Harry S. Truman

33rd President of the United States (1945-1953)

Truman was considered the accidental president because he was FDR’s last-minute pick as a vice presidential running mate during the 1944 election and then became the nation’s chief executive when the ailing Roosevelt died only months into his fourth term. He replaced an icon that brought America out of the Great Depression and managed its involvement in World War II. Truman admitted to reporters that he felt “like the moon, the stars, and all the planets had fallen on me” as he made plans to end the war, establish a new world order and restore a country that was mourning a beloved leader and soon to welcome returning G.I.s. He delivered the State of the Union Address days after his swearing-in, sending a message of reassurance and inspiration while maintaining that FDR’s agenda would stay intact.

Highlights from his first 100 days:

• On May 8, 1945, he announced VE (Victory in Europe) Day as World War II allies accept the unconditional surrender of German Nazi forces, ending Adolph Hitler’s Third Reich.
• Along with representatives from 50 countries, he signed the United Nations charter at a ceremony in San Francisco.
• Truman authorized the first atomic bomb test in Alamogordo, New Mexico.
• In Potsdam, Germany, he met with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin to discuss postwar occupation of Germany and the use of the atomic bomb on Japanese forces to bring a close to the war. (Truman’s executive order would sanction the bombing of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9, 1945, respectively – ending World War II 17 days after Truman’s 100 days in office.)

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