Thursday, July 29, 2010


Just finished David McCullough's 1,000 page biography of Harry Truman - and what a riveting read it was, and what a cast of characters: Stalin, Churchill, Roosevelt, and even a cameo appearance by JFK. The book while generally lauded has been described as "a valentine to Truman" and indeed it is hard to find a lot that is critical. But the times he embraced were so important and eventful and he showed such strength and character that you are inclined to gloss over aberrations like the Loyalty Program - where federal employees were vetted for any communist tendencies. And what times: the creation and dropping of the atom bomb, the founding of NATO, the creation of Israel, the Marshal Plan and the Korean debacle. Having dropped the bombs on Japan following intense military pressure he was horrified at the civilian casualties and strongly resisted any subsequent use - the military wanted North Korea taught a lesson as well. His finest hour may have been the highly unpopular sacking of General McArthur who had lost the run of himself in Korea and was ignoring White House orders.

Incidental curiosities were unbuttoned quotes from those non-PC times where casual anti-semitism was rife and a farm boy from Missouri had no problems calling a spade a spade.

As history I'm not sure that this is the definitive word on Truman, but as an entertainment about a fascinating character and auspicious times it's hard to beat.