Harry Truman Writes General Hap Arnold About FDR's Death, Two and a Half Weeks Before, as "The Greatest Blow"

April 30, 1945

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Harry Truman Writes General Hap Arnold About FDR's Death, Two and a Half Weeks Before, as "The Greatest Blow"
Typed Letter Signed
1 page | SMC 694

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      Background

      Back in the day when the Vice-Presidency wasn’t, in the immortal (non-bowdlerized) words of FDR’s first Vice President John Nance Gardner, “worth a bucket of warm piss,” what Vice Presidents did, was nothing. Harry Truman, whose Vice-Presidency lasted but eighty-one days, was not only given nothing to do, but he was not told anything by Roosevelt either, about military, diplomatic or administrative matters. Nor did the dying president, who only saw the Vice President twice, take Truman – or anyone else - into his confidence about the precarious state of his health. So when FDR, seemingly suddenly, died on April 12th, 1945, and Truman found himself the president, he felt as if staggered by a great blow. Here, in fact, he says exactly that:

      I don't think I ever suffered a greater blow than when I was told Mr. Roosevelt had died. I was very fond of him personally and a great admirer of his. It is going to be a most difficult job to carry on, but I shall do the best I can.

      Truman’s best, of course, was as much a surprise as his ascension to the presidency. Despite his coming into office, in wartime, virtually uninformed about the atomic bomb, nuclear sharing, the Yalta Conference, or a federal government run by Roosevelt so personally that only FDR that knew how it worked – Truman proved more than a capable successor for what death had taken. He became, in the judgment of modern historians, one of the very best presidents ever. 


      Typed Letter Signed, as President, 1 page, quarto, The White House, Washington, April 30, 1945. To General H.H. “Hap” Arnold.
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      THE WHITE HOUSE
      WASHINGTON

      April 30, 1945

      Dear General:
       
      I certainly did appreciate your nice note of April twelfth.  I am sorry to have been so long answering it but you understand, of course, that I am completely covered up.
       
      I don't think I ever suffered a greater blow than when I was told that Mr. Roosevelt had died.  I was very fond of him personally and a great admirer of his.  It is going to be a most difficult job to carry on, but I shall do the best I can.

      You have my entire confidence.

      Sincerely yours,

      Harry S. Truman [in manuscript]

      General H. H. Arnold
      Commanding General Army Air Forces
      Washington 25,D.C. [sic]