Tag Archive | "Harry S. Truman"

The Real Truman Show

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In 1998, The Truman Show was a major motion picture box office and critical success.  It was the story of a young man living what appeared to be a normal life in his hometown of Seahaven, a tiny seaside village that was actually a complete television set built under a giant arcological dome.


Truman Burbank was the star of the show — but he did not know it.  He didn’t realize that his quaint hometown was a giant studio set run by a an Oz-like “wizard” who was its creator, that all the people living and working there were actors, and that even his mother and wife were contract players.  Gradually, Truman got wise.   And, what he discovered had audiences laughing, crying, and cheering.


More than a century earlier began the story of another Truman, one that would have a profound impact on U.S. history and produce our 33rd President.  On May 8, 1884 in Lamar, Missouri was born Harry S. Truman, the oldest son of John and Martha Ellen Truman.  His parents chose S. as his a middle initial to please his two grandfathers who both had middle names beginning with the letter “S.”


A farmer and livestock dealer, John Truman would relocate his family several times before ultimately settling in Independence, Missouri where young Harry would spend most of his boyhood on the farm.  John’s activity in the local Democrat Party provided Harry with political connections and helped to establish the ideals that he would hold for a lifetime.


As a boy, Harry was deeply interested in music, reading, and history and studied the piano until the age of 15 – all with the encouragement of his mother who remained his confidante well into his Presidency.


Coming from humble roots, Harry learned the value of hard work and his life experiences helped to shape his perspectives.  At the age of 16, he secured a job as timekeeper on the Santa Fe railroad where he came in contact with down and out hobos at nearby camps.  He then got a few clerical jobs and worked in the mailroom of the Kansas City Star before returning to the farm.


He dreamed as a child of attending the United States Military Academy.  His eyesight, however, prevented his entry.  He later enlisted in the Missouri Army National Guard, passing the vision examination by memorizing the eye chart and serving from 1906 until 1911.


With the onset of World War I, Harry rejoined the Guard and was sent to Camp Doniphan near Lawton, Oklahoma.  At Camp Doniphan and later at Fort Sill, he would meet two men that would be intimately involved in his post-war life – Edward Jacobson, a Jewish clothing salesman from Kansas City with whom he ran the Camp’s canteen and Lieutenant James M. Pendergast, nephew of Kansas City political boss Tom Pendergast.


Harry attained the rank of Captain in the United States Army before being deployed to France as Commander of Battery D, 129th Field Artillery, 60th Brigade, 35th Infantry Division.  As Commander, Captain Harry Truman disciplined his poorly trained unit and led them through the war without a single casualty.  His artillery unit supported General George S Patton’s tank brigade in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.  On November 11, 1918, just before the 11th hour, his unit fired the last shots of World War I, a war in which Harry Truman distinguished himself as a leader.


After the war, Harry and his good friend Edward Jacobson opened a haberdashery in Kansas City, Missouri.  During their partnership, Harry learned a lot about Zionism from his friend and, after initial success, they were forced into bankruptcy in the recession of 1921.  Harry’s long-standing friendship with his Jewish partner, however, would leave an indelible mark on him.


Harry moved back to Independence Missouri, and married Bess Wallace on June 28, 1919, climaxing a long romance.  The couple would later have one child named Margaret in 1924.


In 1922, with the help of Kansas City political boss Tom Pendergast, Harry was elected as an Administrative Judge in the Jackson County court, this would be the first of the stepping stones that would carry Harry’s political career through the 1930s and into the world of national Democratic politics with President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal.


Unsatisfied with his judgeship, Harry aspired to the political office of Governor or Congressman, but his political boss Tom Pendergast rejected the idea.  In 1934, however, Pendergast reluctantly backed Harry Truman in a bid for the U.S. Senate and was pleasantly surprised when Truman won.


Harry entered the Senate with the reputation as the ”Senator from Pendergast,” causing him great concern and leading him to state that ”although he offered patronage to Pendergast, he always voted his conscience.”  He later defended his patronage statement by saying that by “offering a little to the machine, he gained a lot.”


