Both Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower existed during the post war period in which America was facing both domestic and international pressures. During those periods, the world is facing another threat of war brought by contradicting political ideologies which are Democracy and Communism. Even inside the political arena of the United States, there were suspicions of communist collaboration that could deteriorate America’s political foundation. The “Reds” which they called it was getting stronger in many parts of the world; and in this instance, America alone stood and guarded democracy all over the world.
Truman in this political threat had done actions to counteract communist activities that may impose on weaker countries. At the same time, both of these presidents had to address internal problems particularly civil rights movements which had gained oppositions from the members of the Congress. These are not ordinary problem and it required brilliant ideas in order to come up with the best solutions. In this instance, both of these presidents made remarkable accomplishments that affect the world and America today.
This paper contains brief background of Presidents Harry Truman and President Dwight Eisenhower, as well as their military and political career. There were not many quotations but paraphrased or summarized statements of the author. The analysis and comparison of their similarities and differences cover only their military and political career. Thus, there was much mentioned of their early life except in the background. Nevertheless, Truman and Eisenhower were truly very interesting world leaders. Uncovering their strength and weaknesses and how they rise up to the highest position from a humble beginning is worth analyzing.
Dwight D. Eisenhower and His Background
Dwight D. Eisenhower was born in Texas, 1890 but was reared and brought in Abeliene, Kansas. At his young age in high school, he excelled in sports and displayed keen interest in military. He then received an appointment to WestPoint after he graduated was assigned in Texas with a rank of second lieutenant. There he met Mamie Geneva Doud whom he married in 1916 (Microsoft Encarta).
During his early military career, he served under Generals John J. Pershing, Douglas McArthur and Walter Krueger which he had displayed excellent performance. This excellence landed him promotions to the rank of Brigadier General and was called to Washington to help draft a war plans.
He became Commander of the Allied Forces in North America in November, 1942 and was the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces liberating Europe in 1944. A task must had been extremely difficult because he was commanding a multination body of “often strong willed” military commanders ensuing that they stayed in line. According to his biography, “he entered the war as an unknown soldier and ended it as a national hero” (Microsoft Encarta)
When the war was over, General Eisenhower became Chief of Staff of the US Army, until he retired in 1948. He later became President of Columbia University, but was called back to active service by President Harry S. Truman appointing as the Supreme Commander of the New Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) until his retirement in the army in 1952. He then was nominated to run for US presidency and eventually won by a margin of about seven million votes. He was inaugurated on January 20, 1953.
Harry S. Truman and his Background
President Harry Truman was the oldest of the three siblings born to Martha Ellen Truman and John Anderson Truman on May 8, 1844 in a small frame house in Camar, Missouri. At age six, his family transferred to Independence, Missouri where he attended Sunday School at a Presbyterian Church. There he met five year old Elizabeth Virginia Wallace with whom he later fell in love. Truman began his regular school when he was eight already. Although, he has eyesight problem but it did not hinder him to follow his interests: music and readings. He would got up at five in the morning each day to practice piano and read “four or five histories or biographies a week.” Thus, he acquired broad knowledge of great military battles and of the lives of greatest military leader of the world.
After his high school graduation in 1901, it was quite unclear for Truman if he could go to college because of financial problem. Opportunity at WestPoint was also not available for him due to his poor eyesight. Nonetheless, he worked as a timekeeper for the Santa Fe Railroad at $35 per month. But every time he had vacant hours, he read histories and encyclopedias. He later worked as a mail clerk for the Kansas City Star, and as a clerk for the National Bank of Commerce and a bookkeeper for the Union National Bank. The year 1906 had brought a new life to Truman. He was called home to manage a large farm of his widowed grandmother.
He became a farmer for the next ten years. When the opportunity to enlist in the military service was finally available to him, he sold all his investments and trained at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. He was later elected first lieutenant by his comrades in Missouri Second Field Artillery. Truman’s military career gave him a distinction that later proved to have helped his political career.
Though, it did not come as easy as that of Eisenhower because he had experienced ups and downs especially when he was yet backed up by the Prendergast who were actually no more than a notorious syndicate extorting money and reward to the winning candidates they supported. He was deeply associated with the Prendergast depending on them his political survival. Yet, despite of this, he maintained his integrity that paved the way for his election to higher office becoming a senator.
Truman continued his struggle towards a clean and honest public service despite of some attacks on him and accusations of being a Prendergast that made him politician. His integrity was unblemished of wrongdoings that earned him the admiration and support of his colleague. Helen Thomas in her article in the New York Times had said that “he understood that a President must have knowledgeable, selfless advisers, must be able to make tough decisions.”
Truman then, was nominated to run for the office of the Vice President and won the election. When President Roosevelt died, he was sworn in as President of the United States after merely eighty-two days in office as Vice President.
