That was just too much, even for M Milligan, who told the voters:

    'Mr Truman refused to desert the ship, while the governor went overboard at the first torpedo. And now Governor Stark would have us believe he was the fellow who fired the torpedo.'

    And Stark was shouting with overblown campaign rhetoric, 'I stand here today, firmly opposed to everything the Kansas City plunderbund has fostered - dope rings, protected gambling, corruption of public officials, unrestricted prostitution and other illegal activities.'

    Talk of blackening a fine city's good name! And pity poor Tom Pendergast. Every thing was laid at his doorstep, the victim in the end of political wars, getting caught in the line of fire coming from his own people, leaving him with a tarnished image. Kansas City was a wide open city long before the Pendergasts. We have McCullough's word for that. He told us that much too, back there somewhere.

    Joan Pearson
    September 25, 2002 - 09:09 am
    hahahaha...I find it so funny that in SPITE of the mountain of detail McCullough supplies, we STILL manage to come up with zillion unanswered questions! Is that because Harry himself is this complex? So many times, even in the same paragraph, there is conflicting information. Did Harry go to bed as confident that he will win the election as he says he is, or is he truly surprised when he wakes up to find out that he won by carrying St. Louis?

    Last night I was scanning through, Plain Speaking, which is an oral biography...Harry answered Merle Miller's questions. It's really a book-long interview. I was looking for something that would improve Harry's image regarding his mother's forced move to Grandview after losing the farm. He was very close to his mother. She was 88 years old and attended his first campaign speech in Sedalia. (How far is that from Grandview?) She sat in the front row.

    Harry, from all accounts, regarded the foreclosure as a dirty Republican trick to make him look bad. I guess he really had no funds right then to stop the sale. I can give him the benefit of the doubt and try to understand that.

    You know, it is possible that he was making trips home from Washington to help her with the move. ~from Merle Miller's biography in Harry's words:
    "Nearly everyone in Missouri had a mortgage at the time. But it was a hard thing to see. WE had to move my mother and the furniture and everything else off the old farm, and not long after she moved, she fell and broke her leg, which I don't think would have happened in the old place. It wasn't a pretty thing to have to move an old lady of eighty-eight out of her home place, but they went ahead and did it. Some people will do anything to win an election, and it's a sorry thing to see."
    Jonathan, I noted that too - Harry's ability to remember names and faces and those who did him kindnesses. What a gift for a politician! Some things he never forgot either...though he doesn't seem the type to hold a grudge. This from the Merle Miller interview...
    "I believe that Lloyd Stark is one of the two people I have ever held a grudge against."
    Hmmmm...I'm wondering who the other one is???

    September 25, 2002 - 10:48 am
    Joan, I agree with most everything you say, and most heartily with the hahahaha at the beginning of your latest post. Where I disagree is the use of 'in SPITE of the mountain of detail'. I would say that it's 'BECAUSE of the mountain of detail' in the book that we find the zillion unanswered questions. With the mountain of detail, and there's probably tons more of it in McCullough's file that he didn't use, it would take an omniscient genius to keep it all coherent and consistent. So the author leaves some of her/his problem of arriving at the truth to the reader. And there's fun in that for the reader, don't you agree? The author may be hearing a still, small reader's voice: 'The facts, just the facts'. All this for convenience sake. The author's, that is. For the reader: my, my, what a lot of loose ends'...well, hahahaha. I still love the book.

    betty gregory
    September 25, 2002 - 03:24 pm
    I have a 6th sense feeling about this gaping hole concerning Truman's behavior toward his mother and sister. Since there are multiple times listed when Truman, for whatever reason, didn't attend to his mother's needs, there MUST be opinions about it out there. Friends, family, other writers surely had reason for conjecture about these glaring instances of questionable behavior. So, my 6th sense is that McCullough left out the "talk," the opinions, and gave us the clean, supportable facts. We get to add them up and think what we think.

    Even if opinions aren't out there in written form to be omitted, it is the height of professionalism for McCullough to avoid guessing why Truman behaved as he did, if he couldn't know. He didn't even do as most biographers would have...give multiple-choice options. Amazing restraint.

    Bill, the very recent movie, Truman is based on the McCullough book....2 or 3 years ago? Was it the made-for-HBO movie? It won all kinds of awards.


    Bill H
    September 25, 2002 - 05:06 pm
    Jonathan, Perhaps Jimmy Byrnes called in a mark on Baruch,a nd Baruch paid it off with the contribution. to Truman's campaign. That's just a hunch on my part. There's so much we will never know. I'm going to see if I can get a hold of Robert Altman's KANSAS CITY, is that a movie? DM does tell us how wide open Kansas City was in those days There were forty dance halls and more than a hundred nightclubs. and some of the best jazz musicians of all time coming in to the city to play these clubs. Just imagine Count Basie and his Kansas City Seven doing the "One O'clock Jump, Hot Lips Page, Bennie Moten and Blues singer Julia Lee all in KC. If you like blues and jazz, you would be in seventh heaven.

    Betty, in regard to what you say about Harry and his maternal family, I believe DM found only what he wanted to find. And thanks for telling us the TRUMAN movie was by DM. The screen credits did say it was an HBO movie and then went out for rental. Did you see it?

    In January 1940 Harry Truman begun his second term as a US Senator. Eleven months before we entered WW2. Harry was in on the ground floor again. His obscurity in national life was about to end After hearing complaints from his constituents about extravagance and profiteering in the construction of Fort Leonard Woods MO, Harry decided on a little investigation of his own and he found these complaints to be true enough.

    He returned to Washington and called for the establishment of a special committee to look into the awarding of defense contracts. It was called The Truman Committee and was feared by all defense contractors. And his committee helped keep waste to a minimum, and put the Truman name in front of the nation. If Stark had won the election, would this investigating committee been formed? Perhaps fate decreed the election.

    September 25, 2002 - 10:13 pm
    Joan, I don't want you to think that I didn't get beyond the first paragraph of your post, in which you deplore the lack at times of clear answers, despite the mountain of detail.

    I made good note of the line of thought you were pursuing about the mother/son relationship, the foreclosure on the farm, etc. And finding more information in Plain Speaking. That's worth following up. Harry's account that the foreclosure was a dirty Republican trick is curious and also reminds me that the tax fraud trials of 1936 and later the TJ tax evasion trial took place in Republican courts, or courts presided over by Republican judges. I thought Missouri was Democratic, especially in Pendergast country, where one would expect to find most appointed and elected offices occupied by friends.

    I like to think that Harry wasn't very complex by nature or in character. But as an ambitious, political animal, with every move a calculated one, and holding his cards close, how could he seem anything but complex? No doubt there were some ghosts in the Truman closets, but hardly anything of a scandalous nature. There was a lot of litigation and family problems while fighting over the farm when Grandma Young died, with huge legal fees...I believe I read somewhere that Vivian accessed considerable idle School Board Funds to refinance a huge farm mortgage. Perhaps it was from there that the foreclosure came.

    Bill, Truman made a real success of his Committee, didn't he? It saved the country billions and made him known nationally. In fact he made a success of every major endeavor. As Captain of the artillery battery. As Presiding Judge in Jackson County. As a Senator. The question, was he qualified to be a legislator or an investigator, is answered by his record. I think he was. He knew all about contracts and contractors before he got to Washington. And more important, it seems to me, was his zeal to put that knowledge and experience to good use for the public good.

    Yes, KANSAS CITY, is a movie, available as a video. The description in the book in the previous chapter made it seem like Tom P might have had a hand in all the criminal and immoral activities. I remember thinking that with all the revenue from such activity, why would Tom P need free seat covers. Of course that story was too good to leave out of the book.

    Betty, you really must post more often.

    Bill H
    September 26, 2002 - 04:01 pm
    Jonathan, I'm of the opinion Truman was qualified as both a legislature and investigator. His years as a county judge and presiding judge coupled with his chairing of the railroad investigating committee, in his first Senate term, and then chairing the powerful Truman Committee that was investigating the corruption and fraud of military spending in WW2 gave him investigator experience. He gained legislative knowledge during his first term in the Senate. We were told how, when first seated in the Senate, he would watch, say nothing and learn from others mistakes or abilities. I feel by his second term in the Senate Truman had the qualities of a good legislature. He had gained the confidence he needed with the success of the Truman Committee. "He had arrived in the Senate, as everybody knew, and it agreed with him."

    I can understand why Byrnes usually mentioned Truman along with Rayburn and Henry J. Kaiser as a running mate for FDR. I think Byrnes felt this way not only because of votes, but because Harry Truman proved, in Byrnes estimation, he was capable of leading.

    Bill H

    Joan Pearson
    September 26, 2002 - 05:22 pm
    I could never have made it in politics...glad Bruce never ran for office. Can see why Bess wasn't thrilled at the prospect of Harry running for the Senate. The way these guys treat one another...Roosevelt is all smiles, a big welcome back for "Harry." But he turned his back on him during the tight election...led him to believe that he was for him, told him that he thought Stark was a phoney, knew that Harry backed his New Deal all the way. But not a word of endorsement or even encouragement - did tell him that he'd find him a job in the Interstate Commerce Commission after the election!!! I guess he didn't want to associate himself with a loser.

    I know this is heresy, but FDR is not coming across as an admirable man in his dealings with people, is he? I'm wondering if this portrait is an indication of McCullough's own feelings toward him.

    But Harry wins without him, finds some money somewhere (?) and comes riding back to Washington in his brand-new, pearl gray Chrysler Royale. Finds an apartment at 4701 Connecticut Ave....(we'll look that up when in DC for the Bookfest and report on its condition today)...and immediately finds the cause that will make his reputation. War is in the air. The country was mobilizing. The Chrysler Royale was up to the 10,000 mile automobile odyssey across the country to examine the munitions depots...but not before Harry tried to enlist in the army...Marshall told him he was too old was he? I figure he was about 56?

    Harry takes his report of overspending and waste straight to the President...who doesn't react one way or another to what Harry has found. Of course not..FDR wants to gear up for war as quickly as possible.

    Harry takes his findings to the Senate where they listen to him...and his Truman Committee comes to be. No, Bill, none of this would have happened if Stark had been elected, I am sure. In fact, I don't see anyone so dedicated to a cause who would have put in the effort that Harry did. As for Harry, we are told that "he felt himself a participant in history again, as he had not since France."

    Bill, you sound like Jonathan now...when you say thatfate had determinded that election. Was Truman destined for greatness? It sure seems to be written in the stars that he will go somewhere, doesn't it?

    What I liked best about his formation of the Investigating committee...Harry was given a shoestring budget, laughable really of $10,000 per year, which he was able to talk up to $15,000 and then agreed to pay a $9,000 salary to the young Justice Department lawyer did he know that this would be a good investment? Uncanny! He said he admired Hugh Fulton's "honesty of purpose." He probably reminded him of himself!

    Joan Pearson
    September 26, 2002 - 06:53 pm
    Have you been watching the reruns of Ken Burns' Civil War on PBS this week? It's funny listening to David McCullough narrate the events of the Civil War...just after reading of his comments on R.E.Lee which Harry reread before he began his committee investigations. Lee said something to the effect that it was the time that it took Lincoln's federal examiners to make their reports that saved the lives of two of Lee's divisions! Harry always learned his lessons from history, didn't he? He didn't want to be an obstructionist in the war effort and took great pains to do the job right. I'll bet that McCullough loved that about Harry, historian that he is!

    September 26, 2002 - 08:50 pm
    The second man against whom Harry Truman held a serious grudge seems to have been J C Nichols, a wealthy Kansas City realtor and developer, a one-time colleague of Truman's, a one-time supporter of the Pendergast machine, and something of a legend in his time. His role in the mortgage foreclosure on the Truman farm, and in the downfall of the Pendergasts, aroused the bitter feelings of anger in Truman. But Nichols doesn't seem to be mentioned by DM.

    The events of 1940, and the perfidy of these two former friends, Lloyd Stark and J C Nichols, turned that summer of 1940 into the dark night of Harry Truman's political soul. Stark was a double-crosser. And Nichols, as well as helping to sink the Pendergast ship, with Truman left as political flotsam, was also a serious hindrance to an equitable solution of the farm mortgage problem, and thus a factor in the health and welfare of his mother. Harry worried himself sick over the mortgage and the fear that his mother would die if she were to lose the farm. McCullough does mention the near heart attack at the convention in Chicago in July.

    Getting in Harry's way may have been more than Nichols ever intended, but there he is, a part of the sorry episode of the Trumans living off the farm by constantly adding mortgages, and falling behind in the payments. Playing financial chess, so to speak.

    In a letter to Bess, Truman wrote: 'No matter how much front she puts on she hates to leave the farm even if it has been nothing but a source of worry and trouble to us for 50 years. The place has brought bad luck and financial disaster to everyone connected with it since my grandfather died in 1892. If we'd been smart and sold it right after the World War when I had the (live)stock sale we could have been no worse off if we'd spent all the money in riotous living. Well, it's gone anyway, and may the jinx go with it.'

    His mother recovered. Harry went on to ever bigger things. But J C Nichols remained a bitter memory. The ordeals of 1940 just made Harry tougher.

    Joan, your wondering about the second man tweaked my curiousity into looking for 'the rest of the story'.

    The opinions expressed in this post were arrived at after reading about in TRUMAN:The Rise to Power, by R L Miller. A part of his preface reads like this:

    'At the start of this research project I shared the popular perception of Truman as a down-home sort of character with a refreshing honesty that seems absent from politics today. (1986) After going into the matter thoroughly I now view him as a professional big-city machine politician, involved in shady personal and political dealings. Yet he was different from many of his corrupt colleagues, not only in that he avoided prison or assassination, but in his sense of the future - a direction in which he felt his county, state and nation should go. Truman was politically ambitious, but it wasn't blind ambition. He had a social conscience and exercised his power not only on behalf of sordid cronies but for the good (as he perceived it) of all citizens.'

    Bill, McCullough's TRUMAN was your choice, wasn't it? It's a great biography. I was sorry about your choice of a Nixon biography. Pick a different one sometime. His life and times are worth a read.

    Bill H
    September 27, 2002 - 01:45 pm
    Joan, I feel as you do Stark wouldn't have been a good Senator for the war effort. He just wanted the Senate seat and all the trapping that went with it. He'd of been lost in all the complexities of WW2.

    And yes, your right when you said 15000 dollars wasn't much for an investigating committee considering 9000 dollars of it was paid to one person, leaving 6000 dollars for operating expenses. Even in those days 6000 dollars didn't go very far for something as huge as that. Maybe someone didn't want it to succeed, maybe a lot of people didn't want it to succeed. It prevailed mostly because of Truman's tireless devotion.

    I did watch the reruns of the Civil War and it was strange hearing McCullough narrate, while I had his book beside me. There was mention of a Union officer by the name of Col. George Marshall. Does anyone know if this was a relative of General George C Marshall of WW2 fame?

    Jonathan, yes, TRUMAN was my choice. I was undecided whether to go with NIXON first or TRUMAN. I thought Richard Nixon would be met with more enthusiasm, however, I learned later SeniorNet had already read a bio of Richard Nixon. I suppose the readers didn't want another one.

    I, too, believe Truman was a machine politician. It's almost impossible to associate one's self with a crowd like that of the Pendergast machine, if you don't become one of them. But I feel he was intelligent enough to, as you say, stay clean enough so the voters would have a trust in him. Harry was a smart politician and he knew what was good for Harry and what was not.

    Perhaps, FDR knew more than was brought out and for this reason gave him no backing. Even when those closest to FDR kept pluging for Harry for Vice President he still wouldn't commit himself to Harry as a running mate. From what I read Byrnes and the rest just wore Roosevelt down.

    FDR was tired and sick and just gave in to them. However, I feel that if Roosevelt had been his vigorous old self Harry Truman would never have been on the ticket as FDR's fourth term running mate. Here again, I feel fate played a roll.

    Bill H

    Bill H
    September 27, 2002 - 05:03 pm
    Harry Truman didn't indear himself with FDR. I can recount at least two occasions Harry must've displeased Roosevelt. He spoke out against a third term (or was it the fourth term?) for the President. If this was before Harry's second run for the Senate, how could he expect FDR to support him. Another time: His successful investigation into waste and fraud by defense contractors prompted the Republican Senator Vandenberg to ask him if the White House was responsible for that situation. Truman replied "Yes Sir." I can easily understand FDR's coolness towards Harry Truman. Roosevelt came across to me as being a very proud man and didn't expect this from a Democrat Senator. It would of had to be a bitter pill for Roosevelt to find Truman on the ticket as his running mate.

    Another point as to Senator Truman being a machine politician was made clear When asked by constituents from Kansas City for jobs his reply to them was "Bring me a recommendation from the Kansas City political organization and I'll do what I can for you." However this is mostly true of all office holders. I would have thought he'd study the credentials of the job seeker. Can't help but wonder if he said this to his old war buddies.

    Bill H

    betty gregory
    September 27, 2002 - 10:51 pm
    Excellent points, Bill, adding to reasons all have been posting for FDR's coolness toward Truman. The only thing I can think to add would be the legitimate differences between the two. FDR was the consumate politician who finessed his way through meetings and conversations, often leaving people unsure of where he stood. Truman, in contrast, usually took the shortest distance between two points....and said clearly what he thought. That couldn't have appealed to FDR.


    Bill H
    September 28, 2002 - 10:02 am
    Betty, reading our posts regarding FDR, I started reminiscing of his response to the bombing of Pearl Harbor which was attacked December 7, 1941. When the news came of the bombing of Pearl, I was with a bunch of other neighborhood guys throwing a football around on a sandlot football field that wasn't being used at the time. When I came home for dinner, my mother looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, "Son I think there's going to be a war. The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor" I knew why the tears were there. And after Roosevelt speech asking congress for a declaration of war, I also knew the neighborhood guys weren't "kids" any longer.

    It would be so interesting to hear what you folks were doing when the news came of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. All the "lurkers" are welcome to give their thoughts about this day of "infamy" as Roosevelt termed it.

    The bombing of Pearl Harbor and the ensuing declaration of war against the Japanese Empire suddenly changed everything. The priorities of the average citizen seemed so small now, an altogether atmosphere existed. Neighbors, friends and relatives drew closer to each other not knowing what was going to happen next. A bonding of the nation took place a bonding that I never seen the likes of since.

    I had a cousin that was one of the first ones drafted, when the Selective Service Act came into being. Draftees were to serve for one year. He was due to be discharged from service in about six or seven weeks. this was before the bombing took place. His one year of military service turned into a total of five years. Small cards with a star started appearing in the windows of the families with loved ones in the service. Unfortunately some of these stars turned gold. I knew a neighborhood friend wouldn't be returning.

    Bill H

    Bill H
    September 28, 2002 - 10:51 am

    Please use the above link for GREAT articles related to WW2

    Bill H

    September 28, 2002 - 11:01 am
    Can anyone imagine a greater contrast between two men than FDR and HST? Whom would yor rather get to know socially? Charisma aside, who had the greater impact on affairs? Who did more with of for the office of president? Truman, I believe, always had the greatest respect and admiration for President Roosevelt; but as a senator wasn't Truman very jealous of the role of that branch of the government, even if it meant displeasing the president? Many senators were concerned by how Caesar-like FDR was getting - as, for example, in the court-packing issue. Which HST, learning quickly, considered a very bad political move. Harry did have to look out for himself. Who could entirely trust FDR, or anyone, in that world of political maneuvering?

    Bill, what more can be said about Pearl Harbor that hasn't been said? How horrendous it was and has remained was apparent when it quickly became the context in which to see 9/11.

    September 28, 2002 - 11:13 am
    Bill, that's a great link. It's fun just to hover over every year for a moment. The year 1943, a good reminder of the beautiful company to be found in a foxhole!

    Bill H
    September 28, 2002 - 12:42 pm
    Jonathan, I agree that hovering over the years of the WW2 link I posted does bring up some very nice images, but do click on the years for good information and other images of generals, heads of states and the battles that took place for that particular year. These years contain a valuable history of the war. This WW2 link, if followed in it's entirety, gives the reader an in depth history of that war. Scroll down, after hitting on the years for more information. I believe this is one of the best web sites I have found pertaining to all features of the war.

    I commented in an earlier post that President Roosevelt was too sick and too tired to put up much of an argument as to who his running mate would be for his fourth term. To see the frailty of FDR in 1945 click

    Yalta 1945

    Bill H

    Joan Pearson
    September 28, 2002 - 03:15 pm
    Oh Bill, these great links have to go into the heading...don't you think? For a while anyway? Would you like me to do it?

    Looking at the Yalta photograph drives home the fact that FDR was a very sick man. No wonder he was non-commital and unresponsive regarding endorsements....his own health and the war are occupying all of his attention and energy.

    I have no memory of Pearl Harbor ~parents must have kept it from us...maybe if there was television back then, the news would have been harder to contain. But no. What kind of a public reaction was there in your neck of the woods? Those of you who can remember something?

    Jonathan, the contrasts! Black and white. I think McCullough gives us a portrait of FDR based on Harry's reaction to him. No wonder FDR was distant with Harry. Harry is trouble...he doesn't think that FDR should run again, he's going to involve the Senate in overseeing the military and probably more than anything, Harry's candor and frankness is demanding a response that Roosevelt just isn't willing to make - as Betty pointed out. Did you read where McCullough writes that FDR knew all along that he was going to have to pick Harry? Harry had no skeletons and a good solid record.

    I keep thinking of Jonathan's theory (is it McCullough's too?) - that Harry is destined to become President. I smile at McCullough including all those little details, that lead you to conclude that there is more than hard work that gets Harry to the next level each step of the way.

    Consider the "brand-new, pearl gray Chrysler Royale" for example. Was it sheer good luck or the alignment of the sun, the moon, the stars that prompted Harry to replace his old car and drive back to Washington for his second term. Could he have driven the 10,000+ miles across the country to examine the defense buiild up in his old jalopy? Without the information that he gathered from this "automobile odyssey" would he have been awarded the special Senate Commission, which would wind up saving the country $250,000,000? Without this attention (Look magazine named him one of the ten men in America who contributed most to the war effort), would he ever have reached Roosevelt's short list of three for VP? Things just happen for Harry, although Harry is a hard worker. Other men who work hard don't end up being president though, do they?

    Jonathan, I read with interest "the rest of the story" - the other man on Harry's grudge list - J C Nichols. The fact that Harry held a grudge is a sign of how deeply upset he was at his mama's eviction. It is a short list though, isn't it? Harry seems to have the ability to remove himself, or his feelings and emotions from a situation and focus on what he is doing until he has accomplished it. We have been reading that he does react - emotionally and physically to the stress that goes with the job...all of his jobs, although he always looks the picture of health and never lets on much how he really feels in a tough situation. More contrasts. Great photos. Super contrasts. I think it's the sign of a good discussion when you change your mind, edit your original reaction to what you have read. Thank you all!

    Bill H
    September 29, 2002 - 08:13 am
    Joan, Yes I feel those links should be placed in the heading they are just too good for anyone to miss.

    Bill H

    Bill H
    September 29, 2002 - 08:55 am
    Of all the men mentioned as a possible running mate for FDR, who would you have chosen. At the time, other than Truman, the men considered for the vice president's office were Henry Wallace, James Byrnes, Sam Rayburn and Henry J Kaiser. Other names mentioned to a lesser degree were Barkley, Ambassador John G Winant, Senator Sherman Minton and Justice William O Douglas.

    When Bob Hannegan said Byrnes would be the best candidate, Roosevelt said "That suits me fine." Truman believed Sam Rayburn would be best suited for the VP job. However, Roosevelt wouldn't commit to anyone. "He was content to let things slide." It's easy to see FDR was not the same person he was four years earlier, when he demanded that Henry Wallace be his running mate.

    Bill H

    September 29, 2002 - 03:20 pm
    I imagine that in these discussions of who should be the Veep candidate in FDR's fourth campaign, some have explained why the incumbent Veep, Henry Wallace, needed to be replaced?

    Can you direct me to some posts?

    Bill H
    September 29, 2002 - 03:55 pm
    Rambler, I'll try to answer your question about Henry Wallace with a paragraph from the bio as to why he was not a favorite for VP.

    "With the exception of Franklin Roosevelt, he (Wallace) was the most popular Democrat in the country. Those who loved him saw him as one of the rare men of ideas in politics and the prophet of a truly democratic America. But he was also an easy man to make fun of and to these tough party professional, Wallace seemed to have his head in the clouds. They had never wanted him for Vice President. He had been forced upon then in 1940, when Roosevelt threatened not to run again unless he could have Wallace as his running mate. Wallace was too intellectual, a mystic who spoke Russian and played with a boomerang and reputedly consulted with the sprit of a dead Sioux Indian chief. As Vice President he seemed pathetically out of place and painfully lacking in political talent, or even a serious interest in politics. When not presiding over the Sensate he would often shut himself in his office and study Spanish. He was too remote, too controversial, too liberal--much too liberal, which was the main charge against him."

    I assume he was probably a little too eccentric for the politicos and this would surely be brought out in the presidential campaign, if he ran again with FDR.

    Joan, thank you for putting those two links in the heading. I'm thinking of placing them in the Library for all seniors to view. They are so relevant to our time in life.

    Bill H

    Joan Pearson
    September 29, 2002 - 05:24 pm
    You're welcome, Bill. Didn't want to lose them in the posts...the photos really help to visualize the time...although David McCullough does a fantastic job of making us feel right there, doesn't he?

    Hello there, Rambler. I hope you stick around. Have enjoyed your perspective in past discussions. It seems that FDR is quite unconcerned about his running mate...and would rather someone else make the decision for him. Yes, he's focused on the war, but he is also ill and exhausted. I'm wondering why he ran again at this point. Does he feel he is up to it? It would be interesting to read a really good biography of FDR concerning his decision to run for another term...and thoughts on his running mate in this election.

    At any rate, he decides to run, but hesitates to select his Vice President to run again with him. Am I right in thinking that had Roosevelt selected him, there would not have been a vote at the convention?

    Rambler, McCullough writes quite a bit about Wallace...a very popular person in the country, but among the professional politicians, he was somewhat of a joke. He "seemed to have his head in the intellectual, a mystic who regularly consulted with a dead Sioux Indian chief." To the politicians in the business of getting their man elected, Wallace was lacking in any political talent, too controversial, and too liberal. This was the main charge against him. Everyone believed that Roosevelt would not make it through the next term; they knew they were selecting a Vice President who would be President. They did not believe that Wallace had what it get elected to the office of Vice President under this condition. Somehow they persuaded Roosevelt of this. Roosevelt was also looking at a short list of candidates other than Wallace.

    Bill, a good question. When you consider the candidates on the list, who would you pick? Roosevelt liked O'Douglas..but the party politicians were against that. The others had poor records in the South...Byrnes would have lost 200,000 Negro votes. Rayburn is from Texas... I think they are looking now for someone who will not be a liability to getting the President re-elected, bad health and all. The Democrats were actually looking for someone to run for VeepP who could BEAT the Republican Presidential candidate. A tall order. Hard pressed to say that any man could do that...other than the one that actually did it!

    September 29, 2002 - 10:00 pm
    Joan, are you suggesting that perhaps FDR was past caring when it came to deciding on a running mate? As ill and exhausted as he was, he must have felt that he couldn't go on much longer. During some discussions, we are told, he hardly seemed part of it. Eleanor couldn't get him to eat. He rambled in thought and speech when he addressed Congress after returning from the Yalta Conference.

    The selection of a running mate as described by McCullough has not really provided the answers to why Truman, to anyone's satisfaction in the discussion, it seems to me. Without being very knowledgeable about the intracies of selecting candidates in the complex US constitutional system, I feel that McCullough did very well in his attempt to explain. He couldn't have been completely satisfied himself, since he brings in Alban Barkley to say that not in a dozen conventions, or was it eleven, had he found it so perplexing. What struck me was introducing Ed Flynn at the last moment, so to speak, and with him the 'it's Harry' ending to the matter. Or did I get that wrong? I've had to change my mind a few times already. For example, I felt that Truman thought highly of FDR; but that doesn't seem to have been the case. Except when speaking in public. It is suggested by some that Harry could think meanly of himself. While thinking even less about many others. Some comment on his inferiority complex. I get the impression that with him it was a better conception of the magnitude of the challenge confronting him. A part of his honesty.

    I don't want anyone to think that I believe it was in the stars for Harry Truman to become President. I should say that I don't want to believe that. I can't. Not as long as there are political bosses in the community.

    Bill, 1943 reminded me of the pin-ups we had taped to the inside of our school locker doors. I came across one among my things not too long ago. But I will, I already have, go beyond the pretty icons.

    betty gregory
    September 30, 2002 - 12:30 am
    Joan, did you see the "Great Bridge" interview of McCullough on C-Span-2 Book TV this weekend (yesterday and today)? It's the C-Span recording of the (Sept. 17) live interview you attended. Whether you reported to us from notes you took or from memory, I am so impressed with the completeness and with the accuracy of tone and details you brought to us.

    Wasn't he easy to listen to! The rich voice, yes, but I am thinking, too, of how passionate and persuasive he is. With his views on how shortsighted and stupid it is for schools having economic difficulties to dump art, music and drama classes, I wish he'd write something for the New York Times. Then, those who lobby on such issues, nationally or locally, could carry around 50 copies of it in their briefcases. I was fired up, listening to him!

    The best moment, though, one you already told, was of his saying, "Why would I want to go faster? I want to go slower!" to the suggestion that a computer would help him write faster than his Royal typewriter. Those of us who slow down in our reading to savor some especially wonderful writing know just what he's talking about. Furthermore, about the task of writing, just as in life, he's learned it is the journey (the process), not the destination, that holds the greatest satisfaction.

