Mrs Bear and I have been trying to visit the Truman Library for quite a while. It was closed for major renovations for about a year, and then COVID closed it again. So we adapted our travel planning to drive through Independence, Missouri on our yearly winter drive to the deserts.
Truman’s life story is fairly well known. He lied about his age and memorized the vision chart in order to enlist for World War One. He became the Commander of Battery B, and was well liked by his soldiers. Later, he opened a clothing and hat shop, which failed when the national economy went into the Great Depression. Instead of walking away from his debts, he took a decade for Harry to pay them off.
Truman was elected to a local judgeship, which eventually led to running for the U.S. Senate, an office he held for ten years. When Franklin Roosevelt ran for a fourth Presidential term, it was well known that his health was failing. The Democratic Party went on a search to replace his Vice Presidential running mate because he was considered too progressive to replace Roosevelt. They settled on Truman, who became President eight months later after Roosevelt’s death.
Like most, I was aware of various events during the Truman Presidency. He directed the finish of the atomic bomb project and decided to unleash it in order to end WWII. He divided Europe at the end of the war, which led to the beginnings of the Cold War … He started the Berlin Airlift when the Russians cut off supplies to West Berlin. He started the Civil Rights Movement, and oversaw American involvement in the Korean War … He had to fire General McArthur for insubordination. What I was not aware of was the reality of how much happened during Truman’s seven years in office … There was some kind of crises occurring throughout his tenure.
The photo above is the recreation of Truman’s Oval Office. Prior to Truman, there were no Presidential museums or libraries. Outgoing Presidents kept gifts received during their tenure, and kept all their papers. These papers ended up everywhere or lost. Harry believed that these papers and gifts belonged to the American people. After leaving office, he became the first President to construct a library and museum of his years in office, a tradition that continued until Trump.
Here is Harry’s famous office desk ornament …
Harry and Bess are buried at the site. Their home is also open to tour, but we left this for our next visit.