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Funeral Procession for FDR
On his return to Washington Roosevelt spoke to a joint session of Congress to report on the Yalta summit. Roosevelt's doctors were worried about his health and recommended he cut back his schedule considerably, something he found hard to do. Finally on March 30th Roosevelt arrived in Warm Springs for a much needed rest. In the afternoon of April 12th Roosevelt complained of a terrific headache, slumped over and died soon after. The longest Presidency in American History was over.
Death of FDR - History
Chicago, Illinois, United States
Yalta summit, February 1945
From left to right: Winston Churchill,
Franklin Roosevelt, and Joseph Stalin
On April 12, 1945, the country was shocked to learn their recently-elected fourth-term president was dead.
Yet even after FDR’s death, Roosevelt’s personal physician, Admiral Dr. Ross McIntire wrote that “FDR’s blood pressure and heart signs have been normal.” 1 The president’s medical records were kept in a safe at Bethesda Medical Hospital in Maryland, but the records disappeared right after his death. Since Dr. McIntire was one of three people with access to the safe, “historians have accused Dr. McIntire of destroying FDR’s medical records in order to hide his misdiagnosis and mismanagement of the president’s case.” 1
While Franklin D. Roosevelt ran for his fourth term in March 1944, Harry Truman, his vice presidential choice, voiced “[concern] about FDR’s unhealthy appearance.” 2–3 However, Dr. Ross (an ear, nose, and throat specialist) announced to the nation that the president “was enjoying excellent health.”
FDR was found to have systolic hypertension in 1937 and diastolic hypertension in 1941, but the diagnoses were disguised under various aliases. 4 In May 1941, under the pseudonym F. David Rolph, he was found to have severe iron deficiency anemia with hemoglobin levels of 4.5 gm/100 cc. The anemia rapidly responded to iron replacement, but amazingly he never had any cardiac symptoms secondary to the severe anemia. His hematocrit was 31, and presumably either the hemoglobin level or the hematocrit could have been a lab error.
Roosevelt also had been known to have mild proteinuria starting in 1939, which became worse by 1944 when it was 4+, though it was documented under the name Mr. John Cash. 4 FDR’s family became unhappy with Dr. McIntire’s handling of his case, requesting a second opinion and consultation with a young navy cardiologist, Dr. Howard Bruenn.
On March 27, 1944, Dr. Bruenn found FDR to be cyanotic, breathless, with rales in his lungs, left ventricular enlargement, a booming aortic sound, a blowing apical systolic murmur, and a blood pressure of 186/108 mm Hg. 2 His blood pressure, which had been at 188/105 on February 27, 1941, was not rechecked until 1944. 3 He diagnosed hypertensive heart disease, congestive heart failure, and acute bronchitis. He prescribed digitalis, a low sodium and weight reduction diet, bed rest with up to 10 hours of sleep, curtailing his cigarette smoking, codeine for cough control, and general sedation.
A week later he was better and could lay flat in bed without dyspnea, but his blood pressure was still high at 210/110 mm Hg. 1 One month later he had a bout of acute cholecystitis, and a cholecystogram done on May 26, 1944 showed a well-functioning gall bladder with cholesterol stones.
He won re-election in November 1944, and in January 1945, during his State of the Union speech to Congress, had a severe chest pain lasting 15 minutes. His EKG remained unchanged from previous ones, and there was no evidence of a myocardial infarction. Despite the high level of hypertension he went to Yalta in February of 1945 for the famous meeting with Churchill and Stalin. His blood pressure there was up to 260/150 mm Hg, and pulsus alternans was noted for the first time.
Eight weeks later while reading his mail, he had a sharp and severe pain in the back of his head. Within two minutes he collapsed and became unconscious due to a massive cerebral hemorrhage that would take his life two hours later. His blood pressure that morning was in excess of 300 mm Hg systolic and 190 mm Hg diastolic. 2
The cause of FDR’s malignant hypertension remains unknown. Was it renovascular or due to other causes? An autopsy was never done. According to Dr. Bruenn he had no evidence of renal dysfunction and had only one episode of coronary insufficiency without a myocardial infarction. 2
During his presidency hypertension was not considered a treatable disease. Options for treatment were extremely limited and the general idea among physicians was that normally blood pressure increases with age. In his paper entitled “Clinical Notes on the Illness and Death of President FDR,” Dr. Bruenn stated, “I have often wondered what a turn the subsequent causes of history may have taken if the modern methods for the control of hypertension had been available then.” 2
FDR represents a unique and superb example of the natural history of untreated hypertension and the complications that can arise if left untreated. One wonders how his heart was able to tolerate such extremely elevated blood pressure for so many years without going into an acute heart failure. Today, hypertension may not be a curable disease, but it is definitely a “treatable disease.” 5
- Health Media Lab, “Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1933–1945): The Dying President,” Health Media Lab (2004), http://www.healthmedialab.com/html/president/roosevelt.html.
- Howard G. Bruenn, “Clinical Notes On The Illness and Death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt,” Ann. of Int. Med. 72 (1970): 579–59.
- Jean Edward Smith, Franklin Roosevelt:A Biography (New York: Random House, 2007), 600–636.
- Doctor Zebra, “The Health and Medical History of President Franklin Roosevelt,” Doctor Zebra (October 2006).
- Richard J. Bing, “Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the Treatment of Hypertension: Matters at Heart.” Dialogues in Cardiovascular Medicine 12, no. 2 (2007): 133–135.
ARMANDO SUSMANO, MD, FACP, is a cardiologist and emeritus associate professor of medicine at Rush Medical College in Chicago, Illinois.
Theodore Roosevelt’s wife and mother die
Roosevelt was at work in the New York state legislature attempting to get a government reform bill passed when he was summoned home by his family. He returned home to find his mother, Mittie, had succumbed to typhoid fever. On the same day, his wife of four years, Alice Lee, died of Bright’s disease, a severe kidney ailment. Only two days before her death, Alice Lee had given birth to the couple’s daughter, Alice.
The double tragedy devastated Roosevelt. He ordered those around him not to mention his wife’s name. Burdened by grief, he abandoned politics, left the infant Alice with his sister Bamie, and, at the end of 1884, struck out for the Dakota territories, where he lived as a rancher and worked as a sheriff for two years. When not engrossed in raising cattle or acting as the local lawman, Roosevelt found time to indulge his passion for reading and writing history. After a blizzard wiped out his prized herd of cattle in 1885, Roosevelt decided to return to eastern society. Once back in New York in 1886, he again took up politics and took over raising his precocious daughter, Alice, who later became a national celebrity.
After stints in the Spanish-American War and as governor of New York, Roosevelt won a spot as William McKinley’s vice-presidential running mate in 1900. When McKinley died at the beginning of his second term in 1901, Roosevelt moved into the White House, where he and his family would spend the next eight years.
Alice grew to admire and respect her father yet, according to her memoirs and friends, she harbored resentment toward him for having abandoned her as a baby. Not long after he married his second wife, Edith, in 1886, Alice found herself competing not only with her father’s political cronies and new wife for his attention, but also with her five half-siblings who arrived in quick succession. The high-spirited Alice perhaps took to scandalous behavior in retaliation.
