Missouri Waltz

Something for the weekend.  Missouri Waltz.  Published in 1914, the melody was by John Valentine Eppel, arrangement by Frederic Knight Logan, with James Royce Shannon supplying the lyrics.  Initially the song sold poorly, but its popularity increased over the years.  After Harry Truman became President it became associated with him, and was played constantly when he appeared during his long uphill campaign throughout the nation in 1948.  In 1949 Missouri adopted it as its state song. (more…)

Published in: on January 28, 2023 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Missouri Waltz  
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November 1, 1918: Captain Harry Truman Writes to Bess


Prior to World War I Harry Truman had not met with much success.  Hard working, personable and ambitious, none of the many jobs he took on, or the business ventures he launched, gave him long term financial security.  He had served in the Missouri National Guard from 1905 to 1911, attaining the rank of Corporal.  When the US entered World War I, he rejoined the Missouri National Guard, although this entailed a considerable financial sacrifice for him, at 33 he was older than most of the soldiers he would serve with, and, heart-breakingly for him, he would have to delay his marriage to his beloved Bess.  Once his decision was made, he threw himself into his new role as a soldier, helping to recruit others into the Guard and being elected a Lieutenant by the men in his unit.

After 8 months training his unit, the 129th Field Artillery, sailed for France.  Newly minted Captain Harry Truman was assigned to command Battery D, a hard case outfit consisting largely of city dwelling Irish Catholics.  They attempted initially to intimidate their bespectacled new commander, but quickly learned that Truman was far tougher than he looked.  Truman enforced stringent, but fair discipline.  Most of his men came to respect him, and many of them became lifelong friends with the man they called “Captain Harry”, including the Catholic chaplain of the 129th, Monsignor L. Curtis Tiernan.

Truman’s unit fought throughout the Meuse-Argonne offensive and fired some of the last shots of the War.  On November 1, Captain Truman sat down and wrote one of his many letters to Bess:




[Somewhere in France]



Dear Bess:
November 1, 1918

I have just finished putting 1,800 shells over on the Germans in the last five hours. They don’t seem to have had energy enough to come back yet. I don’t think they will. One of their aviators fell right behind my Battery yesterday and sprained his ankle, busted up the machine, and got completely picked by the French and Americans in the neighborhood. They even tried to take their (there were two in the machine) coats. One of our officers, I am ashamed to say, took the boots off of the one with the sprained ankle and kept them.

The French, and Americans too for that matter, are souvenir crazy. If a guard had not been placed over the machine, I don’t doubt that it would have been carried away bit by bit. What I started to say was that the German lieutenant yelled “La guerre fini” as soon as he stepped from the machine. He then remarked that the war would be over in ten days. I don’t know what he knew about it or what anyone else knows but I am sure that most Americans will be glad when it’s over and they can get back to God’s country again. It is a great thing to swell your chest out and fight for a principle but it gets almighty tiresome sometimes. I heard a Frenchman remark that Germany was fighting for territory, England for the sea, France for patriotism, and Americans for souvenirs. Yesterday made me think he was about right.

I got a letter of Commendation, capital C, from the commanding general of the 35th Division. The ordnance repair department made a report to him that I had the best-conditioned guns after the drive that he had seen in France. The general wrote me a letter about it. My chief mechanic is to blame, not me. He knows more about guns than the French themselves. As usual in such cases, the C.O. gets the credit. I think I shall put an endorsement on the letter stating the ability of my chief mechanic and stick it in the files anyway. I am going to keep the original letter for my own personal and private use. It will be nice to have someday if some low-browed north-end politician tries to remark that I wasn’t in the war when I’m running for eastern judge or something. I’ll have the “papers” and can shut him up. If ever I get home from this war whole (I shall), I am going to be perfectly happy to follow a mule down a corn row the balance of my days–that is, always providing such an arrangement is also a pleasure to you. I think the green pastures of Grand Old Missouri are the best looking of any that I have seen in this world yet and I’ve seen several brands. The outlook I have now is a rather dreary one. There are Frenchmen buried in my front yard and Huns in the back yard and both litter up the landscape as far as you can see. Every time a Boche shell hits in a field over west of here it digs up a piece of someone. It is well I’m not troubled by spooks.

I walked out to the observation post the other day (yesterday) to pick an adjusting point and I found two little flowers alongside the trench blooming right in the rock. I am enclosing them. The sob sisters would say that they came from the battle-scarred field of Verdun. They were in sight and short range of Heinie and were not far from the two most famous forts of his line of defense. You can keep them or throw them away but I thought they’d be something. One’s a poppy, the other is a pink or something of the kind. A real sob sister could write a volume about the struggle of these pretty little flowers under the frowning brows of Douaumont the impregnable.

