Dickinson College, Fall 2023

Category: 1940s

Chasing the American Dream

Chasing the American Dream
by David Ndreca


[NOTE:  Both the subject and the interviewer switch languages as per convenience, therefore, the transcript has been translated and appropriated.]

“Immigrants dreamed the same dreams that immigrants always have–of opportunity in America for themselves and their children” Brands writes in his American Dreams.[1]

In this short piece, I will introduce the story of Marcello Cardillo, an Italian immigrant who came to the United States in 1966 to chase the American Dream. The focus of my story is the description of Cardillo’s journey, which demonstrates the hardships and sacrifices an immigrant had to go through to get to the land of the free and opportunities. Not only will I describe his journey, but also the nature of his success and his consequent ability to help others, who, just like him, dreamed of America. This piece follows the spirit of Brands’ statement, supplementing it and giving it a more sensitive perspective.

In the late 1930’s, Marcello Cardillo’s father, Peppe Cardillo—a U.S. born citizen—was taken back to Italy by his parents and, he was never allowed to come to the U.S. again. In 1940 he was drafted to Africa.[2]Specifically, he was drafted in the Italian Eastern Africa (Africa Orientale Italiana), a complex of territories made up of ancient Italian colonial possessions of Somalia, the Eritrean Colony and the Ethiopian Empire.[3]During the war, Peppe lost a leg and was sent back to Italy. Unable to provide for his family, Peppe sent his young kids to work in the fields but it was not enough to feed a family of seven, with a sick mother and a disabled father.[4]Many Italians who emigrated to the United States during the 20s and 30s eventually returned to Italy, “a rarely noted fact that reveals a fundamental ambivalence about being in the United States.”[5]Known as “soujourners” or “economic opportunists” these immigrants came to the U.S. to make money and return home to buy land and open businesses.[6]

At the age of 16, Marcello Cardillo applied, along with his other two male siblings, for a U.S. visa, but it was denied since their uncle was an outspoken communist. Overtaken by desperation, Marcello, the youngest of them all, undertook a journey to Northern Italy, hoping to make it to Switzerland. In Milan, the young Cardillo had to spend the night under a bridge waiting for the seven o’clock bus to Zurich. He said “It was the end of September but I wasn’t cold, I didn’t feel it. I had six starving people at home and the simple idea that I could provide them with a piece of bread kept me going.”[7]

In Switzerland Cardillo was sheltered by farmers and was allowed to sleep in a barn. His hosts found him a job and also forced him to go to night school. “They told me that if I wanted to work, I had to go to school so I could do something better, perhaps find a job in the city.”Soon, Cardillo moved into a little apartment in Zurich, which was “expensive, but it was worth it” he said, “I could make double of what I made working in the farm, and I could send my family twice as much.”[8]

Two years had gone by, and it was time to go see his family. Cardillo had now purchased a car, a Fiat 600 Vignale Spyder, a car he could only afford without much sacrifice. “I was poor, I gave most of my money to my family, but I had saved a lot and now I could pass as middle-class kid, but I was nowhere close to being like [them].”[9]

While visiting his family at the age of 18, Cardillo got arrested for intentionally avoiding the draft. “The communists of the village had reported me, who else?” he stated, “poverty led people into committing evil actions against each other” he continued. Because of his family’s many connections, Cardillo was granted 24 hours to spend with his parents before he could be taken by the authorities and escorted to a military base. However, Cardillo decided to flee and with the help of his neighbor, a marshal of the Carabinieri (Italian police), he was escorted in the marshal’s car trunk to a train station in Rome. “You must cross the Lugano border tomorrow at 9:15, my brother’s shift starts exactly at 9. I will call him, tell him I sent you. He will help you cross the border” the marshal told Cardillo. Once arrived at his apartment in Zurich, Cardillo no longer felt safe and he knew it wouldn’t have been long before the police would find him. Cardillo shared his concerns with his family in New York, and his aunt promised that she’d help him leave Europe.

The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 abolished the Quota Acts which were based on national origins and opened the borders to people with skills needed in a developing American economy.[10]It’s 1966, just a year after the passing of the new immigration law. Cardillo’s aunt sought the help of Congresswoman Edna F. Kelly who, according to Cardillo, “called the U.S. consul in Zurich and arranged a work visa” for him (There is no evidence of such correspondence nor is Mr. Cardillo aware of the relationship between his aunt and the Representative Kelly).

