Independence’s native son was making difficult decisions on the battlefields of France
In ordering the dropping of the atomic bomb on Japan, President Harry S. Truman made one of history’s most important military decisions.
But that momentous event was just one entry in an impressive military résumé that began with Truman’s on-the-ground involvement in World War I.
Historian D.M. Giangreco, author of The Soldier from Independence: A Military History of Harry Truman, examines that career on August 6 at 6:30 p.m. at the Central Library, 14 W. 10th Street, Kansas City, Mo.
The event is part of Great War|Great Read, a joint initiative by the Kansas City Public Library and the National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial commemorating the centennial of the start of World War I.
Giangreco traces Truman’s military accomplishments as both a soldier and a politician, going back to the battlefields of France in 1918. Then a 34-year-old Army National Guard captain and battery commander in an artillery regiment, Truman already was making hard decisions he knew to be right, regardless of personal consequences.
He once saved a neighboring infantry regiment from a surprise German attack, only to be rebuked by his regimental commander. Intervention by Gen. John J. “Black Jack” Pershing headed off a court martial that almost certainly would have derailed any political aspirations.
Going on to take his place in national politics, Truman chaired the Senate Armed Forces Committee during the buildup to and early years of World War II, a job that made him – next to President Franklin Roosevelt — the most powerful man in American military affairs. As President, he oversaw the end of the war, stood up to Stalin, and met the test of North Korea’s invasion of South Korea. He had the fortitude to stand up to General Douglas MacArthur, the “American Caesar,” whom he ultimately fired over MacArthur’s determination to expand the Korean conflict.
Giangreco is a military historian at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, where he also was an editor for Military Review.
Great War|Great Read is aimed at encouraging residents to read and discuss two signature books on World War I: Erich Maria Remarque’s fiction classic, All Quiet on the Western Front, and Barbara W. Tuchman’s Pulitzer Prize-winning history, The Guns of August. Public events include book discussions, film showings, programs, and special tours at the National World War I Museum, as well as lectures about notable battles, European involvement in WWI, Gold Star mothers, and the music of World War I.
Several hundred copies of the two books are available for checkout from all 10 Kansas City Public Library locations.
Admission is free. A 6 p.m. reception precedes the event. RSVP online or by calling 816-701-3407.