The dramatic, pulse-pounding story of Harry Truman’s first four months in office, when this unlikely president had to take on Germany, Japan, Stalin, and the atomic bomb, with the fate of the world hanging in the balance.
Heroes are often defined as ordinary characters who get thrust into extraordinary circumstances, and through courage and a dash of luck, cement their place in history. Chosen as FDR’s fourth term Vice President for his well-praised work ethic, good judgment, and lack of enemies, Harry S. Trumana Midwesterner who had no college degree and had never had the money to buy his own homewas the prototypical ordinary man. That is, until he was shockingly thrust in over his head after FDR’s sudden death. During the climactic months of the Second World War, Truman had to play judge and jury, pulling America to the forefront of the global stage. The first four months of Truman’s administration saw the founding of the United Nations, the fall of Berlin, victory at Okinawa, firebombings of Tokyo, the first atomic explosion, the Nazi surrender, the liberation of concentration camps, the mass starvation of Europe, the Potsdam Conference, the controversial decision to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the surrender of Imperial Japan, and finally, the end of World War II and the rise of the Cold War. No other president had ever faced so much in such a short period of time.
Tightly focused, meticulously researched, rendered with vivid detail and narrative verve, THE ACCIDENTAL PRESIDENT escorts readers into the situation room with Truman during this tumultuous, history-making 120 days, when the stakes were high and the challenge even higher. The result is narrative history of the highest order and a compelling look at a presidency with great relevance to our times.
A.J. Baime is the New York Times best-selling author of The Arsenal of Democracy: FDR, Detroit, and an Epic Quest to Arm an America at War and Go Like Hell: Ford, Ferrari, and Their Battle for Speed and Glory at Le Mans. Both books are in development for major motion pictures. His latest book, The Accidental President: Harry S. Truman and the Four Months That Changed the World, was published in 2017. Baime is a longtime regular contributor to the Wall Street Journal, and his articles have also appeared in the New York Times, Popular Science, and Men’s Journal. He holds an M.A. in literature from NYU and currently lives in Granite Bay, California. Visit A.J. at Facebook.com/ajbaime and Trumanbook.com.
Journalist and editor Baime (The Arsenal of Democracy) carves out a slice of the Truman presidency and serves up an attractive tale for fans of both presidential and WWII history. He opens with an acknowledgement of Truman’s divisive legacy, then sidesteps the debate by arguing that, whether the Missourian is considered among one of the best or the worst presidents, “the first four months of his administration should rank as the most challenging and action-packed” of any president’s. When F.D.R. decided to run for an unprecedented fourth term, he selected Truman, a senator from Missouri whom he barely knew, as his vice president. The position didn’t afford Truman access to Roosevelt’s inner circle and, after F.D.R.’s death, Truman found himself unprepared for the presidency. He proved a quick study, however, and Baime’s account centers on how Truman brought the U.S. through the end of WWII. He writes admiringly of Truman’s negotiations with Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin over the future of postwar Europe and of his decision to use an atomic bomb on Japan to end the war in the Pacific. Baime opens a clear, if narrow, window on a pivotal moment in history. Illus. Agent: Scott Waxman, Waxman Leavell Literary. (Oct.)
"The story of Truman’s accession to the presidency is worthy of a Hollywood melodrama, and A.J. Baime’s zippy, well-judged and hugely readable book more than does it justice . . . although there are plenty of good biographies of Truman, few are as entertaining as Baime’s."From the Publisher
—Dominic Sandbrook, Sunday Times
"A.J. Baime is a master. His reporting and storytelling are woven to hypnotic effect. Opening the first page of The Accidental President is like pulling up a chair to Truman’s White House desk where we sit engrossed as world events unfold in the most intimate manner, titanic in scale. Baime brings us as close as we are likely to get to this completely surprising, quirky, wily, and transformational president. This is history and humanity in lush, vivid color."
—Doug Stanton, author of The Odyssey of Echo Company and Horse Soldiers
“A.J. Baime is a master storyteller, and The Accidental President contains everything a reader could ever want from a work of history: characters that jump off the page, tension that makes your pulse pound, and smooth, smart writing that makes you think. Amazing!”
—Jonathan Eig, author of Ali: A Life and Luckiest Man
"Intimate and absorbing, A.J. Baime's biography uses new sources to paint Harry Truman as a complex and thoroughly American figure. A sharply-drawn portrait of an era as well as a man."
