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Truman Smith

Truman Smith

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Truman Smith was born in West Point on 25th August, 1893. His father was a soldier but he was killed in action at Cebu in February, 1900. He was educated at schools in Stamford before arriving at Yale University (1912–15). He was a graduate student at Columbia University (1915-16).

In 1917 he was commissioned Second Lieutenant in the United States Army. During the First World War he served on the Western Front and took part in the offensive at Meuse-Argonne. He received the Silver Star and was promoted to the rank of Major.

After the war he served as assistant military attaché in Berlin. In 1919, Ernst Hanfstaengel, who had been living in the United States, met Smith, who told him that Adolf Hitler was a rising star. Hanfstaengel took his advice and went to hear him speak at a National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP) meeting. Hanfstaengel later recalled: "In his heavy boots, dark suit and leather waistcoat, semi-stiff white collar and odd little moustache, he really did not look very impressive - like a waiter in a railway-station restaurant. However, when Drexler introduced him to a roar of applause, Hitler straightened up and walked past the press table with a swift, controlled step, the unmistakable soldier in mufti. The atmosphere in the hall was electric. Apparently this was his first public appearance after serving a short prison-sentence for breaking up a meeting addressed by a Bavarian separatist named Ballerstedt, so he had to be reasonably careful what he said in case the police should arrest him again as a disturber of the peace. Perhaps this is what gave such a brilliant quality to his speech, which for innuendo and irony I have never heard matched, even by him. No one who judges his capacity as a speaker from the performances of his later years can have any true insight into his gifts."

Truman Smith continued to take a close interest in Hitler. On 25th November, 1922 he said a report to Washington: "The most active political force in Bavaria at the present time is the National Socialist Labour Party. Less a political party than a popular movement, it must be considered as the Bavarian counterpart to the Italian fascisti It has recently acquired a political influence quite disproportionate to its actual numerical strength. Adolf Hitler from the very first has been the dominating force in the movement, and the personality of this man has undoubtedly been one of the most important factors contributing to its success... His ability to influence a popular assembly is uncanny. In private conversation he disclosed himself as a forceful and logical speaker, which, when tempered with a fanatical earnestness, made a very deep impression on a neutral listener."

Truman Smith returned to the United States and in 1928 he completed a course at the Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth in 1928. He then became an instructor at the U.S. Infantry School until 1932 when he attended the Army War College. He then served with the 27th infantry regiment in Hawaii.

In 1935 Truman Smith was appointed as military attaché in Berlin. He was told that his chief responsibility was "to report to Washington about the growth of the German army, including the development of new weapons and new battle tactics." Smith came to the conclusion that the American Ambassador to Germany, William Dodd was not interested in military matters; and did not give him the support he expected. However, Dodd did share Smith's views on the Jews in Germany. He wrote in his diary: "The Jews had held a great many more of the key positions in Germany than their numbers or talents entitled them to." Dodd also wrote about a meeting with Hitler where he explained what the United States had done about the Jews in public life: "I explained to him (Hitler) that where a question of over-activity of Jews in university or official life made trouble, we had managed to redistribute the offices in such a way as to not give great offense."

During this period Truman Smith worked closely with U.S. Army military intelligence and became friendly with important officers such as General Werner von Blomberg. His biographer claims that "Truman Smith... from this unique vantage point he observed and reported Germany's transformation into a war-oriented economy and the rearmament of her army and air forces. Smith was one of the first to call attention to Hitler's placing the Reich on a war footing and his series of reports on the astonishing capabilities of the Luftwaffe became the focus of considerable controversy."

In 1936 Truman Smith had a meeting with Air Minister, Hermann Goering, and his chief assistant, State Secretary Erhard Milch, and asked them if they would allow Charles A. Lindbergh to visit a number of air installations in Germany. They agreed and invited Lindbergh to visit Nazi Germany. Lindbergh wrote to his mother about the proposed trip: "Comparatively little is known about the present status of Aviation in Germany, so I am looking forward, with great interest, to going there. Even under the difficulties she has encountered since the war, Germany has taken a leading part in a number of aviation developments, including metal construction, low-wing designs, dirigibles, and Diesel engines. If it had not been for the war she would probably have produced a great deal more. On the other hand, if it had not been for the war it is doubtful whether aviation would be as far advanced as it is today."

According to A. Scott Berg, the author of Lindbergh (1998): "Charles followed a rigid military schedule, a succession of inspections. Accompanied by an assistant air attaché, Theodore Koenig, Lindbergh visited the Tempelhof civil airport, where he was permitted to pilot a Junkers (JU) 52, the Luftwaffe's standard bombardment plane, and the Hindenburg, a large four-motored experimental passenger plane. He spent a day with the Richthofen Geschwader (Wing), the elite fighter group of the Luftwaffe. One day he visited two Heinkel factories and saw their latest dive-bomber, medium bomber, fighter, and observation planes-all, Lindbergh found, of superb design. He spent another day at the Junker works at Dessau, where he saw their new JU 210 engine, a liquid-cooled engine far more advanced than he or Koenig had expected, and a JU 86, a low-wing, all-metal medium bomber already in mass production. Lindbergh spent another day at the German air research institute of Adlershof, where the scientists spoke freely of their work until he steered the conversation to the subject of rockets."

Lindbergh argued that "Europe, and the entire world, is fortunate that a Nazi Germany lies, at present, between Communistic Russia and a demoralized France. With the extremes of government which now exist, it is more desirable than ever to keep any one of them from sweeping over Europe. But if the choice must be made it can not be Communism." Lindbergh believed that the Germans were "especially anxious to maintain a friendly relationship with England" and that they had no "intention of attacking France for many years to come, if at all," and they seemed "to have a sincere desire for friendly relations with the United States, but of course that is much less vital to them."

Anne Lindbergh was also impressed with what Adolf Hitler had achieved. She wrote to her mother on 5th August, 1936, "I am beginning to feel, Hitler is a very great man, like an inspired religious leader - and as such rather fanatical - but not scheming, not selfish, not greedy for power, but a mystic, a visionary who really wants the best for his country and on the whole has rather a broad view." She argued that "strictly puritanical view at home that dictatorships are of necessity wrong, evil, unstable and no good can come of them - combined with our funny-paper view of Hitler as a clown - combined with the very strong (naturally) Jewish propaganda in the Jewish owned papers."

On 20th August, 1936, Charles A. Lindbergh wrote a letter of thanks to General Hermann Goering: "It is always a pleasure to see good workmanship combined with vision in design and great technical ability. I have never been more impressed than I was with the aviation organizations I saw in Germany. I believe that the experimental laboratories which are being constricted will undoubtedly contribute very greatly to the progress of aviation throughout the world."

Major Truman Smith thanked Lindbergh for visiting Nazi Germany: "I don't believe anybody else in the world could have succeeded in doing what you did, pleasing everybody, both the German public and the American public." After the visit, Truman Smith observed, "Captain Koenig found himself in a privileged position in the attaché corps. In the ensuing twelve months, he visited more factories and airfields than any other foreign attaché, with the possible exception of the Swedes and the Italians."

When he arrived back in the United States he told his friends that he was impressed with what Hitler had achieved in the three years he had been in power. He told Harry Davison: "He is undoubtedly a great man, and I believe has done much for the German people. He is a fanatic in many ways, and anyone can see that there is a certain amount of fanaticism in Germany today. It is less than I expected, but it is there. On the other hand, Hitler has accomplished results (good in addition to bad), which could hardly have been accomplished without some fanaticism." To another friend he wrote: "While I still have many reservations, I have come away with a feeling of great admiration for the German people. The condition of the country, and the appearance of the average person whom I saw, leaves with me the impression that Hitler must have far more character and vision than I thought existed in the German leader who has been painted in so many different ways by the accounts in America and England." He told Harry Guggenheim: "There is no need for me to tell you that I am not in accord with the Jewish situation in Germany" but the "undercurrent of feeling" was "that the German Jews had been on the side of the Communists."

In October 1937 Lindbergh made a second visit. Lindbergh and Truman Smith became the first Americans to visit the Focke-Wulf factory in Bremen, where the "Germans demonstrated a model of a flying machine (a helicopter) that landed and took off vertically and was able to hover without any apparent movement; it could also fly backward or forward with good maneuverability in turning." Lindbergh later recalled: I have never seen a more successful demonstration of an experimental machine."

Ernst Udet of the Luftwaffe was authorized to show Lindbergh the Rechlin-Lärz Airfield air testing station in Pomerania. Truman Smith wrote: ""This was one of the most secret establishments in Germany, and so far as was then known, foreign attaches were barred." Lindbergh became the first American to examine in detail the Messerschmitt (ME) 109, the Luftwaffe's leading single-engine fighter, as well as the Dornier (DO) 17, its latest light bomber-reconnaissance airplane. He was also told about the development of the Messerschmitt 110, a twin-engined fighter with 1200 h.p. Daimler-Benz engines.

As a result of this visit Truman Smith wrote a report, "General Estimate (of Germany's Air Power) of November 1, 1937." The four-page survey included the following passage: "Germany is once more a world power in the air. Her air force and her air industry have emerged from the kindergarten stage. Full manhood will still not be reached for three years." He said that Germany had already outdistanced France in its technical development and had all but closed the gap on Great Britain. "A highly competent observer (Charles Lindbergh) estimated that if the present progress curves of (America and Germany) should continue as they have in the past two years, Germany should obtain technical parity with the USA by 1941 or 1942." Despite his report, Congress cut rather than increased War Department requests for appropriations for the Army Air Corps.

In November, 1938, Truman Smith arranged for Charles A. Lindbergh to visit Nazi Germany again. Great controversy was caused when Lindbergh received a medal from Hermann Goering. Lindbergh later claimed that he had no idea it was going to happen: "Goring was the last to arrive. I was standing at the back of the room when lie came through the door, wearing a blue Luftwaffe uniform of new design. He seemed less stout than when I last saw him. Heads turned and conversation dropped as Ambassador Wilson advanced to meet his guest of honor. I noticed that Goring carried a red box and some papers in one hand. When he came to me he handed me the box and papers and spoke several sentences in German. I knew no German but I soon learned that he had presented me with the Order of the German Eagle, one of the highest decorations of the government by order of der Fuhrer", he said."

Lindbergh was roundly condemned for accepting the medal. The Secretary of the Interior, Harold Ickes, asserted that anyone who accepts a decoration from Germany also "forfeits his right to be an American". The New Yorker on 26th November, 1938, commented: "With confused emotions we say goodbye to Colonel Charles A. Lindbergh, who wants to go and live in Berlin, presumably occupying a house that once belonged to Jews."

When they returned to the United States both men were accused of being Nazi sympathizers. This view was re-inforced by Smith's support for the 1937 Neutrality Act and his opposition to American involvement in the Second World War. According to Smith's biographer: "Both men were denounced in the press as fascists and henchmen of the Third Reich. The accuracy of the Lindbergh-Smith reports were questioned and dismissed as defeatist propaganda." General George C. Marshall defended Smith and in 1939 appointed him as his personal adviser.

After the war he sought the Republican Party nomination for Connecticut's 4th congressional district but lost to the Hollywood actor, John Davis Lodge. During the campaign he advocated rearming Germany as a counterbalance to Soviet power. Smith was also military aide to the governor of Connecticut.

Truman Smith died on 3rd October, 1993.

The most active political force in Bavaria at the present time is the National Socialist Labour Party. Less a political party than a popular movement, it must be considered as the Bavarian counterpart to the Italian fascisti It has recently acquired a political influence quite disproportionate to its actual numerical strength.

Adolf Hitler from the very first has been the dominating force in the movement, and the personality of this man has undoubtedly been one of the most important factors contributing to its success... In private conversation he disclosed himself as a forceful and logical speaker, which, when tempered with a fanatical earnestness, made a very deep impression on a neutral listener.

