Trumanby Published 14 Jun 1993
Truman Ebook Description
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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.
David McCullough is a master, plain and simple. Who else could make a 992 page paperback biography compulsively readable? I knew essentially nothing about Harry Truman before reading this biography, and now I think he might be my favorite president. Truly a man of the people, who never let the highest office in the country go to his head, Truman made difficult decisions that would have crippled other men within the first four months of his presidency. While not all of his policies were popular during his time, most have been shown to be the right course of action in hindsight. His decision to use the atomic bomb to end World War II lay heavily on conscience, and because of that he was reluctant to ever use it again. Because of this, even with public outcry growing, he refused to use the atomic bomb or the newly developed H-bomb in Korea. Truman was a man of his principles, who put the good of the nation and the people who lived in it before the good of his own public image. I think all of our modern leaders could learn some valuable lessons about public service by following the example of Harrison S. Truman.
For some reason or another, I had to read this book in 3 days. It was like a full time job, considering it's about 3284293842034820384238 pages long. I did it though, and for about two months or so I was a motherfucking Harry Truman expert. Then I forgot almost everything.
Anyway, if you want seem like a history encyclopedia for a little while, take a three-day weekend and rip this bad boy open. Maybe you'll get laid.
(one word of caution: reading this gave me the temerity to say "mcarthur was a giant pussy" in history class, at which point i found out that the substitute that day had served under mcarthur. apparently that's a sensitive subject. be careful)
A good and complete biography of Truman. David McCullough describes well the political events surrounding the era and his climb to power – which was gradual but well earned. Truman was only two years younger than Roosevelt but in far better health. He was a vastly different person more prone to indiscretions. Even so he survived well in a turbulent era - the end of World War II, taking the decision to drop the atomic bomb on Japan, the commencement of the Cold War, the creation of the state of Israel (where he did waffle) and the Korean War. Truman importantly promoted the U.N.
He was not afraid to take decisions, but he could be petulant as in writing to the Washington Post when they dared to criticize his daughter’s musical performance at a concert (this was something Roosevelt would never have done).
I felt the author devoted too many pages to the 1948 campaign (over 60 pages). Very little was said about Truman’s efforts to desegregate the armed forces (how much opposition did this receive?) Also I am somewhat perplexed about Truman’s marriage to his wife Bess. He did marry quite late – at 35 – which is unusual in that era. Bess did not spend that much time with him in Washington during his Senate and Presidential years when he could have used the emotional support. Also they resided in her mother’s house when in Independence, Missouri. For a strong-willed individual Harry Truman seemed to be dominated by both his wife and mother-in-law.
His firing of Douglas MacArthur is well depicted as well as his increasing frustration with Joe McCarthy – where it could be said that it was beneath presidential dignity to deal with such a scoundrel. His friendship with his staff – Clark Clifford, Dean Acheson and the illustrious George Marshall is conveyed. His growing irritation with his successor Eisenhower is interesting.
A portrait of a warm and up-front person emerges – plus that of someone who could quickly grasp new situations and evaluate new personalities (with the exception of Josef Stalin – but he was not alone in this). He was expeditious to root out the “hangers on” of the Roosevelt administration, but did not lose site of the accomplishments of that era.
ETA: I adored this book when I read it, but now my perspectives are a bit changed....... I am currently reading American Prometheus by Kai Bird. It is essential to get another view on Truman's actions and choices concerning atomic weapons, the arms race and the Cold War. To get a fuller understanding of the time and era I strongly recommend reading American Prometheus too!
I listened to the audiobook format of this book, that means more than 54 hours, and I enjoyed every minute of it. Little content could have been removed. The narration by Nelson Runger was wonderful. I have complained about his slurping before, but the producers have removed the slurps. His steady clear pace perfectly matches the informative text. His intonation for Truman, was perfect, both the strength of his speeches in the presidency and his reflections, to-the-point remarks and sarcastic jokes of the elderly man. Our voice does change with age, and Runger has mastered this. (Some voices were, however, in my opinion, too low and ponderous.) At the end, and this is a book that covers all aspects of Truman’s life, from birth to death, i.e. 1884-1972, there were tears in my eyes. This is a book about a man dedicated to fighting for his beliefs, but he was a politician at heart. Keep in mind that I tend to instinctively distrust politicians. It is rather remarkable that I so loved this book. I will try to never again shy away from a book about politicians……well, at least such books written by John McCullough.