The Roosevelt era coincided with a repressive time in women’s history, but the outspoken and independent Alice flouted acceptable behavior and reveled in the spotlight as first daughter. Alice’s activities as a young adult, such as smoking and staying out late with boys, irked her father, who nevertheless indulged her. In one instance when she repeatedly burst into a White House meeting, Roosevelt shrugged apologetically, I can either run the country or I can control Alice, but I cannot possibly do both.
After Roosevelt left office, Alice maintained a high profile in Washington society. She was banned from visiting the Taft White House after a voodoo doll of Mrs. Taft was found buried (by Alice) in the front lawn. President Wilson also banned her from White House society in retaliation for her making a lewd comment about him in public. Wilson was not her only target—she once remarked that her friend, Warren Harding’s vice president Calvin Coolidge, looked as though he’s been weaned on a pickle.
His father James Roosevelt and his mother Sara Delano were from rich old New York families that made money from slavery.   The Roosevelts were originally Dutch, and the Delanos were originally French.  Franklin was their only child. His father's grandmother, Mary Rebecca Aspinwall, was a first cousin of Elizabeth Monroe, wife of the fifth U.S. President, James Monroe.
One of his ancestors was John Lothropp, also an ancestor of Benedict Arnold and Joseph Smith, Jr. One of his distant relatives from his mother's side is the author Laura Ingalls Wilder. His maternal grandfather Warren Delano II, a descendant of Mayflower passengers Richard Warren, Isaac Allerton, Degory Priest, and Francis Cooke, during a period of twelve years in China made more than a million dollars in the tea trade in Macau, Canton, and Hong Kong, but upon coming back to the United States, he lost it all in the Panic of 1857.
In 1860, he came back to China and made a fortune in the notorious but highly profitable opium trade  supplying opium-based medication to the U. S. War Department during the American Civil War.  He is a 5th cousin and a nephew-in-law of another United States President Theodore Roosevelt. His 5th cousin, once removed was Eleanor Roosevelt, who was also his widow. Roosevelt once had an affair with his wife's secretary and later avoided seeing her to protect his political career. 
Franklin Delano Roosevelt was born on January 30, 1882 in the Hudson Valley town of Hyde Park, New York.   When Roosevelt was five years old his father took him to visit President Grover Cleveland. The president said to him: "My little man, I am making a strange wish for you. It is that you may never be President of the United States." Roosevelt became the longest-serving president in American history.
Roosevelt was the Assistant of the United States Secretary of the Navy under Woodrow Wilson. He was nominated the vice presidential candidate under James M. Cox in 1920. Cox and Roosevelt lost to Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge.
In 1921, Roosevelt got sick with poliomyelitis, a disease that paralyzes people. He never walked again, but Roosevelt remained physically fit, becoming an avid swimmer. Roosevelt became a champion of medical research and treatment for crippling illnesses, but kept his illness as hidden as much as possible from the public, fearing discrimination. His disability did not limit his political career Roosevelt was elected the Governor of New York in 1928. His wife, Eleanor Roosevelt helped his career by traveling and meeting people when Roosevelt could not. She became famous as his eyes and ears, meeting thousands of ordinary people and bringing their concerns to Roosevelt.
Roosevelt won the election against the unpopular incumbent (president at the time) Herbert Hoover and became president in early 1933.
He started a series of popular programs known as the New Deal to fight against the Great Depression. The New Deal gave people jobs building roads, bridges, dams, parks, schools, and other public services. Also, it created Social Security, made banks insure their customers, gave direct aid to the needy, and made many regulations to the economy. Because of this, he was re-elected in a large victory in 1936 and continued the New Deal. The United States did not fully recover from the Great Depression until it entered World War II.
In 1939, Roosevelt became the first President of the United States to appear on television.  Roosevelt was elected a third term in 1940. He gave weapons and money to the Allies fighting in World War II as a part of the Lend-Lease program at this time, but the United States was still technically neutral in the war.
On December 7, 1941, Japan launched its attack on the Pearl Harbor military base in Hawaii. On December 8, the United States Congress declared war on the Empire of Japan. It was formulated an hour after the famous Infamy Speech by Roosevelt. After the declaration, Japan's allies, Germany and Italy, declared war on the United States. This brought the United States fully into World War II.
The military used a draft to get people to fight the war, but many people in Puerto Rico, a colony of the United States, did not want to fight because they felt the U.S. was treating them badly by occupying the island. The U.S. forced them to fight and to help pay for war supplies anyway. 
Roosevelt also signed an order allowing Japanese Americans to be sent to internment camps against their will. While still president, he died on April 12, 1945. Vice President Harry Truman became president. World War II continued for almost four more months, but Allied victory was already assured.
The Death of a President
In the early afternoon of April 12, 1945, President Roosevelt was in his private cottage at Warm Springs, Georgia, signing papers and sitting to have his portrait painted. Slowly he raised his hand to his head complaining of a debilitating headache. He then slumped forward, losing consciousness. At 3:35 p.m. he was pronounced dead.
The President’s sudden death at age 63 stunned the nation. FDR had been the Chief Executive for more than 12 years—young Americans had no memory of any other President. The timing of his death, when victory in World War II was at hand, added to the country’s grief.
Roosevelt’s health was in decline as he prepared for an unprecedented fourth term as President in 1944 and the impending victory and aftermath of World War II. A March 1944 examination by his doctors revealed a variety of heart ailments, high blood pressure, and bronchitis. Those close to the President—and even those who saw him speak in public—took note of his weak appearance, low energy, and his struggle with concentration and memory.
Most of the American public, however, was unaware of the President’s ailments because of FDR’s strong public addresses in 1944 that assuaged any concerns. Roosevelt’s victory in the election of 1944 and the diplomatic pressures of the Yalta Conference the following February, had put the President under immense strain. In April 1945, FDR returned to Warm Springs, a destination that had served since the 1920s as his favorite retreat. There, on April 12, he collapsed and died of a cerebral hemorrhage. Vice President Harry S. Truman took the oath of office the same day.
The President’s body was carried by train back to Washington, DC. Full military honors were rendered in a procession from Union Station to the White House. The streets were lined with units of the nation’s Armed Forces and thousands of grieving citizens. At the White House the casket was placed in the East Room, where a private Episcopal funeral service was conducted at 4 p.m. That evening the casket was removed and placed on a train for the somber trip to the President’s Hyde Park, New York, home.
- Franklin D. Roosevelt’s funeral train en route to Hyde Park, 4/15/1945. (National Archives Identifier 195351)
At Hyde Park the casket was transferred to a horse-drawn gun carriage and carried up the hill to the estate preceded by a military band and a battalion of West Point cadets. Limousines containing President Truman, the Roosevelt family, and close associates followed. Roosevelt was buried in the Rose Garden at Hyde Park.
The rector of St. James Episcopal Church read the burial service, three volleys were fired over the grave, and taps was sounded as the casket was lowered to its final resting place.
In December 1937, Franklin Roosevelt had written out instructions for his funeral and burial. The four-page document, kept folded in an envelope in Roosevelt’s personal safe in his bedroom at the White House, was discovered only after he was interred on April 15, 1945.
The instructions are detailed, with most tending to reinforce a simple ceremony. While the document wasn’t found in time to help shape planners’ decisions, the commemoration aligned with some of the specifications that FDR had set out years before. Eleanor Roosevelt recalled that the couple had discussed a mutual aversion to the practice of “lying in state,” and so they eschewed that tradition.