Representative Edna Kelly was a Democrat from New York and had different roles in American politics; most importantly, she was known for her contributions to foreign affairs and women’s rights. Kelly served as the Chair of the Subcommittee on Europe and later as the third ranking member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.[11]Many Representatives, including Kelly, favored immigration reform. The House Immigration Committee took the issue of race and racial discrimination as legitimate grounds for supporting a new reform.[12]Most Congressman in support of the immigration reform “represented eastern European interests, either in their ethnically mixed regions, or in their own or biographies.”[13]

“The plane took off and I thought about that good-hearted woman (referring to Rep. Edna Kelly). I wouldn’t be on this plane without her, and without my aunt.” At the age of 20 Cardillo arrived to the United States and was not expecting what he saw. “It was dark and rainy but I couldn’t take my eyes off the high ceilings of the airport” he said. “I was asked my passport by a very tall officer. He asked me many questions to which I didn’t know how to answer, of course, but I do remember very well his big mustache.”[14]The American Dream turned to be a bit bittersweet: the demand for laborers was very high but Italian immigrants had socialist approaches to work organizations and were organized into mutual-aid societies. Italian Socialists provided leadership and protection to garment workers, barbers, and construction workers. The Italian Socialists also built a bridge between Italians and labor organizations such as the Knights of Labor or the Bricklayer’s, Mason’s and Plasterer’s International Union of America of which Cardillo was a part of.[15]

Once settled at his aunt’s house, Cardillo quickly started working as a construction laborer with his uncle but was unsatisfied with the attitude of his superiors. “Our bosses would give us the worst positions, the risky ones and many times they withheld a portion of our salaries to pay for the tools but in reality those filthy bastards were putting that money into their pockets” Cardillo stated.[16]In fact, immigrant workers took, and arguably still take, jobs with higher health and safety risks than native-born laborers. This phenomenon occurs because of the immigrants’ levels of education, language abilities, and different perceptions of job risks. Many immigrants obtained their work authorization directly through their employer and were tied to the company for an extended period of time. Undoubtedly, this leads to a system prone to exploitation but because of the aforementioned factors—particularly those immigrants whom immigration status depended on their employer—laborers did not seek for alternative employment or working rights out of fear of the consequences for them and their families.[17]

At 23 years-old Cardillo had just gotten married and wanted his family to live comfortably and still had parents and siblings to feed back in Italy.  He said “I needed to do something, I was an angry young man that needed opportunities and not a [slave-like operated employment].” With the help of family and friends, Cardillo opened an Italian deli in downtown Brooklyn. There, he employed his wife Adele while he continued to work as a construction laborer. In two-year time, Marcello and Adele Cardillo saved enough money to buy a house in Yonkers, New York.[18]Italians were known for the many entrepreneurs and workers engaged in the manufacturing, construction and food businesses. Italians did not assimilate in America, but they created a cultural pluralism that allowed them to keep their Italian traditions and values while becoming good Americans.[19]

In 1983, Cardillo decided to sell his Italian deli and invest the earnings into a construction business. “It was a Sunday, I remember it because we had just returned from mass at St. John’s church. We sat down outside the fig tree and I [consulted] Adele whether or not we should sell our deli. She did not hesitate and supported my idea without any questions” Cardillo said. Within a few weeks Marcello opens his construction business called M & C, S & D Mason Contractors, Inc. and hires five laborers. It was a hard beginning working as subcontractors in Westchester County, NY, there was a lot of competition, and Cardillo’s English was very limited.  However, only a few years later, Cardillo became one of the most renowned construction businessmen in the county. His projects quickly increased and were comprised from 50 to even 100 condominiums. “I did 50 condominiums for Jack Nicklaus. I know [him] very well, we don’t hangout anymore but I knew him very well” Cardillo proudly said. This business not only allowed him to chase his American Dream, but to help his employess do so as well. He made sure his they were protected by a union and partnered with the Bricklayer’s, Mason’s and Plasterer’s International Union of America, the oldest and still operating trade union in the United States. After 30 years in business, the union awarded him with a plaque of excellence in craftsmanship.[20]

After many years in business, Cardillo started supporting both politicians and people in need. He donated to humanitarian organizations and sponsored campaigns. He held beneficiary events and distributed food to the poor. “After 50 years working with immigrants, [Hispanics], people of color, with everybody, [I can say] for me, working people are all the same. America is the number one [compared to any other country] in the world. I am Italian but America is the number one for me. When you’re born in another country and you come to the United States you got to suffer a lot” Cardillo concluded.[21] 

[1]H. W. Brands, American Dreams: The United States since 1945 (New York: Penguin Books, 2011), 384.

