Saturday, April 12, 2014

Franklin Delano Roosevelt ~ January 30, 1882 ~ April 12, 1945


President Franklin Delano Roosevelt left the Yalta Conference on February 12, 1945, and flew to Egypt and boarded the USS Quincy operating on the Great Bitter Lake near the Suez Canal. Aboard Quincy, the next day he met with Farouk I, king of Egypt, and Haile Selassie, emperor of Ethiopia. On February 14, he held a historic meeting with King Abdulaziz, the founder of Saudi Arabia, a meeting which holds profound significance in U.S.-Saudi relations even today. After a final meeting between Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Quincy steamed for Algiers, arriving February 18, at which time Roosevelt conferred with American ambassadors to Britain, France and Italy. At Yalta, Lord Moran, Winston Churchill's physician, commented on Roosevelt's ill health: "He is a very sick man. He has all the symptoms of hardening of the arteries of the brain in an advanced stage, so that I give him only a few months to live".

Roosevelt meets with King Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia onboard the USS Quincy at theGreat Bitter Lake
When he returned to the United States, he addressed Congress on March 1 about the Yalta Conference, and many were shocked to see how old, thin and frail he looked. He spoke while seated in the well of the House, an unprecedented concession to his physical incapacity. (He opened his speech by saying, "I hope that you will pardon me for this unusual posture of sitting down during the presentation of what I want to say, makes it a lot easier for me not to have to carry about ten pounds of steel around on the bottom of my legs." This was his only public mention of his disability.) But mentally he was still in full command. "The Crimean Conference," he said firmly, "ought to spell the end of a system of unilateral action, the exclusive alliances, the spheres of influence, the balances of power, and all the other expedients that have been tried for centuries– and have always failed. We propose to substitute for all these, a universal organization in which all peace-loving nations will finally have a chance to join."
During March 1945, he sent strongly worded messages to Stalin accusing him of breaking his Yalta commitments over Poland, Germany, prisoners of war and other issues. When Stalin accused the western Allies of plotting a separate peace with Hitler behind his back, Roosevelt replied: "I cannot avoid a feeling of bitter resentment towards your informers, whoever they are, for such vile misrepresentations of my actions or those of my trusted subordinates."
On March 29, 1945, Roosevelt went to 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 pain in the back of my head." He then slumped forward in his chair, unconscious, and was carried into his bedroom. The president's attending cardiologist, Dr. Howard Bruenn, diagnosed a massive cerebral hemorrhage (stroke). At 3:35 p.m. that day, Roosevelt died. As Allen Drury later said, “so ended an era, and so began another.” After Roosevelt's death 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".News of Roosevelt's final words were intentionally misinterpreted in Japan for propaganda purposes as "Oh, what a terrible thing I have done!"
At the time he collapsed, Roosevelt had been sitting for a portrait painting by the artist Elizabeth Shoumatoff, known as the famous Unfinished Portrait of FDR.

Roosevelt's horse-drawn casket during his Pennsylvania Avenue funeral procession.
In his later years at the White House, Roosevelt was increasingly overworked and his daughter Anna Roosevelt Boettiger had moved in to provide her father companionship and support. Anna had also arranged for her father to meet with his former mistress, the now widowed Lucy Mercer Rutherfurd. Shoumatoff, who maintained close friendships with both Roosevelt and Mercer, rushed Mercer away to avoid negative publicity and implications of infidelity. When Eleanor heard about her husband's death, she was also faced with the news that Anna had been arranging these meetings with Mercer and that Mercer had been with Franklin when he died.
On the morning of April 13, Roosevelt's body was placed in a flag-draped coffin and loaded onto the presidential train. After a White House funeral on April 14, Roosevelt was transported back to Hyde Park by train, guarded by four servicemen from the Army, Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard. As was his wish, Roosevelt was buried in the Rose Garden of the Springwood estate, the Roosevelt family home in Hyde Park on April 15. After her death in November 1962, Eleanor was buried next to him.
Roosevelt's death was met with shock and grief across the U.S. and around the world. His declining health had not been known to the general public. Roosevelt had been president for more than 12 years, longer than any other person, and had led the country through some of its greatest crises to the impending defeat of Nazi Germany and to within sight of the defeat of Japan as well.
Less than a month after his death, on May 8, came the moment Roosevelt fought for: V-E Day. President Harry Truman, who turned 61 that day, dedicated V-E Day and its celebrations to Roosevelt's memory, paying tribute to his commitment to ending the war in Europe. He also kept flags across the U.S. at half-staff for the remainder of the 30-day mourning period, again to pay tribute to Roosevelt's commitment to ending the war in Europe.
Roosevelt's death spared him the monumental decision on whether to use the atom bomb, which now fell to President Truman. Many factors influenced Truman's decision, including the advice of political and military leaders, an American public that was eager for an end to the war, and the possibility of a quick victory over Japan.

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