LETTERS HOME by Harry S. Truman


Email this review


More HST letters? From his travels, says Truman-maven Poen--adding that he's also put in other, newly-found oddments. (One, a highschool essay, avows that ""courage is not in always facing the foe but in taking care of those at home."") However, most letters are (or were) written by people away from home--and this collection turns out to be more-or-less a miniature version of Dear Bess: letters--many also to Bess, others to Margaret and other relatives--that Truman wrote from the farm in Grandview, from the Army during WW I, from Washington as a senator, from the campaign trail, from the White House. One of the stirring Dear Bess courtship letters is included (""My luck should surely change""); otherwise, that episode is sparsely represented. From France--a considerable group--we hear about HST's stay at ""a real chateau,"" his nervousness and pride on becoming a battery commander, his postwar preference for following a ""mule down a corn row or [being] a congressman or something where I can cuss colonels and generals to my heart's content."" Thereafter, the pickings are meager--mostly cozy letters to Margaret (describing a place-setting or a room, encouraging her in her music and schoolwork)--until well into Truman's second senatorial term and his fighting chairmanship of the Committee on Defense Spending. Then, visiting the Army-occupied Stevens Hotel in Chicago: ""I never thought I'd make a B[rigadier] G[eneral] step around like that one did."" The presidency? To Margaret, en route to and at Potsdam: puzzlement as to ""why admirals had to be rear""; enumeration of toasts at Stalin's banquet; first word of Attlee and Bevin--""sourpusses."" And, before her 1951 audience with the Pope: ""Just be the great daughter that you are of a Missouri farmer, Grand Master of Masons, and Roger Williams Baptist."" Poen's connecting notes, nearly a third of the text, have some interest too (e.g., an exchange between HST and Dean Acheson re MacArthur); but all of this--characteristic or flavorful or everyday--suffers from the over-publication of Truman ephemera (and the prior skimming-off of choice items).

Pub Date: March 22nd, 1984
Publisher: Times Books