What Was Unique About Harry Truman’s Military Service?

U.S. presidents are expected to be honest and forthright, but even the most honorable have been known to bend the truth a little – especially in service to their country. Take Harry S. Truman, the 33rd president of the United States.

Harry Truman, who had very poor eyesight, reportedly memorized the eye chart in order to join the National Guard.
Harry Truman, who had very poor eyesight, reportedly memorized the eye chart in order to join the National Guard.

Patriotic even as a young man in Missouri, Truman wanted to show his true colors – red, white, and blue – by attending West Point and becoming a career Army officer. The only problem was his poor eyesight, which would deny him his dream. Undeterred, Truman decided to join the Missouri National Guard and memorized the eye chart, so when he was tested, he simply had to recite what he already knew. Truman served between 1905 and 1911. He rejoined the National Guard when the United States entered World War I in 1917, becoming an artillery commander in France, and his success in the post brought him the recognition that eventually launched his political career.

How about Harry:

  • Truman's middle initial, S, doesn't stand for anything because his parents couldn't agree on which of two relatives – both with names starting with an S – he would be named after.

  • Truman rose to political fame thanks to the Truman Committee, a Senate panel that looked into wasteful spending during World War II. Truman was selected as Franklin D. Roosevelt's running-mate in his successful 1944 presidential campaign.

  • As of 2021, Harry Truman is the most recent president who did not graduate from college.

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    • Harry Truman, who had very poor eyesight, reportedly memorized the eye chart in order to join the National Guard.
      Harry Truman, who had very poor eyesight, reportedly memorized the eye chart in order to join the National Guard.