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Archive for '- Presidents'

Harry Truman and The Bomb

Today’s post is from Lee Lacy, an Assistant Professor at the U.S. Army Command & General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. 

When Harry S. Truman was told on April 12, 1945, by Eleanor Roosevelt that her husband, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, was dead, Truman reacted true to form.

Henry Stimson to Harry S. Truman, April 24, 1945. (Harry S. Truman Presidential Library)

Henry Stimson to Harry S. Truman, April 24, 1945. (Harry S. Truman Presidential Library)

He asked if there was anything he could do. Her famous reply: “Is there anything we can do for you? For you are the one in trouble now.”

Trouble indeed. Truman would soon learn just how much FDR did not tell him about the status of the war effort.

Moments after Truman’s hastily-called swearing in ceremony, Secretary of War Henry Stimson lingered to speak with him about an “immense project.” Stimson briefly told Truman about the Manhattan Project, but Truman deferred an in-depth discussion to a later date.

The nation was in shock over the death of FDR, the only President many Americans had ever known, and World War II raged on. Germany was close to collapse, but it appeared that the war against Japan might go to the Japanese mainland and drag out into 1946. Amidst these troubles, Truman had to learn all the things FDR did not tell his newly-elected Vice President, in office only 82 days.

The issue of the … [ Read all ]

An inaugural blunder

Today’s post is from David Steinbach, intern in the National Archives History Office.

Chief Justice William H. Taft administering the oath of office to Herbert Hoover, March 4, 1929. (Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum)

Chief Justice William H. Taft administering the oath of office to Herbert Hoover, March 4, 1929. (Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum)

William Howard Taft had unusually extensive experience with the Presidential oath of office. In 1909, Taft recited the text on the steps of the Capitol to become the 27th President of the United States.

Sixteen years later, as Chief Justice of the United States, Taft stood on the other side of the Bible and administered Calvin Coolidge’s swearing in.

By the time of Herbert Hoover’s inauguration ceremony in 1929, Taft should have mastered the oath. But the Chief Justice blundered nonetheless, substituting erroneously the phrase “preserve, maintain, and defend” for the traditional “preserve, protect, and defend.”

Letter from Chief Justice William Howard Taft to President Herbert Hoover Regarding the Oath of Office, 03/01/1929. (National Archives Identifier 7722952)

Letter from Chief Justice William Howard Taft to President Herbert Hoover Regarding the Oath of Office, 03/01/1929. (National Archives Identifier
7722952)

Taft could not blame lack of preparation. In the exhibit “Making Their Mark: Stories Through Signatures” currently open at the National Archives in Washington, DC, we see a particularly interesting letter from the Chief Justice to incoming President Hoover. The communication is dated March 1, 1929—three days before the inauguration. Taft described in great detail where the two men would stand, what text that he would recite, what Hoover’s response should be, … [ Read all ]

John Russell Pope’s Lincoln Memorial designs

Today’s post comes from Christina James, intern in the National Archives History Office. 

John Russell Pope's Competition Proposal for a Monument to Abraham Lincoln on Meridian Hill, Detail from North, 1912. (National Archives Identifier 6087981)

John Russell Pope’s Competition Proposal for a Monument to Abraham Lincoln on Meridian Hill, Detail from North, 1912. (National Archives Identifier
6087981)

Walking through our nation’s capital, you will inevitably come across at least one structure adorned with triangular pediments, massive columns, or a majestic dome. Many of Washington, DC’s most iconic buildings and monuments feature these elements and exemplify neoclassical architecture.

John Russell Pope, one of the most famous American neoclassical architects, believed that a democracy’s public buildings should be designed in the style of the ancient Greeks and Romans. Today, Pope’s designs are scattered throughout the city and include the Jefferson Memorial, the National Gallery of Art, and the National Archives.

However, one of the most recognizable neoclassical structures in the capital, the Lincoln Memorial, is not one of Pope’s designs. If Pope had been chosen to design the memorial, the National Mall would look very different.

The construction of a memorial to President Abraham Lincoln in Washington, DC, was first approved by Congress in 1911. The bill authorizing the construction created the Lincoln Memorial Commission to approve a site and a design for a memorial honoring the 16th President. The Committee was given a budget of $2 million dollars, the largest amount to ever be provided for a national memorial at … [ Read all ]

On exhibit: Gulf of Tonkin Resolution

Joint Resolution for the Maintenance of Peace and Security in Southeast Asia, also known as the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, August 10, 1964. (National Archives Identifier 2803448)

Joint Resolution for the Maintenance of International Peace and Security in Southeast Asia, also known as the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, August 10, 1964. (National Archives Identifier 2803448)

Today’s post comes from Darlene McClurkin, National Archives Exhibits staff member.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. The original resolution is on display in the East Rotunda Gallery of the National Archives Building from July 15 to August 7, 2014.

Fifty years ago, the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution marked a major turning point in the Cold War struggle for Southeast Asia. Passage of the resolution gave President Lyndon B. Johnson authority to expand the scope of U.S. involvement in Vietnam without a declaration of war.

By 1964, Vietnam had been torn by international and civil war for decades. U.S. military support for South Vietnam had grown to some 15,000 military advisers, while the North received military and financial aid from China and the Soviet Union.

"Midnight Address" on Gulf of Tonkin incidents in Vietnam, 08/04/1964. (Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library and Museum, National Archives)

President Johnson’s “Midnight Address” on Gulf of Tonkin incidents in Vietnam, 08/04/1964. (Lyndon Baines Johnson Library)

In a late-night televised address on August 4, 1964, President Johnson announced that he had ordered retaliatory air strikes on the North Vietnamese in response to reports of their attacks earlier on U.S. Navy ships in the Gulf of Tonkin.

He then asked Congress to pass a resolution stressing that “our … [ Read all ]

John Adams’s vision of July 4 was July 2

By Jim Worsham

John Adams. (National Archives Identifier 532846)

John Adams. (National Archives Identifier 532846)

Today—July 2—was supposed to have been the big day of celebrations, with parades, bells, fireworks, festivals and all that kind of stuff—at least that’s how John Adams envisioned it.

After all, on July 2, 1776, the Continental Congress ended its debate and approved the resolution proposed on June 7 by Richard Henry Lee of Virginia and seconded by Adams:

Resolved: That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.

The newspapers of the day treated the action as the colonies’ definitive word on the break with Great Britain. And in Adams’s mind, approval of the resolution was worth celebrating, year after year. He was so excited, he wrote one of his many letters to his wife, Abigail, back home in Massachusetts:

The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America.—I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized

[ Read all ]