    Has any politician ever heard of anything BUT the destination? The whole concept of politics is tuned to NOT being in the moment, but having ones eyes glued to the end of the row being plowed, sacrificing time with family, etc., etc., to win the goal. hahahahaha With my mixed images, I think I'll stop.


    Bill H
    September 30, 2002 - 03:23 pm
    What concerned Roosevelt about Truman was the political boss issure. He told Harold Ickes "It could play right into Dewey;s hands. Dewey's rise to political fame had been due to fighting political bosses.

    It was interesting to read that Gloria Swanson and Spencer Tracey attended the Democrat Convention in Chicago, but I think then as know most of the screen actors leaned to the Democrat Party What are your thoughts on that convection?

    Bill H

    Ann Alden
    September 30, 2002 - 05:13 pm
    Oh yes, I too get the impression that most of the people in Hollywood are of the liberal persuasion. Look at what Barbara Streisand is doing right now.

    In Lash's book about Eleanor and Franklin, the health of FDR seems to worried Eleanor and his friends saying, "the president's health fluctuated wildly and deceptively. His wife could write about Franklin's postwar plans, yet Ed Flynn, wgo saw him after his return from Hobcaw, was so shocked by his appearance and by a querulousess and apathy that were wholly foreign to his old friend that he begged Eleanor to use her influence to keep him from running again." Lash goes on to say that although Eleanor preferred Wallace for VP, she was to write to Wallace later that she was told that Senator Truman was a good man. And to Esther Lape: "I am much more satisfied with Senator Truman than I would have been with some of the the others who were seriously considered."

    According to Lash, Eleanor thought that Roosevelt was very aloof and withdrawn and indifferent. She thought that he really wouldn't mind losing the election.

    My take on people wanting FDR to win was to keep the President and the Democratic in control as they had been all through the war. Who else had the knowledge and power to bring this awful conflagration to an end? The Dems also wanted to be in charge of the negotiations so that the major trends were established in the losing countries to their liking. Does the control of the OIL raise its ugly head, once again?? What about the Ploesti oilfields of Rumania?(Europe's largest source of oil outisde the Soviet Union.) And, if I understand this correctly, we wanted be sure to control the countries who lost the war and at the same time, their oil production.

    September 30, 2002 - 09:38 pm
    Bill, Truman was seen by everyone as Pendergast's man, including Roosevelt; and was seen as a problem. You'll recall that FDR phoned Pendergast on one occasion, asking him to instruct Truman how to vote on an issue. Truman, to show his independence voted otherwise. I believe it was in the selection of Senate Majority Leader. FDR also said to someone, that he knew nothing about Truman. But, all things considered, in the end FDR and those around him agreed that Truman would do the ticket the least harm. Wasn't that the way it ended? Given Roosevelt's great stature after three terms, could his running mate have been a serious issue? How did you feel about Joe Kennedy's opinion that FDR killed his son, by taking America into the war, or by not preventing the war entirely? It makes one wonder about the nature of the political talk at the Kennedy dinner table.

    I too have always been under the impression that Hollywood was liberal and mostly Democrat. Wasn't Ronald Reagan a Rooseveltian Democrat?

    Ann, I find your comments taken from the Lash book very interesting. According to that Eleanor worried about Franklin's health, as one would naturally expect. She thought that he wouldn't mind losing the election. That would be more difficult to expect of him. Did Eleanor ever try to influence him about running for a fourth term?

    Bess Truman seems to have had serious problems, from time to time, with Harry's involvement in politics, and never more than when the vice-presidency and the presidency loomed over her. Margaret has this to say about Bess in her bio of her mother:

    'All Bess could think of was, the way this decision to become vice president, which we knew meant becoming president, was tearing her life apart. Day and night, her mind was filled with foreboding. Was she going to watch another man whom she loved, another man to whom she had entrusted her happiness, stumble into catastrophic defeat, this time with the whole world watching?'

    Doesn't that raise all kinds of strange thoughts about Bess's confidence in Harry, and the sorrowful memories about her father?

    What a lot of interesting ideas you bring up in the last paragraph of your post...about winning the war, and then winning the peace.

    Joan Pearson
    October 1, 2002 - 06:48 am
    There are several things about this election that don't make sense to me. Your posts are helping in some ways, but in some, only add to my general confusion.

    Roosevelt is so sick and exhausted that his closest friends and family members are concerned about his health. I can understand that.

    The Republicans think that his health is an issue, that the country is aware that the election is really between Dewey and the Vice President who will surely become President if elected. So the Republicans, understanding that the people are hesitant to change presidents while the war is on - decide to run against Harry. That's smart, I think. Convince the people that they are not voting for an experienced leader...because his days are numbered and the relatively unknown, inexperienced leader is the man they would be electing if they do not vote for Dewey.

    This all makes sense. What confuses me is what actually happened during the campaign.

    Harry did not want to be on the ticket...from everything written here. He knew he would become president, but didn't want to do it over Roosevelt's dead body. "Will you tell the Senator that if he wants to break up the Democratic Party in the middle of the war, that's his responsibility." When Roosevelt said that, Harry felt he had no choice and threw himself into the campaign, riding the campaign train from one end of the country to the other.

    The curious thing was that he campaigned on Roosevelt's leadership and experience. You'd think the Republicans would have campaigned against Harry for his lack of the same. Instead they tried to find Pendergast misdeeds to set the country against Harry. I think this was a tactical error. In the end, there was nothing there.

    Harry said in Miller's Plain Speaking that he never doubted they would win...that "people never trusted Dewey - it was the mustache. In those days people were aware of Hitler and the mustache did not do him any good."

    Here are the two confusing aspects of the election:
  • The total lack of communication with Roosevelt. Doesn't R. realize that he has hand-selected Harry? Wouldn't you think he'd want to plan campaign strategy with him? If he's so sick, he must realize that he has hand-selected the next president too. He totally ignored him!

  • Roosevelt's health ~ It's one thing to say that Roosevelt's health was as bad as the Lash book portrayed him...that he didn't really care about the election or anything else at this point. But that's not what we read here, is it? Suddenly Roosevelt comes roaring back...his dislike for Dewey invigorates, "exhiliarates" him. He seems like his old self and gives what is considered his best speech ever...the "little dog Fala" speech. Campaigns "for hours in an open car, bareheaded"... How did this happen? Was he really at death's door as described? I guess the bottom line was...the people saw this and the health issue is dismissed and the Republicans find no Pendergast mess that will stick. The election is said to be "close"...3,000,000 votes! hahaha, what would they have called Florida, 2000? In the end, Harry did not win this election, then. FDR did?
  • Ann Alden
    October 1, 2002 - 07:57 am
    JoanP, if you recall, the Roosevelt people saw that his health fluctuated wildly and deceptively. Which may have given them totally different messages as to whether he was really interested in running again.

    There is no evidence that Eleanor tried to talk FDR into leaving the election and he did come roaring back when he was needed. She had complete trust in his ability in running the country even when she disagreed with him. Another thing that I read says that when FDR came roaring back, it might have been because Eleanor treated him as she had when he first had polio and she wouldn't let him give up being active. Also, he was very interested in running the country after the war. Thought that Dewey would have a detrimental effect on the plans that the Dems had. Particulary in the availability of jobs for everyone who needed one.

    Another interesting point here is the concern for the Negro vote being taken for granted. Walter White, of the NAACP, wanted a very strong civil rights plank accepted at the convention but the Dem leaders feared that a strong plank would mean a split with the southern democrats.

    So, there was more going on than we were privy to after the convention.

    Bill H
    October 1, 2002 - 09:29 am
    Betty, oh yes, many of FDR's friends were very concenered about his health. They feared that after the delegates to the convention formed the ticket Roosevelt might die before the general election. What a fix that would have presented!

    Jonathan, yes, Ronald Reagan was a Roosevelt man. Several times during Reagan's terms in office he spoke highly of FDR. Ronald Reagan: Now that would make for a fine discussion.

    Joan, as to Roosevelt's lack of communication with Harry, I don't think Roosevelt ever really forgave Harry for the number of times he spoke in opposition to him. Harry spoke against FDR's third term, laid the blame for war time waste as Roosevelt's fault. and ignored FDR's choice for a Senate majority leader when he voted for someone else. But, then again, perhaps Roosevelt intended to treat Harry Truman the way he treated Henry Wallace. Just another Vice President.

    Bill H
    October 1, 2002 - 10:12 am
    Even after the general election and FDR's inauguration, Roosevelt continued to ignore VP Harry Truman. I believe DM told us that from January to May Roosevelt spoke briefly with Harry three times. Considering his poor health, it would've been prudent on the President's part to bring Harry up to date on important matters, not necessarily the Manhattan Project. However, why shouldn't the VP be knowledgeable abot that project, after all, he was next in line for the Presidency and I'm sure he was security cleared. I can't imagine today's Vice President not being fully informed about a matter as important as that.

    Today we begin Part Three: TO THE BEST OF MY ABILITY.

    The Call:

    When notified of the call from the White House, Harry Truman was "downstairs" in Sam Rayburn's private hideaway, known unofficially as "the Board of Education." having a libation with Rayburn and two others. To be invited down there meant a Senator had arrived. Harry was a frequent visitor. ) It was Deschler who reminded Rayburn that Truman had had a call from the White House. After returning the call, Steve Early told Harry to come to the White House quickly and quietly. Upon leaving the room Truman started running, but he took the time to stop at his own offce--to get his hat. Harry Truman was not about to embark on a new adventure without his hat.

    Bill H

    October 1, 2002 - 09:28 pm
    FDR comes roaring back. It really is amazing how well he did for so many years despite his severe handicap. His grim determination to succeed reached far enough to enable him to put himself into denial about his limitations. His health was an issue in 1944 apparently, since his personal physician issued a statement saying there was nothing wrong organically with him. This, and the campaign, were probably enough to get the adrenalin flowing.

    And Harry Truman did turn out well in his role as running mate, didn't he? How could the Republicans campaign against him, when he was a much-liked Senator, a loyal New Dealer, who had attracted so much favorable national attention with his committee work. It seems to me that the 'second Missouri Compromise' was a real asset.

    What seems so strange was Bess's lack of confidence in him, unlike Eleanor's feelings about FDR. This must have hurt Harry. Somehow I suspect that it was Bess's negative feelings about her politician husband, that were behind Harry's insisting that he didn't want the chance at the vice-presidency. As it turned out the first year in the White House was also the rockiest year of their marriage.

    I've just come away from watching the movie TRUMAN, based on McCullough's book. It's really quite good and catches the drama of the Trumans in their history-making roles. Bess is wonderful! What I did want to mention was the portrayal of Harry's keen disappointment with Bess's unwillingness to stay at his side in Washington.

    Joan Pearson
    October 2, 2002 - 05:58 am
    Betty, I forgot to ask you the other you remember if D.McCullough mentioned the subject of his next book when you saw that interview? It played here at 2am, I taped it and am hoping to catch that. Don't have time right now to do that. There was some suggestion from a questioner that he do Polk, but he mentioned something/someone else. Did they broadcast the question/answer session, do you recall?

    Jonathan, I read in "Plain Speaking" that both Harry's mother and sister "felt sorry for Harry" when they heard that FDR had died. So just imagine how Bess felt! Perhaps she was in the minority from the beginning...and understood that Roosevelt would probably die, that Harry wasn't ready for the job...she KNEW what s/he was getting into! It seems that FDR considered himself "immortal" matter how badly he looked or felt. He somehow conveyed to the public the same impression. So why should he treat Harry any differently than he had treated his other Vice Presidents? They were all inconsequential. He was in charge of everything. Harry had certain tasks that he would be expected to do, but there was no reason to confide matters of real importance to him. The Roosevelts never even invited the Trumans for dinner at the White House! Not even on the guest list!

    Personally, I think FDR acted strangely...yes, I can see that he wanted to stand to take the oath, no matter how much pain he was in. He wanted to inspire confidence in the country that he was just fine. But why come out in the freezing cold to take the oath in his "thin suit?" Wasn't that reckless? A sign that he was somewhat ...addled? The man is still a mystery to me. So's Harry, but he's becoming clearer.

    I was a child when FDR died, but I can still see my grandmother weeping in the back yard as she took the laundry off the line. Inconsolably. I had no idea how serious things were...just "the President has died." I don't remember hearing anything else...hearing what people were saying about our Harry.

    Ann Alden
    October 2, 2002 - 06:17 am
    Joan, did you see the funeral train scene in the mini series about Eleanor and Franklin? People arose in the middle of the night just to stand near the tracks and watch the train pass. I think that they considered him their savior! He would save them! He certainly gave that impression from the very beginning of his political life. Such cheery confidence!! Sometimes, bombastic! Jocular!!

    I thought the book's mention of FDR never wanting to delegate his authority told us much about him. Harry mentioned that he had a giant ego, worse than Bernard Baruch's. And also that FDR was so afraid that he wouldn't " have all the power and the glory so he wouldn't let his friends help as it should be done."

    I understand Harry's straight forwardness as many midwesterners are just like that. We say what we mean and we mean what we say!

    October 2, 2002 - 12:05 pm
    I really hate to begin each posting with an apology about being behind in my reading but I do have trouble keeping up, "floaters", et al. Reading the monitor is so much easier and I do enjoy reading each posting that you fine people have made. I do have some speculations about pertinent events, right or wrong. First off, I feel that Truman's selection for the office of Vice President was strictly a compromise as so many of you have noted. He would do the least harm to the ticket, as Jonathon noted. He had to be considered a "lightweight" that wouldn't offend any segment of the Democratic party. I don't think Roosevelt particularly liked him or considered him important enough to be consulted about anything. As far as picking Truman to be the next President, I truly doubt that entered FDR's mind. I don't think that FDR believed that he was on death's doorstep. I just don't think he thought that way. One reason that his death had such a devastating impact on the nation was that for the most part the American public had very little knowledge about the condition of his health and were almost in a state of shock when FDR passed away. He was a political savior to a very large segment of the voting public! To the man in the street, FDR could do no wrong! He was our leader and we would gladly follow ! Suddenly he was gone ! In the midst of an agonizingly devastating war, winner take all, the one person who could lead us to victory was dead! An now our nation had to rely on lightweight Senator/Vice President to see us through? Is it any wonder that the nation wept?

    Bill H
    October 2, 2002 - 03:04 pm
    Had a very busy day a lot of running around. I started out at 8' O clock this morning and I just got home. Very tired. Rough day. I'll be posting again tomorrow. But I did read your latest post. Thank you.

    Losalbern, does my posting in bold type make it easier for you to read my posts?

    Bill H
    October 3, 2002 - 09:13 am
    "Good God," Truman will be President, it was being said everywhere. This shows how little knowledge the country had of Harry Truman. David Lilienthal is quoted as saying "God help us all" Eisenhower, Bradley and Patton sat up much of the night speculating about Harry Truman. They did not feel he was qualified for the job. These three generals were deeply depressed because they had viewed their first Nazi death camp, Ohrdruf-Nord, near Gotha. In the ranks of the armed forces men were shocked most had never heard of Harry Truman and didn't know what to expect. I was just as bewildered as the rest of my armored infantry company. What know we asked. Is all this never going to end?

    However, there were many in Congress who had confidence in Truman they knew the man and had seen how he handled responsibility. Even the arch republican, Arthur Vandenberg wrote Truman was "a grand person with every good intention and high honesty of purpose." When Vandenberg was asked if Truman could "swing the job?" "I think he can."

    I still think Roosevelt, in light of his illness, should've consulted more with Harry Truman, after Harry was VP. Can you imagine recent Vice Presidents such as Al Gore and Dick Cheney not being briefed on vital matters especially one so important as the atomic bomb.

    A little amusement here: After being sworn in as the President, Harry had to call his friend Eddie McKim and tell him that evenings poker game had to be called off. "You know why" Truman told him. I wonder how many poker games Truman had as President.

    Bill H

    October 3, 2002 - 09:25 pm
    Bill, like Losalbern, I've fallen a little behind in my reading; but thanks to Joan and her better appreciation of what Bess had to contend with as First Lady, as well as being the wife of an overworked husband, I went looking for more information. And soon found it to be an absorbing subject. Once more there is the rest of the story.

    Along the way I found a most interesting book by Margaret Truman: FIRST LADIES. Of course there's a good chapter on Bess as First Lady, as well as wife of the President. But it's a few introductory remarks Margaret T makes which left me a little puzzled and I would be thankful for any help in explaining them or making the meaning clearer. M T writes:

    '...modern presidential wives have amply demonstrated, First Ladies are doing a lot. But the job remains undefined, frequently misunderstood, and subject to political attacks far nastier in some ways than those any President has ever faced. It has complications as mind-boggling from a psychological or political point of view as the conundrums faced by the double-domes in the State Department or the Pentagon.'

    Can anyone tell me the significance or the nature of these 'double-domes' in this context? Then in the next paragraph M T writes:

    'Few if any Presidents, including my father, did not want that unique job.'

    Am I being obtuse in seeing a conundrum in that statement? I'm having difficulty in deciding whether her father was among the few who did not want that unique job, or if almost everyone, including her father, wanted that unique job.

    I wish to thank Ann for her remarks about Harry's straight-forwardness, probably his most endearing quality, and something many on his staff and in Washington found refreshing and effective. But there were those humorous occasions when he seemed to flaunt it to excess in driving home a point. When Bess felt constrained to rein him in. I came across this, for example:

    'In the 1960 election Truman volunteered to make some speeches, and went on the road again. In San Antonio that fall he announced that anyone who voted for Richard M Nixon ought to go to hell. After the speech Richard Donahue found the former President pacing the floor of his hotel room. 'The Madam' he explained, had just called to bawl him out. 'If you can't talk politer than that', she told him, 'you come right home.'

    That's twelve years after Harry Truman's 'truth' to the voters was mistaken for "given 'em Hell"...a clear case of forthrightness being misunderstood.

    I'm still convinced that Harry would have thought manure to be too ambiguous or too figurative.

    It became a running joke among White House Staff, who would inquire, is the President 'in the doghouse again' for sounding off?

    It must have been awfully straight-forward for tough old Molotov to turn ashen gray when he got it straight from President Truman

    Ann Alden
    October 4, 2002 - 01:49 am
    Yes, Jonathan, that sentence is ambiguous, isn't it? I took out some of the wording and came up with two meanings! #1. A few, including her father, did not want the job as president. Or # 2. There were few, including her father, who did NOT want to serve as president. Hmmmm!

    I am beginning to wonder if HST's straight forwardness didn't wear everyone out.His "Let the chips fall where they may" attitude, must have made his cabinet very nervous.

    I have just reserved "Truman", the movie with Gary Sinese. I intend to watch it over the weekend, between the baseball games and the college football games.

    My arms and shoulders are wearing out, numbness is setting in so I am considering separating the book into several parts. :<) Its too heavy to read in bed. But, I can't put it down.

    At one time this week, I was searching through three big volumes comparing historians different approach to this time in history. I had, "Eleanor and Franklin" by Joseph P. Lash, "The Prize" by Daniel Yergan?? plus our assigned tome. I finally got tired of looking up so much info and returned one(E&F) to the library. It is fun to compare the different authors reports of a particular time in history. And to see what it going on behind the scenes.

    Joan Pearson
    October 4, 2002 - 06:02 am
    How do I say this, without sounding like I know I'm going to sound...when I was talking to David McCullough on the phone on Wednesday (hahaha, I knew that would get your attention! It was quite by accident, I had called to talk to his assistant with whom I have had several brief conversations regarding the Book Festival, and quite unexpectedly, the man himself answered the phone! More about that later, I need some time to write up my notes on the call), he repeated how importance of his research in understanding not only his subject, but also the culture, the mindset of the people at the time.

    I can appreciate the importance in understanding Harry and the people who surrounded him...and the whole country at the time. I'm still trying to comprehend Harry's preparation or should say lack of it for the presidency my the 21st century perch. These people really were not in the least bit concerned about FDR's health, were they? Not even Harry, it seems.

    Where's Harry's famous preparation for the job lies ahead? It is clear that he doesn't believe that he is going to succeed Roosevelt, because of the total absence of preparation we have come to expect. Even when Roosevelt returned from Yalta and addressed the joint session of Congress, where everyone noted how pale he was, rambling, incoherent, shaking hands, there seemed to have been no inkling that his days were numbered and that Harry better get briefed just in case.

    He actually enjoys the Vice Presidency...which consists of presiding over the Senate and meeting people. The Senators are his friends now, they respect him, but they enjoy him too. Come to think of it, this is actually very good preparation for the job of President, isn't it? Think of those elected who come into office with no knowledge the Senators, of Congress and how it works, . Harry has them in his court. This will serve him well in his new office.

    You know, I can't get over how happy Harry is as Vice President, still living in the five room apartment on Connecticut Ave. - with Bess, Margaret...and Mrs. Wallace! with them all in the big house in Independence was one thing, but all four in the five rooms! At least when they move into the White House, they can spread out a bit!

    As Harry is enjoying himself socially as Vice President, Bess is becoming more and more "furious." This is bound to change. I thought it was interesting that as Vice President, Harry still kept his old Senate office as a retreat. His ornate VP office was reserved for social functions. I suppose he had to give up his old office as President, but surely not his cronies in the Senate? He was never one to forget his friends.

    Harry's greatest concerns as VP, according to a Time magazine report at the time, were "the struggle between the executive and legislative branches and the stuggle between the allied powers that will wreck the peace." My struggle is to catch up to the rest of you...but off-hand I would say that the "two domes" must surely relate to the third struggle that has been smoldering between the capitol dome and those in the Pentagon who believe in their autonomy and power. The final decision on how to end the war will finally be Harry's in the third dome over the White House, (the A bomb of which he still knows nothing!)

    He seems to be on top of things regarding the relations between the executive and legislative branches. But the second will be Harry's.

    Bill H
    October 4, 2002 - 10:31 am
    Jonathan, thank you for telling us about FIRST lADIES. There are several I would like to read about. I think some of them would make for fine reading!

    Ann, I hope you enjoy the movie as much as I did. Sinese does an outstanding job portraying Truman.I watched it two times.

    Joan, GOOD FOR YOU in getting through to David McCullough!! What a fine conversation you must've had. Wonderful persevering on your part. Like one of the chapter's in this bio, "Try, Try Again. I can't wait to read what you and David McCullough talked about. That's going to be interesting to hear.

    Yes, Harry did enjoy his brief period as VP. I suppose because it was the "office of obscurity." He had time to do what HE wanted. It does seem as though everyone was hiding their head in the sand regarding FDR's health. Surely they could see the man was dreadfully ill and didn't have long to live. I think Harry ignored this because he didn't want to face the possibility of being the President in one of the most turbulent times in the nations history.Unless everone was afraid of Roosevelt or didn't want to bring FDR's attention to his poor health, I think he should've been persuaded to take his Vice President into his confidance and brief Truman on important matters.

    Harry Truman didn't have the luxury of the usual two month grace period from election to inauguration. Most president elects have this period which to form their cabinet, map their strategy and receive the usual White House briefing on important issues from out the going administration. Harry Truman was thrust into this position cold turkey and was expected by all to to continue on as before. David McCullough wrote in the biography that Roosevelt had done nothing to keep him informed or provide background on decisons and plans at the highest level. Truman told Margaret, "never did talk to me about the war, or about foreign affairs or what he had in mind for peace after the war." Many doubted he had the capabily, but, once again, he proved them wrong. He did exactly what was expected of him from the beginning. However, he was surrounded by highly capable men such as General Geogre C. Marshal, considered by many to be one of the finest statesmen in history, Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal, Stettinius, Jimmy Byrnes, etc.

    Two asides: DM commented on what Generals Eisenhower, Bradley and Patton had said upon hearing the news of FDR's death and how they felt about Truman, but DM never wrote how General MacArthur felt or what he said about Truman.

    April 13th , 1945 was Harry's first full day as President of the United States, twenty seven years to the day since he landed at Brest as a First Lieutenant in the AEF. If First Lieutenant Truman had been able to see through the armor of time to the day he sat in the President's chair in the Oval Office, the great war wouldn't have been near as frightening.

    Bill H

    October 4, 2002 - 08:38 pm
    Ann, you poor soul. Put that book down immediately, and enjoy the movie. After reading and discussing the book for a month the Trumans will seem familiar. I found it that way. And, of course, you would also have your own memories to add to that.

    Joan, along with the others I'm looking forward to hearing more of your conversation with the author. I would love to make the most of an opportunity to tell him how much I'm enjoying his book. With a lot of questions. Imagine immersing oneself in an area of research such as TRUMAN for ten years. To extrapolate from one month's experience, such as ours, just boggles the mind.

    Bill, how do you feel about the progress we're making? It seems to me that we're proceeding through the book very nicely; although I must say I'm happy to have Harry in the White House, at long last. At age 61, and it's all been prologue. The heartbeat, which kept him in the wings until this momentous moment in a world drama rivalling anything in Homer, fails, and he's thrust onto the stage.

    It's suggested that he wasn't ready for the part. That he wasn't prepared. That despite being Vice-President, he was kept in the dark about the role he might be asked to play.

    I disagree with that. I think he was as well prepared as anyone could be, for what Margaret called 'the unique job'. And say what you will, and despite even Truman's own protestations, he took to the 'job' like a fish takes to water. He brought all kinds of ability to the position, along with energy and enthusiasm. And his record was really quite good, with experience in many areas of public life - both administrive and legislative - even, perhaps specially, battlefield experience. He studied law for a while. He acquired plenty of political savvy. He had travelled extensively with a purpose around the country, and met people in all walks of life.

    It really seems remarkable how quickly he felt for and grasped the reins of presidential power. Without the benefit of a two-month transition period, as Bill has pointed out. That should tell us that he was quite ready for it. The ten years in Washington were obviously put to good use. As a Senator and the short while as VP, he had ample opportunity to learn what was going on, without being briefed officially. He must have had a pretty good handle on the issues and policies and how to get the job done. And he had been presiding over one thing or another for many years. All that remains now is to determine how well he did as President. Gosh, his popularity rating was pretty low most of the time, wasn't it?

    It's curious to think of the qualifications other leaders brought to the job. Churchill was a journalist. Stalin was a priest. Napoleon was a soldier. King David was a shepherd. Ronald Reagan was an actor.

    The best comment on the question, I think, is one I found in an article, A Year of Truman, in an April, 1946, issue of LIFE:

    'Truman's presence at this stage of history may personify and dramatize that basic principle of the government he heads which holds that the ordinary man knows better what is good for ordinary mankind than anybody else.'

    Does this line earlier in the article sound familiar? 'He still occasionally refers to the White House as a "prison" but lugubrious references to how little he wanted his job and how much he needs everyone's help in doing it are now rarer than they used to be.'

    Is it any wonder that Bess found it difficult?

    October 5, 2002 - 07:46 am
    Well, I am finally getting around to participating in this discussion. We have been away visiting college friends and relatives in Iowa and Illinois. One of them loaned me a copy of the book, so I will try to catch up.

    Some early observations:

    Everyone knows when things are not going well healthwise. When your hands tremble something is not right.I feel certain FDR knew he was not in top shape, but being the extreme egotist that he was he would never admit it to anyone. I believe he sincerely felt that he would serve out his 4th term, and maybe even run again for a 5th. After all he broke the two term tradition,and he knew he was overwhelmingly popular. This may partially account for why he felt no need to take HT into his confidence etc.

    I got somewhat of a humorous kick out of McCullough's reference to the change the Secret Service had to make in their method of operation over that past 12 years. Actually, because of Roosevelt's disability he was really a captive of the Secret Service when it came to moving about. Harry really shocked them when he became President. When he decided to go someplace he just put on his hat and took off, leaving the Secret Service detail trying to catch up with him like a pack of hungry hound dogs.

    Am curious to know of how many know who FDR's previous vice Presidents were?

    Bill H
    October 5, 2002 - 12:32 pm
    Ann, you will enjoy the movie, but it doesn't have near the depth the bio has. Like any other made for TV movie it takes poetic license and arranges events for easier viewing. The movie skims through the most important historical events and eliminates many of them completely. How much can be done in an hour and thirty minutes plus? I watched the movie twice and I have read the biography twice and I'm certain you will not find the movie as rewarding as the book. You will miss a lot by just using the movie as a vehicle for the discussion. Ann, if you can manage, for a true understanding of Harry Truman's life stay with the book. The movie is not the best way for learning about Harry Truman.

    Jonathan, we have proceeded well enough, but now that Harry is President I would like to hear more about the actions he takes as President. You explained you have fallen behind in your reading. The good part starts now. We are on part three of the bio "To The Best Of My Ability." If you care to pick it up from there, I'm sure you will be richly rewarded by what you read. We will soon becoming to the Potsdam Meeting--don't miss out on that, it's great reading. We are also closing in on President Truman's agonizing decision to drop the atomic bomb. I would love to hear everybody's comments on this grave (no pun intended) decision. Unfortunately the movie is sadly lacking on these two historical events.

    I felt Harry Truman could do the job. He demonstrated leadership ability from the two Senate investigation committees he chaired and the way he ran his own elections. Harry showed leadership qualities in WW1, the county judge terms he held, and his two Senate terms. He was a man that could seize the initiative.

    Williewoody, welcome back. I'm glad you enjoyed you vacation. Williewoody, you asked who FDR's VPs were. Well, here they are:

    John N. Garner 1933-1941
    Henry A. Wallace, 1941-1945
    Harry S. Truman, 1945

    Yes, Harry brought about many changes for the Secret Service. In addition to what you mentioned, Harry was a fast walker and liked to take long walks, as they found out soon enough. I suppose some of them had to get back in shape, although they did have to run along side of Roosevelt's car. But Harry's early morning rising was a change that I would like to know how the Secret Service welcomed. )

    For a list of all the Vice President's, visit

    Vice Presidents of the US

    Bill H

    Ann Alden
    October 5, 2002 - 02:39 pm
    Oh, Bill, I never even considered not continuing to read the book. Its just too fascinating not to finish. I had hoped to add to my knowledge with the movie. So, the movie would not play on either of my VCR's and I am returning it. I also had the same trouble with "Give 'Em Hell, Harry" which was a one man show done by James Whitmore. Too bad! I remember enjoying this when it first came out.