As a new Senator, Harry spoke out against corporate greed, uncontrolled Wall Street speculation, and special interests groups gaining undue influence in government affairs, issues that were largely ignored by the Roosevelt Administration.


In 1940, Truman – politically weakened by his benefactor Pendergast’s imprisonment for income tax evasion – faced a strong Republican challenge for his Senate seat.  Harry insisted that a Republican judge and not the Roosevelt Administration led to the downfall of the Pendergast machine. His future now looked dim, but support from St. Louis party leader Robert E. Hannegan helped pave the way for his reelection.


As a senator Truman visited military bases and noticed the waste and profiteering that existed.  He formed the Truman Committee to investigate and expose the corruption, saving the government $15 billion dollars, elevating his national exposure with his picture on the cover of Time Magazine, and erasing from the public’s memory his association with the discredited Tom Pendergast.  No other Senator to that point in time had ever gained more benefit from a special investigation committee than Harry S Truman.


In 1944, the Democratic Party – at its national convention – had to decide on a new running mate for incumbent President Roosevelt.  With the strain of World War II and health problems plaguing the President, most party leaders considered he would not finish his term of office; thereby, making the selection of a Vice Presidential candidate even more critical.


The party favorite was Henry Wallace, but some party leaders thought he was too far to the left and eccentric.  The President suggested Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas or Harry Truman as potential running mates.  Ultimately, Truman received the nomination.


Truman’s nomination, referred to as the ”Second Missouri Compromise,” helped spur the ticket to a 432 – 99 electoral vote victory over New York Governor Thomas E. Dewey and his running mate, Ohio Governor John Bricker.  And, on January 20, 1945, Harry S. Truman was sworn in as the Vice President of the United States of America.


In Truman’s short time as Vice President before Franklin Roosevelt’s death, the two met in private on only two occasions, and the President rarely consulted him on important decisions.   As a result, when President Roosevelt died on April 12, 1945 – just 89 days into the term – Truman required extensive briefings to gain the knowledge he needed to assume the reins of power, including the top secret Manhattan project that built the atomic bomb.


As President, Truman requested that President Roosevelt’s cabinet remain, but made it clear that he was in command.  His decision to use the atomic bomb in the Pacific theater of war against the Japanese was highly controversial but ended World War II and saved untold American lives that would have been required to subdue the Japanese.


His command also extended to international and race relations.  He was a major supporter of the United Nations and even appointed Eleanor Roosevelt to serve on its first American delegation.  He also was the first to recognize the State of Israel, just eleven minutes after it declared itself a nation on May 14, 1948 – despite fears that the Arab states would retaliate by cutting off oil exports to the U.S.  At the 1948 Democratic National Convention, Truman supported a strong civil rights platform plank as a means of uniting the northern and southern wings of the Party and, two weeks later, issued an Executive Order integrating the Armed Forces of the United States.


Perhaps best remembered for his stunning come from behind victory over Thomas Dewey in the 1948 Presidential Election, Truman was a man of strong character who took responsibility for his actions and never forgot his friends – regardless of the political costs.  He was unambiguous in his speech and fearless in making the tough governmental and political decisions.  And, like a fictitious character developed four decades after he left office, he learned from his experiences and recognized the opportunities to apply that knowledge.  His story, like Truman Burbank’s will leave you laughing, crying, and cheering.  His is certainly one of the greatest stories of the 20th  Century.



Top Secret!

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Many events that shaped our country were recorded; perhaps just as many were not.  To protect our citizenry, our military, and the masterminds involved, certain military missions and materials were labeled Classified, Secret, and Top Secret.  These were privy only to members of government sworn to secrecy.

Within our Department of Defense, clandestine matters were relegated to the broad category of “Intelligence.”  Under Intelligence, the OSS and the CIA were formed.  Prior to their formation, the U.S. Army and Navy had separate decoding departments for purposes of national security and defense. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt established the OSS (Office of Strategic Services) in the midst of World War II: June 13, 1942.  He fashioned it after British Intelligence. 

The OSS was charged with the collection and analysis of strategic information.  This information facilitated strategic decision making on the part of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  During 1943 through 1945, the OSS also recruited and trained troops in China and Burma to fight the Japanese Army.

