On May 8, 1945, the Allies accepted German surrender terms at the conclusion of the European conflict of World War II. A new job to Harry Truman, the presidency, had been one long struggle after another and he quickly nicknamed the White House the "Great White Jail." The focus of the United States was now on the Pacific as Americans were storming the beaches of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. By June, with these victories secure, the United States was in air striking distance of the Japanese mainland. It would only be a matter of time (August 15) before the Soviets planned to enter the war. Bombing raids coupled with a naval blockade had begun to decimate the Japanese population. Still, the Japanese resolve was hardened, even resolved to fight to the end. The war was nearing an end, but heavy costs of man and might would be needed to secure peace.
Truman in July 1945 had begun to look toward the postwar world. The United States was faced with the realization that the Soviet and communist ideal were gaining increased support across the globe. According to several senators that had recently toured postwar Europe in a meeting with President Truman, " . . . Their song was that France would go Communistic, so would Germany, Italy and the Scandinavians, and there was grave doubt about England staying sane."
The Potsdam Conference, a meeting of the victorious leaders of the Allies in Europe, attempted to confront the delicate balance of power of the opposing governmental structures, democracy and communism. Held in a suburb of Berlin, it commenced July 17 lasting to August 2. Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and President Truman began the conference for their respective countries.
On the agenda was the partitioning of the postwar world and resolving the problems of the war in the Far East. This included hammering out the details regarding the division of Germany; the movement of populations from Czechoslovakia, Austria, and Italy; the creation of a Council of Foreign Ministers to administer the agreed upon zones of occupation; and issuing a proclamation demanding unconditional surrender from the Japanese government. Truman, despite his relative inexperience in dealing with foreign diplomats, was holding a trump card that would give him confidence in making demands of the other leaders. . .the atomic bomb. The most powerful and destructive armament to date, the atomic bomb was solely in the hands of the United States government.
President Truman recalls many of the successes and problems of the Potsdam Conference and the postwar world in his diary entries and letters to his wife, Bess Wallace Truman. Harry Truman was very much a nineteenth century man of letters compiling more than thirteen hundred to Bess in his lifetime. Living on a farm in rural Grandview, Missouri, twenty miles away from his boyhood sweetheart, he began a life of writing. These documents offer great insight into the life, career, and character of Harry Truman. Detailing everything from his disdain for the White House to waiters wiping imaginary bread crumbs from a table setting, Truman divulges an insight into the man behind the presidency. Most of these letters are still preserved at the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library in Independence, Missouri.
limey king slang for the British king
loot the booty taken in war, or the gains of corrupt officials
Manhattan Short for the Manhattan project, it was the first successful operation to create a working atomic bomb by any government. Run by Dr. Robert Oppenheimer under direction of the United States military, the project took four years and two billion dollars to complete. plenary Fully attended or constituted as in an assembly or meeting, wrap-up session.
President Truman recalls many of the successes and problems of the Potsdam Conference and the postwar world in his diary entries and letters to his wife, Bess Wallace Truman. Students are given the opportunity to examine these unique documents and argue about their validity as primary sources while learning about the Potsdam Conference
Examine a variety of primary sources and compare them for content and validity
Reconstruct a Truman presidential event
Examine the details of the Potsdam Conference and make their own judgments and decisions on issues raised
2. Continuity and change in the history of Missouri, the United States and the world
6. Relationships of the individual and groups to institutions and cultural traditions
7. The use of tools of social science inquiry (such as surveys, statistics, maps, documents)
2aD-Describe and evaluate the evolution of the United States domestic and foreign policy including the Cold War.
2bG-Examine the wars of the 20th century, including: causes, comparisons, consequences, and peace efforts.
3B-Compare and contrast governmental systems, current and historical, including those that are democratic and totalitarian.
7B-Distinguish between primary and secondary sources.
Benchmark 3: The student uses a working knowledge and understanding of individuals, groups, ideas, developments, and turning points in the era of the Cold War (1945-1990).
1. (K) explains why the United States emerged as a superpower as the result of World War II.
2.(A) analyzes the origins of the Cold War (e.g., establishment of the Soviet Bloc, Mao’s victory in China, Marshall Plan, Berlin Blockade, Iron Curtain).
3. (A) evaluates the foreign policies of Truman and Eisenhower during the Cold War (e.g., establishment of the United Nations, containment, NATO, Truman Doctrine, Berlin Blockade, Korean War, Iron Curtain, U-2 incident).
Hamby, Alonzo. 1995. Man of the People: A Life of Harry S. Truman. New York: Oxford University Press.
McCullough, David. 1992. Truman. New York: Simon and Schuster.
Stimson, Henry L. 1947 "The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb," Harper's, vol. 194 (Feb.), 97-107.
Truman, Harry S. 1980. Off the Record: The Private Paper's of Harry S. Truman. New York: Harper & Row.
Truman, Harry S. 1983. Dear Bess: The Letters from Harry to Bess 1910-1959. New York: W.W. Norton and Sons.
Read these letters to his wife Bess concerning the Potsdam Conference noting important details about Truman's character and the rhetoric used.