    I was also very interested in the atomic bomb and how it became so important when I was reading this earlier, so am now rereading that part of the book about Hanford and Oak Ridge, DuPont, the condemning of so much land by the Feds for Dupont. I was disappointed when Harry was so blaise about telling others about the "huge explosion being built". Even to go so far as to write about it in a letter which he dictated to his secretery. And, the discussion of Stimson and Truman about dropping the bomb in Japan or continuing to fire bomb that country. The problem of Japan's placement of its industries in and around its residential areas. And just before the dropping of the bomb Harry receives a letter from a scientist who wrote Truman that it would be better if the Allies continued to fire bomb and invade Japan because of his fear that atomic energy would change and maybe destroy the whole of civilization.

    Rereading about the Truman committee, I could understand HST's ability to take over the presidency with such competence. Here is man who spent ten years in the Senate, who ran a committee that was credited with saving millions of dollars in the war effort. The Truman Committee which kept many people honest when they realised that they might be the next ones called to witness. He really had a take charge personality without being blustery. Look how his men loved him during WWI and even after. He was the one who kept many of them from going under during the depression. And, when his store went bust, where did he end up? In Pendergast's office, seeking a job. His speech giving wasn't too swift in the beginning but he improved as time passed. He had such an honest way of putting things and never finagled around when he said something. Having never heard about his speech at Chicago Field about saving the European Jews, I am impressed with his bluntness about Hitler. Evil?? Did he say, "Evil?"

    Bill H
    October 5, 2002 - 05:17 pm
    Ann, the book is fascinating. I was sorry when I finished reading it. However, I did read it through again. ) Yes, I, too, was shocked when I read about Harry dictating the letter to his secretary and then mailing it. What a breach of security that was.. It wouldn't happen today. I don't think. Can't you just imagine todays CIA going wild if something like that happened.. National Security must've been very lax then. But Harry should have known this was a breach of security. All he had to do was remember how he was kept in the dark about a "big explosion," even when he was VP. I'm surprised he would do something so foolish. Ann, Harry's speeches vastly improve through the years. Maybe he kissed the Blarney Stone. hahaha. You know, I kissed the Blarney Stone when I vacationed in Ireland several years ago, and, since then, I've found speaking much easier. Perhaps the God of Blarney bestowed this gift to me.

    Yes, Harry did say Hitler was Evil and he was so right. Wait until you read what he has to say at the Potsdam Meeting. He comes in to his own pretty well when that meeting takes place.

    Bill H.

    Bill H
    October 5, 2002 - 05:19 pm
    He was President now. The terrible battle of Berlin was reaching it's climax. In the Pacific, In one huge daylight raid more than four hundred B-29 Superfortresses had bombed Tokyo for four hours. The war thus far had cost 196, 999 American lives, which as Truman knew, was three times the American losses in his own earlier war. And he, not, Roosevelt was responsible now. The Chiefs of Staff said the fighting in Europe could last six months longer; in the Pacific, possibly another year and a half. What a dilemma the one time farmer and county judge found himself in.

    Already they were looking ahead to the end of the war and what was to follow. The Russians were taking a hard line stand on every major issue.Truman found himself in a severely handicapped position. He brought out that he had no first hand knowledge of Churchill or Stalin. He didn't even know his own Secretary of State, more than to say hello. He had no background in foreign policy, no experts of his own to call upon for help. He was frightened. Put yourself in this man's position and try to imagine how you would feel and what you would do. Mind boggling. However this was soon going to change. Harry was never short on intelligence. He began surrounding himself with people that were experts in these necessary categories.

    A lesser man would've cracked. Hey, a lesser man would never have been there in the first place. With all these short comings, Harry Truman pulled it all together and started to do the job. You know, I firmly believe that Devine guidance led and supported Harry S. Truman. Think about it for a minute or two. Mind boggling!!

    Bill H

    Bill H
    October 6, 2002 - 09:11 am

    Compare the vigorous, strong, determined looking President Truman that sat between Churchill and Stalin at the Potsdam Conference to the frail, ill looking President Roosevelt that sat with the other two world leaders at Yalta. Do you think Truman would've made the concessions to Stalin that FDR granted him?

    Bill H

    Joan Pearson
    October 6, 2002 - 11:07 am
    We are counting down the days before our Bookfest in Washington and the National Book Festival. Bill, we wish that you could have joined us...all the rest of you too. We know you will be down there on the mall in DC in spirit and promise to report in with accounts of the goings-on.

    It was in a continuing effort to contact David McCullough while at the Book Festival that I telephoned his assistant one day last week. She had advised that I give a call right before the festival as Mr. M's schedule for the weekend should be complete by then. I have also been sending questions to the office as she advised, with no response as yet. She told me to send a few questions and she would try to get them to him, so I really wanted to speak to her about TWO things: our meeting with him at the Book Festival, and his response to questions from this discussion sent earlier.

    The first time I called, I got a busy signal. Well, that was better than voice mail, I thought. Fifteen minutes later, I phoned again and this time....the phone was picked up by HIMSELF! I was so startled, that I hesitated for a second, reconsidered my first impulse (which was to ask if his assistant was there)...and instead, launched into an explanation of who I was, who we were, that we were reading and discussing his Truman on-line, (keep in mind that he has no use for the computer or the Internet as a means of communication...favors the written word...and I really believe a man as busy as he is must also have an aversion to the telephone!) We talked about the Book Festival, and from there we launched into the research that went into Truman, research for all of his books, his next venture and at the end he actually said he was looking forward to meeting us at the Book Festival! When I hung up, I had two reactions...elation about meeting him at the Book Festival, and then dismay that I had not been prepared, or had the presence of mind to bring up some of the specific questions that we have been pondering in this discussion. It won't happen the next time - I'll keep questions taped to the wall beside me for when the next opportunity presents itself. I know he doesn't grant interviews, but when a serendipitous opportunity comes this way again, I will be ready!

    Joanathan, in a recent post, you referred to the questions you would ask M. McCullough if you had the opportunity. Could you be specific? How about the rest of you? Our next opportunity will be at the Book Festival next Saturday. A number of us will be there. We might each try to squeeze in a question...Will you write some of your questions here and we will do our best to do a better job than I did on the phone the other day? I must confess, I let him talk, and tossed in some questions in the same vein to keep him going. Never went too far from the general subject of the conversation though. Will write up what he had to say this evening, but really want to catch up on the present discussion this afternoon.

    Bill, thank you for this photo...the Yalta photo is in the heading for comparison. You know, all three seem more focused in this photo, don't they? At Yalta, Churchill seems to be smiling for the camera, Stalin looks disinterested and you're right, FDR looks drawn, and withdrawn. There seems to be more intensity and purpose on their faces in the Potsdam photo.

    Joan Pearson
    October 6, 2002 - 03:04 pm
    Williewoody, I hate to keep beating this issue into the ground, but I see other indications that there was concern in the country about FDR completing the next term; not everyone had heads in the sand. You brought our attention to the three VPs who served under FDR. I look at the dates Wallace served as VP ...1941-1945. He served all through the war! FDR would have been content to keep him on. It was a big deal then as it would be now to select another running mate for this election, wasn't it??? Why was FDR urged to replace Wallace? We are told that the people worshiped FDR, so what difference would Wallace make to winning the election? FDR is counselled by party politicians that he will not beat Dewey with Wallace on the ticket. Is there any other reason than the fact that Wallace would not be an acceptable President IF FDR DID NOT COMPLETE HIS TERM IN OFFICE? I have to believe it was on the minds of the people (maybe not FDR's...he was in denial)...but surely Harry had to give it some thought. I think it did bother him that he was not in on the top secrets regarding the war...but there wasn't much he could do about that, was there? I think he was preparing in other ways, though.

    Harry's first day in office set the stage for what was to come. Bill, you noted it was April was also a FRIDAY! It was a hectic day, but three significant things happened that day.
  • Harry learns for the first time of the "ulitmate weapon"....but won't hear any of the details about it for another two weeks. Imagine!
  • Churchill contacts him to let him kow that the Russians aren't living up to the Yalta agreement. (Harry doesn't know any of the leaders, nor does he know his own Secretary of State!) But didn't he identify the Russians role as problematical a few weeks before when he was vice president? He thought "there would be two struggles, between the legistative and executive branches of our government AND struggle with the Russians" that would mark FDR's term in office in the years ahead.

  • He refused all calls from the press and other dignitaries, but spent the morning putting in calls to his old cronies in Missouri before leaving for the Senate. Walked out of the White House and went down and talked things out with his friends in the Senate. He's not going to forget his friends...but will enlist their help.
  • It appears that there were two reactions to the news that Harry was president...the general public, ("Harry Who?") and the many who knew him and worked with him, who thought he'd do just fine...starting with his mama, his Senate colleagues, including the Republicans, the Chiefs of Staff, the Press.

    By this time, McCullough had done such a thorough job presenting us with a psychological profile and resume of Harry's experience, I was also one of the believers that Harry was indeed ready for the job! Did you feel that way too? Harry seemed to do just about everything right in these difficult days, didn't he? Didn't fire Roosevelt's cabinet...met the funeral train at Union Station, was considerate of Mrs. Roosevelt, didn't forget his friends, and named his childhood friend, Charlie Ross his press secretary.

    But how will he get along in foreign affairs? Many were confident that he would do just fine. I think so too. Although he did seem rough around the edges, he cut through evasiveness and posturing and got right down to the issues, didn't he? Did you get the feeling that Churchill and Stalin were bemused, but found him to be a breath of fresh air?

    Bill H
    October 6, 2002 - 04:02 pm
    Joan, congratulations on getting through and speaking with David McCullough. What a surprise that was. I can readily understand the anxiety level rising and blocking out the questions you had wanted to ask. It would've been the same for me. Did you recognize his voice immediately? I would have loved to listen to your conversation.

    Joan, I can think of one question for DM. If you recall, I stated in one of my early posts that I could not find the name of Great grandfather William Truman's wife. If you don't think it is too trite a question, would you ask him why his research didn't turne up any information about her. I know it's a small matter, but I still think of it every so often. Surely somewhere in the Truman archives there has to be a mention of her.

    Joan, I agree Harry did just about everything right in those first difficult days. However, by this time I feel Harry Truman was a skilled politician. Couple this with his natural intelligence along with his ability to seize the initiative and you have a man very good at doing what he did and not making mistakes on matters of utmost importance.

    Friday the thirteenth... I wonder if this was fate tyring to tell us all something.

    Bill H

    October 6, 2002 - 07:23 pm
    Joan, your unexpected luck in having DM answer the phone and then talking with him, reminds of the reporter(?) who was surprised to have Senator Truman answer the phone and invite him up when the reporter tried the St Louis hotel room in which the Senator was spending the night.

    I did say I would have a lot of questions to ask DM, if I were given the opportunity. But the more I think about it, the more I'm convinced the answer could probably be found in the book itself. There isn't much in the Truman saga that he hasn't touched on or hinted at. No single account of a life in 20th century history could ever hope to be complete, so it's helpful to look elsewhere for more on the subject. And having found something new, I subsequently find that McCullough has worked the idea of it into his book in one way or another.

    It would be nice to have more on Pendergast politics. But McCullough would probably say that's a book in itself. I might ask him his opinion on the Penergast machine demise. Of course it didn't end with Tom P's conviction for income tax evasion in 1939, since President Truman avails himself of Jim Pendergast's help in 1946 in getting rid of that pesky Congressman. My question would be concerning Tom P's downfall, and the men and the politics or business interests behind it. Like, for example Stark, and J C Nichols, and their wealthy friends, for whom Pendergast had become of diminishing worth. How much was politics and business? And how much was a true reforming zeal?

    So it comes back to your own question. About the second man for whom Truman held a lifelong grudge. I suggested J C Nichols. Whom would McCullough propose? Perhaps it was Clare Booth Luce.

    And in the unlikelihood of a pause in the questioning, perhaps someone could ask him how he enjoyed the movie?

    betty gregory
    October 7, 2002 - 11:49 am
    I have a question for McCullough. Something about.....since Mc covered Truman's personal, family life when he was young, we expected him to continue this close look into the next part of his life, his marriage. As readers, we feel we don't learn as much about Bess as we learned about Truman's sister, mother, father, etc. My there less about Bess to be gleaned from research? Truman refers to her as the "boss." Is she? Or is this his style of placating her? The HBO movie made from this book portrays Bess as basically, deeply happy with Harry, though often irritated with Washington and Harry's job there. Is this the correct perception? Did you WANT to write more of Bess, if it could have been found?

    Somewhere in there is a lead question. The rest is background or context for the question. Or, the question might come from a comparison of movie and book....the movie telling more about Bess.


    Whether Truman was prepared for the job of president or not, his history of beginning new jobs (i.e., Senator) was to immerse himself immediately, learn all there was to know quickly....get out there and find out, the reason for all his long auto trips. To pick an example for comparison, George W. Bush served as Governor of Texas in his first political job. He took long lunches, left for home promptly at 4:30 every day and bragged one time that he couldn't remember the last whole book he'd read. I, too, believe that Truman was better prepared than he felt or might have admitted, but he had a good history of dedicated on-the-job training that he took seriously.


    Ann Alden
    October 7, 2002 - 12:06 pm
    Betty, don't you feel that DMc seemed to be totally wrapped up in Truman's political life, once he was president? I wanted to find more about Bess and went looking online and found very little about her. I have ordered Margeret Truman's book and hope to glean more from it about Bess from it. The Truman book was published in 1992. Margaret's book was published in 1996. And she is covering more than her mother. In searching for this book, I found several others dedicated only to Bess. Am looking in the libary for these.

    betty gregory
    October 7, 2002 - 12:22 pm
    Ann, it's not that I want to know more about Bess (although I do), it's my curiosity about why, in this particular book, she seems mostly absent. Even if she was mostly absent from Washington during Truman's years as president, she was his wife. Why didn't McCullough attempt to write more about the pressures, implications, gossip, myths surrounding her travels to and from Washington...and how this affected Truman's marriage and his role as president.


    Bill H
    October 7, 2002 - 12:35 pm
    David McCullough didn't delve too deeply into Bess and Harry's marital life. Perhaps there was more to it than what he could put into this biography. The book is almost one thousand pages in length. To delve into their marriage may have made the book to long and, thereby, diminish sales. I agree there wasn't much said about Bess Truman per sey other than to repeatedly say she felt she had to leave Washington and go home. Bess was quoted as saying "My mother needs me." Harry would point out that he needed her too. However, this seemed to matter little to her. Her reply was "I need to see MY roses." I feel Besses love for Harry was not as deep as Harry's love for Bess. But maybe I missed something.

    Bill H

    Ann Alden
    October 7, 2002 - 12:38 pm
    I was hoping to learn that from the other two books that I have reserved at our local library. I hoped that Margaret might tell me more than Mc did. It seems that this book really covers Truman the man's, extensive life as first, a working man, farmer, haberdasher, soldier,in the service of his country and then as a politician. Honesty forbids me from saying that I have read the whole book so I don't know where it ends. So, I read ahead and found that McC keeps to his topic of the man,Truman. Only mentioning Bess and Margaret where necessary. And, when I hear our Senate paying tribute to Truman as the most honest president of the 20th century, maybe I can see what DMcC was trying to accomplish with this biography.

    Maybe, in the beginning of his presidency, he didn't have an axe to grind. He just wanted to run the country as well as he possibly could. Run it as he thought a president ought.

    Joan Pearson
    October 7, 2002 - 12:47 pm
    Betty's question was one that I first wrote to Mr. McCullough. In the meantime, I've read IN THE MCCULLOUGH book much more about Bess. Ann, and Betty, have you finished the book? There is much more on Bess here. I don't know if you have soft or hard the hardcover, p.573 - 581 are devoted exclusively to Bess. It sure doesn't seem like a cover-up to me.

    If you have the soft cover with different page numbers, look in Mr. President, Part IV. What specifically are you are looking for beyond what is here? I'm curious. Do you think it is something that all the research in the world would have revealed. I thought M's treatment of Bess was complete, direct ...and satisfying.

    Bill H
    October 7, 2002 - 06:06 pm
    At first Jonathan Daniels of the Roosevelt staff thought Truman "tragically inadequate" began to see him in a new light. "Here, Daniels decided, was no ordinary man." Further, Truman was not poorly prepared for the presidency as commonly said. Because he knew so much of American life, because he had experienced himself so many of the viscssitudes of all the people, he was really exceptionally well prepared." Later the historian Samuel Eliot Morison would take the same view, calling Truman as well prepared for the presidency as any of his immediate predecessors.

    It's interesting to note that on the first inspection tour of the White House both Bess and Margaret were crestfallen. "...The White House upstairs is a mess... I was so depressed," wrote Margaret. The White House, as we learn latter, was to undergo extensive repairs and remodeling brought about by the Trumans. The head usher told Harry that the ceiling over one of the rooms was about to collapse. The building inspectors said they didn't know how the walls remained standing. I was surprised that the Roosevelts would live in these conditions. Elanor Roosevelt left untouched the fifty thousand dollars allocated by Congress for upkeep and repair on the house.

    Carpets were threadbare. Walls looked like as if they hadn't been cleaned in years and were covered with lighter patches where pictures had hung, etc. Mrs. Roosevelt told Bess she could expect to see rats. I'm shocked the Roosevelts lived like this. I suppose these unclean conditions were relegated to their private living quarters. Surely foreign dignitaries did not see this.

    Bill H

    Ann Alden
    October 8, 2002 - 05:53 am
    Joan, I think that Betty was wondering why DMc didn't cover Bess better and give us more of her background but again I think that DMc's aim was to write about Truman, the man. What gets me is that I think that the people around you during your lifetime do affect you and your decisions but HST has his own way of making decisions, from the gut!! He doesn't really reveal his thinking processes, does he?

    Yes, Bill, that was quite a surprise. Maybe this tells us that the Roosevelts priorties were certainly not neatness! Especially since the money was there to restore the living quarters.

    Bill H
    October 8, 2002 - 09:00 am
    Betty, oh yes, you are so right when you say the people around you affect your deceision making. Truman did have a way of making his own gut decesions. Harry Truman was a remarkable man. Our country was very fortunate to have the man at this troubled time.

    I can't help but wonder if the Rossevelts kept their Hyde Park estate in the same manner.

    I was awed when I read of the wealth of Averrel Harriman, the ambassador to Russia. The Harriman wealth eclipsed by far the wealth of his friend FDR. "The Harriman estate on the Hudson comprised 20 square miles, included forty miles of bridlepaths and a stone chateau of one hundred rooms." After his father died he was virtually handed the Union Pacific becoming chairman of the board.

    How ironic: Averell Harriman, one of the men Truman castigated so unmercifully on the floor of the Senate in the heat of the railroad investigation years earlier, was to become one of the men Truman depended heavily upon for advice during his presidential years. Harriman along with Dean Acheson and Charlie Ross, his old friend of the long ago, were to become part of Truman's advisors.

    Jonathan, do you find Part Three interesting?

    Bill H

    October 8, 2002 - 09:23 am
    Joan Pearson's interview with David McCullough

    Joan Pearson
    October 8, 2002 - 10:16 am
    Ann, I think in many ways, DM provides us with the information we need to understand the relationship between Bess and Harry. If Harry is unhappy living with his M-I-L, McCullough gives us no more information but to say that she was a difficult woman who disproved of her daughter's choice from the beginning. He leaves us to reach our own conclusions. If he felt he could not invite friends in, that it was not his home, he must have been used to entertaining the boys somewhere else.

    Don't you wonder how he felt when she moved with them to their five room apartment in DC? I don't think McCullough needed to spell that out. And it goes without saying the dismay they must have felt when they moved into the White House! Madge came with them too, didn't she? hahahaha...

    I was stunned by the fact that the Truman's continued to live at 4701 Conn. Ave. for a full week after Harry became president. Ann, let's go take a picture of that building if it's still there, okay? What time are you getting in tomorrow? How about when they moved their stuff into the White moving truck full, compared to the 20 Mrs. Roosevelt moved out. I'm surprised it took only three weeks to move out, considering the number of years the R's occupied the White House! No time to clean the rugs between moves!

    Bess never wanted Harry to run for the Senate either...wanted to stay in Independence. But McCullough does provide quite a picture of a happy, though private and unchanged First Lady. You don't get the impression that the author is covering up lamp-throwing incidents, do you?

    I'll agree with you, Ann. McCullough is telling Harry's story here. The one I'd like to read more about is Roosevelt. I'm sure there are many FDR biographies out there; McCullough probably isn't interested in writing another. But from what I have read here, FDR the man, escapes me, as Harry becomes easier to understand. I have to say, I don't like him much as a person, though he was the war-time president. I have to keep reminding myself that he wasn't as old a man as he appears to be at this time. When I read of Harry's early days as President...his disdain for the FBI and J.Edgar Hoover, I was amazed to hear that he wanted to share his findings with Harry on the seamy sexual scandals of important people...that FDR used to enjoy the stories. Well, Harry sent him packing. But Roosevelt? How old was he when he died? Early sixties wasn't he? Isn't it common knowledge that he was with his long-time, ladylove, Lucy Mercer in Warm Springs, GA at the time of his death? See, McCullough doesn't see that any of that belongs in this biography of Harry, does he? But he does include the small fact that FDR enjoyed Hoover's stories...just enough to make us aware that Harry was a very different kind of person in contrast.

    October 8, 2002 - 10:20 am
    I am always struck by the little humorous vignettes that some authors sprinkle in their writings. What gave me a chuckle, because it so tells about how down to earth the Trumans were, is the story about when they had their first "happy hour." It seems they were accustomed to having a cocktail before dinner. They apparently liked "old fashioneds." Bess ordered the head butler, Alonzo Fields, an accomplished bartender, to prepare a couple for them. He did so, using the standard formula.

    The following night she asked that the drinks not be made quite so sweet.So Fields used another recepe. The following morning she complained that those were the worst "old fashioneds" they had ever had. So the third night Fields , his pride hurt, poured her a double bourbon on ice, and stood by waiting for the reaction as the first lady took a sip. "Now that's the way we like our old-fashioneds."

    Just plain old straight bourbon on the rocks. No fancy schmaltzy drinks for the Trumans. I love it!

    October 8, 2002 - 11:09 am
    As well as the book published in 1996, we shouldn't forget Margaret's book BESS W TRUMAN, published about ten years earlier. It's an excellent book about her mother...and father, of course. McCullough quotes from it off and on.

    Another book, published about five years ago is Gil Troy's MR & MRS PRESIDENT: From the Trumans to the Clintons. The chapter on Bess and Harry, about thirty-five pages, come with the heading: Just the Wife of the President: on the Trumans, Privacy, and Gentility. If there's not more about Bess and marital relations in McCullough's book it was probably the author's feeling that it was the way Bess, being Madge Wallace's daughter, would have wanted it. I recommend the Troy book.

    Bill, I certainly do find this part of the book interesting,with Harry, pardon me, President Truman, in the eye of the hurricane, and then off to do business with Churchill and Stalin at Potsdam. He came home from Europe on 1919 as Captain; and returns as Commander-in-Chief of how many women and men in uniform? Along with some pretty impressive artillery. Talking issues and dividing the spoils, he would certainly be arguing from a position of strength, wouldn't he?

    Bill H
    October 8, 2002 - 01:33 pm
    Joan, many thanks to Jane for the link to your notes. I printed those so I could read them more carefully. You ask: "Don't you wonder how he felt when she moved with them to their five room apartment in DC? " I'm not positive how Harry Truman felt, but I KNOW how I would've felt. )

    Joanathan, very good. "Coming home from Europe as a captain and returning as commander-in-chief. McCullough points out that there were sixteen million men in the armed forces when Harry become President. Truman said he felt a very powerful responsibility for these men. And thank you for sharing the title of that book with us.

    Yes, Williewoody, I think both Trumans liked their little nip.

    Bill H
    October 8, 2002 - 05:43 pm
    The White House staff liked Harry Truman. He took the time to learn their names, all about their families and years of service. On Truman's birthday, the head cook had baked him a cake. After dinner, Truman had gone to the kitchen to thank her. Alonzo Fields, the head butler, would note, "This was the first time a President had been in the White House kitchen since Coolidge. "I always felt that he (President Truman) understood me as a man, not as a servant to be tolerated," Fields would write, "and that I understood that he expected me to be a man....President Roosevelt was a genial and warm but he left one feeling, as most aristocrats do, that they really do not understand one."

    Do you feel as I do that came natural to Harry Truman as a result of his rural roots in Grandview MO? My, oh my, hasn't Harry come a long way since Grandview.

    Many important events came to pass during Truman's presidency. I believe one of the most important was April 25th the opening of the United Nations Conference in San Francisco. Truman always thought the United States should have recognized the League of Nations, and here he was giving the opening address to the United Nation conference by radio hookup. Another date: "The five year long war in Europe, the most costly, murderous conflict in history, ended on May 7th , when the German High Command surrendered to the Allied armies" The three world leaders agreed that the announcement would be made on the morning of May the 8th. On the morning of May 8, 1945, Truman broke the news to the country. He spoke to the largest audience yet recorded.

    Oh by the way, May 8, 1945 was Harry Truman's 61st birthday. Coincidence or fate. You be the judge.


    Bill H

    betty gregory
    October 8, 2002 - 06:55 pm
    No, it's not a cover-up, as you name it, Joan, that I suspect about Bess. I also appreciate, for the most part, McCullough's neutral style of presenting facts and allowing his readers to come to their own, it's not a summary here and there that I think is missing about Bess.

    It may take me a while to name it or describe it sufficiently. In the meantime, I want to say, imagine an FDR biography that rarely mentions Eleanor, or a Johnson biography that rarely mentions Lady Bird. So, I'm left with unanswered questions. Joan, I did appreciate that block of information about Bess in the middle of the book, but my sense about it was that McCullough was trying to catch up on Bess. I felt she had not been an integral part of the story. Did McCullough not view Bess as important to the story of Truman, the president? Because she was not in town as much as other first ladies?

    In many ways, my curiosity about this doesn't take away from how good the book is. Learning about Truman from such a gifted writer meets most expectations. It's possible that I have a model in my head from other biographies of presidents, such as FDR and Eleanor, where information about the wife was plentiful....or the biographer was interested in the wife. That doesn't make McCullough wrong, if he doesn't fit the model I have. I know he had thousands of choices to make. I don't miss knowing recipes from Bess, but what she might have said about a political decision or legislation.


    October 9, 2002 - 01:10 pm
    Like so many of you have already posted, I find it fascinating to see Harry Truman expand his vistas from a friend-to-all Senator and Vice President to a somewhat benumbed, fact absorbing, ever listening, questioning, groping for the truth, man who realizes the enormity of the task dumped onto him, and who acknowledges to himself that he will carry out his duty with honor as best he can, so help him God. Truman was trying his level best to carry out the oath of office that he had sworn to. Somewhere in his years of experience, Harry had learned one of the secrets of good management; find good, sound, trustworthy people for your staff personnel and listen to the advice and council they profess. Listen, debate and learn, then make a good sound decision. Harry inherited Roosevelt's trusted advisors and he absorbed their council and questioned them closely so that his on-the-job-training was accelerated immensely. But what a drain on the man! Yet, he seemed to thrive on the job as he moved forward. My estimate of Harry Truman stock went up sizeably while reading about his early days in office. But as far as Bess is concerned, I can't see where she was of any real help to Harry in those extremely trying days. I just don't believe that Bess had Harry's best interests at heart when she left him to his problems of State and moved back to Independance. Losalbern

    Bill H
    October 9, 2002 - 04:56 pm
    Losalbern, your post reminded me of what Tom Pendergast told Truman, when Harry was first elected to the Senate.

    Pendergast said, "Listen and don't say anything. This was good advice for a novice Senator and it served him well.

    Bill H

    October 9, 2002 - 06:41 pm
    Betty, I believe I can appreciate the way you feel about the limited space Bess gets in TRUMAN. McCullough could, no doubt, had he wanted to, have included much more about her and her place in the White House, as well as in her husband's political life. Who wouldn't like to know more?

    On the other hand, she never seems far away in the book. A quick look at the index shows two hundred some page references to Bess, in addition to almost half as many more references to letters from HST to her. It is my impression that Bess did not care much for politics. Her mother could be sarcastic about her SIL, the politician. Harry, while in office, made no secret about the consultations with, and the advice he was getting from Bess. When it got to specifics it was another matter. The public wouldn't want it, and Bess wouldn't want to second guess the president or injure the cause by casting doubt on his self-reliance and decisiveness as chief-executive. The way I see a superficial reply to the good point you make about what you condider a shortcoming in the book. It's a good criticism.

    Losalbern, I think you're being unfair with Bess. In those trying days, how much would she have seen of him...except for the very tired man at the end of the day. Perhaps it was too much for her.

    Was Truman ever seen as having presidential stature? He himself seemed to doubt it. The bank teller, the farmer, the failed haberdasher, the Jackson County Judge...these things were usually held up in taking the measure of the man, or as proof of his presumed rusticity. As it turned out, he could hold his own in any company.

