Lessons Learned

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Thrust suddenly into the Presidency in April 1945, Harry Truman looked to the lessons of World War I to help guide his policies.

  • A punitive peace treaty in 1919 crippled Germany’s economy, contributing to the rise of Hitler’s nationalism.  But through the Marshall Plan and other post-World War II programs, Germany was rebuilt as an economically strong democratic nation.
  • Post-World War I economic policies contributed to the 1920-21 depression that drove Truman’s haberdashery out of business.  Following World War II, the nation’s controlled reconversion policies led to sustained economic prosperity. 
  • Following the First World War the United States retreated into isolationism.  Emerging as the world’s most prosperous nation after the Second World War, the United States fully engaged with the world of nations through its leadership and through its support of the fledgling United Nations.

To implement these policies, President Truman often had to face down fierce political and ideological foes.  He had learned how to do that during the First World War, on that day in July 1918 when, as a new untested artillery captain, he faced down those rowdy Kansas City German and Irish Catholics of Battery D.

Exhibition Dates

Heroes or Corpses: Captain Truman in World War I is on display from March 10 through December 31, 2018.