- FDR’s handwritten burial instructions, December 26, 1937. (FDR Presidential Library, National Archives)
- FDR’s handwritten burial instructions, December 26, 1937. (FDR Presidential Library, National Archives)
- FDR’s handwritten burial instructions, December 26, 1937. (FDR Presidential Library, National Archives)
There were other significant aspects that FDR’s funeral planners got right, however: the initial small, closed ceremony in the East Room of the White House, the use of a gun carriage to transport the casket in accordance with a military funeral, and the burial in the garden at the Roosevelt’s estate in Hyde Park, New York.
This sound recording captures a National Broadcasting Company (NBC) correspondent’s report of the arrival of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s funeral train at Union Station, Washington, DC, and the procession from Union Plaza down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House.
To learn more about President Franklin D. Roosevelt, visit the FDR Presidential Library’s website or search our online catalog.
How Harry Hopkins Became One of the Most Influential Persons in FDR’s Life
JOKING TO THE PRESS that “we are going to Christmas Island to buy Christmas cards, and to Easter Island to buy Easter eggs,” President Franklin Delano Roosevelt left the White House in early December 1940 for a two-week cruise in the Caribbean. Aside from the crew, the only passengers aboard the cruiser USS Tuscaloosa were three reporters, select members of Roosevelt’s staff, and his close friend and adviser, Harry L. Hopkins.
It was a largely uneventful trip. After stopping in Cuba to pick up cigars, Roosevelt and his companions spent most of their time fishing and watching movies. On December 9, however, a navy seaplane slid alongside the Tuscaloosa to deliver mail to the president. Among the stacks of newspapers and correspondence was a long letter from British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. In his remarkable, 4,000-word discourse, Churchill detailed the military situation in Great Britain and across Europe. After a year of war with Germany, he wrote, Britain was running out of money to pay for war goods and needed American help. He could not, however, suggest exactly how the president would provide it.
History turned on that letter. While German bombers unleashed their heaviest attack of the war on London on the night of December 29, Roosevelt delivered a “Fireside Chat” in which he declared that the United States “must be the great arsenal of democracy.” Harry Hopkins, who was also one of Roosevelt’s speechwriters, suggested the key phrase. A week later, Roosevelt dispatched Hopkins on a special mission to London.
Born in 1890 in Sioux City, Iowa, Harry Hopkins grew up imbued with traditional Midwestern values of self-reliance, thrift, and pragmatism. At Grinnell College, he studied American politics and the British Parliamentary system. He began his career working for charitable organizations such as the American Red Cross, New York City’s Association for Improving the Condition of the Poor, and the New York Tuberculosis Association. From the start, Hopkins’ own well-being took a back seat to his work. Jacob A. Goldberg, secretary of the Tuberculosis Association, later described the chain-smoking Hopkins as “the ulcerous type.” Intense and driven by nervous energy, Goldberg recalled, Hopkins reported to work “looking as though he had spent the previous night sleeping in a hayloft. He would wear the same shirt three or four days at a time. He managed to shave almost every day—usually at the office.”
In 1928, Hopkins supported Democrat Franklin Roosevelt for the governorship of New York, and Roosevelt rewarded him three years later by naming Hopkins the head of the state’s new Temporary Emergency Relief Administration. Hopkins subsequently supported Roosevelt’s campaign for the presidency and his promise of a “New Deal” for Americans. In 1933, President Roosevelt tapped the 42-year-old social worker to be his federal emergency relief administrator, and from 1935 to 1938 Hopkins headed the Works Progress Administration.
Rather than giving needy people handouts, Hopkins liberally granted money to the states for work programs. His critics scornfully referred to him as the leader of a bunch of “leaf-rakers.” Robert E. Sherwood, a Roosevelt speech writer and director of the Foreign Information Service, later wrote that “Hopkins came to be regarded as the Chief Apostle of the New Deal and the most cordially hated by its enemies.”
Hopkins also repeatedly clashed with Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes, who ran the Public Works Administration (PWA), over the amount of federal money allocated to their respective programs. Despite agreeing that his organization would handle projects costing $25,000 or less, Hopkins simply divided more expensive projects into smaller parts and funded them separately.
Meanwhile, Hopkins’ personal life suffered terribly. In October 1937, his second wife, Barbara, died of cancer, and in December surgeons removed two-thirds of Hopkins’ stomach in order to stave off the same disease. The gangly Iowan survived, but his health remained fragile for the rest of his life. Encouraged by Roosevelt, who originally hoped to retire at the end of his second term, Hopkins briefly entertained thoughts of the presidency. His hopes were further legitimized when Roosevelt appointed him secretary of commerce in December 1938. Hopkins’ tenure as commerce secretary, however, proved frustrating and brief. Afflicted with hemochromatosis—a result of his chronically inadequate digestive system—he was unable to fully dedicate himself to his job and by the following August was at death’s door. Roosevelt arranged for the best navy doctors to treat his friend. Hopkins rallied, but his ordeal drained him of political ambition. He resigned his cabinet position in August 1940, determined to serve Roosevelt and his country in other ways for as long as possible.
Hopkins’ assignment to meet with Churchill bypassed normal diplomatic channels. He held no official position, and when reporters asked the president if Hopkins was to be the next ambassador to Great Britain, Roosevelt answered, “You know Harry isn’t strong enough for that job.” Recent events, however, had left a serious void in communication between the two nations. Ambassador Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr., had resigned, and the British ambassador to the United States, Lord Lothian, had died just days after Roosevelt received Churchill’s pivotal letter. Unable to meet with his British counterpart himself, Roosevelt told the press he was sending Hopkins to London so that he can “talk to Churchill like an Iowa farmer.”
The mission was indicative of the special trust that Roosevelt put in Hopkins. Unassuming and plainspoken, Hopkins enjoyed a unique relationship with the chief executive. Roosevelt had other advisers, but he found Hopkins perfect company and liked to discuss important matters with him informally. Hopkins was unswervingly loyal to the president, who in turn often heeded his friend’s advice on significant policy issues. The president’s decisions, however, were clearly his own. For example, Roosevelt appointed General Dwight D. Eisenhower chief of Operation Overlord (the 1944 Normandy Invasion plan) instead of General George C. Marshall, despite the opposition of Hopkins and many others, including Churchill. Meanwhile, the public regarded Hopkins as something of a “mystery man,” as Time magazine described him in 1944, consumed by a strange illness and privy to the war’s many secrets.
Noticeably ill during a visit with the president in May 1940, Hopkins spent the night in a White House suite. At one time President Abraham Lincoln’s study, the suite was just down the hall from Roosevelt’s room. Hopkins lived there for the next three and a half years. When he married for the third time in July 1942, his wife, Louise, joined him and his daughter Diana in the White House. The family remained there until December 1943, when Harry rented a house in nearby Georgetown. Other members of Roosevelt’s circle, such as Rexford Tugwell and Henry Morgenthau, came to accept Hopkins’ closeness to the president as a fact of Washington life. Not everyone, however, was happy with the arrangement. Harold Ickes resented Hopkins’ insider role, and the two remained at odds for years. “I do not like him,” Ickes once noted in his diary, “and I do not like the influence that he has with the president.” Wendell Willkie, Roosevelt’s opponent in the 1940 presidential campaign, asked Roosevelt why he placed such faith in Hopkins when he knew that others resented it. The president told Willkie that if he ever became president, “You’ll learn what a lonely job this is, and you’ll discover the need for someone like Harry Hopkins who asks for nothing except to serve you.”
