Harry S. Truman
Burial Location Visited President Grave #
Independence, Missouri August 13, 2009 36th Visited

One of my favorite grave sites that I have
visited is Harry Truman's in his hometown
of Independence, Missouri. The president is
buried with his wife, Bess, in a beautifully
landscaped courtyard at the center of
his presidential library and museum.

As a stickler for historical accuracy, I
particularly like this quote inscribed on a
wall near Truman's grave, which reads "The
truth is all I want for history." The former
president's personal library office is nearby.

Truman's gravestone bears a list of his
greatest achievements, including the birth
of his daughter, Margaret. She and her
husband are also interred in the courtyard,
a few feet from the president and first lady.

A life-size statue of the president stands
inside the building, looking as if it is gazing
past the eternal flame and toward the real
Truman's grave. This was my favorite
aesthetic feature at the library, and it
looked even better at night.

Fast Facts *

- First Lady: Elizabeth Virginia Wallace Truman
- Spouse: Elizabeth Virginia Wallace Truman (m. 1919-1972)

- Political Party: Democratic Party

- Term: 1945-1953
- Vice President: Alben William Barkley (1949-1953)

- Born: May 8, 1884

- Died: December 26, 1972

- Age:

- Cause of Death: Cardiovascular Failure

 Cemetery: Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum, Independence,     Missouri
- GPS Coordinates: 39°06'12.7"N 94°25'17.0"W

* Background on Harry S. Truman * *

* Born in 1884, it took Harry Truman many years to find his place in the world. He was a good student with an interest in military history, but his poor eyesight precluded him from acceptance at the U.S. Military Academy. With his family’s savings wiped out by his father’s unfruitful business ventures, Harry did not attend college. He worked numerous odd jobs to make ends meet, and from 1905 to 1911 he served in the Missouri National Guard. He rejoined during World War I in 1917, at age thirty-three. When his unit became federalized, Truman was required to take a physical exam, which he passed by memorizing the eye chart. The captain led a battery in France, then returned to his native Missouri, where in late 1919 his opened a haberdashery with Army buddy Eddie Jacobson. The shop was shuttered in 1922 during a post-war economic recession. Around that time, another Army comrade, Jim Pendergast, asked Harry to run for judge of the eastern district of Jackson County, a commissioner position. This connected Harry with the Pendergast political machine, run by Jim's uncle, Tom Pendergast. Truman was elected three times and carefully balanced his loyalty to the Pendergast organization and his duty toward his constituents. Though his boss encouraged him to accept kickbacks, Truman maintained his integrity and refused.

In 1934, against the wishes of his wife, Bess, Harry ran for U.S. senate, with Tom Pendergast's reluctant backing. He won, but it took years for Truman to shed the nickname "the senator from Pendergast" and the perception of corruption. Harry shied from the spotlight during his first term, but emerged as a more prominent figure during World War II. After conflict erupted in Europe, President Franklin D. Roosevelt requested Congress increase the defense budget. Congress acquiesced, but during the military build-up Truman received constituent complaints that warned of waste and fraud. He surreptitiously inspected military camps in the South and found the accusations to be true. In February 1941, he proposed a legislative committee to evaluate the awarding of defense contracts. The bipartisan Senate Special Committee to Investigate the National Defense Program, nicknamed "the Truman Committee," was credited with saving taxpayers billions of dollars and bolstered its mastermind's reputation.

* With the United States embroiled in war during the 1944 election cycle, the Democrats supported President Roosevelt's bid for a fourth term. Party leaders, however, were wary of his health. They knew it was possible his vice president would become the next commander-in-chief. Many of them were eager to replace incumbent VP Henry A. Wallace, whom they regarded as too liberal, impractical, and a liability for the ticket in what was expected to be a close race. They considered several alternatives, but pushed for the reluctant Senator Truman, a moderate. Harry was selected as FDR's running mate on the second ballot at the Democratic National Convention in July. Truman and Roosevelt met just once in private during the campaign, and even after their victory in November, Truman was kept in the dark about important matters. He took office in January 1945, and served as vice president for eighty-two days. On April 12th, he was summoned to the White House, where First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt informed him that FDR was dead. Sympathetic to the loss of her husband, Truman asked Mrs. Roosevelt if there was anything he could do for her. "Is there anything we can do for you?" she replied. "For you are the one in trouble now."

That evening, Secretary of War Henry Stimson, using vague language, first informed the newly-sworn-in president about the clandestine Manhattan Project. Thirteen days later, Truman was briefed more extensively about the American-led effort to develop nuclear weaponry capable of destroying entire cities. The war in Europe ended in May, but conflict in the Pacific Theater raged on. Deliberations ensued about how to end hostilities with Japan. 400,000 American troops had died in less than four years of direct U.S. involvement, and General George Marshall estimated an invasion of Japan would bring about another 250,000 casualties. On July 26th, ten days after the first successful detonation of a nuclear device, the United States, in conjunction with the United Kingdom and China, issued a declaration that called for the unconditional surrender of Japan's military forces. The price of rejection would be "prompt and utter destruction." Prime Minister Kautaro Suzuki ignored the ultimatum. On August 6th, at President Truman's direction, the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima, marking the first use of nuclear weaponry in war. With no response from Japan forthcoming, a second bomb was deployed over Nagasaki on August 9th. Hundreds of thousands of Japanese died in the bombings -- some instantaneously, others over the ensuing months due to burns and radiation exposure. The overwhelming majority of the fatalities were civilians. Coupled with the Soviet Union's declaration of war against Japan on the 9th, the bombings prompted Emperor Hirohito to accept surrender. Japan announced its decision on August 15th, and the official document was signed on September 2nd, ending the Second World War.

