Understanding the Mechanics of Fate: How History Was Almost Different and How Democratic Politics in 1944 Set in Place Our Doom: Part One

Decisions made and circumstances that occur within months of each other can entirely and tragically alter the trajectory of life on Earth for decades and centuries thereafter. Such is the case of one, significant decision made by a single individual.

That significant decision and single individual was written about to greater specificity by journalist George Beres last year: “It was 70 years ago this year the United States took a major turn toward political conservatism instead of the liberal direction President Franklin Roosevelt had followed the previous 12 years. The momentous change– [the] greatest shift in our nation’s political history– came at the Democratic Party nominating convention of 1944. It occurred even though FDR, architect of lasting welfare reforms during the Great Depression, was a shoo-in to be elected to an unprecedented fourth term that fall.

The difference came in the identity of his heir apparent …..”

President Franklin D. Roosevelt is often lauded as one of our greatest Presidents, and it is a status deserved. However, perhaps the biggest mistake ever made was Roosevelt’s lobbying of Missouri Senator Harry S. Truman to be his running mate in 1944. At the time Henry Wallace was the sitting Vice President of the United States, but it was not for any significant disapproval on FDR’s part that Wallace wasn’t to continue in this role. Sadly, it was for reasons of petty politics that Wallace was on his way out with Truman on his way in.*

Peace Abroad, Equality At Home

Wallace was as liberal a politician as any we’ve ever elected to high office, certainly to the Executive Branch. In foreign affairs he was aggressive about diplomacy, whereas he was repulsed by a vision of a war machine that senior officials James Forrestal and Averell Harriman were ratcheting up. Soon to be implemented as the Truman Doctrine, this war machine, as Peter Drier of Truthout.org put it in an article about Wallace, “aimed to contain communism through military intervention if necessary. Wallace refused to support the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe, considering it an instrument of the cold war. He preferred a multilateral aid program that would be administered through the United Nations.”

Vice President Wallace had also been on good footing with the Soviets, and, as the post-war era approached, was committed to working with them. In short, “Wallace opposed the cold war”. He wasn’t alone. Roosevelt too had been working diplomatically with the Soviets on issues involving territories. Détente, defined as “the easing of hostility or strained relations, especially between countries” was Roosevelt’s official strategy.

Drier continues, “For Wallace the outcome of the war had to be more than a restoration of the status quo. He wished to see the ideals of New Deal liberalism continuing at home and spreading throughout a world in which colonialism had been abolished and where labor would be represented by unions. “Most of all,” write [biographers John] Culver and [John] Hyde “He wanted to end the deadly cycle of economic warfare followed by military combat followed by isolationism and more economic warfare and more conflict.”

That deadly cycle didn’t exclude opposition to the movement for a Jewish homeland. Henry Wallace believed that if Israel were recognized as an official state, it would result in immediate war and long-term instability in the Middle East.**

In spite of widespread public support for Wallace’s ideas on foreign policy, he “roused the ire of the more conservative Democrats, of business leaders and conservatives, not to mention Winston Churchill, who was strongly committed to preserving Britain’s colonial empire.”

Drier also touched on Wallace’s domestic politics. In addition to his opposition of racial segregation, “he was a strong advocate of labor unions, national health insurance, public works jobs and women’s equality. He would have been, without question, the most radical president in American history. He would have served out the remaining three years of FDR’s fourth term and certainly would have sought to be elected on his own in 1948.”

Shakedown at the Democratic Convention

It’s been said that delegates decide who become their party’s nominees, and although no one ever held a gun to a delegate’s head over who they should cast their ballot for, the nominating process for the Vice Presidency was unusual at the Democratic convention of ’44.

Wikipedia states: “As the Convention began, Wallace had more than half the votes necessary to secure his re-nomination. By contrast, the Gallup poll said that 2% of those surveyed wanted then-Senator Truman to become the Vice President. To overcome this initial deficit, the leaders of the Democratic Party worked to influence the Convention delegates, such that Truman received the nomination.”

“How the nomination went to Harry S. Truman, who did not actively seek it, is, in the words of his biographer Robert H. Ferrell, “one of the great political stories of our century”. The fundamental issue was that Roosevelt’s health was seriously declining, and everyone who saw Roosevelt, including the leaders of the Democratic Party, realized it. If he died during his next term, the Vice President would become President, making the vice presidential nomination very important.”

