Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

Howard, Roy Wilson, 1883-1964; Taft, Robert A. (Robert Alphonso), 1889-1953.; Brewster, Owen, 1888-1961; Vandenberg, Arthur H. (Arthur Hendrick), 1884-1951; Fulton, Hugh, 1908-1962; Jackson, Robert Houghwout, 1892-1954; Byrnes, James F. (James Francis), 1
World War, 1914-1918; Clothing trade; County government; Political campaigns; Congressional committees; Legislators; Building repair and reconstruction

Longhand Note of President Harry S. Truman, Not dated. President's Secretary's Files - Longhand Notes.

5. On Oct. 27, 1918 we were moving along the road in France from one front line zone to another when the French edition of the New York Herald was distributed along the line. Headlines in block letters informs us that an armistice was on. Just then a German 150 shell burst to the right of the road and another to the left.

One of my sergeants remarked "Captain, those G.D. Germans haven't seen this paper." On Nov. 6, Roy Howard sent a message to the USA proclaiming a false armistice. Such false newspaper reports are terrible things and people responsible for them are just one grade below the worst criminal.

We went into new positions on Nov. 6 and prepared barrages for the drive on Metz for Nov. 7. The 129th F.A. was supporting the 81st (Wild Cat) Div.

On Nov. 11 at 5 A.M. Major Paterson the regimental operations officer called me and told me that there would be a cease fire order at 11 A.M.-that was Nov. 11, 1918. I fired the battery on order until 10:45 when I fired my last shot on a little village-Hermanville north east of Verdun. The last range was 11,000 meters with the new D shell. Eighty eight hundred meters was the extreme range of the 75m-gun with regular ammunition, but with the stream lined D shell it would reach 11,500 meters.

We stopped firing all along the line at eleven o'clock Nov. 11, 1918. It was so quiet it made your head ache. We stayed at our positions all day and then crawled into our pup tents that evening.

There was a French battery of old Napoleon six inch guns just behind my battery position. These old Napoleon guns had wheels six feet in diameter and no recoil mechanism. They'd run back up tall wooden contraptions built like a carpenters saw horse and then run down into place again. If a gunner got in the way either going or coming he'd lose an arm or a leg or any other part of his anatomy that happened to be in the way of the old gun. It was a good gun, though and would hit the target if laid by an expert.

Along in the evening all the men in the French battery became intoxicated as result of a load of wine which came up on the ammunition narrow gauge.

Every single one of them had to march by my bed and salute and yell "Vive President Wilson, vive Capitain, Artillerie American" No sleep all night, the infantry fired Very pistols, sent up all the flares they could lay their hands on, fired rifles, pistols and whatever else would make a noise all night long.

Next day we had orders to leave our guns in line and fall back to the etchlon [sic]. After that we spent our evenings playing poker and wishing we were at home.

On Dec. 7 a number of officers were given a leave. I was one of them. We went to Paris where we spent three happy days. I attended Manon at the Grand Opera House, went the Comedie Francais to hear Carmen and to the Follies Bergier, a disgusting performance. Then we went to Nice, stayed at the Hotel Mediterranean saw the American Bar in the Hotel Negresco and the one in the Rhule et Auglee, visited the Casino at Monte Carlo, but we couldn't play because we were in uniform.

They gave us a 5 Franc chip and that's all we had from the famous gambling hall.

We had lunch one day in the Casino de Paris. There were about seven or eight of us sitting at a big round table in the rear of the place, when all of a sudden every waiter in the place rushed to the front and began bowing and scraping and we were informed that Madam la Princesee of Monaco had come in. Our Lt. Col. was facing the front and could see the performance. He watched very closely and pretty soon he reported "Oh hell, she's taking beer! Can you imagine a princess drinking beer?" It gave all of us common people a letdown.

We went back to the regiment, moved a couple of times and finally landed back in Brest where we took off for U.S.A. on April 9th 1919, landing in N. Y. on Sunday-Easter Sunday morning April 29th. I'd been gone from that city just a year and twenty days. I made a resolution that if old lady Liberty in N.Y. harbor wanted to see me again she'd have to turn around.

We were sent to Camp Mills and then ordered to Camp Funsten Kansas for discharge. The discharge was accomplished on May 6, 1919.

I'd been a soldier-an artillery man for almost two years, been under fire, lost my business connections and so I went home to the farm.

Eddie Jacobson, as fine a man as ever walked, had been my canteen manager at Camp Doniphan, Ft. Sill, Okla. It was the most successful one there. Eddie's good management and honesty caused me to be promoted and become a member of the 35th Division Overseas Detail.

When arrived at home Eddie and I decide to open a furnishing goods store. He'd been in that business when the war came and I knew his merchandising ability. I furnished the money and he furnished the experience. We leased a store on west 12th St. opposite the Meulhbock [sic] Hotel and bought $35,000 worth of merchandise and did a thriving business for two years. We sold over $70,000 worth of merchandise in a year and a half and showed a very good profit after all expenses.

We had a chance to sell out at inventory price about this time but neither of us wanted to sell so we bought more goods and then old man Mellon's wringing out process came along and did he wring Ed and me out!

Our inventory was worth $40,000 one week and the next it was worth $5,000. We went broke. Our creditors drove Eddie into bankruptcy, but I became a public official and they couldn't do that to me. Eddie and I continued to pay and settle our obligations, and after about fifteen years cleared them all up honorably. Not one of our creditors, merchandise or bank exec accused us of a dishonorable act. A couple of bankruptcy lawyers caused us a lot of trouble, but they didn't get anywhere.

