Photos: Top 20 US Presidents

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#10 Harry S. Truman
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  • #10 Harry S. Truman
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#10 Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman (May 8, 1884 – December 26, 1972) was the 33rd President of the United States (1945–1953). The final running mate of President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1944, Truman succeeded to the presidency on April 12, 1945, when Roosevelt died after months of declining health. Under Truman, the U.S. successfully concluded World War II; in the aftermath of the conflict, tensions with the Soviet Union increased, marking the start of the Cold War. Truman was born in Missouri, and spent most of his youth on his family's farm. During World War I, Truman served in combat in France as an artillery officer in his National Guard unit. After the war, he briefly owned a haberdashery and joined the Democratic Party political machine of Tom Pendergast in Kansas City, Missouri. He was first elected to public office as a county official, and in 1934 became U.S. senator. He gained national prominence as head of the wartime Truman Committee, which exposed waste, fraud, and corruption in wartime contracts. While Germany surrendered a few weeks after Truman assumed the Presidency, the war with Japan was expected to last another year or more. Truman's decision to use nuclear weapons against Japan led to a speedy end of the war but remains controversial. His presidency was a turning point in foreign affairs, as the nation supported an internationalist foreign policy in conjunction with European allies. Working closely with Congress, Truman assisted in the founding of the United Nations, issued the Truman Doctrine to contain communism, and passed the $13 billion Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe. Wartime alliance with the Soviet Union became peacetime opposition, and the Cold War began. He oversaw the Berlin Airlift in 1948 and the creation of NATO in 1949. When communist North Korea invaded South Korea in 1950, he immediately sent in U.S. troops and gained UN approval for the Korean War. After initial success, the UN forces were thrown back by Chinese intervention and the conflict was stalemated through the final years of Truman's presidency. Corruption in Truman's administration, which was linked to certain members in the cabinet and senior White House staff, was a central issue in the 1952 presidential campaign which Adlai Stevenson, Truman's successor as Democratic nominee, lost to Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower. Popular and scholarly assessments of his presidency were initially negative, but eventually became more positive after his retirement from politics. Truman's 1948 election upset for his full term as president is routinely invoked by underdog candidates.