FBI offering reward for 1978 Truman Library theft

By Mike Genet mike.genet@examiner.net
The Examiner

This week marked the 43rd anniversary of a heist at the Truman Presidential Library & Museum in Independence in which thieves took swords and daggers encrusted with jewels.

The FBI this week announced a reward of up to $10,000 in hopes the public can provide information leading to the recovery of the items.

Forty-three years ago this week thieves broke into the front entrance of the Truman Library and – in a matter of seconds, the FBI says – stole these swords and daggers, valued at the time at as much as $1 million. The FBI has a reward for more information.

The theft happened at about 6:30 a.m. March 24, 1978. Two suspects, who the FBI says it believes were aware of the library’s security procedures, broke in from the south entrance, smashed a display case in the lobby, grabbed the items and left reportedly in a matter of 45 seconds. They got three ceremonial swords and two daggers, including their scabbards, that had been given to President Truman by Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Saud and the Shah of Iran. 

A guard heard the initial glass breaking from another corner of the library and rushed through corridors toward the lobby, but the thieves had also padlocked the inside door.

The stolen items, encrusted with diamonds and rubies, had a 1978 value between $700,000 and $1 million.

More:TV series recounts Truman’s stolen swords

Anyone with information about the case should contact the FBI’s Kansas City office at 816-512-8200 or submit a tip online at tips.fbi.gov. 

The agency has an art crime team of special agents and trial attorneys to recover stolen items and prosecute art and cultural property crime. The FBI also runs the National Stolen Art File, a computerized index of stolen art and cultural properties that law enforcement agencies worldwide use as a reference.

The Truman Library closed in late summer 2019 for a $30 million renovation that is substantially completed, but the museum, along with other National Archives and Records Administration facilities, remains closed due to the pandemic.