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Truman liked idea of being Ike's v.p.

Newly uncovered diary shows pair discussed '48 race

WASHINGTON — Harry Truman always denied that while in the White House he entertained the idea of having Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower run for president in 1948 — with Truman as his running mate.

But a newly discovered diary written by the nation's 33rd president reveals that Truman did make the offer while talking politics one summer afternoon with Eisenhower. Truman worried that Gen. Douglas MacArthur would run for president on the Republican ticket.

"I told Ike," Truman wrote, "that if he (MacArthur) did that he (Eisenhower) should announce for the nomination for President on the Democratic ticket and that I'd be glad to be in second place, or Vice President."

"I like the Senate anyway," the former Missouri senator wrote. "Ike & I could be elected and my family & myself would be happy outside this great white jail, known as the White House."

The account is the most revealing of 42 handwritten entries in a diary that until now was mistakenly catalogued and filed with the book collection of the Truman Library. It remained in the stacks, apparently undisturbed, for 38 years until library staff began moving the collection earlier this year.

Sent to Truman as a gift from the president of the Real Estate Board of New York Inc., the slim volume bears the board's name on the cover, and the first 160 pages contain member listings and advertisements.

"Unless you look at the papers in the back of the book and see President Truman's handwriting, it doesn't look like a diary," said Ray Geselbracht, archivist at the Truman Library in Independence, Mo.

John W. Carlin, archivist of the United States, presented the diary to the media Thursday at the National Archives in Washington. "This finding is a clear reminder that there is no final draft of history," Carlin said.

Truman was an erratic diarist, recording his thoughts only when he felt he had something to say, usually on loose sheets of paper. Among his papers are four other books with diary entries, but the earliest of those dates to 1949.

The entry about the Eisenhower conversation — when the two men "discussed MacArthur and his superiority complex" — is one of several that show Truman's discomfort in the "great white jail" on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Truman had been vice president for only three months when he was sworn in as president after Franklin D. Roosevelt died on April 12, 1945. He was struggling with low popularity ratings and a Republican Congress when he met with Eisenhower on July 25, 1947.

"It's a difficult situation, but also, that's a pivotal year in the history of the Truman administration," said Richard Kirkendall, professor emeritus of American history at the University of Washington.

It was the year Truman established the Truman Doctrine to contain the spread of communism and the Marshall Plan for Europe's postwar recovery, which came to be viewed as the most successful foreign aid program in American history.

But Truman didn't write about those seminal policies. Instead, he described his unqualified admiration for George C. Marshall, whom he appointed to succeed James F. Byrnes as Secretary of State.

"When I saw that this was a 1947 diary, I anticipated that he would say some things of real importance about the origin of the Truman Doctrine and the origin of the Marshall Plan, but he doesn't, and I'm disappointed that he did not," Kirkendall said.

Truman's meeting with Eisenhower had been documented by Eisenhower archivists, Geselbracht said, but Truman had denied ever making such an offer.

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