tv Harry Trumans Presidential Library CSPAN January 20, 2019 5:28pm-6:01pm EST
>> i'm outside the truman courthouse in independence, missouri, where c-span is learning about the city's history. it was here, as a presiding judge, that harry truman oversaw renovations of the courthouse. up next, we take you to the truman presidential library and museum to learn about his esidential career. [music] >> in independence, missouri, the harry s. truman library becomes a realities, fulfilling a long-cherished dream of the ex-president. mr. truman and chief justice warren both take part in the ritual. >> this library is not the library. it's an archivist's building with the idea of keeping the records of the government in an rderly manner.
it will take a little while to get that done. but when you do get it done, this place will be the center of the study of the presidency of the united states. >> the truman library was actually the second presidential library established and run by the national archives and records administration. but harry truman was the first president to actually use his linebacker to be an instrumental force in his library. he worked here between five and six days a week, in his office here at the library. from 1957 when the library opened until the mid-60's when his health started deteriorating. as you enter into the main part of the museum, one of the first things you'll see is the famous buck stops here sign, that was given to truman and became what i call the icon object of the truman administration, because he was known so much for his decisive action and the fact that he believed very
sincerely in taking responsibility for his own decisions. now this particular sign was made in paint shop of the el reno federal reformatory in oklahoma. the warden sent this to truman. truman said, i have on my desk a sign that says, the buck stops here. well, we believe he did have it on his desk. but we have never found a photograph of it on the oval office desk. but until we actually find a photograph showing it on his desk in the oval office, we've displayed it out here. we're standing in a replica of the oval office as it appeared in truman's representation. he became president upon the sudden death of franklin roosevelt. roosevelt, of course, had been president for 12 years. and many young people especially had no other
president. harry truman was suddenly thrust into the office. this office here is actually depicted as it appeared in the summer of 1950, just shortly after the korean war had started. it's decorated exactly the way it was on that -- on a particular day in august 950. many of the items around the room are very typical of truman. the desk is cluttered with a lot of trinkets that were given to truman over the course. these are the items that happened to be on his desk on that day in august 1950. the furniture in the room is all reproduction furniture, because the original furniture is still at the white house. however, most of the items on the walls and on the tops of the desks and so forth are originals. there are few exceptions. but one of the most interesting pieces is the large globe
in front of the fireplace mantel. in july of 1945, harry truman went to the potsdam conference. he stopped and visited general eisenhower, the supreme allied commander during world war ii. and eisenhower gave truman this globe that was one that eisenhower had used throughout the war. the irony about this is truman brought the globe back, put it in his oval office. and of course he was succeeded in 1953 by former general, now president dwight eisenhower. so truman left the globe in the office for eisenhower when he got there. >> harry s. truman took the momentous oath of office as president of the united states. with a world at war, he accepted the gravest responsibility in world history. a new commander in chief to lead our nation to ultimate victory. >> just an hour before he'd been summoned to the white house and
notified that president roosevelt had died, and this photo behind me is a scene of truman being sworn in as president. you can sort of see the shock on the people's faces. the bible you see in the photograph is also on display behind me. he obviously was not prepared to be sworn in as president. so they just searched around and found a bible in the usher's office at the white house and used it. truman subsequently used the same bible to be sworn in when he was re-elected in 1948. most americans really had no idea who harry truman was. franklin roosevelt had been resident for 12 years, longer than any other president. a lot of people, he was the only president they had known. and now suddenly harry truman, who had only been vice resident for 82 days is suddenly sworn in as president. >> the combined air might of the united nations is loosed
upon nazi-occupied europe. >> the world was in turmoil with wars in europe and the specific. the war in europe was almost over. in fact, germany surrendered on may 7, 1945. the next morning was harry truman's birthday. so the war in europe ended fairly quickly, but the war in japan and the pacific was continuing. there were fire bombing raids going on in tokyo. more than 100,000 people were killed in a single fire bombing raid. but in the midst of all this, truman also wanted to continue on some of franklin roosevelt's initiatives. one of the main ones being the founding of the united nations. so in june of 1945, he went to san francisco and signed the united nations charter. the first four months of truman's presidency are probably the most dramatic first four months of any president in american history. of course, in august 1945, the atomic bomb had been
perfected and the first bomb was dropped on hiroshima. >> a short time ago, an american airplane dropped one bomb on hiroshima. with this bomb, we have now added a new and revolutionary increase in destruction to supplement the growing power of our armed forces. >> people often ask if that was truman's most difficult decision and he always said, no, it wasn't. he actually felt that his committing troops to korea at the beginning of the korean war was his most difficult decision. a second bomb was then dropped on nagasaki. then finally japan surrenders on august 14, 1945. so in the span of four months, harry truman had overseen the end of the wars in europe and japan.