–Stephan Talty, author of The Black Hand and Agent Garbo
“No president in history – particularly one who came in without having been briefed by his predecessor – has faced such monumental decisions. A.J. Baime has put a spotlight on those four months, recounting them faithfully and with heart, so that you come away with not only a sense of history, but a sense of the man, Harry Truman, as well. As Grandpa himself said a few years later, ‘It’s hell to be President of the Greatest Most Powerful Nation on Earth.’”
—Clifton Truman Daniel, Truman’s grandson and author of Growing Up with My Grandfather: Memories of Harry Truman
“An entertaining new history of Truman’s first months in office...filled with events that are strikingly proportionate to what the Trump administration has weathered since January.”
—John Batchelor, The Daily Beast
“A fast-paced, well-detailed chronology of Truman's transformation from an official with little administrative responsibility into a politically astute and ultimately beloved leader.... A warmly human portrait of an unlikely president.”
"By relying mostly on primary sources, Baime allows for a better perspective of Truman, in which his political decisions are equally as significant as the correspondence with his beloved wife, daughter, and mother. He also adeptly manages to include nuanced U.S.-Russia relations and East Asian diplomacy."
— Library Journal (starred review)
"An attractive tale for fans of both presidential and WWII history. . . Baime opens a clear . . . window on a pivotal moment in history."
"Baime is a master story-teller who appears to have invented a time machine. His carefully crafted narrative transports the reader back in time... Each sentence is carefully constructed and colorfully packed with details that makes Harry Truman and this period in history come alive. The Accidental President reads more like a captivating novel than non-fiction. The book is good history in that it simplifies events without being simple."
★ 10/01/2017Library Journal
Baime (Arsenal of Democracy) examines the harrowing first few months of Harry Truman's (1884-1972) unexpected first term in office after the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1945. In highlighting their stark differences, Baime describes Roosevelt as representing the people while Truman was the people. The author begins with Truman's background as a farmer and former haberdasher from Missouri, then demonstrates how the president was viewed as ordinary and unqualified for the position. In four months, Truman would chair the Potsdam Conference; help create the United Nations; sign the London Agreement, setting the stage for the Nuremberg Trials; and lead Germany and Japan to surrender at the end of World War II. By relying mostly on primary sources, Baime allows for a better perspective of Truman, in which his political decisions are equally as significant as the correspondence with his beloved wife, daughter, and mother. He also adeptly manages to include nuanced U.S.-Russia relations and East Asian diplomacy. VERDICT Those seeking an all-encompassing biography of Truman before he took office and after World War II should seek out David McCullough's Truman. However, Baime's spotlight on an influential segment of the 21st century and the man who saw the country through it will be appreciated by most readers. [See Prepub Alert, 4/17/17.]—Keith Klang, Port Washington P.L., NY
A man unprepared for the presidency faces dire challenges.On April 12, 1945, when Franklin Roosevelt suddenly died, Harry Truman (1884-1972) ascended to the presidency. By his own estimation, he was the wrong man at the wrong time. "I'm not big enough for this job," he remarked to a Vermont senator soon after being sworn in. Many in the U.S. echoed his concern: "The gravest question mark in every American heart is about Truman," a senator from Michigan wrote. "Can he swing the job?" Drawing on letters, memoirs, and published sources, journalist Baime (The Arsenal of Democracy: FDR, Detroit, and an Epic Quest to Arm an America at War, 2014), a regular contributor to the Wall Street Journal and other publications, offers a fast-paced, well-detailed chronology of Truman's transformation from an official with little administrative responsibility into a politically astute and ultimately beloved leader. After giving a standard overview of Truman's biography in the first third of the book, the author follows the new president's day-to-day—and sometimes hour-by-hour—schedule as he confronted the challenges of a nation embroiled in war. Just weeks after he took office, Germany surrendered. It was Truman's 61st birthday, and although he felt relieved, he knew, as he announced to the press, "our victory is but half-won." The Allies still faced "the treacherous tyranny of the Japanese," and Truman received conflicting advice about how to surmount that threat. Just days before Germany fell, he had learned, for the first time, about the development of the atomic bomb, a weapon that he believed could force Japan's unconditional surrender. As weeks turned into months, his colleagues "singled out a curious trait about Truman": his firm decisiveness. "You could go into Truman's office with a question and come out with a decision more swiftly than any man I have ever known," his Soviet ambassador said. As Baime shows, that decisiveness came into play at his meeting with Churchill and Stalin at Potsdam and in his go-ahead to obliterate Hiroshima. A warmly human portrait of an unlikely president.