[2]Interview with Mr. Cardillo, March 17, 2018.

[3]Giuseppe Morandini, Enrico Cerulli, and Ugo Leone, “AFRICA ORIENTALE ITALIANA in “Enciclopedia Italiana”,” Treccani, , accessed April 28, 2018, http://www.treccani.it/enciclopedia/africa-orientale-italiana_res-13a6efa4-87e5-11dc-8e9d-0016357eee51_(Enciclopedia-Italiana)/.

[4]I Interview with Mr. Cardillo, March 28, 2018.

[5]Stephen S. Hall, “ITALIAN-AMERICANS COMING INTO THEIR OWN,” The New York Times, May 15, 1983, , accessed April 28, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/1983/05/15/magazine/italian-americans-coming-into-their-own.html?pagewanted=all.


[7]Interview with Mr. Cardillo, April 24, 2018.

[8]Interview with Mr. Cardillo, April 4, 2018.

[9]Interview with Mr. Cardillo, March 17, 2018.

[10][10]H. W. Brands, American Dreams: The United States since 1945 (New York: Penguin Books, 2011), 371.

[11]“Kelly, Edna Flannery,” US House of Representatives: History, Art & Archives, Accessed April 28, 2018.http://history.house.gov/People/Detail/16168.

[12]http://eds.b.ebscohost.com/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=2&sid=e9f5d25d-9e01-4437-887e-4dac1b08ff44%40sessionmgr101page 58

[13]Ibid page 64

[14]Interview with Mr. Cardillo, April 24, 2018.

[15]Wang Xinyang, Economic opportunity, artisan leadership, and immigrant workers: Italian and Chiense immigrant workers in New York City, 18090-1980, (Labor History, 1996) 492-493.

[16]Interview with Mr. Cardillo, March 17, 2018.

[17]http://eds.b.ebscohost.com/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=1&sid=c33255e9-d7cc-420f-8aee-a4cec4dca146%40sessionmgr104page 142-143

[18]Interview with Mr. Cardillo, April 24, 2018.

[19]Mary Brown, Italians of the South Villages, report, ed. Rafaele Fierro (New York City, NY: Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation , 2007), 80, October 15, 2015, accessed April 28, 2018, gvshp.org/blog/2015/10/08/italians-of-the-south-village/

[20]Interview with Mr. Cardillo, April 4, 2018.

[21]I Interview with Mr. Cardillo, March 17, 2018.



–Video recording, Yonkers, NY March 17, 2018.

–Inteview, Yonkers, NY March 28, 2018.

–Phone Interview, April 4, 2018.

–Phone Interview, April 24, 2018.

Selected Transcript

– Video recording

[NOTE: Both the subject and the interviewer switch languages as per convenience, therefore, the use of certain terminology has been appropriated.]


Q. I know your father was a U.S. citizen. What happened to him?
A. My father was born in this country and then my grandpa [took him] back to Italy when he was 12 years-old. He never came back in this country because in 1930 [there was a draft to Africa]. In Africa, he lost his leg and never came back in this country.

Q. Where were you born? When did you come to the United States?
A. I was born in Italy, in the province of Rome, I left [the country] when I was sixteen years-old and went living in Switzerland. In Switzerland I used to go to school. During the day at work and at night I used to go to school. Then in 1966, I came to the United States to find my [wife]. I was 23 years-old when I met my wife, we got married and after a little while, in a year, we bought a house.

Q. How were you able to sustain your family and buy a house?
A. I used to work all over the place to make money. After three years, I bought my first store, an [Italian] deli. During the day, I would work at the construction site and at night at the deli.

[Translated from Italian]

Q. Were there any obstacles that hindered your business?
A. At the time, everything was managed by the mafia but I was never, I mean … How can I say it … A man from the mafia came to collect the “protection fee” but I told him I didn’t make enough money to pay for the protection.


Q. What happened afterwards?
A. After that, I closed the store and opened my [construction] business. I stayed in [the construction] business 33 years. I started with three foremen and ended up with 80, 90, 60. [All] union people, everyone used to be a [union man] and I was glad to be a union man and still am a union man, up to today.

[Translated from Italian]

Q. How big were your projects?
A. All the projects consisted of 50, 100, 80 condominiums depending on the various projects, but they were all new.