Please keep writing, for I look for letters eagerly even if I don’t write them as often as I should. I love you



By his service in the War Truman found that he had a hitherto undiscovered talents for leadership and making friends of men who initially viewed him with suspicion and disdain.  These abilities would come in handy for Truman in the years to come.

Published in: on November 1, 2022 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on November 1, 1918: Captain Harry Truman Writes to Bess  
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Harry Truman’s Ghost Letter



A suitable topic for Halloween.  Harry Truman, soon after he became President, wrote a letter to his wife in which he referred to ghosts in the White House:


June 12, 1945

Dear Bess:- Just two months ago today, I was a reasonably happy and contented Vice-President. Maybe you can remember that far back too. But things have changed so much it hardly seems real.

I sit here in this old house and work on foreign affairs, read reports, and work on speeches — all the while listening to the ghosts walk up and down the hallway and even right in here in the study. The floors pop and the drapes move back and forth — I can just imagine old Andy and Teddy having an argument over Franklin. Or James Buchanan and Franklin Pierce deciding which was the more useless to the country. And when Millard Fillmore and Chester Arthur join in for place and show, the din is almost unbearable. But I still get some work done.

Hope the weather lets up and you will be able to do some work on the house. The Gibson boy should have been taken care of long ago. I’ll see what’s happened. I’m not able to do as many things for my friends now as I did when I was just a dirty organisation Democrat and a County Judge.

Guess you and Helen will have a grand time. Hope you do. We are working on Dr. Wallace. Glad everybody was in his right mind at the family party. Undoubtedly they were walking the straight and narrow for your mother. But I’m sure you had a nice time anyway.

That address mixed up is causing me some embarrassment (if that’s the way you spell that blushing word.) I addressed a letter to you at 4701 Conn. Ave. Independence Mo., and another one 219 North Delaware, Washington, D. C. Now it seems I sent one to the Rolands. The boys in the House here didn’t catch that one but they did the other two.

I’ll have Reathal attend to the chores you suggest. I haven’t seen her but twice since you left. She comes in after I go over to the office, usually goes out to lunch and doesn’t come back until I am gone again and then goes home before I get over here.

Had Charlie Ross and Rosenman to lunch yesterday. We worked on my San Francisco speech. ,that date is postponed until next week now on account of the slow wind-up and Gen. Eisenhower’s visit.

Write me when you can – I hope every day.

Lots of love.

Harry. (more…)

Published in: on October 30, 2022 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Harry Truman’s Ghost Letter  
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August 11, 1945: US Responds to Surrender Offer



On receipt of the Japanese offer to surrender, the decision was quickly made by Harry Truman as to the US response.  From his August 10, 1945 diary entry:

“Ate lunch at my desk and discussed the Jap offer to surrender which came in a couple of hours earlier. They wanted to make a condition precedent to the surrender. Our terms are ‘unconditional’. They wanted to keep the Emperor. We told ’em we’d tell ’em how to keep him, but we’d make the terms.”

Truman ordered that no more atomic bomb attacks be made, although conventional attacks be continued.  When the press misinterpreted an Army Air Corps briefing that mentioned that no bombers were flying over Japan due to bad weather on August 11, 1945, Truman ordered a halt to conventional attacks so the Japanese would not be confused on his willingness to give them a short time to consider the Allied response.  The response went out on August 11, the Soviets signing on reluctantly as they were busily conquering Manchuria from the Japanese and did not want the War to stop until they had wiped out Japanese opposition.  Here is the text of the Allied response: (more…)

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Truman Discusses Using the Atomic Bombs

Published in: on August 8, 2022 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Truman Discusses Using the Atomic Bombs  
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July 20, 1945: Dear Bess

Harry Truman was a very happily married man and whenever he was separated from his wife, he would write her chatty letters which are a first rate source of what he was thinking on a particular day.  He wrote this letter after the start of the Potsdam Conference with Stalin and Churchill:


Berlin July 20, 1945

Dear Bess:

It was an experience to talk to you from my desk here in Berlin night before last. It sure made me homesick. This is a hell of a place–ruined, dirty, smelly, forlorn people, bedraggled, hangdog look about them. You never saw as completely ruined a city. But they did it. I am most comfortably fixed and the palace where we meet is one of two intact palaces left standing.

Jim Blair came to see me yesterday and had breakfast with me this morning. He is a Lt. Col. and is in charge of food and clean up for American forces here. Said it was the filthiest place he ever saw when he arrived–but it’s clean now.

