Origins of the National Security State and the Legacy of Harry S. Truman

Mary Ann Heiss and Michael J. Hogan, eds.


The Cold War profoundly transformed American society, perhaps most significantly through the development of national security institutions that are very much alive more than two decades after the end of the Cold War. This volume explores the great divide between those in the Truman administration who defended tradition and those who spoke for the new ideology of national security. (TLS 11)

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The Truman Legacy Series, Vol. 11

The Cold War profoundly transformed American society, perhaps most significantly through the development of national security institutions that are very much alive more than two decades after the end of the Cold War. The essays in this volume explore the highly charged political environment in which the national security state was created and assess its broader implications for society, both civilian and military. In the complex world of policy making, the executive and legislative branches of government, as well as the branches of the military, struggled with questions of control of national security institutions, constraints on presidential power and civilian control of the military, and long-term implications of policy decisions made in the uncertain post–World War II years.

In his efforts to balance the need for security with the ideals of freedom and individuality, President Truman played a major role in creating and shaping the modern national security state, and the decisions he made at the dawn of the postwar era still echo today.

Harry Truman did not intend to create a national security state, but he did. In this volume, Michael Hogan and Mary Ann Heiss assemble a series of essays that vividly illuminate the institutional, social, and global implications of the U.S. national security state.  Readers will want to debate its motivations, efficacy, and consequences because we are still living with the legacy—good and bad—of those early years of the Cold War.

—Melvyn P. Leffler, Edward Stettinius Professor of American History, University of Virginia


Illustrations & Table




The National Security Discourse of the Early Cold War and the Legacy of Harry S. Truman - Michael J. Hogan

The Institutions of the National Security State

Preparing for the Next Pearl Harbor
Harry S. Truman’s Role in the Creation of the U.S. National Security Establishment - Douglas Stuart

Setting the Stage
Harry S. Truman and the American Military - Dale R. Herspring
The Legacy of Military Spending during the Truman Administration - Benjamin O. Fordham

Its Origin, Transformation, and Crisis of Identity from Harry S. Truman to Barack Obama - Richard H. Immerman and Timothy Andrews Sayle

Harry Truman and the National Security State

A Graphic Essay - Randy Sowell

The Implications of the National Security State

The Military-Academic-Industrial Complex and the Path Not Taken - Audra J. Wolfe

The Politics, and Political Legacy, of Harry S. Truman’s National Security Policies - David C. Unger

An Accidental Empire?
President Harry S. Truman and the Origins of America’s Global Military Presence - Aaron B. O’Connell

The National Security State and the Legacy of Harry S. Truman
Enduring Themes - Mark R. Jacobson



Mary Ann Heiss is associate professor of history at Kent State University. Her publications include Empire and Nationhood: The United States, Great Britain, and Iranian Oil, 1950–1954 (1997) and coedited volumes on the recent history/future of NATO, U.S. relations with the Third World, and intrabloc conflict within NATO and the Warsaw Pact. A member of the Harry S. Truman Library Institute’s Board of Directors and its Committee on Research, Scholarship, and Education, she has previously served on the Council of the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations and on the editorial board of its journal, Diplomatic History.

Michael J. Hogan is Distinguished Professor of History at the University of Illinois, Springfield. In addition to his service as president of the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations and editor of its journal, Diplomatic History, he has also served as chairman of the U.S. Department of State’s Advisory Committee on Diplomatic Documentation and as a consultant for the PBS documentary, George C. Marshall and the American Century. Besides numerous scholarly articles and essays, Hogan  is the author or editor of ten books, including The Marshall Plan: America, Britain, and the Reconstruction of Western Europe, 1947–1952 (1987) and A Cross of Iron: Harry S. Truman and the Origins of the National Security State, 1945–1954 (1998). His scholarship has been recognized with the Stuart L. Bernath Lecture and Book Prizes of the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations, the Quincy Wright Book Prize of the International Studies Association, and the George Louis Beer Book Prize of the American Historical Association.

Benjamin O. Fordham is professor of political science at Binghamton University. He is the author of Building the Cold War Consensus: The Political Economy of U.S. National Security Policy, 1949–51 (1998). His current research focuses on the economic sources of political differences over military spending and other national security questions. He was the Henry Alfred Kissinger Scholar in Foreign Policy and International Relations at the Library of Congress 2010–11.

