Book Review: The Memoirs of Harry S. Truman, A Reader’s Edition

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by Raymond H. Geselbracht, editor

Columbia, Mo. : University of Missouri Press, 2019. Pp. xvi, 680+. Illus., personae, index. $44.95. ISBN: 0826221955

A President Recalls his Life and Service

Originally published in two thick volumes during the mid-1950s, Truman’s memoirs were full of valuable material. Unfortunately, the work was seriously in need of a good editor. The writing was often careless, and the work is heavily laden with long excerpts from speeches and documents, and rather oddly organized. While experienced scholars have found them useful, the memoirs were hardly suitable for the layman seeking a look into the former president’s thoughts and actions.

Geselbracht, a veteran of long service with the National Archives and Records Administration, has previously edited several earlier volumes of Truman-related materials. For the memoirs, he pruned and reorganized the material in the original edition, yielding a text that is easier to follow. He also adds some commentary and bridging materials and a dramatis personae, to help readers unfamiliar with the period identify various actors.

Some of the best parts of the book are Truman’s accounts of his service at the Front in W.W. I, his time in the Senate in the interwar years and during W.W. II, and his succession to the Presidency. There’s some good material on decision making and planning in the final months of the war, and about peacemaking and the coming of the Cold War, such as proposals for universal military service, the creation of the Department of Defense, and the Korean War.

This revised edition of The Memoirs of Harry S. Truman, A Reader’s Edition, remains useful for scholars, and is more accessible for the layman.

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Note: The Memoirs of Harry S. Truman, A Reader’s Edition, is also available in several e-editions.

 

StrategyPage reviews are published in cooperation with The New York Military Affairs Symposium

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   


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