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Truman

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ISBN: 978-0743508063
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Harry S. Truman came to power as Franklin Roosevelt passed away in 1945. Soft-spoken and unassuming, the American people wondered if he was capable enough take on the responsibility of leading the nation in war. His presidency would be characterized by various successes and failures on the issues of with atomic weapons, United Nations, civil rights, creation of Israel, Korean War, NATO, and the Cold War. I picked up David McCullough's Truman to learn more about him, and I found that the author had done a most wonderful job with this biography; a later research led to my discovery that, not too surprisingly, the book was actually the Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography in 1993.

The book devoted several pages to the arrival of Truman's ancestor in the American mid-west, whose history would shape the environment and culture of the future president's upbringing. As the author described his love for music and reading, his leadership as an Army officer in WW1, and his early days with the Pendergast political machine, I found myself coming to know Truman not only as a historical figure but as a human being. The author was successful in allowing me to understand Truman's motivations as a politician and how they affected his decision making process. Given my particular interest in the WW2 period, I found that information regarding Truman's involvement in the early years of WW2 woefully little aside from his investigations of the wastefulness of war production effort. Part of that was because Roosevelt did not always involve Truman in the decision making process, but, especially given to the kind of detail McCullough had provided with Truman's courtship with Bess Wallace as an example, I felt that to a WW2 enthusiast the attention the author had given to the atomic bombs and the surrounding controversy was somewhat inadequate. Nevertheless, I found his coverage of the Truman-MacArthur feud very helpful, providing a great opposite point of view with William Manchester's American Caesar, which took MacArthur's side; the actual truth, of course, was somewhere in the middle, and although McCullough was as pro-Truman as Manchester was pro-MacArthur, Truman provided the complementary insight needed for me to arrive at my own conclusions.

I had reviewed this book in its audio book format, which was narrated by the author himself. Not only that he did a wonderful job with the reading, McCullough's personal involvement with the audio book production was also a fine touch; somehow it was nice knowing that it was the same person reading the words as the one who had penned them, especially when the author had done such a beautiful job with his words. The production of the audio book was also well done; the audio clips of Truman's speeches and MacArthur's address to the United States Congress all effectively engaged me as a reader/listener, making me wonder why such usage of audio clips from this era, many of which in the public domain, was so rare among audio books. Finally, as the audio book closed with the recording of a piano piece played by Truman, it truly became one of the most enjoyed audio books I had listened to.

Truman's failure to bring the Korean War to a decisive conclusion began his downward spiral in the American political arena. Months prior to his departure from the White House, his approval rating would reach a record low of any US president for decades to come. Justified appreciation for his accomplishments grew as the years went on, and I would certainly imagine that McCullough's Truman only contributed to such a movement. Well researched, well written, and in the case of the audio book well narrated, I would definitely this book to fellow history enthusiasts.

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» MacArthur, Douglas
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Famous WW2 Quote
"We no longer demand anything, we want war."

Joachim von Ribbentrop, German Foreign Minister, Aug 1939