The party leadership at the Democratic Convention that year comprised of a conservative, pro-business faction of Democrats. The liberal, pro union Wallace was anathema to them, and they had no tolerance for him. They made this plenty clear to the President, and this resulted in Roosevelt going from supporting Wallace, to going neutral on Wallace, and then finally, turning on Wallace. “Ferrell calls this process “a veritable conspiracy.”

The anti-Wallace forces consisted of Democratic National Committee Chairman, Robert E. Hannegan, Democratic National Committee treasurer, Edwin W. Pauley, Democratic party secretary George E. Allen, Postmaster General Frank C. Walker, New York political boss Edward J. Flynn, and Chicago mayor Edward J. Kelly. Roosevelt himself, though privately now endorsing the anti-Wallace movement, wrote a message that was addressed to the delegates, which read that if he were a delegate, he’d vote for Wallace. The reason for this tepid endorsement was that he did not want to offend Wallace and his supporters.

“According to Truman biographer David McCullough … in his book Truman: “Hannegan, Flynn, Kelly, and the others had been working through the night, talking to delegates and applying ‘a good deal of pressure’ to help them see the sense in selecting Harry Truman. No one knows how many deals were cut, how many ambassadorships or postmaster jobs were promised, but reportedly, by the time morning came, Postmaster General Frank Walker had telephoned every chairman of every delegation.” As Ferrell concludes, “Truman was … nominated in 1944 by the boss system.”

The Man Responsible For FDR’s Choice

Above all others, it was Robert E. Hannegan, the DNC Chairman appointed by Roosevelt, who made Truman’s nomination possible. A Missouri politician and power broker who helped save Harry Truman’s political career following the tax fraud conviction of Truman’s ally, Tom Pendergast, Robert Hannegan was Truman’s political lifeline well before 1944. When Truman was running for reelection to the US Senate in 1940, Hannegan saved him again on election day with the considerable influence he wielded in St. Louis and in Catholic neighborhoods.

Robert E. Hannegan with fellow Missourian Senator Truman

Truman returned the favor while Hannegan was serving as the Commissioner of Internal Revenue. Roosevelt had offered Senator Truman the DNC Chairmanship; Truman declined, and suggested to the President that he name Hannegan instead.***

As head of the DNC, “Hannegan was responsible for brokering the deal that made Truman Roosevelt’s running mate … Wallace nearly won the nomination, but Hannegan worked feverishly to secure Truman’s nomination.” “Hannegan later joked he wanted his tombstone inscribed with the words “Here lies the man who stopped Henry Wallace from becoming President of the United States.”****

Nov. 10, 1944 – The day after the general election:
President Roosevelt, Vice President-Elect Truman, Vice President Wallace

FDR Fiddles Over His Mortality

Roosevelt knew full well that he was unlikely to live out his fourth term in office, but he was cavalier of this fact, telling his new Vice President at lunch one day, almost in passing, “Don’t fly off too far, Harry. You never know when you’ll have to take this job.” And yet, the great Roosevelt was dismissive about shaping a future with his guaranteed successor. Truman was the last do-nothing Vice President, a tradition which had changed little to none since the administration of George Washington.***** Truman’s Vice Presidency was one of perfect exclusion from governance, consisting of little else than presiding over the Senate and playing cards with his colleagues. That was about it. He was not the recipient of any crucial, government information in so much as a phone call or a conversation from the Roosevelt administration.

Vice President Truman and President Roosevelt

When the Presidency was thrust upon him on April 12, 1945, Truman was completely in the dark. That darkness would reflect on the future in the form of Truman’s approval for atomic bombs dropped, a cold war instituted, the creation of the military-industrial complex (including the CIA), a war in Korea (which set the precedent for unauthorized wars), US imperialism and western colonialism across the globe, and last but not least, the sovereignty of Israel.

Having served as the 33rd President of the United States, Harry S. Truman left the White House on January 20th, 1953 with an approval rating of 34 percent.

