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Born in Lamar, Missouri, Harry Truman farmed his parents’ land near Independence, Missouri, for 12 years. Soon after the USA entered World War I, Truman joined the army and served in France.
In 1922 he was elected judge of the Jackson County court.
He became a senator in 1934, and in January 1945 he became vice-president to Franklin D Roosevelt. He then became president when Roosevelt died in April that year.
Truman used the atomic bomb against Japan to end World War II, launched the Marshall Plan to restore Western Europe’s post-war economy, and nurtured the European Community (now the European Union) and NATO (including the rearmament of West Germany).
As president, Truman took part in the Potsdam Conference of July 1945. In 1947 he initiated ”the Truman Doctrine”, a policy for helping countries threatened by, or anxious to resist, communism.
In 1948 he was elected as president for a second term in a surprise victory over Thomas Dewey (1902 – 1971), governor of New York.
At home, he had difficulty converting the economy back to peacetime conditions and failed to prevent witch-hunts on suspected communists such as Alger Hiss.
In Korea, he intervened when the South was invaded by North Korea in 1950, supplying US forces to join UN forces under General MacArthur, but sacked MacArthur when the general’s policy conflicted with UN aims and threatened to start World War III.
Truman’s decision not to enter Chinese territory, betrayed by the British double agent Kim Philby, led to China’s entry into the Korean War.
His policy of containment of Soviet expansionism initiated the long Cold War with the Soviet Union.
Truman retired to Independence, Missouri. He was admitted to Kansas City’s Research Hospital and Medical Center with pneumonia on 5 December 1972. He developed multiple organ failure, fell into a coma, and died at 7:50 am on 26 December at the age of 88.