We are open! Read about museum updates and our safety information. Learn more >

President Truman & The United Nations: Everything You Need To Know

We The Peoples of The United Nations Determined

  • to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and
  • to regain faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and
  • to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and
  • to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,

And For These Ends

  • to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbors, and
  • to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security, and
  • to ensure, by the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest, and
  • to employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples,

Have Resolved to Combine Our Efforts to Accomplish These Aims

Accordingly, our respective Governments, through representatives assembled in the city of San Francisco, who have exhibited their full powers found to be in good and due form, have agreed to the present Charter of the United Nations and do hereby establish an international organization to be known as the United Nations.

United We Stand

That was the Preamble of the United Nations Charter.

These proclamations became the ideological backbone of an organization that was formed to avert global conflicts and wars at a time that saw two world wars unfold in a 27-year span. Here, with the inclusion of the United States, the former Soviet Union, Great Britain and China, they would form an alliance of shared responsibility to intervene or mediate tensions wherever their mission took them. Many more nations would follow suit, eventually signing on as member states. The charter laid out all the rules and laws that would govern this new body from that point forward. The name “United Nations”, coined by United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt, was first used in the Declaration by United Nations on January 1, 1942, during the Second World War, when representatives of 26 nations pledged their governments to continue fighting together against the Axis Powers. Later, this name would be adopted to signify an international peacekeeping organization the likes of which had never been seen.
Truman Tries to Bring The War to an End
Born just before the turn of the 20th century in the tiny rural town of Lamar, Missouri, Harry S. Truman’s humble roots as the son of a farmer would help shape his ideals and values throughout his lifetime. He would go on to fight with his National Guard regiment in France during the first world war. After facing bankruptcy in the wake of the stock market crash of 1929, Truman went headlong into politics, first as a county judge, then a senator, a Vice President under Franklin D. Roosevelt and was sworn in as the 33rd President of the United States in the aftermath of a stroke that took Roosevelt’s life. With no foreign policy experience to speak of, Harry Truman would prove to do the impossible.

When Harry S. Truman succeeded Franklin Delano Roosevelt after an unprecedented three terms guiding this country through some of the grimmest times of the 20th century, World War II in Europe was almost over. Within a month, Germany surrendered. In the Pacific, however, the last Axis power standing, Japan, would prove a formidable and relentless foe bent on expelling American forces from the region at any cost. Military planners anticipated that total victory would require an Allied invasion of Japan. The invasion plan would extend the war for at least another year and it would likely come at a terrible cost in casualties and treasure. Discouraged with that scenario, Truman explored another option.

The scientists at the top-secret Manhattan Project, a research and development undertaking during World War II, were diligently at work attempting to complete an atomic bomb. By July 1945, a test of the bomb was deemed successful. With this ‘nuclear option’ at his disposal, the outlook of bringing the war to a swift conclusion seemed like a reality. With the daunting prospect of a full-scale invasion of the Japanese home islands and an obdurate Japanese leadership refusing to abide by the terms of unconditional surrender, Truman’s forced hand gave the green light to drop atomic bombs on their adversary.

Days of Reckoning

On Monday, August 6, 1945, a bomber nicknamed the Enola Gay took off from the Pacific island of Tinian located about 1,500 miles south of Tokyo. This was, however, no routine bombing mission. Aboard this B-29 sat a payload of just one, lone bomb. This 9,700 pound, uranium gun-type bomb would prove to be the most devastating weapon ever unleashed in a time of war and its impact would resonate for generations to come. The city of Hiroshima, with its 300,000 inhabitants and roughly 43,000 active military personnel was a target of vital importance and chosen to be the testing grounds for a weapon with the killing power of 15,000 tons of TNT. It was thought that after the widespread carnage and destruction visited upon this city, the war would come to an abrupt end. The imperial Japanese government, however, still refused to abide by the Potsdam Declaration which demanded an unconditional surrender. At this point, against the wishes of the United States, the Soviet Union formally declared war two days later on Japan and entered the Pacific theater for the first time with an attack against the Japanese forces occupying Manchuria.
Three days after the bombing of Hiroshima on August 9, 1945, another bomber took to the skies in search of Kokura Arsenal, a massive collection of war industries adjacent to the city of Kokura, this time with a bomb that was even more lethal than its predecessor. Because of mechanical problems and poor visibility due to bad weather, the primary target could not be attained, therefore, a secondary one had to take its place which was the city of Nagasaki. This proved to be the killing blow that brought about the official end to the second world war on August 14, 1945.

A Path to Peace

Roughly two months after the conclusion of WWII, on October 24, 1945, marked the date that the United States became the first country to ratify the United Nations Charter thus bringing it officially into existence. Representatives of 50 countries met in San Francisco at the United Nations Conference on International Organization to draw up the United Nations Charter. Those delegates deliberated on the basis of proposals worked out by the representatives of China, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and the United States at Dumbarton Oaks, United States from August to October 1944.
The Charter was signed on June 26, 1945 by the representatives of the 50 countries. Poland, which was not represented at the Conference, signed it later and became one of the original 51 Member States.

At the end of the final day of the conference in San Francisco, President Truman offered this closing remark: “The Charter of the United Nations which you have just signed is a solid structure upon which we can build a better world. History will honor you for it. Between the victory in Europe and the final victory, in this most destructive of all wars, you have won a victory against war itself. With this Charter the world can begin to look forward to the time when all worthy human beings may be permitted to live decently as free people.”

Let's Keep In Touch!

Sign up to receive special offers & events information.

  • Fill the field with your name
  • Fill the field with your Email
  • Fill the field with your Zip Code

Your email and personal information will never be shared.