1 page | SMC 1383
The most charismatic and popular President of the 20th century swept into office smoking two packs a day, drinking martinis, and carrying lightly, on his broad shoulders, a prodigious history of colds, fevers, throat and lung infections, sinusitis, influenza, pneumonia, hives, and lumbago. And oh yes, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was paralyzed, too, from the waist down, by polio. This, remarkably, was kept secret, with the connivance of his doctors and the cooperation of the press; the American public believed he walked with a cane. But disguising his literally crippling disability was merely a warm-up exercise for the deceptions that were to come - for in the midst of World War II, between the end of his unprecedented third term and his now-unimaginable fourth, Roosevelt began, painfully and obviously, to die. That he managed to do so, without his family, his staff, his allies or certainly, the country, knowing, suggests a cover-up of staggering proportions - and success.
It has taken sixty-five years for all the causes of FDR’s terrible decline, and ultimate death, to be known. According to his doctors, the massive cerebral hemorrhage that killed him on April 12, 1945, came as a bolt of lightening from the blue. Yet anyone who had seen the President in the last year and a half of his life knew they were looking at a very sick man. Certainly his grey pallor, blue lips, forty-pound weight loss, and occasional glassy-eyed lapses suggested that his end was near. Working only four hours a day; sleeping at least ten; subject, suddenly, to disconcerting memory and intellectual slips – FDR looked like a dying man. But dying of what? He and his doctors insisted he was tired, but otherwise fine. That he had hypertension, arteriosclerosis, and congestive heart failure, took a quarter century to come out. And that, on top of his cardiovascular disease, he had cancer which, in all likelihood, had metastasized to his abdomen and brain, made news just this year.
But even dying, FDR had something for which he desperately wanted to live, and it is the thing last desired that is the subject of this letter, written and signed, so weakly, only a few weeks before his death. What Roosevelt wanted was to start an international organization for peace. “The only alternative to another war,” he wrote here, “is whole-hearted membership in a plan to maintain the peace agreed to by our friends and allies.”
Of course, he wouldn’t live to see the establishment of the United Nations, some seven months later. But then, it was remarkable that FDR even lived to be President – for, among all of his ailments and diseases, he was the object of an assassination attempt as President-Elect. Two weeks before he was sworn in, five shots, all of which missed, were fired at him.
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THE WHITE HOUSE
March 24, 1945
Thank you for your letter of March nineteenth.
The tragic sequence of events through the last twenty-five years should be enough to convince all peace-loving Americans that the only alternative to another war is wholehearted membership in a plan to maintain the peace agreed to by our friends and allies. I shall take up with the State Department the question of the speech.
With all good wishes to you and the family.
Very sincerely yours,
Honorable Harry H. Woodring,
Honorable Harry H. Woodring,