at the end of world war ii, the united states emerged as the only country in the world that had actually become more prosperous during the war. but the united states still had a problem. harry truman remembered from his own world war i experience, he came back and he set up a business with his friend, jacobson, and that business went broke during a depression after world war i. one of truman's goals at the end of the second world war was to try to have a rational, logical reconversion of the military economy back to a peace time economy. people had earned money during the war, but there was nothing to spend it on during the war. so there was a lot of pent-up urge on the part of consumers to spend money on the war to buy things. that, of course, would put
extreme pressure on prices and prices would go up. so truman was trying to use the government to kind of balance all this out and make a smoother reconversion from a military economy to a peace time economy. now, even though truman was very much supportive of unions, he faced a real backlash from unions and workers after the war because of this. and so he had this habit of writing what we call diary entries. they're actually just written on loose-leaf pieces of paper. but in this particular one, truman is venting his anger at the unions for opposing him and his post-war economic policies. truman says, let's give the country back to the people. let's put transportation and production back to work, hang a few traitors and make our own ountry safe for democracy. tell russia where to get off and make the united nations work. come on, boys. let's do the job.
truman used the diary entries to vent his own rustrations. they were not made public during his lifetime. but it was a way for him to actually get over his anger about many issues. and we see this throughout his presidency. once the united states had gone through its reconversion from a military to a peacetime economy, consumer spending went way up. it was really the beginning of the post-war economic boon which lasted for a number of years. so americans were becoming very consumer-oriented. but the situation was much different in europe after the war. in europe, not only was there the physical damage from world war ii still remaining, but europe went through a couple of the worst winters in record. and people were -- there were a lot of people who were starving in europe. but there was a lot of
political unrest as well. so the fear became, in the united states, on the part of the truman administration, the fear became we have to do something to help europe out, help these countries of europe out, so that they don't fall to the threat of political instability or communism. the truman administration response to the challenges in europe really took two forms. it became the policy of the government to support countries that were having difficulties and that started with what we call the truman doctrine. it was based on a speech that truman gave in 1947. >> if we fumble in our leadership, we may endanger the peace of the world. and we shall surely endanger the welfare of this nation. great responsibilities have been placed upon us by the swift movement of events. i am confident that the congress will face these responsibilities
squarely. >> the key line of the speech is here. it says, i believe that it must be the policy of the united states to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by minorities and outside pressures. the truman doctrine was basically $400 million worth of foreign aid, given primarily to greece and turkey. the british have supported a lot of these countries before the war. they were pretty much bankrupt after world war ii. they said they would no longer provide financial aid. so truman stepped in with the truman doctrine to make it the policy of the united states to support some of these countries. and then that eventually led to truman's bigger foreign policy initiative, which was the martial plan, named after george marshall, who was the secretary of state at the time but, of course, had also been the leader of the military forces during
world war ii. >> the only solution that i see is to establish a firm front. a more effective it will be. and the propaganda efforts to convey that this is an aggressive front, of course, are pure propaganda. >> the idea was that the united states would provide financial assistance but the european countries who agreed to join the marshall planning had to work among themselves to decide how the money would be spent. it was primarily used on big infrastructure projects that helped rebuild the infrastructure of european nations. it's considered one of the most successful foreign policy initiatives in the history of the united states. this is a letter that harry truman wrote to his wife, beth. beth spent part of the year back here in independence. one of the real gems of our collection is we have more than 1300 of harry truman's letters to his wife, beth.
