Alexander defeats the Persians, Destruction of PompeiiThe Crusades, The Black Death...Salem Witch TrialsWriting the Declaration of Independence, Battle of Lexington...Escape from slavery, Death of President Garfield..Battle of Gettysburg, Death of Lincoln...Custer's Last Stand, The Death of Billy the Kid...San Francisco Earthquake, Sinking of the Titanic...
Death of an air ace, Gas attack...Attack at Pearl Harbor, D-Day...Freeze Frame of HistoryPhotographic Gateways to HistorySounds from the pastFilm Clips from the PastList of ContentsReturn to Home Page

A Prisoner of the Boxer Rebellion, 1900

The Galveston Hurricane of 1900

Farm Wife, 1900

The Death of Queen Victoria, 1901

The Assassination of President William McKinley, 1901

The Roosevelts Move Into the White House, 1901

Riding a Rural Free Delivery Route, 1903

First Flight, 1903

The Gibson Girl

Early Adventures With The Automobile

Immigrating to America, 1905

San Francisco Earthquake, 1906

Henry Ford Changes the World, 1908

A Walk with President Roosevelt, 1908

Children At Work, 1908-1912

On Safari, 1909

Birth of the Hollywood Cowboy, 1911

Doomed Expedition to the South Pole, 1912

Sinking of the Titanic, 1912

1st Woman to Fly the English Channel, 1912

The Massacre of the Armenians, 1915

The Bolsheviks Storm the Winter Palace, 1917

The Execution of Tsar Nicholas II, 1918

President Wilson Suffers a Stroke, 1919

Making Movies, 1920

King Tut's Tomb, 1922

Coolidge Becomes President, 1923

Adolf Hitler Attempts a Coup, 1923

Air Conditioning Goes to the Movies, 1925

Prohibition, 1927

Lindbergh Flies the Atlantic, 1927

Babe Ruth Hits His 60th Home Run, 1927

The Wall Street Crash, 1929

The Bonus Army Invades Washington, D.C., 1932

The Reichstag Fire, 1933

Shoot-out with Bonnie and Clyde, 1933

Migrant Mother, 1936

The Bombing of Guernica, 1937

The Rape of Nanking, 1937

Dining with the King and Queen of England, 1938

Images Of War 1918-1971

The Death of President Franklin Roosevelt, 1945

Thoughts Of A President, 1945

Jackie Robinson Breaks Baseball's Color Barrier, 1945

The Assassination of Gandhi, 1948

The Russians Discover a Spy Tunnel in Berlin, 1956

The Hungarian Revolution, 1956

The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy, 1963

First Voyage to the Moon, 1968

President Nixon Meets Elvis, 1970

Payoff to the Vice President, 1971

President Nixon Leaves the White House 1974

Thoughts Of A President, 1945

(So, Mr. President, what do you really think of General MacArthur?)

On the afternoon of April 12, 1945, Vice President Harry Truman sat in the Capitol office of House Speaker Sam Rayburn sipping whiskey and talking politics. The conversation was interrupted by a phone call summoning Truman to the White House.

Everyone knew that President Roosevelt's health was bad, and as he drove to the White House, Truman feared the worse. He was immediately ushered to Eleanor
Harry Truman is sworn in
as President at the White House
April 12, 1945
Roosevelt's second-floor study where the first lady waited. "Harry, the President is dead," she declared as he entered the room. Stunned, Truman responded "Is there anything we can do for you?" She replied, "Is there anything we can do for you, you're the one in trouble now."

That evening, around 7 o'clock, Truman was sworn in as President. He later remarked to reporters "Boys, if you ever pray, pray for me now. I don't know if you fellows ever had a load of hay fall on you, but when they told me yesterday what had happened, I felt like the moon, the stars and all the planets had fallen on me."

River Trip

A few months later, Truman gathered some close friends and advisors around him and made a short trip along the Potomac in the presidential yacht. An avid diarist, Truman had a keen sense of history and often recorded his activities and thoughts at the end of the day:

"The White House

June 17, '45

Went down the River today on the Potomac to discuss plan, issues, and decisions. Took Charlie Rose, straight thinker, honest man who tells me the truth so I
   National Archives
Truman's hand-written diary
understand what he means; Matt Donnelly, shrewd Irishman who raises up the chips and shows me the bugs, honest, fair,'diplomatic' with me; Judge Fred Vinson, straight shooter, knows Congress and how they think, a man to trust, Judge Rosenman, one of the best in Washington, keen mind, a lucid pen, a loyal Roosevelt man and an equally loyal Truman man; Steve Early, a keen observer, political and other wise, has acted as my hatchet man, absolutely loyal and trustworthy, same can be said as about Rosenman.

We discussed public relations in Germany, Italy, France, Holland, Belgium, England and Russia. Food, fuel, transportation and what to do about it. Japanese War and the relations with China, Russia and Britain with regard to it, Supreme Commander and what to do with Mr. Prima Donna, Brass hat, Five Star McArthur [Truman misspelled MacArthur's name]. He's worse than the Cabots and the Lodges - they at least talked with one another before they told God what to do. Mc tells God right off. It is a very great pity we have to have Stuffed Shirts like that in key positions. I don't see why in Hell Roosevelt didn't order Wainwright home and let McArthur be a martyr, guess he was afraid of the Sabatoge Press - McCormick - Patterson Axis. We'd have had a real general and a fighting man if we had Wainwright and not a play actor and a bunco man such as we have now.

Don't see how a country can produce such men as Robert E. Lee, John Pershing, Eisenhower, Bradley and at the same time produce Custers, Pattons and McArthurs.

I have to decide Japanese strategy - shall we invade Japan proper or shall we bomb and blockade? That is my hardest decision to date. But I'll make it when I have all the facts.

So you see we talk about more than 'Cabbages & Kings and Sealing wax and things' They talked of many things Shoes and sealing wax and cabbages and kings."

   McCullough, David G., Truman (1993).

How To Cite This Article:
"Thoughts Of A President, 1945," EyeWitness to History (1999).

In 1942, General Jonathan Wainwright assumed command of the American forces in the Phillipines after General MacArthur escaped to Australia. Wainwright surrendered his forces to the Japanese on May 6. He became a prisoner of war and was rescued from a Japanese camp in Manchuria in August 1945.
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