Truman revision notes



Truman’s character and aims

-          Truman was a plain speaking, hardworking Southerner.

-          He was appointed VP on 20th January 1945 and within 82 days he had succeeded Roosevelt.

-          He had a reputation as a staunch anti-Communist but had limited international affairs experience.

-          He was less willing to appease Stalin like FDR and relied on the advice of Secretary of State Dean Acheson, a Democrat lawyer appointed in 1949, and Churchill.

-          Acheson had been involved with NSC-68, released in April 1950 after the Soviet testing of the atomic bomb in 1949. It suggested an increase of defence spending to $50 bn rather than the original $13 bn.


The Yalta Conference, 4-11 February 1945

-          Held at the Russian town of Yalta. Agreements were made to split Germany into 4 zones, controlled by the USSR, USA, Britain and France to allow free elections in liberated countries and set up democratic, self-governing nations.

-          USSR agreed to join the war against Japan after Germany’s defeat. It was also invited to join the UN, which Roosevelt has discussed with Churchill in 1941. Stalin had a deep mistrust of the West and Churchill especially, so Roosevelt largely took control.

-          It was agreed to put Nazi war criminals on trial, a commission was set up to look into reparations.

-          Yalta was hailed as a success.


The Potsdam Conference (17th July – 2nd August 1945)

-          Truman, now leader (FDR died in April) was determined to stand up to Stalin and establish his reputation on a world stage, but the resulting tension meant little was agreed.

-          Poland’s borders were discussed, and Stalin had to be persuaded into conceding elections.

-          German disarmament and reparations discussed. Stalin was allowed 10% of reparations from industry, Britain and France also

-          The Nazi Party and laws were to be eliminated.

-          The setting up of 4 zones was confirmed.

-          Most significant was Truman’s failure to alert Stalin of the US atomic bombs. 4 days after a bomb was dropped on Hiroshima so the US denied them in any peace negotiations.


The Atomic bomb

-          Personnel had changed, and tensions grew by the time of the Potsdam conference.

-          The bomb had cost $2 billion to develop and was as a result of fear that Nazi scientists would achieve it first.

-          Truman faced a difficult decision in using it with its social and environmental consequences.

-          US army intelligence suggested that the Japanese were on the verge of surrender after they had attacked Pearl Harbour in 1941.

-          Stalin had joined the war against Japan on 8th August 1945.

-          Stalin became fearful of the West after the bomb.







Post-war peacemaking

-          September 1945: first meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers to discuss treaties with enemy


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