In January 1946, President Harry S. Truman established the CIU (Central Intelligence Unit), which later came to be known as the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency).  So much for history of the CIA, whose directors and agents were was skilled at keeping secrets.  As I just said, that was history.  Now, it’s a new dawn, a new day, and the concept of Top Secret has devolved.  Case in point:

Recently, the world learned of the demise of Osama bin Laden.  Based upon information concerning his whereabouts, our Intelligence developed a covert mission: via the U.S. Navy Seals, we found and destroyed the engineer of 9/11.

Although the Secretary of Defense wanted the mission considered Classified at the very least, the White House either indulged or cultivated the media’s frenzy to break the news before President Obama had announced it.  In light of Obama’s subsequent escalating ratings in polls, one wonders if this was done to elevate the President’s sinking popularity.

Needless to say, the bin Laden coverage has been an unending soap opera depicting everything that went down, including the burial at sea.  It was originally announced that the bastard “swam with the fishes” in an undisclosed location because a) no nation would receive his remains and b) we wished to discourage reprisals from Muslim terrorists.  Explain, then, how the media has now come to reveal the body of water in question as the Arabian Sea, as well as the name of the ship charged with the burial!

I guess the next step will be paparazzi divers taking photos of the deceased in Davy Jones locker, or maybe an underwater tour.  You’ve heard of The Hunt for Red October?  Well, get ready to book passage on The Search for Osama bin Laden!

Our media hounds also informed the world that during the siege of bin Laden’s compound, Navy Seals risked their lives in an attempt to locate the weasel’s diary and other vital information.  Who needs spies and lip service to “transparency” when we have the media?

In addition to the media fest, we are now being criticized by the United Nations for improper conduct (!) and condemned by Muslim extremists for bringing the 9/11 butcher to justice.  Maybe Secretary Gates was right.  But, in the words of a well-known rapper, “It’s too late to debate.”

Our friends the Chinese are now examining the wreckage of the destroyed Blackhawk helicopter for knowledge of Top Secret stealth equipment.  I don’t know why they’re wasting their time on this investigation.  All they had to do was tune into the media, which gives away military secrets for the sake of boosted ratings.

During World War II, any plans or movement on the part of Allied troops were considered vital information to our enemies.  To guard against this information falling into enemy hands, posters were placed strategically to warn of the threat of spies in the area.  Some of the slogans were, “Loose Lips Sink Ships” and “The Enemy is Listening.”  By contrast, our military men and women are now exposed to unnecessary risks while the media expounds, “We support our troops.”  Sure it does!

During WW II, the British Intelligence managed to keep confidential a plan that helped POWs escape German prison camps.  Before finally making the plan public in 2007, England had maintained this secret for more than 62 years.  But us?  “We can’t keep two beans in our mouths,” as my grandmother used to say.

In bringing bin Laden to justice, we rid the world of a terrible evil.  Martha Stewart might remark, “It’s a good thing.”  How, then, do we classify the resultant media exposés?  I guess that will have to remain a secret.

Hail to the Chief

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Hail to the Chief is a march played during Presidential appearances at public events as well as Congressional visits.  It is the formal, musical announcement that precedes the President of the United States of America.  As directed by the Department of Defense since 1954, the U. S. Marine Band or some other military ensemble performs the air, which is preceded by four ruffles and flourishes.

The song’s history dates back to Sir Walter Scott’s poem, Lady of the Lake, which he’d penned in the early 1800s.  Composed of four verses, in the original text, the relevant words from that poem are:

Hail to the chief, who in triumph advances.

Honour’d and blest be the evergreen pine!

Long may the tree in his banner that glances,

Flourish the shelter and grace of our line.

Heaven, send it happy dew,

Earth, lend it sap anew.

Gaily to bourgeon and broadly to grow;

While every highland glen,

Sends our shout agen,

Roderigh Vich Alpine Dhu, ho!-i-e- roe!

Circa 1812, James Sanderson, a songwriter, violinist, and conductor at the Surrey Theatre in London, England was inspired to set Scott’s words to music.  Later, The Lady of the Lake was made into a romantic melodramatic play sponsored by Martins and Reynolds in London.