In July or August 1921 a meeting of the leaders in Eastern Jackson County was held and it was decided that I should be a candidate for Judge of the County Court for the Eastern District County Courts in Missouri consist of three judges. Two are district judges and one is elected at large for the whole county. It is an administrative body. Taxes are levied by the Court and expenditures for roads, homes for aged, schools for delinquent children and insane in state institutions are supported by orders of the Court on the county Treasurer. The only really judicial act the Court performs is to make a finding of insanity when such finding is recommended by two reputable physicians.

In that county campaign in 1922 there were five candidates for Eastern Judge, a banker in Blue Springs, a fireman supported by the Shannon faction (called rabbits), his name Montgomery, a real estate man, named James Compton, a road contractor named George Shaw and a busted merchant named Harry Truman, supported by Pendergast (the goats), a man named Parent from Oak Grove, a road overseer.

It was a hot campaign. Every township and precinct was visited by me. I had kinfolks all over the county and the people I was not related to Mrs. Truman was. I won in the primary for a wonder by a plurality of 500 votes! Then my troubles began. The election was a walk away. All the Democrats on the ticket won in the county. There were three Democrats on the County Court and they promptly managed a vicious political fight among themselves! The Presiding Judge was a Shannon man and the two District Judges were "goats". We promptly took all the jobs, but we ran the county on an economy basis which was a real one.

But in 1924 the rabbits bolted the ticket and the two district judges were beaten. My only child was born that year and I was broke and out of a job. But I had a lot of friends and pulled through until 1926 when I was elected Presiding Judge of the County Court of Jackson County by a majority of 16000 votes. That was the beginning of a fantastic political career that ended in the White House. It does not seem possible that it could happen. It could not happen anywhere but in the United States.

When I took over as the executive officer of the County I found its road system a wreck, its court houses falling down, its finances in such condition that the State was threatening to send the five or six hundred insane it was caring for back to the County and leave them on the Court House steps. There were $2,000,000 or more of protested warrants out bearing 6% interest. I went to work. I employed a County Counselor, the best lawyer in the County, a purchasing agent (I fired him later when I found him in partnership with people who sold things to the county) and two or three other administrators in key jobs and set up a system of audits and inspections which gave the crooked contractors an awful pain. I inspected every institution in the county every week and fired people right and left who didn't work in the public interest. I offered a bond issue to the taxpayers for roads and public buildings, succeeded in getting the Republican highway engineer to cooperate with me and appointed a bipartisan board of engineers, spend ten million dollars for one of finest road systems in the country, built two new court houses and a county hospital, refinanced the county's floating debt, reduced the interest rate on county borrowing from 6% to 2 1/2% and put the whole county set up in good shape. When I came up for reelection in 1930 my majority was 55,000.

In 1934 the County job was finished. I was maneuvered into running for the Senate in the primary just as I had been in the primary in the County in 1922.

Two fine men were my opponents. Congressman Jacob L. (Tuck) Milligan of Richmond, Mo. Senator Clark's candidate and Jack Cochran the St. Louis Post Dispatch candidate from St. Louis. I went into sixty counties made from six to sixteen appearances every day and won by a plurality of 44,000. The election was a walk away and I went to Washington.

My colleague, the Hon. Bennett Champ Clark was as courteous as I could want. I became a member of the Appropriations, Interstate Commerce, Public Buildings and Grounds, Enrolled Bills and Audit and Control Committees. I attended every meeting of every committee to which I was appointed. Became vice chairman of the Interstate Commerce Committee's subcommittee to investigate the railroad finance situation. Was Chairman of the Interstate Commerce subcommittee that wrote the Civil Aeronautics Act, was on a half dozen subcommittees of the appropriations Committee and worked closely with Sen. Tom Connally who was chairman of the Public Buildings and Grounds Committee. That Committee introduced a bill for the purpose of finishing the Capitol Building. The central section of the building has never been finished. It's a shame. The "new" dome is seven feet over the central porch and the building on which it rests is of red sand stone.

It was intended by the architect of 1863, when the House and Senate wings were added and the dome was placed over the sand stone center section, that the center stairway on the east side of the Capital building should be moved out in proportion to the House and Senate stairways and that the red sandstone of the old original building should be covered with the same marble as the two wings are built of. The dome also should be covered by the same sort of marble.

A little pin headed congressman by the name of Warin interested the Washington Star, which paper has always been against architectural progress and the House beat the bill. We still have a red sandstone center to the Capitol of the greatest republic in the history of the world and one of the three great domes of the world hanging in the air! What an accomplishment for a pin headed Congressman and a newspaper that calls itself Washington's greatest!

That same "Great" newspaper tried the same tactics when I was making the south front of the White House architecturally correct-but the "great" paper didn't have a pinheaded Congressman to legislate-and it failed in its wrong purpose.

On Feb. 28, 1941 I introduced a resolution in the Senate to create a Committee to investigate the National Defense Program. I think, maybe the resolution was passed on Feb. 28 instead of introduced. Anyway the Committee was set up. I'd asked for $25,000 to start with. My friend and chairman of the Audit and Control Committee, the Hon. James F. Byrnes of South Carolina gave me $15,000.

I called the Attorney General, Mr. Jackson and told him that I would like a committee counsel and I'd hope he'd recommend a good one. He did. I hired Hugh Fulton at $8500 which was more than half my appropriation. I began to study the operations of the famous Civil War Committee on the Conduct of War. Vandenberg, Brewster, Taft and one or two other influential Senators tried to get me to make a Committee on the Conduct of the War out of my committee. Thank goodness, I knew my history and I wouldn't do it.


                               Next page