Evaluation of Similarities and Differences of the Two Presidents
Similarities in Military Career
Truman and Eisenhower had both served in the military prior to their political career; although, Eisenhower may have a better opportunity coming his way, which partly because even at his young age, he has been exceeding in his field. Eisenhower’s climb to higher politics came in quite largely due to his excellent military career. As had been said, “he entered the war as an unknown soldier and ended as a national hero.” Truman on the other hand, had been struggling to get a good opportunity. Everything seemed to be quite different because his family was poor and financially incapable to send him to college after high school. Truman had to work hard his way to be able to survive and advance himself.
Although Truman had also a brilliant military career, it did not really help him make a name for himself. Thus, when he entered into politics, he went to seek the support of notorious political machinery that extorts rewards to winning candidate they had supported. Truman had experienced ups and downs in his early political career because of his association to this notorious machinery. Eisenhower on the other hand, had all the best opportunities due to his consistent military career. There was a time after his retirement and as a University President, that he was called back to active service to assume the post of the Supreme Commander of the NATO forces. It was this time that he won nomination for the US presidency.
Truman on the other hand, had to fight his way to gain such nomination not for the office of the President but the Vice President’s. Nevertheless, he won the election after merely eighty-two days in office as Vice President; he became the President after President Roosevelt died in April 12, 1945. Eisenhower on the other hand had refused offer for nominations but eventually accepted. He did not struggle to gain nomination. It was offered him and won the Presidency. Truman won the election for the Office of the Vice President but subsequently, became President.
Similarities in Political Career
According to Thomas Bailey and David Kennedy in the book, the American Pageant, both Truman and Eisenhower had to contend issues that could potentially ruined their political career. Truman was tormented by his opponents capitalizing on his associations with the Prendergast. Eisenhower on the other hand, was scandalized by the issue of communism in America spearheaded by a senator. Eventually, both men emerged triumphantly. Both men also had controversial foreign policy regarding war torn nations of Korea and Vietnam respectively.
Truman realizing a greater risk of potential conflict with China and Russia ordered General Douglas McArthur to limit the war within the Korean soil to avoid having conflict either with China or Soviet Union; thus, dividing Korea in what is North and South Korea. Eisenhower for his part was facing the Vietnam War. When the situation call for a tough decision, Eisenhower made a controversial decision while Vice President Nixon and other high official advising of an intervention with American bombers in order to save and help French troops. Eisenhower held back. This led to the defeat of the democratic Vietnam to the Communist. Thus, Vietnam was halved but eventually lost all to Communism (Bailey and Kennedy).
Lastly, both presidents contended Russian threat Communism, which resulted in America’s arm build up. Both Truman and Eisenhower were somewhat frustrated by the Soviet aggressive behavior and the threat into the Middle East, that resulted in a long stand off between the countries which came to be known as “cold war.”
Differences between the Two Presidents
President Truman ended most of the discriminations in America whether in the military or in school. When the war was over, Truman asked the US Congress to desegregate the military but Congress refused because many of its members discriminated the black. Desegregation would give the black soldiers an equal economic opportunity with the whites. Since Congress was unwilling to do so, Truman ordered the US desegregation. This desegregation initiative was extended to black children who were discriminated in public schools. Despite strong feeling opposing desegregation of black children, Truman made sure that there is equal educational benefit for both black and white children.
Eisenhower on the other hand, was reluctant to the desegregation initiative for public school children. Eisenhower was unwilling to implement a court order denouncing segregation of black children as unconstitutional, and sought its speedy implementation of integrating schools “with all deliberate speed.” According to Microsoft Encarta, Eisenhower was “hesitant to use federal power to force social change.”
Though Eisenhower sponsored a civil right bill giving blacks the right to vote in 1956; yet, this bill was less effective because of the provision that officials who violated the law, would be tried by a jury which were mainly composed of white men who may not convict at all officials between two men. Truman was genuinely concerned with granting the blacks their basic rights, while Eisenhower was quite cold about the issue.
Another striking difference between the two men was their policy toward corruption. Truman exhibited a never compromise attitude ever since he entered into politics. When he was yet struggling politicians at a lower level, he won a four year term of office as country Presiding Judge with the help of a notorious political machinery known for taking rewards in form of government jobs from the winning candidate.
But Truman bluntly told the Prendergast that he would “fire any man who failed to do an honest job” (Microsoft Encarta). Even when Truman was investigated over his close association with the Prendergast, which revealed widespread corruption and brutality, yet, not a single corrupt action affected him. Truman was able to keep his integrity despite his intimate association with notorious political machinery.
