Harry Truman was a controversial president. He ascended to presidency during the final months of World War II after the death of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He was responsible for approving the plan to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
In the beginning of his first term, Truman had to deal with the largest labor strike in American history – almost 800,000 steelworkers. When the Soviets blocked Western Allies’ access to the western half of Berlin, military officials wanted to invade. Truman knew that this could possibly lead to war and decided to do an airlift instead, providing supplies to the populace by dropping food and other items from aircraft. Because of Truman, the different departments of the military merged into the what would later become the Department Of Defense. He was also pivotal in helping establish what would eventually become the CIA, the National Security Council, and the National Security Agency. After the war, Truman integrated the military and federal agencies. Truman was one of the first presidential leaders to recognize Israel as a country.
For his use of the atomic bomb, and for taking America off the path of isolationism to internationalism, he was vilified. The Truman Doctrine single-handedly set the basis for the ensuing Cold War that would go on until the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. The Marshall Plan was enacted during his presidency to help rebuild western Europe. This internationalist bent eventually lead to the Korean War and Truman’s decision to remove Douglas MacArthur during this war was not looked upon favorably. At the end of his presidency, Truman’s approval ratings were at 22%, which was lower than Nixon before he resigned from office.
Ultimately, Truman is viewed as being central to stopping the spread of communism and helping to rebuild Europe after World War II devastated its population.