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How the Truman Committee helped win World War II and paved the way for a presidency

Harry Truman on the steps of the U.S. Capitol.
Truman Library Institute
Harry Truman was a nationally little-known junior senator from Missouri before elevating his profile as the architect of the Truman Committee.

A new book from NPR's Steve Drummond looks at how the Truman Committee, run by a relatively unknown U.S. Sen. Harry Truman, investigated wartime corruption, changed the country's efforts in World War II and ultimately helped launch Truman into the president's office.

Harry Truman did not always seem destined for the White House.

Often referred to as the "accidental president," Truman spent years as a farmer, haberdasher, national guardsman and Jackson County judge before he landed his gig as a U.S. Senator.

While holding that office, he led a Senate committee known as the "Truman Committee," which identified and investigated inefficiencies and corruption in U.S. war production as the country entered World War II.

In his new book, "The Watchdog: How the Truman Committee Battled Corruption and Helped Win World War II," NPR's Steve Drummond looks at how the committee altered our country's war efforts and how it ultimately helped catapult Truman into the presidency.

Drummond says Truman was certainly not a household name prior to his work on the committee.

"But, (after the Truman Committee) he's on the cover of Time Magazine. He's putting out these reports about investigations finding billions of dollars being wasted. He's on the front of all the newspapers in the country," said Drummond.

"Remarkably, his committee is run honestly, it's partisan. It's very careful to get the facts straight. It's not grabbing headlines or trying to make Truman into some kind of cult figure," Drummond continues. "And by doing all that, he ends up being a pretty respected, extremely popular public figure and slowly rises to the top of people who the Democratic leaders are looking for who would join Franklin Roosevelt on the ticket in 1944."

Drummond joined KCUR's Up To Date to discuss his new book on the Truman Committee.

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As a host and contributor at KCUR, I seek to create a more informed citizenry and richer community. I want to enlighten and inspire our audience by delivering the information they need with accuracy and urgency, clarifying what’s complicated and teasing out the complexities of what seems simple. I work to craft conversations that reveal realities in our midst and model civil discourse in a divided world. Follow me on Twitter @ptsbrian or email me at brian@kcur.org.
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