Eisenhower on the other hand, had many problems on his second term. The most intriguing was his own chief of staff who was accused of corruption by which he was reluctant to ask for his resignation. Eisenhower may have been honest, sincere and just, but displayed weakness at the time he must be strong.
In the international affairs, both men had an important role especially in achieving peace in the Korean and the Vietnam War. They were both a great leader, endowed with great skill in international human relations. They both had initiated very successful solution to economic problems that had become their own trade mark. Truman was identified for his effort in assisting countries that fought against communism and in bringing out economic revival of some European countries through the so-called “Marshall Plan” which later known as the Truman Doctrine (Bailey and Kennedy).
According to Suchoski, the releasing the Truman Doctrine in 1947 was an idea of containing Communism and at the same time to promote the economy of the United States. Truman Doctrine is a foreign policy that “create conditions in which we and other nations will be able to out a way of life free from coercion” (Suchoski). Truman Doctrine was instituted along with the Marshall Plan to contain communism in all part of the world. Eisenhower on his part was known for his effort in extending the benefit system to the low-income workers including farmers. It was highly opposed but through his able leadership, many had benefited by this security benefits.
The Differing Priorities of the Truman and Eisenhower
In an article written by Danielle Costa, she made clearly the differing priorities of the two presidents as well strategies in dealing with internal and external problems that affect their countries. America that time had to deal with Soviet aggression so both of them pursued the containment policy in different ways (Costa). Containment policy is a kind of law that would counter act communistic activities by strengthening democracy through economic, political and military approaches. In many instances, Russia made attempts to propagate the doctrine of communism in all parts of the world; even America was subject to this plan.
Truman in his fight against Communism during the Cold War resorted to economic agenda with European countries that were devastated after the war. Economic aids were given to European countries like Italy and Germany, and other Asian countries like Japan, Philippines, and China. Although the primary reason for these economic aids was to control and prevent the spread of Communism yet; Truman was also concerned with helping those countries “help themselves” (Costa), for Truman, economic stability is “essential for peace and stability in the intentional arena” (Costa).
Eisenhower had a similar stand point about communism, he himself wanted to control Russian expansion and Stalinization which he did in a different strategy. Truman became successful in his effort, so Eisenhower only had to influence the public opinion about communism. That time of his administration, Stalin died, and Russia was very unstable politically but the threat was still there.
For this reason, Eisenhower had to “portray the USSR as strictly an aggressor state” (Costa). This kind of strategy was made because Eisenhower believed that public opinion and domestic politics is important in shaping their containment policies (Costa). In other way around, Suchoski in his study about this issue had said that Eisenhower would rather supply other countries money and weapons instead of using “American lives in a battle situation.”
In the end of the struggle of these presidents against communism, it seemed that Truman had gained more success than Eisenhower. Eisenhower lost some of his containment plan such as in Middle East countries. It was also noted according to Suchoski that during the time Eisenhower, communism had spread in larger extent.
Truman and Eisenhower because of their dedication to their country for the sake of the welfare of the people had made remarkable achievement that made the world today peaceful and progressive brought by democracy.
They may have some more similarities and differences not presented in this paper but it could not be denied that both men possessed extra ordinary skill in both domestic and international affairs. They were men of good courage, honest, sincere integrity and credibility.
Men, who were able to stand out amidst the pressing issues on all sides, had proven to be effective and successful in various fields they engaged themselves in. Eisenhower was excellent in sport, in military and political career. Truman was also excellent in various works he had done while in the service. He always came out thriving despite his lack of formal education especially during his early years in politics. He was able to carry himself up to the highest position that every politician would aspire to achieve.
Thus, they deserve to be in the list of ablest men and women that world has ever produced whose names are written on the pages of world history. They were men who had overcome all the obstacles and emerged triumphantly. Their contributions in achieving the democracy and freedom that all generations now enjoy will never be forgotten, that if they had not done their best against formidable opponent we could not have tasted the benefits of freedom.
Asian and Europeans should owe a lot from these two men. Of course, many had laid down their lives especially during the war for their country, but the brilliance of Eisenhower and Truman won, liberated and maintained peace despite provocations of going to another war is really worth noting. Thanks both to these men for their contributions in achieving freedom, peace and prosperity that the world now experience.
Bailey, Thomas and Kennedy, David. (1987) Lexington, Massachusetts: D.C. Heath and Company
Costa, Danielle. “How Domestic Politics and Balance of Power Considerations influenced the Truman and Eisenhower Administrations’ Containment Policy” (October 26, 1998)
Suchoski, Kenneth. “Containing Communism under Truman and Eisenhower” Associated Content: The People’s Media Company http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/255856/containing_communism_under_truman_and.html?page=2
“The American Presidents” Microsoft Encarta.
Thomas, Helen. “More Hell from Harry” The New York Times Archives (June 1, 2007)