On May 8, 1812, a version of this play opened in New York City.  It featured Hail to the Chief as a march and a chorus.  About the same time, the song was published in Philadelphia, thus affording it more popularity.

The song’s association with the Presidency occurred in 1815, when it was played to honor George Washington and the War of 1812.  It was then known as Wreaths for the Chieftains.

Andrew Jackson was the first living President to be honored by the song, in 1829.  The next time it was played was in 1837, at the ceremonies marking the inauguration of Martin Van Buren.  On the Fourth of July 1828, the Marine Band played it during the opening of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, an opening attended by John Quincy Adams.

Growing in popularity, the tune was requested at other Presidential inaugurations, including those of John Tyler and James Polk.  Under the Truman Administration, the Department of Defense made it the official tribute to the President.

The original lyrics were changed by Albert Gamse and set to music written by James Sanderson.  Although the lyrics follow, the song is rarely sung; it is simply played.

Hail to the Chief we have chosen for the nation

Hail to the Chief!

We salute him one and all.

Hail to the Chief,

As we pledge cooperation

In proud fulfillment of a great, noble call.


Yours is the aim to make this grand country grander.

This you will do, that’s our strong, firm belief.

Hail to the one we selected as Commander

Hail to the President!  Hail to the Chief!

As I type these lyrics by Albert Gamse, I smile when reading words like “cooperation” and “the one.”  As Reverend Wright would say, “The chickens are coming home to roost.” I wonder if Albert Gamse had a premonition of things to come in our nation’s capital?

Our founding fathers had envisioned a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, a government that would not sanction royalty to serve as its leaders.  But, a rose by any other name is still a rose!  Maybe the Presidential tribute should end with a Bronx cheer to remind the incumbent that his term in office is limited.

Imagine the next State of the Union address or other Presidential event when the song is played and sung.  Our lawmakers will probably need the assistance of paramedics for help, after choking on their words!  Only in America!


Give ‘Em Hell, Sarah

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In 1948, during a speech by Harry S. Truman criticizing his Republican opponents during the 1948 Presidential election campaign, a supporter yelled out, “Give ’em Hell, Harry!”  Truman replied, “I don’t give them Hell. I just tell the truth about them and they think it’s Hell.”  Last night in the state of Delaware, Sarah Palin yet again flexed her political muscles and helped conservative candidate Christine O’Donnell defeat liberal Republican Mike Castle in the GOP’s primary for the United States Senate.

As the 2010 mid-term elections rapidly approach, the influence of Palin and the Tea Party Movement on the Republican Party and its slate of candidates has been telling.  From the outcome of a number of tightly contested races between Palin and Tea Party backed candidates against high-profile incumbents and party regulars, it is clear who and what commands the hearts and minds of the GOP’s voter base.

Like the Tea Party Movement, Palin is a study in contrasts, a gun-toting, moose-hunting mom of five, including a special needs baby with Down Syndrome.  She is a former beauty queen and hockey mom turned public servant and political reformer.  Her family exhibits many of the problems and dysfunctions that plague many American families.  Yet, like Harry Truman, she is a plain-talker, straight-shooter, and breath of fresh Alaskan air on the American political scene.

Her plain talk, frequent gaffes, and seeming naiveté in matters of state and international affairs hurt the McCain-Palin ticket in its bid for control of the executive branch of government in 2008.  Yet, her candor, personality, and unwavering support for conservative principles, coupled with vicious personal attacks by her political opposition and many in the liberal media, endeared her to millions of Americans.

Whether one likes her or not, it is inarguable that Palin has emerged as a major force in the Republican Party and American politics.  And, as she accumulates political capital from her support of candidates like O’Donnell, one wonders if Palin intends to expend that capital in an attempt to achieve her party’s Presidential nomination and face off against Barack Obama in 2012 as the first major party female candidate for our nation’s highest office.

One thing is certain: should she decide to pursue her party’s nomination, she will present a unique and formidable challenge to any and all opposing her.  And, if she does, I suspect that, regardless of party affiliation, somewhere Harry Truman will be smiling.

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