Harry S. Truman (1884–1972)
From World War I and America: Told by the Americans Who Lived It
This Sunday, November 11—the day we call Veterans Day but was originally known as Armistice Day—is the 100th anniversary of when World War I ended with a truce at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918.
Four months earlier, in mid-July, Captain Harry S. Truman was given command of the disreputable Battery D, a unit of the 129th Field Artillery Regiment in the 35th Division, which was composed of National Guardsmen from Missouri and Kansas. Things did not start off well for the bespectacled professor-like farmer when he faced the nearly 200 troublemaking athlete-soldiers. But Truman eventually overcame their skepticism and earned the men’s undying loyalty beyond the end of the war.
Through the seventeen weeks of his wartime command and combat, Truman wrote frequently to his fiancée, Bess Wallace. Nineteen of the letters he sent survived and are currently held at the Truman Library; we present as our Story of the Week selection the two letters he wrote on the day before and the day of the Armistice.