Winston Churchill’s initial reaction upon receiving word of Hopkins’ impending visit was, “Who?” When the tall, lean American arrived in London, however, he quickly impressed Churchill with his forthrightness. British officials who were initially taken aback by Hopkins’ rumpled appearance soon accepted him as he was. He seemed to the British to be the stereotypical American: confident, secure, and oblivious to formality. Sherwood wrote that “Hopkins naturally and easily conformed to the essential Benjamin Franklin tradition of American diplomacy, acting on the conviction that when an American representative approaches his opposite numbers in friendly countries with the standard striped-pants frigidity, the strict observance of protocol and amenities, and a studied air of lip-curling, he is not really representing America—not, at any rate, the America of which FDR was President.”
Hopkins’ visit heartened British citizens, who saw his presence as a sign of forthcoming U.S. help. Churchill confidante Brendan Bracken told the prime minister’s secretary, John Colville, that Hopkins “was the most important American visitor to this country we had ever had . . . . He could influence the president more than any living man.”
For his part, Hopkins was struck by the spirit of the British people. At a dinner given by newspaper magnate and Minister of Aircraft Production Lord Beaverbrook, Hopkins addressed the press. He described the feelings he experienced while visiting Britain’s blitzed cities and spoke of the affection and admiration that Roosevelt had for Britain. Beaverbrook later wrote that Hopkins’ ”speech left us feeling that although America was not yet in the war, she was marching beside us, and that should we stumble she would see that the President and the men about him blazed with faith in the future of Democracy.”
Scheduled for two weeks, Hopkins’ visit ended up lasting nearly six. Staying at the prime minister’s residence at 10 Downing Street, Hopkins met with government officials, business leaders, and many others, trying to assess what kind of assistance Britain needed. He toured industrial sites and shipyards, witnessed bomb damage firsthand, and was impressed with Britain’s resolve to fight. Churchill affectionately dubbed him “Lord Root of the Matter” for his ability to quickly get to the heart of problems.
In 1941, Hopkins was not the only person making extra-official efforts on Roosevelt’s behalf. Colonel William J. Donovan met with British representatives in the Balkans and the Mediterranean area, and Wendell Willkie threw his support behind Roosevelt’s war effort during his own trip to England. Only Hopkins, however, as a reporter wrote in 1942, was privileged to sit before the fire at 10 Downing Street and “discuss the grave predicament of Western Civilization” with Winston Churchill.
When Hopkins returned from London, debate was raging over Roosevelt’s Lend-Lease plan to aid Britain. Roosevelt had introduced the plan to the public by simply saying, “Suppose my neighbor’s home catches fire, and I have a length of garden hose . . . .” The bill would provide Britain—and eventually several other Allied nations—with desperately needed war matériel without requiring payment up front, thereby skirting the tenets of the 1939 Neutrality Act. Though there was vehement opposition to the Lend-Lease plan, Americans sympathized with Britain, which was waging war against enormous odds.
The House of Representatives passed the Lend-Lease Act on February 8, 1941, and the Senate followed suit a month later. Roosevelt tapped Hopkins to “advise and assist me in carrying out the responsibilities placed upon me” by the passage of the bill. Such a vague job description gave Hopkins nearly free rein for the task of preparing the armed forces and private business for war production. “Under my new responsibilities,” Hopkins wrote to Churchill, “all British purchasing requests are now routed through me.” Hopkins still lacked an official title, but he had become, in the eyes of many journalists, the “Deputy President.”
Under Hopkins the administration of Lend-Lease was diffuse and controversial. It essentially bypassed the State Department, where Secretary Cordell Hull was not happy to be left out of the loop. Hopkins came to be called “Roosevelt’s own personal foreign office.” The situation was quite irregular, Sherwood admitted, “but so was the fundamental situation in which the United States found itself at the time.” Lend-Lease’s quasi-governmental status suited its manager’s unbureaucratic style perfectly, and Hopkins, quite simply, got things done. His trademark tool was the telephone, and he never hesitated to call and berate high-ranking military officers for failing to meet production deadlines. In 1941, for example, when a strike at the Universal Cyclops Steel Corporation stalled the delivery of propellers for navy planes, Hopkins ordered photos of the propeller-less planes to be taken for publication in the newspapers.
Hopkins had brought back from his meeting with Churchill the conviction that the prime minister and Roosevelt must soon meet face to face. He was maneuvering to set up such a meeting when, in June 1941, Germany dramatically altered the world picture by invading the Soviet Union. A key factor in British defense planning—the central issue to be discussed at the impending conference—was ascertaining how long Russia would be able to hold off the Germans.
“The question of assistance to the Soviet Union was a ticklish one,” wrote FDR biographer Nathan Miller. “Public opinion was hostile, and many Americans preferred to let the twin devils of Nazism and Communism fight to the death.” To Roosevelt and Churchill, however, aiding the Soviet Union meant help in defeating Germany, provided the Soviet Union could survive the Nazi onslaught. Hopkins volunteered to fly to Moscow to find out for himself.
Hopkins met alone with Joseph Stalin and in two days dramatically increased Western understanding of the Soviet situation. “I had no conversations in Moscow,” he reported, “just six hours of conversation. After that there was no more to be said. It was all cleaned up at two sittings.” Stalin’s confidence and straightforward manner impressed Hopkins, who came away convinced that the Soviet Union would blunt the German advance. The Soviet dictator was equally impressed with Hopkins, whose diplomatic efforts helped Roosevelt obtain Lend-Lease aid for the Soviet Union.
In August 1941, with Hopkins the principal go-between, Roosevelt and Churchill met at sea off the coast of Newfoundland for the Atlantic Conference, where they drafted and signed the Atlantic Charter. A joint declaration by Roosevelt and Churchill, the document stated that their two nations sought no additional territory and that they hoped to assure that “all the men in all the lands may live out their lives in freedom from fear and want.” It called for the disarmament of the Axis powers and also set ground rules for the establishment of peace. Essentially, it united American and British policies and also brought the Soviet Union into the ring.
During the years 1941–1943, Hopkins could usually be found in his room at the White House, working in a bathrobe, with letters, papers, telegrams, and diplomatic dispatches strewn across his bed. It was common knowledge that Hopkins was desperately ill. In addition to the piles of official papers, his room was littered with medicines. He also was required to follow a strict diet that his wide-ranging activities made nearly impossible. Rexford Tugwell wrote that Hopkins seemed to hold himself together in 1943 through “sheer nerve.”
As the war progressed, Hopkins’ health grew progressively worse. His condition prevented his digestive system from absorbing enough fats and proteins, and Hopkins appeared more and more cadaverous despite regular blood transfusions. On New Year’s Day 1944, he fell seriously ill and never really recovered. In February, he received the news that his son Stephen had been killed in action in the Pacific. Able to work only two or three hours a day, Hopkins became less of a factor in Roosevelt’s planning.
Hopkins was, nevertheless, still capable of making quick and insightful decisions. Late in 1944, with the tide of war now in favor of the Allies, Churchill and Stalin were preparing for a meeting to discuss control of southeastern Europe. Busy with his reelection campaign, Roosevelt was unable to attend and decided essentially to let Churchill represent U.S. interests. Hopkins foresaw trouble with that arrangement and ordered the transmission of Roosevelt’s cable to Stalin stopped. After further thought, the president rewrote the cable and thanked Hopkins for preventing him from making a serious mistake.
