Book Review


McCullough, David G.

Harry Truman entered the American presidency in April 1945 with profound disadvantages. When Franklin D. Roosevelt died, Truman, his vice president, inherited World War II, which was ending in Europe but still going full bore in the Pacific; he had no knowledge of either wartime or post-war planning, as FDR did not keep him in the executive office "loop;" and many people regarded Truman as simply a political hack from the Pendergast machine of Kansas City.

Truman overcame every disadvantage with a plainspoken, Missouri "everyman" style that won the respect of world leaders and, grudgingly, political opponents. In nearly two full terms as president, Truman became the first man to authorize nuclear warfare, the first "Cold War" president, the first president to desegregate federal services, and the first to commit the U.S. to a United Nations-led military mission.

David McCullough, who won a Pulitzer Prize for this biography, chronicles Truman every step of the way, from Truman's days as a bespectacled schoolboy in Independence to his death in 1972; through the dismal low of America's post-war recession to the ultimate high of Truman's underdog presidential win in 1948.

McCullough is, simply, a great writer. His training was as a journalist, and it shows. His writing moves quickly, with feeling and emotion that keeps readers guessing, even when they know the outcome. I actually couldn't wait to find out if Harry (I was on a first-name basis by then) won the election of 1948, if he fired MacArthur, or if he survived an assassination attempt at Blair House!

By Steve Jones
Submitted: December 18, 2013