Dale R. Herspring is University Distinguished Professor of Political Science at Kansas State University. He is the author of more than one hundred books and articles, including Civil-Military Relations and Shared Responsibility: A Four-Nation Study (2013), After Putin’s Russia: Past Imperfect, Future Uncertain (2009), and The Pentagon and the Presidency: Civil-Military Relations from FDR to George W. Bush (2005). He is also the creator of the Political, Military, and Diplomatic Lecture Series at Kansas State University.

Richard H. Immerman is professor of history, Edward Buthusiem Distinguished Faculty Fellow, and Marvin Wachman Director of the Center for the Study of Force and Diplomacy at Temple University, where he won the Paul Eberman Faculty Research Award. The recipient of the Stuart Bernath Book and Lecture Prizes from the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations, he served as SHAFR’s president in 2007. Among his publications are The CIA in Guatemala: The Foreign Policy of Intervention (1982), Waging Peace: How Eisenhower Shaped an Enduring Cold War Strategy (1998), John Foster Dulles: Piety, Pragmatism, and Power in U.S. Foreign Policy (1999), Empire for Liberty: A History of American Imperialism from Benjamin Franklin to Paul Wolfowitz (2012), the Oxford Handbook of the Cold War (2013), and in 2014, The Hidden Hand: A Brief History of the CIA. Immerman was Assistant Deputy Director of National Intelligence for Analytic Integrity 2007–09, currently chairs the Historical Advisory Committee to the Department of State, and is the Francis W. De Serio Visiting Chair in Strategic Intelligence at the Army War College.

Mark R. Jacobson is Senior Transatlantic Fellow, the German Marshall Fund of the United States. From 2009 to 2011, he served as Deputy NATO Senior Civilian Representative and Director of International Affairs at the NATO International Security Assistance Force headquarters in Afghanistan. He has served in several positions at the Department of Defense, as a visiting scholar at The Ohio State University’s Mershon Center, as an instructor at the National Defense Intelligence College, as a member of the staff of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and as an adviser to the Truman National Security Project.

Aaron B. O’Connell is associate professor of history at the United States Naval Academy and the author of Underdogs: The Making of the Modern Marine Corps (2012). His primary research interests are the Cold War, American military culture, and the U.S. military’s role in the world in the twentieth century.

Timothy Andrews Sayle is a PhD candidate in the Department of History at Temple University. He was previously the Thomas J. Davis Fellow in Foreign Policy and Diplomacy at Temple’s Center for the Study of Force and Diplomacy.

Randy Sowell is an archivist at the Harry S. Truman Library.

Douglas Stuart holds the J. William and Helen D. Stuart Chair in International Studies at Dickinson College and is an adjunct professor at the U.S. Army War College. His books include Creating the National Security State (2008), Organizing for National Security (2000), and The Limits of Alliance: NATO Out-of-Area Problems since 1949 (1990). He is a former NATO Fellow and State Department Scholar Diplomat. His teaching has been recognized by two awards from Dickinson College, the Distinguished Teaching Award and the Ganoe Prize for Inspirational Teaching.

David C. Unger is the author of The Emergency State: America’s Pursuit of Absolute National Security at All Costs (2012). He teaches American foreign policy at Johns Hopkins University SAIS Europe in Bologna, Italy. As a longtime senior foreign affairs editorial writer and editorial board member at the New York Times, he has written more than three thousand editorials on foreign affairs and national security subjects.

Audra J. Wolfe is a writer, editor, and historian based in Philadelphia. Her first book, Competing with the Soviets: Science, Technology, and the State in Cold War America, was published in 2013. She is currently researching a new project on the role of science as a means for cultural diplomacy during the Cold War. She is also the founder of The Outside Reader, an editorial and publishing consulting firm, and has taught courses in the history of science at the University of Pennsylvania.


Among the key virtues of the volume is that it provides readers both a variety of normative perspectives on national security policy in the Truman administration and a variety of empirical approaches to examining important national security policy decisions and outcomes.

—Glenn Hastedt, H-Net Reviews, November 2015

The essays examine how these decisions have evolved in unforeseen ways while reshaping the relationship between civilian leaders and the military, influencing foreign and defense policy, and creating partnerships between the government and the private sector.

Missouri History Review, June 2015

"... a critically important contribution to academic library 20th Century American Political Science and History reference collections in general, and Cold War Era supplemental studies reading lists in particular."

—Michael Dunford, Midwest Book Review,
June 2015

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