Though his health was slipping, Hopkins continued to run the Munitions Assignment Board and returned to Europe to lay the groundwork for Roosevelt’s meeting with Churchill and Stalin at Yalta, on the Black Sea. For Roosevelt and Hopkins, the February 1945 Yalta Conference was the last hurrah. Sadly, the two parted on a sour note. Exhausted and sick at the conclusion of the meetings, Hopkins decided to rest in Marrakech, Morocco, for a few days before returning to the United States. Roosevelt had expected Hopkins to return with him aboard the cruiser USS Quincy and help him write a speech on the results of the conference. Hopkins, however, insisted on staying behind, and their parting was not amicable. Roosevelt left on February 18, and the long-time friends never saw each other again. When he returned to the States a week later, Hopkins headed for the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. He was recuperating there when Roosevelt died in Georgia on April 12.
Too sick to render new President Harry S. Truman the same yeoman service he had given Roosevelt, Hopkins nevertheless agreed to help when able. In May, he again departed for Moscow to meet with Stalin in order to iron out differences between the Allies and to plan a July meeting between Churchill, Stalin, and Truman at Potsdam, Germany. On July 2, Hopkins retired from government service. He accepted a job in New York and planned to begin writing about the war and Roosevelt, but his health began to crumble for the final time. In September, he returned to the capital for the last time to receive the Distinguished Service Medal from Truman. Two months later, Hopkins checked into New York’s Memorial Hospital, where he died on January 29, 1946, with his wife by his side.
Harry Hopkins’ unprecedented position in the Roosevelt administration, best described as that of a chief of staff, troubled many conservatives, who expressed their desire to prevent such an unofficial and powerful position from ever being refilled. They distrusted Hopkins’ liberal politics and blamed him for what they considered Roosevelt’s unwillingness to resist Soviet demands at Yalta. Even Churchill’s secretary, John Colville, while considering Hopkins “an honourable man and a sincere idealist,” believed that he ‘trusted the word and goodwill of Stalin to an imprudent extent, as did Roosevelt and the State Department.’
Hopkins certainly coveted the relationship he had with Roosevelt, and he jealously protected it from the challenge of other presidential advisors. Political considerations aside, however, Hopkins literally gave his life in service of Roosevelt and the nation. Physically weak but robust in will, Hopkins was, Churchill remembered, “a crumbling lighthouse from which there shone the beams that led great fleets to harbour.”
This article was written by Bill McIlvaine and originally published in the April 2000 issue of American History Magazine.
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Letter Hitler sent to German soldiers after FDR's death?
A few days ago I was on http://historyimages.blogspot.com/ and I found a page detailing a piece of writing that Hitler sent to the remaining German troops after FDR died as motivation.
In the letter Hitler urged the soldiers to fight on and that victory was near. He also interpreted Roosevelt's death as a sign that things would turn for Germany. The part that interested me the most was one of the last lines of the where Hitler called FDR the greatest war criminal in all of history. I've looked on the site and on the internet extensively but I can't seem to find it at all.
Does anyone know what writing I am talking about? Can anyone place a link to where I can see it again? I only got to read it once before I moved on from the page and I want to read it again.
I don't have the letter you're looking for, but I figured I would offer an excerpt from William Shirer's classic The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich that's highly pertinent.
| One fine evening early in April Goebbels had sat up reading to Hitler from one of the Fuehrer’s favorite books, Carlyle’s History of Frederick the Great. The chapter he was reading told of the darkest days of the Seven Years’ War, when the great King felt himself at the end of his rope and told his ministers that if by February 15 no change for the better in his fortunes occurred he would give up and take poison. This portion of history certainly had its appropriateness and no doubt Goebbels read it in his most dramatic fashion. “Brave King! [Goebbels read on] Wait yet a little while, and the days of your suffering will be over. Already the sun of your good fortune stands behind the clouds and soon will rise upon you.” On February 12 the Czarina died, the Miracle of the House of Brandenburg had come to pass. The Fuehrer’s eyes, Goebbels told Krosigk, to whose diary we owe this touching scene, “were filled with tears.” With such encouragement—and from a British source—they sent for two horoscopes, which were kept in the files of one of Himmler’s multitudinous “research” offices. One was the horoscope of the Fuehrer drawn up on January 30, 1933, the day he took office the other was the horoscope of the Weimar Republic, composed by some unknown astrologer on November 9, 1918, the day of the Republic’s birth. Goebbels communicated the results of the re-examination of these two remarkable documents to Krosigk. An amazing fact has become evident, both horoscopes predicting the outbreak of the war in 1939, the victories until 1941, and the subsequent series of reversals, with the hardest blows during the first months of 1945, particularly during the first half of April. In the second half of April we were to experience a temporary success. Then there would be stagnation until August and peace that same month. For the following three years Germany would have a hard time, but starting in 1948 she would rise again.
| "Bring out our best champagne!” Goebbels cried. “And get me the Fuehrer on the telephone!” Hitler was in his deep bunker across the way sitting out the bombing. He picked up the telephone. “My Fuehrer,” Goebbels said. “I congratulate you! Roosevelt is dead! It is written in the stars that the second half of April will be the turning point for us. This is Friday, April the thirteenth. [It was already after midnight.] It is the turning point!” Hitler’s reaction to the news was not recorded, though it may be imagined in view of the encouragement he had been receiving from Carlyle and the stars. But that of Goebbels was. “He was,” says his secretary, “in ecstasy.” The fatuous Count Schwerin von Krosigk too. When Goebbels’ State Secretary phoned him that Roosevelt was dead he exclaimed—at least in his faithful diary: This was the Angel of History! We felt its wings flutter through the room. Was that not the turn of fortune we awaited so anxiously? The next morning Krosigk telephoned Goebbels with his “congratulations”—he affirms it proudly in his diary—and, as if this were not enough, followed it with a letter in which he hailed Roosevelt’s death, he says, as “a divine judgment… a gift from God.” [emphasis added by danysdragons]In this atmosphere of a lunatic asylum, with cabinet ministers long in power and educated in Europe’s ancient universities, as Krosigk and Goebbels were, grasping at the readings of the stars and rejoicing amidst the flames of the burning capital in the death of the American President as a sure sign that the Almighty would now rescue the Third Reich at the eleventh hour from impending catastrophe, the last act in Berlin was played out to its final curtain.
On August 9, 1921, 39-year-old Franklin D. Roosevelt, at the time a practicing lawyer in New York City, joined his family at their vacation home at Campobello, a Canadian island off the coast of Maine. Among those at Campobello when Roosevelt arrived were his wife Eleanor, their children, his political aide Louis Howe, Howe's wife, and their young son.  : 40–42 On August 10, after a day of strenuous activity, Roosevelt came down with an illness characterized by fever, ascending paralysis, facial paralysis, prolonged bowel and bladder dysfunction, and numbness and hypersensitivity of the skin.   : 47 Roosevelt came close to death from the illness. He faced many life-threatening medical problems including the possibility of respiratory failure, urinary tract infection, injury to the urethra or bladder, decubitus ulcers, clots in the leg veins, and malnutrition. Eleanor's nursing care was responsible for Roosevelt's survival.  : 148–151 [ self-published source ] Most of the symptoms resolved themselves, but he was left permanently paralyzed from the waist down.