Why did I love this book? You learn about American life and values as they were when America was still a land of pioneers to what it had become by the middle of the 20th Century. What the political parties stood for has changed dramatically with time. On completion of this book you have a thorough understanding of the American party system. You travel from an agrarian Midwest value mindset through WW1, the Depression, the New Deal, WW2, the emergence of atomic weapons, the birth of the UN and NATO, the Berlin blockade and successful airlift, the Cold War and McCarthyism, the focus on civil rights, the Korean War all the way up to Kennedy’s presidency. You follow this time-period through the life of a man living through its events, and a man who as president shaped many of these events. McCullough gives you a thorough understanding of all these events and a thorough understanding of the man Truman.
It is an honest book that never shies away from the mistakes made. I wasn’t thrilled with Truman’s friendship and dependence upon Pendergast. I felt that Truman’s relationship with his wife was at first not adequately clarified. By the end I understood Truman, all of him. I believe I comprehend both his familial relationships and the value he put on friendships, which explain his relationship with Pendergast . You see both the good and the bad. I very much admire the strength and forthrightness of Truman who was at heart a marvelous politician. Yes, definitely a politician who fought for his party and made mistakes, but dam he tried his best. Always. He never shirked his responsibilities. He never ran away from a problem, but faced them head on. He was not infallible. I still don’t understand why they never had more children……
I was born in 1951. I understand now what my parents lived through and why they were who they were. I understand now what lead up to the world I was born into. I totally loved this book.
I see that Steve has recently given a marvellous, in-depth review of this splendid biography on Harry S. Truman’s life that I purchased way back on 30 October 1992 (I always date my books for reference) and so I won't even attempt to write a review such as his but then I probably wouldn't have been capable of doing that anyway. This after all is American history.
I had forgotten that I had this book but I had been browsing through another goodreads' author’s books (I always do this if they "like" the same book that I do, and I just like to check on what sort of books they are reading), and saw the picture of Truman on the cover of one of them. Due to that I came across Steve’s review.
It's a large book of 996 pages, excluding the source notes, index and bibliography, and it took me a while to read but it was absolutely riveting. The only thing that I didn't like, and I never have, is the use of an atomic bomb at Hiroshima and the disastrous consequences. Such a waste of human life but then to put it tritely, that’s war I guess. I am an individual who detests any form of violence (I live in dread of another world war) and/or suffering to human beings and animals. I cannot even intentionally kill an ant, and if there is a downpour and all the worms are hurrying across the roads, I will pick them up, and put them quite a way from the edge of the road up so that cars will not run over them.
Part Three, To the Best of my Ability, from page 345 gives all the background to this horrific act. Can one blame Roosevelt for setting this idea in motion, in retaliation for what happened at Okinawa, prior to his death on April 12, 1945? Also why did Truman delay on the date? Did he subconsciously feel guilty? One will never know I guess.
“The battle of Okinawa still raged. In the end more than 12,000 Americans would be killed, 36,000 wounded. Japanese losses were ten times worse – 110,000 Japanese killed – and as later studies show, civilian deaths (innocent people!) on the island may have been as high as 150,000, or a third of the population."
Was this a game of tit for tat? Could a country decide to do that now in 2013? Would they in fact even dare with the consequences? Look at North Korea recently. That’s a disturbing fact.
“Big bomb dropped on Hiroshima August 5 at 7:15 pm Washington time. First reports indicate complete success which was even more conspicuous than earlier test.” The second sentence sounds so callous.
The dreadful deed had been done. Was the fear that the Russians getting in first the main worry that had brought this about?
Apart from that fact, time permitting, I will reread this brilliantly written book and I highly recommend it.