The occasion for this Time cover portrait was President Harry Truman's dismissal of General Douglas MacArthur as commander of United Nations forces in the Korean conflict in April 1951. MacArthur's public criticism of Truman's refusal to expand Korean military operations into China-which was aiding Communist North Korea in its war on South Korea-clearly undermined Truman's credibility as commander-in-chief. Yet Time was not sympathetic to Truman's viewpoint and believed that MacArthur's criticisms were justified. While declaring MacArthur "the personification of the big man," Time described Truman as "almost a professional little man."
Truman's cover portrait was the work of the Russian-born artist Boris Chaliapin. Capable of producing a meticulous likeness in a matter of hours, Chaliapin was for years the artist Time used when it needed one of its portraits completed on short notice.