Timeline of illness Edit
Mid July: Roosevelt gave testimony to a Senate committee investigating a Navy scandal.  : 7–9
July 28: Roosevelt visited the Boy Scout Jamboree at Bear Mountain State Park.
August 5–8: Roosevelt traveled to Campobello with his friend and new employer, Van Lear Black, on Black's ocean-going yacht.  : 19 [ self-published source ]
August 9 (Tuesday): Roosevelt fell into the cold waters of the Bay of Fundy. Later, arrived at Campobello.  : 1
August 10: Roosevelt spent the day physically active. Afterward, he complained of chills, nausea, and pain in his lower back. He skipped dinner and went to bed. Chills lasted through the night.  : 10  : 235
August 11: In the morning, one of his legs felt weak. Roosevelt had fever. Dr. Eben H. Bennet, a general practitioner in the nearby village of Lubec who had known the Roosevelts for years, visited Roosevelt and diagnosed a bad summer cold. By the evening, one leg was paralyzed, and the other had become weak.  : 10–11 
August 12: Both legs were paralyzed. His temperature was 102 °F (39 °C). Pain shot through his legs, feet and back.  : 51, 54 Bennet suggested a consultation with Dr. William W. Keen, an eminent retired neurosurgeon vacationing nearby.  Roosevelt's legs were numb. They then became painfully sensitive to touch, "so painful that he could not stand the pressure of the bedclothes, and even the movement of the breezes across his skin caused acute distress."  : 11 He could not pass urine. 
August 13: Roosevelt was paralyzed from the chest down. On that day and the following, his hands, arms, and shoulders were weak. He had difficulty moving his bowels and required enemas.  : 234 Keen made what Eleanor described as "a most careful, thorough examination".  : 57–58
August 14: Roosevelt continued to be unable to pass urine for two weeks, and required catheterization. His fever continued for a total of six to seven days.  : 234 Keen repeated his examination, a bending and prodding that Elliott later termed "excruciating" for his father.  : 58 Keen diagnosed a clot of blood to the lower spinal cord, and prescribed massage of the leg muscles.  Eleanor and Howe began massaging Roosevelt's legs as instructed by Keen, bringing on agonizing pain.  : 13
August 15: Prostrate and mildly sedated, Roosevelt was occasionally delirious.  : 14–15
August 19: Frederic Delano, Roosevelt's uncle, had received a letter from Louis Howe requesting to find a doctor to come see Roosevelt. Delano called his son-in-law, a physician, who recommended he speak to another physician, a Dr. Parker. Parker told Delano that the case sounded like infantile paralysis, and that the leading authorities on the disease were at the Harvard Infantile Paralysis Commission in Boston. Delano caught a train and arrived the next morning.  : 64
August 20: Dr. Samuel A. Levine was at his office when Delano telephoned Brigham Hospital on Saturday morning. Levine said the senior members of the Harvard Infantile Paralysis Commission, Dr. Lovett and Dr. Peabody, were out of town, but he would try to answer Delano's questions. After reviewing the messages Delano had received from Campobello, Levine thought Roosevelt was suffering from acute poliomyelitis. He urged that a lumbar puncture be done, with the goal of making a diagnosis, but mainly because Levine believed there could be acute benefit from the procedure.  : 64–65,327  : 192 [ self-published source ] Delano phoned and wrote Eleanor the same day,  : 239 advising her to stop massaging Roosevelt's legs, and to disregard Keen's advice: "I think it would be very unwise to trust his diagnosis where the Inf. Paralysis can be determined by test of the spinal fluid."  : 66 Eleanor communicated with Keen, who "very strenuously" resisted the idea of poliomyelitis. Keen asked Lovett to visit Campobello.  : 66
August 22: Lovett met Levine for dinner. Lovett asked how to distinguish whether paralysis was caused by poliomyelitis or by a clot or lesion of the spinal cord.  : 183–184 [ self-published source ]
August 23: Lovett left for Campobello.  : 68
August 24: Lovett saw Roosevelt and performed a "more or less superficial" examination since Roosevelt was highly sensitive to touch. The arms were weak the bladder was paralyzed the left thumb indicated atrophy. Roosevelt could not stand or walk, and Lovett documented "scattered weakness, most marked in the hips".  : 68
August 25: Roosevelt's temperature was 100 °F (38 °C). Both legs were paralyzed. His back muscles were weak. There was also weakness of the face and left hand. Pain in the legs and inability to urinate continued.  : 234 After a brief conference with Keen, Lovett saw Roosevelt. Lovett informed him that the "physical findings" presented a "perfectly clear" diagnosis of poliomyelitis.  : 69–70 Lovett ordered an end to massage, which had no benefit and caused pain, and recommended a trained nurse to care for Roosevelt.  : 75–76
September 1: Roosevelt was still unable to urinate. His leg pain continued.  : 3 [ self-published source ]
September 14: Roosevelt was transported to New York, by boat and train, a long and painful journey.
September 15: Roosevelt was admitted to Presbyterian Hospital in New York City for convalescence, under the care of Dr. George Draper, an expert on poliomyelitis and Roosevelt's personal physician. Lovett continued to consult from Boston.  : 76 There was pain in the legs, paralysis of the legs, muscle wasting in the lower lumbar area and the buttocks, weakness of the right triceps, and gross muscle twitching in both forearms.  : 234
October 28: Roosevelt was transferred from Presbyterian Hospital to his house on East 65th Street. His chart still read "not improving".  : 110
Later: Roosevelt exercised daily. His hamstrings tightened, and his legs were encased in plaster to straighten them by degrees.  : 238 There was gradual recovery, but he remained paralyzed from the waist down.
After falling ill, Roosevelt was seen by four doctors. Eben Homer Bennet, the Roosevelt family doctor, diagnosed a heavy cold. William Keen, a retired neurosurgeon, thought Roosevelt had a blood clot. Robert Lovett, an expert on the orthopedic management of children paralyzed from poliomyelitis, diagnosed "infantile paralysis", as did George Draper, Roosevelt's personal physician.
Roosevelt's physicians never mentioned Guillain–Barré syndrome (GBS) in their communications concerning Roosevelt's case, indicating that they were not aware of it as a diagnostic possibility.  : 204 [ self-published source ] All reports before 1921 of what is now called GBS were by European physicians, in European journals. The result was that very few American physicians knew that GBS was a separate disease. For example, Lovett mistakenly believed that Landry's ascending paralysis, now termed GBS, was one of the clinical presentations of paralytic polio.  : 203 [ self-published source ] In 1921, an American physician would assume that if an individual developed a sudden, non-traumatic flaccid paralysis, it was due to paralytic polio. The concept of GBS as a separate disease was not widely accepted in the United States until after the Second World War.  : 232 [ self-published source ]
The death of FDR
On April 12, 1945, Franklin D. Roosevelt died of a cerebral hemorrhage in his cottage in Warm Springs, Georgia at 3:35 pm. The President was 63 and serving his fourth term. Vice President Harry Truman took the Presidential Oath of Office at 7:09 pm in the Cabinet Room in the White House.
