Harry Truman

As public officials, President Harry S. Truman and General George Marshall shared traits that won each other's admiration. Chief among them, both leaders were forthright in making decisions of national importance. Neither man, for instance, ever had doubts about the decision to use atomic weapons against Japan. Moreover, both men shared the same philosophy of public service. "The objective is the thing," wrote Truman, "not personal aggrandizement." Marshall could not have stated it better, nor was there anyone else in government who better exemplified this creed than George Marshall. Truman therefore dealt Marshall the public-duty card time and again, which the conscientious general could never decline. Only days after Marshall retired as chief of staff in November 1945, Truman sent him to China to mediate a peace between the Chinese Nationalists and the insurgent Chinese Communists. Unsuccessful, Marshall returned home a year later to become secretary of state. And at the age of sixty-eight, he served as secretary of defense. For Truman, Marshall was a "tower of strength and common sense." He also lent the administration a measure of prestige, especially with congressional Republicans. When an aide suggested that the multibillion-dollar plan to revive Europe be named after the President, Truman explained that Congress would never accept anything less than the "Marshall Plan."

Harry Truman, 1884-1972
Harris and Ewing Studio (active 1905-1977)
Gelatin silver print, 23 x 18.4 cm.
(9 1/16 x 7 1/4 in.), c. 1945
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Gift of Aileen Conkey

NEXT portrait

BACK to "George C. Marshall: Soldier of Peace"

Past Exhibitions | National Portrait Gallery Home