    What a fascinating way McCullough has of dipicting Truman at the Potsdam Conference, in the company of those two historical giants: Churchill, the British Lion, and Stalin 'Man of Steel', the single most powerful figure in the world.' (With no constitutional restraints) The prospect of meeting them leaves the three-months President somewhat unsettled by apprehension and anxiety. The curious details illustrating the nuances of character and background of each of them make for great reading. I have in mind the half dozen pages early in chapter 10. Eg:

    Turman observing Churchill: 'He is a most charming and a very clever person - meaning clever in the English not the Kentucky sense. He gave me a lot of hooey...'

    Churchill's impression of Truman: 'He is a man of immense determination.' Churchill then adds the curious observationn that Truman takes no notice of the thin ice under his feet.

    The difference between the two, reflecting different views on the fortunes and misfortunes of man, is shown in the reactions and reflections of each on the rubble and human misery of war-torn Berlin:

    Churchill: 'This is what would have happened to us if THEY had won the war.'

    Truman: 'It is a terrible thing, but they brought it on themselves.'

    Stalin 'came late primarily to accentuate his own importance.' But his importance is somehow diminished by the dubious reception he gets on his arrival at the American villa, the Little White House in Kaiserstrasse. I almost burst out laughing trying to imagine Harry Vaughan, the lovabe, cigar-chomping 'ultimate White House crony', as he 'came bounding down the front steps to greet him like a fellow Rotarian'.

    We next find Stalin standing in the doorway of the room with the 'gilt-framed Victorian still-life of fruit and a dead duck over a mantelpiece'. And ready to greet him is President Truman, seated at the 'huge carved desk' with its huge clawed feet. And isn't that Fred Canfil standing at the window?

    'I got to my feet and advanced to meet him. He put out his hand and smiled. I did the same, we shook...'

    And the rest is history. Another 600 pages!

    betty gregory
    October 9, 2002 - 11:07 pm
    Jonathan, I agree on the Potsdam conference....great reading. Handwritten notes tell us so much. I worry about today's evaporating emails. I have years and years of my mother's handwritten letters (and she tells me she has mine)....but all that stopped about 2 years ago when she began sending emails. I keep meaning to begin printing them out, but the next one I receive will be only 2 sentences and I don't print it. Technology.


    betty gregory
    October 9, 2002 - 11:21 pm
    Losalburn, well, I think you're right about Bess. I might have admired her if she had gone her own way in Washington, if she had ignored protocol in Washington to take care of herself, but to have gone "home" so many times, for such a long time each's clear that "home" meant a particular house and city, not being with her husband. McCullough makes clear how lonely Truman was in Washington, how stressed he was, so shame on Bess Truman. I would feel differently if the two of them had come to this unusual agreement...then, I'd say it's no one else's business. Truman suffered, though, and McCullough gives many examples as the chapters go by.


    Bill H
    October 10, 2002 - 02:27 pm
    I found the reading of the Potsdam Conference one of the most interesting parts of the book The number of Americans attending the Potsdam conference would be four times greater than at Yalta. Truman traveled by ship to Europe but this time he had the admiral's cabin far different from his 1918 crossing. But what surprised me was the number of cooks that went along. There were eleven of them! Truman's own personal bodyguard was Fred Canfil whom Truman had appointed U.S. Marshal of Kansas City. The President got a kick out of introducing him as Marshal Canfil, the title the Russians took to signify military rank and they showed Canfil the utmost respect.)

    Another interesting point" Because a plane load of pillows went astray, everybody below the rank of Major General would be sleeping. without one. So much work and planing goes into a President's travels

    Truman stayed at Number 2 Kaiserstrassee. A house he was to call the "nightmare house" not only because of the atmosphere inside the house, but because this was the place he wrote and signed the letter authorizing the use of the Atom Bomb, as soon as possible.

    To view the building were the conference was held, Please view,

    Cecilienhof Palace

    Use your picture editor to brighten the photo. I haven't been successful in finding a graphic of Number 2 Kaiserstrasse, the "nightmare house."Bill H

    Bill H
    October 10, 2002 - 02:58 pm
    Churchill lost the British election that year to Clement Attlee. To view the new "big three" see


    Harry's face looks a little fuller, perhaps he has been eating better now that he's President.)

    I never realized Stalin was only 5' 5" in height.

    Bill H

    October 10, 2002 - 03:44 pm
    Like several of you have indicated, reading about the Potsdam meeting has been facinating. Although I have had a lifelong interest in American History,and had a split minor of History and Economics in college, throughout most of my life, being a breadwinner and raising a family I found little time for reading. Only in the past 10 years have I found an abundance in free time for reading. Now I am trying to make up for all those years and re-educate myself in the history of this great nation.

    I never gave much thought to Harry Truman at the time he became President. I do remember that I was thankful to him for saving my life when he ordered the dropping of the BOMB on Japan. I was waiting on Saipan for the dreaded invasion of the Japanese mainland. Of course, I realize now that it was a foregone conclusion that we would not have spent 2 billion dollars to build it and then not use it. Roosevelt, had he lived certainly would have, and Truman knew that. Imagine 2 billion dollars in the 1940's. That's just pocket money these days.

    I have to agree with Losalbern about Bess Truman. It is quite apparent that she hated Washington D.C., but her deserting her husband in such critical times does not speak well of her as far as I am concerned. To me she was the least impressive of all of the first ladies in my lifetime. which goes back to Florence Harding, wife of President Warren Harding.

    betty gregory
    October 10, 2002 - 09:15 pm
    Ah HAH, and thank you so much, Williewoody, because until I read your post just above, the obvious didn't occur to me. Possibly, McCullough didn't like or respect Bess Trumaan, as simple as that. In our social culture, there is a handful of behaviors that are not tolerated in a "good marriage." Living separately is one of those behaviors.

    Too bad I didn't think to ask Joan to ask McCullough, "Do you like Bess Truman?" Oh, how I'd love to know the answer!! He's such a professional man...I wonder if he would have just smiled an answer. He comes across as a gentle gentleman...the sort whose ideas I would disagree with, but also the sort of man I would have a terrible time disliking.

    Ah hahahaha, well, I've beat this subject to death, haven't I? I still have about a fourth of the book left to read, so maybe he'll say more about Bess. For some reason, I'm not inclined to go find other books about her until we're finished with this book. I want to stay with this book as a whole.


    My complete understanding of how and why the atomic bombs were used on Japan at the end of the war has changed totally. I, too, imagined a wrenching decision process....not a foregone conclusion, as McCullough (and Willywoody's post above) explains. The money, yes, but also the whole dreaded, expected response if it was not used...."You mean we had a method of saving those final 2,000 American lives and DIDN'T use it?!!!"

    I also understand better the force of momentum moving forward that would have been nearly impossible to halt. Something similar is taking place in Washington today. In a way, we're still attempting to stop that momentum begun in the 1940s.


    October 11, 2002 - 07:00 am
    BETTY: Your numbers are a bit off. the bomb saved considerably more lives. More like 200,000, and that is not counting Japanese who are human beings, although at that time many did not act like it. Every time I see a white haired Japanese person today I wonder if maybe Harry Truman saved his life too.

    I realize you were not there, so you cannot realize what a tremendous weight had been lifted from our shoulders, as we were preparing for the last great battle, from which we knew many of us would not survive.

    October 11, 2002 - 09:20 am
    Williewoody, the Bomb saved your life, and countless others. That satisfies me as justification for using it. It was war time. As the President said: They brought it on themselves.

    So much for pre-emptive strikes. Like Pearl Harbor.

    I can't believe Secret Service man Floyd Boring's story that a hitch-hiking 'young Army public relations officer' offered the President of the United States his procuring services...and got away with a mild rebuke and a few words about fidelity to one's wife. I can't help feeling that Truman would have found a proposition like that highly insulting to him as President, worrisome and compromising, and leave him wondering how he could be considered that approachable by a passing procurer. Politically embarrassing, and morally reprehensible, for a man like Harry Truman. If it did happen, I would imagine Truman tossing him out of the limo, pronto. If Truman could find Stalin 'a little bit of a squirt', couldn't he have been just as colorful in dismissing the young soldier's public relations effort. Some mission this PR guy was on!

    The story doesn't really help Truman's image, imo. It looks like it's meant to, since McCullough adds it to a half dozen other fine testimonials to the President's good character, including the one from Admiral King that President Truman 'is a more typical American than Roosevelt.' Presumably that was meant to be flattering to Harry. But what does it mean, or what was it meant to convey to Lord Moran? And Emilio Collado of the State Department comes with a diplomatic appreciation of the President's ability as a piano player. Truman did very well at Potsdam, or at the very least, he brought a good cheering section along.

    Jackie Kennedy and Hillary Clinton both told Margaret how much they admired her mother as First Lady. Or did they envy her? I believe, all in all, the Truman household was a loving, caring place. It's certainly not like wondering how far Harry could have gone, except for Bess...

    Bill H
    October 11, 2002 - 09:36 am
    Viewing the photograph I gave a link to I thought how fate can play so important a role in life. Truman replaced Roosevelt and now Churchill, that grand guy we remember seeing with the two fingers raised in the V victory salute, was replaced by Clement Attlee. Stalin was the only remaining member of the original 'big three."

    Truman had every confidence in himself at Potsdam. Early in his Presidency he made the statement that "I am here to make decisions, and I am going to make them." Possibly the hardest judge of character in the whole American delegation was Admiral Ernest J. King, Chief of Naval Operations, whose strong mind and long experience had made him invaluable to President Roosevelt made a statement that said it all about President Truman. He is quoted as saying at Stalin's Potsdam dinner party. "Watch the President," This is all new to him, but he can take it. He is a more typical American than Roosevelt, and he will do a good job, not only for the United States but for the whole world." King knew both Presidents and I couldn't help but wonder if he meant that Truman would do a better job than Roosevelt at this meeting.

    Do any of you think Truman would do a better job than Roosevelt at Potsdam?

    Bill H

    Bill H
    October 11, 2002 - 11:27 am
    "I am here to make decisions, and whether right or wrong I am going to make them." This was said to Anthony Eden in regard to the upcoming meeting with Churchill and Stalin, but it also applied to the dropping of the Atom bomb on Japan. The following is taken from the biograpy:

    "A committee was formed to discuss and weigh all possible decisions as to this horrendous act. After much discussion the committee and scientific panel reached three unanimous conclusion.

    l. The bomb should be used against Japan as soon as possible.
    2. It should be used against war plants surrounded by workers homes or other buildings susceptible to damage, in order to "to make a profound psychological impression on as many inhabitants as possible."
    3. It should be used without warning.

    "We regard the matter of dropping the bomb as an exceedingly important." General Marshal later explained. "We had just been through a bitter experience at Okinawa. This had been preceded by a number of similar experiences in other Pacific Islands. (The first day of the invasion of Iwo Jima had been more costly than D-Day at Normandy....The Japanese had demonstrated in each case they would not surrender and they fight to the death.... It was to be expected that resistance in Japan, with their home ties, could be even more severe. We had had one hundred thousand people killed in Tokyo in one night of bombs, and it had seemingly no effect whatsoever. It destroyed the Japanese cities, yes, but their morale was affected so far as we could tell, not at all. So it seemed quite necessary, if we could, shock them into action....We had to end the war, we had to save American lives."

    Bill H

    Bill H
    October 11, 2002 - 11:36 am
    Williewoody your post on the atom bomb lead right in to my post here. I too was being transferred to the Pacific Theater for the invasion of Japan. You stated you were glad the bomb was dropped. So was I. I had no remorse then for and I have no remorse now. When I read articles saying our country feels ashamed we did that. I point attention to the sailors at the bottom of Pearl Harbor, the Airman that never got off the ground, the innocent civilians killed in the bombing of Pearl, the Baatan death march, and last, but not least, the deception of Japanese whose emissary were talking in Washington, DC while the attack was going on.. Too bad about the bombing, but that's the way the cookie crumbles. I do have remorse for all the allied deaths in WW2.

    Other decisions that influenced Truman to drop the bomb:

    "Truman had earlier authorized the Chiefs of Staff to move more than 1 million troops for a final attack on Japan, Thirty divisions were on the way to the pacific from the European Theater, from one end of the world to the other, something never done before. (Hadn't these guys had enough) Supplies in tremendous quantity were piling up on Saipan. Japan had some 2.5 million regular troops on the home islands, but every male between the ages of fifteen and sixty, every female from seventeen to forty-five, was being conscripted and armed with everything from ancient brass cannon to bamboo spears, taught to strap explosives to their bodies and throw themselves under advancing tanks. One woman would remember being given a carpenter's awl and instructed that killing just one American would do. "You must aim at the abdomen," she was told "Understand? The abdomen." To no one with the American and Allied forces in the Pacific did it look as though the Japanese were about to quit.

    Truman foresaw unprecedented carnage in anattempted invasion. 'It occured to me,' he would remark a few months later 'that a quarter of a million of the flower of our young manhood were worth a couple Japanese cities and I still think they were and are.'

    Remember the President is the same man that as an artillery battery commander in WW1 turned his artillery on a German artilirary emplacement to save Anercan lives of the advancing 28th Infantry Division even though it might result in a court marshal for him. He again made a decesion to save Amercan lves by dropping the atom bomb regardless what history would say about him. For the most part history said he was right.

    Would you please post your arguments for or against the dropping of the atom bomb?

    You can view an atomic explosion at ground level by viewing


    I believe my last three posts should give all of us quite a bit to discuss. I am more than interested in heaing your thoughts on them.

    Bill H

    October 11, 2002 - 11:53 am
    I found it rather chilling to read about the White House meeting on June 18, 1945 to discuss and review invasion plans of Japan. This discussion was very personal to thousands and thousands of servicemen like Williewoody and me who would be or could be just another casualty number in just a few months downstream. My unit would be deeply involved in Operation Olympic, the initial thrust of U.S. military forces who were slated to make an amphibious landing on Kyushu, Japan on November 3, 1945. Needless to say, we were not privy to this knowledge and it is just as well that we weren't but we certainly realized that all the recent practiced landings and hopped up training exercises meant but one thing! We would participate in the biggest, most deadly battle in WWll. Once realized, I have to admit that I did not consider my chances of survival to be anything but quite slim. I agree wholeheartly with Willewoody's assessment that a tremendous burden was lifted from the shoulders of every serviceman in the Pacific theater when the devastation of the Atom bombs convinced the Japanese government to surrender unconditionally. To all of us, the argument regarding the using of the nuclear warheads was not simply academic but instead was very, very personal. Perhaps this posting is somewhat premature to our current reading status but it all came tumbling out mentally when I read about that White House discussion on page 400. Losalbern

    October 11, 2002 - 12:10 pm
    Bill, I was busy writing my last posting so that I hadn't had the opportunity to read your latest where you told us that you had transferred to the Pacific theater in time for the planned invasion of Japan. That happened to a dear friend of mine who was in the North African compaign followed by the terrible warfare generated the long, long Italy campaign. After nearly three years of almost constant combat, his unit headed for what they believed was the USA but instead were routed through the Panama Canal and wound up doing clean up action in the Philippines. Of course, they would be available for the invasion of the Japan also, just as any serviceman in the Pacific area would be subjected to. If you were in the Pacific theater, you would participate in that final battle, one way or another. Losalbern

    betty gregory
    October 11, 2002 - 02:03 pm
    Thanks for the corrected number of projected deaths from multiple landings on Japan, WillieWoody. I knew it was much higher (from other discussions), but couldn't remember how high.

    It's too easy to say thousands of American lives would be saved as the reason the atomic bomb had to be used against Japan. I say too easy because there is nothing to stand up to it. Nothing left to say.

    I don't think a weapon of mass destruction should have been used, but the realistic projected losses of life if atomic bombs (2) were not used is as intolerable. It's a true dissonance in my brain that cannot be resolved, no matter how many years I think about it. To be writing this to you who were at risk is not the first time I've attempted to express this impasse I feel to military people who were fighting for our country. As before, it just adds sadness to my dilemma because your lives do mean more to me than unknown Japanese lives and that's not right. For me, that's not is precious, period.

    Don't make yourselves miserable by trying to persuade me. You've known impossible dilemmas and this one is mine.

    --------------------------------------------- ---------------------------------------------

    On the question of whether or not FDR would have performed better than Truman at Potsdam, I'm inclined to think he would have, though both had a formidable capacity. Truman's no-nonsense, goal-oriented, let's-get-things-done attitude served him well. FDR might have used his (in)famous, comfortable, political wiles to bargain, trade, threaten, seduce, confuse, promise, persuade, compromise. He also could have called upon his history with the other players. Truman's power was out there, obvious. FDR's power was less obvious, but probably greater.


    Bill H
    October 11, 2002 - 03:21 pm
    Losalbern and Betty, thank you both for those two great posts. We are all entitled to our way of thinking. It is what makes us a great society of people. It also shows the difference in thoughts of the ones who were directly involved and others who were not immediately involved. It is the pressure of the moment that shapes our thoughts.

    Losalbern, the most chilling moment I can recall was a day in June 1945. The General Orders for that day carried a message that the Air Corps hoped to have round the clock bombing of Japan by 1948. Think of that. This was June 1945 and 1948 was three years away. Like you, Losalbern, I believed my chances of survival was nil. I was resigned to the fact that I would not survive the ground battles of the Japanese home islands. My mother would place a gold star in her window.

    Betty, I am not trying to persuade your way of thinking we are all of a mind set, but weapons other than those of mass distruction killed a horrible number of Japanese. General Marsall said, "We had had one hundred thousand people killed in Tokyo in one night of bombs." Of, course he was referring to Japanese. I will copy and paste here what General Marshall had to say, once again.. I think his words truly summed up why the bomb had to be dropped.

    "We regard the matter of dropping the bomb as exceedingly important." General Marshal later explained. "We had just been through a bitter experience at Okinawa. This had been preceded by a number of similar experiences in other Pacific Islands. (The first day of the invasion of Iwo Jima had been more costly than D-Day at Normandy....The Japanese had demonstrated in each case they would not surrender and they fight to the death.... It was to be expected that resistance in Japan, with their home ties, could be even more severe. We had had one hundred thousand people killed in Tokyo in one night of bombs, and it had seemingly no effect whatsoever. It destroyed the Japanese cities, yes, but their morale was affected so far as we could tell, not at all. So it seemed quite necessary, if we could, shock them into action....We had to end the war, we had to save American lives."

    Reflect for a moment on what Marshal said about the first day of the invasion of Iwo Jima being more costly than D-Day at NORMANDY. The number of allied ground casualties is incalculable

    Truman wrote in his diary: "What would the parents and wives of those killed in the battle of Japan think of me, if they found out we had a weapon to save their lives and I didn't use it."

    Bill H

    betty gregory
    October 11, 2002 - 04:38 pm
    Bill, you wrote, "It also shows the difference in thoughts of the ones who were directly involved and others who were not immediately involved. It is the pressure of the moment that shapes our thoughts."

    You can't assume that. The average may be right...that, on average, those who were directly at risk believe it was the right thing to do....and those whose lives were not threatened, on average, do not believe it was the right thing to do. Those averages come from beliefs all over the map.....someone whose father was at risk in the Pacific in WWII, someone whose son fought in Vietnam, someone who believed it was the right thing back then, but has changed her mind since. Our group here is too small from which to draw conclusions.


    October 11, 2002 - 04:50 pm
    Betty, I will not try to convince you to change your mind about the necessity of using atomic weapons. You have to wrestle with that problem yourself. My unit wound up making our amphibious landing on the island of Honshu in September 1945, just as fast as they could get us there, as part of the Army of Occupation and even then we were prepared for battle because there was some doubt as to whether or not some facet of Japanese military would disregard the instructions to lay down weapons and go home. It was simpler to make an amphibious landing because we could do that anywhere there was a decent beach and because we were already prepared to do that. The civilian population expected the worse kind of treatment from Allied troops and for a short time their women folk simply disappeared. But it didn't take long for everyone to learn that their worst fears were ungrounded. Curiosity got the best of them and soon they were rubber-necking us like we the circus come to town. I can tell you this, Betty, they were so damned glad the war was over! They were just as happy as we were that life could begin some semblance of normality once again! I never saw any resentment or an instance of hatred from anyone. Quite the contrary, in just a few days, we were able to walk the streets unarmed and unaccosted except by people who would come up to GIs and try to converse and be friendly. It was truly an astounding and unexpected phenomena. The five months that I spent in post war occupied Japan was an experience I will always treasure. THE WAR WAS OVER! NO MORE KILLING! Losalbern

    October 11, 2002 - 08:46 pm
    The bottom line was to win the war. The Bomb achieved that for the Allies.

    It's grim and gut-wrenching, remembering how terrible it all was. It's moving to hear from the soldiers who did the fighting and the dying. McCullough's account of the spring and summer of 1945 brings a lot of it back to one who was a year or two away from joining you.

    The decision to use the bomb? I'll accept Churchill's 'reason'. 'It was a decision that was no decision.'

    You guys are ahead of me. I was still watching the scene in Potsdam, trying to decide just what was happening. And it began to seem like a poker game...for high stakes...essentially between Harry and Joe. I found myself feeling sorry for Churchill, when I realized he really had no hand to play with; but McCullough did tell us that he came to Potsdam unbriefed and without an agenda. He was awaiting election results and dreaming himself dead. Joe had his army in place. Harry needed his elsewhere; but he was still holding in his hand the card that made him powerful enough to play decide who would die, and who would live. When he hinted at it to Stalin, Stalin put on the poker face which baffled them all!

    President Truman must have realized by then that the US would never have a say in Soviet-occupied Eastern Europe. Why, I can't help wondering, holding the hand he did, why did he ever think he had achieved something by getting Stalin's consent to join in the war with Japan? He felt he could do business with Stalin.

    Would FDR have done things differently? I doubt it. Truman was still following in FDR's footsteps, and had FDR's men around him.

    Bill H
    October 12, 2002 - 09:58 am
    Betty, your point is well taken. However, in regard to "those who have changed there minds since" do you mean that they would no longer want the bomb to be dropped at that particular time in 1945 to save the lives of their loved ones, or they would not want the A-bomb to be dropped to save the lives of their loved ones in some future period of time.? I can well understand not wanting the bomb to be used in the future. It is a horrible weapon, but again, the pressure of the moment would shape thinking. As of this moment I hope the A-bomb is never used again..

    Losalbern, how right you are when you said, "NO MORE KILLING. The war had dragged on a long time, since 1939 for some, the parents wanted there sons and daughters home, wives wanted their husbands home, children wanted their dads again, and we wanted to come home. Alive. Harry Truman did what everyone wanted, he brought us home. It was a terrible cost to the enemy. But they were the enemy.

    Jonathan, "The decision that was no decision." Churchill hit the nail right on the head. I'm still watching that scene in Potsdam play out also. Thank you for leading me into my next post.

    Bill H

    Bill H
    October 12, 2002 - 10:55 am
    I found voting Winston Churchill out of office not in keeping with the turbulent times. Even with the war in Europe over much still had to be done. Churchill had successfully led the British through a terrible war. Got just about everything he wanted from the United States. Why change leaders now? I'm reminded of the old saying, "...if it's not broke, don't fix it." The people of great Britain knew an important meeting was to take place at Potsdam, surely Winston Churchill had been more privy to knowledge and secrets than Attlee. It would take time to brief the new prime minister on all that had to be learned. Perhaps the British wanted a complete change from everything that reminded them of wartime. Perhaps there is much about Winston Churchill, during the war years, that we don't know. The Russians were most upset by it, however, Truman suggested that without Churchill around he might make better progress with Stalin. I never did understand the reason why Churchill was replaced.

    Would you please express your thoughts why Clement Attlee replaced the war time prime minister?

    Bill H

    October 12, 2002 - 11:37 am
    Bill, that's a very good question, not something one would want to answer off the top of one's head. The will of a people in a democracy is a mysterious thing, beyond knowing, even by the best pollsters, as we shall see.

    Molotov, so the story goes, was incredulous at the result of the British election, and found it hard to believe that the outcome would not be known in advance, like back home in the Soviet Union.

    One would think that a grateful nation would reelect such an effective leader as Churchill. With peace at hand, Atlee's Labour Party must have had a more appealing domestic, economic/social program.

    October 12, 2002 - 11:43 am
    I really liked your comparison of the Potsdam meeting of the "big three" to a high stakes poker game. And Churchill without a decent hand to play! Here he was, the leader of a nation facing bankrupcy and very dependant on handouts from the U.S. Certainly he expected nothing from the Soviets who were interested only in their own well being and to heck with anyone else. So Churchill had no power at that Potsdam Conference except to possibly influence Truman as to the proper direction to be taken. He soon realized that Truman had his own ideas and was not easily swayed. Poor Churchill! His bag of tricks was nearly empty. I believe that the British electorate realized that Churchill's influence with the U.S. Government was sizeably diminished after the death of Roosevelt, together with the growing presidential attributes of Truman being his own man and that situation played a large role in why he lost his position as Prime Minister. As to the question of why Truman sought to have the Soviets enter into the war with Japan, I am at a loss to understand the motive for this. It was a mistake. As it worked out, the Soviets didn't declare war until it was obvious that Japan was going to surrender and did so only so that they could share in the "spoils" they were after.

    Bill H
    October 12, 2002 - 12:03 pm


    The Enola Gay was the plane that delivered the package.

    For some this package was heaven sent.

    For others, this package was spawned in hell. All of us must chose between the two.

    Let us hope this package never has to be delivered again.

    Bill H

    Bill H
    October 12, 2002 - 12:34 pm
    Getting the Bomb Ready for Testing

    Bill H

    Bill H
    October 12, 2002 - 12:52 pm
    Jonathan and Losalbern, two very good point in answer to my question as to why the Brits voted Winston Churchill out of office.

    Truman was his own man and they knew Churchill wasn't going to dance Truman around like a puppet on a string. Clement Attlee wasn't going to do so either. "A grateful nation" probably thought..."It's not what you have done for me. But what have you done for me lately? "Great Britain's economy was in a woeful state and the British were casting about trying to find a way out of this sad state the war had placed this nation in. But was Attlee the light at the end of the tunnel?

    betty gregory
    October 12, 2002 - 04:29 pm
    Was it the BBC that produced that recent, wonderful movie on Churchill? It covered the years leading up to WWII, when Churchill, an older man in retirement and in wholesale disfavor politically, first began to speak about getting prepared for another world war. No one would listen to him. He was a has been, an old man with an insane idea...that Germany was secretly building up its military. They felt sorry for him, but mostly, they laughed at him and scoffed at his warnings. Cartoons of him sold papers.

    He didn't give up. He wrote articles and spoke publically. A few people inside the government began to secretly pass to him alarming British intelligence about Germany's buildup....intelligence that was being ignored by England's leaders who would not see the truth. Month after month, his lone voice warned of war and criticized his country's all-time low in military argument there....England was down to a bare bones military framework.

    Churchill, from a position of total disfavor, who would not give up his public outcry, finally gained a small number of listeners. Using inside intelligence passed to him....numbers of new airplane factories in Germany, etc.,...he finally broke through the tough barrier of disbelief. As others began to realize the true level of danger they were in, there was Churchill, gaining the ear and confidence of the country. He was asked to lead the British Royal Navy once again. In the next election, he became Britain's Prime Minister. He was their savior.

    That's all from memory from my hunt for biographies on Churchill....after seeing that incredible movie (Albert Finney, Vanessa Redgrave as the Churchills), so I didn't attempt dates or exact stretches of time.

    On the question of why he was replaced as Prime Minister, I can only think of his unusual history with England....many dramatic ups and downs. I assume that some of his pre-war opponents were still around to point fingers of blame as the war was ending. The rest of the world may have been shocked about the loss of Churchill's power, but many in England were not.

    I highly recommend that movie....I'll go find the name. I would love to find just the right biography on him. There are hundreds. A few hold the top spot for excellence.


    betty gregory
    October 12, 2002 - 04:52 pm
    The Gathering Storm, based on Churchill's notes with the same name, starring Albert Finney and Vanessa Redgrave, was produced by the BBC, 2001, and was seen last spring through HBO in the U.S. It's not yet for sale or for rent. I saw it several times on HBO and would even like to see it again. Does the BBC take a long time to allow its movies to be purchased? I wonder if some are never released....oh, I hope not.


    October 13, 2002 - 08:10 am
    As to Bill H's laundry list of reasons why we dropped the BOMB, a came across a statistic recently that I know from experience must be correct. I had a cousin who was held prisoner in a German Prison camp for a long period of time, so I know what he means whe he said the Germans treated them farly and were civilized. The statistic was that less than 1% of American Prisoners of war died in German prison camps. Whereas OVER 50% of American prisoners died in Japanese prison camps. This is the basic reason I have never completely forgiven the Japanese,even to this day. Saving the lives of over 200,000 American service men was worth every bit of destroying two Japanese cities, as Harry Truman said.

    Joan Pearson
    October 13, 2002 - 01:41 pm
    I don't want to interrupt this very important discussion at this point. It is difficult to sit from our vantage point today and justify what happened in Hiroshima and oh, in Nagasacki...where so many thousands of innocent lives were lost. From everything I have read, the fact that so many American lives were saved because of this bomb...people were relieved and celebrated the end of the war, without much mention of the horrors in Japan. That would come later. When we read the "Good" War and also the Greatest Generation, we heard from the Vets who went into these places immediately following the bombing. These men never did forget what they saw there. Their perspective would be different from those mothers/fathers and loved ones back home in the states who were scared to death for their sons who were on their way to carry on the war. My uncle was one of these. I can tell you of the celebration at our house when the bomb was reported. Everyone knew Uncle George was coming home.

    I came in from the National Book Festival and wanted to let you know that we did in fact have our five minutes with David McCullough following his closing talk on Books in the History and Biography tent...time enough for some light banter and a number of photographs, but not for substantive questions. I promise I will persist with the questions...