Shortly before the Lindberghs had moved abroad, the United States Army had appointed Major Truman Smith - a Yale graduate and career officer with a longtime interest in German history - to be Military Aattaché to the American Embassy in Berlin. The chief responsibility of the handsome six-foot-four career soldier was "to report to Washington about the growth of the German army, including the development of new weapons and new battle tactics." Smith was soon alarmed, for he recognized that Germany was erecting a new military force in the air-the Luftwaffe - and that American intelligence had gathered little information about it. To make matters worse, the Ambassador - an academician, William Dodd - displayed little interest in military matters; and Washington, accordingly, did not appreciate the magnitude of the German buildup. An infantryman, Smith realized he needed an aviation expert to help him size up the Luftwaffe.

One Sunday morning in May 1936, Smith's wife pointed out a squib on the front page of the Paris Herald about Charles Lindbergh's having just visited a French airplane factory. It occurred to Smith that Lindbergh might be just as willing to inspect German air factories.

In the early part of June 1936, I received a letter from the American Military Attache in Berlin, Major Truman Smith, asking me to fly to Germany to help him evaluate developments he had been watching in the Luftwaffe. Major Smith also transmitted an invitation from General Hermann Goring. As I learned later, the U.S. State Department approved this mission. I accepted. I had for many years looked forward to visiting Germany; doing so, I could better evaluate the trends under way in Europe. As a Reserve officer, I wanted to assist the War Department in any way I could...

I gained the impression that Germany was looking eastward, militarily, yet it was obvious that bombing planes would not find the Maginot Line a formidable obstacle should they wish to cross it. The Germans knew that France was deficient in both defensive and retaliatory air power.

Goring invited us to his Berlin home for lunch. There we sat with German and American officers and their wives at a richly decorated table in a room lined with mirrors and carved madonnas "borrowed" from German museums. After the meal was over, Goring, white-uniformed, bemedaled, and gold-braided, escorted me to a side table, where he opened a photograph album. "Here are our first seventy," he said, turning the pages. Each page contained a picture of a military airfield. From the inspection trips I had made through German factories, I knew warplanes were being built to fill those fields.

Obviously Germany was preparing for war on a major scale with the most modern equipment. The Nazi government also obviously wanted to impress America with its rapidly growing strength. Before leaving Berlin I assisted Major Smith in preparing a special report for the War Department in Washington. Germany was forging ahead of the United States in aeronautical research and production facilities, we declared. The performance of their fighting and light-bombing types of aircraft was especially notable.

I knew theoretically what modern bombs could do to cities. At the same time, experiences in war games had convinced me that claims for the effectiveness of both ground and air defense were tremendously exaggerated. In Nazi Germany, for the first time, war became real to me. The officers I met were not preparing for a game. Their discussions gave me a sense of blood and bullets, and I realized how destructive my profession of aviation might become.

The organized vitality of Germany was what most impressed me: the unceasing activity of the people, and the convinced dictatorial direction to create the new factories, airfields, and research laboratories. Militarism was pervasive-streets were full of uniforms and banners. It was such a contrast to the complacent and tranquil life in England from which we had come. Germany had the ambitious drive of America, but that drive was headed for war.

Cruising back to England after our visit was over, I found that Nazi Germany was forcing a reorientation of my thought. For many years aviation had seemed to me primarily a way of bringing peoples of the world together in commerce and peace. The accounts of air combats I had read as a young Minnesota wartime farmer had long been pocketed away in memory. My year at cadet school, followed by service in Reserve and National Guard squadrons, was hardly more than a passing bow to the rejected god of war. I had thought and talked about aircraft overcoming surface barriers of earth for the benefit of man's relationship to man. Now I began to think about the vulnerability of men to aircraft carrying high-explosive bombs.

10 Well-Known US Figures Affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan

No period goes behind the S in Truman&rsquos name because it isn&rsquot an initial. It&rsquos simply a letter he placed there to burnish his image when first attempting to become a County Judge back in Missouri. Being a judge wasn&rsquot like being a judge presiding over legal cases in a courtroom either. He was more of a commissioner, and he used his time as such to work long and hard at improving the roads in his district, the beginning of his lifelong love of roads and travel by automobile.

It was while running for this judgeship that the relatively unknown Truman was asked if he wanted to join the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan. The individual who approached Truman was employed by his own benefactor &ndash Tom Pendergast &ndash and therefore to be trusted. He promised more votes, including the support of all fellow Klansmen in the district. Truman needed votes. He gave the envoy ten dollars for membership dues. Later he found out that the Klan was virulently anti-Catholic &ndash particularly anti-Irish Catholic.

As a captain of artillery in World War I, Truman had commanded a battery which included several Irish-Catholics, many of whom he still drank and played poker with in the local Freemason&rsquos Hall. Truman wasn&rsquot about to tolerate prejudice against any of &ldquohis boys&rdquo. He summoned the messenger, renounced his membership, and demanded his ten dollars back.

That is the known extent of Harry Truman&rsquos involvement with the Ku Klux Klan, a brief use of their influence to burnish his credentials, quickly disposed of, and never revisited. Truman is frequently denounced as a Klan member, and technically maybe he was despite never attending any meetings, being initiated, or swearing any oath. As President, he desegregated the military through the use of an Executive Order when a bickering Congress failed to act, enraging Southern Democrats but is still considered by many to have been a racist. His Klan membership is definitive proof. Maybe. Maybe not.

President Truman signs United Nations Charter

President Harry S. Truman signs the United Nations Charter and the United States becomes the first nation to complete the ratification process and join the new international organization. Although hopes were high at the time that the United Nations would serve as an arbiter of international disputes, the organization also served as the scene for some memorable Cold War clashes.

President Truman took a step that many Americans hoped would mean continued peace in the post-World War II world. The president signed the United Nations Charter, thus completing American ratification of the document. Secretary of State James F. Byrnes also signed. In so doing, the United States became the first nation to complete the ratification process. The charter would come into full force when China, Russia, Great Britain, France, and a majority of the other nations that had constructed the document also completed ratification.

The signing was accomplished with little pomp and ceremony. Indeed, President Truman did not even use one of the ceremonial pens to sign, instead opting for a cheap 10-cent desk pen. Nonetheless, the event was marked by hope and optimism. Having gone through the horrors of two world wars in three decades, most Americans𠄺nd people around the world–were hopeful that the new international organization would serve as a forum for settling international disagreements and a means for maintaining global peace. 

From County Judge to U.S. Vice President

In 1922, Harry Truman, with the backing of Kansas City political boss Thomas Pendergast (1873-1945), was elected district judge in Jackson County, Missouri, an administrative position that involved handling the county’s finances, public works projects and other affairs. In 1926, Truman won election as the county’s presiding judge. Earning a reputation for efficiency and integrity, he was reelected in 1930.

In 1934, Truman was elected to the U.S. Senate. As a senator, he supported President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal programs, designed to help lift the nation out of the Great Depression, which began in 1929 and lasted about a decade. Additionally, Truman was instrumental in the passage of the Civil Aeronautics Act of 1938, which established government regulation of the burgeoning aviation industry, and the Transportation Act of 1940, which established new federal regulations for America’s railroad, shipping and trucking industries. From 1941 to 1944, Truman headed the Senate Special Committee to Investigate the National Defense Program, which worked to reduce waste and mismanagement in U.S. military spending. Commonly known as the Truman Committee, it saved American taxpayers millions of dollars and propelled Truman into the national spotlight.

Truman Smith - History

Mark D. Ogletree ([email protected]) was an associate professor of Church history and doctrine at BYU when this article was published.

Joseph modeled how to be cheerful regardless of persecution, personal sorrow, or extreme trials. If anyone ever had legitimate reasons to be discouraged, it was Joseph Smith. This painting in the past has been attributed to Sutcliffe Maudsley. The Church History Museum believes it was done by David Rogers.

We live at a time when calamity abounds. Collectively, we are surrounded by economic turmoil, terrorism, wars, gangs, sexual perversion, pollution, hunger, famine, poverty, and the disintegration of the family. Moreover, on an individual level, many contemporary households deal with disease, divorce, financial distress, unemployment, and a host of other critical issues. Years ago, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland jested, “I watch an early morning news broadcast while I shave, and then read a daily newspaper. That is enough to ruin anyone’s day, and by then it’s only 6:30 in the morning.” [1] More recently, Bishop Richard C. Edgley observed:

We live in a world today of isms—agnosticism, secularism, atheism, pessimism, and other isms. And today we certainly live in a time of great pessimism and concern. We face challenges both economically and spiritually. The stock market, a rather reliable index of public sentiment, has had distressing declines in value. The unemployment rate has risen from the comfortable levels we enjoyed in the past. Homes are foreclosing at an alarming rate, unusually high energy costs are affecting all of us, and so forth. . . . Perhaps most alarming is a retreat toward a godless society as more people are moving away from faith in Deity and the establishment of basic moral values that have become the basis of a righteous life and are challenging our religious beliefs and our lifestyle.

The evidence of the decline in moral values is readily available as we see the continued rise of pornography, the rampant use of illegal drugs, cohabitating outside of marriage, and every other degenerate practice known to man. [2]

Certainly, such news does not give us much to cheer about these days in fact, it would be rather easy to become a professional pessimist. Today, there are many who seek for peace but cannot find it. Consequently, a host of individuals in our society suffer from anxiety, depression, and stress. We live in a day in which the love of many has waxed cold (see Matthew 24:12) and men’s hearts are failing them due to fear (see Luke 21:26). Without the perspective of the gospel of Jesus Christ, life could be overwhelming and devastating to most individuals.

Even though the Prophet Joseph Smith was born over two hundred years ago, he too faced many of life’s stresses, trials, heartaches, and difficulties. Shortly after the Church was organized, the Lord counseled Joseph to “be firm in keeping the commandments wherewith I have commanded you and if you do this, behold I grant unto you eternal life, even if you should be slain” (D&C 5:22 emphasis added). In addition, the Lord told Joseph, “Be patient in afflictions, for thou shalt have many” (D&C 24:8 emphasis added). Such declarations would not bring peace to the soul of a fair-weather follower of Christ. In fact, for most individuals, such “warnings” would cause extreme stress and worry. A quick review of his struggles reveals that Joseph had more trials than most individuals will ever face. He once declared, “Deep water is what I am wont to swim in. It all has become a second nature to me.” [3] Joseph did not merely survive his trials he bore his difficulties with patience, long-suffering, and meekness. Through opposition, he learned to develop godly attributes. Joseph declared, “I am like a huge, rough stone rolling down from a high mountain . . . knocking off a corner here and a corner there. Thus I will become a smooth and polished shaft in the quiver of the Almighty.” [4] The trials and challenges that Joseph faced molded him into a Saint. The following are some of the tests he faced:

  • His leg was operated on at age seven. Not only was there a long recovery time but Joseph walked with a limp the rest of his life.
  • He was mobbed, assaulted, and tarred and feathered at the Johnson home in Hiram, Ohio, resulting not only in immediate pain and difficulty but also in back pains for the remainder of his days.
  • As the leader of the Church, Joseph spent much time hiding from false accusers, keeping him away from his family and loved ones.
  • His tooth was broken when wicked men tried to shove a vial of poison down his throat. From that day forward, Joseph spoke with a lisp.
  • Joseph was beaten on his hips with guns, leaving bruises on each side over eighteen inches in diameter.
  • Of Joseph’s eleven children, only five lived to adulthood. Four of his children died the same day they were born, and two other children died within their first year. [5]
  • Emma was often sick as a result of pregnancies or emotional stress.
  • At one time, Joseph had over forty-six lawsuits filed against him.
  • On numerous occasions, Joseph was imprisoned falsely and had to deal with the burden of contrived legal, or sometimes illegal, charges.
  • He had to cope with the venom of apostates and often heard reports of the murder, rape, and torture of his beloved Saints. [6]
  • Joseph lived in a state of constant financial struggle and poverty. It wasn’t until he and Emma moved to Nauvoo that they lived in a home they could call their own.
  • Joseph was constantly hounded, driven, persecuted, harassed, and threatened by mobs.

