July 10, 2003
Truman Library Discovers 1947 Truman Diary
Washington, DC..., Today, at a National Archives press conference, the Truman Library announced the discovery of a handwritten diary book containing 42 entries by President Truman.
This newly-discovered diary from 1947 contains more entries than the other four known Truman diary books combined. The 42 entries, comprising about 5,500 words, are clustered in January (10 entries), March (7 entries), July (10 entries), September (6 entries), and December (5 entries). June, August, October and November are represented by only one entry each, and there are no entries for February, April, or May.
Throughout his Presidency, Truman compiled a substantial body of diary and diary-like writings. He usually wrote on loose sheets of paper, but occasionally he used diary books. The Truman Library's holdings include four diary books, from 1949, 1951, 1952, and 1953. These diaries contain only a few entries in each book, all together comprising approximately 23 full pages of writing.
In making the announcement, Archivist of the United States John W. Carlin said "This significant new discovery underscores the importance of preserving the historical record. Its tremendously exciting to think that after all of these years, we are still finding original materials that will shed new light on this crucial era in our history."
"This is probably the most important document the Truman Library has opened in twenty years," Michael J. Devine, the director of the Truman Library, said. "Once again, in this diary, we are able to hear that strong personal voice that Truman almost always projected in his writings. We learn something new both about his Presidency and about him, as a person."
The diary book bears the title 1947 Diary and Manual of The Real Estate Board of New York, Inc. The first 160 pages contain information about the board, including a listing of all its members and officers. President Truman wrote his diary entries in the second half of the book. This diary book was transferred to the Truman Library by President Truman's office staff in June 1965. At that time, the Library staff was not aware of Truman's diary entries and the book was catalogued and filed with the Library's book collection, where it remained until its recent discovery.
One of the most striking entries is Truman's account of a conversation with General Dwight D. Eisenhower in which Truman indicates that he is willing to yield the Presidency to Eisenhower. He writes that he and Eisenhower both believed that General Douglas MacArthur intended to run for President in 1948 on the Republican ticket. "I told Ike," Truman records, "that if [MacArthur] did that he (Ike) should announce for the nomination for President on the Democratic ticket and that I'd be glad to be in second place, or Vice President. I like the Senate anyway. Ike & I could be elected and my family & myself would be happy outside this great white jail known as the White House. Ike won't quot[e] me & I won't quote him." No record of the conversation was found among Eisenhower's papers at the Eisenhower Library.
In an entry for January 6, Truman writes about Presidential ghosts in the White House. "This great white jail is a hell of a place in which to be alone. While I work from early morning until late at night, it is a ghostly place. The floors pop and crack all night long. Anyone with imagination can see old Jim Buchanan walking up and down worrying about conditions not of his making. Then there's Van Buren who inherited a terrible mess from his predecessor as did poor old James Madison. Of course Andrew Johnson was the worst mistreated of any of them. But they all walk up and down the halls of this place and moan about what they should have done and didn't. So-you see. I've only named a few. The ones who had Boswells and New England historians are too busy trying to control heaven and hell to come back here. So the tortured souls who were and are misrepresented in history are the ones who come back. It's a hell of a place."
Other entries describe:
- the resignation of James F. Byrnes as Secretary of State and the appointment of George Marshall to succeed him;
- Truman's early morning ritual;
- his dealings with the White House service staff;
- his March trip to Mexico, including a wreath laying at the Niñoes heroes monument;
- his trip to Thomas Jefferson's home at Monticello;
- the Jews and the Displaced Persons problem;
- the death of Truman's mother;
- Truman's trip to Brazil in August-September;
- his message to Congress requesting legislation to implement the Marshall Plan.
On Thursday, July 17, at 7 p.m., the Truman Library will present a program titled, "The Biographer's Define Truman's Significance." Truman biographers Alonzo Hamby and Robert Ferrell will comment on the diary's importance as part of the program. For more information about this program, contact Edeen Martin at 816-833-1400, ext. 257.
Images and a transcription of all the entries in Truman's 1947 diary are available on the Truman Presidential Museum & Library's web site, www.trumanlibrary.org. The Truman Presidential Museum & Library is located at 500 West U.S. Highway 24, Independence, Missouri. For more information on the Museum and its programs, call 816-833-1225 or visit the website, www.trumanlibrary.org.
The Truman Presidential & Library is one of ten Presidential libraries administered by the National Archives and Records Administration.
For more information, contact The National Archives Public Affairs Staff at 301-837-1700, or Ray Geselbracht at the Truman Library, at 816-833-1400, ext. 263.
Truman experts Alonzo Hamby, Robert Ferrell, and Richard Kirkendall are available for comment on the significance of the diary. Dr. Hamby can be reached on July 10 only at 740-592-1764; Dr. Ferrell can be reached at 734-369-2007; Dr. Kirkendall, can be reached at 206-522-7381.