On March 29, 1945, Roosevelt went to the Little White House at Warm Springs, to rest before his anticipated appearance at the founding conference of the United Nations. On the afternoon of April 12, Roosevelt said, “I have a terrific headache.” He then slumped forward in his chair, unconscious, and was carried into his bedroom.
The president’s attending cardiologist, Dr. Howard Bruenn, diagnosed the medical emergency as a massive cerebral hemorrhage.At 3:35 p.m. that day, Roosevelt died at the age of 63. An editorial by The New York Times declared, “Men will thank God on their knees a hundred years from now that Franklin D. Roosevelt was in the White House.”
On the morning of April 13, Roosevelt’s body was placed in a flag-draped coffin and loaded onto the presidential train for the trip back to Washington.
(Chief Petty Officer ,US Navy. Graham W. Jackson playing “Goin’ Home” on his accordion as FDR’s flag-draped casket passes by>
Along the route, thousands flocked to the tracks to pay their respects. After a White House funeral on April 14, Roosevelt was transported by train from Washington, D.C., to his place of birth at Hyde Park. As was his wish, Roosevelt was buried on April 15 in the Rose Garden of his Springwood estate.
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Franklin D. Roosevelt: Life, Presidency & Death
Famed for his brave leadership during the Great Depression and World War II, Franklin D. Roosevelt (commonly called FDR) was the 32nd President of the United States from March 4, 1933 to April 12, 1945. His unprecedented 12-year stay in the White House was characterized by strong resilience in the face of unrelenting difficulties. Owing to FDR’s moving speeches, as well as sound economic policies, the U.S. was able to pull itself out of dire economic problems.
On the global stage, FDR’s strong alliance with the Soviet Union and Great Britain helped crush Axis powers- Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and Imperial Japan. We present a complete history of the life, presidency and death of FDR.
Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Childhood
The 32 nd President of the United States of America, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was born on January 30, 1882 at his parents’ New York estate. The exact place of his birth is said to be at Hudson Valley- close to Hyde Park in New York. Franklin Roosevelt came from a powerful political family of Dutch origins.
FDR parents were James Roosevelt I and Sara Ann Delano. James was a Harvard Law School graduate that followed in his ancestors footsteps and became a very successful business man. As a result of his numerous ventures, James did not have much interaction with FDR as Sara Ann had with FDR.
Early Education and College Years
As the only child of his parents, Franklin was given the best form of education at elite schools. Prior to that, he was privately tutored right up until the age of 14.
The young FDR often went on family trips and vacations in Europe. It was around this time that FDR became moderately fluent in French and German. Around the age of 9, FDR’s parents even enrolled him in a public school in Germany.
Growing up, FDR was fond of polo, lawn tennis, golf and horse riding. He also loved sailing.
After his homeschooling days were over, FDR went to Groton School in Groton Massachusetts to start his form three. Over there, the young FDR got immensely influenced by the headmaster of the school- Endicott Peabody.
An FDR quote about his education
After Groton School, FDR went to college at Harvard College. He did not excel that much at Harvard. At Harvard, he worked with The Harvard Crimson.
In 1900, FDR mourned the loss of his father. It was a very difficult period for Roosevelt. However, the Roosevelts soon smiled and celebrated when a member of their family– Theodore Roosevelt- got elected as the 29 th President of the United States. Theodore Roosevelt was FDR’s fifth cousin. Taking Cousin Theodore as his role model, FDR started harboring ambitions of one day becoming a U.S. president himself.
Shortly after Harvard, FDR proceeded to Columbia Law School. However, he quit the program in 1907 because he did not see himself practicing law. FDR did however pass the bar exams. Subsequently, FDR got an appointment as a clerk at Carter Ledyard & Milburn.
Marriage and Children
The relationship between Eleanor and FDR started in 1902. They met while FDR was in college. The two were actually distant cousins- fifth cousins once removed. It also turned out that Eleanor was President Theodore Roosevelt’s niece.
Three years after their meeting, FDR proposed to Eleanor. The two got married in New York City on March 17, 1905. Because Eleanor’s father had passed away, the honors fell on her uncle, President Theodore Roosevelt, to give her out at the wedding.
The couple made their home at FDR’s family home at Hyde Park. Together, they had six children: Anna, James, Elliot, Franklin I, Franklin II, and John. However, in 1909, the first Franklin child of FDR died at a very young age.
Entry into Politics
As stated above, Roosevelt always saw himself making a career in politics. His distant cousin, President Theodore Roosevelt, helped fuel this dream of his.
Unlike Theodore, however, FDR joined the Democratic Party. In the 1910 New York State Senate election, he got a nomination from the party to contest for a seat. Riding on the reputation of Roosevelt’s family name, FDR swept his way to victory.
In the 1912 general elections, FDR opted to throw his weight behind Woodrow Wilson instead of his cousin, Theodore Roosevelt. His support helped Woodrow win the elections.
For his support, President Woodrow Wilson made FDR his Assistant Secretary of the Navy. He brought several changes to the Navy department. Most notable of them was the merit-based promotion system. FDR run the Navy department in a just and effective manner from 1913 to 1920. This earned him the admiration and respect of unions in the Navy. Never once did the unions go on strike during his time at the Navy Department. Furthermore, Roosevelt was instrumental in coordinating naval efforts all throughout World War I.
In 1920, James M. Cox picked FDR as his running mate in the 1920 US Presidential election. The pair eventually lost, massively, to Republicans Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge.
Battle with Polio
In 1921, FDR was diagnosed with Poliomyelitis while holidaying at Campobello Island. The illness affected his mobility and from the waist down to his legs, he struggled moving. FDR’s disability was a well-kept secret for several years. The White House made sure that the public did not see FDR in a wheel chair.
In 1938, he created the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis. The foundation made so many strides in the enhancement of polio vaccines. Some political historians opine that the reason why FDR was so passionate about providing social security to disabled workers had to do with his personal struggle disability.
Franklin D. Roosevelt’s tenure as Governor of New York
After his 1924 general election defeat as vice-presidential candidate, FDR turned his attention to his beloved state- New York. He contested the governorship election and won by defeating Albert Ottinger in 1928.
His famous “fireside chats” began around this time. He developed very good oratory skills that allowed him to give his state the needed inspiration during several crises. And when the economic crisis of the Great Depression (around 1929) came knocking, FDR put apt communication and oratory skills to good use. He frequently broadcast motivational messages to his state. Obviously, those speeches were backed by strong economic reforms in his New York State.
His economic reforms became more liberal right after the 1929 stock market crash. In his state, FDR was instrumental in the formation of the Temporary Emergency Relief Administration. The program helped a lot of economically struggling families in New York.
His tiring efforts paid off, and he was re-elected governor of New York for a second time. FDR’s reputation and management skills were so renowned, both within and outside his state, that he was tipped to for the White House job. Most people even tagged him as the “second coming of Roosevelt”- a reference to his other cousin- President Theodore Roosevelt.
FDR’s First Presidential Term
The Democratic National Convention voted Roosevelt as the Democratic Party presidential candidate for the 1932 general election. His campaign promise of giving the U.S. a “New Deal” was well received by the country.
FDR’s quote after accepting the Democratic Party nomination for the 1932 general election
In the 1932 elections, FDR defeated incumbent President Hoover resoundingly. Americans from all walks of life wanted someone new- someone who could liberate them out of the Great Depression. Roosevelt campaign therefore resonated with the public. Additionally, the Democrats swept a number of seats in the House of Representatives and the Senate.