During the height of the persecutions, the Prophet wrote, “My family was kept in a continual state of alarm, not knowing, when I went from home, that I should ever return again or what would befall me from day to day.” [7] Any of these challenges would have tested the most faithful Saint to the core. Imagine dealing with the death of several of your own children, having over forty lawsuits issued against you, or having your life threatened on a regular basis. Joseph reached a point in his spiritual development where he was able to say that such trials were “second nature”! For most of us, it is difficult to handle life when enemies or even good friends are merely angry with us. How difficult would it be to keep believing, building, and preaching while bullets are flying over your head and wicked men are conspiring to kill you? Indeed, Joseph Smith was no ordinary man.

Most people would crumble under the pressure of one or two of these major difficulties. It is mind-boggling to realize that Joseph suffered trials of such magnitude his entire life. As contemporary Latter-day Saints, we can learn much from Joseph Smith as we deal with our own challenges. Joseph modeled how to be cheerful regardless of world conditions, persecution, personal sorrow, or extreme trials. If anyone ever had a legitimate reason, or reasons, to be discouraged, it was Joseph Smith. Yet most of the time he was happy and optimistic. Some would argue that Joseph was happier than he should have been! Indeed, Joseph Smith serves as an example of a Saint filled with faith and hope—something all of us can look to as we seek to survive in this treacherous world.

Dr. Martin Seligman, a prominent psychologist and one of the major proponents of positive thinking, explained: “Life inflicts the same setbacks and tragedies on the optimist as on the pessimist, but the optimist weathers them better. As we have seen, the optimist bounces back from defeat, and, with his life somewhat poorer, he picks up and starts again. The pessimist gives up and falls into depression. Because of his resilience, the optimist achieves more at work, at school, and on the playing field. . . . Americans want optimists to lead them.” [8]

Most certainly, Joseph Smith was an effective leader. He seemed to always bounce back from defeat. He never did give up defeat was not part of his vocabulary. Because of his resilience, he accomplished so much more than the average man. The Saints adored Joseph because of his leadership, faith, and hope. In fact, many Saints learned to be happy as they followed his example. Because of his own rock-solid faith, Joseph instilled courage and hope into the hearts of his followers.

The Prophet Joseph taught:

Happiness is the object and design of our existence and will be the end thereof, if we pursue the path that leads to it and this path is virtue, uprightness, faithfulness, holiness, and keeping all the commandments of God. But we cannot keep all the commandments without first knowing them, and we cannot expect to know all, or more than we now know unless we comply with or keep those we have already received. . . .

In obedience there is joy and peace unspotted, unalloyed and as God has designed our happiness—and the happiness of all His creatures, he never has—He never will institute an ordinance or give a commandment to His people that is not calculated in its nature to promote that happiness which He has designed, and which will not end in the greatest amount of good and glory to those who become the recipients of his law and ordinances. [9]

Joseph understood that happiness is the purpose of our existence—it is why we are here on earth. As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we have a perspective that allows us to deal with stress, difficulty, and strain—and yet be full of faith. Joseph Smith had that mindset. It is disheartening today to look around in many of our Latter-day Saint congregations and realize that some of the most faithful members are downright miserable and discouraged. Yes, there are sore trials to face, and most of us have been weighed down by many of them. But once again, because we view life through the lens of the gospel of Jesus Christ, we should be the happiest people on earth! Joseph Smith, regardless of his terrible, heart-wrenching trials, seemed to model happiness almost daily. It is one thing to be happy when life seems to be going well but an entirely different matter to choose happiness when there is not much to smile about. One of Joseph’s great gifts was his ability to take courage and choose happiness, regardless of the circumstances.

A great secret to happiness is gratitude. One author wrote, “All happy people are grateful, and ungrateful people cannot be happy. . . . Because gratitude is the key to happiness, anything that undermines gratitude must undermine happiness.” [10] Truly, Joseph Smith was happy because he was grateful. He often counted his many blessings and was occasionally reminded that his circumstances could have been much worse. For example, as Joseph began the year 1836, he reflected: “This being the beginning of a new year, my heart is filled with gratitude to God that He has preserved my life, and the lives of my family, while another year has passed away. We have been sustained and upheld in the midst of a wicked and perverse generation, although exposed to all the afflictions, temptations, and misery that are incident to human life for this I feel to humble myself in dust and ashes, as it were, before the Lord.” [11]

Furthermore, Joseph understood that happiness is correlated with keeping the commandments of God and that our Father in Heaven gives us commands so that we will have joy not just in eternity, but right here, right now, on earth. Sadly, many who are not happy lack faith. They do not believe in Heavenly Father’s promises to them or his assurances to all Saints who will keep the commandments and live the gospel. For example, in Joseph’s case, he knew that his life would not be taken until he accomplished the work God had sent him to do. President Brigham Young declared that he often heard Joseph say, “I shall not live until I am forty years of age.” [12] Meanwhile, Joseph stated with confidence, “God will always protect me until my mission is fulfilled.” [13] With that perspective, Joseph took great comfort in knowing that he would be preserved until his mission was completed. When nineteen-year-old William Taylor asked Joseph, “Don’t you get frightened when all those hounding wolves are after you?” Joseph simply responded, “No, I am not afraid the Lord said he would protect me, and I have full confidence in his word.” [14]

A more detailed example of Joseph’s complete faith and trust in such promises is preserved in Sarah Stoddard’s journal account. Sarah had a son named Charles, who was fourteen years old at the time and served as a houseboy to William Law. One day after Charles cleaned Mr. Law’s gun, Law bragged to his young apprentice that he would kill the Prophet Joseph Smith with one shot. Law sent Charles to invite Joseph over to his home. Charles was mortified. Would he go down into the annals of history as the boy who cleaned the gun that killed Joseph Smith? Instead of extending an invitation, Charles ran down the streets of Nauvoo as fast as possible to warn the Prophet of impending danger. He begged the Prophet not to visit Mr. Law. Calmly, Joseph assured Charles that no harm would come to him—at least not on that day. In Sarah Stoddard’s words,

The Prophet in a final attempt to calm my dear son uttered the fateful words, “Mr. Law may someday kill me, Charles, but it won’t be today.”

As they approached their destination, Mr. Law came staggering out of the house [he was drunk] shouting what he intended to do.

The Prophet said kindly and unafraid, “You sent for me, Mr. Law?” to which Mr. Law replied with oaths that now he was doing the whole a favor by disposing of the Prophet with one shot.

Calmly the Prophet unbuttoned his shirt and bared his chest, then said, “I’m ready now, Mr. Law.” Charles said at this point he nearly fainted. Sick fear strangled him until he was speechless and paralyzed, unable to move a muscle.

Mr. Law paced a few steps, turned, aimed, and pressed the trigger. There was complete silence. Then the air rang with profanity, and Mr. Law turned on Charles, accusing him of fixing the gun so it would not go off and threatening to kill even Charles—my innocent, frightened, but faithful son.

The Prophet, to divert Mr. Law’s blame of Charles, suggested that a can be placed on a fence post for Mr. Law to take a practice shot. Relieved, Charles ran for a can and laid it on its side on the post. Mr. Law paced back, took aim, and fired. His “one shot” streaked through the exact center of the can.

Even Mr. Law was quiet, as if stunned.

The Prophet buttoned up his shirt, gave Charles a meaningful look, and then said, “If you are finished with me now, Mr. Law, I have other things needing to be done. Good morning.” [15]

When the Lord told Joseph that his life would not be taken until his mission was completed, Joseph believed and had faith and complete trust in that promise. He knew that God would not lie such promises allowed Joseph to exercise faith, act in confidence, and be happy and full of hope.

Joseph was described by his contemporaries as being happy and cheerful. In the 1838 account of the First Vision, Joseph mentioned that he had a “native cheery temperament” (Joseph Smith—History 1:28). Similarly, a neighbor described Joseph as “a real clever, jovial boy.” [16] His cheerful temperament and jovial nature proved a great blessing in his life and enabled him to pass through many difficult situations. His smile was “frequent” and “agreeable,” [17] and his “countenance was ever mild, affable, beaming with intelligence and benevolence mingled with a look of interest and an unconscious smile, or cheerfulness, and entirely free from all restraint or affectation of gravity.” [18] Joseph Smith was a good-natured model of sociability. Mosiah Hancock reported that he “always had a smile for his friends and was always cheerful,” while Lyman O. Littlefield added that Joseph was “social, conversational and often indulged in harmless jokes.” [19] The late Truman G. Madsen said that the Prophet Joseph was “easily inclined to laughter, sociable, animated, the life of the party, and colorful in his use of language.” [20] Consequently, Joseph Smith III recalled that his father’s home in Nauvoo was “generally overrun with visitors.” [21] Joseph seemed to enjoy a houseful of company to entertain and good food to eat.

One of the challenges Joseph faced was the backgrounds and baggage new converts often brought with them from previous religious experiences. For example, during the 1800s, the Puritan influence loomed large. Therefore, Christians during this period were taught that “one’s focus should be on strictly spiritual concerns and that most forms of recreation, play, popular music, and other ‘worldly’ concerns were to be engaged in at the peril of their eternal souls.” [22] For example, one minister of Joseph’s day preached, “Hell stands open to receive you, and devils stand ready to drag you into everlasting fire. . . . Why be careless? Why be merry?” [23] Such was the tenor and sentiment of puritanical religiosity in the early 1800s. President Brigham Young was a product of such strict Puritan beliefs: “When I was young [he said], I was kept within very strict bounds, and was not allowed to walk more than half-an-hour on Sunday for exercise. The proper and necessary gambols of youth [were] denied me. . . . I had not a chance to dance when I was young, and never heard the enchanting tones of the violin, until I was eleven years of age and then I thought I was on the high way to hell, if I suffered myself to linger and listen to it.” [24]

President Young explained that parents of his day whipped their children for reading novels, refused to let them attend the theater, and would not allow them to play or associate with other children who held lesser standards or values. In fact, it was his belief that when such children finally were old enough to leave home and escape the rigorous training of their parents, “they are more fit for companions to devils, than to be the children of such religious parents.” [25] One of Joseph’s most pressing challenges was helping the converts with such prudish beliefs to understand that religion, happiness, and fun can be in harmony.

Latter-day Saint historian Leonard J. Arrington further explained: “It was common for these descendants of the Puritans to see displays of humor as a mark of insincerity, for humor suggested that nothing really mattered and that life was basically comic. To be overly humorous, they thought, was to be cynical toward life. But Joseph Smith saw humor and religion as quite reconcilable. As he saw it, once one acknowledges that there is something beyond laughter—a core of life that is solemn, serious, and tender—there is still plenty of room for jesting. At least, that is the way he was—‘a jolly good fellow,’ as one contemporary described him.” [26]

Many of these new members struggled with Joseph’s jovial nature. In their mind, a prophet was someone directly from the pages of the Old Testament, complete with a long, flowing robe, beard, and somber nature. In fact, Rachel Ridgeway Grant felt that Hyrum seemed more like a prophet than Joseph, for he was “more sedate, more serious.” [27] When these new members witnessed Joseph’s jovial and playful attitude, they were often caught off guard. Unfortunately, some even left the Church soon after their conversion. According to Elder George A. Smith, one convert family apostatized soon after they arrived in Kirtland when they saw Joseph come downstairs from the room “where he had been translating by the gift and power of God” and romp and play with his children. [28]

The somber, pharisaic, holy attitude that was common among many religious leaders of the day did not set well with Joseph. The Prophet was a man of integrity—there was no pretense about him. It was not his nature to participate in shams or the false drama that “holy men” of his day had created. Moreover, despite the fact that he had seen God the Father and Jesus Christ, had entertained angels and other heavenly personages from the Book of Mormon and Bible, Joseph never put himself above others. In fact, the Prophet was always down to earth and did not take himself too seriously. For instance, once when he was wrestling with Sidney Rigdon, Joseph accidentally tore a hole in his own pants. Those of a more holy bent might have been upset or embarrassed. However, Joseph simply had a good laugh over it. [29] Joseph said, “There was one good man and his name was Jesus. . . . I do not want you to think that I am very righteous, for I am not.” [30]

In the 1820s, there was a prevailing belief that the more dramatic the display of spirituality, the holier the person. Joseph Smith viewed the ministers of his day as sanctimonious, histrionic, and often phony. He tried to convince new converts who were weighed down with such beliefs to purge them. For example, on one occasion, a man who had developed a falsetto approached Joseph. In preaching without microphones, ministers learned to pitch their voices high so that they could be heard from great distances. Moreover, such a speaking technique added much flare and drama to their oratory. “One man with exactly that tone came and said, with a kind of supercilious reverence, ‘Is it possible that I now flash my optics upon a Prophet?’ ‘Yes,’ the Prophet replied, ‘I don’t know but you do would not you like to wrestle with me?’ The man was shocked.” [31] Perhaps Joseph was not as interested in wrestling the minister as he was in teaching a principle—that preachers of religion need not be theatrical. Jedediah M. Grant, who knew the Prophet well, underscored this point when he declared that Joseph Smith preached against the “super-abundant stock of sanctimoniousness” that characterized contemporary religion. [32]

Joseph also knew how to use humor to relieve tense situations. Often, after heated discussions with preachers and pastors, he was prone to say, “Gentleman, let’s lay the scriptures aside for a moment and I’ll challenge you to jump at the mark with me.” [33] It was not that Joseph loved beating ministers in jumping competitions. His challenges most often eased tension, brought humor to tense situations, and exposed a “holier-than-thou” attitude.

