In this riveting collection, published for the first time, we follow Harry S. Truman and Dean Acheson, two giants of the post–World War II period, as they move from an official relationship to one of candor, humor, and personal expression. Together they were primarily responsible for the Marshall Plan and NATO, among other world-shaping initiatives. And in these letters, spanning the years from when both were newly out of office until Acheson’s death at the age of seventy-eight, we find them sharing the often surprising and always illuminating opinions, ideas, and feelings that the strictures of their offices had previously kept them from revealing.
Adapting easily to their private lives, they nonetheless felt a powerful need to keep in touch as they viewed with dismay what they considered to be the Eisenhower administration’s fumbling of foreign affairs, the impact of Joseph McCarthy, John Foster Dulles’s foreign policy, and the threat of massive nuclear retaliation. Adlai Stevenson’s poor campaign of 1956, Eisenhower’s second-term mishaps, family events, speaking engagements, and Truman’s difficulties writing his memoirs are all fodder for their conversations. In 1960 their skeptical stance toward John F. Kennedy (and his father's influence) turned them toward Lyndon Johnson. After Kennedy won they discussed Acheson’s reluctant involvement in the Cuban missile crisis, his missions to de Gaulle and Prime Minister Macmillan, and the Allied position in Berlin.
Unbuttoned, careless of language, unburdened by political ambition or vanity, Truman and Acheson show their own characters and loyalty to each other on every page. Truman, a Missouri farmer with the unpolished but sharp intellect of the largely self-educated man, clearly understands that in Acheson he has a friend with a rare gift for providing unhesitant and truthful counsel. Acheson, well-educated, urbane, and well-off, understands which traits in Truman’s complex character to love and admire and when to admonish, instruct, and tease him. Both men share a deep and abiding patriotism, a quality that truly stands out in today’s world.
A remarkable book that brings to light the very human side of two of the most important statesmen of the twentieth century.
About Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman was the thirty-third president of the United States.
About Dean Acheson
Dean Acheson was Secretary of State during the Truman administration.
About David McCullough
David McCullough is an award-winning writer, historian, teacher, and lecturer. He has won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. His books include Truman, The Great Bridge, The Johnstown Flood, The Path Between the Seas, Mornings on Horseback, and Brave Companions.
“Harry Truman was the last American president who had worked behind plow horses and had never been to college. His secretary of state, Dean Acheson, was a patrician from Yale, from the upper reaches of the legal profession and from the vanished world of America’s WASP ascendancy. Their collaboration, even more, their friendship, made history—and these luminous letters.”
—George F. Will
“What pure joy it is to read this astonishing exchange of letters between these two giant figures. This unreserved and surprisingly tender correspondence is simultaneously a moving tribute to friendship, an historical treasure and a fabulous read from start to finish. It is also a happy throwback to a bygone era when people took the time to write long handwritten letters to one another.”
—Doris Kearns Goodwin
“Just as the letters between Adams and Jefferson provide an intimate and historically rich view of the birth and early years of the Republic, so, too, does the post-Presidential correspondence between Truman and Acheson offer illuminating insights into the watershed years following World War II. At a time when America had emerged with strength and maturity into another vastly changed world, the candid views of these two old and mutually trusted friends on affairs of state and the personalities involved in them are invaluable sources of information. Scholars and historians will be mining this trove for years to come.”
—Dr. Henry Kissinger
“What a wonderful book this is; a treasure abundant with little gems of statecraft, patriotism and keen observation by two honorable men.”