Harry Truman's presidency was fraught with surprises. Even the way he became president was unplanned. During a war, when President Roosevelt died, Truman was suddenly thrust into the top position.
He soon received the letter here, telling him about a new technology that could change the outcome of World War II - an atomic bomb. Soon, the president was deciding whether or not to use the technology against Japan.
Following the Joplin tornado of 2011I spoke to an elderly gentleman named Bernard. He and his daughter were looking for assistance after his assisted-living facility was destroyed by the winds. In our conversation, his daughter revealed that Bernard was one of the first people to visit Nagasaki and Hiroshima after the bombings. I could not resist asking the question: "Everyone says Joplin looks like an atomic bomb hit it," I said. "Is that an accurate description? Is this what Japan looked like?" He responded that it was indeed. I included my encounter with this interesting old man in my book, Out of the Wind. From that conversation, I developed a larger interest in the bombing.
Nearby in the museum is a floor plaque (right) from the USS Missouri. This plaque was located on the ship in exactly the space on which Japanese authorities signed surrender during the war.
Another sad chapter is a Purple Heart and an accompanying letter from the disgruntled father of a soldier during the Korean War. After losing his son, he sent the Purple Heart to the president along with the statement, "Our major regret at this time is that your daughter was not there to receive the same treatment as our son received in Korea." Harsh but honest, raw feelings from a mourning parent.
This was one presidency that must have taken a toll on the man in the office.