Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum


THE COLD WAR TURNS HOT

In Asia, the Cold War would heat up dramatically, raising anxieties and demanding sacrifices of Americans at home and on the battlefield.

With the Soviet Union's entrance into the nuclear club, the fall of China to Mao Tse-tung, and the events on the Korean peninsula, many Americans were feeling vulnerable. The end of America's nuclear monopoly meant that American cities could face the possibility of atomic attack.

Many felt the Soviets could not have developed atomic weapons without the aid of spies in the U.S., a fact we now know as truth. But at the time, concerns about a government awash in enemy agents became greatly exaggerated. Such fears were fanned by sensational government investigations of loyalty, mainly led by Senator Joseph McCarthy, and in such an atmosphere of fear and suspicion there was a rising demand that citizens demonstrate their loyalty. Worries over spies, nuclear attack, and the specter of communism filtered into American culture in countless ways. These ranged from civil defense exercises to films and books that painted lurid pictures of communist agents and atomic war. Some people even took to building family bomb shelters.

  Cold War Turns Hot
To highlight the problems in the Eastern Hemisphere, a multi-media program will combine a four minute video (running on a large-screen monitor) with synchronized lighting effects on a large, walk-in sectional map of Asia in the shape of a globe.

Proceeding through the exhibit, a display entitled "Ten Fateful Months" shows the challenges faced by Truman at the beginning of his second term. Three wall-mounted soundsticks will feature an audio program relating to the announcement that the Soviets had exploded an atomic bomb. There will also be three soundsticks that feature excerpts from a speech by Senator Joseph McCarthy. Three more soundsticks treat visitors to an excerpt from President Truman's address to the nation on September 9, 1950 after he signed the Defense Production Act. One entire wall is dedicated to the Korean Conflict, with a video monitor showing documentary footage and photos of the war and another section of soundsticks that contains a four-minute loop of oral histories of veterans who served in the fight.

Focusing on the Cold War at home, a large exhibition case contains two secondary text blocks that introduce a mix of photographs, artifacts, and documents. The case contains numerous pamphlets, instructional posters, and other publications of the time that were distributed to counter the communist threat and nuclear attack.

Two flipbooks, titled "In His Own Words: The Cold War Turns Hot" and "Dissenting Views: The Cost of the Cold War" are also available for perusal here.

Exhibits on the Korean War conclude this section of the exhibition. One display chronicles the dismissal of General Douglas MacArthur and the "feud" between the General and the President. Wall-mounted soundsticks will provide two minute audio loop excerpts from Truman's national television/radio address announcing the firing of the General, with others featuring MacArthur's speech to a joint session of Congress after his return from Korea. "In His Own Words" and "Dissenting Views" flipbooks also detail the subject. The Korean War section concludes with a simple display case exhibiting a purple heart that sent to President Truman by William Banning along with a poignant and stinging letter wishing that the President's daughter had been killed in Korea as Mr. Bannings son had been.

Featured documents in this section of the exhibit:

Firing of MacArthur

  • Louis Johnson to Douglas MacArthur, August 26, 1950, regarding MacArthur's statement to the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Papers of Harry S. Truman: President's Secretary's Files. (1 page)
  • Douglas MacArthur to Harry S. Truman, with draft letter to MacArthur by George Elsey, October 30, 1950, regarding the continued success of U. N. Forces in Korea. Papers of Harry S. Truman: President's Secretary's Files. (4 pages)
  • Personal memo of Harry S. Truman, November 25, 1950, reflecting on visit with General Douglas MacArthur at Wake Island. Papers of Harry S. Truman: President's Secretary's Files. (5 pages)
  • Harry S. Truman to Omar Bradley, with attachments, December 6, 1950, March 24, and April 7, 1951, pertaining to MacArthur's statement on Formosa. Papers of Harry S. Truman: President's Secretary's Files. (6 pages)
  • Diary entries, April 6-7, 1951, stating Truman's intention to fire MacArthur with the agreement of his advisors. Papers of Harry S. Truman: President's Secretary's Files. (2 pages)
  • J. A. Sullivan to Harry S. Truman, April 12, 1951, protesting the firing of General MacArthur. Papers of Harry S. Truman: Official Files. (1 page)
  • Joint Chiefs of Staff to Douglas MacArthur, attached to copy of letter from Douglas MacArthur to Joe Martin, March 20 and 24, 1951; Papers of Harry S. Truman: President's Secretary's Files. (2 pages)
  • Proposed draft messages to Frank Pace, Douglas MacArthur, and Matthew Ridgway, c. April 1951, providing Pace with instructions for handling the signed orders to fire MacArthur and promote Ridgway, along with the orders and a press release. Papers of Harry S. Truman: President's Secretary's Files. (6 pages)
  • Lillian Russel to Harry S. Truman, April 12, 1951, asking for the reinstatement of General MacArthur. Papers of Harry S. Truman: Official Files. (3 pages)
  • Mrs. Joan Rountree to Harry S. Truman, April 13, 1951, protesting the firing of General MacArthur. Papers of Harry S. Truman: Official Files. (1 page)
  • Telegram, Mrs. H. V. Schoepflin to Harry S. Truman, April 11, 1951, protesting the firing of General Douglas MacArthur. Papers of Harry S. Truman: Official Files. (2 pages)