We had a tough meeting yesterday. I reared up on my hind legs and told ’em where to get off and they got off. I have to make it perfectly plain to them at least once a day that so far as this President is concerned Santa Claus is dead and that my first interest is U.S.A., then I want the Jap War won and I want ’em both in it. Then I want peace–world peace and will do what can be done by us to get it. But certainly am not going to set up another foil here in Europe, pay reparations, feed the world, and get nothing for it but a nose thumbing. They are beginning to awake to the fact that I mean business.


Published in: on July 20, 2022 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on July 20, 1945: Dear Bess  
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July 14, 1948: Truman Begins Giving Them Hell


In 1948 the Democrats held their national convention in Philadelphia as they did this year.  No president seeking election has ever faced a more daunting prospect than Harry Truman.  His party was fractured, with the pro-segregation Dixiecrats, under Governor of South Carolina Strom Thurmond, peeling off Democrats of the right and the Progressives, under former Vice-President Henry Wallace, peeling off Democrats of the left.  In his acceptance speech Truman gave notice to the nation that if he was going down in November, he was going down swinging.  Here is the text of his speech:

I am sorry that the microphones are in the way, but I must leave them the way they are because I have got to be able to see what I am doing– as I am always able to see what I am doing.

I can’t tell you how very much I appreciate the honor which you have just conferred upon me. I shall continue to try to deserve it.

I accept the nomination.

And I want to thank this convention for its unanimous nomination of my good friend and colleague, Senator Barkley of Kentucky. He is a great man, and a great public servant. Senator Barkley and I will win this election and make these Republicans like it– don’t you forget that!

We will do that because they are wrong and we are right, and I will prove it to you in just a few minutes. (more…)

Published in: on July 14, 2022 at 3:25 am  Comments Off on July 14, 1948: Truman Begins Giving Them Hell  
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June 7, 1945: Truman Press Conference



Harry Truman as President usually had weekly press conferences.  The press conference he held on June 7, 1945 was the tenth he held since assuming the office on the death of Roosevelt in April.  Looking at the transcript of the press conference below is how blunt, direct and concise Truman was in his answers. Here is the transcript:


THE PRESIDENT. [1.] The first thing, I am exceedingly happy over the Bretton Woods–345 to 18. And the nonpartisan character of the support of that legislation makes me believe that the Congress really is for a peace treaty.

[2.] In connection with Justice Jackson’s war crimes report, which was given to you this morning, I have been reminded that next Sunday, the 10th, will be the third anniversary of the ruthless destruction of that Bohemian village of–I don’t know how to say it–L-i-d-i–

Voices: Lidice.

THE PRESIDENT. This is one of the most barbarous of all the crimes on the Nazi calendar. June 10th will be remembered always as another day of infamy.


[3.] I want to say something to you about the transportation situation that we are facing now, on account of the redeployment situation.

Colonel Johnson was in to see me yesterday, and told me very plainly that we were going to have to meet this transportation situation in 10 months. We have only a third smaller job to do than the one which has just been finished, and it took–that was over a period of 48 months. This will be over a period of 10 months; that is, to transfer all our armed forces across the United States and the deployment in the Pacific–redeployment in the Pacific. The first transportation job was considered a miracle, and this one ahead of us is even bigger.

And I want to impress it on our citizens that their best contribution in this case will be to stay at home. (more…)

Published in: on June 7, 2022 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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Llewellyn M. Chilson: One Man Army

Many brave men served in our armed services during World War II, but certainly one of the bravest was Llewellyn M. Chilson.  Born on April 1, 1920 in Dayton, Ohio, his father Frank was a veteran of World War I.  He was drafted into the Army on March 28, 1942.  He served with the 45th “Thunderbird” Infantry Division in North Africa, Sicily, Italy, France and Germany.  By the end of the War he had risen in rank from Private to Technical Sergeant and earned the following decorations:  3 Distinguished Service Crosses (the second highest decoration for valor in the United States Army), 3 Silver Stars, 2 Bronze Stars, 1 Legion of Merit and two purple hearts.  Go here to read his citations for the decorations that he earned. (more…)

Published in: on March 28, 2022 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Llewellyn M. Chilson: One Man Army  
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February 10, 1945: The Boss Wasn’t Amused

Bacall and Truman

One of the odder pictures in American history, this photo of 20 year old actress Lauren Bacall draped seductively over a piano being played by then Vice-President Harry Truman on February 10, 1945 caused considerable controversy and made headlines around the world.  The photo was taken at the National Press Club canteen where both Bacall and Truman were appearing to entertain 800 servicemen.  Bacall, reluctantly, posed on the piano at the request of her press agent Charlie Enfield, who was also publicity chief for Warner Brothers.  Bacall later recalled that Truman was a bad piano player. Bess Truman, Harry’s wife, was quite irked according to her daughter Margaret Truman, and ordered Truman not to play the piano in public again.

Published in: on February 10, 2022 at 5:30 am  Comments (1)  
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