Perret, Geoffrey (2007). Commander in Chief: How Truman, Johnson, and Bush Turned a Presidential Power into a Threat to America’s Future Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Kakutani, Michiko (February 27, 2007). Presidents Behaving Badly in Age of Unwinnable Wars. The New York Times
Dreier, Peter (February 3, 2013). Henry Wallace, America’s Forgotten Visionary. Truthout.org
Curtiss, Richard H. (May/June 1991, pg 17) Two Politically Motivated Decisions: Truman Adviser Recalls May 14, 1948 US Decision to Recognize Israel Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.
Beres, George (2014). Wallace’s views of Fascism and Zionism brought greatest shift in U.S. politics 70 years ago. Intifada-Palestine
Democratic Vice Presidential Nomination of 1944
Wikipedia. Henry A. Wallace Vice President Wikipedia.
Robert E. Hannegan

* Source is an often told telephone conversation involving the Democratic Party leaders, Truman, and Roosevelt, that was set up to manipulate a resistant Senator Truman into accepting his candidacy for the Vice Presidential nomination.

** Every cabinet member and senior war commander in the Roosevelt administration also shared Wallace’s views on Israel. This uniformity would carry over into the Truman administration, in spite of Truman firing every member of FDR’s cabinet within the first year of his presidency.

*** After Roosevelt’s death, Truman once again returned the favor by appointing Hannegan the Postmaster General.

**** Maybe Wallace should not have spent his tenure as Vice President advocating for liberalism, realizing instead that it would lead to insidious forces within the Democratic party jeopardizing the security he had to inherit the presidency. Then again, after Roosevelt had threatened to withdraw himself from nomination in 1940 were Wallace not accepted on the ticket, Wallace probably couldn’t have imagined Roosevelt not supporting him to stay on as his running mate in ’44.

***** Henry Wallace was the exception. Roosevelt, recognizing Wallace’s resourcefulness, gave him a robust Vice Presidency.


15 thoughts on “Understanding the Mechanics of Fate: How History Was Almost Different and How Democratic Politics in 1944 Set in Place Our Doom: Part One

  1. I didn’t know this. It seems you believe that things would be better if Wallace would have stayed. However bad Truman was I think Wallace would have been worse. You note all the great “progressive” things Wallace supported but do you note that he supported one of the most murdering evil Men on the planet? Stalin. The USSR was a Jewish controlled mass murder machine that destroyed all it touched. People could say that the Russians were running the USSR more so than the Jews after the war but what Russians? All the Russian intelligentsia that the Jews didn’t approved of were massacred by the Jews earlier. Who was left?

    If Wallace had been President do you think he would have stopped the USSR (Jewish) killing machine? What would be the fate of the Germans? They might not even exist. All of Europe could have come under the rule of the USSR. Mass camps everywhere. Are you for that? Is mass murder acceptable for progress? Is it even progress? I suggest it is not.


    1. The bottom line is that FDR was interested in avoiding the cold war and was walking a delicate dance of diplomacy with Stalin. Roosevelt knew Stalin had ill-intentions and was going to confront him on that at Potsdam, but he would’ve done so from a leverage of diplomacy that included bargaining, agreements, and of understood consequences. The Soviets were interested in maintaining the peace too, and were testing the US out on how much they could get away with. They didn’t want to ditch peace and plunge into a war with a superpower that could end the world.

      So is that what you mean by Wallace supporting Stalin? That he was interested in keeping him and the USSR as an ally, just as Roosevelt was? Would it not have been better to have at least had a President who cared about diplomacy and was not out of his depth, as Truman clearly was in spades? Truman’s response to his grotesque ignorance was belligerence. He thought he could intimidate the Soviets with that tough man thing he learned in rural, small town Missouri, but that little man complex doesn’t transfer well on the world stage. He later came to regret profoundly critical components of his Presidency, like creating the CIA.

      Since 1945, we’ve tried it the neo-conservative way, and it’s Republicans who champion Truman now more than Democrats. We dropped the atomic bombs for the wrong reason, had that war of choice in Korea, did the mass murder colonial thing that has ravaged the third world, and we have that monstrous National Security State. The state of Israel and the politics that go with it speak for itself. So, how about all those millions who died as casualties of the cold war, from Presidents to peasants, to American kids in Vietnam? How about the neo conservative, fascist security state – the post 9/11 answer to the cold war and military-industrial complex?

      I’ve hardly mentioned domestic politics. Truman brought the Republicans back to power from the jaws of defeat. Roosevelt was laying waste to that party before Truman took over.


  2. “…So is that what you mean by Wallace supporting Stalin?…”

    I don’t disagree with anything you said. It’s just my opinion that Wallace would have let the Soviet Union take over Europe. Maybe I’m wrong. It maybe that Wallace would have been much better.

