August 8, 1945

Caption: 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. Secretary of State James F. Byrnes looks on and will also sign.

Photo credit: US National Archives

USA Is the First Country to Sign the New United Nations Charter. (YES! Between Dropping Two Atomic Bombs on Japan!)

Following the resolution of most outstanding issues, the United Nations Conference on International Organization closed in San Francisco on June 26, 1945 (see timeline entry for 26 June).  In a show of support, President Truman attended the final session for the ceremonial signing of the United Nations Charter, by each country’s head of delegation, and congratulated the delegates for creating a “solid structure upon which we can build a better world.”

However, Truman still needed to secure US Senate ratification of the Charter.  Both he and Secretary of State Edward Stettinius urged the Senate to give its advice and consent to ratification; Truman said, “I want to see the United States do it first.”  In a testament to the sustained wartime efforts to build support for the United Nations, the Charter was approved in the Senate on July 28, 1945, by a vote of 89 to 2, with 5 abstentions.  (The U.S. ratification followed that of Nicaragua and El Salvador.) 

On 8th August Truman signed the United Nations Charter in Washington DC, thus completing American ratification of the document. The new Secretary of State James F. Byrnes also signed. 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.

Back on 26th June in San Francisco 50 countries had signed the same book of the UN charter. There were 4 women representatives who signed for their countries. One of them was Ms. Minerva Bernardino representing the Dominican Republic . She was a prominent women’s rights activist and she contributed to drafting the phase “respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion’’ in Article I of the Charter.

Caption: Minerva Bernardino of the Dominican Republic signs the United Nations Charter, June 26th 1945

Photo credit:  United Nations Archives

Further Readings:

“The United States and the Founding of the United Nations, August 1941 - October 1945” in  https://2001-2009.state.gov/r/pa/ho/pubs/fs/55407.htm

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