Citizen Soldier: A Life of Harry S. Truman [NOOK Book]


In Citizen Soldier, historian Aida Donald charts the life and legacy of the thirty-third president, who rose from a modest background to preside over the end of World War II and the beginning of the Cold War—one of the most momentous shifts of the twentieth century.

Born in late 19th-century Missouri to a family of down-on-their-luck farmers, Truman was an utter romantic and something of a mama’s boy during his childhood. As a young ...
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Citizen Soldier: A Life of Harry S. Truman

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In Citizen Soldier, historian Aida Donald charts the life and legacy of the thirty-third president, who rose from a modest background to preside over the end of World War II and the beginning of the Cold War—one of the most momentous shifts of the twentieth century.

Born in late 19th-century Missouri to a family of down-on-their-luck farmers, Truman was an utter romantic and something of a mama’s boy during his childhood. As a young entrepreneur, he experienced several crushing defeats, and only truly found a sense of purpose when he enlisted in the army in 1917. Truman cut his teeth as a leader while serving in an artillery unit in the Missouri National Guard, and returned to the States something of a hero. Back home, however, Truman soon found himself on the losing end of another business venture. When the father of an army buddy encouraged him to run as the Democratic candidate for a judgeship in Jackson County, Missouri, Truman took the plunge into politics.

Truman’s road to the presidency was a rocky one. Donald shows that Truman tried to honor his romantic ideals and be an honest politician, but had to compromise his values in order to get ahead in politics. Indeed, the corruption of some of his early political bedfellows so distressed Truman that he suffered acute psychosomatic illness as a result. But his hard work and dogged persistence eventually paid off, landing him in the U.S. Senate and then the vice presidency. When FDR passed away in April of 1945, Truman unexpectedly found himself at the helm of the American war effort—and in command of the most lethal weapon humanity had ever seen. Truman’s order to detonate nuclear bombs over Japan four months after assuming the presidency quickly brought World War II to a close, but has of course troubled many historians. Donald takes a candid look at the issue, using untapped sources to explain Truman’s decision-making process and expand our understanding of that world-changing moment.

With remarkable clarity and insight, Donald shows how, perhaps more than any other head of state, Truman delineated the complex international order that would dominate the four decades after World War II. Donald also explores the political dimensions of Truman’s presidency, paying special attention to his Fair Deal, which shored up and extended the liberal programs of FDR’s New Deal, laying the groundwork for future reforms and helping to fundamentally transform the country we live in today. Many of Truman’s accomplishments went unappreciated at the time; he managed to hang onto the presidency for a second term, but that was marred by scandal, including a Senate investigation into corruption among officials in Truman’s administration, and he left the White House with an abysmal approval rating, considered by many to be a failed president. Only with hindsight, Donald says, can we truly appreciate Truman’s complex legacy.

In Citizen Soldier, Donald reveals the moments of astonishing greatness and, at times, profound disappointment that defined Truman’s life. A psychologically penetrating portrait, Citizen Soldier presents this underdog president in his many shades of grey, never shying from describing his shortcomings or failures, but also giving full attention to his many accomplishments as a politician and leader.
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Editorial Reviews

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In mid-April 1945, Harry S. Truman had just completed his 82nd day as Vice President when he was called to the White House and was abrumptly informed that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt had died. This sudden ascension was not the first stunning turn in the life of this son of poor Missouri farmers. As revealed in this new life by biographer Aida Donald (Lion in the White House), Truman repeated faced disheartening setbacks in his quest for business and political success. Though dismissed by some at the time as an accidental president, he moved quickly to make decisive and controversial decision; not least of which was his order to use nuclear weapons against Japan. This readable biography covers the full trajectory of our 33rd president's life.

Publishers Weekly
Boosting a revamped political profile of President Harry S. Truman, Donald suggests thatthis son of Missouri farmers, at the peak of his powers during post-WWII America, was one of the most effective chief executives in the modern era. Taking a psychological approach, Donald stresses Truman’s experiences as an officer in WWI in shaping the self-described “sissy” into a man ready for any challenge, who though tarnished by an early affiliation with the corrupt Pendergast machine in Kansas City, rose through the political ranks to the presidency. Donald moves capably beneath Truman’s public persona to uncover the plainspeaking, resolute inner man as he picks up the pieces of the stalled New Deal, ends WWII with two A-bombs, faces down Stalin at Potsdam, and fires the great Gen. Douglas MacArthur in a much publicized dustup. But Truman’s administration limped to its conclusion. The president was fighting a war on two fronts: in Korea, and at home: several corruption scandals dropped his approval rating from 82% in 1945 to a low of 23% during the Korean conflict. With her research and historical expertise, Donald, former editor-in-chief of Harvard University Press, hassucceeded in making Truman much more than a silent commander of a failed watch, into a fully formed man of sizable defects and masterful achievements. Agent: Sandra Dijkstra, Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency. (Oct.)
Kirkus Reviews
A scholar of American history builds on previous biographies of Harry Truman to offer her own interpretation of his career. Donald (Lion in the White House: A Life of Theodore Roosevelt, 2007), the former editor in chief of Harvard University Press, was fascinated by Truman's ascendancy to the presidency near the end of World War II. However, she felt that previous biographies (e.g., David McCullough's Truman and Alonzo L. Hamby's A Man of the People), despite their overall excellence, failed to emphasize certain of his character qualities. Compared to other Truman biographers, Donald emphasizes the psychology of the man to a greater extent and the outward actions of the man to a lesser extent. She delves into the countervailing influences of Truman's strong mother and weaker father; the future president's despair at spending a decade on the family farm, trying but failing to make it prosperous; the leadership qualities he developed during World War I; his epic love for his wife and total devotion to his daughter; his ability to maintain his personal integrity while struggling with the corrupt political machine of Kansas City; and the forces behind his decision to initiate a nuclear attack on Japan to end WWII. Donald argues that Truman's psychological state while a senator from Missouri opens vital vistas on his performance as an accidental president, and her most searing insight involves Truman's loyalty to family, to political allies and to soldiers with whom he served. That intense loyalty, writes the author, led him to make some personally and politically harmful decisions. A skillful psychobiography by an empathetic scholar.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465033072
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 10/2/2012
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 675,504
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

Aida D. Donald is the author of Lion in the White House: A Life of Theodore Roosevelt. She holds a Ph.D. in American history and has taught at Columbia University. Formerly editor-in-chief of Harvard University Press, Donald lives in Lincoln, Massachusetts.
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