The Truman (and Vandenberg) I Forgot


The last ‘story” which contained information about Harry Truman, stirred my memory of him, his presidency and the world in which I lived to put together my first political ideas. When I started to read about Franklin Roosevelt as president, I was familiar with most of what I read: using the CCC to develop newly acquired wild lands into parks, protecting wild life that was disappearing, feeding the poor, etc. As President of the only stable, prosperous, militarily well rounded nation, he and others thought some kind of world organization was necessary to prevent a return of unregulated military growth in nations following World War II.

When Harry Truman became president upon Mr Roosevelt’s death, he was faced with ending World War II and dealing with the revised world it was creating. Since Mr. Roosevelt did not fill him in on what was going on about the relationships he had created with Great Britain and Russia, he was almost overwhelmed with the situation. Two things became obvious in less than a year. One was the aggressiveness of Russia and the determination of its leadership to move communism into European states. The other was the inability of Great Britain to continue to finance its major role in world affairs. It slowly dawned on the American government that it was in line to pick up that role.

One of Truman’s early decisions was about how to use the new atomic bomb. The decision to use it on the Japanese not knowing what kind of destruction it would create had to be made. The concomitant decision was how to deal with this new realization that the Russians intended to shove communism (and their control of it) across all of Europe.

All of these decisions meant a new understanding of the position of the U. S. in world affairs, and the realization that Congress had an essential role in understanding and financing this basic replacement of Great Britain as monitor of world affairs. Arthur Vandenberg, Senator from Michigan had, like his colleague Truman, been working on the expanding involvement in world affairs. When Truman became President, the two of them gradually came together as Democratic president and Republican leader of the Senate.

The key act that welded them together was General George Marshall’s brief speech at the 1946 graduation at Harvard in which he laid out in less than fifteen minutes the needs of Europeans and the steps to be taken to put Europe back on it’s feet. Thus, was born the Marshall Plan that was essentially guided through Congress by Senator Vandenberg, supported by President Truman, and then implemented by the Administration.

What a perfect example of the functioning of the Federal Government. Now, zealots are rendering Congress ineffective. What will come is unknown, but it is not following in the direction led by Truman and Vanderbilt.

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