What was Harry Truman known for? Most notably, Truman is associated with the dropping of an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan at the end of World War II. He was ultimately quite an unpopular president, but he is credited with some major accomplishments during his tenure, including creating new divisions of the Armed Services, combatting Communist threats in Europe, helping to create both NATO and the United Nations, and establishing multiple national security agencies.

In this unit study supplement, you’ll get answers to many questions you may have about the 33rd president of the U.S. In this presidential unit study supplement, you’ll discover more about Harry Truman’s accomplishments, his personal life, and his military and political service.

Harry Truman Fast Facts

Presidential Order 33rd president
Political Party Democratic
Born May 8, 1884
Death December 26, 1972
State of Birth Missouri
Name of Spouse Bess Wallace
Served as President 1945-1953
Age When Elected to Office Not elected, but succeeded to presidency at age 60
Vice Presidents Alben Barkley (only during second term)

The only things worth learning are the things you learn after you know it all.

Harry Truman

Harry Truman Timeline

1884

Born in Lamar, Missouri to farmers John and Martha Ellen Truman.

1892

Began traditional schooling at the age of eight years old.

1900

Because his father was active in Democratic politics, Harry became a page at the Democratic National Convention.

1905

Enlisted in the Missouri Army National Guard.

1917

Helped organize the 2nd Regiment of Missouri Field Artillery which was called into service in France during World War I.

1919

After returning home from war, married Bess Wallace whom he had known since childhood; also opened a haberdashery (store for men’s clothing and accessories) in Kansas City.

1922

Elected to a judgeship in Jackson County, MO (a position akin to a county commissioner).

1930

Helped coordinate the “Ten Year Plan” for Jackson County and Kansas City which modernized it and grew its infrastructure.

1934

Elected to the first of two terms as U.S. Senator for Missouri.

1940

Became chairman of a Senate Special Committee to Investigate the National Defense Program.

1944

Nominated to run as Vice Presidential candidate for Franklin Roosevelt.

1945

Took the oath of office for President following Roosevelt’s death; approved the drop of an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan; issued the proclamation for V-E day on his 61st birthday.

1946

Presidency became marked by numerous labor, transportation, and industry strikes and his approval ratings dropped by 30% in less than six months.

1947

Created the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the National Security Council.

1948

Enacted the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan which were significant foreign policies relating to Europe.; was re-elected to a second term as president, even though he had been predicted to lose.

1950

Beginning of the Korean War and U.S. involvement; escalation of the Cold War with Russia.

1951

Fired General Douglas MacArthur over conflicting war plans, and saw his approval ratings plummet and even calls for his impeachment.

1952

Created the National Security Agency (NSA).

1953

Took a 19-day road trip with his wife, Bess, which is written about in the book, “Harry Truman’s Excellent Adventure: The True Story of a Great American Road Trip.”

1955-56

Published two books of memoirs.

1972

Died in Kansas City, MO at the age of 88 from complications of pneumonia.

Harry Truman: Fun Facts

Any Harry Truman unit study should focus on his main personal, political, and historical accomplishments. However, homeschoolers will also enjoy discovering other interesting facts about the 33rd President of the United States.

  • The “S” of Truman’s middle name does not actually stand for anything, but rather was a compromise between the names of his grandfathers whose names both started with “S.”

  • Truman claimed that by the time he was 13 or 14 years old he had read all the books in the Independence Public Library.

  • Poor eyesight kept Truman from going into West Point Academy as he had hoped to. He was able to enter the National Guard by secretly memorizing the eye chart.

  • The media was so sure that Truman would lose the election in 1948 that one paper, the Chicago Tribune, even printed with the headline “Dewey Defeats Truman” before the election was officially called for President Truman.

  • Truman’s second inauguration was the first ever to be televised.

  • In 1952, Truman’s presidential approval ratings dropped to the lowest ever recorded for a U.S. president, 22%.

  • In 1950, two Puerto Rican nationals attempted to assassinate Truman while trying to bring the issue of Puerto Rican independence to national attention.

  • The first two Medicare cards ever distributed were to Truman and his wife; they were given by President Lyndon Johnson to honor the former president’s work on national healthcare while in office.

  • Truman was the only 20th century president who did not hold a college degree.

Hands-On Activities for Harry Truman Unit Study

Now that you’ve learned the main President Harry Truman facts, try out some of these ideas, which we’ve organized by grade level, to enhance your unit study of the 15th president of the United States.

Elementary Harry Truman Activities

  • Have your student choose one event from the life of Harry Truman and use a Comic Strip Graphic Organizer to illustrate an interesting aspect of the event.

  • Help your elementary student understand both sides of a labor disagreement by picking an industry and then creating a list of demands that workers in that industry might have as well as a list of reasons managers in the industry might have for not meeting those demands.

Middle School Harry Truman Activities

  • Use before-and-after imagery of Hiroshima, Japan to illustrate to your middle schooler the destructive power of atomic energy. Have them research and make a chart of U.S. cities that are approximately the same size as Hiroshima was when it was destroyed.

  • Truman served for many years in a judgeship in Missouri which was a job comparable to that of a county commissioner. Have your middle schooler learn who the commissioners are in their county and some of the recent ordinances they have enacted.

High School Harry Truman Activities

  • Most of what high schoolers know about the CIA is derived from fictional books and movies. Have your high schooler do research on the history of the Central Intelligence Agency then write a short expository essay about their findings.

  • Have your high schooler practice writing a job application for a position in the CIA, NSA, or FBI. What qualifications do they think would be most beneficial to taking a job in one of those security agencies?

Quick Harry Truman Spelling Words

haberdashery proclamation
infrastructure security
page assassinate
atomic escalation
approval memoir

Additional Learning Links for Harry Truman

Want to extend your American presidents unit study even further? The following learning resources offer highlight of the Harry Truman presidency facts you’ve learned and give your students the opportunity to test their knowledge of what they’ve learned so far.

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