    In these photos, you will see a number of Bookies, including some who take part in this discussion...Ann Alden on the right and myself to the left of the author. He seems to have been smiling all the time we were with him..honest! EXCEPT when this photo was taken. Be assured that a gazillion photos were taken of this meeting...including by the press photographer. Will get them to you soon. Also an account of Mr. McCullough's talk...which did touch on Harry...once!

    SN Bookies
    the nation

    Bill H
    October 13, 2002 - 03:30 pm
    Betty, thank you for the name of the HBO movie. Alvert Finney and Vanessa Redgrave are two fine actors. I always admired the Redgrave sister's father. I believe his name was Michael Redgrave He was the image of the true British Aristocrat. I, too, hope the movie is released soon I'd love to see it.

    I was always intrigued by Winston Churchill. To me he seemed the very symbol of victory in Europe. What a fine discussion his bio would make, if the right biography was found. I believe Eisenhower was very fortunate to have this man as the Prime Minister of Great Britain. Churchill knew the pressure Ike was under from both the British generals and the American generals. Eisenhower and Churchill were able to find a middle ground that seemed to satisfy most the leaders of the allied force. Pity Ike if Churchill had been like Marshal Duval, the free French leader of that time As it was, Eisenhower had his hands full with Duval. We all know that Field Marshall Montgomery fought Ike all the way for his share of the lime light. Monty, I'm sure, wanted to be the Supreme Commander of the Western allied forces and was very resentful he wasn't chosen.

    Perhaps it was well that FDR was President through most of the war. Roosevelt was a master of diplomacy, so was Winston Churchill and together they helped make Eisenhower's job, while not easy, much smoother than it would have been if the two world leaders had been at odds.

    Joan, thank you for those pictures. I'm sure all of you at the Bookfest are having a grand time. Is David McMullough an easy man to have a conversation with? Please keep those pictures coming. I'm certain all of us are enjoying seeing you folks.

    Joan, yes many innocent lives were lost in the two cities that were devastated by the atomic bombs. However, there were many innocent lives lost in the horrible catastrophe that was WW2. The Russians lost a staggering amount of lives, the Holocaust resulted in the death of six million Jews. I've read where the Japanese killed almost fifty percent of some of the territories they occupied just for the fun of it. Someone once coined the phrase "WAR IS HELL" and that just about sums it up. When a nation attacks another it must expect retaliation.

    Bill H

    betty gregory
    October 14, 2002 - 05:50 am
    Great pictures, Joan, and I'm looking forward to more to come in the Bookfest 2002 folder.

    I spotted you twice, Joan, as I watched the live book festival on C-Span. I saw quite a few others at a distance by spotting the blue-green t-shirts with white printing. "There they are!!" I would call out to my television.

    The authors who spoke throughout the day were extraordinarily good....a magical, well-thought-through selection of authors who held our attention on an amazing range of topics. Saving the best for last, McCullough was wonderful...especially when he began to go through his list of very favorite books from childhood through adulthood, and before that, when he told a few stories of how a specific book changed someone's life forever. What a captivating speaker he is.

    It was a magical day. Something extraordinary was happening, several different people interviewed by c-span said. When fewer people were expected to show up, because of the fear in the area, thousands showed up to celebrate the book. Many authors interviewed mentioned something about a special feeling throughout the festival. Many mentioned a growing love of reading throughout the country. For most of the authors' presentations, there was standing room only....and for a few, I'm not sure there was any standing room.

    I can't wait to hear from those of you who were actually there!!


    Bill H
    October 14, 2002 - 05:24 pm
    It was a simple message Truman wrote giving the final approval for dropping the bomb. Writing large and clear with a lead pencil on the back of pink message he had received in regard to this. Truman wrote: "Suggestion approved. Release when ready but not sooner than August 2." He didn't want anything happening until he was away from Stalin. Before leaving Great Britain for Washington, Harry Truman had lunch with King George V1 on board the British battle cruiser H.M.S. Renown which was anchored in Plymouth Roads. I wonder if Harry was stunned that all of this was happening to him, to a man that plowed the fields of his father's farm, that played poker with the boys in his shirt store and made loans to these boys.

    DM tells us

    "In his first three months in office Harry Truman had been faced with a greater surge of history, with larger, more difficult, more far reaching decisions than any President before him. Neither Lincoln after first taking office, nor Franklin Roosevelt in his tumultuous first hundred days, had to contend with issues of such magnitude and coming all at once."

    Out of the ranks of the farmers all the way to this. It's actually hard to believe all this was accomplished by a man with no formal education. And it seemed to me he was at ease with kings, world leaders, high ranking generals and men of great wealth. Was it ever established what Harry Truman's I Q was?

    We will soon becoming to the end of Part Three. Would you please take this time to post any more of your thoughts on the many things we have covered so far?

    Bill H

    October 14, 2002 - 08:45 pm
    Bill, I believe you sum it up very well when you describe the awesome position in whicn HST now finds himself as President, asked to address not only the domestic problems which came with peace; but also faced with the responsibility of playing a major role in making it a peaceful world. That was a role he seems to have relished, taking a page out of W Wilson's book.

    What a rendezvous with history, starting with his decision which inaugurated the Atomic Age. Conferring with world leaders. As you point out, a farmer from Missoure, with no formal education beyond high school. How far he has come!

    Can you imagine that?! The King of England asks him for his autograph.

    Something else about the interesting detail to be found in McCullough's book. Detail which lends itself to unusual associations. The President will change his mind later; but from Potsdam he writes Bess: 'I like Stalin. He is straightforward.' Weren't we saying just that about Harry a while back?

    Even more interesting is to hear Truman saying: 'Stalin is as near like Tom Pendergast as any man I know.' What in heaven's name did Truman have in mind when he said that? Stalin's ability to assure the outcome of an election? Such as Molotov admired about his Boss? Surely not. Truman must have heard Molotov's views on elections. Even tyrants are politicians, are they not?

    betty gregory
    October 15, 2002 - 07:16 am
    Jonathan, perhaps Truman, in comparing Pendergast and Stalin, had demeanor in mind, a relaxed ownership of people coming across to Truman as an air of power...or one of my favorite concepts, entitlement.


    Regarding Truman's awesome responsibilities during his first three months as president, I have to keep reminding myself that he didn't jump from farmer to president, but had just come from a very successful and powerful time in the Senate.

    He also had what we call people skills. Here's a wild thought....there's something about his unusual people skills that reminds me of Clinton. Not style, skills. All the way from Truman's tough investigative role to his (as important) poker games, he gained admirers. Anyone who spent time with Truman fell under his spell. They liked him.

    The same was true of Clinton. I can't count the number of times I heard some Republican on a Sunday morning TV panel admit the power Clinton had in a one-on-one conversation with anyone. The best in people-skills of any president, is what I heard over and over during his presidency.

    Truman's 'likeability' during his Senate years, going into his first months as president (where we are in the book) is also remarkable. How Clinton and Truman each interacted with people may not be similar (haven't thought about that very much), but each was in his element in relating to people. People skills.

    So, the official job of president may just have begun for Truman, but his skill preparation had been going on for a very long time. In addition, his ability to lead people, not just relate to them, may have been hard wired, innate, as exhibited in WWI.


    Bill H
    October 15, 2002 - 10:47 am
    Jonathan, I think Pendergast and Stalin could control the out come of an election. Pendergast with the political machine and Stalin with the machine gun, both machines carried a great deal of force. At Potsdam, Harry asked Stalin "What happened to the Polish officers. Stalin's reply, "They went away" )

    Betty, "People skills," yes Harry Truman like Clinton had them. However, Harry Truman could be believed. hahahaha. I wonder what Harry Truman would've said about Bill Clinton? And, yes, it is hard to forget that Harry Truman wasn't just from the farm. But you know the old saying, "You can take the boy out of the farm, but you can't take the farm out of the boy. I think this was good for Truman. Possible the farm is where he first got his peoples skills

    Bill H

    Joan Pearson
    October 15, 2002 - 03:00 pm
    Bill, I'll be off in a few minutes for a few weeks...back in time for "Weight of the World". This is such a good discussion - I look forward to reading all the posts. Ann should have returned from DC today and I'm sure will be jumping back into the discussion. Keep my chair warm for me!


    Bill H
    October 15, 2002 - 04:44 pm
    Joan, have a nice vacation. We will all miss you and wait for your return.

    BIll H

    October 16, 2002 - 07:30 am
    I loistned to an audio tape of Truman by David McCollough. I was impressed by Truman's character. He had to make a difficult decision to drop the atomic bomb during WWII. He tried to do his best in all things.

    Bill H
    October 16, 2002 - 09:02 am
    Lindataft, welcome to the discussion. I, too, was impressed with Truman's character,in fact, I still am. I believe Harry Truman is one of the most remarkable men our nation has seen. His decesion to drop the bomb was indeed difficult, however it was tempered by his knowing that it saved the lives of untold numbers of allied soldiers, airmen and naval personnel.

    Please continue to share with us your thoughts on what you hear on the audio tape. I understand David McMcullough had a very good speaking voice. Is this true?

    Bill H

    Bill H
    October 16, 2002 - 09:12 am
    Today we start Part Four of the biography. This too is one of the great Parts of the book that gives us much to discuss. How fitting the first chapter."The Buck Stops Here."
    Look at little Truman now
    Muddy, battered, bruised--and how!
    --Chicago Tribune

    Bill H

    Bill H
    October 16, 2002 - 09:18 am
    A war time president no longer his six-months waltz with Congress ended. His troubles begun shortly after the Japanese surrender ceremonies aboard the battle ship Missouri,. when he sent a message to Congress asking for more than FDR ever asked at one time. Harry Truman knew there was going to be chaos out there if something wasn't done and done soon.

    His message asked for increased unemployment compsenation, an immediate increase in the minimum wage, federal aid to housing to make possible a million new homes a year, a full years extentsion to the War Powers and Stabilization Act, etc. He was trying to prevent chaos.

    Labor unions were now free to strike and strike they did for catch up wages. The nation was as ill prepared for the sudden peace as it was for the sudden war. By October the country was facing the biggest housing shortage in history. Chicago was offering old streetcars for sale, for conversions into homes. Due to the cancellation of war time contracts, plants were laying off employees by the thousands and there were twelve million men and women returning home expecting to find jobs and housing.

    At my separation center, I remember a brigadier general addressing us, as we stood in formation, saying "It's not a bed of roses out there." Of course, he was trying to get some of us to reenlist in the army, it fell on deaf ears for the most part but some did reenlist.

    I wasn't affected by the housing shortage because I wasn't married at the time so, of course, I returned home to mom. ) However I knew some guys who were affected by it. I also remember the Quonset huts that were being hurriedly built in a large playground several miles from my home, for veterans and their wives and children. These huts weren't much but they did make a home for many veterans and were far better than converted streetcars.

    I wonder if you would please share some of your immediate post war experience with us. I ask this of those who remained at home as well as the returning GIs.

    Bill H

    October 16, 2002 - 10:13 am
    Good Morning,

    Sorry I have not been able to join in the Discusson.

    I will try to keep up with the postings. I am not sure if I will go back and read the past postings unless I can do a few per day.

    Eye doctor told me I can look at the Computer Monitor now but to ease in to it.

    I notice that Jimmy Carter won the Peace Price. We are lucky, we have had two (2) Honest, Decent, men as President in our lifetimes.: Harry Truman and Jimmy Carter. Pity that their example didn't seem to catch the attention of the men who came after them.

    Tiger Tom

    October 16, 2002 - 12:08 pm
    TIGER: Yes, you are so right about Harry and Jimmy.Unfortunately, Jimmy was never able to live up to the general reputation of Governors of states being good executives and administrators. While Harry had not be a governor, he did have some experience as a county judge, and of course, an officer in the Army in WWI. All good administrative experience.

    So far in this segment of the book I am impressed with Truman's finally standing up to the Union Bosses when he went before Congress seeking legislation to allow him to draft the striking railroad men and coal miners into the army. As it turned out the strikes were settled rather quickly after that so no laws were passed. Strange as it seems, I lived through those times and I have no recollection of all those labor problems. Maybe it was because I had a job and was busy earning a living for my growing family. I guess because they really didn't effect me personally,and the strikes didn't last long enough to have a major effect on the economy. I do remember John L. Lewis, however.

    October 16, 2002 - 12:19 pm
    Bill, That "bed of Roses" speech at your separation center must have been of the "General Issue" variety used by military brass to inveigle us into the reserves. My unit spent the time frame September 1945 until January 1946 in and around Osaka dismantling the Japanese war capabilities wherever they were found. The experience was so interesting and varied that the time passed quickly. When I wrote my Army memoirs I covered three or four events that stood out as being worthy of remembering. The returning to the U.S. was an inspiring event. Our ship transport, loaded with homecoming G.I.s, slipped into Puget Sound just after dusk and many, many guys were on deck straining our eyes to see that first glimpse of the USA. Suddenly, a tug boat sized vessel came along side and lit up from stem to stern while someone with a bull horn announced "Welcome Home!". There in the chill of wintry February weather, the Seattle USO put on a show that night by a group a gutsy girls that wrenched the hearts of every serviceman aboard. They accompanied our ship for an hour or so then slipped away. What a homecoming! Keep in mind that the war had been over for 6 months! But here they were showing their respect and concern for yet another shipload of returning servicemen! I will never forget that! Losalbern

    October 16, 2002 - 12:21 pm
    What an experience that must have been. The homecoming.

    We're going to miss you, Joan. But it will be great to have Tiger Tom posting. I've enjoyed your posts in the past. The Peace Prize for Jimmy Carter is long overdue.

    Linda, let me add my welcome to Bill's. It's good to hear from you.

    Betty, thanks for pointing out that it wasn't the farmer who was suddenly called on to assume the responsibilities and powers of presidential office. As you say, he WAS a seasoned politician, well-informed and well-connected after twenty years in public life, with ten of those years spent in Washington,. You also make an apt comparison between Truman and Clinton, when you point out that they demonstrated similiar political skills. Likewise, when you point out what Truman seemed to see in both Tom Pendergast and Stalin - that aura of strength and political sureness. Nevertheless I'm still left wondering that Truman should have seen that, rather than the vast differences between Pendergast and Stalin. The President must have been thoroughly briefed about Stalin and his absolutely ruthless methods. Stalin demanded heads. Pendergast bought votes and was good for the economy, with his Ready-Mix.

    Bill, I don't think there can be any doubt about Truman's high IQ. Presidential dignity and respect aside, he was a very bright guy, even if he had to work for it as his teacher said. And doesn't he set to work at once, throwing himself into his workload with awesome determination. He puts an end to the war, and without further ado, replaces the model cannon on his desk with a shiny model plow! How touching. When I read that I had to think of Truman (in the movie)being asked in the WWI trench if he was going back to the farm after the war; and Truman replying that he could think of better things to do than look up a mule's arse. Only someone who has followed mules could appreciate that!

    Once in the oval office, he is so overwhelmed by work, that by Christman of 1945 he is describing the White House as 'the great white sepulcher of ambitions and reputations.' That is mentioned in the 'forlorn' letter to Bess, which he never mailed. Written after the flying visit to Independence, on Christman morning, to be with his family. Even stranger and more meaningful as pertaining to the relationship between President and First Lady, is Truman's remark: 'I wonder why we are made so that what we really think and feel we cover up.'

    I'm left puzzling over what he might have been thinking when he wrote that. What caused the anguish. But it sounded vaguely familiar. It occurred to me that those are much the same words, almost the very same, which set the theme for Remains of the Day, now up on the board for discussion. If my memory serves me correctly, it is the reason for the lost opportunity of open, unabashed, mutual love between butler and housekeeper. It's the same the whole world over, isn't it?

    Bill H
    October 16, 2002 - 01:57 pm
    Tiger Tom, welcome back, it's good to hear from you again. I'm looking forward to your postings, they are always worthwhile reading. There have been many interesting posts, but please take it easy with the monitor.

    You echo my sentiments regarding Jimmy Carter. As you say, a man of integrity. He didn't deserve the ridicule he received. Couldn't those who poked fun at him recognize goodness when they seen it. They were only belittling themselves. However, in recent years, I believe Carter is getting the recognition he deserves. I cringed for those who poke fun at him We all know who they were.

    Williewoody, like yourself, I lived through those times and I never paid too much attention to what was happening. I wasn't affected by too much in the post war era. I was still comparatively young and I didn't concern myself with the political problems of the day. I'm reading things in this bio of such importance, in that time in history, that I can't believe I just let them slip past me like water off a duck's back. Today, I search the morning paper for all important events. We are all lving through another time of great magnitude.

    Losalbern, yes, that speech was GI issue. )

    The USO gave a party for us at the USO hall in the separation center the night before all of us in my company received their Honorable Discharge paper the next day. The party was a grand event and every one, thank heavens, conducted themselves fairly well. Some of us had tears in our eyes, for two reasons: First, we were going home and two, for the most part, we probably wouldn't be seeing each other again. Wouldn't be seeing the guys we got to know and paled around with all that time.

    Jonathan, you and Betty are so right in pointing out that Truman had many eventful years before reaching the White House. But know I see why DM gave us those early chapters dealing with the settling of Missouri, the Truman ancestry, and the early life of Harry Truman from boyhood to farmer. David McCullough didn't want us to ever forget whence Harry Truman come.. Most likely Harry Truman placed that "shiny model plow" on his desk to constantly remind him from where he came.

    Bill H

    betty gregory
    October 16, 2002 - 02:46 pm
    Jonathan, I'm glad you repeated your quandry over Truman's comparison of Stalin to Pendergast. It reminded me of my frustration with an earlier Truman who, after he had had many experiences with the Pendergasts, continued to exhibit no hesitation, no alarm, no judgment??

    When Truman hung the Pendergast portrait in his Washington office, my jaw dropped and I thought, "He didn't." What an idiot, I kept thinking. (If this had been in the 50s, he could have hung Elvis on the opposite wall.) Didn't he have any political savvy at this point? Even if he was grateful to Pendergast, how was this blind spot possible? I'm still puzzled that Truman never questioned the ethics/morals/possible crimes of the Pendergast machine. I kept waiting for a sign of growth of political sophistication on this issue.

    I don't know. Are we giving this plain spoken man too much intellectual credit, considering Jonathan's question about Truman's unsophisticated/uninformed/what, naive? view of Stalin? Something about this reminds me of a Peter Sellers' film.


    Bill H
    October 16, 2002 - 04:53 pm
    I had a senior moment. In one of my recent posts. I said pity poor Ike if he had to contend with Duval instead of Winston Churchill. I should've said, pity poor Ike if he had to contend with General Charles deGaul. Well, I had the d, u, and the l right. I Thank all of you for over looking such an error on my part. In the movie IKE. Eisenhower, while once speaking to Montgomery said. "...your not God. deGaul is God. He told me so himself...."

    Bill H

    October 16, 2002 - 05:40 pm
    Bill H,

    I think that it is interesting that both Truman and Carter were Bright, Honest, Decent men who were sabotaged a great deal by their own party while in the White House. Carter mostly. But Truman too. Of the two, Truman was the most able to fight back. Carter was too decent and like many decent people luckless in many ways.

    Truman and Churchill were and are two of my Political Hero's. It is nice to know that the human race can throw up people like that every once in a while. Gives us hope despite what he have had to put up with lately.

    Tiger Tom

    October 17, 2002 - 11:49 am
    Truman's decline in popularity following the end of WWII, when it was at an alltime high of 80% to a low of around 30% just before the elections in 1946 is phenomenal. Fortunately, for him it was not a presidential election year or he most certainly would have been defeated, and thus considerably shortened McCulloughs massive book.

    Of particular interest to me was his sort of third person diary story of history from September 1918 from the viewpoint of his "serviceman acquaintance" Quite obviously the "acquaintance" was himself. An interesting way to write about his observations of the events and people in his life. Knowing what is coming ahead makes his election as President in 1948 all the more unbelievable.

    Bill H
    October 17, 2002 - 02:44 pm

    George C. Marshall

    Harry Truman was fortunate to have a statesman such as George C. Marshall he could depend upon for advice for most of his presidency. Six days after Marshall retired (for the first time) Truman called him back into service to replace Patrick J.Hurley who resigned as ambassador to China. Marshall replied with a simple "Yes. Mr. President." This man did so much in these troubled times both in war time and in the following cold war it would take pages to do him justice. Do you suppose we could discuss this man for a bit?

    I found this very brief paragraph about General Marshall on the web. How compressed this is compared to David McCullough's explanation of the roll that General Marshall played in our nations history.

    "Marshall "retired" in November 1945, but President Truman immediately asked him to go to China to attempt to mediate a settlement between the Nationalists and Communists. In January 1947 he was named secretary of state. In that role, his name is most commonly associated with the "Marshall Plan," for which he won the Nobel Peace Prize in December 1953. In 1949 he resigned from the State Department and was soon named president of the American National Red Cross, hardly a sinecure, given the organization's troubles at the time. In September 1951, three months after the outbreak of the Korean War, Truman asked him to become secretary of defense, a job he held for a year. Marshall died at Walter Reed Hospital on October 16, 1959, and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery."

    Bill H

    October 17, 2002 - 08:13 pm
    Bill, it is said that George C Marshall had the bearing and the manner which marked him as an exceptional man. Tiger Tom chooses Truman and Churchill as political heros, and I agree, wholeheartedly. But I pick Marshall as a distinguished soldier and statesman. I wish Truman would have taken his advice even more often than he did.

    Now that we're in Washington, there are a number of others on the big stage to observe.

    williewoody, What a thought!...a presidential election in 1946. How can you be sure that Truman would have been defeated? Whatever the popularity rating, Truman would still have to be considered a winner at this point. (except for 1924) I like to think he would have made more popular decisions in the time leading up to the election. And then campaigned in the real Harry Truman style. Who knows?

    October 18, 2002 - 07:38 am
    JOHNATHAN: Actually he did campaign in the real Truman style in 1948, and he did squeak out a win. I still think that he would have had a much tougher time getting elected had the presidential election been in 1946, and had his opponent been Tom Dewey, who was a very popular Republican political figure at that time.

    October 18, 2002 - 07:38 am

    An interesting book to accompany this Truman Biography is: The Lonliest Campaign" Truman's 1948 Campaign against Dewey. The Democratic Party was split and certainly was not behind Truman. One slogan was "We're just mild about Harry."

    At one point in the mid-east, Illinois I believe, Truman's train was stopped because the Engineer wanted to be paid and refusted to go any further until her was. A collection was taken up to pay him and the Train continued. Had the Democratic Party given Truman the backing he required that would not have happened. BTW the train was "Chartered." So the Engineer would not have been paid by the Railroad but by the Democratic Party.

    Can you see something like that happening in this day and age?

    Tiger Tom

    Bill H
    October 18, 2002 - 10:27 am
    Jonathan, you are right on the mark about George C. Marshall. What a fine president he would've made. However, I believe he often made the statement that he did not want to be president. Did Marshall ever flatly refuse the offer from either party? I sometimes wonder how the Cold War would have progressed if Marshall, rather than Eisenhower, had succeeded Harry Truman as president.

    Williewoody, I'm of the opinion Truman would have had a difficult time in 1946. His popularity then with the labor unions wasn't all that great. David McCullough wrote about the tough, but necessary stand, President Truman took on trying to end the strikes that followed the end of WW2. Would labor have followed him in '46?

    Tom, "The Loneliest Campaign" would make for interesting reading and add insights to Truman that the DM's bio does not cover. There is so much about Harry Truman that David McCullough or anyone else could not fit into one book Although the author does cover the stopped train incident and the hat being passed for a collection to pay the Engineer fairly well. How embarrassing for the President of the United States, even more so since Truman had called for an end to the railroad strike earlier in his presidency, and the investigations he conducted against a railroad as a Senator.

    No, Tom, I can't see this embarrassment happening today not with all the wealth that's poured into the presidential campaigns by the powerful special interest groups that long to see "their own man" in office.

    Bill H

    October 18, 2002 - 02:33 pm
    Bill H

    I always had the feeling that the Embarassment of the train incident was manufactured by some in the Democratic Party. You know, of course, That President Truman also got cut off a radio broadcast for the same reason as the Train incident. There had not been enough money paid for the length of the President's speech. Again, it would seem to be a deliberate attempt to embarass him.

    These incidents would seem to point to the leadership in the Democratic Party at that time. I never heard of any heads rolling because of these incidents.

    I don't think that these things hurt President Truman but might have hurt the Democratic Party.

    Tiger Tom

    Bill H
    October 18, 2002 - 06:27 pm
    In '46, Truman was faced with labor problems of the largest magnitude. It seems as though everybody was on strike that year, or threatening to go out on strike. Pittsburgh's Mayor Lawrence (of my home town) pleaded with the electric company workers to go back to work That strike just about shut everything down in the Pittsburgh area. Mayor Lawrence was a friend of labor, he had to be if he wanted to stay in office. Couple his pleas with that of Harry Truman threatening to seize the railroads and you have labor's disenchantment. I don't think the railroad workers ever forgot this.

    The Republicans swept the elections that year, carrying both houses of Congress for the first time since before the Depression. The Republicans also took a majority of the state governorships as well.

    But perhaps the American voters that year were much like the British voters when they ousted Winston Churchill. It's more than a coincidence that both countries wanted a change. Considering the Republican landslide, I think it is well Truman didn't have to stand for reelection that year

    David McCullough did a fine job of describing the labor problems in chapter nine.

    Bill H

    Bill H
    October 19, 2002 - 10:42 am
    At times Truman showed a lapse in judgment when making appointments. For instance he chose Secretary of the Treasury Fred Vinson to replace Chief Justice Harlan Stone. Vinson was known more for his political sagacity than for his judicial brilliance. To replace Vinson he chose John Snyder, another Missouri crony, for Secretary of the Treasury. Most thought Snyder ill suited for this high ranking Cabinet position. Truman kept Eddie McKim and Harry Vaughn by his side long after they proved ineffectual. The promotion of Vaughn to brigadier general, to some, seemed laughable and comic and the press made a buffoon of Vaughn. Truman had been in Washington long enough to be able to jude the capabilities of these men. Perhaps Harry Truman felt he needed these Missouri cronies by his side as a sounding board.

    Bill H

    October 19, 2002 - 02:07 pm
    Poor Harry, The appointment of some of his cronies to postions of power in the postwar government was a sign of weakness. Important people were deserting their wartime positions and finding good replacements was very difficult. Harry wanted to find people he could lean on and trust so he appointed his old friends, regardless of deficiencies. Harry was over his head when it came to facing the transition problems, going from a full blown military driven, full employment economy that suddenly had to reverse gears and direction into a peacetime economy that must face the return of 12 million service men and women who would require employment some where,and beyond that, what about the hundreds of wartime areospace workers who were being laid off as contracts were being terminated? The problems Harry faced in the early postwar going were gigantic enough to stagger anybody! Who could do it better? It seemed like nobody, the congress or his party, really expected Harry to succeed in getting the country back on its peacetime feet. But Harry buckled down, worked harder and somehow prevailed. Losalbern

    Bill H
    October 19, 2002 - 04:14 pm
    Losalbern, you summed it up pretty well, when you spoke of the early postwar problems facing the nation. And when you throw in the Cold War as well as the great domestic concerns, I don't believe any president was faced with so much all at one time. The fact that Truman was able to deal with all this shows the greatness of the man.

    But what belied the idea of some in both parties that Truman surrounded himself solely with Missouri mediocrity. was the fact the he also had men like Byrnes, Lilienhal, Marshall, Harriman, Acheson, Bradley and Clark Clifford etc. It was as a distinguished group as ever served the country. Rarely had a president surrounded himself with such able men. Fate smiled on President Truman and, more importantly the nation, that he had these men for guidance in those troubled days. I Wish we had this group now.

    It would be interesting to hear your thoughts about these men, perhaps even those whom I failed to mention?

    Bill H

    Ann Alden
    October 20, 2002 - 02:38 am
    Since we went to DC, the posts up here have been prodigious and very educating for me. I have read 69 in the last two days and really feel brought up to date.

    Betty, I too have wondered about that Pendergast photo. Was Truman crazy? Unaware of the trouble it could cause him or was he simple giving a cudo to Pendergast? He did go to the man's funeral as he said that he owed him that much. He commented on the fact that Pendergast came from jail, a broken man. Was Truman honoring the man's former life or saying how sorry it was that it ended so sorrily??

    I don't remember much about the end of the war, past jumping into the Soldier's and Sailor's Memorial fountain in Indianapolis. A mere child! :<) I also remember John L. Lewis, the president of the mimers' union, shouting and screaming about the strike. It touches my funny bone that Harry threatened just the right thing. Draft the bums!!(Maybe that's what Kennedy and Reagan should have threatened when they stopped the strikes during their presidencies.) Well, don't we know, that the money was on the outside, not in the Army and they knew it! As my grandfather always said, "There was a time when we needed unions to protect the common man but we don't need them now!" With the graft that seems to be generated in the unions, I think I understand what he was saying. I lost a job with a good company because I wouldn't join the union and I was only 19 or 20 at the time. Then, they told me that I had to pay the dues and go to the meetings anyway(where they called the roll), so I quit!! What power they had!

    I do remember the Marshall Plan and thought of how generous the man was. Doesn't do anyone any good if the world is suffering while we roll in wealth. We could have, as Harry said, "built a paradise, if we just learned how to use the power we have been given". Of course, he meant atomic power but that statement could be applied to a lot of other powers that we have.

    Bill H
    October 20, 2002 - 09:51 am
    Ann, welcome back I hope you enjoyed your time at the Bookfest, From all the photos I've seen, it seems a grand time was had by all of you.

    It appears that George C. Marshall was instrumental in so many things at that strategic time in our nation's history. The Marshall plan still remains one of the highmarks in history and it went a long way in saving Europe from disaster. General Marshall's mark of excellence can be found everywhere during the Truman and Roosevelt presidencies . What a fine president he would've made.