Q. I know you’ve worked for famous people.
A. Yes, I did 50 condominiums for Jack Nicklaus. I know [him] very well, we don’t hangout anymore but I knew him very well, we ate together… Then I know many political figures such as Nita Lowey (D-NY 17thDistrict), (former state) Senator Spano. I know many of these judges, they’re my friends because the have respected me as a [working] immigrant and I respect them for who they are.


Q. How did you engage with the community?
A. When I was 26, I started joining [various Italian clubs]. At first, [I joined the] Columbus League, named after Cristoforo Colombo, after that, I joined the Italian-American Organization. After two years, they made me the President of C.I.A.O. A lot of people did not like it because I was an immigrant, I don’t speak very well English. [Afterwards] I started [sponsoring] politicians, I started helping them, helping people and this is my story. After 50 years working with immigrants, any kind of people. I worked with immigrants, Spanish, people of color, with everybody. For me, working people are all the same. For me, America is the number one [compared to any other country]. I am Italian but America is the number one for me.When you’re born in another country and you come to the United States you got to suffer a lot.

[Translated from Italian]

Q. A bizarre question but would you go back to Italy?
A. No. Because I’m planted here and I no longer like the Italian [socio-political] environment. However, Italy is still Italy, it’s beautiful! When you spend your whole life abroad, it’s hard to get used to the Italian environment again.



America on the Home Front During the Early Cold War

By: Jordan Forry

H.W. Brands devotes three chapters of his book, American Dreams, to the early Cold War era. As the primary purpose of his book appears to be to provide an overview of modern American history in narrative form, most of these chapters focus on big picture trends. Brands does an excellent job of conveying the major events that occurred in that time period and the formal policies set out by the government. However, this big picture approach leads to many generalizations, especially regarding the home front. In this essay, I will use information gained from an interview with a woman who lived through the early Cold War (Lois Shaffer), as well as, other primary and secondary sources to both confirm Brands’ observations regarding the home front and also elaborate on  parts of Brands’ story which may have been over-generalized.

Berlin Airlift, photo credit: https://iconicphotos.wordpress.com/2009/04/24/berlin-airlife/

Berlin Airlift, photo credit: https://iconicphotos.wordpress.com/2009/04/24/berlin-airlife/

Brands spends a decent amount of space describing the Berlin blockade by the Soviets and the corresponding airlift conducted by the U.S. in 1948-1949. He describes Truman as being determined to “not be pushed out of Berlin by Soviet pressure” and points out the incredible logistics required to coordinate “Hundreds of American and British cargo planes… landing and taking off as frequently as once per minute.” [1] What is lacking in this analysis of arguably the first major showdown between the U.S.S.R. and the U.S. is the attitudes of Americans on the home front. Lois Shaffer recalls that after following the situation on the radio, she and her husband became impressed with the feat that the U.S. military was able to accomplish, but she was also quick to point out that they did not necessarily follow the progress of the airlift on a day to day basis. [2] Part of the support for the airlifts on the home front undoubtedly came from national pride for what the U.S. could accomplish, but it did help that the U.S. military proclaimed its military prowess openly in the news. One example of this includes a Boston Daily Globe article from 1948 in which The Globe reported on the Air Force’s claim that it had the capacity to continue the airlift operation for as long as public support existed for the program. [3]  With guarantees from the military that the U.S. could continue indefinitely with the airlifts, Americans had every reason to be optimistic with and support the airlifts under Truman’s leadership.

Steel workers on strike in 1952: Photo Credit http://www.cpcml.ca/Tmld2010/D40216a.htm

Steel workers on strike in 1952: Photo Credit http://www.cpcml.ca/Tmld2010/D40216a.htm

Brands also describes the Korean War within a policy-oriented framework that leaves out much of the story from the perspective of the home front. He describes the aggression of North Korea against South Korea as follows: “Communism was on the march and the forces of freedom needed to stop it. Korea was a test; if the United States and its allies exhibited resolve, the fighting might go no farther.” [4] Brands does get around to stating that the war, “grew unpopular,” but fails to further elaborate on the complexities of public opinion. [5]  Shaffer, whose brother Lester Degroft fought in Korea, expressed conflicting opinions of the war. On one hand, she recalled that the war almost seemed like a continuation of WWII, being that the country had been at peace for only a few years between the wars. On the other hand, she claims that she and other Americans understood the significance of the war and supported Truman. [6] Others, such as Pierpooli Jr. better delineate the stages of American support and rejection of the war effort. Pierpooli claims that in the early stages of the war, Americans largely supported the war effort, but after intervention by communist China in November of 1950, widespread fear and defeatism crept in. [7] The public further lost confidence in the war effort after President Truman’s attempt to seize the striking steel mills ended in public embarrassment with a Supreme Court repudiation of his actions. [8] In sum, Pierpooli concludes that the Korean War “reflected a house divided. It engendered bitter rhetoric… (and) fostered a poisonous atmosphere of paranoia and fear…”[9] These conflicting stories of initial public support for the War and then partial to total rejection of the effort are lost in Brands’ broad overview of the War.

