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“Investigator Truman,” cover portrait by Ernest Hamlin Baker, TIME Magazine, March 8, 1943

Leadership of the Senate investigation of defense contracts put Senator Harry Truman of Missouri in the national spotlight. He resigned his committee chairmanship to run successfully as a vice-presidential candidate in 1944. Upon the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt in April 1945, Truman became the nation’s thirty-third president.

© 1943 Time Inc. Used under license.

Investigator Truman, cover portrait by Ernest Hamlin Baker, TIME Magazine, March 8, 1943

The Defense Industry

Anticipating the nation’s possible entry into World War II, Congress appropriated $10.5 billion for defense contracts in 1940. To observe how those funds were used, Senator Harry Truman of Missouri toured military bases and plants and then pressed Congress to investigate the defense industry. The Senate Special Committee to Investigate the National Defense Program, created in 1941 with Truman as chairman, saved taxpayer dollars—and soldiers’ lives—by reducing corruption, waste, and inefficiency. In 1948 the Senate created a Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations to continue the Truman Committee’s oversight mission.

I consider public funds to be sacred funds, and I think they ought to have every safeguard possible to prevent their being misused and mishandled.

Senator Harry Truman of Missouri, Speech to the Senate, February 10, 1941