    The Marshall plan and the crucial Berlin Airlift, after the Russians shut down other avenues of approach to that city, played an important role in the reelection of President Truman.

    By the way, Ann did you enjoy the splash you made when you jumped into the fountain way back then. )

    Bill H

    Bill H
    October 20, 2002 - 05:55 pm
    General Clay, the American commander in Berlin, may have averted WW3 when, after Stalin closed ground routes leading into the city thereby shutting off supplies, he begun airlifting supplies into Berlin on a small scale that soon turned into a huge undertaking. The Berlin Airlift was one of the most remarkable achievements of the postwar era. The Russian Bear lost no time in provoking the former Allies after their demobilization was well under way.

    I believe the knowledge of atomic warfare was instrumental in stopping all out aggression of the Russians to drive the Allies out of Berlin. I'm of the opinion Stalin wanted this city all for himself as compensation for what the Russians had suffered at the hands of the Nazis.

    President Truman immediately ordered two squadrons of B-29s to Germany, the planes known to the world that dropped the atomic bombs. But these planes had not been modified to carry atomic bombs, however, the Russians were not aware of this. Remember Harry Truman was a sharp poker player and he knew how to bluff a hand.

    I'm not sure, but was this one of the first acts of the Cold War by the Russians?

    Bill H

    Ann Alden
    October 22, 2002 - 07:03 am
    Here is an outline of cold war beginnings: Cold WarBackground

    Want to take a test on how much we have learned here so far? Here you go: Truman's Presidency(mostly early policies)

    Bill H
    October 22, 2002 - 01:45 pm
    Ann, thank you for those two neat links! I guess I got lucky because I scored 100% )

    Bill H

    October 22, 2002 - 01:48 pm
    It is of interest to note that at least 3 of the major problems that Truman faced as he prepared to campaign for the election in 1948 are still with us in varying degree today.

    While Medicare has been in existance for a long time, we still have not solved the problem of a National Health Care Plan for ALL citizens that Truman first suggested to Congress in his first term in office.

    Civil rights, which primarily was an issue involving the unequal treatment of black citizens in a predominantly white society, especially in the southern states. While black organizations and some individual black leaders still complain of unfair and unequal treatment, changes so vast have been made that those who lived 150 years ago would never recognize life in black America as it was then compared to what it is today.

    Finally the one major problem that Truman faced 54 years ago that has actually gotten worse is the Jewish/Arab conflict raging in Palestine/Isreal today. Basically, this conflict has gone on for thousands of years, and there seems to be no solution. IMHO there never will be a solution until they begin to teach the children of each tribe ( Hebrew and Arab) to love each other instead of hate. Their societies must competely change, and this can only be accomplished if you start with the very young. This was the basis of the Hitler Youth Movement.

    Bill H
    October 22, 2002 - 03:29 pm
    Yes, Williewoody, and Truman was the first president to recognize Israel as a country. He was also calling for civil rights and an end to desegregation in the US Military. In regard to desegregation he was quoted as saying, "I don't care how this affects me politically, this is bigger than me".

    Bill H

    Ann Alden
    October 22, 2002 - 04:44 pm
    Was wondering if either of you were aware of the program that brings together Israelli and Arab teenagers in the United States to let them live together at a camp and to see each other in a different light? What do you think of it? Will it work? Shouldn't other countries be trying this also? Doesn't it seem that the US is always the country which tries to think of ways to improve relations between other countries? Look at Carter at Camp David? Hasn't that remained an in-place compromise? Are the different religions--Christian, Muslim, and Jewish---what is keeping us from having some kind of peace in this world? Or, is it the oil? Just wondering here.

    I do believe that our race relations have improved here but that more have arisen due to entitlement thoughts. None of us is entitled to much. What Truman says about this being bigger than him is so true. And what has struck me is that this man was quite humble and unpresuming. He did what he thought was right for the country and maybe for the world.

    Ann Alden
    October 23, 2002 - 05:27 am
    BillH, sorry not to have answered your question about Stalin and control of Berlin. Yes, it may have been the first move in the Cold War at that time. He was drawing a line in the sand, saying that he was in control of Europe and expected us to back off. Luckily, we had George Marshall and his suggestion of the Berlin Airlift. Again, this man was quite a statesman!

    October 23, 2002 - 10:04 am
    ANN: You raise the question about oil? Asfar as peace between Arabs and Jews, I don't really think oil has much to do with the problem. Although, is interesting to note that one of Isreal's early leaders, Golda Maier is supposed to have said she didn't understand why Moses had led her people around the desert for 40 years and then finally settled them in a place that had no oil.

    Bill H
    October 23, 2002 - 10:13 am
    Ann, it's my turn to say "sorry I didn't answer your question." Yes, I think any program that helps develop an understanding between people of different religions and races is a very worthwhile venture. You ask if it will work. It is a beginning, but it will take a long time to change things on the political issues of these two nations. And then what happens to these children once they return home and hear the same old spin of their parents. Will the brain washing once again take hold of them. The beliefs of these two countries are so deeply rooted that, at best, the most we can hope for is peace and an end to violence. That's a great deal to hope. The violence taking place between Israel and Palestine is much like the strife between Ireland and England that has been going on for centuries.

    Bill H

    Bill H
    October 23, 2002 - 10:17 am
    Just an aside. On page 571, DM writes a touching account of the death of President Truman's mother and the dream Harry Truman had on his way to see her.

    During the famous presidential campaign in 1947 the public was unaware that J. Edgar Hoover was secretly supplying Dewey with all the information the FBI could provide to hurt Harry Truman, "though there wasn't much" an assistant to Hoover said. Hoover put the resources of the bureau at Dewey's disposal, in the hopes that when Dewey was elected he would name Hoover as the Attorney general. I always believed Hoover wanted nothing more than to always be Director of the FBI.

    Ginger Rogers was among the movie stars that campaigned for Dewey. Even though Miss Rogers came from Independence, Missouri David McCullough never told us how well Truman and Ginger Rogers knew each other or if they had ever met.

    What are your thoughts about the '47 election?

    October 23, 2002 - 04:43 pm
    Gosh folks, talk about being torn in two directions, there are responses I feel like making to so many good postings here but my mind is absolutely displaced with concern for MY Angels in the 4th game of the World Series that is just about ready to start in a few minutes. Where is the Mylanta? Losalbern

    Bill H
    October 23, 2002 - 05:32 pm
    Losalbern, I'm going to watch them, too.

    Bill H

    Bill H
    October 23, 2002 - 05:58 pm
    Truman Defeats Dewey

    Photo from the Truman Library

    I stayed up all night listening to the election returns. It was a real cliff hanger. I don't believe they had exit polls in those days and thank heavens.

    Bill H

    Bill H
    October 24, 2002 - 06:49 am
    David McCullough's comprehensive narration of the Truman election campaign of 1947, from the Democrat convention, the whistle stops of the Ferdinand Magellan and the crowds that gathered to hear President Truman speak at those stops, to election day and the morning after, is one of the several highlights of this biography. For those of us who lived those days the reading of it gives us a feeling of nostalgia. For those who are to young to remember or were not yet born, the author gives a fine coverage of that historical election. Even though I knew the result I had a feeling of suspense as I read along.

    Bill H

    October 24, 2002 - 07:30 am
    I think we are getting a little mislead here. The jist of the foregoing messages would indicate the election was in 1947. Maybe I started it when I referred to campaigning in 1947. Actually the Presidential election was November of 1948. Sorry.

    Bill H
    October 24, 2002 - 01:13 pm
    Williewoody, your are right. Truman started his first elected term in 1949 sorry if we got untracked

    Bill H

    Ann Alden
    October 25, 2002 - 07:59 am
    Laselburn, Bill H, The game is the game and should by all means be watched. And, that was the 4th game. I had to fall into bed before the end of the 5th game so don't know who won last night but assume that the score difference didn't change much. Maybe only one to go or is it two?? And, then we have to wait for spring training!! Oh dear!!

    When we read of the train engineer stopping Truman's on his stump to victory, we wonder how he had the nerve. This was his president for heaven's sake! And, how humble, again, of Harry to pass the hat and also very practical! A Midwesterner to the last!!

    Bill H
    October 25, 2002 - 09:57 am
    Ann, in regard to the train engineer stopping Truman's campaign train. I have an idea that engineer found the nerve by his union bosses telling him to do so. This may have been the union's way of getting back at Truman for him going before Congress and asking for the power to draft all railroad employees into the army if they did strike. Some union bosses have a long memory. Truman was instrumental in averting that strike.

    Bill H

    Bill H
    October 25, 2002 - 11:38 am
    The Ferdinand Magellan

    Photo: Historical Landmarks

    This passenger car was used by both President Roosevelt and Truman for travel. This is also the car that Truman was in when the railroad engineer stopped the train and asked for more money. What an embarrassment for the President of the United States to have to pass a collection hat to pay the engineer.

    You can read the history, a very interesting article, and view a photo of the inside of this historical landmark, by clicking on


    Bill H

    October 25, 2002 - 03:28 pm
    I hadn't realized before now just how much Truman was criticized, almost vilified by the media of that day for some of his lessor constrained moments. Time magazine called Truman a "mediocre man whose job is too big for him" Max Lerner, PM columnist, called Truman "one of history's wild accidents". Kenneth Crawford wrote in The American Mercury that Truman "was a flat disppointemnt, essentially indecisive--- vacillating" Henry Wallace wrote of Truman, "he does so like to agree with whoever is with him at the moment". Harold Ickes called Truman "stupid". Showman Billy Rose made the suggestion that perhaps W.C. Fields should run for the office of President "because if we want a comedian for President, we ought to get a good one" Now some of this harsh criticism came about from Harry's own miscues. For instance the famous Missouri speech by Winston Churchill. When Harry found out that it was not well received by the press as being too critical of USSR, Harry told reporters a big fib about not knowing the speech content in advance, when instead he got the latest rewrite hours before it was given. Then later, he told his Sec. Commerce Wallace he had never seen the speech in advance! A little fishtailing there! There was a similar instance when Harry ok'd a speech given by Sec. Wallace that was contrary to the position taken by Sec. of State Byrnes (and presumably that of the Administration as well) regarding how to get along with USSR in postwar Europe. Once again Harry told a reporter that he approved the speech even though it was in conflict with State policy. The New York Times wrote that Truman was the only person in Washington who saw no difference between Wallace's speech policy and Truman's own. Later on, Truman tried to cover up this little boo-boo by weakly stating that he approved the speech but not the content. Hmm. He did vacillate, didn't he? He even wrote Margaret that "no man in his right mind would want to come here(the White House)on his own accord." Then he turned around and ran for President in 1948! A man of many facets. And the wonder of it is that not only did he run but he beat Dewey handily! Even though this man saved my life by ok'ing the use the atom bombs, I didn't vote for him. I guess my head was turned by all the negative media comments. Hard to figure! Losalbern Ps. Ann, regarding games 4 and 5... I should have gone to bed early myself. The Angels lost both of them! Where IS the Mylanta?

    Bill H
    October 25, 2002 - 04:51 pm
    Losalbern, I recall reading in this biography that someone said, "Truman had many critics but no enemies." It sure didn't sound like it applied to the news media. I feel the media of that day was far more of an enemy than a critic to the President. I realize Truman made many slips of the lips, as those you so rightly pointed out in your post. Yes, that was a colossal mistake he made when he agreed with Churchill's speech about Russia. But I feel the media should've cut Truman a little more slack in things other than that, considering the mountain of domestic and world troubles this man had to climb.

    The media seems most hard on presidents who display a mild. manner. The media had a field day with men like Truman, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and, yes, they even poked fun at Ronald Reagan.

    Those men worked hard in office to bring about a better society. Truman had so many achievements and firsts that it would take a laundry list to spell them all out. Jimmy Carter worked so hard to bring about peace in the East he was recently given the Nobel Peace Award, yet, when in office, he was vilified more than any President should be. Ronald Reagan the President who is credited with winning the Cold War with Russia and helping to bring about the destruction of the Berlin Wall was shown in newspaper cartoons sleeping at cabinet meetings. The cartoons carried the heading, "Bedtime for Bonzo." Of course, Bill Clinton is a page in history all by himself.)

    Take heart, Losalbern, there's another World Series game coming up.

    Bill H

    October 26, 2002 - 07:45 am
    It is truly a shame that the media is so predjudicial. It is hard to know if you are getting facts or spin. I know Fox claims O'reilly's program is a "no spin zone", But I'm not entirely covinced he just isn't another editorialist pounding is own drum. It is too bad that the Christian Science Monitor does not sponsor a news telivision show. They have always been recognized for the truest journalistic reporting of the news.

    Ann Alden
    October 26, 2002 - 11:17 am
    Well, I didn't know that Williewoody. They do have a good site here on the net, I think.

    The press has always been this way going back eons. Remember the Hearst newspapers who are said to have made up the San Juan Hill battle? Who knows who to believe. I find O'Reilly raspitidious!! Want to know what that word means?? Rude, crude and socially unacceptable!! The man has the biggest head over himself that I have seen recently!

    Oh, Lazel, too bad about the Angels. I have been rooting for them since this is their first time visit to the WS but ordinarilly, I am a National league fan. Anything to have them continue so I will be doubly cheering for the Angels tonight. Must go watch the OSU game against Penn State. And, find the score for Notre Dave vs West Virginia???

    I am rereading the part in here about Bess and find that she was just a regular wife of the times with a good sense of humor and of herself. Nothing pretentious about her. She was all for Harry but wanted to go home!

    October 26, 2002 - 01:00 pm
    Bill,I found your link to the Presidential train/car very interesting. It brought back a memory of an incident when I was stationed at Camp Breckinridge, Kentucky during WWll. We were just dumb recruits, most recently drafted and still civilian oriented and not too Army talented. With little or no warning, my Company was called out one evening and hustled by truck to a nearby train track and set out as armed guards every 25 yards or so as far as you could see in either direction. Apparently my Regiment was involved in this caper and, of course, nobody knew anything about anything! Sure enough, a train passed through about 10:00pm. We returned to our rendevous point, climbed into our trucks and went back to barracks, incident closed. As near as I could tell, the train passed close by to Terra Haute, Indianna or perhaps Henderson, Ky. The Army did not see fit to fill us in news wise. At any rate, it must have had a passenger of importance to rate that kind of attention. Funny how that little event popped into my memory from its buried past. GO ANGELS! Losalbern

    Bill H
    October 26, 2002 - 04:37 pm
    Ann and Williewoody, I looked up the word raspitidious on my word document Thesauras and here are some of the words it presented in its stead: rash, rashness, rascal, rascality, rasp. I think I'll stick with these more common versions of the word. ) It is interesting to know that the Christian Science Monitor has a web site.

    Losalbern, we both took basic training in Kentucky, you at Camp Breckinridge and me at Ft. Knox. Your post reminded me of the time I spent on a troop train going from induction center New Cumberland, Pa (they also housed German prisoners of war there) to Ft Knox I can assure you the car I was on was no Ferdinand Magellan. We ate what passed for food from our mess kits and, as we ate, the cinders from the locomotive came through the open windows and settled on our meal and in the coffee that was in the canteen cup. Needless to say we didn't have air-conditioning.

    I still can't believe it took almost two days to go from a little out side Harrisburg, PA to Ft Knox, KY. We were side-tracked for every freight train so as not to impede there progress. I wasn't asked to give any speeches from the back end of the car.

    Did Bess accompany Harry on the complete whistle-stop campaign? I know he makes reference to her on some of the stops "as meet the boss," which didn't go over to big with her. If she did accompany him on the complete tour, she had a grueling time of it and was by his side when Harry needed her then.

    Well, the Series game will soon becoming on, so LET THE GAME BEGIN!!

    Bill H

    Ann Alden
    October 27, 2002 - 05:06 am
    Well, I don't see many pics of Bess on the campaign trip so I guess we can assume that she was only there when he mentioned her.

    Well, BillH, wouldn't my meaning of raspitidious fit in with those words that you found in your dictionary? Tee hee!

    How about those Angels!! And my hubby almost turned off the game after the score became 5-0. Never, never give up on the losing team. Go Angels!!!

    Bill H
    October 27, 2002 - 04:07 pm
    Losalbern, I know what you are getting ready to do at the time of this posting. After last night, I hope you have finger nails left

    Ann, Last night I was almost ready to concede the Series to the Giants, but you never know about Baseball. Was it Casey Stengel or Yogi Berra that said: "'s never over til it's over?"
    And, of course,Ann those names would fit the word you said. I'm not even going to try to spell it. )

    The World Series of 1948, which took place during the Truman Campaign of that year, was played between the Cleveland Indians and the old Boston Braves (who later moved to Milwauakee). Cleveland, managed by Lou Boudreau, won the series 4 games to 2. The Boston Braves team was managed by Billy Southworth. Remember those name? For a complete record of World Series games played and the most valuable player of each World Series, Click

    World Series.

    Well, This year's whole Baseball season comes down to this seventh game. And remember it's "...never over til it's over.

    Bill H

    Bill H
    October 27, 2002 - 08:29 pm
    Losalbern, I know you are a happy man tonight!

    "'s never over till it's over."

    Bill H

    October 27, 2002 - 10:07 pm
    Bill, Ann, and Williewoody, thank you so much for your encouraging comments about MY Angels! Still can't quite believe it. Champions of the world! Awesome! Thanks loads. Hope you enjoyed watching the series. Losalbern

    October 28, 2002 - 01:48 pm
    Bill, in an earlier posting you wrote about some of the really great people that Truman managed to surround himself with; Marshall, Acheson, Clifford, Elsey, Kennan and others, all intelligent statesmen. Truman's address to Congress that became known of the "Truman Doctrine", really spelled out what could happen to a troubled world if positive actions were not taken by the US. Here was a nation sickened by the thought of yet another confrontation. Perhaps another war. Certainly another foe to be reckoned with. What a dreadful atmosphere! But Truman was forthright and didn't duck his assignment. Congress had to act and with some haste. Boy, talk about a nasty time to be a president! Losalbern

    Bill H
    October 28, 2002 - 02:51 pm
    Losalbern, yes, The Truman Doctrine was another of Harry Truman's achiements while in office. I don't know of any other president that did so much in office. It's hard to believe he was faced with so many trials. I truly believe he was chosen by a higher power to be president.

    Bill H

    Bill H
    October 28, 2002 - 05:59 pm
    Could we talk a little of the treatment accorded the Japanese/American citizens during WW2, pecifically there internment in concentration camps? We just rounded up Japanese/Americans and placed them in camps and treated them as though they were spies, citing National Security as a good enough reason. I'm sure some of them were spies, however, the great majority were honest, law abiding citizens of the country. We had German/American citizens and Italian/American citizens and we didn't put them in concentration camps to keep an eye on them.

    When I was taking basic training, we had two PFC Japanese/American soldiers assigned to our company as cadre to help with our training. Both of these US soldier's parents were in one of the concentration camps. We asked them their thoughts on this, but they just shrugged the questions off. I suppose they didn't want to make waves, so to speak.

    How do you think that would fly today? What are your thoughts on this?

    Bill H

    Ann Alden
    October 29, 2002 - 08:26 am
    Bill, I don't know what we could have done there. I am not in favor of those camps but that is hindsight. Seems that if there were American citizens being put in the camps, it wasn't right. But our mindset then was one of fear. The Pacific coast was fair game to the Japanese and they did try to come in several times. I have friends who were on guard as volunteers down in the California area and they still think that it was necessary(especially after Pearl Harbour). Its hard to decide when you are afraid and responsible for protecting your country and its citizens. There was also a volunteer force working on the Florida coast. I might remind you that we(US) weren't the only country to do this. Canada also ripped its Japanese citizens out of their homes and businesses and sent them inland to work for the government on farms, etc. Who knows what was right in that time??? We did what we thought was necessary.

    As the Russians have done in Moscow just this past week!

    One of the things that has always bothered me is the taking of their homes and businesses and not returning them after the war. We used to frequent a green house business in LA where the family had been citizens since 1910 and they,too, were sent away and their lucrative business was taken over by others. Fortunataly, they were able to start up another company after the war.

    Bill H
    October 29, 2002 - 11:23 am
    Ann, I can understand fear being a guiding factor in some of our government's actions concerning Japanese/American citizens, during WW2, When fear sets in good reasoning goes out the window. Now that you mention it, I do remember reading their businesses were confiscated and never returned to them. This was unpardonable. I believe I also read where they received some compensations but not near the amount they should've received.

    Hypothetically speaking, if we suddenly found ourselves at war with Japan today, do you think the same thing would take place?

    Malryn (Mal)
    October 29, 2002 - 12:23 pm
    Lloyd Hammond has some interesting things to say about Harry Truman in Posts #548 and #558 in Photos Then and Now. Click NEXT twice to get to Post #558. These are true stories, by the way.


    Bill H
    October 29, 2002 - 05:04 pm
    Malyrn, thank you very much for that link. I asked Lloyd to post them here also. I think it would be a fine addition to this discussion.

    Bill H

    October 29, 2002 - 08:55 pm

    Tubaman was qute enough to have been a girl,Would be intersting to see if he kept his hamnsoness. Or if he got short and fat like I did.

    When I was a baby we lived next door to Harry truman. My mom and margret used to do each others hair as we neither had sufficant mony for them to go to beaughty parlor.

    while the girls did each other's hair harry would hold me on his lap and tickle my toes. they said i would pull my feet up close and curle mt toes up tight. So it is harrys fault i am so short legged and stubby did not have a chanche to strech out and grow up HA HA HA. and all the above is the truth.


    well agnes I can tell you for shuer tha after harry got in with pendergass and they began to have money they never hardly knew us poor folks. and after i was a young man and after trumans time in office I was driveing down 15th st in Independince bu the truman home after the far by grand view. seen him setting on the front poorch. I done a u turin in the middle of the street drove u front and got out of car. secreict service men came out of the wood woork all over the place. one said get in your car and leave here. I said ok but first u go ask harry if he rembers holding me whin I wasw a baby. he did and harry came out to the feince and shook my hand thanked me for stopping by. He said he was tired and had go for his nap. not then but now I can relate to the nap. he invited me to come back some time for a visit but I never made it and his health went down hill after that so never woorked. wish I had made time and done it thow.

    October 29, 2002 - 09:16 pm
    I tore the old pendergas Hotell down. But long after he and harry met there. KC had us tare it down to make a highspped ramp from the old union R R station to downtown. sory about the pictures I never had the dig cerima then. as far as pic with harry bess and margaret I doubt but will ask mom if she still has any of us when we were neighbors. out by Grandviwe Mo before he got in to politicks. when he was still makeing a honist leiving farming with the rest of us poor farm famlys.

    Ann Alden
    October 30, 2002 - 05:24 am

    I don't think that we would respond to Japan the same way as we did in WWII but I think we would do something similar if we were talking about Iraq.


    What pictures??? I am assuming that you put them up in PN&T. How about a link? What an interesting story.a

    Bill H
    October 30, 2002 - 11:04 am
    Llyoyd, thank you for honoring my request that you post your personal story of Harry Truman here, as you did in Pictures Now and Then. It brings a warmth to our discussion to realize someone is posting that knew Harry Truman and lived next store to him. It is too bad you didn't go back to see him I would liked to have read about your visit. The Secret Service men would've been expecting you this time. As I read your posts it actually seemed I could see you and Harry togeather..

    I received the following e-mail from Lloyd giving me permission to post it here.

    Hi bill I think I got the two post where u wanted them ,Hope so. I also mentioned Itore downthe pentergas hotel of the truman err. i don two in one post and one in another. someone was asking about pictures, I have none,as all my pictures burned along with every thing I had in the old famly home near holden Mo. I will ask my mother if by chance if she has any pictures of the time of her and I or any combination with the trumans. at the time I mentioned we lived on fellow's(name Paul Dowel {sp i think}) farm and Dad tinnet farmed for him some sort of sharecrop.That farm and truman farm adjoined side by side. Near grandview Mo . U may copy any or all of this responce and post if u like.

    SN freind on line

    Lloyd hammond

    Thank you Lloyd for sharing those memories with us.

    Bill H

    Bill H
    October 30, 2002 - 05:14 pm
    After Truman won the election in '48, the print media was soul searching to find the reason for its failure to understand why it had not paid more attention to the facts that had been presented to them during the campaign. The managing editor of Time,T.S. Matthews, took the position the press was often out of touch with popular will.

    "I think the press has been pretending to much more wisdom (or is it smartness?) than it had any right to claim, and has been getting away with murder for some time (Matthews wrote to Luce). The plain fact now appears to be that (as far as politics is concerned, at least) the press hasn't known what time of day it is for years".

    I couldn't help but wonder if his words hold true today.

    Bill H

    Bill H
    October 31, 2002 - 05:29 pm
    Sorry to be posting so late, but I had one of those busy days where a person meets themselves coming and going.

    To day we begin Part Five. "Weight of the World," shows another event filled saga of Harry Truman's life It opens with President Truman's inaugural day. A happy day for Harry Truman because now he was President in his own right. This feeling of light-heartiness wouldn't last long. He was soon to be faced with many troubles, the restoration of the White House, the attempted assassination of his life while he was living in Blair House, Joe McCarthy, Korea, the arrogance of General MacArthur, and the slight by Eisenhower. Harry Truman's mind was in a constant turmoil. So much took place from the day he succeeded FDR as President.

    Bill H

    Ann Alden
    November 1, 2002 - 03:55 am

    I just finished the chapter in "Hidden Power"(a book about the first wives)concerning Bess and Harry. And, from reading it, I find that I don't like the way Bess treated Harry. Poor Harry! Sounded like he was besotted with this strange little woman! Or, was he just about the most tolerant man born??? Who knows?? But, once again, I digress!

    I am just finishing up "Mr President" and will try to get some reading in on the next segment this evening. Sorry to be behind! I am reading and discussing four different books, here and at my library plus trying to plan a discussion.

    November 1, 2002 - 07:54 am
    Ann: Your digression is noted. I have often wondered why Bess Truman seemed such an unlikely first lady. Early on in McCullough's writing we knew that she really detested poltics. But it seemed that every time I turned a page and came upon a new event in Harry's life in Washington, Bess was in Independence. Basically they lived separate lives, he in Washington or on the road, and she in Missouri. Occasionally she would visit Washington or Key West when he took a vacation. It is no wonder she never seemed to be the first lady. It's a wonder he was not of the ilk of Kennedy or Clinton or Johnson. The fact he was faithful to Bess speaks a lot of his moral character.

    Bill H
    November 1, 2002 - 02:54 pm
    Ann and Williewoody, I believe Bess, either consciously or otherwise, looked down on Harry. Maybe the fact that she was from money and he wasn't played a part in her aloofness. Perhaps she was indoctrinated by the way her mother thought of Truman, Lord knows she seems to have spent much of his political life alone with her mother Ann, did the book you read say if she had many friends in Independence? The more I read and hear I believe the love was all one sided. I'm of the opinion Bess never realized how very fortunate she was to have married Harry Truman

    Williewoody, I agree with you when you said that basically they lived separate lives. I recall one passage where Bess said "I'm going home to Independence my mother needs me." Harry answered with, " I need you too." But back she went to mother and that spoke volumes.

    My opinion as to why McCullough didn't write to much about Bess: If you can't say good, don't say anything.

    Bill H

    Ann Alden
    November 1, 2002 - 05:10 pm

    The book says that she also went back to Independence to join her bridge club friends. She also had them come to the White House after it was finished. Sound like anyone else we have heard of?

    The book also mentions that she had a wicked sense of humor when around friends. She liked living in Blair House as she thought the White House too pretensious. When they had state affairs she became a complete ice block. Almost unfriendly. What an addition she was!!

    The one thing that the author says is that remark that is made in the movie about whenever she reached out her hand, Harry was always there to take it. This relationship is an enigma to me.

    Bill H
    November 2, 2002 - 11:39 am

    Senator Joseph McCarthy

    Photo: Tindall & Shi's America

    I thought McCullough gave a good account of McCarthy and McCarthyism in the bio, and his description of the Senator as a "political brawler, morose, reckless, hard-drinking demagogue" seemed to fit the Senator very nicely.

    I'm sure most of us remember the days of McCarthyism and all who it touched in its path of reckless scourging.

    What did you think of, or remember most of McCarthyism?

    To read more about the Senator, click

    Joe McCarthy

    Bill H

    Ann Alden
    November 3, 2002 - 07:21 am
    Yes, I remember the McCarthy era and think that the man became obsessed with the harm of communism. He was an uncle of a friend of mine and she used to say that she thought that McCarthy was a badly misled alcholic. To me, his committe was a political move to make him more important and he became overwhelmed with the power it gave him. When I saw the damage that the committee reeked upon our country, especially in the arts, and which I didn't see until I was older and hopefully more mature. How awful to have been a young person back then, alone in, maybe, NYC or Los Angeles, wanting to belong and wanting to write or produce something interesting! So, out of loneliness or even out of hearing of other political leanings, you sign up in another political party, to many-a third party, which turns out to be your downfall 20 years later. Did you read about Mr Clubb? So ridiculous! O.Clubb

    Bill H
    November 3, 2002 - 06:36 pm
    Ann, your assumption about McCarthy is well founded. He was casting about looking for something to lift him from obscurity. He found what he was looking for when a clergyman put the idea of sounding the alarm of communist infiltration in government. McCarthy was off an running with the idea. But I wonder how much of a roll achohol played in these wild accusations of his. His drinking probably clouded any good judgement he might of had and made him insenitive to the lives of the people he was ruining. In addition to O. Chubb, (interesting article your link took me to) McCarthy made unfavorable remarks about George Marshall. Now you know alchohol had to have ruined McCarthy's mind when he tried to make a disloyal person of George C. Marshall

    Bill H

    Ann Alden
    November 4, 2002 - 06:23 am

    Another vet in "Duty" has just responded to questions about the bomb. His post is worth reading. Maybe we should ask him to join us here. That's Post#42 in "Duty". Johnf, I think.