he just doesn't talk about the weather. he talks about real issues happening. he's using her as a sounding board. and he did that through his whole life. he would run things past her. and, you know, there's not much public -- beth did not like to be a public person. but we do know that he confided in her and he trusted her judgment. in this particular case, he's talking about the marshall plan and he says, dear beth, yesterday was one of the most hectic of days, as i've told you. i'm not sure what has been my worst day. but here is the situation, fraught with terrible consequences. and then he goes on to talk about, you know, what if we don't give foreign aid to these countries? you know, we could devolve into another war, which would be very frightful. at the same time, in the late 40's, when truman and his foreign policy advisors had put together things like the truman doctrine and the marshall plan,
the tensions between the united states and the soviet union were growing much stronger. it was basically the beginning of what we now know as the cold war. and truman's foreign policy advisories had worked through and recommended that the united states form a military alliance with other european countries. and so nato became formed in 1949. it's the first peacetime alliance that the united states had had. the hot point of this was the whole issue of berlin. at the end of world war ii, germany was divided. into zones of occupation. and the eastern zone was controlled by the soviet union. the western zones by the united states, great britain and france. but the capital of germany, erlin, was buried deep inside
the soviet zone. and so when tensions between the united states and the soviet union became too great, the soviet union blockaded berlin. and so the question for harry truman was, what do we do? do we relinquish berlin? do we send in military forces, potentially starting world war iii? you know, what is our solution? that was to institute an air lift, providing supplies into berlin from the air. and once this got started, it turned out to be quite successful. and it really expanded. and at one point, on a daily basis, almost 600 -- about 594 planes each day flew supplies into berlin to keep the city going. and they would not only air-lift in food and fuel. now, the air lift went on for well over a year, but the soviet union eventually backed down and reopened the access to
berlin. this exhibit is about truman's decision to recognize the state of israel in june of 1948. coming out of world war ii, there were many displaced persons throughout europe and, of course, the holocaust had devastated the jews in europe. so truman had a particular interest in trying to help the survivors of the holocaust. many of them tried to get to palestine. and the british had tried to keep them from getting into palestine. but the british made notice that, like they had done in if greece and turkey, there would come a point where they would not be able to do the financial aid that they had been doing. so that date was mid-may of 1948. so at that point, truman knew that a decision had to be made as to whether or not he would recognize the proposed state
of israel that was being proposed by the jewish community. and this led to the most profound debate within his own administration. he had advisories on both sides of the issues. of those who opposed it, the person truman respected the most was george marshall. and of those who supported the idea of recognizing israel, truman followed the advice of a domestic advisor, clark clifford. ultimately, it came down to the day. and truman decided to recognize the state of israel. and he did so with this little press release here. it's a very simple little press release. in which he states that he recognizes the state of israel. and it's dated may 14, 1948. and at the bottom, you'll note it says 6:11. that's the time of day in washington. that's 11 minutes after israel was actually founded. so the united states became the first nation to recognize israel. reaction at the time in the united states was pretty favorable to the decision, although, of course, it
remains in the news today, you know, you read your daily newspapers and you know that the issue has not gone away, that there are still tensions, great tensions in the middle east. so like many of truman's decisions he made at the time, a lot of those decisions still affect us today. and israel, the recognition of israel is one of the biggest. >> the decisive battle has arrived. the people are going to have to choose one side or the other. the democratic party and i have othing to conceal. >> in 1948, truman had decided to run for a second term as president. he was trailing very, very badly in the polls. he was receiving a lot of criticism. in 1946, what had been a democratic congress had been replaced with a republican congress. so truman faced an uphill
battle in his 1948 presidential election campaign. he decided to make it a whistle stop tour. and we saw the pictures of he and beth and margaret standing on the back of the train. this is a reproduction of ferdinand magellan which is a train car that he rode over most of the country. we have a map of his campaigns. it shows a number of different train trips across the country. what really stands out are two areas of the country that he really did not visit. one is the south. and there's a really logical xplanation for this. in those days, the south was considered a solidly democratic block. there was no fear on the part of truman staff that he would lose the south to his republican rival, thomas dewy. the other area is the upper midwest, which was pretty much avoided simply because it had very few electoral votes. at every whistle stop, truman would do the same pattern. he had a four-part speech or a little talk.
