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The Pulitzer Prize–winning biography of Harry S. Truman, whose presidency included momentous events from the atomic bombing of Japan to the outbreak of the Cold War and the Korean War, told by America’s beloved and distinguished historian.

The life of Harry S. Truman is one of the greatest of American stories, filled with vivid characters—Roosevelt, Churchill, Stalin, Eleanor Roosevelt, Bess Wallace Truman, George Marshall, Joe McCarthy, and Dean Acheson—and dramatic events. In this riveting biography, acclaimed historian David McCullough not only captures the man—a more complex, informed, and determined man than ever before imagined—but also the turbulent times in which he rose, boldly, to meet unprecedented challenges. The last president to serve as a living link between the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries, Truman’s story spans the raw world of the Missouri frontier, World War I, the powerful Pendergast machine of Kansas City, the legendary Whistle-Stop Campaign of 1948, and the decisions to drop the atomic bomb, confront Stalin at Potsdam, send troops to Korea, and fire General MacArthur. Drawing on newly discovered archival material and extensive interviews with Truman’s own family, friends, and Washington colleagues, McCullough tells the deeply moving story of the seemingly ordinary “man from Missouri” who was perhaps the most courageous president in our history.

Topics: United States of America, Missouri, Kansas City, Informative, Poetic, American History, Politics, Atomic Bomb, American Government, Government, World War 1, Winston Churchill, Joseph Stalin, Soviet Union, Great Depression, and American Foreign Policy

Published: Simon & Schuster on Aug 20, 2003
ISBN: 9780743260299
List price: $13.99
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Outstanding book. Every candidate for President of the United States should read.read more
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Outstanding book. Every candidate for President of the United States should read.
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Another well done piece of literary history by author McCullough, once again documenting the life and times of an American President during a most interesting time in history (read John Adams). Truman was truly a remarkable man in a time where world events had been as tumultuous as at any time in American history. A must read for history buffs.
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Near the end of Truman's presidency, Winston Churchill came to visit and remarked, "THe last time you and I sat across the conference table was at Potsdam, Mr. President. I must confess sir, I held you in very low regard then. I loathed your taking the place of Franklin Roosevelt." He paused. "I misjudged you badly. Since that time, you more than any other man, have saved Western civilization." Churchill wasn't alone in his doubts about Harry Truman. A common man from Independence, Missouri, Truman became President at a key historical moment in the midst of World War II. In the first few months as President, he made the decision to drop atomic bombs in Japan and negotiated an end to the war with Churchill and Stalin at Potsdam. Truman also dealt with labor unrest at home, the rise of the Cold War, the Korean War, and more. McCullough covers these events in just the right amount of detail, and each detail is chosen carefully. While the length of the book may seem daunting, the story never drags. This is a beautiful portrait of an intriguing period of history, and it made me want to read more about many of the supporting players (Churchill, Stalin, Bess Truman, McCarthy, Eisenhower, MacArthur, etc.). Besides describing a fascinating slice of history, McCullough also provides us with insight into Truman the man. As a Missourian by birth, I recognized Truman's honesty and plainspokenness. People knew where they stood with Truman. But at the same time, Truman was anything but a simple man. As McCullough concludes, "The homely attributes, the Missouri wit, the warmth of his friendship, the genuineness of Harry Truman, however, appealing, were outweighed by the larger qualities that made him a figure of world stature, both a great and good man, and a great American president." But McCullough doesn't avoid Truman's faults - his connections with the Pendergast bosses, his unquestioned loyalty to those from back home, and his occasional temper. What we get in this biography is a complete picture of the man and the times in which he led.
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How does one write a meaningful review of a 992-page book that covers a broad swath of United States history? David McCullough doesn’t waste a word as he writes about Harry Truman the Man, who was devoted to his family and loyal to his friends, and Harry Truman the President, who loved his country and served it to the best of his ability. One would be mistaken to think that there were two different versions of Harry Truman. His equal allotments of humor, humility, and high-mindedness governed both the private and public sides of his life. His response to questions from reporters on his first day of becoming the 33rd President of the U. S. (and the 7th VP thrust into office after the sudden death of the President) was typical: “Boys, if you ever pray, pray for me now. I don’t know whether you fellows ever had a load of hay fall on you, but when they told me yesterday what had happened, I felt like the moon, the stars, and all the planets had fallen on me.”Truman faced many challenges that shaped history during his two terms in office. He is probably best known for the decision to use atomic force to expedite the end of WWII. He was also responsible for fostering the Civil Rights movement, establishing Israel as an independent nation, and instituting NATO, the Truman Doctrine, and the Marshall Plan. He even got involved in renovating the White House which was in danger of being condemned. One of the biggest thorns in his side was North Korea and the resulting “police action” as he preferred to call the war against Communist invasion. He also didn’t like the prevailing term of “Cold War” and called his relationship with Stalin “the war of nerves.” Truman was sustained through all this turmoil by a quote from another Missourian, Mark Twain: “Always do right! This will gratify some and astonish the rest.”After spending many hours reading this fine Pulitzer winning work by McCullough, I am proud to call myself a Missourian. Truman worked hard to be a decent man doing the decent thing. I personally enjoyed the references to Harry Truman as a reader. Since I am addressing fellow book lovers, I’ll conclude with Harry’s idea of heaven according to his daughter Margaret: “…to have a good comfortable chair, a good reading lamp, and lots of books around that he wanted to read.” A fine ending to a fine life. Harry Truman died on December 26, 1972 at age 88 in Kansas City, Missouri. He and his wife Bess, who died ten years later, are buried in the courtyard of the Truman Library located in their beloved Independence, Missouri.
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