Another important aspect of life on the home front during the early Cold War was the constant threat and psychological toll of a nuclear attack. Brands suggests that Americans were comforted by the slight, but apparent, military advantage the U.S. held in the early years of the Cold War, but “the reassurance could be no more than fleeting, for the nuclear arms race continued, and the shadow across the American future-and the future of the world-grew ever longer.”[10] This quote from Brands suggests three things: that Americans were in grave danger of nuclear attack, that they accurately sensed this danger, and that they felt fear in response to these facts. However, fear may not have been as prevalent as suggested. Russell Baker recalls that just days after the first atomic bombs exploded over Nagasaki and Hiroshima, he and his mother had exchanged letters in which neither of them “indicated that we even realized anything very extraordinary had happened.” [11]  Shaffer recalls that the threat of an atomic attack was always on the back of her mind, but it was not something that consumed her on a day-to-day basis or caused her to lose sleep at night. Rather, it represented a dinner conversation piece depending on the news that night. [12] This general nonchalance is reflected by the fact that polls during this period only showed a little more than half of all Americans (53%) thought there was a good or fair chance that their hometowns would be attacked. [13] This means that half of all Americans believed they faced only slim odds of experiencing a nuclear disaster, which seems to be a far less dire situation than which Brands paints. Perhaps individuals instead, as Elaine May hypothesizes, put their efforts into building a family, instead of fearing for the future, as the “home represented a source of meaning and security in a world run amok.” [14]

Students demonstrating "Duck and Cover" Circa 1950. Photo Credit: http://undergroundbombshelter.com/news/w….

Students demonstrating “Duck and Cover” Circa 1950. Photo Credit: http://undergroundbombshelter.com/news/w….

On the other hand, Americans did have things to fear and did take actions and altered their lifestyles in significant ways to combat the threat of a nuclear attack. For example, Shaffer remembers schools started to have bomb drills and the government encouraged citizens to consider building bomb shelters, even as she and her neighbors did not build them for lack of money.[15] The bomb drills Shaffer recalls are most likely the “Duck and Cover” program that the U.S. government started running in schools that instructed kids to seek shelter under desks, chairs, or against walls whenever they heard an explosion or saw the flash of the bomb. [16] Also, while Shaffer never built a bomb shelter for her family, some cities, such as New York, petitioned the federal government for money to construct such facilities. In 1950, the City Planning Commissioners from New York City determined the cost of building bomb shelters for New York City would total $450,000,000, and that this project represented something “that is practical, can be completed within a reasonable time, and that is needed in view of the world situation.” [17] Finally, in addition to bomb shelters, some individuals also took steps to ensure that they and their families would be ready to survive a nuclear disaster after the initial blast. This would require having enough food stocked to last through the apocalypse. As more and more people sought to prepare themselves for the worst, guides, such as “Grandma’s Pantry to Nuclear Survival,” arose that provided recommendations for how much water, food, and other essentials to have on hand.[18]

In conclusion, life on the home front during the early Cold War was complicated. One of the drawbacks of writing a seventy year narrative of U.S. history like Brands does is it forces one to focus on the overarching themes and policies in American history and can cause one to overlook the complexities of certain times or the effects of certain historical events on the lives of ordinary Americans. By exploring other primary sources from the time, by interviewing a historical witness of the period, and by analyzing other secondary sources, a more complex picture of the U.S. home front during the early Cold War develops; one in which people are allowed to have differences in opinion and experiences. Through this analysis, it becomes evident that although the Cold War weighed heavily on everyone’s minds, it did not completely consume the day-to-day lives of all Americans. In these ways, life on the home front was more complicated than Brands is able to convey in American Dreams.


1. H. W. Brands, The United States Since 1945: American Dreams (New York: Penguin Books, 2010), 40-41.

2. Interview with Lois Shaffer, Spring Grove, PA, March 12, 2015. (Interview was conducted face-to-face, but not recorded. As such, all material used in the paper is a close approximation of responses given unless quotations are provided).

