TRUMAN, HARRY S - Photograph Inscribed to a Member of His Secret Service Detail Who Later Served as Special Agent in Charge under President Kennedy
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TRUMAN, HARRY S - Photograph Inscribed to a Member of His Secret Service Detail Who Later Served as Special Agent in Charge under President Kennedy

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TRUMAN, HARRY S.(1884-1972). Thirty-third president of the United States. SP. (“Harry S Truman”). 1p. Large 4to. Washington, November 14, 1952. To secret service agent JERRY (GERARD) BEHN (?-1993). A stunning color photograph of Truman taken while he was seated at his desk in Potsdam, Germany in the summer of 1946, reading a letter and laughing. Inscribed on the lower mount “To Jerry Behn, with kindest regards and many thanks for his efficient service. White House, Nov. 14, 1952…”


Truman served in the Missouri Army National Guard from 1905-1911 and reenlisted when America entered World War I. As a battery commander, he honed his leadership skills while leading an unruly artillery regiment in France. He was mustered out as a colonel with his military experience paving the way for a political career. After several appointments in Missouri, Truman was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1934 and served in that office until January 20, 1945, when he became vice president. Truman was sworn in as president upon FDR’s death on April 12, 1945.


With the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany on May 8, 1945, hostilities in Europe ceased and nine weeks later representatives from the “big three” allied countries, the Soviet Union, England and the United States, met in Potsdam – 30 minutes outside the decimated capitol of Berlin – to discuss the future of Europe. The Potsdam Conference, from July 16 to August 2, included Truman, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and his successor Clement Atlee. At Stalin’s insistence Truman presided over the meeting. Among the actions concluded at Potsdam were the division and demilitarization of Germany into four occupied zones, the removal of Nazi influence and the intention to create a national democracy, a goal unrealized in the Soviet zone. Regions annexed by the Nazis were restored to their pre-war borders, reparations were decided upon and Germany’s military infrastructure dismantled. However, with the war still raging in the Pacific theater, Churchill, Truman and the Chairman of the Nationalist Government of China, Chiang Kai-shek, issued the Potsdam Declaration, outlining the terms of a Japanese surrender. Japan’s rejection of this ultimatum led to Truman’s decision to use atomic weapons against Japan – an act which, though definitively ending the war, ushered in the nuclear age and Cold War.


Secret Service agent Behn served from 1939-1967, protecting presidents Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, and Kennedy. “While President Kennedy was popular with most of the agents of WHD, the White House Detail... if there was one president who was unanimously adored by the agency, it was President Harry S. Truman. The agents enjoyed their morning walks with the president and the feeling was mutual, as Truman, the ultimate everyday man, would converse freely with the men, getting to know them, asking about their families, and occasionally giving them small tokens of appreciation,” (Not-So-Secret Service: Agency Tales from FDR to the Kennedy Assassination to the Reagan Era, Palamara). Behn in particular expressed the opinion that Truman was his favorite president, (ibid.). He was the Special Agent in Charge (SAIC) of the Kennedy detail but was not in Dallas at the time of Kennedy’s assassination. Nevertheless, his assertion that Kennedy never ordered the agents off the back of his limousine has added fuel to Kennedy assassination conspiracies, (“Could the Secret Service Have Saved J.F.K.,” Vanity Fair, Cheever).


According to the Harry S. Truman Library, our photograph was taken by the U.S. Army Signal Corps and is #C-1858. The National Archives & Records Administration confirmed that the photograph was taken in Potsdam, Germany and was released January 25, 1946. Framed. And boldly inscribed. Light discoloration on the mount. Not examined out of the frame. A lovely and large piece, handsomely presented.


Item #20547

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