    Bill H
    November 4, 2002 - 12:00 pm
    Ann, I posted two excerpts from the Truman biography in "Duty." I hesitate to ask someone in another DL's discussion to join us here. Ella may think it rude of me, however, if you wish to do so, it's OK by me. )

    I think the only ones still here are you and me. It's hard to believe that only you and I had something to say about Joe McCarthy.

    Bill H

    Ann Alden
    November 5, 2002 - 07:15 am
    That poster had been asked to come into Duty by Ginny when she was in WWII folder so I think that I will send him an email and ask him to join us.

    Where is everyone?

    November 5, 2002 - 08:26 am
    It is getting hard for me to keep up, as I am deep in an exciting novel by Ken Follet, who I recently discovered. You know how it is when you hate to lay a good book down. I enjoy TRUMAN, but one gets burried very easily in all of McCulloughs research. It is a hard book to skim through. Will try hard to contribute

    Also I am involved in trying to get folks interested in the selection of John Hancock (biography) for the History Book Forum's next book for discusson.

    Besides all that I have suddenly revived an interest in painting (art) after some 20 years, and am working on a mixed media piece. Busy ! Busy!

    Bill H
    November 5, 2002 - 12:28 pm
    Williewoody, do you remember the all the hullabaloo of the McCarthy era?

    Bill H

    November 6, 2002 - 01:05 am
    To the thinking of many people, McCarthy was the poorest excuse for a Senator that the US has ever had. He took advantage of our nation's fear of a communist third column getting a firm foothold in our governent and exploited it beyond any realm of truthfulness. It was guilt by association and innuendo. The fact that USSR managed to obtain US secret data and built their own Atomic bomb played right into his hands and gave rise to the possiblity that there might be some truth to his random unproven and scurrilous accusations. He injured the reputations of many, many people to the benefit of his own as the savior our democracy. The man apparently had no concept of true honesty or fairness. Losalbern

    November 6, 2002 - 09:22 am
    Yes, I do remember the McCarthy era very well. It seems to me I had mixed feelings about his acusations. He and those working with him did manage to uncover some individuals who were working for the Russians, but as has been said the careers of some were ruined by false acusations. Franky, it didn't bother me too much about exposing the liberal Hollywood bunch.

    I seem to recall that during that period I had some contact with one of McCarthy's cohorts, a Col. Bundy. He was a member of the American Legion Post I was commander of at the time. I always wondered what his source of income was, as he didn't seem to have a regular job. Supposedly, he wrote and distributed a newsletter for McCarthy.

    Bill H
    November 6, 2002 - 04:44 pm
    This part also deals with:

    The US involvement in Korea.

    The relieving of General MacArthur of his command.

    The Kefauver committee's investigation of organized crime.

    Eisenhower's snub of Truman's invitation to have lunch at the White House the day of Ike's inaugural.

    Most of us lived through those times. Would you tell us how you feel about each of these historical events?

    Bill H

    Bill H
    November 6, 2002 - 05:26 pm
    To read a little more about the Korean War and General MacArthur follow these links.

    Korean War


    Bill H

    Ann Alden
    November 7, 2002 - 08:13 am
    Well, now that the elections are over, we can concentrate on this book!

    By the way, I do remember watching McArthur's speech to Congress at a neighbor's home(we had no TV) and feeling bad that he was relieved of his duties. BUUUUUUUTTT, when I look backward in time now, I see why Truman did it. After all, Truman was the man in charge!! And, we now know that McArthur had a huuuuuuge ego! I seem to remember he wanted to atomic weapons and go after the Chinese at the????River??

    My husband was in training for going to Japan during the Korean War. Right when their training ended, the war ended and we were most happy about that. He served on a B-29 crew as an inflight refueling specialist, or glorified gas station attendant, as we used to kid him about. There was a full squadron training for this at Randolph AFB in San Antonio,TX. His crew was moved to Austin,TX and became part of the 27th Strategic Fighter Wing-27th Air Refueling Squadron. I was just looking at the annual that they put out. So many familiar faces! Now I am melancholy! We were married at the time and I knew many of these guys as we were their home away from home. We spent many weekends together besides helping them fix their cars on a regular basis. My husband was also a top notch mechanic and made a little money on the side for our annual trips back home. I used to help him work on the cars. Another lifetime!!

    Bill H
    November 7, 2002 - 11:00 am

    General MacArthur

    Photo from: The American Experience

    Ann, I enjoyed reading your nostalgic post. After I read it, I got out my scrap book and looked at the guys I was in service with so long ago. We formed friendships we thought would never end. We kept in touch for a while through letters and greeting cards, but we never seen one another again. How sad.

    MacArthur did have a huge ego and, like General Patton, I believe he had a certain underlying love for war and mlitary action. Lord knows what would've happened if he had gotten his way to go after the Chinese. Was the name of the river in question "The Yalu River?

    Bill H

    Ann Alden
    November 7, 2002 - 03:22 pm
    That was my thought too, BillH. But then I seem to remember something about where the Chinese were coming into Korea. I will look it up.

    Ann Alden
    November 7, 2002 - 03:26 pm
    Here you go:

    "UN forces had not only reached the 38th parallel but were crossing it and heading north toward the Yalu River, the boundary between China and North Korea. MacArthur conceived of the Korean war as a holy war; he kept talking about "unleashing Chiang Kai-shek," then holed up in his island fortress on Formosa, and launching atomic strikes, all of which made Truman, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the other UN countries involved very nervous. For Harry Truman and the Joint Chiefs, Korea was an exercise in containment, but that made it a very frustrating war for many Americans. It meant that in this war the United States was not aiming for total victory, but for more limited, and more ambiguous, results.

    There is a tradition in American government that the military is subordinate to the civilian leaders. Generals do not make statements about policy without first clearing them with their superiors. But MacArthur, used to ruling in Japan, ignored the chain of command, and began writing letters about what the United States should do in Korea. He sent a letter to the Veterans of Foreign Wars saying that Formosa would be a fine place to launch an aggressive campaign against China. After the Chinese entered the war -- something MacArthur had assured Truman would never happen -- MacArthur wrote to Speaker of the House Joe Martin saying the United States could only win by an all-out war, and this meant bombing the Manchurian bases. So Harry Truman fired him, and evoked a firestorm of criticism from conservatives who believed Truman to be soft on communism. But there is no question that Truman was absolutely correct. Whether his overall policy was right or wrong, the American Constitution commits control of foreign policy to the president and not to the military. As Truman explained, avoidance of World War III while containing aggression was a difficult line to walk, but that was the policy the United States had decided upon. No soldier, not even a five-star general, could unilaterally challenge that policy without disturbing an essential element of democratic government."

    Bill H
    November 7, 2002 - 04:41 pm
    Ann, thank you for that fine article. I dread to think what may have happened if Truman had given MacArthur the go ahead to bomb those Mancurian bases. I don't think the Russians would've held still for it. World War Three could easily have started.

    But, after all these years, Korea still haunts us.

    Bill H

    November 7, 2002 - 06:04 pm
    I grew up in Seattle during WWII - I remember Boeing being covred with camouflaging - blackout curtains - civil air raid warden hats - I remember going to Brownies when the war was declared over - people stopped their cars and got out and hugged each other - - the red and green stop lights even went cazy -

    It seems that the US will always be involved in some war as long as the interests and demand for oil are there - wasn't the embargo to Japan one of the initiating problems - -

    I watched the movie about McArthur the other night with Gregory Peck - I wonder where the great leaders such as Truman are today or has greed and egfo gotten so big - -

    November 8, 2002 - 05:21 am
    very often we don't recognize great leaders.....history later proves them later to have been just that......

    November 8, 2002 - 08:37 am
    CHEERIOS: To reply to some of your questions. No, Iraq is not WWIII, nor will it become so. Some Americans still do not realize that with the demise of the Russian Communist empire, we have become the dominant power in the world. As such we are the world's policeman. Our policy is peace, as our leaders constantly reiterate. But because we are the most powerful, we must enforce that policy if we are to have peace.

    Yes, oil is a dominant chip in the "war" to maintain peace. But let's not forget we are the world's largest consumer of oil. One political saying in the past used to be "a turkey in every pot". Now it's "two cars in every garage, one extra in the driveway, and three television sets in every house."

    Are Americans ready to go to use of public transportation on the same scale as the rest of the world? I think not. Although, being the most obese country in the world, we could certainly stand walking a lot more than riding a few blocks in our cars.

    As to where are the leaders like Harry Truman today. I say we need to look no farther than the current incumbant of the White House. He does not have the bombastic style of Harry, but he leads quietly, and I believe when all is said and done, History will judge him to be one of those people who always turns up at the right time, just like Truman, Franklin Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln and many others.

    Bill H
    November 8, 2002 - 03:50 pm
    Welcome, Cheerios and Tiger Lily, to the TRUMAN discussion.

    Cheerios, I was at a staging area for the proposed invasion of Kyushu the southernmost island of the Japanese Islands. Needless to say our guys went wild with joy when Japan surrendered. I say this because a few weeks before Japan surrenderd a message appeared in the general orders for the day that said round the clock bombing of Japan was expected by 1948. This was 1945, I'd of be long gone by that time. Yes, I believe we kept a throttle hold on Japan and that prompted them into military action.The same as the Versailes Treaty strangle hold prompted the change in Germany.

    There are great leaders today, however, they don't want to serve in government. Roosevelt wouldn't have had a chance of being electecd president with the microscopic eye of the TV camera showing his disability at all times. Today, Harry Truman probably wouldn't even have been elected a county judge because of his lack of a college education. Can't you just hear the late night talk show hosts castigating Truman. . The eye of the TV camera keeps a lot of good men from running for office.

    Tigerlily, oh, yes, you are so right. We don't recognize good leaders at the time. Presidnt Jimmy Carter, for example, was recently given the Nobel Peace Awarde, yet while in office, that man was ridiculed beyond belief. During his campaign for reelection I would cringe at the way Carter's opponents would ridicule him. Yes we have good men out there who would be excellent leaders, but they don't need that.

    Williewoody you hit the nail right on the head. Our love for the automoble makes the decesion as to whether we have peace or war. However, a new light has focused on that decesion as well. Today we have the threat of terroristic action against our nation and our people.

    Bill H

    Ella Gibbons
    November 8, 2002 - 04:15 pm
    Hello Bill - I'm not sure where you are in this discussion, but next door we are talking about the dropping of the atomic bomb on Japan and I thought your readers might be interested in this site that one of our participants posted. We could have a discussion on this alone: Secrets of the A-bomb disclosed

    Bill H
    November 9, 2002 - 12:39 pm
    Ella, we are more than half way through part 5 "The Weight of The World" Next week we come to the Sixth and last part of the bio "Back Home."

    Thank you for the link to the Atom Bomb and yes that could be a discussion in and of itself and would extend on into infinity.

    Bill H

    Bill H
    November 9, 2002 - 01:45 pm
    The assassination attempt on President Truman, who had done more for Puerto Rico than any other previous president, was explained by perpetrator Oscar Collazo this way: "But Truman...was just a symbol of the system, you don't attack the man, you attack the system." said Collazo.

    Collazo was convicted on four counts of murder for the killing of Secret Service men and sentenced to death in the electric chair. However, Truman would commute the sentence to life in prison.

    Twenty-nine years later Jimmy Carter pardoned Collazo and set him free. I like Jimmy Carter, but I don't think this should've been done, after all, Collazo did kill Secret Service men and attempted the assassination of a US President.

    How do you feel about Carter pardoning Collazo and setting him free?

    Strang coincidence that another Oscar many years later was successful in the assassination of President Kennedy.

    Bill H.

    November 9, 2002 - 04:56 pm
    Well, Have to stick my 2 cents worth in. As a good Christian I loved Jimmy Carter, as well as any one who loves God, be he a Jew or Moslem or Christian, or whatever. But frankly Jimmy, inspite of his training as a governor was really not a good president. Although I must agree that his one great accomplishment was to bring Egypt and Isreal together in a lasting peace treaty, for which he deserves a belated Nobel Peace Prize. I like Jimmy as a person, even though he was a lousy president.

    I don't think it is right that he pardoned Collazo. Persons who commit murder should be either killed or suffer in prison for the rest of their natural lives (die in prison). Take your choice.

    Bill H
    November 9, 2002 - 06:01 pm
    Williewoody, I share your opinion that perpetrators that take a life should spend the rest of their natural life in prison without parole. I was once strongly for capital punishment, but here of late I have softened my thinking on that somewhat. There have been to many convicts on death row discovered to be innocent of the crime for which they had been convicted. Life in prison without parole is a very strong punishment, perhaps more so than capital punishment.

    Bill H

    November 10, 2002 - 05:33 pm
    I will admit that I will be glad to finish the book "Truman" mainly because of its great length. Perhaps it is because of my age now that I am more impatient to finish anything, including the daily paper. My stupid floaters slow down my reading speed and daily capacity but nevertheless I am glad that I participated in this great discussion. I will also admit that I like Harry Truman a lot better than when I started McCollough's book. I used to think of Harry as something of a dolt, an historical accident, someone who was at the wrong place at the right time. But, boy this guy had guts to stick it out in a terrible situation for any man to find himself in. When you consider all the major events that took place during Harry's occupation of the White House, this President had a really terrific load to carry and to my way of thinking, he did just fine. As far as firing MacArthur, he deserved the come-uppence (sp?) that he got. Harry didn't fire him as Harry Truman, he fired him as an affront to the President of The United States and Commander-In-Chief. Good for you Harry! Both of these men played a role in my military career, such as it was. MacArthur was head mogul of the 6th Army when my unit joined it as part of the occupation of Japan. Harry saved my life when he decided to drop the atomic bombs. Like you, Bill, and probably Williewoody too, my unit was in the final stages of preparing for the invasion of Japan, Kyushu, and were scheduled to hit the beach on D Day + 3. Not a fun time! Which leads me to wish both of you gentlemen and any one else who was involved in WWll, Korean,VietNam, Desert Storm or any other fracus I may have overlooked, a very peaceful and satisfying Veterans Holiday! God Bless! Losalbern

    Bill H
    November 10, 2002 - 06:48 pm
    Losalbern, thank you for your well wishes, and I would like to take this time to wish you and all veterans and everyone else a

    A Very Happy Veterans Day!

    Bill H

    Ella Gibbons
    November 10, 2002 - 09:43 pm


    November 11, 2002 - 07:29 am
    Being a former Marine I have never had any great love for Douglas MacArthur. Frankly, I have never believed he was any great military tactician. Seemed to me he left all the tough "island jumping to the Marines" which of course, they were trained for. His contribution was to "I shall return" to the Philippines. I was happy to see Harry Truman kick his butt out of command and ensure that the proper chain of command was preserved.



    Bill H
    November 11, 2002 - 04:19 pm
    Ella, no one can sing that song like Kate Smith. My eyes grow moist when I hear her sing that song.

    Williewood, I never cared much for MacArthur. To me, he seemed a little to pompus and gave the impression that enlisted men were a little to expendable. I said in an earlier post he would've liked to expand the Korean war because I think he felt at home in war action.

    Happy Veterans day to you also.

    Semper Fi

    Bill H

    Joan Pearson
    November 11, 2002 - 07:55 pm
    Hi guys! A big thank you to all of you who put your lives on the line so we can live free.
    Happy Veterans' day to all!
    Well, I'm back from my trip and see that you have already covered a most exciting period...the '48 election. This is where I came in...home from boarding school, where I'd been since 1945, I am now aware of what is going on in the outside world. Funny, the things that get stored in your gray matter...
    "Truman's in the White House
    Ready to be elected.
    Dewey's in the garbage can
    Ready to be collected."
    It was fascinating to read through the "Mr. President" chapters! I must confess that I haven't yet found the time to read through the hundreds of posts will not comment much about what caught my attention. Will just mention a few of them, if I may?

  • D. McCullough really painted an evocative portrait of '48...brought back so many memories. We were among those with a "television machine" back father was in advertising...had the "Tang" account and they advertised on TV. We all hated Tang...remember the vile orange drink? We all spit it out was fun to see my father's words of praise for the product on TV.
    John Cameron Swayze, yes, I do remember him. Was it really that long ago? So, Harry's was the first election/inaugural on television! Fancy that...something to tell my grandchildren about!

  • I liked to read of Harry's "irrepressible confidence" during this election- against all odds, without money... Someone of you asked if there have been any presidents like Harry since. I found myself wondering if anyone without money can even think about being president these days. If the answer is "no"...then I don't think we will have another like Harry.

    Had to smile at the call for Eisenhower to be the Democratic nominee for President...when no one knew what his politics were! Reminded me of Colin Powell's popularity among Republicans. His politics were equally unimportant...he was a popular war hero.

    The atomic bomb...Ella, (Happy Armistice Day BIRTHDAY, Miss Ella!) is discussing Duty, the story of Paul Tibbitts and the Enola Gay. I thught it was interesting to read Harry's thoughts on the bomb in '48 when he fought against putting it in the hands of the military establishment. In the past he had spoken of it as a military weapon...Hiroshima and Nagasaki as military targets. So, why not put a "weapon" in the hands of the military?
    "You have got to understand this isn't a military weapon...that it is so terribly destructive, destructive beyond anything we have ever had. It is used to wipe out women and children and unarmed people, and not for militery uses. So we have got to treat this differently from rifles, cannon and ordinary things like that."
    There's so much here...and so many posts. I'm not going to even try to catch up...will just sit in my chair (thanks for keeping it open) and listen to what you have to say. (Have read the first three chapters of Weight of the World...will work on the rest of that so I'll gradually work myself back into the swing of things...)

    Good to be back, Bill.
  • Bill H
    November 12, 2002 - 01:31 pm
    Welcome back, Joan.I'm sure you enjoyed your trip. By the way, aren't you glad they caught the sniper.

    Great post! It brought back so many memories. You know, with or without money, I don't think there ever will be another president like Harry Truman. Of course, never is a long time.

    Bill H

    Bill H
    November 13, 2002 - 05:36 pm
    Truman said there were three men he truly disliked: MacArthur, McCarthy and Eisenhower. The reason he disliked the first two is obvious. His dislike for Ike grew from Eisenhower not defending George Marshall after Marshall's patriotism was attacked by Joe McCarthy. After that the barbs between these men continued on for many, many years. After Ike won the election, Truman offered him the presidents airplane to fly to Korea, but not without adding "...if you still wish to go." Ike was infuriated by this jab and I think that played a big role in Eisenhower's refusal to have lunch with the Trumans at the Whitehouse the day of Ike's inaugural. Harry Truman never forgot this slight. It was not only an insult to him but to Bess as well. And the latter spoke volumes )

    Bill H

    Bill H
    November 14, 2002 - 04:01 pm
    Part Six


    Today we begin the last part of the Truman biography. Rather than adhere to the many incidents that take place in this final part. I would like to use these last two weeks for a general discussion to learn thoughts about the author and his book. However, since there are so many worthy incidents in this last part feel free to comment on them as well.

    Among the many first achievements of Harry Truman was the securing of a pension or annuity for former presidents and also getting them the security of Secret Service men.

    The author tells us that after Eisenhower's inaugural, Truman and Bess were driven to the train station in a private automobile, no Secret Service, and if it hadn't been for Eisenhower putting the Ferdinand Magellan at Truman's disposal for the trip back to Missouri, former president Harry Truman would've had to ride in a public railroad passenger car. Just imagine that.

    The bio explains that Harry Truman had no income after leaving office other than his military pension, which wasn't all that great. He asked for, as was his right, and was granted an appointment to appear before Congress. He gave Congress another of his famous Harry Truman speaches by requesting that former presidents be given a pension and Secret Service guards.. Congress approved this request. Another achievement for Truman. It is hard to believe that with all the military information Truman was privy to that Congress didn't see to this without his asking.

    Bill H

    November 14, 2002 - 05:21 pm
    Before we leave the "Weight of the World" section, Bill, I want to comment about Truman's seizure of the United States steel mill industry just as it was on the brink of a nationwide strike. A weary President trying to keep his wartime nation afloat, once again thinking of the welfare of his "boys in the fox holes" and a President willing to go to great measures to keep production of the necessary steel products that the United States required. DM writes about Truman's "fundamental feeling about the giants of the steel industry, the old distrust of big corporations..." I have to admit that it took me a long time to reach that same level of distrust exhibited by Truman but I finally got there. The term "benevolent corporation" is pretty much an oxymoron. In "Business 101" we were taught that a company is in business to perform a service but that concept seems to have gone astray. The last few years have shone corporation after corporation willing to lie and cheat not only their stockholders but their customers as well! Yet our government has yet to provide a fair marketplace where the public is protected against such deceit and outright thievery. The 'robber barons' are still with us. Ok, now I am willing to move on to the new section, Bill. Losalbern

    Joan Pearson
    November 15, 2002 - 09:37 am
    Bill, I'm almost ready...pulled an all-nighter (well, not quite, but almost) catching up. Well, almost catching up. I finished Weight of the World and so am brimming with thoughts, comments and questions over these pages that with your permission, I'd like to get out of my system before turning to the last section...AND an author discussion too. What a neat idea, Bill! I promise to stay up tonight and REALLY catch up!

    Losalbern...I spent time as you did, thinking about the seizure of the steel companies...short-lived as it was. I came away from that section, shaking my head at the great irony of it all. The time lost, the great legal the case made it all the way to the Supreme Court, the cutback in military output...(back to one third of what was needed!)...only to learn that the final settlement "called for a 21 cent an hour raise for the workers and a steel price increase of $5.20 a ton, which was the same as the $4.50 offered by the government months earlier, plus .70 for increased fright rates." The same!!! Although I understand that it was unconstitutional, I understand too how Harry must have felt. Those boys in Korea were his main concern and they neded guns and metal.

    I'm going to go back now to my notes and underlinings (in the copy of my book that D. McCullough autographed at the National Book Festival)..begging your patience with me.

    Bill H
    November 15, 2002 - 10:32 am
    Losalbern, please feel free to comment on any part of the biography and the author as well as this last part. Yes, I agree with you Harry Truman did place the welfare of the nation and the those who fought for it above his own political career. . DM starts the first chapter of "Weight of the World" by giving the title "Iron Man" to the chapter. Truman had to have had nerves of iron or steel (pardon the pun) to endure all he went through and challenge powerful corporate and labor forces.

    History has proven Harry Truman's distrust of big corporations well founded. You point out what the last few years have shown us about big corporations. The Enron scandal has shaken the stock market. And the lying of the tobacco industry in regards to health concerns has been criminal.

    Joan, I'm anxious to hear your thoughts and comments on the "Weight of the World" and I'm sure your questions will give us plenty to discuss after we read them, but please don't stay up all night, Joan. You need the benefits of a good night's rest. Your well being comes before the discussion. We have at least another two weeks to catch up on all we have to say about the biography.

    Korea was a concern for Truman and it played a big roll of most of his second term. I'm sure Korea ended Truman's political career the same as Viet Nam ended Lyndon Johnson's.

    Bill H

    Joan Pearson
    November 15, 2002 - 10:58 am
    In looking over my notes, I see a lot of "trees"...which I'll plant in this post- and then save the forest for the next two weeks. Some of the TREES, that got my attention while reading the Weight of the World:
    1. Blair House Truman spent most of his second term living in this house across the street from the White House. Was that difficult? I'm not sure where the Blair House is...I think I'll drive over there this afternoon and take a look. I appreciated the inclusion of a photography of the house...(Photo #6 found in the Mr. President chapter) It's right on the sidewalk! Reading about those two disenchanged Puerto Rican Nationalists and how they wounded and killed the few security guards...I shudder to think how vulnerable the President really was living there. What if there had been 4 men? Yet, Harry seemed happy living there...liked the walk to work. After that, he is heavily guarded and driven everywhere. Bess seemed happy living at Blair House too...she is said to have been "bubbling with good humor." I smiled, did you, at the little scene where she had to blushingly tell the staff that the president "broke the bed" the night before. I think Truman's strong marriage was important to his well-being. In the ACKNOWLEDGMENTS at the end of the book...first paragraph, D. McCullough writes:
    "The letters he [Harry] wrote between 1910 and 1959 to the idolized love of his life, Bess Wallace Truman, are thought to number 1,302, but no one really knows what the exact total may be..."
    Knowing more now about McCullough's research habits, he probably read every single one of them during the ten years he researched this book!

    2.Atomic/H Bombs I don't know about you, but I got goose bumps when I read about James Forrestal, Louis Johnson. These guys were not really...balanced, were they? Frightening. And then there was MacArthur. I'm really happy that these "weapons" were/are not in the hands of the military, but rather civilian hands...but still. I suppose the bottom line is that the threat of the unleashing of these weapons of mass destruction remained just that...a "threat" for the last 50 years. That's a source of some consolation, isn't it?

    3. Dean Acheson I think David McCullough provided a wonderful portrait of the man...contrasting him with Harry. Though quite different, they had much in common and it is clear why Harry depended so much on this man as a friend, who would tell him the truth, and as a level-headed Secretary of State. Both of them put loyalty and hard work first. (Often Harry placed loyalty over good sense, I thought.) These two men understood one another - they were on the same page. Acheson was a walker too! A mile and a half each way between his home in Georgetown and the White House. People walked more fifty years ago, it seems. Both exercised and watched what they ate. What did you think of Harry's diet? I had to laugh...all that bacon and fried chicken doesn't seem to have affected his health/physique at all!

    4. Korea I came away from this account of what went on in Korea and back in Washington during this "war" with a better understanding. I've heard D.McCullough say on several occasions that when he considers a book topic, first he checks to see what has already been written. If he doesn't find a book he'd like to read on the topic, he then writes such a book. From what he writes on the Korean War in the Truman Biography, I felt he had a book in him. Maybe you can suggest there a really good book on the Korean War out there?

    It was this war, more than anything else, that overshadowed Truman's presidency, wasn't it? He had always been described as "chipper" or "jaunty" in appearance...even when upset or angry about something else. No he looks as exhausted and tired as Roosevelt did at the end of WWII...and Harry isn't sick. It's the horrible situation in Korea, Chinese intervention...and the RUSSIAN threat... the threat of World War III. There was no solution, it was a lose/lose situation for Harry, the US, the boys on the ground in Korea. What if he had not committed ground troops? What would have happened? I suppose folks have been asking this question for the last 50 years.

    For the last three years, I have gone over to the Korean War Monument on the mall in Washington on Veterans' Day. The Korean War Vets never used to come in any noticeable numbers, but when the monument went up at the 50th anniversary, they did for the first time. I listen to them and to their stories. The haunting memorial of the soldiers trudging in the snow, with the men who made it home standing there telling of their experiences, lack of warm clothing...the mud, the snow, the wind, the hopelessness, the feeling that no one at home understood or appreciated what they were going through. And they tear up talking about those that didn't make it. When they returned home, there were no parades, celebrations, jobs...or even understanding of what was going on "over there," Still today, they feel this way.

    I can understand why Harry felt as he did about these "boys." And yet he could not heed MacArthur's advice to use the atomic bomb to end it all to bring them home. Such action, Truman knew, would only call for like retaliation from Russia.

    When Churchill came to meet Truman in Washington ...and confessesd to Harry that he had low regard for him in Potsdam, but that "you, more than any other man, has saved western civilization" - this must have been balm to Harry's soul. I loved hearing of that exchange between the two. I have more notes...but will spare them...these are the big trees in the forest, as I saw them.

    Bill H
    November 15, 2002 - 04:39 pm
    Joan, I believe DM wrote that Blair House was across the street from the Whitehouse. Did it present much trouble? DM tells us that traffic was tied up every time Truman crossed from Blair House to the Whitehouse Same thing going back again. I'd have to check but I think McCullough said Truman did this a few times each day. Today's Secret Service would never permit this sort of thing. The President would be too much of a target. Presidential security seemed to be verity lax in that era.

    You mention Truman looking tired and not his chipper self during the Korean War. This war affected him as did Viet Nam to Lyndon Johnson.

    Bill H
    November 18, 2002 - 11:47 am
    After leaving the Whitehouse, Truman found himself back home again at the Wallace house at 219 North Delaware, however Madge Wallace had died and he and Bess were to become joint owners of the house. To view the houses Harry Truman lived in Please visit

    Even though he had very little saved from his presidential years, he refused offers of a number of jobs paying a hundred thousand dollars a year or more for little commitment of his time. He said his name was not for sale and would not accept gifts that might appear as product endorsements. All this and the only income he had was a small military pension until he petitioned Congress to grant pensions to former Presidents of the United States.

    Joan Pearson
    November 18, 2002 - 02:07 pm
    So, what will he DO after he "carries the grips up to the attic?"

    Thanks for the photos, Bill. Makes it real somehow to see that these are indeed modest homes Harry has lived in and where he will spend the rest of his life. Is 219 North Delaware the grandest house in Independence today? I think I love the house...
    ,br> It was sad to read that he had to sell off the family farm in Grandview to finally have financial security.

    Of course he was at loose ends, but he DID have his offices in Kanssas City. He did have his book/maganzine contract, his library to plan... Sounds very much like what a modern-day president would do after leaving office, doesn't it? Except Harry had money worries. Can you think of a president who had less after leaving office? Some were surprised he came back to Independence to 219 N. Delaware..thought he'd live in a grand house in Kansas City..others say he really didn't have much choice. I find myself wondering what sort of a life Bess has now. Harry was LOST we are toldbut he refuses to be idle.

    He did buy those new cars and take some fantastic trips though...