On another occasion, with the opportunity to blend some humor with a true principle, Joseph dressed in ragged clothes and rode his horse down to meet a group of Saints who had just landed on the dock from England. The son of Edwin Rushton shared this account:

Father was very anxious to find the members of his family already established there, and hurried towards the town in search of them. He had gone only a short distance when he met a man riding a beautiful black horse. The man accosted him, saying, “Hey, Bub, is that a company of Mormons just landed?”

In much surprise, Father answered, “Yes sir.”

“Are you a Mormon?” the stranger continued.

“Yes, sir,” Father again answered.

“What do you know about old Joe Smith?” the stranger asked.

“I know that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God,” said Father.

“I suppose you are looking for an old man with a long, gray beard. What would you think if I told you I was Joseph Smith?” the man continued.

“If you are Joseph Smith,” said Father, “I know you are a prophet of God.”

In a gentle voice, the man explained, “I am Joseph Smith. I came to meet those people, dressed as I am in rough clothes and speaking in this manner, to see if their faith is strong enough to stand the things they must meet. If not, they should turn back right now.” [34]

Joseph’s warmth and kindness proved a blessing to him when he was accosted by his enemies. Elder Parley P. Pratt explained that Joseph “possessed a noble boldness and independence of character his manner was easy and familiar, . . . his benevolence unbounded as the ocean. . . . Even his most bitter enemies were generally overcome, if he could once get their ears.” [35] Years afterward, Moses Wilson said, “Joseph Smith was a most remarkable man. I carried him a prisoner in chains to my house in Independence, Missouri, and he hadn’t been there two hours before my wife loved him better than she loved me.” [36] Joseph appears to have had not only charisma but also human warmth and gentleness that drew his fellow men to him.

Another great example of Joseph’s gentility comes from Joseph’s mother, Lucy Mack Smith. While in Missouri, Joseph was at the home of his mother, engaged in writing a letter and transacting some Church business when a mob of eight men came to the door and asked for him. They made it clear that they were there to kill Joseph Smith and all Mormons. After Joseph greeted the men, resolved their concerns, and smoothed over some ill feelings, they insisted on walking him home and protecting him from any harm and danger. These men were sent to assassinate the Prophet, not escort him home. [37] Joseph was able to win over the hearts of these men with his kindness and warmth.

Joseph liked to have a good time. He enjoyed socializing with friends and neighbors, and he certainly enjoyed games and contests. Joseph was certainly a “people person” in every sense of that phrase. One of his close friends, Benjamin Johnson, said of Joseph:

The Prophet often came to our town, but after my arrival, he lodged in no house but mine, and I was proud of his partiality and took great delight in his society and friendship. When with us, there was no lack of amusement for with jokes, games, etc., he was always ready to provoke merriment, one phase of which was matching couplets in rhyme, by which we were at times in rivalry and his fraternal feeling, in great degree did away with the disparity of age or greatness of his calling. [38]

Not only did Joseph Smith have many adult friends but he also had the gift of understanding young people. For instance, he knew that by engaging in physical activities with young men, he could develop a friendship and strengthen the bonds of love. Elder Lorenzo Snow related an occasion when Joseph played ball with some children. Hyrum, who possessed a more serious nature, chastised Joseph, calling the behavior inappropriate for the Lord’s anointed. The Prophet then explained to Hyrum the reason for his conduct: “Brother Hyrum, my mingling with the boys in a harmless sport like this does not injure me in any way, but on the other hand it makes them happy and draws their hearts nearer to mine and who knows but there may be young men among them who may sometime lay down their lives for me!” [39]

When Joseph was with the young men, he played baseball and quoits, a ring-toss game played with an iron ring. He was known to create his own games, complete with prizes. When the games were completed, Joseph would often encourage the youth in Nauvoo to come with him to build a cabin, chop wood, or engage in some other physical labor. At other times, Joseph would return home and get back to work, a signal that the young men should return to their homes as well.

On one occasion, several young men got into some mischief by throwing a wooden ball on top of a neighbor’s roof. The owner of the home rebuked the young men for the damage they had done. When Joseph came upon the scene, instead of joining in the chastisement or urging the young men to go somewhere else to play, Joseph distracted them. He thought of a new game that all of the young men could participate in: “He first took the children over to a carpenter’s shop and had the proprietor make each of them a small wooden ball on his lathe, while he fashioned paddles for each child out of some extra scraps of wood. He then showed the youngsters how to strike the ball with the paddle. Then, he taught them the object of the game. They were to hit the ball with their paddles, run to it and hit it again until they had knocked it to a distant goal. The narrator of this incident stated that this activity ‘gave them good exercise, tested their muscular skills, and kept them busy for an hour or two, thereby keeping them out of mischief.’” [40]

One day a bully from LaHarpe, Illinois, challenged Joseph to a wrestling match. The intimidator had soundly beaten every challenger that day. A hat was passed around the crowd, and whatever money was tossed in would go to the winner. If Joseph won, he would be able to post bail for his good friend Orrin Porter Rockwell, who was imprisoned in Missouri. “The man was eager to have a tussle with the Prophet, so Joseph stepped forward and took hold of the man. The first pass he made, Joseph whirled him around and took him by the collar and seat of his trousers and walked out to a ditch and threw him in it. Then, taking him by the arm, helped him up and patted him on the back and said, ‘You must not mind this. When I am with the boys I make all the fun I can for them.’” [41]

When Joseph sent Jacob Gates on a mission, he said, “Go and fill your mission, and we will wrestle after you come back.” [42] It probably wasn’t Joseph’s intent to wrestle Brother Gates. Instead, Joseph’s invitation appears to be a way to lighten an emotional moment. At the time, Jacob gates was quite physically ill and was about to embark on his fifth mission, leaving behind his wife and children for an undetermined amount of time. [43] Joseph knew how to relieve burdens and often used humor to do it.

Consider another example. Shortly after James Henry Rollins was assigned by Joseph to work at his store in Nauvoo, the Prophet walked up, then raised his leg and laid it on the shoulder of young Brother Rollins. Shortly after, Joseph removed his leg and said, “I thought to break you down with the heft of my leg, but you are stiffer than I thought you were.” [44] Joseph’s joke on Rollins was his way of connecting with him and forging a friendship. Joseph’s closest associates knew that he played jokes and teased those he admired.

On another occasion, Joseph and several other brethren sought refuge from a mob in the Joseph and Isabella Horne home in Quincy, Illinois. Sister Horne noted that Joseph was in the “best of spirits.” After some food and good company, Joseph laughingly said, “Sister Horne, if I had a wife as small as you, when trouble came I would put her in my pocket and run.” [45]

A few days earlier, a man in the community of Kirtland had sold his wife for a bulls-eye pocket watch. Many of the locals were talking about this newsworthy story when Joseph met Daniel McArthur in the woods. With a smile on his face, Joseph greeted Brother McArthur with, “You are not the young man who sold his wife for a bull-eye watch the other day, are you?” Daniel replied, “No sir.” Joseph laughed, having some fun with Brother McArthur. [46]

One of the greatest demonstrations of the Prophet Joseph’s humor occurred on a sultry day in May 1843. Joseph stood before the Nauvoo Legion and complimented them for their fine work and discipline. Since the weather was especially hot, Joseph asked for a glass of water. With the glass in his hands, he proposed this toast: “‘I will drink you a toast, to the overthrow of the mobocrats,’ which he did in language as follows: ‘Here’s wishing they were in the middle of the sea in a stone canoe, with iron paddles, and a shark swallow the canoe, and the devil swallow the shark, and him locked up in the northwest corner of hell, the key lost, and a blind man looking for it.’” [47] The toast reveals in a very personal way Joseph’s quick wit and humorous perspective directed toward those wanting to murder him. In such tense circumstances, Joseph focused on the lighter side.

Joseph also had a free exchange with Sidney Rigdon. Brother Rigdon was a polished orator who had a flare for the dramatic. When conducting meetings and introducing Sidney to the congregation, Joseph was prone to say, “The truth is good enough without dressing up, but Brother Rigdon will now proceed to dress it up.” [48] Joseph’s manner of speaking always endeared him to the congregation.

Joseph recognized that there is a time and season for everything. When it was time to work, Joseph rolled up his sleeves and dove right in. Joseph also recognized when it was time to relax. For example, while studying Greek and Hebrew, he would often take short breaks from his studies to play with neighborhood children and to get some exercise. Afterward, Joseph would go back to his work. Unfortunately, it tried the patience of some “holy” members when they saw Joseph playing ball with the boys. It seems they wanted a more serious-minded prophet. While preaching one day, Joseph shared the following parable: “A certain prophet . . . was sitting under the shade of a tree amusing himself in some way, when a hunter came along with his bow and arrow, and reproved him. The prophet asked him if he kept his bow strung up all the time. The hunter answered that he did not. The prophet asked why, and he said it would lose its elasticity if he did. The prophet said it was just so with his mind, he did not want it strung up all the time.” [49]

Joseph understood the importance of rest, diversion, and recreation to relax his mind and body. He was also keenly aware of when those he labored with needed a break. He understood that physical activity and fun could lift a man’s spirits. For example, in 1838, a group of Mormon militiamen, including Joseph, were encamped at Adam-ondi-Ahman in hopes of defending the Saints in Missouri. The weather was cold and drizzling, and the men were becoming quite depressed. John D. Lee recorded that “the Prophet came up while the brethren were moping around, and caught first one and then another and shook them up, and said, ‘Get out of here, and wrestle, jump, run, do anything but mope around warm yourselves up this inactivity will not do for soldiers.’ The words of the Prophet put life and energy into the men. A ring was soon formed, according to the custom of the people. The Prophet stepped into the ring, ready for a tussle with any comer. Several went into the ring to try their strength, but each one was thrown by the Prophet, until he had thrown several of the stoutest of the men present.” [50]

Meanwhile, Sidney Rigdon was quite upset that Joseph would encourage such an activity because it was the Sabbath day. As Sidney tried to break up the wrestling match, Joseph told him that if he did not allow the men their fun, he would throw him down. He then dragged him out of the ring, tearing his coat and causing him to lose his hat in the process. Rigdon complained about what happened to his clothing, but Joseph told his counselor he was out of place and had no one to blame but himself. [51]

Several days later, the troops were still camped at Adam-ondi-Ahman and trying to keep warm. The weather was bitter cold, and several inches of snow had fallen. Joseph sensed that the men were becoming despondent and discouraged. Edward Stevenson recalled that Joseph divided the men into two teams with himself at the head of one team and Lyman Wight the head of the other. At that point, Joseph engaged the men in a sham battle using snowballs instead of guns and swords. Soon, feelings of despair in camp were replaced with fun, excitement, and happiness. Spirits were rejuvenated, and men were able to approach their difficult situation with a new perspective.