* As president, Truman faced numerous unprecedented, critical situations, all while governing in the shadow of the legacy left behind by Franklin Roosevelt, one of the most popular chief executives in American history. In July and August 1945, before the atomic bombs were dropped, Truman met with world leaders at the Potsdam Conference. Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin asserted his refusal to withdraw troops from nations the USSR had wrestled from Nazi Germany during World War II. The dictator also opposed free elections in those countries. It was soon apparent Truman would have to simultaneously contend with the threat of communist expansion abroad and adjustments to the economy at home. Veterans were returning home in need of employment, while factories were reconverting to pre-war manufacturing conditions. Truman laid out a domestic agenda that included raising the minimum wage and unemployment insurance, providing low-income housing, and implementing national health insurance. The health insurance idea was incorporated into legislation to expand social security, and was decried by the American Medical Association as "socialized medicine." Republicans and conservative Democrats united to kill the bill. 1946 was a bad year for the administration, as President Truman lost the support of liberals and labor leaders when he threatened to draft striking railroad workers into the military. Many disenchanted voters stayed away from the polls during the midterm elections, and control of both houses of the Legislative Branch fell into Republican control. Much of Truman's domestic agenda, known as the Fair Deal, was squashed by the Eightieth Congress, which the POTUS nicknamed the "Do Nothing Congress."

Truman fared better in swaying its members on foreign matters. He convinced Congress to allocate $400 million in aid to Greece and Turkey in an effort to help them stave off communist pressures. This was part of the Truman Doctrine that aimed to contain communism and prevent the successive fall of democratized nations through a domino effect. In the same vein, he persuaded Congress to dedicate $13 billion to the Marshall Plan, designed to restore European economies and prevent the propagation of Soviet influence. Truman won the presidency in his own right in an upset election in 1948, building his campaign around championing civil rights and other domestic policies. However, his second term was largely consumed with war in Asia. In June 1950, the military forces of communist-run North Korea crossed into democratic South Korea with the intent of re-uniting the two nations under communist rule. Adhering to the mission of supporting free peoples against totalitarianism, Truman sent American troops to the Korean Peninsula. He did so, though, through the United Nations and not by asking Congress to declare war. U.S. forces were ill-equipped to fight the North Koreans due to military budget cuts, and war gains ebbed and flowed. Truman was also repeatedly undermined by the head of the United Nations Command, General Douglas MacArthur, both in the press and on the battlefield. When Truman relieved MacArthur of his duty in 1951, the popular general returned home to ticker tape parades. The president, on the other hand, endured calls for impeachment from members of Congress such as Senator Joseph McCarthy. Though nothing came of it, in April 1952, the House of Representatives spent three consecutive days debating whether to impeach Truman for firing MacArthur, circumventing of Congressional approval in sending soldiers to Korea, and seizing America's steel mills during a labor strike. Though Truman's reputation would rebound precipitously in subsequent decades, he left the White House in 1953 very unpopular.

Sources Consulted                                                                                                                                                     

American Experience. "Truman, Part One: An Accident of Democracy." Directed by David Grubin. PBS, 1997.

American Experience. "Truman, Part Two: The Moon, Stars and All the Planets." Directed by David Grubin. PBS, 1997.

American Experience. "Truman, Part Three: Hell." Directed by David Grubin. PBS, 1997.

Baker, Peter. "Long Before Trump, Impeachment Loomed Over Multiple Presidents."
New York Times, November 30, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/30/us/politics/impeachment-presidents.html.

Lamb, Brian, and the C-SPAN Staff. Who's Buried in Grant's Tomb?: A Tour of Presidential Gravesites. New York: PublicAffairs, 2000. Reprinted. New York: PublicAffairs, 2003.

Markel, Dr. Howard. "69 years ago, a president pitches his idea for national health care."
PBS, November 19, 2014. https://www.pbs.org/newshour/health/november-19-1945-harry-truman-calls-national-health- insurance-program.

McCullough, David.
Truman. New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 1992.

Oshinsky, David M. "Harry S. Truman." In The Reader's Companion to the American Presidency, edited by Alan Brinkley and Davis Dyer, 386-401. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000.

The Roosevelts: An Intimate History. "A Strong and Active Faith." Directed by Ken Burns. Walpole, NH:  Florentine Films, 2014.

"US Presidents Freemasons." Grand Lodge of Virginia. Accessed July 4, 2019. https://grandlodgeofvirginia.org/us-presidents-freemasons/.

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