Harry S. Truman, 33rd President of the United States, served from the last days of World War II in 1945 until the early Cold War days of 1953. The Cold War defined much of President Truman‘s tenure, though he also pursued an ambitious program of social legislation. Along the way, he found time for a personal scandal that, by modern standards, is almost heartwarming.
Truman assumed office when President Franklin Roosevelt died suddenly on April 12, 1945. Just four months later, President Truman made what some view as the most controversial decision of his presidency: He ordered two atomic bombs dropped on Japan after the Japanese refused an ultimatum to surrender.
After World War II, President Truman faced a new set of challenges. Soon after the war, he supported the Marshall Plan, a massive program of American aid to Europe to help rebuild the devastated continent. To persuade Congress to back the plan, President Truman explained that a destitute Europe would be more susceptible to Communism.
The rising fear of Communism marked Truman’s America. Democrats and Republicans alike supported his Truman Doctrine of containment. A Communist victory in China’s civil war in 1949, however, coupled with Soviet nuclear success, fanned American fears of Communist infiltration. These anxieties culminated in Senator Joseph McCarthy’s accusations that Truman’s administration harbored “subversives” in important government positions.
President Truman faced still more division on domestic policy. A Democrat, President Truman pressed a broad legislative program that he called the Fair Deal. Mixing support for unions, civil rights and national health insurance, it gained little support in Congress. Ultimately, almost none of the Fair Deal passed.
Even closer to home, President Truman avoided the marital scandals of many other presidents. He did, nevertheless, spark controversy by writing to Paul Hume, a music critic who wrote an unfavorable review of a performance by Truman’s daughter, Margaret. Truman told Hume that he could expect a broken nose and two black eyes should Truman ever meet him. President Truman received criticism for this letter, though he explained the he wrote it as a father, not as a president.