In February 1843, Joseph organized a “Wood-cutting Bee.” Seventy men sawed, chopped, split, and piled up a large stack of wood in the yard of Joseph’s home. The wood was then distributed to Joseph’s family as well as others in the surrounding area of Nauvoo. The purpose was not so much to compete in lumberjack skills but to build unity and camaraderie among the brethren and engage in some fun. A careful review of the Church historical account reveals that this wood-cutting event was preceded by a myriad of Church activities and bad weather. In fact, the early days of February 1843 brought cold weather and heavy snows to Nauvoo. Consequently, most of the Latter-day Saints were confined to their homes for almost a week. During that week, Joseph had been involved in studying German, reviewing legal cases in his role of mayor, holding meetings with the Quorum of the Twelve, and reviewing the proof of the Doctrine and Covenants. The day before the “Wood-cutting Bee,” Joseph and others met from 9:00 a.m. until midnight as a high council to review land disputes between Wilson Law and Uriel Nickerson. If there was ever time for a good diversion and the “loosening of the bow,” this was it. Joseph recorded, “The day was spent by them with much pleasantry, good humor and feeling.” [52]

Knowing how to relax and divert his attention towards other areas, when he could, he would endeavor to help others relax as well. Unfortunately, Joseph was not always successful in this quest. Robert B. Thompson, the Prophet’s secretary, was completely devoted to Joseph and was a tireless worker. Joseph spent so much time with Robert and was so attached to him that he said to Mercy Thompson, Robert’s wife, “Sister Thompson, you must not feel bad towards me for keeping your husband away from you so much, for I am married to him.” [53] Despite their close relationship, Joseph was concerned that if his secretary did not loosen his bow he would eventually wilt under the pressure of his duties. Once Joseph said, “Robert, you have been so faithful and relentless in this work, you need to relax.” Joseph encouraged Brother Thompson to get away from the office and find some recreation. However, Robert was a serious-minded man. He told Joseph, “I can’t do it.” Joseph replied, “You must do it, if you don’t do it, you will die.” One of Joseph’s sorrows was that Brother Thompson died prematurely—within two weeks of this prophecy. It was a difficult task for Joseph to speak at the funeral of his beloved secretary. [54]

It should be noted, however, that Joseph wasn’t perfect in his faith and cheerful temperament. Of course, Joseph was human, and, like each of us, he had his moments when the circumstances were awful and grievous. Renowned Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky wrote, “To live is to suffer.” [55] No mortals will escape suffering, and Joseph suffered much. We learn from several historical accounts that there were times when Joseph was simply devastated by the circumstances in his life. For example, on June 15, 1828, Emma gave birth to a baby boy they named Alvin. Several hours after Alvin’s birth, he passed away. Of course, the death of their first son was overwhelming. However, at this same time, there was “another cause of trouble” that unnerved Joseph. Martin Harris had the 116-page manuscript of Joseph’s first translation work on the Book of Mormon in his possession for just short of a month, and Joseph hadn’t heard a word from him. As Joseph took a stage coach from Harmony to Palmyra, he began to think deeply about the manuscript and Martin’s tardiness in returning it, which caused him great distress. A stranger whom Joseph met on the coach walked with Joseph for the twenty miles from where they were dropped off—the last four miles the stranger had to practically carry Joseph—and he was extremely distraught and physically exhausted. Hours later, when Martin joined the Smiths for a meal and revealed that he had lost the manuscript and couldn’t find it anywhere, Joseph responded, “Oh, my God! . . . All is lost! All is lost! What shall I do? I have sinned—it is I who tempted the wrath of God.” [56] In this case, there was no report of Joseph saying things like, “Don’t worry, we’ll find that manuscript,” or “Don’t worry, Martin, it will all work out.” No, there was none of that. Instead, Lucy Mack Smith reported that Joseph was distressed, weeping, and grieving until sunset. [57] Those were dark days in the Smith home, and it took Joseph some time to emotionally and spiritually recover from the devastation. On this occasion, hope was traded for despair, and faith was exchanged with fear and dejection. However, the optimist will always bounce back from defeat. This experience ultimately molded Joseph into a stronger person.

The time Joseph spent in Liberty Jail was also a heart-wrenching experience. The prison dungeon, ironically called “Liberty,” was a fourteen by fourteen square room with a six-foot-high ceiling. Joseph and his comrades Sidney Rigdon, Hyrum Smith, Lyman Wight, Caleb Baldwin, and Alexander McRae [58] were imprisoned in Liberty from December 1838 to April 1839. While there, they suffered much thanks to apostates who had turned against them—such as W. W. Phelps, William E. McLellin, and a host of others. Joseph and his prison colleagues had to deal with cold winter weather, extremely poor sanitation, sleeping on the ground, and food so disgusting that it was described as “very coarse, and so filthy that [they] could not eat it until [they] were driven to it by hunger.” [59] For any human, it would be difficult to remain optimistic and full of hope while incarcerated. Perhaps the most difficult part of this entire ordeal was the intelligence Joseph often received regarding the condition of the Saints—including his own family. Many members of the Church suffered from hunger, many were tortured, some were raped, and others killed—and Joseph could do nothing. Meanwhile, other members such as Isaac Russell claimed that Joseph was a fallen prophet and that he was now appointed to lead the Saints. [60]

Perhaps in an act of pure frustration, Joseph penned a letter to the Church, lashing out at those who treated him and others so “vilely.” In his letter, he wrote that these men “shall be hanged upon their own gallows,” and “their name[s] shall be blotted out, and God shall reward them according to all their abominations.” [61] In the same letter, Joseph harshly rebuked Colonel Hinkle, John Corrill, Reed Peck, William E. McLellin, W. W. Phelps, and David Whitmer for their roles in persecuting the Saints and committing Joseph to prison. Some others, Joseph said, “are too mean to mention.” [62] In the letter, Joseph appears to show his human side—obviously he’s upset, angry, and perhaps exasperated. Who wouldn’t be? At this juncture, his heart appeared to be filled with disgust and frustration rather than hope and optimism. However, we must not forget that on November 3, 1838, just as Joseph and other Church leaders were being imprisoned, he said, “Be of good cheer, brethren the word of the Lord came to me last night that our lives should be given us, and that whatever we may suffer during this captivity, not one of our lives should be taken.” [63] This statement reveals the answer as to how Joseph could be so positive amid so much trouble. He found comfort from the constant flow of revelation from the Lord. Truly, Joseph knew where to turn for peace.

Despite this prophecy, several days later, Major-General Clark read to the Saints in Far West these words: “As for your leaders, do not think—do not imagine for a moment—do not let it enter your mind that they will be delivered, or that you will see their faces again, for their fate is fixed—their die is cast—their doom is sealed.” [64] Such a directive would make it difficult for Joseph, or anyone else for that matter, to “be of good cheer.” Nevertheless, they held on to hope, kept their faith, and eventually escaped from Liberty Jail, one of the worst places that man could conceive.

Perhaps some of the darkest days for the Prophet Joseph were the Kirtland era of 1837, when the Kirtland Safety Society crumbled and apostasy abounded among the rank and file of the Church. Men like Warren Parrish, John Boynton, Luke Johnson, Martin Harris, and even Parley P. Pratt turned against Joseph, which wounded him to the core. Even before the Kirtland Temple was finished, many in the Church turned against Joseph, including his brother William. Daniel Tyler recorded a moving incident when he attended a meeting where Joseph presided. Tyler wrote:

Entering the schoolhouse a little before meeting opened, and gazing upon the man of God, I perceived sadness in his countenance and tears trickling down his cheeks. . . . A few moments later a hymn was sung and he opened the meeting by prayer. Instead, however, of facing the audience, he turned his back and bowed upon his knees, facing the wall. This, I suppose, was done to hide his sorrow and tears. . . . When Joseph arose and addressed the congregation, he spoke of his many troubles, and said he often wondered why it was that he should have so much trouble in the house of his friends, and he wept as though his heart would break. [65]

Indeed, after these experiences in Kirtland and others like it, Joseph was a broken man. However, Joseph never allowed Satan to keep him down for long. The Prophet relied on the Lord for help and strength, especially when he faced deep distress. For example, after the previous mentioned experience, Joseph composed himself and stated to his brethren: “The Lord once told me that if at any time I got into trouble and could see no way out of it, if I would prophesy in His name, he would fulfill my words. . . . I prophesy in the name of the Lord that those who have thought I was in transgression shall have a testimony this night that I am clear and stand approved before the Lord.” [66] Soon after, William Smith and others made humble public confessions.

Of course, there were other instances when Joseph was in deep anguish of soul and greatly suffered. The point is, however, that Joseph never let these experiences get the best of him. Joseph faced tremendous burdens, and sometimes the pressure brought him to his knees. But through it all, Joseph persevered. Once again, renowned psychologist Dr. Martin Seligman explained:

The defining characteristic of pessimists is that they tend to believe bad events will last a long time, will undermine everything they do, and are their own fault. The optimists, who are confronted with the same hard knocks of this world, think about misfortune in the opposite way. They tend to believe defeat is a temporary setback, that its causes are confined to this one case. The optimists believe defeat is not their fault: Circumstances, bad luck, or other people brought it about. Such people are unfazed by defeat. Confronted by a bad situation, they perceive it as a challenge and try harder. [67]

Such was the lot and pattern of Joseph. From many heart-wrenching experiences, Joseph was transformed from a rough stone to a polished shaft.

President Thomas S. Monson recently declared, “My beloved brothers and sisters, fear not. Be of good cheer. The future is as bright as your faith.” [68] Joseph Smith seems to have lived that declaration perfectly. For example, Orson Spencer observed, “[Joseph] is remarkably cheerful for one who has seen well-tried friends martyred around him, and felt the inflictions of calumny—the vexations of lawsuits—the treachery of intimates—and multiplied violent attempts upon his person and life, together with the cares of much business.” [69] How could Joseph experience so many trials and heartaches and yet remain optimistic? His positive attitude was certainly a gift from God. Joseph was further blessed with the twin gifts of faith and hope. Regardless of what difficulties Joseph faced, he had the faith to believe that good would prevail. He declared: “The Standard of Truth has been erected no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done.” [70]

Implicit in this statement is that our Heavenly Father is going to win. No person, institution, government, or army can stop God’s work from moving forward. Undoubtedly, this doctrine brought peace to Joseph’s soul. Moreover, the Prophet understood that God was his partner, and if he failed, or the work failed, it meant that God had failed. Since God does not fail, Joseph understood that neither he nor this work would fail. [71] Such a concept allowed Joseph to exercise great faith and remain positive throughout his life. He always knew the work he had given his life to would succeed. He knew that the restored gospel of Jesus Christ would one day “fill North and South America it [would] fill the world.” [72] Keep in mind that Joseph Smith made this statement while in a fourteen-by-fourteen-foot log cabin that held the entire priesthood of the Church. What vision! What perspective! What faith!

Joseph was sustained by his great faith, hope, and optimism. When a mob threatened to send the Saints to hell, Joseph said that if they did, “we will turn the devils out of doors and make a heaven out of it.” [73] Perhaps even more impressively, Joseph told his young cousin George A. Smith, “Never be discouraged. . . . If I were sunk in the lowest pit of Nova Scotia, with the Rocky Mountains piled on me, I would hang on, exercise faith, and keep up good courage, and I would come out on top.” [74] This metaphor is powerful. What could be more discouraging than being stuck in the deepest pit and having one of the world’s largest mountain ranges piled on top of you?

