Saturday, Dec. 16, 2006

Harry Truman: 1945, 1948

Truman served as Franklin Roosevelt's vice-president for only 83 days before becoming president in April 1945 upon Roosevelt's death. A famously plain-spoken politician from Missouri, Truman was well liked for his blunt talk and lack of pretension. In his 1953 farewell address he said, "The President has to decide. He can't pass the buck to anyone."

And few presidents have made such tough decisions; with his order to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Truman presided over the end of World War II and the beginning of the atomic age. He also initiated the Marshall Plan, which helped rebuild Europe economically after the war; the "Point Four" program, which provided technical assistance to underdeveloped nations; and the Berlin airlift. Truman was a fierce anti-communist, establishing a containment policy against the Soviet Union, and was TIME's Man of the Year in 1945 and 1948.

Researched by Joan Levinstein, the Time Inc. Research Center