Knowing the Presidents: Harry S. Truman  

Harry S. Truman  

Thirty-Third President, 1945-1953


After succeeding Franklin Roosevelt in 1945, Harry S. Truman won the presidency in his own right in 1948, defeating Republican Thomas Dewey and achieving one of the most stunning political comebacks in American history.


The Cold War began when World War II ended, and in 1947, Harry S. Truman formally committed the United States to the containment of Soviet expansionism in Europe.

In 1947, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization was established. It was ratified in 1949.

Truman refused to commit the U.S. to war in China and relieved Douglas MacArthur from his command.

Strained relations with Russia resulted in the Berlin Airlift—the dropping of supplies to East Berlin—and extended American wartime aid to the postwar period.

Major Acts:

Harry S. Truman used nuclear weapons to end World War II.

The Taft-Hartley labor law moderately restricted union activity.

Truman raised the minimum wage and expanded Social Security.

Truman desegregated the United States military.


Harry S. Truman enacted some important first steps in civil rights while protecting many of the New Deal’s gains. He also presided over an economy that would enjoy nearly two decades of unprecedented growth.

In his Cold War containment strategies, Truman established many of the basic foundations of America foreign policy, especially in American-Soviet relations, that would guide the nation in the decades ahead.