Truman, Harry S.

[ (trooh-muhn) ]

A political leader of the twentieth century. A Democrat, Truman was president from 1945 to 1953. In 1944, after representing Missouri in the Senate, Truman was elected vice president under President Franklin D. Roosevelt and became president when Roosevelt died. He led the nation in the final months of World War II and made the decision to drop atomic bombs (see also atomic bomb) on Hiroshima (see also Hiroshima) and Nagasaki in Japan. Truman enthusiastically supported the United Nations and put forward the Marshall Plan to aid the recovery of Europe after the war. He sent American troops to support the United Nations in the Korean War, and, in a controversial move, removed General Douglas MacArthur from his command in Korea. (See Truman-MacArthur controversy.)

Notes for Truman, Harry S.

Truman's homespun, often feisty style of leadership made him a symbol of no-nonsense Middle America. People often encouraged him, following his own preferences in vocabulary, with the words “Give 'em hell, Harry.” A sign on his desk read “The buck stops here.” He was also fond of the saying, “If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.”

Notes for Truman, Harry S.

Truman gained a surprise victory in the presidential election of 1948 over the Republican candidate, Thomas E. Dewey. On the day of the election, several commentators had confidently asserted that Truman could not win, and the Chicago Tribune had gone to press with a huge headline reading “Dewey Defeats Truman.” Truman discussed these errors with great relish the next day.

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The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.