    I think a lot of things the US did in the Cold War were necessary, if evil. Not that all of them were. Large corporations and other interest took advantage of the fear of communism. Looking back it’s easy to say that the USSR was never a threat but I was there. I remember having over 30,000 nuclear weapons pointed at me. There were “wars of liberation” all over the planet. Noticeably once wars of liberation were won no one was liberated.

    Don’t confuse me with the Republicans. I think both they and the Democrats are scum. I’m certainly not a neo-conservative and I have no problem with some sorts of socialism. I have real problems with communism which nothing more than a dictatorship.

    “…We dropped the atomic bombs for the wrong reason…”

    Watch the HBO special “The pacific” or read “With the Old Breed” by Eugene Sledge and you will understand why we dropped the bomb. It saved Americans. Maybe it was not necessary but at the time who had the crystal ball that predicted that? No one. Not to mention the Japanese were working on the bomb themselves and would have readily dropped it on us.


  3. I disagree with the premise that the cold war was necessary and inevitable, and I will explain in part two how the cold war was directly tied to Truman’s psychological shortcomings.

    I like how you acknowledged more or less that the age of Truman led to a resurgence in corporate power.

    The Japanese were a weakened adversary who wanted to negotiate a surrender prior to our courageous nuclear bombing of them. We didn’t bomb Japan to defeat Japan. We bombed them to send a message to the Russians not to mess with us, and it was important to Truman that we do so before the Soviets invaded Japan, which they were days away from doing.

    Correct me if I’m wrong.


    1. Japan didn’t even notice the bombs. The USA was carpet bombing multiple cities. Japan surrendered due to Russia entering Mongolia. It just happened on the same day that Fat Boy was dropped.


  4. The trick there is the statement “who wanted to negotiate”. Japanese soldiers were revolting even after we dropped the bomb against the peace. We had people dying in the field. We had spent enormous amounts of money on the bomb. So we decide to not bomb for people “who wanted to negotiate”???? I think that you’re just thinking too much. Too much coulda, woulda, mighta. The operation had just acquired too much steam and was followed through. There was a World War going on and the government had built up a serious amount of hate for the Japanese. Nothing short of a complete capitulation would have stopped it. Anyone who stopped it short of the capitulation would have been crucified politically.

    “…I disagree with the premise that the cold war was necessary and inevitable…”

    I’ll be interested to see how you pull this off. The USSR taught their people that we were the enemy and eventually we would be defeated. If you take them at their word it becomes difficult to see how you avoid conflict short of giving in to them.

    I’m not a fan of Truman but he only worked with the situation at hand and I’m not so sure anyone else would have done things so differently.


    1. Well I’m sure and I laid the case out against your case already, or at least the skeleton of it. This article of mine is not an exercise in alternative history, although I think alternative history enthusiasts could appreciate it. What’s important is to learn lessons, and without learning lessons, current and future misadventures cannot be avoided. That’s why knowing history is important, even 70 years after the fact.


  5. You say you’ve laid out the case but I don’t see it. You say yourself that President Roosevelt was the prime mover in getting Truman as Vice President. I assume from reading your article that without Roosevelt’s support there is no way Truman could have ever been elected. So what did Roosevelt know that you don’t? You support Roosevelt and his decisions yet condemn them at the same time by saying his judgement was faulty. Roosevelts administration was jam packed full of communist which caused the defense of our country all manner of serious grief. Like loss of millions of dollars of research on the atomic bomb. The loss of China to Mao. You support the mass murder of the Chinese by Mao? The wealth of the Chinese now (comparatively) and the better living standards they have today were directly stopped by Mao. Some of the major mistakes this man made are probably still hidden. I noticed you never responded about Roosevelts reluctance to attack in the Balkans. The prime reason may be that it’s indisputable that he didn’t care whether Eastern Europe was communist or not. He may, along with Wallace, who after all was dealing with the communist, have made a deal to give it to them.


    1. The case I make are in all the stances I’ve took with the opinions and reasons given to them. They are sensible to me and I can’t drag everyone with me. I’ve made a persuasive case with my article and I’m statisfied with my comments. Am I finished? No. Hell no. That’s what part 2 and 3 will be about, and I will be doing a lot of research and putting time spent into writing them.

      Speaking of research, I’d like some proof on a Roosevelt government contaminated with Communists.

      No President would’ve waged all out war with China, so I don’t see your point. As cold warriors we didn’t stop China and Russia from abusing and killing their citizenry. If you’re down on Roosevelt, then tell me who should have been President instead, and why. Taft? Dewey? Wilke? Hoover?

