Crowd to Truman on second York visit: ‘Give ’em h—, Harry’


Ron Busser, commander of Korean War Veterans Post 178, unveils York, Pa.’s, Korean War Memorial in 2005. The war wore on President Harry S. Truman and his ratings, and he opted not to seek a second full term in 1952. That election, York County shifted its allegiance to a Republican presidential candidate, Dwight D. Eisenhower, after backing the Dems during Roosevelt’s terms and Truman’s first full term. York College researchers G.A. Mellander and Carl E. Hatch believed the federal intervention of the New Deal had run its course with York County voters, who were looking for less government under Eisenhower. Background posts: Why did JFK lose to Nixon in York County?, York County’s historical war deaths topped 1,000 and Harry S. Truman’s first York visit: ‘A statesman is only a dead politician’.

Spring Garden Township’s C. Earl Witmer remembers a sitting president’s visit not listed in a sampling of stops in my recent York Sunday News column: Many visits by U.S. presidents.
Here’s how Earl recounted it: … .

In 1948, president Harry S. Truman boarded his campaign train to make whistle-stops across the entire nation in his campaign to win election for the presidency over New York Governor Thomas E. Dewey.
A stop was scheduled for York during that time frame. I was a twenty-three year old WWII Army Air Corps veteran eagerly waiting to cast my vote, so I was keenly interested.
On his arrival in York, his campaign train came from the North and crossed the intersection of West Market and Pershing Avenue, stopping on South Pershing Ave. just clear of the roadway heading South. I was in the assemblage of a couple hundred people eagerly waiting to get a glimpse of the fiery sitting president. He stepped to the platform of his Pullman car and delivered what everyone was waiting to hear, amid chants from the crowd to “give ’em h—, Harry. As I recall the train rolled southward 30-45 minutes after arrival.
In casting my very first vote I can now say it was for the winner, contrary to the blazing headline in the Chicago Daily Tribune the next morning, “DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN”.
I saw another president in Gettysburg ten years earlier who apparently never made a stop in York. In July, 1938, the last reunion of the Blue and the Grey was held in Gettysburg on the 75th anniversary of the end of the Civil War. 1,800 veterans attended! FDR addressed a huge crowd in dedicating the eternal “Peace Light Memorial”. I personally witnessed that lighting ceremony.

Truman’s June 18, 1948, whistlestop visit might have made a difference in York County where he edged Thomas Dewey by a 33,110 to 32,501 vote.

About Jim McClure

Editor of the York Daily Record/Sunday News, ydr.com and its many digital products. Journalism/history blogger: yorktownsquare.com. Author or co-author of seven York County, Pa., history books.
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