Thursday 10 November 2016

Naked POTUS, number 33: Harry S. Truman

"Even the President of the United States must sometimes have to stand naked" - BOB DYLAN

Atomic fresh and ready for anything Communism can throw, it is the 33rd President of the United States, Harry S. Truman (1884-1972). Facts:


Born 8th May 1884, Lamar, Missouri
Died 26th December 1972, Kansas City, Missouri

Presidential Term 12th April 1945 - 20th January 1953

Harry S. Truman grew up in Independence, Missouri. He remains the only US President to hail from that State. As a child he dreamt of becoming a concert pianist. His family were staunch segregationists. Truman's mother held John Wilkes Booth, Lincoln's assassin, up as a hero.

After graduating high school, Truman was unsuccessful for much of his early life. Having failed to finish his law degree due to a lack of money, Truman worked on the family farm until his father's death in 1914. By then aged 30 and eager to strike out on his own, Truman headed to Oklahoma. He first invested in a zinc mine and then in an oil expedition, both of which proved unsuccessful and left him close to broke. (The oil rig, bought by another company, ultimately bore fruit with some additional drilling. It would have made Truman's fortune had he persisted.)

Truman instead went to fight in the Great War, the only US President to have done so. He was virtually blind in one eye but learned the eye chart beforehand and was declared fit for duty. Upon his return to the United States, Truman opened a men's clothing shop. When this also failed it left him, aged 38, bankrupt and without employment.

It was not until he turned to politics that his fortunes began to change. Within ten years of being elected to the Senate, Truman had become President of the United States.

Truman had only been Vice President for 82 days when he was summoned to the White House to be informed of President Roosevelt's death. He had only met with Roosevelt twice during this time, having been chosen by the Democratic Party for the role rather than by the President himself.

Truman was the first person to sanction the use of nuclear weapons. The US dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima in Japan on 6th August 1945 and another at Nagasaki three days later, effectively ending the Second World War. Truman, largely sidelined from Roosevelt's inner circle, only discovered about the Manhattan Project several days after he had assumed the Presidency.

Truman's Presidency was marked by the new Cold War realities of the atomic age. The Korean War, the Soviet Union's own acquisition of nuclear weapons and Mao Tse-Tung's Communist uprising in China all destabilised the status quo. At home, Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin began his House Un-American Activities Committee to weed out Communist sympathisers and fifth columnists in American society.

Truman himself had invoked fears of the spread of Communism in order to suit his legislative agenda, in what came to be known as The Red Scare. The Truman doctrine argued that the United States had the right to intervene when a country abroad was threatened by Communist tyranny.

Truman took numerous steps towards civil rights in American society, including desegregating the US Army and being the first President to address the NAACP. He also passed the Marshall Plan, a major humanitarian aid effort for post-war Europe, in 1947.

In 1948, Truman won one of the most unlikely election victories in American history. The Republican candidate, Thomas Dewey, led the polls so strongly that Gallup ceased all polling activity a month before the election took place. Truman's energetic, cross-country campaign had won a wavering electorate over, thanks to aggressive challenges to the Republican Senators (who had blocked legislation he wished to pass and now used Truman's failure to do so to form their own manifesto pledges) as well as his progress on civil rights and support for the new state of Israel.

Truman was the subject of an attempted assassination on 1st November 1950. Puerto Rican nationals Oscar Collazo and Griselio Torresola stormed the Blair House in Washington D.C., where the Trumans were staying during the renovation of the White House with the intention of killing the President. Torresola and a policeman were killed during a gunfight but Collazo was captured and sentenced to death. However, Truman commuted his sentence to life in prison.

By the way, the initial in his name didn't stand for anything, making him the second US President to have a fake middle letter. Like the first, Ulysses Grant, he chose 'S'.

N.B. Some parts of the above image have been redacted by the CIA for reasons of national security. An unexpurgated version of all the naked Presidents will be made available at the end of the project.

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