If you are over 50 years old, I would bet that you remember exactly where you were and what you were doing when the Apollo crew landed on the moon 50 years ago today. My mother had just recently in her possession a brand-new color TV – I still had just a black and white.
So I slipped out of town that morning and drove 200 miles to my mom’s house so I could watch the landing in color. Would you believe, all the pictures coming from the moon were beamed over the air waves in black and white – bummer! The only thing in color was Walter Cronkite. But then he was one of my heroes, so that made everything cool.
Walter Cronkite was a Missouri boy; he grew up in St. Joseph and is buried in Wyandotte County, Kansas. Cronkite got his start in broadcasting in Kansas City, and took his chosen profession all the way to the top.
Another one of my heroes has always been another Missouri boy, Harry Truman, and we are all proud that he hailed from Independence.
He was one of a kind, and everything he did was classic Harry Truman. The decisions in those days of Truman’s presidency were delicate to say the least. He had been handed the closing of World War II by his predecessor when President Roosevelt died in office. With very little experience in such matters, Truman’s no-nonsense intellect kicked into gear, which put him in the history books.
Europe was in a ruin of bomb craters and dead cities. Asia was in a ferment of confusion in the wake of the Japanese defeat. There were no blueprints to guide the future in the midst of the convulsions that ended World War II and the beginning of the nuclear age.
Truman acted with caution and deliberate decision. From the very beginning he was steadfastly loyal to the ideal of the United Nations. He tried to head off an atomic arms race – and failed – but he tried, and that will always be to the credit of the United States and to Truman himself. At a time when the U.S. was the sole possessor of the bomb, this country did not and would not coerce the rest of the world with the ultimate threat. Other nations might not have been so generous.
Very quickly Truman perceived that the Stalinist government of the Soviet Union based its policy on diplomatic duplicity and coercion. Out of this observation came the Truman Doctrine – the response to Russian intimidation in the region of Greece and Turkey. He proclaimed a policy of aid to all free people who would resist aggression or absorption.
The best example of a positive and creative foreign policy was the Marshall Plan that rebuilt postwar Europe. It was called the Marshall Plan because Mr. Truman’s hero, George C. Marshall, was the secretary of state when it was implemented. It might more accurately have been called the Truman-Clifford-Acheson plan after the president and his lieutenants, Clark Clifford and Dean Acheson.
Before that, while the Russians were dismantling German industry in their zone, Mr. Truman was moving to rehabilitate the smashed land. He firmly rejected the Morgenthau plan of a pastoral Germany. Later he stood up to the Russian challenge and provided a classic example of the use of power with restraint with the Berlin airlift. He used the best American resource – air power – and avoided any ground action that could have led to general combat.
References: My thanks to Dorothy Salyer and the files of The Examiner.
To reach Ted W. Stillwell send e-mail to email@example.com or call him at 816-252-9909.