Truman at Blair House

The Truman White House
By the time Harry S. Truman became president, the White House was badly in need of renovation. Spurred by swaying chandeliers and wobbling floors, Truman ordered an inspection in the winter of 1947. The news was even worse than he thought. The second floor of the White House living quarters and the ceiling in the state dining room were dangerously unstable. Emergency supports were installed, but in the summer of 1948 the floors were coming apart under their feet.

It was clear the house would have to be gutted and rebuilt. Throughout the four-year renovation, Truman and his family lived in Blair House—earning Blair House the nickname “The Truman White House.”

The Truman Doctrine
The end of World War II created a great deal of international turmoil. Greece was facing a Communist-led insurrection, and Turkey was under considerable pressure from the Soviet Union to share control of the Dardanelles straits. Great Britain had been providing aid but could not continue due to postwar expenses.

Undersecretary of State Dean Acheson was convinced that if Communism overtook Greece and Turkey, it could spread to nearby nations. Later known as the Domino Theory, this precept persuaded President Truman in March l947 to appear before a joint session of Congress and ask for $400 million in military and economic assistance for Greece and Turkey. He said, “It must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures.”

This stance, known as the Truman Doctrine, guided American foreign policy through the 40 years of the Cold War that would follow. While its ultimate consequences remain the subject of much debate, the Truman Doctrine signaled the beginning of active U.S. engagement with foreign policy and the end of U.S. isolationism.

The Marshall Plan
On April 3, 1948, President Truman signed into law The European Recovery Program, also known as the Marshall Plan, which authorized more than $13B in U.S. aid to flow to 16 war-torn European nations to improve their agricultural and industrial production and rebuild housing, medical, and transportation facilities.

Truman Assassination Attempt
On November 1, 1950, a pair of Puerto Rican nationalists made an attempt on President Truman’s life at Blair House, his temporary residence. The two men, Oscar Collazo and Griselio Torresola, sought to bring attention to the Puerto Rican independence movement.

The men attempted to shoot their way into the house from the front door of Blair House. A gun battle ensued on and around the front steps with White House police officers and Secret Service agents. President Truman was awakened in an upstairs bedroom by the sound of gunfire. He rushed to the window, but a guard shouted at him to take cover.

When the dust cleared, three White House policemen were injured, Torresola was killed, and Collazo was wounded. Private Leslie Coffelt, who fired the bullet that killed Torresola, died later that day from his wounds. His badge is displayed in his honor in the Blair House security office.

For more information, visit the Truman Library’s website at www.trumanlibrary.org.