The Trials of Harry S. Truman: The Extraordinary Presidency of an Ordinary Man, 1945-1953

The Trials of Harry S. Truman: The Extraordinary Presidency of an Ordinary Man, 1945-1953

by Jeffrey Frank
The Trials of Harry S. Truman: The Extraordinary Presidency of an Ordinary Man, 1945-1953

The Trials of Harry S. Truman: The Extraordinary Presidency of an Ordinary Man, 1945-1953

by Jeffrey Frank


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Jeffrey Frank, author of the bestselling Ike and Dick, returns with the “beguiling” (The New York Times) first full account of the Truman presidency in nearly thirty years, recounting how a seemingly ordinary man met the extraordinary challenge of leading America through the pivotal years of the mid-20th century.

The nearly eight years of Harry Truman’s presidency—among the most turbulent in American history—were marked by victory in the wars against Germany and Japan; the first use of an atomic bomb and the development of far deadlier weapons; the start of the Cold War and the creation of the NATO alliance; the Marshall Plan to rebuild the wreckage of postwar Europe; the Red Scare; and the fateful decision to commit troops to fight a costly “limited war” in Korea.

Historians have tended to portray Truman as stolid and decisive, with a homespun manner, but the man who emerges in The Trials of Harry S. Truman is complex and surprising. He believed that the point of public service was to improve the lives of one’s fellow citizens and fought for a national health insurance plan. While he was disturbed by the brutal treatment of African Americans and came to support stronger civil rights laws, he never relinquished the deep-rooted outlook of someone with Confederate ancestry reared in rural Missouri. He was often carried along by the rush of events and guided by men who succeeded in refining his fixed and facile view of the postwar world. And while he prided himself on his Midwestern rationality, he could act out of instinct and combativeness, as when he asserted a president’s untested power to seize the nation’s steel mills.

The Truman who emerges in these pages is a man with generous impulses, loyal to friends and family, and blessed with keen political instincts, but insecure, quick to anger, and prone to hasty decisions. Archival discoveries, and research that led from Missouri to Washington, Berlin and Korea, have contributed to an indelible and “intimate” (The Washington Post) portrait of a man, born in the 19th century, who set the nation on a course that reverberates in the 21st century, a leader who never lost a schoolboy’s love for his country and its Constitution.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781501102905
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: 03/14/2023
Pages: 576
Sales rank: 103,098
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.60(d)

About the Author

Jeffrey Frank was a senior editor at The New Yorker, the deputy editor of The Washington Post’s Outlook section, and is the author of Ike and Dick. He has published four novels, among them the Washington Trilogy—The Columnist, Bad Publicity, and Trudy Hopedale—and is the coauthor, with Diana Crone Frank, of a new translation of Hans Christian Andersen stories, which won the 2014 Hans Christian Andersen Prize. He is a contributor to The New Yorker, and has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, Bookforum, and Vogue, among other publications.

Table of Contents

Prologue The Missourian ix

1 President Truman 1

2 Terminal 15

3 An Unsteady Alliance 30

4 "The Basic Power of the Universe" 44

5 Truman's "Conniver" 58

6 Churchill Makes Mischief 71

7 The Quick and the Dead 82

8 A Season of Disharmony 96

9 The Doctrine's Dilemma 106

10 Wealth of a Nation 122

11 Strange Interludes 133

12 A Cemetery for Dead Cats 141

13 Minority Reports 150

14 The Frontiers of Hazard 165

15 The Scrapper 175

16 Office Politics 188

17 "First Lightning" 204

18 "A New Fanatic Faith" 216

19 A "Border Incident" 229

20 "The Second Hand of Destiny" 246

21 A Meeting on a Small Island 263

22 Mense Horribilis 278

23 "Voice of God" 299

24 "The Mess in Washington" 313

25 Dubious Battles 327

26 Bad Chemistry 340

27 The Bitter End 351

Epilogue Citizen Truman 363

Acknowledgments 381

Notes 385

Sources 471

Illustration Credits 499

Index 501

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