Book Review: The Soldier from Independence: A Military Biography of Harry Truman


by D. M. Giangreco

Minneapolis: Zenith Press, 2009. Pp. xviii, 286. Illus., maps, notes, index. $28.00. ISBN: 0760332096

Giangreco, long-time editor of Military Review and author of several books in military history, including Hell to Pay: Operation DOWNFAL and the Invasion of Japan (2009) and Dear Harry...: Truman's Mailroom, 1945-1953 (1999), an anthology of letters to President Harry Truman from the American people, here provides a detailed and valuable account of Truman's military career through the end of World War I. 

The books opens with a short look at Truman's family background and early life, and his interest in military history, which led him to join the National Guard in his native Missouri . After six years enlisted service, Truman left the Guard to focus on his business interests. 

When World War I broke out, although overage Truman joined the army, and was shortly commissioned in the artillery. He served at the front in France , rising to major by war's end. The last president to have served as an enlisted man, Truman saw more ground combat than any president since McKinley. In telling this tale, Giangreco not only gives us a look at one of the millions of ordinary Americans who served in the Great War, giving us a soldier's eye-view of the AEF and the trenches, as well as a brief treatment of the Army's mismanagement of the National Guard, but also discusses Truman's time in uniform shaped his business and political life. 

A valuable look at the shaping of one of the most notable modern presidents, this volume is to be followed by a second dealing with Truman's years in the reserve components between the world wars, during which he rose to colonel in the artillery. 

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   

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