    Bill H
    November 18, 2002 - 04:29 pm
    Joan, yes, they were modest homes but they appeared to be well kept and so neat in appearance. Harry did splurge for a new Chrysler. I think he used some of the money he set aside out of his salary as President. No I can't think of a President leaving office with so little money as Harry but Harry didn't have much going into office. Although I don't think he had the debt when leaving office as some of our immediate former Presidents had. Somehow Bill Clinton comes to mind.

    One of the trips you mentioned was to Washington, and I feel Harry made that trip for a nostalgic purpose. When I was reading about it I sort of believed he wanted to be part of things again if only to visit his old haunts and take walks in the familiar places. A feeling of belonging again. And, who knows, maybe this did help his period of adjustment.

    It must be terrible hard on a former president to one day be the most powerful man in the world and busy from morning to late night with pressing domestic and internationaly related affairs and then to suddenly find yourself on the outside looking in and not even to be asked your opinion on matters. I wonder if our government offers psychiatric help to former presidents following the immediate end of their term in office? How phscologically traumatic that sudden end must be

    Harry Truman waited in vain all through President Eisenhower's term in office for Ike to ask him his opinion on certain matters and was shaken that Ike did not. But I don't see why Harry felt Eisenhower would call him, not after the way those two men felt about each other. Reading this bio I felt, for the most part, Harry Truman was a very reasonable and logical person. However, at times I felt that in some things his logic would leave him. I feel this was one of the times.

    Bill H

    Joan Pearson
    November 18, 2002 - 04:47 pm
    Bill, I agree, I think Harry thought that he would be called on for some sort of input, especially on Korea and those matters that weighed so heavily on his mind for such a long time. Suddenly, no one was interested in asking his advice.

    He really reached out to Eisenhower and expected some sort of a relationship, despite party differences. I felt the rebuff, didn't you? There were times that he could have been civil to Harry...non-political times. I find myself rethinking my feelings about Ike. He was "my" president...for so long, that I never gave him a thought. He was a comfortable, grandfatherly figure. I thought he was friendly, for some reason. Maybe I never really knew him.- or maybe I just feel closer to Harry after reading this biography.

    Dean Acheson was the surprise, wasn't he? After reading of his continuing friendship with Harry, I told my husband (who really keeps up with all things political)...and he couldn't believe it. He seems to be the one person who made a difference during Harry's retirement - keeping him abreast of all that was going on...and serving as a counselor when Harry got involved in future presidential elections.

    I wonder if modern presidents do get psychological counselling upon leaving office., now that you mention it. Their wives might use some too.

    Ann Alden
    November 19, 2002 - 12:42 pm
    Bill H, I am really enjoying the homes where Harry lived. Weren't those old Victorians too gorgeous? And the little bungalows where Martha and her daughter lived were just so neat and clean looking.

    You two are making me feel so sad! Listen, if it weren't for HST, the succeeding presidents wouldn't have a pot or a window unless they were already wealthy to start with and most of them are. At least from Harry Truman we have a classy man with a great deal of dignity buuuuuut NO MONEY!

    What I haven't ever understood until this book is why all the recent presidents and their families have such big pensions, in spite of the fact that they are already more than comfortable. I think we have dropped the ball here. Why not see if an outgoing president is personally wealthy and deny him/her any pension unless he meets with certain monetary criteria? Does anyone know what it costs to protect these people for the rest of their lives? Bet that's a chunk of change coming out of our pockets!

    Aren't you glad I am back, BillH?? Tee hee! Joan sent me an email this morning and said I should pop in and heaven forbid that I not have anything to say!

    Bill H
    November 19, 2002 - 01:08 pm
    Ann, I hope you are feeling much better and, of course,

    Welcome back.

    Good idea about determing the wealth of a former presdent before granting him a sizeable pension. I believe Jimmy Carter dismissed his Secret Service protection, however, I'm not sure he refused the pension:o)

    Aren't those old homes great! Just imaagine how nice the look decorated for the holiday season.Bill H

    November 19, 2002 - 01:10 pm
    Ann, I agree with you totaly as they do have restriction on even Social secruity for us Poor Folk. Make $2.00 and pay the goverment back $1.00 dollar or some thing like that. I must not get started on such things. Smile.

    Bill H
    November 19, 2002 - 01:23 pm
    Joan, I share your feeling about Eisenhower. The snub I felt most was Eisenhower's rejection of Truman's invitation to have lunch at the White House the day of the Ike's inaugural. Ike gave the excuse that he didn't want to enter the White House until he was president. A sorry excuse. I have read articles describing Eisenhower as a very taciturn person only turning on the charm when it suited him. An altogether different person lye behind the "Sunshine of his smile."

    He also slighted Kay Summersby--his war time driver-- when, after the war, she surprised him by walking up and saing hello to him as he worked in his front yard behind a little white fence. I don't believe Ike appreciated this. However, I thought this surprise visit by her was not in good taste.

    Bill H

    November 19, 2002 - 01:40 pm
    Bill What I meant to agree to in Ann's post about the wealth President's recieving money when they are already very Rich. If we work and make over the ristrictions I heard we must give some back to the Goverment, but realized this is not the discussion to talk about this. I did and do Like Truman and other Presidents very much but some well. I have been following the post here. But did not get the Book.


    Bill H
    November 19, 2002 - 01:41 pm
    Harry Truman had an amazing life with many surprising turns. There were fewer occasions that meant so much to Truman as the ceremony at Oxford, one of the worlds oldest and most distinguished universities, on June 20 1956, he was presented for an honorary degree of Doctor of Civil Law. Never dreamed of this when he was plowing the fields. Truman experienced so much in his life time.. Truman once said that perseverance, determination and luck played a part in his achievements. However, he also added that he believed an unseen force also played a role. I think this later to be most true.

    Bill H

    Bill H
    November 19, 2002 - 01:46 pm
    Ginger, thanks for stopping by. I'm sure we all share your thoughts about Government Pension Benefit Offset.

    Bill H

    Joan Pearson
    November 19, 2002 - 05:03 pm
    Oh didn't Harry have a great time at Oxford? Not much said about his meal at Buckingham Palace, but old Harricum Truman did love the royal reception at Oxford, didn't he? I put a little note in the margin... was Harry given the grand treatment in the US as at Oxford? But you know, I think he was - at Yale? And again he owed the Chubb Fellowship at Yale to his good friend, Dean Acheson...He wrote that he "loved it all, had never had a better time anywhere." Now THAT made me happy too. McCullough wrote that he was such a hit that he had 200-300 speaking invitations a month after that. I'll bet Harry didn't see a fraction of the extraordinary speaking fees ex-Presidents command today. Look at this - Clinton nets $9.2 million in speaking fees first year out of office You know, Ann, I agree, the Presidential government allowance should havr some sort of need-based strings attached. How about something like this...if a President felt the need to use available monies, it was there for his use OR to designate to his favorite charity...

    Bill H
    November 19, 2002 - 05:16 pm
    Joan, good link about Clinton's speech money making. It's amazing what those two Clintons can do. Don't be surprised if Hillary gets nominated for VP on the upcoming presidential convention.

    Bill H

    November 19, 2002 - 10:40 pm
    BIll, I agree with you on Hillary being nominate for a the VP and who knows she might just make it as it does depends on the one we have now with all that is going on. I do remember H H a chicken in every pot.

    November 20, 2002 - 10:12 am
    I'm sorry if I am behind in the discussion. I think we have moved on to the final segment, but I would like to express some thoughts about Harry and the Korean War.

    It is interesting to note that Tuman believed his decision to commit troops to combat in Korea was the most difficult of his presidency, even tougher than his decision to use the atomic bomb.

    However, I tink it is quite understandable when one considers that now he was sending American boys int battle, whereas in 1945 the use of the atomic bomb was to shorten the war and prevent slaughter of thousands of American lives, and also to bring a war to an end.

    In 1945, he knew there could be no retaliation, as we were the only nation who had an atomic weapon. His greatest fear in June 1950 was that he may start WWWIII. At this point in time we were probably still the only ones with atomic weaponry, but there was no real assurance of that fact. We did know that both the Russians and Chinese were working on nuclear weapons.

    Truman steadfastly refused to allow the use of atomic weaponry in Korea. This was to his great credit. The military, lead by MacArthur, wanted him to allow the use of the bomb. Truman's refusal no doubt kept the war from escalating beyond the Korean peninsula. Another fact for which he was criticized, but time has shown how right he was. Another mark of one of our greatest Presidents.

    November 20, 2002 - 12:58 pm
    It is hard for me to imagine the impact of the sudden brevity of responsibilty the Harry must have felt after moving back to Independence and the quiet life in the large old fashioned home there. It reminded me somewhat of my own experience of returning home from 3 plus years in the Service and suddenly realizing that the life I had left behind there was gone forever. Too much had taken place in the ensuing years and now life was very different. Thankfully, there were thousands of old friends and acquaintances to meet them at the train station when they arrived home. Harry was always a "people" person and that meant a lot to him, I know. I really enjoyed reading about Harry and Bess deciding to take their motor trip across the states, just the two of them, like a couple of middle aged tourists, stopping here and there wherever they pleased, seeing things and places that they always wanted to visit. How charmingly naiive! Of course that wouldn't work out because neither had reckoned with the fact that they were still prominent public figures, well loved and appreciated by so many people wherever they went. And then their trip to Hawaii was super for them. I can understand that, too, because June and I enjoyed tremendously my return to Kauai, Hawaii after an absence of 40 years! Fantastic experience! One more thought.. I wouldn't want to be President of the United States under ANY circumstances and believe me when I say that anybody that holds that job deserves his paycheck and pension, no matter what his financial circumstances are. As far as money earned making speeches, I don't begrudge that either, because I don't have to contribute or attend or listen or read about them unless I want to. It is no skin off my nose! I am not the envious type at all. Losalbern

    Joan Pearson
    November 20, 2002 - 01:52 pm
    Willie, had Harry been able to end the Korean conflict before he left office, do you think things would have been different for him once he left office? It was interesting to read how Ike settled it...right at the 38th parralel where things stood from the beginning - a no-win agreement for both sides. Did I get that right? I remember reading that Harry thought he would have been flayed from one end of Washington to the other if he had accepted these same terms.

    Losalbern...I'd be interested to read Harry's Memoirs, wouldn't you? Do you suppose they are to be found anywhere? Even taking into consideration the 50 year time difference, consider what Harry received for his compared to President Clinton's $10 million dollar book deal! Harry is said to have netted $37,000...smf had to pay income tax too as his book was "earned income."

    The Memoirs were huge...I forget the number of words/pages, but McCullough must have studied them very closedly for his biography. It makes it an easier task to write a biography on a president who has written his own memoirs...something McCullough didn't have when writing John Adams...

    I found it interesting to read all the sources DM researched for this biography in the Acknowledgements at the end of the book. He says he is particularly indebted to Harry's two-volume Memoirs among a number of other books on Truman, including Margaret Truman's...he mentions "three long interview" with Margaret ...among 125 others he interviewed for this book. I would like to know if Harry's book is available in public libraries...or does one go to the Library of Congress to read it?

    Speaking of Libraries...

    Bill H
    November 20, 2002 - 05:25 pm
    Thoughts of his presidential library project helped Truman to over come the emotional departure of the Oval Office. Harry Truman was always thinking ahead and throwing himself headlong into new projects. He originally wanted to build the library on the Truman farm, but Vivian took a firm stand on the site that Harry wanted. Vivian told him this is prime farm land and will bring a good price. Good thing he listened to Vivian. The sale of the farm made the Trumans financially secure for the rest of their lives.

    How odd. It seems the Truman farm hovered around Harry like a guiding spirit allowing him to know that he always had something to fall back on. Perhaps this knowledge helped Truman in becoming the strong president we all knew

    President Lyndon Johnson traveled to the Truman library to sign the Medicare bill into law. While still in office Harry Truman was the first president to call for Medicare. HarryTruman was nonpareil.

    Todays newspaper carried the heading "Homeland Security bill approved by Senate." The article went on to read "...not since the Truman administration upended the nation's defense apparatus to fight the cold war in 1947 has the government been reshaped so dramatically around a single purpose." How do you feel Truman would have handled todays international crisis?

    Bill H

    November 21, 2002 - 07:36 am
    JOAN: My guess is that Harry would have settled the conflict the same as Ike did. Harry was always worried about how the public would perceive his decisions. But under the circumstances at that time, I believe the only solution was to end the action. The communists had been repulsed, and there was no point in pushing the conflict any further, with the further loss of American Lives, and the increased risk of Russian entry into the conflict and bringing about WWWIII.

    Joan Pearson
    November 21, 2002 - 09:39 am
    Will, do you think that Stalin's death had anything to do with the decision to sign the armistice?

    Bill H
    November 21, 2002 - 11:38 am
    As the schedule shows, the discussion will close on Friday, November 29th. However, Thanksgiving day starts the long holiday weekend and most of us will either be away or have made other plans for that holiday. Therefore, I think it more appropriate to end the discussion on Wednesday, November 27th. I'm posting this early enough so that it gives us almost a week to make any further comments we may still have regarding the discussion and President Harry Truman.

    Bill H

    November 21, 2002 - 11:46 am
    Good Morning.

    One thing people tend to forget is that the Korean Peace Talks had been going on for almost a year before Ike took office. Ike didn't do anything but take credit for what Truman set in motion.

    Tiger Tom

    Bill H
    November 21, 2002 - 04:23 pm
    Tiger Tom, Thank you for calling our attention to the peace talks that had been taking place about bringing the Korean conflict to an end. The more I read about Ike the more my opinion of him diminishes. We, in my neck, of the woods refer to Eisenhower as the do nothing president except, of course, play golf.

    I believe Ike's refusal to help Great Britain in their Suez Canal trouble (was it Suez?) played an important role in Great Britain's lack of support for us in Viet Nam. I'm not saying Ike was wrong in that. I suppose he had enough involvement with the British in WW 2. However, if I remember correctly, he was rather abrupt in his refusal. In Ikes behalf, I must add that we did have peace all through his administration. And that in itself is much to his credit.

    Bill H

    November 21, 2002 - 08:07 pm

    You might add that IKE did two things that got us into Viet Nam: Refused to let the French have military equpment that the French had paid for: Helicopters and other material which the French had planned on using In Bien Den Pheu when they were surrounded. The French deliberately allowed themselves to be surrounded because they planned on using the Helicopters to ferry in troops to surround the Viet Minh who were surrounding the French troops thereby trapping the Viet Minh and probably ending the conflict in French Indo-china. Then IKE and John Foster Dulles refused to allow a plebescite to go forward that had been agreed to at the Geneva peace talks between the French and the Viet Minh and Ho Chi Minh. Eisenhower and Dulles knew that Ho would win the vote and the North and South Viet Nam would come under his control. So no vote and the Viet Minh came back out in the field and Dulles and Eisenhower sent in "American Advisors." The Viet Nam conflict rather than "Kennedy's War" was actually started under the Eisenhower administration.

    Tiger Tom

    Bill H
    November 22, 2002 - 12:16 pm
    Tiger Tom, that post is very interesting. Do you mean the French had paid us for this military equipment and Ike refused to allow them to have it? I do remember Eisenhower sending in military advisors, but I'm not familiar with this early history of the Viet Nam conflict. Perhaps Ike received bad advice in this matter. I'm of the opinion he didn't concern himself too much with details during his presidency, thereby allowing others to make the decisions with him following along.

    Tom, your post are very interesting. I'm certain all of us here would be more than happy to read what more you have to say about this era.

    Bill H

    November 22, 2002 - 12:57 pm

    Yes, the French had paid for the equipment and Eisenhower made sure the goods were not delivered.

    I have an idea he was just doing what his handlers told him to do. Big Business wanted the French out of Indochina in the hopes that they could move in. Lots of resources and markets there. They got half of it, South vienam.

    If you ever get a chance to see some old Neewspaper Morgue's try reading the late 50's and you will see what I mean.

    Tiger Tom

    Bill H
    November 22, 2002 - 05:35 pm
    Tom, yes, big business money plays a part in most matters. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has an archive and it can be searched on line. I'm not sure how far back its online archives reach. But, Tom, I'm Bill, however, not to worry I have senior moments also and plenty of them )

    Bill H

    November 22, 2002 - 08:28 pm

    Sorry. got you mixed up wiht the History book discussion as I mentioned Truman in that discussion.

    How I wish we had a person of Truman's Caliber in Politics today on either side of the Aisle.

    Tiger Tom

    Joan Pearson
    November 23, 2002 - 06:29 am
    `All of these revelations - I imagine there have been definitive biographies of Eisenhower? Somehow I cannot imagine his being as openly candid as Harry has been. He seems to have kept his cards much closer to his vest. I thought it was puzzling that when Ike wrote his book, his income was not taxed as income because he was "not a professional writer."

    To me, the most revealing bit of information that shows the difference between these two men - Ike threatened the use of atomic weapons in Korea and this was not on Harry's radar screen at all. Was it Ike's threat that led to the signing of the armistice?

    Harry's Presidential library in Independence was the ideal retreat for him, wasn't it? He was able to close down the Kansas City offices- and walk the mile to work! He supervised the construction from the start - right down to commissioning the art work found at the entrance. Independence and the Opening fo the West The funny thing about the selection of the mursl...and the artist. Harry didn't like Benton's style...a Pendergast mural in Jefferson City which mocked Pendergast many years before...stuck in his memory. It says a lot about Harry's open-mindedness. He met with the artist and decided that he liked him, a friendship came of this. Harry even got up on the ladder and painted part a corner of the sky in the Library mural!

    Harry kept regular business hours there...characteristically arriving before any anyone else. Answered the phone himself in the early mornings! Perhaps the distraction of building the Library took his focus from the affairs in Washington from which he was excluded - after having been at the center of things for such a long time.

    The other thing that sustained him through this period was his life-long love for reading. He had written or told an interviewer that his idea of heaven was "to have a good comfortable chair, a good reading lamp, and lots of books around that he wanted to read." I found his interest in the relationship between history and government told a lot about the man - Cincinnatus, the Roman hero...a model for him. When the time came, he laid down his arms, and returned to the farm. "He knew how and when to lay down power." I think this must have made it easier for Harry to distance himself from what was going on in Washington once he left office.

    Ann Alden
    November 23, 2002 - 12:09 pm
    Yes, Joan, he was ready to go home and just live out his life with Bess, in their hometown. A very humble man! Way back in the dark ages, at the beginning of our country, that's how many of our presidents, vp's, and congressmen did their job. They gave the time they felt was adequate and then turned the job over to someone else for his turn. They returned to their homes and to their lives as lawyers, farmers, business owners, whatever they had done before the country asked them to help with the government.

    I hope no one will object if I advertise here. Please join us in the Curious Minds discussion for a new topic, the toys of our childhood and how they affected our lives.Toyland Toyland Toyland! Hope we see ya'll there!!! Curious Minds

    Bill H
    November 23, 2002 - 12:39 pm
    Joan, You are right about Truman forcefully rejecting the use of the atomic bomb to end the Korean war he wouldn't hear of it. And it was so ironic that Ike threatened the use of nuclear weapons to settle the Korean conflict. After the atomic bomb was dropped on the Japanese cities, Eisenhower claimed it wasn't necessary. He said that Japan was soon going to surrender and there was no need for that devastation. This was contrary to what many other knowledgeable military and civilian personnel said about the Japanese surrendering..

    I'm beginning to feel the main difference between Ike and Harry was this: From what I've read not only here, but other articles as well, I feel Eisenhower was a mean spirited person. Harry Truman was not.

    I read Ike's book "Crusade in Europe" many, many years ago. In the book, it was brought out that during the war Ike was called back to Washington for a short briefing. However, he brought Kay Sommersby, his British driver, with him. Rumors were running rife about Ike and Kay. Mamie Eisenhower was in Washington at the time also, and Mamie and Kay met at a large cocktail dinner party. Can you Imagine Harry Truman bringing a Kay Sommersby to a dinner party with Bess in attendance!!!.Now why would Ike need a British driver in Washington, however, I do believe she doubled as some sort of secretary also. This points up the mentality of the man.

    Ann, you can rest assured I'll be visiting Toyland. Can't wait

    Bill H

    Joan Pearson
    November 24, 2002 - 02:23 pm
    From what I have read in Truman's biography...which is the result of ten years of research on McCullough's part...Harry and Bess seem deeply committed to one another. Harry referred to Bess as his "true North." I've heard McCullough on several occasions refer to his Rosalee as "the star I steer by." McC. must have noted what Harry said about his Bess! No, I don't think that Harry would ever have had another woman on his horizon, let alone invited one to 219 Delaware for a reception! There's a lot I didn't know about the "sunny" grandfatherly Ike as I was growing up.

    The year 1957, McCullough writes, everything came together for Harry...the birth of his first grandchild, the completion of the Truman Library and the sale of the Grandview land was finalized, providing financial security at last...(the Truman's kept the family homestead, at least.)

    He seems to be a content man, doesn't he? They say at night, folks in Independence could see him through the window at 219 Delaware, sitting in his comfortable chair, reading. Harry's idea of heaven...on earth. Wish I had seen him

    When I was in college in 1957, I had a roommate who was from Independence. I remember going to her house for a weekend - she asked me if I wanted to go to see the Truman place. I hate to say this...I said no, thinking that she meant did I want to go see the house where former President Truman was born, or USED to live before he became President. Dumb...what did I know? Must have been staying a few blocks from Harry's window. Didn't know he was living there...(didn't know much of anything in those days!)

    November 25, 2002 - 10:40 am

    Here in St. Paul, Minnesota, there was a notice in a local paper about the death of an obscure photographer named ďMarion Carpenter.Ē Apparently she was found dead, half-starved, living in a rat-infested apartment in a low-income building. Ms. Carptenter had no apparent relatives, and it wasnít until authorities went through her things that they discovered that Carptenter had been a well-known Washington professional photographer, and many of her best pictures were those of the White House and its occupants.

    Among her apparently prized belongings was a book about Harry Truman, marked at a page where a photograph shows the president smelling a cherry blossom. The photo credit readsĒ Marion Carpenter, Photographer.Ē

    I think this is such a sad story. Did you happen to see that photograph?


    November 25, 2002 - 01:29 pm
    No Lorrie, I don't recall that photo at all. That was some story you happened onto about Marion Carpenter. Growing old is never easy and when you are alone and living in poverty that situation is terribly sad. Bill, I have completed the reading of "Truman" and I am still at awe as to how McCullough managed to pull all this data together and form it a very interesting story. I am so glad that I ran onto your Discussion Group because I learned so much from other people's input and their feelings about the matter at hand. I have now a much warmer feeling about this rather ordinary man who was thrust into this almost unbearable situation of demanding responsiblities and did a remarkable job of performing very, very well. I like McCullough's two line description of Truman, "He stood for common sense, common decency. He spoke the common tongue." Bill, thank you for all your effort and leadership in leading a challenging discussion. Losalbern

    Ann Alden
    November 25, 2002 - 02:26 pm

    Lorrie, I looked and looked for that photo but can't find it anywhere. Even went to the Truman Library site and the Smithsonian site but just couldn't locate it.

    Bill, I will see you in Curious Minds but want to congratulate you on a wonderfully led discussion. Your questions for each section were so thought provoking and your comments were always so easy to understand. Thanks again!!

    Laselburn,I, too, am in awe of DM and of HST. Both men have accomplished something great, in their own way and time.

    Having had my picture taken with DM at the Book Festival was such a treat but I didn't get to ask him about his writing of Truman. Well, I guess Joan gave us a pretty good report of her unplanned interview of DM by phone. Go Ms Joan!!!!

    Bill H
    November 25, 2002 - 04:00 pm
    Lorrie, indeed that was a sad story. No, I don't recall seeing the article in our newspaper. Thank you for telling us about it.

    Bill H

    Bill H
    November 25, 2002 - 04:04 pm
    He was ridiculed, scoffed, called the Senator from Pendergast, and the President by accident. But through it all and with grim determination Harry Truman lead his beloved country through one of its darkest periods. He and others like him protected and guided our country so it could blossome like a beautiful flower into the most productive, technologically advanced, and most powerful country in the world. His continual call for civil rights to be meaningful for everyone has come to pass. Now the phrase "With Liberty and Justice for All" has real meaning.

    History has proven the nay sayers wrong. History has made us all realize he stands with the greatest Presidents of our country. As Tiger Tom said, " bad the old fellow isn't around today, on both sides of the aisle." I'll say Amen to that. Tom.

    A fine President. Was it by accident or was it ordained by an unknown force?

    Many thanks to all who participated in this discussion and for your interesting post. I always did hold Harry S. Truman in high esteem. However after reading the biography and along with your posts that esteem has increased ten fold. David McCullough's biography made me realize how truly great Harry Truman was.

    Bill H

    Bill H
    November 25, 2002 - 04:24 pm

    Photo: Truman Library

    And now what better way to close this discussion than with President Harry S Trumanís farewell speach.

    Given on Thursday, January 19, 1953

    ĒGood Evening, My Fellow Americans:

    Next Tuesday, General Eisenhower will be inaugurated as President of the United States. I will be on a train on my way home to Independence, Missouri, to become a plain citizen. Inauguration Day will be a great demonstration of the Democratic Process. I am glad to be a part of the peaceful transfer of the vast power of the Presidency from my hands to his. There is no job like it on the face of the Earth. I want you all to realize how hard it is and to give Ike all the help he will need. The Cold War and the ďhot warĒ in Korea will be great tests of his strength.

    How will the Cold War end? It will end . . .someday . . .because of the great weakness of the Communist system. I have not a doubt in the world that a great change will occur. I have a deep and abiding faith in the destiny of free men. With strength and courage, we shall, someday, overcome.

    When Franklin Roosevelt died, I thought there must be a million men more qualified than I to take up the Presidential task. But the work was mine to do. But always, I knew that I was not alone. I knew that you were working with me. And now, the time has come for me to say goodnight and God bless you all.Ē

    Bill H
    November 25, 2002 - 04:27 pm
    President Truman's Obituary

    November 25, 2002 - 07:51 pm
    Bill H,

    One last note, in this month's Smithsonian is an article on Truman at Potsdam meeting with Stalin and Churchill (and Atlee after the British election which Churchill's party lost).

    If you can, try to read it. Very intereting article.

    Tiger Tom

    Joan Pearson
    November 26, 2002 - 06:21 am
    Thanks Tiger - I imagine articles relating to Truman are going to catch our attention more, now that we feel we have come to know the man. Lorrie, I picked up the Washington Post this morning, and sure enough, found the sad strory of Marion Carpenter's last days.
    Marion Carpenter's Obituary

    One last entry in my notebook...I assume these closing remarks are David McCullough's - Harry Truman- "the kind of president the founding fathers had in mind for the country. He came directly from the people." After reading this book, I have come to appreciate the integrity and the contribution "this common man" brought to the office of the Presidency. I thank David McCullough for his painstaking work. You know, Ann, I don't think I have too many unanswered questions...D.McCullough has given us so many "answers" in his portrayal of our 33rd (32nd?) President. I look forward to his new "exposť" of George Washington. A friend of mine works at Mount Vernon and sat next to him in the museum's library as he researched for his new book. I hope it doesn't take him 10 years to write this one! He has stated that much of the research that he did for John Adams would come into play in his next book on the American Revolution.

    Can't leave this discussion without a big THANK YOU to Bill, who put so many weeks into this discussion. You sustained interest and enthusiasm throughout, Bill. THe links were so helpful, (where do you FIND this stuff)- and your commentary a delight. Will look forward to your next discussion. THank you so much.

    Bill H
    November 26, 2002 - 11:20 am
    Tom, thank you for the heads up on the Truman Smithsonian article. I'm looking forward to reading it.

    Joan, thank you for the Marion Carpenter link. Isn't it sad for any American citizen to die that way. We can spend millions perhaps billions of dollars on foreign aide and send more millions to third-world developing countries, but we neglect our own. There is an old saying, " begins at home." I wish we would start practicing that. Joan, I appreciate your compliment. That means much to me coming from you.

    I wish all of you

    A Happy Thanksgiving Day

    Bill H

    November 26, 2002 - 02:47 pm
    On the occasion of the 81st anniversary of my birth I will make my final post in this wonderful discussion. I certainly do not think it is by accident that truly great individuals become the leaders of our nation in times of great need. When our nation was founded there were several great men who devoted their lives and fortunes to bring this republic into existance. When the nation was threatened with an internal split, Abraham Lincoln appeared on the scene and saved the union. Then in the early part of the 20th century an economic catastrophe brought Franklin Roosevelt to the rescue, followed by a terrible world conflict and eventually the replacement of one great leader by another in Harry Truman.

    I guess my point is that this Nation has been populated by people who have had great religious beliefs and have been rewarded in times of great need by a benevolent diety. We have honored this diety by showing our praise in many forms with the phrase "In God we trust" What is troubleing now to see how that trust is being eroded by the "politically correct" elimination of the recognition of God in our Pledge of Allegiance, by the elimination of all referance to a diety in our schools, and the desecreation of arts and music by so called pop culture.

    It behooves all of us to protest this unrighteous trend and to work to restore God to his rightful place in our society. May the United States remain one nation UNDER GOD, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all---- for eternity.

    Ann Alden
    November 26, 2002 - 05:44 pm
    Happy 81st Birthday,Williewoody! And may you have many more!

    Happy Thanksgiving to all!

    Bill H
    November 26, 2002 - 06:00 pm
    Happy Birthday, Williewoody!

    Thanksgiving Day will hold a special meaning for you. Your last post summed everything up fairly well. I suppose we seniors are still getting the important things right.

    Bill H

    Joan Pearson
    November 26, 2002 - 06:19 pm
    Happy 81st, WillieWoody!

    Enjoy Your day!