In the tumultuous world we live in, Joseph Smith is a model of how each of us can look for the sunlight amid the storms of life. It was Elder Orson F. Whitney who reminded us that “the spirit of the gospel is optimistic it trusts in God and looks on the bright side of things. The opposite or pessimistic spirit drags men down and away from God, looks on the dark side, murmurs, complains, and is slow to yield obedience.” [75] More recently, President Gordon B. Hinckley declared: “Of course there are times of sorrow. Of course there are hours of concern and anxiety. We all worry. But the Lord has told us to lift our hearts and rejoice. I see so many people . . . who seem never to see the sunshine, but who constantly walk with storms under cloudy skies. Cultivate an attitude of happiness. Cultivate a spirit of optimism. Walk with faith, rejoicing in the beauties of nature, in the goodness of those you love, in the testimony which you carry in your heart concerning things divine.” [76]

Joseph Smith lived in great times of sorrow under tremendous amounts of pressure. It attests to his divine calling that he walked in the sunshine and had an attitude of happiness and the spirit of optimism. He walked in total and complete faith. Some could argue that Joseph was optimistic because of his own personality or genetics. However, a closer look reveals that Joseph walked on the bright side because of the teachings of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Perhaps Joseph was happy because of his family life (see Psalm 127:4–5), because he knew that he could turn to God for help (see Psalm 146:5), or because he kept the commandments (see Proverbs 29:18). Perhaps Joseph Smith was a happy person because he trusted in his God (see Proverbs 16:20) or because he suffered for the sake of righteousness (see 1 Peter 3:14). Or maybe he knew the truth of the statement in Alma that “those who are righteous are received into a state of happiness, . . . a state of peace, where they shall rest from all their troubles and from all care, and sorrow” (Alma 40:12). Perhaps Joseph took great comfort in the doctrine that we should be of good cheer, for Jesus Christ has “overcome the world” (John 16:33). Perhaps we will never know exactly why Joseph was as happy as he was. There is one clue, however, to his happiness. President David O. McKay once said, “The noblest aim in life is to strive to live to make other lives better and happier.” [77] Joseph spent his life striving to make the lives of others better and happier. Joseph taught, “I not only . . . sought my own peace, prosperity, and happiness, but also the peace, prosperity, and happiness of my friends.” [78] As Joseph engaged in the noble endeavor of helping others in the cause of happiness, he certainly brought peace to his own soul. That is something all of us can do.

[1]. Jeffrey R. Holland, “For Times of Trouble,” New Era, October 1980, 6.

[2]. Richard C. Edgley, “Faith, Hope, and You,” in Brigham Young University 2008–2009

Truman E. Smith

The brick I purchased is in honor of my late father, Truman E. Smith, who fought in World War II Europe. According to his discharge forms, he landed at Normandy and continued on into combat at the Battle of the Bulge. Dad served with the 4th Infantry Division, Third Army, VIII Corps and was captured along with many of his fellow soldiers. He was awarded 4 Bronze Stars, for which I am very proud. Since my father never spoke of what happened during his war service, as I grew older I needed some understanding of this part of my dad’s life. With the help of a very kind man, of whom I am very grateful, and who had family members who also served during WWII, I was able to research most of my father’s records and found valuable information about his POW interment, but not his military files. I understood they probably had been destroyed in a fire in St. Louis, where Army military records were kept. Nevertheless, this brick is a dedication to my dad, a Veteran and a survivor. He will never be forgotten. (Return to “Why my brick?” Testimonial Page.)

About The Army Historical Foundation

The Army Historical Foundation is the designated official fundraising organization for the National Museum of the United States Army. We were established in 1983 as a member-based, charitable 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. We seek to educate future Americans to fully appreciate the sacrifices that generations of American Soldiers have made to safeguard the freedoms of this Nation. Our funding helps to acquire and conserve Army historical art and artifacts, support Army history educational programs, research, and publication of historical materials on the American Soldier, and provide support and counsel to private and governmental organizations committed to the same goals.

Truman Smith: The American Who Saw Hitler Coming

A t six foot four inches tall, Truman Smith cut an imposing figure, and possessed an impressive pedigree. Smith’s grandfather had served as a U.S. senator, and his father was a military officer who was killed in action in the Philippines in 1900. Young Smith was no slouch himself: he graduated from Yale in 1915, and might have become a history professor. But after he joined the New York National Guard, his regiment was called up for duty on the Mexican border in 1916. This ended his graduate studies and led him to a military career instead. He became a battalion commander in World War I, and earned a Silver Star.

Smith was an avid student of German language and culture, and his expertise earned him postings to Germany during two of its most momentous periods. He first served as a political adviser to the U.S. Army in Coblenz in 1919, then served in the Berlin embassy from 1920 to 1924. About a decade later, he returned to Germany to work as a senior military attaché in the crucial run-up years to World War II—1935 to 1939.

During Smith’s first stint in Berlin, Adolf Hitler’s name was just beginning to be heard around the country. Those were the early days of the Weimar Republic, a period of chronic political and economic unrest that offered plenty of opportunities for violent extremists on both the far right and far left. Hitler’s National Socialist German Workers’ Party was only one group of radicals among many others.

That would change, of course. In Berlin, the American ambassador Alanson B. Houghton, an industrialist-turned-congressman-turned-diplomat, was deeply troubled by the turmoil in Germany and, in particular, by the political unrest in the southern part of the country. In the fall of 1922, there were rumblings that General Erich Ludendorff, who had led the German army in the later half of World War I, might be planning to topple the government and impose a right-wing dictatorship. After a brief exile following Germany’s defeat, Ludendorff returned to Munich and took up with Hitler and other rabble-rousers. Against the backdrop of Benito Mussolini’s ascent in Italy, Germany’s political far right seemed on the rise. “Something is brewing in Bavaria and no one seems to know exactly what it is,” Houghton wrote in his diary.

To keep an eye on the situation, Houghton turned to his young assistant military attaché, Truman Smith. Smith would later point out that most foreign diplomats in Berlin at the time had written off the National Socialists as “being without significance,” and described the party leader Adolf Hitler as an “uneducated madman.” Houghton, in contrast, “seems to have had, even at this early date, a premonition that the movement and its leader might play an important role in the disturbed Germany of the early twenties.” Ambassador Houghton and the embassy’s military attaché, Smith’s immediate superior, urged Smith to “try to make personal contact with Hitler himself and form an estimate of his character, personality, abilities, and weaknesses.”

Smith did just that. He was the first American diplomat to interview Hitler—and in the 1920s he wrote uncannily prescient reports about the future leader of Germany. What’s more, during his second posting in Germany, Smith cleverly used Charles Lindbergh to obtain a firsthand look at the country’s aviation capabilities, enabling him to produce a steady stream of largely accurate assessments of the Luftwaffe as well as Hitler’s rapid military buildup in the late 1930s. However, the Roosevelt Administration, aware of the isolationist mood at home, paid little attention to Smith’s reports. Some columnists and poli­ticians would even claim that Smith had been taken in by propaganda and thus exaggerated his accounts of Germany’s strength. This might explain why Smith receives only passing mention in the major historical works about the prewar period—and was never adequately credited for his early warnings about the German juggernaut.

T ruman Smith arrived in Munich on November 15, 1922, and quickly met a diverse group of people, recording his discussions and impressions. The 29-year-old diplomat asked everyone about Hitler. Summarizing the views of Robert Murphy, the acting U.S. consul, Smith wrote: “Hitler thoroughly understands the Bavarian psychology. Whether he is big enough to take the lead in a German national movement is another question probably not.”

General Friedrich Freiherr Kress von Kressenstein, the artillery commander of the German army’s 7th Division, told Smith he hadn’t met Hitler but had the impression that the man was “an oratorical genius.” He added that “Hitler was not as radical as his speeches made him out,” and that he was anti-Semitic in “a healthy sense” since he wanted to keep Jews out of government positions. Barring some mistake, Kress von Kressenstein told Smith, Hitler’s movement had “a great future before it.” Friedrich Trefz, chief editor of the newspaper Münchner Neueste Nachrichten (Munich Latest News), agreed. He told Smith that Hitler was a “marvelous speaker. None better.” Trefz said that he had gone to a National Socialist meeting and sat between a general and a Communist both had attended out of curiosity, and afterward both signed up as party members. Trefz’s conclusion: “The National Socialists present no immediate danger to the government. The ground is fertile, however, and the party will grow.”

Smith next ventured to the informal headquarters of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party, at Georgenstrasse 42. There he met with Max Erwin von Scheubner-Richter, an early confidante of Hitler who claimed that the party had 35,000 members in Munich, 200,000 sympathizers, and a “militarily organized” underground armed with clubs and pistols. The American was then invited to watch Hitler review his paramilitary troops, the Brown Shirts. It was “a remarkable sight indeed,” Smith noted. “Twelve hundred of the toughest roughnecks I have ever seen pass in review before Hitler at the goose step under the old Reichflag wearing red armbands with Hakenkreuzen (swastikas).” The Nazi leader gave a short speech, vowing to defy anyone trying to stop the movement. “He then shouts, ‘Death to the Jews’ etc. and etc. There was frantic cheering. I never saw such a sight in my life.”

At 4 p.m. on Monday, November 21, Smith met Hitler at the party headquarters. The diplomat was startled by Hitler’s quarters, which reminded him of a dreary back room of a New York tenement house. Smith’s impressions that day, which he recorded in his notebook once he had returned to his room in the Hotel Marienbad, were right to the point. “A marvelous demagogue,” he wrote. “I have rarely listened to such a logical and fanatical man. His power over the mob must be immense.” Hitler’s message was unequivocal: “Parliament and parliamentarianism must go. No one can govern with it in Germany today. Only a dictatorship can bring Germany to its feet.”

In a report he filed after returning to Berlin, Smith added this assessment:

The question whether Hitler’s National Socialists can play a role in Germany equivalent to the role of the Fascisti in Italy can still not be answered with any degree of certainty. In the limited area of Bavaria, south of the Danube, Hitler’s success cannot be gainsaid…. It is believed that not only in Munich but in all Germany, there is a fertile field even among the factory workers for a national movement…. It seems hardly probable, furthermore, that with the results already achieved, there will be any lack of money for the propagation of the idea of a national dictatorship. These facts, coupled with the magnetism and oratorical ability of the National Socialist leader, speak for a rapid and consistent development of the German “Fascisti.”

he ensuing years confirmed Smith’s observations. By the time he and his wife Katharine, known as Kay, returned to Berlin in 1935, Hitler was fully in command. They were immediately struck by how the capital had changed since the early 1920s. Berlin “was the same yet not the same,” Kay wrote in her memoirs, which were never published and reside in the archives of the Hoover Institution. “The streets, the buildings were all as I had known them. But now no more shabby fronts and broken fences. All was clean, freshly painted…. The crowds well dressed, the people looking well nourished, energetic.” But Kay Smith also detected “a certain tenseness” in the air, the product of a regime that was ready to target anyone.

Unlike many of his counterparts in other embassies, Smith had no budget to pay for spies. What he did have was a long list of German contacts—officers he had met during his first tour in Germany and later when he was an instructor at the Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia, from 1928 to 1932. The assistant commandant of the Infantry School was George C. Marshall, then a lieutenant colonel, who treated Smith as an aide and translator when it came to dealing with visiting Germans.

After the Nazis took power in 1933, they forbade any German officer from visiting the house of a foreigner unless he knew the foreigner previously. This meant most military attachés were effectively prevented from inviting German officers to their homes. But Smith was already well established in that circle: When he held a party upon the couple’s return to Berlin, Kay Smith recalled that “the other attachés were dumbfounded to find so many German officers at our reception. They were green with envy and Truman became their prime target in their attempt to get news.” By comparison, Kay noted, the British and the French, who relied heavily on paid spies, “were remarkably bare of contacts.”

Now a colonel, Smith worked obsessively to learn about the German military. Early in his second tour, he carefully noted the insignia of regiments that were displayed on the shoulders of German officers, piecing together valuable information, and even enlisting Kay and their daughter Kätchen to help with this task. “Whenever we drove out in the car together she [Kätchen] would take one side and I the other, our faces pressed against the window pane,” Kay wrote. “It made an amusing game for us and we had the feeling of helping solve the riddle.”

Early on, Smith realized there was one picture he could not put together. He had few contacts with the Luftwaffe and “negligible” knowledge of the German air force’s organization, tactics, or technical capabilities. Captain Theodore Koenig, the American assistant attaché responsible for monitoring Germany’s growing air power, was a capable officer. But Smith worried that his team was too small and poorly equipped to effectively analyze the Luftwaffe—an urgent task as Hitler pushed to reassert Germany’s might.

