of seeking a third term as Presiding Judge, Truman considered
running for Congress, County Collector, or Governor. He
was deeply disappointed when Tom Pendergast chose other
candidates for these offices. Then Pendergast offered Truman
something unexpected: his support for a seat in the United
States Senate. He entered the Senate in January 1935, and
loved the work he later said his years as a Senator were
the happiest of his life.
In a tough four-way race, Truman won the 1934 primary by
40,000 votes. Winning the Democratic primary in Missouri
was much more challenging than winning the general election.
Truman became a U.S. Senator. His 1940 reelection bid was
much more difficult. The Pendergast machine was in ruins.
He had no campaign funds and no support from President Roosevelt.
Truman barnstormed the state, emphasizing his experience
"I was nominated by a plurality of 8,400 votes
[out of 665,000 cast]
in the August primary, after the most bitter,
mud-slinging campaign in Missouri's history of dirty
Part of each year, Senator Truman's wife and daughter joined
him in Washington, living in a series of small apartments.
Bess and Margaret spent the rest of the year at home in
Independence with Bess' mother. Harry hated the long separations.
His frequent letters to Bess expressed his loneliness -
and his longing to have his wife and daughter by his side.
"It's a wrench to be without you.
I never missed you so much
before when I'd be away temporarily. Kiss my baby."
Happiest Ten Years
Truman said that his years in the U.S. Senate were "the
happiest ten years" of his life. The Senate was a brotherhood
unlike any other, and Truman was proud to be a part of it.
His habits of hard work and self-discipline served him well.
Usually in the office by 7:00 a.m., he tackled his tasks
with energy and determination. Increasingly more confident
in his abilities as a leader and legislator, he steadily
overcame his initial isolation as the "Senator from
War Effort Watchdog
was gearing up for the war effort as Senator Truman began
his second term in early 1941. Responding to complaints
of overspending and profiteering by the country's burgeoning
military expansion, he became convinced that huge arms contracts
were being awarded on the basis of favoritism. These contracts
often favored big companies at the expense of small firms
that lacked political influence, and in some cases were
being forced out of business. Visiting military installations
and war plants across the country, he discovered instances
of gross mismanagement of defense dollars. Soon other Senators
joined him on site inspections as his findings prompted
a larger investigation.
Truman Committee Hearings
Responding to his report that millions of dollars were being
wasted, the Senate established the Special Committee to
Investigate the National Defense Program in March 1941 and
named Truman its chairman. Known as the "Truman Committee,"
it was given broad powers to investigate the terms of defense
contracts, how they were awarded, how contractors performed,
the utilization of small businesses, and the effect of the
defense program on labor. The committee - often at odds
with the military services - became a "sympathetic
critic" of the War Production Board and helped raise
public confidence in the way the war was being managed.
Estimates of money saved by the committee range as high
as $15 billion, and his work brought Truman into the national