first part was thanking his local community for inviting him, then recognizing a local dignitary there. the second part was that he would talk about the great accomplishments that had been made under democratic administrations from franklin roosevelt through harry truman. the third part was he would attack not his republican opponent, thomas dewey, but the republican "do nothing" congress. he ran against congress. and he said that they would, if they were allowed to go on, they would take away all of the benefits that the democrats had brought people over the years. then finally, if beth and margaret were with him on the train, he would say, and now i'd like to introduce the boss, and beth would come out. if margaret was there, he'd say, and i'd like to introduce the boss's boss, and margaret would come out and they'd wave. then he'd move on to the next whistle stop.
to almost everybody's surprise, truman wins the election in 1948. and there's the famous shot of him at the train station in st. louis where he holds up a copy of the chicago tribune, which had been printed earlier and middle classily said that dewey had won the election. that became one of the most famous photos of the whole truman administration. we do have a copy of that newspaper on display in the case in front of the photograph. as truman now has been elected in his own right, he not only won the election, but he brought with him the democratic congress. so the democratic president, democratic congress, truman feels he has to ability to pass significant legislation. >> in the coming year, our program for peace and freedom will emphasize four major courses of action. >> so he proposes what's been called the fair deal. it's a whole series of legislative proposals, domestic
proposals, that truman had issued. and he made his speech in his inaugural speech. it had a whole number of planks on it. what truman discovered was it's harder to actually pass legislation than he thought, even with a democratic congress. so the blue areas up here are things that he was able to get through congress. but you can see, all the red for some of his proposals that did not pass congress. this is a map of asia. it's actually an inverted globe of asia. and this is another one of the unintended things that truman found after his election in 1948. in addition to the fair deal, suddenly during his second term, there became a number of hot spots in asia. during his first term, he had focused mostly on europe, you know, the marshall plan, truman doctrine. but in the beginning of 1949, truman's second term, there were a number of places in asia that tarted causing problems.
one was the communist forces in if china were overwhelming the nationalist forces. and so it became inevitable that the communists would take over china. another was in all of the southeast asia, the colonial governments, pre-world war ii colonial governments were collapsing. so there were a number of nationalist movements going on in southeast asia. then finally, the big issue that truman felt faced during the second term was the korean war that broke out on the korean peninsula. so this part of the exhibit we calling 10 faithful months. it's really the 10 months after truman was inaugurated for his second term. china is going to the ommunists. also, the soviet union exploded their own atomic bomb. and so suddenly the united
states is not the only nation with atomic bomb. but the soviet union has one as well. and it causes truman to support the development of a hydrogen omb. so the cold war between the soviet union and the united states is really ramping up. and the ramifications of that are both international and domestic. so on the domestic front, there's a real push mostly by republicans but also by democrats to root out communists in the american government. once it was discovered that there were spies that had stolen atomic secrets, then people became very suspicious of other overnment employees. the fear of communism was both domestic and international. over on the side over here, we have a number of posters and booklets, anti-communist booklets. there were movies, anti-communist movies. information about building bomb
shelters. and a general fear that the united states was infiltrated by communists. as a result of that, there was a document developed called nsc-68. it was a document that basically called for all-out nti-communist efforts on behalf of the united states government, really ramping up funding for the military, also for espionage and so forth. and this is a copy of the n.f.c. 68 report. truman was very skeptical of this when it first came out. but as we see, as the korean war gets going, truman gradually comes around to exploring the further exploration of the provisions. it could be called the point at which the military industrial complex began.