Korean War

  • Memorandum from the State Department to Harry S. Truman, June 24, 1950, regarding the invasion of South Korea by the North Korean Army. Papers of Harry S. Truman: President's Secretary's Files. (1 page)
  • Douglas MacArthur to Joint Chiefs of Staff, June 30, 1950, addressing the status of the South Korean military situation. Papers of Harry S. Truman: Naval Aide Files. (3 pages)
  • Personal memo of Harry S. Truman, June 30, 1950, reflecting on MacArthur's request for more troops and concerns over general "Asian war". Papers of Harry S. Truman: President's Secretary's Files. (3 pages)
  • Memo of conversation between Harry S. Truman and George Elsey, June 26, 1950, pertaining to the significance of Korea and the threat of Communist takeovers elsewhere. Papers of George M. Elsey. (1 page)
  • William Banning to Harry S. Truman, ca. 1953, Museum Collection, Harry S. Truman Library. (1 page)

McCarthy

  • Telegram, Joseph McCarthy to Harry S. Truman, February 11, 1950, with Truman's draft reply, regarding McCarthy's list of alleged Communists in the State Department and the Department's lack of cooperation with Congress in investigating the situation. Papers of Harry S. Truman: President's Secretary's Files. (7 pages)
  • Excerpt of transcript from Presidential Press and Radio Conference, March 30, 1950, discussing Senator Joseph McCarthy's allegations of Communists in the State Department. Papers of Harry S. Truman: David Lloyd Files. (7 pages)
  • Mrs. G. C. Hemphill to Harry S. Truman, August 31, 1951, expressing support for statements made by Senator McCarthy regarding Philip Jessup, Ambassador at Large. Papers of Harry S. Truman: Official Files. (1 page)

NSC 68 and the Arms Buildup

  • A Report to the National Security Council - NSC 68, April 14, 1950. Papers of Harry S. Truman: President's Secretary's Files. (72 pages)
  • Memorandum, National Security Council to Harry S. Truman, April 21, 1950. Papers of Harry S. Truman: President's Secretary's Files. (4 pages)
  • Interim Report by the National Security Council, c. August 1950. Papers of George Elsey. (61 pages)

Truman: In His Own Words

  • Diary entry of Harry S. Truman, December 9, 1950, in which he reflects on the grave world situation, saying it "looks like World War III is here." Papers of Harry S. Truman: President's Secretary's File. (3 pages)

  • Diary entry of Harry S. Truman, January 27, 1952, relating his anger and frustration with the Soviet Union and the situation in Asia. Papers of Harry S. Truman: President's Secretary's File. (7 pages)

  • Draft letter, unsent, Harry S. Truman to Arthur Krock, September 11, 1952, refuting Krock's assertion in his newspaper column that the Truman Administration made "gross and costly blunders" in the arena of foreign policy. Papers of Harry S. Truman: President's Secretary's File. (9 pages)

  • Letter, Millard Tydings to Harry S. Truman, May 22, 1950, with Truman's reply and press release, May 28, 1950, with attached internal memos, regarding the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's request for Loyalty Review Board files. Papers of Harry S. Truman: Official File. (43 pages)

  • Letter, Harry S. Truman to Stanley Woodward, June 24, 1950, discussing Truman's plan to visit Independence, just before the Korean conflict erupted. Papers of Stanley Woodward. (3 pages)

  • Letter, Harry S. Truman to Bess Wallace Truman, June 26, 1950, discussing his early return to Washington, D. C., and the first meetings on the Korean crisis. Papers of Harry S. Truman: Post-Presidential File. (2 pages)

  • Memorandum of conversation, State Department, June 26, 1950, regarding the first meeting on the Korean crisis at Blair House. Papers of Dean Acheson. (8 pages)

  • Diary entry of Harry S. Truman, May 18, 1952, in which he reveals his continuing frustration with the situation in Korea and the Communists. Papers of Harry S. Truman: President's Secretary's File. (6 pages)


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