Steven Casey Wins 2010 HARRY S. Truman Book Award
(Independence, Mo.) – Clifton Truman Daniel, President Truman’s grandson and Honorary Chairman of the Harry S. Truman Library Institute for National and International Affairs, announced today that Selling the Korean War: Propaganda, Politics, and Public Opinion in the United States, 1950-1953 (Oxford University Press, 2008) by Steven Casey is the winner of the 2010 Harry S. Truman Book Award.
The Harry S. Truman Book Award recognizes the Institute’s selection of the best book published within a two-year period that deals primarily with some aspect of the life or career of Harry S. Truman or the history of the United States during the Truman presidency.
Dr. Casey is a senior lecturer in the International History Department, London School of Economics and Political Science. The Truman Library Institute aided his research for Selling the Korean War by providing a travel grant to the Library in 2001 and awarding him the prestigious Scholar’s Award for 2004-2005. Upon being notified of winning the Truman Book Award, Dr. Casey said, “The valuable resources of the Truman Library and the Institute’s generous support of my research helped make this book possible. I am very grateful to the Institute’s Board of Directors and selection Committee.”
Selling the Korean War was selected from a record field of thirty-three entries, which included four semi-finalists: Hell to Pay: Operation Downfall and the Invasion of Japan, 1945-1947, by Dennis M. Giangreco (Naval Institute Press, 2009); Red Cloud at Dawn: Truman, Stalin, and the End of the Atomic Monopoly, by Michael D. Gordin (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2009); A Safe Haven: Harry S. Truman and the Founding of Israel, by Ronald and Allis Radosh (HarperCollins Publishers, 2009); and Inventing the “American Way”: The Politics of Consensus from the New Deal to the Civil Rights Movement by Wendy Wall (Oxford University Press, 2008).
Dr. Jeffrey Gall, chair of the Harry S. Truman Book Award subcommittee, explained why Selling the Korean War was the standout among such a notable field. “The committee believes that Dr. Casey’s work is a unique and important contribution to the historiography of the Korean War. He explores how, at all levels, the Truman administration worked to control and shape the public’s understanding of what was occurring on the Korean peninsula and to maintain both popular and Congressional support for a conflict unlike any the nation had ever seen. Casey’s deeply researched account analyzes the interplay between politics, the media, the Cold War, and the conflict in Korea. A key theme is the challenge Truman and his advisors faced in selling a “limited war.” On the one hand, they did not want to unnecessarily inflame public opinion or provoke the Soviets and risk a wider, global conflict. But on the other hand, they did want to impress upon the public the seriousness of the situation so as to garner support for the increases in security expenditures the Korean situation showed to be necessary.
The question of “Why Korea” was one the Truman administration found challenging to answer, especially as the mission changed over the course of a few years from police action, to unification of the peninsula, to accepting a stalemate. “Selling” the Korean War was a challenge the Truman administration met with varying degrees of success. Administration officials worked to control the war message without the use of a large government agency like the Committee on Public Information (World War I) or the Office of War Information (World War II). Officials knew the American public was not likely to accept the kind of direct propaganda messages promulgated by those government organs of the past, and they also knew that not being in a situation resembling those total wars, they needed new methods for managing public perceptions of U.S. actions. U.S. setbacks in the war clearly helped lead to Truman’s plummeting approval ratings as he left office, yet Casey argues the administration succeeded on other levels. Support for the war never totally collapsed as it might have, and the administration helped the public come to better understand the long, perilous, and complex situation faced by the nation in the emerging Cold War.
Dr. Gall is a Professor of History at Truman State University. Other members of the Harry S. Truman Book Award subcommittee are Alonzo L. Hamby, Distinguished Professor of History, Ohio University; R. Crosby Kemper, III, Chief Executive, Kansas City Public Library System; Bryan F. LeBeau, Vice President for Academic Affairs, University of Saint Mary, Leavenworth, Kansas; and Michelle Mart, Associate Professor, The Pennsylvania State University
The Harry S. Truman Library Institute for National and International Affairs is a private,
not-for-profit organization that supports the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum in Independence, Missouri (one of thirteen presidential libraries administered by the National Archives and Records Administration). Since 1959, the Institute’s Research & Awards Program has given support to students and scholars who otherwise might find it financially difficult to travel to the Truman Library to conduct research. Funding, combined with the rich archival resources of the Truman Library, continues to facilitate the important writing of articles, theses, doctoral dissertations and books on the Truman era.
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