it's sort of the underpinnings of what became the military ndustrial complex. the real hot point in truman's second term was the korean war. when, in late june 1950, north korean forces suddenly crossed the 38th parallel into south korea. truman was here at his home and he got a call that that had happened. and he immediately flew back to washington so they could have meetings about what to do about the north korean invasion of south korea. now, the concern on truman's part was, who was actually behind this invasion? was it just the rogue leader of north korea who decided to launch an attack on south korea? or was he being backed by the soviet union and/or china? so truman's fear was if we got too involved in it, it could trigger world war iii, sort of the same situation he had in europe with the berlin crisis. but he ultimately decided to
authorize american forces who were stationed in japan as an occupation force, he authorized them to go to korea to help stop the north korean invasion. and one of the interesting things, again, is one of his diary entries, dated june 30, 950. he says that frank pace, the army secretary, had called him. and said that general macarthur, wo was the commander in asia, had asked for ground troops to be sent in to korea. and ultimately, truman authorized that. but he, in the process, he did a lot of his thinking in these diary entries that he would write out. so in this one, he talks about the process he went through to decide to authorize sending merican troops to korea. but he also wanted to make it a united nations effort. so he tried to enlist
nationalist chinese forces, forces from australia, canada, and a number of other nations in the effort. eventually did become a united nations force in korea, although the americans provided the predominant number of military troops. truman always said that the decision to commit america's forces to south korea was the most difficult decision he made as president. and the reason for that was this whole question about whether, would it start world war iii? troops had just come back from the second world war i just five years earlier. america is tired at being at war. would americans support it? would it lead to a wider engagement against china? these are a lot of the tough questions he was wrestling with. for those reasons, he thought it was the most difficult decision he made as president. and there never has been an actual peace treaty at the end of the war. it's just based on an armistice that was signed in july of 1953. technically, the two forces
are still at war. they just have an armistice in place. >> after the inauguration was over, which was consummated by the chief justice of the united states, i immediately went back, got in my car, rode out to the house where we had a wonderful uncheon. and then went down to the station to leave town. and you never saw such a turnout, at that station. it was estimated, by the police, that there were 9,000 people there. >> when truman decided not to run for another term as president, he and beth happily came back to independence and moved into the house that they had shared since they were married in 1919. so what does a former president end up doing? truman was still healthy. he did not have a really secure future. he wasn't sure what he was going to do.
but what he did know was he was very clear about separating harry truman the man from harry truman the president. and so when he came back to independence, he literally wanted to become part of the community again, to return home. as a child he had read about a man who had gone to war and done is public service and then went back to farming. he learned his lessons from george washington, who had his home, went off to war, then to lead the country, then went back home. this is what harry truman wanted to do. and so he came back to independence and really desired to be, you know, just a typical person, a citizen of independence. we hope that when visitors come here, they actually learn several things. number one, it goes back to that buck stops here sign that we saw earlier. the whole idea of taking responsibility for your decisions, making decisions but then staying with them, living with them, not passing the buck to someone else. the other is the idea of public
service. americans owe something to their country, and they shouldn't expect to get paid back for it. it should be part of their public service to their community, whether it's local, state, national, whatever. the other thing is just learning. harry truman was a voracious wanted to he encourage people to read. and we hope the exhibits here tell at least the tip of the iceberg of truman's decisions. what we really want people to do is read more about the presidency, read more about the government. >> our cities tour staff recently traveled to independence missouri to learn about its rich history. learn more about independents and other stops at c-span.org/cities tour.