As the 32 nd president of the U.S., FDR continued giving charged public speeches to the American public. The goal of those conferences and radio broadcasts was to instill confidence in the public as they went through a very difficult economic period. FDR’s speeches were termed as “fireside Chats” and at some point in time they were broadcast to about 60 million Americans.
One of his first initiatives during his first 100 days in office came in the form of the Emergency Banking Relief Act of 1933. Banks were forced to close for a couple of days in the week. This was to allow them briefly restructure. A few weeks after the passage of the Banking Act, 75 percent of the banks re-opened.
Roosevelt’s New Deal was comprehensive enough. It factored in all sectors of the American economy. Funds and Commissions were set up to provide economic relief and reforms. The president’s programs, as well as the numerous acts passed by Congress, helped create key American institutions such as Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA), the Public Works Administration (PWA), Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), Tennessee Valley authority (TVA), and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
In the nutshell, Roosevelt Administration’s efforts were aimed at: creating sustainable jobs reforming the financial sector through the Federal Deposit insurance Corporation (FDIC) to safeguard people’s deposits and supervising the stock market and curb excesses or abuses of big companies.
FDR’s Second term as President
Prior to seeking re-election in 1936, FDR launched his “Second New Deal” in 1935. This deal comprised a series of economic and social reforms targeted at the micro-level of the economy. For example, he charged Congress to pass the Social Security Act of 1934. The Act was designed to protect unemployed, disabled workers and pensioners from falling into financial ruins. To fund these sorts of social reforms, FDR placed taxes on big firms and super-rich people in America. FDR’s form of tax scheme was popularly termed as “Soak-the-rich” taxes.
Furthermore, the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and the Securities Act of 1933 helped found the Securities and Exchange Commission on June 6, 1934. The Commission’s mandate is to enforce U.S. security laws in the securities industry and stock exchange market.
FDR may have gotten carried away when he attempted to increase the number of Supreme Court judges from 9 to 15. This was in response to the U.S. Supreme Court constantly nullifying some of the reforms in the New Deal.
To FDR’s surprise, there was a bipartisan rejection of those Supreme Court reforms. The “court-packing”, as it was termed back then, is commonly considered as one of FDR’s most significant failures.
FDR’s Third Term and Heroics during World War II
Long before World War II broke out, the U.S. maintained a neutrality policy. What this meant was that the U.S. did not get involved in any way whatsoever in the brewing conflict in Europe.
Many of its European allies campaigned for the U.S. to come out of its isolation policy and join in the efforts to nip in the bud rising extremism in Europe. However, the U.S. did not budge. It continued to dialog extensively with aggressor nations like Germany and Japan.
In 1939, however, FDR introduced the “cash and carry” basis of purchasing of American arms. Perceived rogue and autocratic countries were forced to pay in cash before receiving American ammunition.
Roosevelt stepped up aid and political support to Britain after France capitulated in 1940. However, the FDR still did not get involved in the conflict.
After defeating (by 5 million more votes) Wendell L Wilkie in the 1940 presidential election, FDR quickly introduced the Lend-Lease Act as a replacement of the “cash and carry” system. The act was intended to help allies such as Britain buy goods and sorely needed arms without necessarily paying for it at that time. Provisions were made for them to pay back in kind or at a later future date.
FDR and British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill maintained a very tight-knit relationship. It was crucial in the latter’s effort in fighting Hitler. The two leaders signed the Atlantic Charter. The charter called for nations across the world to guarantee freedom of Speech and expression, freedom from fear, freedom from want, and freedom of religion.
Response to the Pearl Harbor Attack
President Franklin D. Roosevelt, at Congress in 1941, signing the declaration of war against Japan. Image Source
On December 8, 1941, the U.S. neutrality policy in the war was thrown out of the window. This was because Imperial Navy of Japan attacked the U.S. Naval base at Pearl Harbor. The attack came in the early hours of Sunday, December 7, 1941.
Less than 24 hours after the Pearl Harbor Attack, Franklin D. Roosevelt convened a Congressional meeting and gave one of the most memorable speeches of the 20th century. Congress declared war on Japan that very day.
For more details about what happened in Congress on December 8, 1941, please read Pearl Harbor: How and Why Japan Attacked the U.S.
FDR’s famous quote from his Noon Speech to Congress, December 8, 1941
The number and frequency of meetings between FDR and Winston Churchill increased shortly after the declaration of war on Japan. Furthermore, the U.S. was now at war with not just Japan but against Japan’s allies – Germany and Italy. The two countries declared war on the U.S. as well.
Also, the number of speeches given by FDR on radio increased. The president constantly kept in touch with the American public in order to lift their spirits up—spirits that were still reeling from the devastating Great Depression.
World War II Conferences and the “Big Three”
The “Big three”. From left to right: Joseph Stalin, FDR, and Winston Churchill
As Roosevelt started shipping men and military power across the Atlantic, it became apparently clear that there was a need for top-notch coordination efforts. Military minds and generals from U.S. often collaborated brilliantly with other European counterparts to halt the movement of Adolf Hitler.
FDR quickly went to the aid of the Soviets once Hitler marched towards Moscow. Arms and intelligence flowed among the 3 Allied Powers- the U.S., Britain and the U.S.S.R.
The leaders from the Allied Powers (the Big three—FDR, Joseph Stalin and Winston Churchill) also took part in several conferences. Most notable of these international conferences was the Yalta Conference held in February 1945. At the conference, Stalin agreed to join the fight against Japan in the Pacific.
Along with their counter parts from Canada and Australia, the “Big Three” made post-war plans and agreements in conferences such as the Casablanca Conference in Morocco (1943) and the Octagon Conference in Quebec, Canada (1944). Conferences of those sorts promoted greater collaboration that allowed the Allied Powers to gradually push back Nazi forces.
Fourth Term in Office
Back in the U.S., FDR reputation remained relatively untainted as he proceeded into the 1944 election. For the Democrats, there was no better candidate than FDR to help them secure victory in the presidential election.
For a fourth time in a row, FDR cruised his way to victory. By so doing he was now far beyond the traditional two-term limit for U.S. presidents.
Considering the amendments that were made in the U.S. constitution after FDR’s tenure, it is reasonable to say that FDR’s record of four terms (12 years in office) will probably never be surpassed in the foreseeable future.
Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Death
After the Yalta Conference in 1945, there were telltale signs that FDR’s health was deteriorating. He had started to lose weight, and the stress was getting unbearable. Endless meetings and conferences, both domestic and abroad, had started to take massive toll on his already fragile health.
His doctors advised that he take a break and rest. However, the war in Europe was so close to ending. FDR wanted to completely see it through to end.
In April, 1945, FDR took a brief break. He decided to spend some time at his Warm Springs home in Georgia. A few days into his vacation, FDR complained of incessant headaches. He even made a funny remark by saying: “I have a terrific headache.”
It is believed that FDR died in the late afternoon (at about 3:55 p.m.) of April 12, 1945, America’s longest serving president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, died. Doctors say that the 63-year old president died from cerebral hemorrhage. Some experts say the hemorrhage was the result of his long-term battle with polio.
As the Constitution demanded, Vice President Harry S. Truman was immediately sworn in as FDR’s replacement.