In May 1936, two months after German troops had moved into the demilitarized Rhineland, Kay and Truman were having breakfast when she pointed out a front-page story in the Herald Tribune about Charles Lindbergh’s visit to an airplane factory in France. Truman wondered if the famous airman, whose transatlantic flight had captured the imaginations of people everywhere, could gain the same kind of access to German factories. He checked with aides to the supreme Luftwaffe commander Hermann Göring, who said they would be pleased to show Lindbergh their combat units and factories. Smith wrote a letter to Lindbergh on May 25, relaying this invitation.

Smith had never met Lindbergh, but didn’t hesitate to make a forceful case. “I need hardly tell you that the present German air development is very imposing and on a scale which I believe is unmatched in the world,” he wrote. Pointing out that the Luftwaffe’s buildup had been shrouded in secrecy until recently, he added that the Germans had demonstrated a greater openness to Americans than to representatives of other nations. “General Göring has particularly exerted himself for friendly relations with the United States,” Smith added. “From a purely American point of view, I consider your visit here would be of high patriotic benefit. I am certain they will go out of their way to show you more than they will show us.”

mith’s appeal to Lindbergh , who was then living with his wife Anne in England, would prove to be a brilliant and fateful initiative. Lindbergh replied that he would be “extremely interested in seeing some of the German developments in both civil and military aviation.” Smith was aware that the Germans would seek to exploit Lindbergh’s visit for propaganda purposes, but he could do nothing to prevent it. He focused on persuading the Germans to allow Lindbergh to inspect a long list of airplane factories, research facilities, and Luftwaffe units, accompanied by himself or assistant attaché Captain Koenig. That way, the American attachés would be able to scrutinize the installations and make valuable new contacts.

When the Lindberghs flew to Berlin aboard a private plane in July 1936, they were greeted by Ministry of Aviation officials, Deutsche Lufthansa airline executives, and other representatives of German aviation. The Smiths put the Lindberghs up in their apartment, and the two couples struck up a friendship. “Colonel Smith is alive, questioning, and talks well,” Anne Morrow Lindbergh recorded in her diary, adding of Kay, “She is observant, intelligent, and amusing.”

The most important social event during Lindbergh’s visit was a formal luncheon at Göring’s official residence on Wilhelmstrasse. It was attended by top aviation officials, including the legendary World War I pilot Ernst Udet. The Lindberghs and the Smiths were treated as honored guests. For Truman Smith, this was the first time he had the chance to observe and talk with the Luftwaffe’s chief—and he took full advantage of the occasion. “Göring showed many facets of his personality,” he noted. “In turn he was magnetic, genial, vain, intelligent, frightening, and grotesque.”

Lunch was an elaborate affair, and after the meal, Lindbergh asked Göring if the guests could see his pet lion cub. The host happily obliged. They were ushered into the library, and the doors were dramatically opened for the young lion. “I want you to see how nice my Augie is,” Göring announced. “Come here, Augie.” Göring was sitting on a sofa and the lion bounded to him, jumping onto his lap and licking his face. Kay Smith later recorded what happened next: “The startled lion let loose a flood of yellow urine all over the snow white uniform!” Göring pushed the cub off him and jumped up, “his face red with anger, his blue eyes blazing.” Emmy Göring rushed over, putting her arms around him. “Hermann, Hermann, it is like a little baby,” she pleaded. “There are too many people!” Göring calmed down, and rushed off to change. Returning, he was dressed “in a pongee suit, whiffs of eau de Cologne, and a diamond pin,” Anne Morrow Lindbergh wrote. The lunch allowed Smith to start a relationship with Göring that lasted for the rest of his tour of duty in Berlin.

Lindbergh proved to be just the intelligence wedge Smith needed. The real payoff came from the American pilot’s visits to Germany’s air installations. At the Heinkel factory in Rostock, for instance, Lindbergh and Koenig were allowed to inspect the new He 111 medium bomber. Lindbergh concluded that it was comparable to British and American bombers, and superior to French ones. They also watched Udet fly a new He 112 fighter prototype—and saw the plane disintegrate during a dive, forcing the famed pilot to parachute to safety. Still, based on what they saw of those and two other Heinkel planes—the fast and versatile He 70 and the He 118 dive-bomber prototype—along with the company’s modern factory for navy planes at Warnemünde, the Americans were impressed. “I have never seen four planes, each distinct in type and built by one manufacturer, which were so well designed,” Lindbergh told Smith.

The aviator was clearly swayed. Writing to a family friend, Lindbergh pointed out that “we have nothing to compare in size to either the Heinkel or Junkers factories.” In a letter to his lawyer, he professed he was struck by “a spirit in Germany which I have not seen in any other country.” After his first visit, he wrote again to the family friend, “While I still have many reservations, I have come away with a feeling of great admiration for the German people.” As for Hitler, he wrote, “he is undoubtedly a great man, and I believe he has done much for the German people.”

Thanks to the Lindbergh entrée, Koenig visited various airfields and factories, which in turn enabled Smith to produce increasingly detailed reports about German air capabilities for officials in Washington. After Lindbergh’s second visit, in October 1937, Smith asserted that if current trends continued, Germany would “obtain technical parity with the USA by 1941 or 1942.” If the United States slowed down its program, he warned, “German air superiority will be realized still sooner.”

Göring may have deliberately exaggerated some of his claims about Germany’s capabilities, but Lindbergh took them seriously. At a cocktail party, Lindbergh was overheard telling Udet: “German aviation ranks higher than that in any other country. It is invincible.” No wonder German officials boasted that Lindbergh would be “the best promotion campaign we could possibly invest in.”

Lindbergh made four more visits to Germany before the start of World War II, and was treated like royalty during each. This might help explain his subsequent vocal campaign to keep the United States out of the war in Europe, his involvement in the America First movement, and his conviction that the Soviet Union represented the real threat to European civilization—and that, in a war between the two powers, “a victory by Germany’s European people would be preferable to one by Russia’s semi-Asiatic Soviet Union.” His remarks confirmed what his critics had suspected: the aviator had become, in effect, an apologist for Hitler.

or his part, Smith was convinced that Washington needed to understand the breathtaking scope of Germany’s military buildup, but his reports were often dismissed as alarmist. To be sure, not all of the intelligence Smith gathered was on target. He made some erroneous assessments about the degree of disaffection between the Nazis and the military, and was certainly off when he described “Hitler’s realistic and reticent foreign policy,” as he put it in 1937. But on balance, the regular intelligence reports Smith sent to Washington were clear-sighted and trenchant. Thanks to the factory doors Lindbergh had opened, he was the best-informed attaché in Berlin on the Luftwaffe.

But the diplomat’s association with Lindbergh also brought him grief. Like the aviator, Smith was accused by some of being a Nazi dupe. After he was diagnosed with diabetes and left Berlin in April 1939, Smith was assigned to Washington by General George C. Marshall, then the army chief of staff, to serve as an adviser on the German military. As Hitler’s armies swept across Western Europe, Smith heard from colleagues in army intelligence that Supreme Court justice Felix Frankfurter and secretary of the interior Harold Ickes were behind attacks against him written by the influential columnists Drew Pearson and Walter Winchell. They charged that Smith was pro-German and was writing Lindbergh’s isolationist speeches after Germany invaded Poland. Smith also heard reports that the two officials had urged Roosevelt to have him court-martialed.

Nothing of the sort ever happened, for good reason. While Smith maintained his friendship with Lindbergh, he never played any role in the aviator’s political activities. And he began getting a measure of the recognition he deserved for his reporting from Berlin. On Marshall’s recommendation, Secretary of War Henry Stimson awarded the Distinguished Service Medal to Smith in January 1945. Five months later, one of FDR’s advisers wrote to General Marshall: “How well and how timely were his warnings about German preparations! And what little attention we paid to them!”

Smith retired from the military in 1946 and moved back to Connecticut. He made a run for Congress, but lost the Republican primary. He had more success writing articles on military affairs, but remained shadowed by suspicions related to his Berlin service, despite testimonies to his outstanding performance.

Long after World War II, Smith wrote The Facts of Life, an autobiographical manuscript that he tried but failed to publish. Fourteen years after his death in 1970, it would finally appear in print, along with his Munich notebook and his military reports, in a Hoover Institution Press volume called Berlin Alert: The Memoirs and Reports of Truman Smith. In The Facts of Life, Smith recalled his meeting with Hitler in 1922. “The diary I kept in Munich indicates that I was deeply impressed with his personality and thought it likely he would play an important role in German politics,” he wrote. “I must confess, however, that I did not see him as the future ruler of most of Europe.”

He may have got that and a few other things wrong—but the overarching point of his reports was right on target: Germany was remilitarizing faster than most of Washington realized, and represented a growing danger. The perceptions of a man who once aspired to teach history were validated by the historical record.

Andrew Nagorski is the former Newsweek Berlin bureau chief, and is now vice president and director of public policy at the EastWest Institute. He is the author of The Greatest Battle: Stalin, Hitler, and the Desperate Struggle for Moscow That Changed the Course of World War II (2008). His article is adapted from his forthcoming book Hitlerland: American Eyewitnesses to the Nazi Rise to Power (Simon & Schuster, March 2012).

3 Responses to Truman Smith: The American Who Saw Hitler Coming

An excellent and reliable article. Andrew Nagorski has summarized Truman Smith’s career with great skill and come to an honest and reputable conclusion. His book is highly readable and important. Worth mentioning is that some of Smith’s German friends in the old Prussian officer corps were destroyed by Hitler, and others tried to kill Hitler. Smith’s sources were also excellent. Drew Pearson, the columnist who tried to destroy Truman Smith, was described by FDR as “my hatchet man” because he gave Pearson’s failed father a safe government job. Pearson later lied and destroyed James Forrestal, whp was a strong anti-Communist. Any pattern emerging here?

author of “Occupation Snow: How A Soviet Mole in FDR’s White House triggered Pearl Harbor.”

Is the White House haunted? A history of spooked presidents, prime ministers and pets.

On a lonely night in 1946, President Harry S. Truman went to bed at 9 p.m. About six hours later, he heard it.

The sound against his bedroom door awakened him, he wrote to his wife in a letter that is archived in his presidential library and museum.

“I jumped up and put on my bathrobe, opened the door, and no one there,” he wrote. “Went out and looked up and down the hall, looked in your room and Margie’s. Still no one. Went back to bed after locking the doors and there were footsteps in your room whose door I’d left open. Jumped and looked and no one there! The damned place is haunted sure as shootin’. Secret Service said not even a watchman was up here at that hour.”

“You and Margie had better come back and protect me before some of these ghosts carry me off.”

In addition to its political ghosts, the White House has long housed unsettling specters of a different, more bump-in-the-night kind, if numerous former leaders and their staff members are to be believed.

Whether one embraces or mocks the paranormal, the many accounts that have spilled out of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue over two centuries give ghosts an undeniable place in the country’s history. They also make that address arguably the nation’s most famous haunted house.

The sightings, which have been documented in eerie detail by scholars and newspapers, involve a former president who appears when the nation needs a leader most, a daughter who pleads in vain to help her doomed mother and a first lady who is, sadly, perpetually stuck doing laundry.

Jared Broach is the founder of the company Nightly Spirits, which offers tours of haunted areas in several cities across the country. But when Broach started the tours in 2012, he offered only one: The White House.

“The White House has the best ghost stories, and I’d call them the most verified,” Broach said. “Honestly, we could do a 10-hour tour if we really wanted to.”

One of his favorite stories is about David Burnes, who sold the land where the White House sits and whose voice has been reportedly heard in the Oval Office. “I’m Mr. Buuuuurnes,” Broach would always say during tours when he got to that part of the story.

Asked if he believes in ghosts, Broach said “for sure” and then pointed to more prestigious authorities.

“If I said no, I’d be calling about eight different presidents liars,” he said.

