Editor's Note: In this War Stories Web exclusive, producer Steven Tierney shares what it takes to get to the truth ... even if it's just about a middle name.
This weekend, watch ""War Stories with Oliver North" for a special airing of "Harry S. Truman" on Saturday at 9p / 1a ET.
Having worked on many episodes of War Stories with Oliver North" over the last six years, I'm quite used to spending my time trying to untangle conflicting information and get to the truth.
But one of the earth-shattering debates that surrounds Harry S. Truman really through me for a loop: Should you use a period after his middle initial? Michael Devine, the director of the Truman Presidential Museum & Library in Independence, Mo., told me it is one of the most frequently asked questions by researchers who use the museum.
Why the controversy? It's because Truman in fact had no real middle name. The "S" was a compromise between the names of his two grandfathers, one of which was named Solomon Young and the other's last name was Shipp. So his parents took the "S" from Solomon and the "S" from Shipp, and decided to just give him just a middle initial, not a middle name. Just like all the other kids in Missouri in the late 19th century. Seems entirely reasonable (?).
But the controversy didn't really start until almost 80 years later. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, in 1962 Truman told a newspaperman that since the middle initial wasn't abbreviating a name, a period shouldn't be used. But Mike Devine told me that "there should be a period after the "S." That's what the Chicago Manual of Style says. And that's what Truman did, most of the time." Looks like he did it in 1918 — take a look at the photo of his military ID. I see a period.
So why did Truman tell a reporter to omit the initial after the "S"? Probably just another way of “giving them hell.”
Steven Tierney is a producer for "War Stories with Oliver North," which airs on weekends on the FOX News Channel.