3. Carlyle Holt, “Lemay Declares U.S. can Maintain Berlin Airlift as Long as Necessary,”Daily Boston Globe, September 14, 1948 (Pro-Quest).

4. Brands, American Dreams, 56.

5. Ibid., 58.

6. Interview with Lois Shaffer, March 12, 2015.

7. Paul G. Pierpaoli, Jr., “Truman’s Other War: The Battle for the American Home Front, 1950-1953,” OAH Magazine of History 14, no. 3 (2000):16-17 (JSTOR).

8. Ibid., 18.

9. Ibid., 19.

10. Brands, American Dreams, 67.

11. Russell Baker, Growing Up (New York: Penguin Books, 1982), 292.

12. Interview with Lois Shaffer, March 12, 2015.

13. Elaine Tyler May, Homeward Bound: American Families in the Cold War Era (New York: Basic Books, 2008), 25 (eBook).

14. Ibid., 26-27.

15. Interview with Lois Shaffer, March 12, 2015.

16. “Duck and Cover,” U.S. Federal Civil Defense Administration Video,9:15 (1951), posted by Archer Productions Incorporated, 2004. https://archive.org/details/DuckandC1951.

17. “Atomic Bomb Shelters?,” The New York Times, August 7, 1950 (Pro-Quest).

18. May, Homeward Bound, 100-101.


Origins of the Cold War


PotsdamWinston Churchill’s “Iron Curtain” speech at Fulton, Missouri in March 1946 surely “evoked divergent reactions in America,” as H.W. Brands claims in American Dreams (p. 32), but there can be little doubt that it struck a particular chord among key policymakers in the Truman administration, most notably with the new president himself.  Students should listen to the opening of the famous speech and try to explain why Harry Truman (on stage, far left) found it so persuasive, remembering that less than just a year earlier, Churchill, Truman and Stalin had been together at the Potsdam conference, happily shaking hands as victorious allies.

Churchill’s stern 1946 warning about the Soviets highlighted a growing tension in superpower relations, a period that columnist Walter Lippmann described memorably as “The Cold War.”  The US policy toward the Soviet Union which subsequently defined this Cold War period has come to be known as containment.  State Department official George Kennan helped develop this containment doctrine, principally through two powerful documents, the so-called “Long Telegram,” and an anonymous article for the journal Foreign Affairs, titled, “The Sources of Soviet Conduct.”  Here is an excerpt from the now-famous 1947 article:

These considerations make Soviet diplomacy at once easier and more difficult to deal with than the diplomacy of individual aggressive leaders like Napoleon and Hitler. On the one hand it is more sensitive to contrary force, more ready to yield on individual sectors of the diplomatic front when that force is felt to be too strong, and thus more rational in the logic and rhetoric of power. On the other hand it cannot be easily defeated or discouraged by a single victory on the part of its opponents….In these circumstances it is clear that the main element of any United States policy toward the Soviet Union must be that of a long-term, patient but firm and vigilant containment of Russian expansive tendencies.

Students should be able to explain the significance of this passage and to articulate how key developments such as the Truman Doctrine (1947), Marshall Plan (1947) and Berlin Airlift (1948) help illustrate the initial application of containment principles.  They should also be able to describe the views of early critics of US policy.  It’s important to understand why  figures such as Senator Robert Taft, a leading conservative, or Henry Wallace, a prominent progressive, questioned the rush toward Cold War.  Some students might also find it helpful to view some of the placemarks in the map below (under the layer from Early Cold War, 1945-62), from the US Diplomatic History course here at Dickinson:

Dewey Defeats TrumanWhen Harry Truman became president in 1945 following the death of Franklin Roosevelt, he had seemed ill-prepared for the job.  Yet according to H.W. Brands, “Truman grew into the presidency, far more quickly than most people, including himself, had considered possible” (p. 25).  That growth helps explain why Truman prevailed in the 1948 election.  He ran an aggressive campaign, calling a Republican-controlled Congress into special session, mobilizing core constituency groups within the New Deal coalition, and then conducting the last great “whistle-stop” campaign tour in American political history.  Yet perhaps more important than anything else in this complicated four-way race, Truman managed by the fall of 1948 to appear to a majority of Americans as a safe choice for a commander-in-chief.  It was a peacetime election, but the public was still in so many ways holding onto a wartime mentality.  Arguably, nothing else better explains Truman’s success.  At least to a majority of American voters, he appeared to be the right leader for a dangerous and fast-evolving Cold War era.

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