      I don’t see what’s relevant about Roosevelt and the Balkans. Why has it been better that we’ve had the cold war? Are you sure you’re not a Republican? Endorsing the cold war is an endorsement of what’s led up to now.


  6. “…Speaking of research, I’d like some proof on a Roosevelt government contaminated with Communists…”

    Ok. Here’s just a couple. There’s tons of info on this. Especially since the cold war ended the Soviet archives were looked at and we know that many of the people around Roosevelt and Truman were spies.

    Short article.


    A good book to read. “None Dare Call It Treason”

    About McCarthy who gave testimony that there were lots of communist spies in the government.




    There’s also several books about McCarthy that vindicated everything McCarthy said based on Soviet archives. I can’t recall all the names of them right off hand. If you’re serious in finding the truth finding them shouldn’t be a big problem.

    “…No President would’ve waged all out war with China, so I don’t see your point…”

    The point is we didn’t have to wage war on China. All we had to do was support the Nationalist instead of the communist. Arms for the Nationalist were held up and not given to them. I think they paid for them and still didn’t get them, not positive about that last point though. The communist got all the arms they wanted from Stalin.

    “…Roosevelt, then tell me who should have been President instead, and why. Taft? Dewey? Wilke? Hoover?…”

    Hoover would have been much better and the depression would have not lasted near as long under his leadership. Hoover was a very smart guy and fully willing to jump start the economy without trying to take it over completely. He put together a huge, massive government spending program immediately after the stock market fall. Hoover Dam was named after him for a reason. He got it started.

    “…I don’t see what’s relevant about Roosevelt and the Balkans. Why has it been better that we’ve had the cold war?…”

    I posted on Robert’s site about the Balkans but I should have done it here. There were many people who said the US’s primary attack should have not been the coast of France but up through the Balkans. map.

    Controlling the Balkans as a strategic area would have separated the Communist from Europe and possibly kept Eastern Europe from being controlled by the Communist. Looking at the map this is straight forwardly evident. As to the effects of this maybe there wouldn’t have been any need for a cold war at all. The whole idea would have been irrelevant as most of the world would have been in the free camp. So if your against the cold war seems you would have been for this.

    “…Are you sure you’re not a Republican?…”

    There are some Republicans I support but mostly I think they are a vile, evil, scummish supporters of Oligarchical evil. I think even worse of the Democrats.

    “…Endorsing the cold war is an endorsement of what’s led up to now…”

    I endorse freedom. In cases that freedom is aligned with the cold war I support the cold war. Without Jewish control of the press and support by them for the communist we wouldn’t have even needed a cold war. There would have been no cold war because we would have won outright in the first place. No war necessary.


    1. I will be doing much research for my next piece, including some issues which you bring up. There will be a focus on Israel, Korea, the CIA, US-Soviet relations and colonialism.


    2. Good grief, I can’t believe someone is defending the discredited Balkan strategy. It’s not like it wasn’t tried. It was tried, at Churchill’s insistence. That’s what the Italian campaign was all about. It ground to a bloody halt at the Gustav Line for the best part of a year. The irony is, that while the Balkan strategy was about projecting British power into eastern Europe (one of Britain’s primary aims from the early days of the war) the actual result, arising from the stall in Italy and the lost opportunity to invade northern Europe in 1943, was greater projection of Soviet influence at the end of the war. Germany actually had more strength in Normandy in 1944 than in 1943. Being established in France in 1943 would have allowed the air war to be waged on more favorable terms for the allies and positioned allied forces to drive much deeper into Europe than they eventually did.


  7. I will be interested to read your take on the Korean war. My gleanings thus far suggest that it was more of an accidental confrontation between the Soviets and the West than a strategic one, with the slide towards war arising from the use of Korea as a bargaining chip with the advent of the Cold War and manipulation of the Americans and the Soviets by Korean warlords pursuing their own narrow interests.


    1. Thanks. Frankly, I don’t think anything was accidental or coincidental with Truman, and he’s been all too easy for me to vilify. China might be a little more confusing for me than Korea. I’ll be addressing Israel first. It’s pretty transparent that Truman was responsible for Israel.

      He was just so different from other Presidents up to then with regard to foreign policy. In a recent New York Times article about a neoconservative/Hillary Clinton alliance, one of the neoconservatives really emphasizes Truman as their model for modern foreign intervention as US policy.


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