One of them would be Abraham Lincoln. He reportedly received regular visits from his son Willie, who died in the White House in 1862 at age 11 of what was probably typhoid fever. Mary Todd Lincoln, who was so grief-stricken by the loss that she remained in her room for weeks, spoke of seeing her son’s ghost once at the foot of her bed. There are also reports of her hearing Thomas Jefferson playing the violin and Andrew Jackson swearing.

After his assassination in 1865, Lincoln apparently joined his son in his phantasmal roaming. First lady Grace Coolidge spoke in magazine accounts of seeing him look out a window in what had been in his office.

Many more sightings would come in the decades and presidential administrations that followed. Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands was sleeping in the Lincoln bedroom in 1942 when she reportedly heard a knock on her bedroom door, opened it to see the bearded president and fainted.

Two years earlier, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, according to accounts, had just stepped out of a hot bath in that same room and was wearing nothing but a cigar when he encountered Lincoln by the fireplace.

“Good evening, Mr. President,” Churchill reportedly said. “You seem to have me at a disadvantage.”

In his research, Broach said he found that Lincoln seems to be the most common visitor among the White House’s ghosts and also the one who carries the greatest burden.

“They say Lincoln always comes back whenever he feels the country is in need or in peril,” Broach said. “They say he just strides up and down the second-floor hallways and raps on doors and stands by windows.”

In a 1989 Washington Post article, White House curator Rex Scouten said that President Ronald Reagan had commented that his dog would go into any room except the Lincoln bedroom.

“He’d just stand outside the door and bark,” Scouten said.

Among other spirited stories are those about Annie Surratt. Some have sworn her ghost knocks on the front doors, pleading for the release of her mother, Mary Surratt, who was convicted of playing a role in Lincoln’s assassination and later hanged.

Mary Surratt, Lewis Powell, David Herold and George Atzerodt are hanged inside Fort McNair in Washington on July 7, 1865. (Alexander Gardner/Library of Congress)

There are also haunting accounts involving two presidents’ wives. Abigail Adams was the first first lady to live in the White House and used the East Room to dry sheets. Since her death, there have been reported sightings of her likeness in that area. She walks, according to the accounts, with her arms outstretched as if holding clean linens.

Dolley Madison, if the stories about her are to be believed, seems to have chosen a better eternal pastime: taking care of the garden. During the Woodrow Wilson administration, staff members reported seeing her ghost as they were about to move the Rose Garden. They apparently decided afterward to leave it where she wanted it.

The first lady is also connected to another storied Washington location. When the British burned down their home during the War of 1812, she and President James Madison moved to the Octagon House on the corner of 18th Street and New York Avenue NW, making it the temporary White House. Unexplained occurrences there have been linked to the deaths of three women, including two daughters of the wealthy man who built the house. In both incidents, according to newspaper accounts, the women had argued with their father about who they wanted to marry and then fell from the same staircase.

Truman Smith - History

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The anticommunist crusader Senator Joseph McCarthy stepped into national prominence on February 9, 1950, when he mounted an attack on President Truman’s foreign policy agenda. McCarthy charged that the State Department and its Secretary, Dean Acheson, harbored “traitorous” Communists. McCarthy’s apocalyptic rhetoric—he portrayed the Cold War conflict as “a final, all-out battle between communistic atheism and Christianity”—made critics hesitate before challenging him. His purported lists of Communist conspirators multiplied in subsequent years to include employees in government agencies, the broadcasting and defense industries, universities, the United Nations, and the military. Most of those accused were helpless to defend their ruined reputations and faced loss of employment, damaged careers, and in many cases, broken lives. In protest, Republican Senator Margaret Chase Smith composed the following “Declaration of Conscience,” condemning the atmosphere of suspicion and blaming leaders of both parties for their “lack of effective leadership.” Although Smith convinced six additional Republican Senators to join her in the Declaration, the seven refused to support a Senate report prepared by Democrats that called McCarthy’s charges against State Department personnel fraudulent.

Declaration of Conscience, June 1, 1950

Mr. President, I would like to speak briefly and simply about a serious national condition. It is a national feeling of fear and frustration that could result in national suicide and the end of everything that we Americans hold dear. It is a condition that comes from the lack of effective leadership in either the legislative branch or the executive branch of our Government.

That leadership is so lacking that serious and responsible proposals are being made that national advisory commissions be appointed to provide such critically needed leadership.

I speak as briefly as possible because too much harm has already been done with irresponsible words of bitterness and selfish political opportunism. I speak as simply as possible because the issue is too great to be obscured by eloquence. I speak simply and briefly in the hope that my words will be taken to heart.

I speak as a Republican. I speak as a woman. I speak as a United States Senator. I speak as an American.

The United States Senate has long enjoyed worldwide respect as the greatest deliberative body in the world. But recently that deliberative character has too often been debased to the level of a forum of hate and character assassination sheltered by the shield of congressional immunity.

It is ironical that we Senators can debate in the Senate directly or indirectly, by any form of words impute to any American, who is not a Senator, any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming an American—and without that non-Senator American having any legal redress against it—yet if we say the same thing in the Senate about our colleagues we can be stopped on the grounds of being out of order.

It is strange that we can verbally attack anyone else without restraint and with full protection and yet we hold ourselves above the same type of criticism here on the Senate floor. Surely the United States Senate is big enough to take self-criticism and self-appraisal. Surely we should be able to take the same kind of character attacks that we “dish out” to outsiders.

I think that it is high time for the United States Senate and its Members to do some soul searching—for us to weigh our consciences—on the manner in which we are performing our duty to the people of America on the manner in which we are using or abusing our individual powers and privileges.

I think that it is high time that we remembered that we have sworn to uphold and defend the Constitution. I think that it is high time that we remembered that the Constitution, as amended, speaks not only of the freedom of speech, but also of trial by jury instead of trial by accusation.

Whether it be a criminal prosecution in court or a character prosecution in the Senate, there is little practical distinction when the life of a person has been ruined.

Those of us who shout the loudest about Americanism in making character assassinations are all too frequently those who, by our own words and acts, ignore some of the basic principles of Americanism—

The right to hold unpopular beliefs

The right of independent thought.

The exercise of these rights should not cost one single American citizen his reputation or his right to a livelihood nor should he be in danger of losing his reputation or livelihood merely because he happens to know someone who holds unpopular beliefs. Who of us doesn’t? Otherwise none of us could call our souls our own. Otherwise thought control would have set in.

The American people are sick and tired of being afraid to speak their minds lest they be politically smeared as “Communists” or “Fascists” by their opponents. Freedom of speech is not what it used to be in America. It has been so abused by some that it is not exercised by others.

The American people are sick and tired of seeing innocent people smeared and guilty people whitewashed. But there have been enough proved cases, such as the Amerasia case, the Hiss case, the Coplon case, the Gold case, to cause Nation-wide distrust and strong suspicion that there may be something to the unproved, sensational accusations.

As a Republican, I say to my colleagues on this side of the aisle that the Republican Party faces a challenge today that is not unlike the challenge that it faced back in Lincoln’s day. The Republican Party so successfully met that challenge that it emerged from the Civil War as the champion of a united nation—in addition to being a party that unrelentingly fought loose spending and loose programs.

Today our country is being psychologically divided by the confusion and the suspicions that are bred in the United States Senate to spread like cancerous tentacles of “know nothing, suspect everything” attitudes. Today we have a Democratic administration that has developed a mania for loose spending and loose programs. History is repeating itself—and the Republican Party again has the opportunity to emerge as the champion of unity and prudence.

The record of the present Democratic administration has provided us with sufficient campaign issues without the necessity of resorting to political smears. America is rapidly losing its position as leader of the world simply because the Democratic administration has pitifully failed to provide effective leadership.

The Democratic administration has completely confused the American people by its daily contradictory grave warnings and optimistic assurances—that show the people that our Democratic administration has no idea of where it is going.

The Democratic administration has greatly lost the confidence of the American people by its complacency to the threat of communism here at home and the leak of vital secrets to Russia through key officials of the Democratic administration. There are enough proved cases to make this point without diluting our criticism with unproved charges.

Surely these are sufficient reasons to make it clear to the American people that it is time for a change and that a Republican victory is necessary to the security of this country. Surely it is clear that this nation will continue to suffer as long as it is governed by the present ineffective Democratic administration.

Yet to displace it with a Republican regime embracing a philosophy that lacks political integrity or intellectual honesty would prove equally disastrous to this Nation. The Nation sorely needs a Republican victory. But I don’t want to see the Republican Party ride to political victory on the four horsemen of calumny—fear, ignorance, bigotry and smear.

I doubt if the Republican Party could—simply because I don’t believe the American people will uphold any political party that puts political exploitation above national interest. Surely we Republicans aren’t that desperate for victory.

I don’t want to see the Republican Party win that way. While it might be a fleeting victory for the Republican Party, it would be a more lasting defeat for the American people. Surely it would ultimately be suicide for the Republican Party and the two-party system that has protected our American liberties from the dictatorship of a one-party system.

As members of the minority party, we do not have the primary authority to formulate the policy of our Government. But we do have the responsibility of rendering constructive criticism, of clarifying issues, of allaying fears by acting as responsible citizens.

As a woman, I wonder how the mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters feel about the way in which members of their families have been politically mangled in Senate debate—and I use the word “debate” advisedly.

As a United States Senator, I am not proud of the way in which the Senate has been made a publicity platform for irresponsible sensationalism. I am not proud of the reckless abandon in which unproved charges have been hurled from this side of the aisle. I am not proud of the obviously staged, undignified countercharges that have been attempted in retaliation from the other side of the aisle.

I don’t like the way the Senate has been made a rendezvous for vilification, for selfish political gain at the sacrifice of individual reputations and national unity. I am not proud of the way we smear outsiders from the floor of the Senate and hide behind the cloak of congressional immunity and still place ourselves beyond criticism on the floor of the Senate.

As an American, I am shocked at the way Republicans and Democrats alike are playing directly into the Communist design of “confuse, divide and conquer.” As an American, I don’t want a Democratic administration “whitewash” or “cover-up” any more than I want a Republican smear or witch hunt.

As an American, I condemn a Republican “Fascist” just as much as I condemn a Democrat “Communist.” I condemn a Democrat “Fascist” just as much as I condemn a Republican “Communist.” They are equally dangerous to you and me and to our country. As an American, I want to see our Nation recapture the strength and unity it once had when we fought the enemy instead of ourselves.

It is with these thoughts I have drafted what I call a Declaration of Conscience. I am gratified that Senator Tobey, Senator Aiken, Senator Morse, Senator Ives, Senator Thye and Senator Hendrickson, have concurred in that declaration and have authorized me to announce their concurrence.

Statement of Seven Republican Senators

1. We are Republicans. But we are Americans first. It is as Americans that we express our concern with the growing confusion that threatens the security and stability of our country. Democrats and Republicans alike have contributed to that confusion.

2. The Democratic administration has initially created the confusion by its lack of effective leadership, by its contradictory grave warnings and optimistic assurances, by its complacency to the threat of communism here at home, by its oversensitiveness to rightful criticism, by its petty bitterness against its critics.

3. Certain elements of the Republican Party have materially added to this confusion in the hopes of riding the Republican party to victory through the selfish political exploitation of fear, bigotry, ignorance, and intolerance. There are enough mistakes of the Democrats for Republicans to criticize constructively without resorting to political smears.

4. To this extent, Democrats and Republicans alike have unwittingly, but undeniably, played directly into the Communist design of “confuse, divide and conquer.”

5. It is high time that we stopped thinking politically as Republicans and Democrats about elections and started thinking patriotically as Americans about national security based on individual freedom. It is high time that we all stopped being tools and victims of totalitarian techniques—techniques that, if continued here unchecked, will surely end what we have come to cherish as the American way of life.

Source: "Declaration of Conscience" by Senator Margaret Chase Smith and Statement of Seven Senators, June 1, 1950, Congressional Record, 82nd Congress. 1st Session, in Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. and Roger Burns, Congress Investigates: A Documented History, 1792� (New York: Chelsea House, 1963), 84󈟄.

Watch the video: When You Get Back - Truman Smith Band - Live at The Commons (July 2022).


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